Us

I’ve had a few days to process this film since seeing it opening night (in Dolby!!) and I’m still stalling to write this because I don’t even know where to start. This movie was an experience, and you should go to into it as cold as possible to get the full effect. Not because there’s major spoilers, but because you shouldn’t have any preconceived ideas of what it is or means. But if you still wanna hear some thoughts on it, here we go

Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke are parents taking their two kids on a nice family vacation. The town they’re visiting is near a beach where Mom Adelaide had a traumatic experience as a child, that she has repressed for years. After a day of fun in the sun, they find a family trespassing on their property. That family, all in red jump suits, look strikingly familiar…

Writer/director Jordan Peele is the real deal and this movie was legit scary AF. Normally in order to really get to me, I hafta feel like the situation is inescapable. Looking at it logically, not so much. But Peele makes it feel like it is. I don’t clearly see a way out. Then add in some really creepy imagery that has haunted my dreams ever since. There are few filmmakers who can do this to me.

Another reason he’s so successful at the scares is because he’s a funny dude. You don’t wanna maintain a constant high level of anxiety. It’s not sustainable. What you want, is moments that make you laugh and calm you back down, so that when the next scare hits, it’s taking you from zero to sixty on the anxiety scale. A lot of the funny came from Winston Duke’s really dorky dad. I loved him so much, talk about #dadgoals

This film was gonna be under a lot of scrutiny because Get Out was a horror movie thinly veiling a metaphor. Would Us be a similar social thriller? Peele insists it’s straight up horror, and watching it, yeah it was. I’m so creeped out (especially when the Dolby seats started vibrating at key moments, or when that super haunting score kicked in) I wasn’t even thinking about a deeper meaning. When it ended, I felt like there was one there that I wasn’t seeing. As I’ve marinated on it, I do see layers and levels to the story. There’s still so many questions I have about the world on the surface and the meaning behind it. I don’t think I’ll ever get all the answers, but I find those make the best movies. The ones that don’t ever let you go because you need to keep thinking them thru. So once again, Jordan Peele, mad genius, has made another cinematic masterpiece.

Us – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Captive State

I usually run to the movies straight after work on Friday. Last Friday was meant to be no different. I had tickets saved for Captive State at the dine in, with just enough time for a grocery run first. Except, that Friday was also the day the new season of Queer Eye was dropping on Netflix. That Sat was reserved for Disney, which meant that I could maybe get in an episode or two after the movie, but most of it would hafta wait until Sunday. Until I realized, wait, I can just go to the movie on Sunday. Switched my ticket, binged Queer Eye, and made one of the few indisputably good decisions in recent memory.

But we’re talking about Captive State, not Queer Eye. Sorry, henny. Captive State has a really great premise. You know all the scifi movies we’ve got where aliens invade and earth fights back and we win and move on? What happens if we don’t win? What happens if the aliens have taken over and we’ve been under their rule for the past decade? Turns out what happens is you get the same as any other underground rebellion movie, but a far inferior one.

Yep, I was bored. And also confused by how AMC’s dine in kitchen can make a Caesar salad so dang salty. Wasn’t that supposta be the healthy thing on the menu? And wasn’t this movie supposta be some fresh new perspective? John Goodman was great. I thought the role fit him very well, I just wish he had better to work with. I’m also always happy to see Alan Ruck, but again, not enough to save this film. The main cast where some unknowns who lacked the presence or character development to make them interesting. Bummer.

I was getting some major Divergent vibes from the rebellion storyline, even though it didn’t actually have any YA going on. Really, it was somewhere between the space where Children of Men meets District 9, and it wasn’t anywhere near the caliber of either of those.

Captive State – \m/ \n

Gloria Bell

I had a couple passes for the movies that were gonna expire very quickly. Since I’m usually pretty hooked up with A list, I offered to share them with a friend. I let him pick the movie. He came to me ready to defend his choice of Gloria Bell and did not expect me to respond with an unenthusiastic “okay”. I wasn’t really interested in this movie, but I do love Julianne Moore and this was getting positive reviews. That’s worth taking a chance on with free tickets, esp if it meant a fun night out with a fave movie buddy.

Right so Julianne Moore plays Gloria Bell, I think we’ve established that much. Gloria is a divorcee in her 50s trying to find her joy in life now that her adult kids don’t really need her any more. One of her joys is dancing at discos, which is where she meets John Turturro’s Arnold. Could this potential suitor be the key to that happiness? Or is there more to life out there for her.

It probably goes without saying but Julianne was incredible. She brought this character to life with such dimension that I absolutely loved her. I cared about her and wanted to her to win at life. When she would sing in her car, I was her and she was me. (Actually yeah, I was almost uncomfortable with how much of myself I saw in Gloria at times). Without her, this movie would have no merit to it.

I didn’t care for how the story played out. To me, the only thing worse than a film that’s completely predictable is one where you really have no idea where it’s trying to go. There was a point about halfway thru where I was like “Soooo, what’s next? Are we done? There’s more? What more?” Movie buddy disagreed and said that dwelling on the seemingly mundane makes it feel like everyone’s story is worth telling. But I want more happening.

What I didn’t care for was John Turturro. I love him as an actor, but his character creeped me out from the getgo. The super seductive trying too hard look that he’d give when he was coming on to Julianne set off alarm bells for me. I just couldn’t get behind his storyline, and I did not like him as a love interest.

One thing that really stood out in this film was the music. Lots and lots of disco. At times, it was hard to take seriously, but at other times, it was utilized beautifully. There was more than one instance of me and movie buddy lip synching with full gusto in our seats along with Gloria. Still, I think I woulda preferred to watch Captain Marvel again

Gloria Bell – \m/ \m/ \m/

Apollo 11

One of my recent movie resolutions is that “documentary” is no longer a dirty word to me. So when I heard that this documentary that restores footage of the NASA mission was something worth seeing, I planned it into my weekend. Initially meant to see it as my usual Friday night, but then I had an opportunity to meet Andy Grammer, so I pushed it to Saturday. Thankfully there was a showing at the Universal City Walk right around park closing time (which was where I intended to spend my day). I almost even cut my day short and switched up my time, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say Disney >>> Universal.

When I think of a documentary, I think about a collection of footage and interviews and maybe some renactments all put together to tell a story. That’s not how this worked. This really was just pure archival footage (with a few illustrations) put together to form the narrative story of the Apollo 11 mission (and if I need to explain to you what the Apollo 11 mission was, just GTFO now, you’re beyond my help). The footage was so stunning, you’d think it was filmed yesterday. IDK if they’re showing this on IMAX or other large formats, but it’s worth seeking out there if possible.

For me though, when I think of a movie, I think of something with more narrative action. This felt a little slow and stunted, not helped by the fact that I knew how it’d all play out. So I didn’t experience this like I would any other movie I’d see in theaters. This felt more like something you’d see at a science museum (but on a legit IMAX, where again, it’d look effing gorgeous). That said though, I felt like I learned so much watching this. Obvioiusly I knew the big picture steps, but there were so many details I was oblivious to. I think had I been in a better mindset (and not tired and annoyed) I may have liked it better. I think 16 year old Dawn who wanted to be on Mission Control would have EATEN. THIS. UP. Current Dawn would rather watch Apollo 13.

One quick word though about 16 year old Dawn who wanted to be on Mission Control. That legit was my goal for a long time. It’s why I only applied to colleges that had aerospace engineering (whole other story why that didn’t work out). Watching this, I realized something. Mission Control (at least at the time) were all dudes. That’s not something I even noticed before, but I don’t think it would have phased me. I wanted to do science, and I intended to do science. Male, female doesn’t matter. And that’s how I was raised, to believe I could be or do anything I wanted. I could feel my very proud Daddy watching this movie with me because if there was ever anyone who instilled that attitude in me, it was certainly him.

Apollo 11 – \m/ \m/ \m/

Captain Marvel

She’s here!!!! I have been waiting for this powerful lady to hit the big screen. I even broke my rule of “no merch before you’ve seen the movie, just in case it’s not as good as you think it’s gonna be” and have been carrying around her purse for a couple months. While she may be receiving some criticisms, that I can mostly understand, for me she was absolutely worth waiting for.

The film opens and we meet her as Vers, the Kree warrior who is battling with the Skrulls. Stuff happens and she ends up back on Earth, where it turns out she’s been before. She teams up with fledgling SHIELD agent Nick Fury (I shouldn’t hafta tell you who plays him) and we get a roundabout origin story that’s bigger than anything she expected.

Obviously, I was ALL ABOUT the girl power in this movie. By the time we reached the end, I knew that Thanos does not stand a chance against her in a few weeks. But besides that, there were so many strong ladies in the film. Before the whole Kree thing, Carol Danvers is an air force pilot, as is her bestie and her commanding officer. This is what I’m talking about. This is what I wanna see.

I’m hearing some people say that Brie Larson may have been misdirected or not used to her full potential. Personally, I adored her. She had these great expressions that humanized her in a way that superheroes often aren’t, and it added to the humor of the film. And the humor of the film was on point. It’s one of the signatures of the MCU, and that was as strong as ever here. Plus add in her buddy chemistry with real life buddy Samuel L Jackson, and this made a great comedy (on top of being a great action movie). Oh and if you know your 90s pop culture, there’s even more easter eggs and in jokes for ya. I think we know that’s heaven for me.

But the real star of the movie is Goose, the cat. I darenot say too much lest I spoil it, but he owns this.

The common criticism you hear against MCU movies is that they’re too formulaic, and my common response is that it’s all about how you dress up that formula. While taking a somewhat not linear approach to change it up may or may not be effective, dressing it up with strong humor and even stronger women is enough to make this stand out (plus some bonus 90’s nostalgia FTW). Again, Thanos is so fuuuu—

Captain Marvel – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Greta

Told ya it was a gonna be a slow movie month. This week picked back up to more normal rates. I finally made it back to the Tuesday night movie meetup since I had a freebie bday ticket to use. I do love a good thriller and can very much appreciate a film where the main characters are ladies, I just wish it was better overall.

Chloe Grace Moretz finds a bag on the subway, which she returns to its owner Greta, Isabelle Huppert. Ignoring the plausibility problems with that part of the story (does nobody See Something, Say Something anymore?), the two start to form a friendship that fills their respective mother/daughter voids. When Chloe’s Frances finds a stash of identical green bags with women’s names and phone numbers on them, she realizes that Greta has been planting these bags across town for clearly some nefarious purpose. She attemps to end the friendship, but Greta ain’t gonna go quietly into the night and begins to show her true psycho stalker colors.

This film had a few things going for it. The initial stalker escalation felt like a very real this-could-actually-happen-to-me type of horror. And there was this sense of powerlessness that went with it. Cops and other potentially helpful people couldn’t or wouldn’t actually help. All of that was terrifying. But the thin plot then got stretched to the point of ridiculousness and the escalations got less and less plausible.

Even worse, the moments that were meant to be scary or threatening instead elicited laughs from the audience. Not just from the meetup dudes, but throughout the whole auditorium. I don’t exactly think that’s what they were going for.

Isabelle Huppert is wonderful (I still woulda voted for her when she was Oscar nominated for Elle) . She chews scenery like a boss, is clearly having the time of her life, and she is such a menacing villain. If she had better material, she’d go down in the crazy psycho hall of fame, and I’d love to see the movie where she does have better material. This one will be more forgettable.

Greta – \m/ \m/ \n

Fighting With My Family

March looks like it’s gonna be slow for me movie wise. A couple big tentpoles, but slim pickins otherwise. Well, there’ll be things opening, but I’ve promised myself not to see things without genuine interest, and little of it interests me genuinely. Unless Stardust raves about something I need to see that I was gonna skip. That was the case with Fighting With My Family.

The film tells the story of real life professional WWE wrestler Paige, and how her family raised her and her brother to train and love the sport their entire lives. When the WWE holds tryouts in her home country of England, only she advances to the next stage, leaving her brother behind.

I have zero interest in wrestling. As a kid, I thought it was too violent and fake. Now I see it as a form of theater. I respect it, but it’s not my kind of theater. I love John Cena and The Rock, but I have no interest in their sport. Therefore I had no interest in the film until I heard that it was too good to miss. And I’d hate to miss a good underdog sports film.

And this was more than just a good underdog sports film. It was a good family film. Wrestling was just a backdrop for the family dynamics and the drama that it caused. Without the relationship between Paige and her brother and her parents, we don’t have a movie. It was moving and it was so funny. Stephen Merchant wrote and directed (plus had a perfect bit part in the film) and I loved how bitingly clever some of the dialog was.

I also really connected with the outsider aspect of her character. In the words of Good Charlotte, this was for “everyone who’s ever been called a freak”. Lord knows I have. But Paige let her freak flag fly and it flew her to victory. That kicked me right in the gut and brought me to the verge of tears a couple times.

One thing I love about a good underdog sports film is that it makes you fall in love with the sport, even temporarily. Mighty Ducks gave me hockey. Warrior gave me MMA. I don’t even remotely follow them now, but there was some temporarily piqued interest. This at least had me looking up Paige’s debut fight on YouTube when I got home. And I may have paused writing this to watch her 10 Best Moments compilation. That’ll prolly be the last time I watch, especially since she’s retired due to injury, but it was a fun deviation from my norm. And a good movie does that.

Fighting With My Family – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I have loved this series from the moment Hiccup first laid eyes on Toothless. The first one surprised me with its stunning animation and heartwarming characters, plus major bonus points for Viking jokes. The second is a beautifully crafted sequel that logically expands the universe and story. Nearly a decade later, we’ve reached the conclusion of this magical trilogy.

Hiccup has grown up just a bit more and is now chief of Berk. The village has made it their mission to be a dragon sanctuary, as he and his pals have rescued as many winged creatures as they could find. Unfortunately, this high of a concentration of dragons has made them a prime target for dragon hunters, including one with a penchant for killing night furies like Toothless.

To be completely honest, the story was completely predictable this time. I could easily guess what was gonna happen at almost every turn. It didn’t entirely matter. This is another instance where I love the characters so much that I was happy to just spend the time with them. This is a franchise that has really shown tremendous growth for each of them as the films have progressed, and I was enjoying seeing that. Each of the side characters I adore had their own moments to let their quirks shine thru, and I appreciated that.

The animation is as stunning as ever, even seeing it on a plain ol’ 2D screen (the very first one I saw on a full size 8 story IMAX). The Viking jokes I love were still there. Everything that has made this a great series.

When I said I could predict everything that was going to happen, there was one thing I didn’t forsee, which was that I would be absolutely bawling for the last ten minutes or so of the movie. The way they concluded this trilogy (likely for good) was so moving and beautiful. I’m a big animal lover, and to me these creatures are no different from any other (hell, Toothless has basically the same personality as my cat Nosferatu, at least in the first movie). I cried so hard, and then there was an epilogue that tied everything back to these beloved characters and I cried even more. There are few films that can maintain such a level of quality over such a spread out trilogy, and Dragon nailed it.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Happy Death Day 2 U

I absolutely love the first Happy Death Day. It was one of the biggest surprises of the year, and such a blast to watch. How on earth is a sequel gonna measure up?

Okay stay with me here. In the first film, sorority girl Tree finds herself reliving the same day over and over again, which always ends the same way: killed by a psycho in a baby mask. She’s able to break the loop once she figures out who the killer is and kills them first. Happy Death Day 2 U begins with the loop passed on to another student. They quickly figure out the connection to that student’s mysterious science project, but an attempt to put things back in order sends Tree back to her original loop. Except something seems a little different this time….

Where the first was a horror/comedy, this one is more of a scifi/comedy. Yeah there’s still a psycho in a baby mask, but the focus isn’t on trying to not be killed but on trying to fix the science. It’s less Groundhog Day and more Back to the Future Part II.

Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about this movie. Some of it felt very different, but some of it felt very familiar. I appreciate them trying something new because you need that to move a sequel forward, but it was the familiar bits that I enjoyed most. Tree is still the best part of the film, but it took a while to get to her and thus took me a while to get into the story.

I guess I really don’t know what I wanted out of this. Did I want to see more of the same, or did I want something completely different? Mostly because I know that giving the audience the same experience will never be as good, but I still don’t know if I liked this new direction. Rumor has it there’s a third on the horizon to complete a trilogy, so maybe I’ll need to see the whole picture before I can really get what’s going on.

Happy Death Day 2 U – \m/ \m/ \m/

Isn’t It Romantic

Oh God I hate romantic comedies oh so very much. I think we’ve long since established that about me. This movie promised to be the Scream of the genre, the one that points out all the tropes and makes insightful statements about it, but still being a part of the genre. Okay, I’m intrigued. Maybe I can handle this one?

Rebel Wilson (yay!) stars as a woman who hates rom-coms (good so far) who suddenly finds herself stuck in one. As she calls out all those details that often make me want to claw my eyes out she realizes that she has to give in to them in order to get herself out of this altered reality. Enter love interest Liam Hemsworth, the gorgeous billionaire who is more than eager to play that role.

I could get behind the concept, but I wish this went further. For one, though it was infinitely more watchable for me than those atrocious films it parodies, I still didn’t find myself laughing enough. And I think that they could have taken the concept even further. It did a good job of pointing out all the pitfalls of those films, but instead of truly subverting them, it fell victim to all the same plot points. Kind of a missed opportunity.

But I did absolutely adore Rebel Wilson as a leading lady, and I want to see more from her. I also appreciated the positive message of the film, although it looks like that’s starting to become the new cliche of the genre. A much needed positive message, but still cliche territory.

I think I’m gonna still keep avoiding rom-coms, but hopefully this is a sign they’re gonna be more tolerable in the future

Isn’t It Romantic – \m/ \m/ \m/