Pretty decent amount of releases this week and I’ll start with the biggest, Us. Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out made bank at the box office, but I gotta say, it’s nowhere near as good as his first film. It is really tough to review because the things I don’t like about the film are hard to discuss without spoiling the movie. The cast is fantastic though. Lupita Nyong’o and Elisabeth Moss are always good. Nyong’o is the lead and plays a double role. She holds your attention throughout the film. The big surprise is Winston Duke. I pretty much only know him from Black Panther/Avengers: Infinity War, but he’s a scene stealer in this. The film looks and sounds great. Peele has some great action/horror sequences and you can see the influence that horror and things like The Twilight Zone had on him. Nothing about the filmmaking aspect of the movie is bad in the slightest. It builds up tension well without over using jumpscares which I appreciate. So basically with the cast being good and the film production being good, that leaves the story. You obviously expect a big reveal or surprise if you’ve seen Get Out. Add in that this film has doppelgängers and you expect a reveal or explanation of those doppelgängers. That’s what ruined the movie for me. The explanation makes the first 2/3rds of the film wrong. Scenes you see in the beginning or middle of the flick, the way characters interact with one particular character don’t make sense after the reveal/twist. The doppelgängers act a certain way only when the movie needs them to and then completely forgets that they are supposed to be mimics. I wish I liked it more, but it’s one of those movies the more you think about it, the more you see wrong.
Another slightly disappointing movie is Slaughterhouse Rulez, but that’s more because of my expectations. I’m a huge fan of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost plus Michael Sheen is always brilliant. This horror comedy is good, but I wanted to love it. It’s about an elite school run by Sheen that releases creatures when fracking is done near the school. The students must band together to fight the creatures and survive. Pegg and Frost have more minor characters with Asa Butterfield, Finn Cole and Hermione Corfield as the lead students. It has laughs and some good effects, but it’s missing something. I’m not sure what that something is, but it needed something to put it up there with Shaun of the Dead. I can see it gaining a cult following on streaming/home video and I do hope people check it out, I just wanted more from it. I don’t think I realized it was a creature film, I was expecting zombies or ghosts for some reason. I will say that Butterfield has grown up to be a pretty solid actor. If you ever wanted a spoof of Harry Potter, this could work for you..
Under the Silver Lake is an absolute headscratcher. Andrew Garfield stars in this movie that, um, confused the hell out of me. Is he a serial killer? Is he imagining everything? Does he hate dogs? The more I watched, the more I got lost. And the worst part is, it could be really cool. It’s shot well, has some good camera movements and style and even R.E.M. songs. Garfield sees patterns in things and when a neighbor goes missing, he starts searching for answers. Are there hidden messages in songs from a hot band in LA? Is there a map in a Nintendo Power Magazine? Are there cults and people controlling Los Angeles? Are there tunnels and shelters under Silver Lake? If the story wasn’t a mess then the film would be cool. I thought Garfield was really good in it and I’m not always a fan of his. I never think he’s bad, but he really surprised me here. I just have no idea what the point of the film was.
Speaking of no point, every watch a documentary and wonder why it was made? That was my reaction to Felix Austria. This is about a pretentious man who changes his name to Felix and loves all things Austro-Hungarian. His father suffers from a rare disease and he and his sister have a 50/50 chance of having it as well. He really likes his Austrian history and knew a man who wrote letters to an Austrian royal. He then visits this man and I have no idea what the hell I was supposed to get from this. Who is this for? Has anyone ever heard of this guy? I understand he’s scared he might have a disease and this new identity is sort of a mask to cover up his fears and wanting to live life, but what would anyone get from this?
Patrick Melrose stars Benedict Cumberbatch as an English aristocrat who finds out his father died. He heads to New York to retrieve his father’s ashes and does a whole lot of drugs. Over 5 episodes we see Patrick’s story from young boy to family man, getting sober and his secret past. Hugo Weaving plays his father and Jennifer Jason Leigh his mother. Cumberbatch as usual is brilliant with scenes that would rival Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street to other characters like The Talented Mr. Ripley and more. I had actually never even heard of this and binged it over two days. It goes dark pretty quickly and tackles issues like drug addiction, PTSD from past issues, family, money and repeating patterns. I can see why it was nominated for awards especially Cumberbatch who runs through every emotion he can throughout the series. If you missed it, I highly recommend it.
Sticking with TV, Swingtown The First Season is out this week. I vaguely remember this show which revolves around Chicago in 1976. It takes the vibe of Dazed and Confused and mixes it with the sexuality of Boogie Nights with the soundtrack of both! TV staples like Molly Parker and Grant Show star in a show about a family moving a few blocks away and their new neighbors having an open relationship. It comes across pretty racy surprisingly and the acting is top-notch. I’m not sure if it’s been available on home video before but if you remember the show, now’s a good time to pick it up.
Two more films get releases this week from the Retro Afrika Collection. First is One More Shot that has some of the most laughable martial arts I’ve ever seen but I laughed so much I enjoyed it. A criminal is released from jail and wants revenge on the man who put him there, a boxer. The criminal teams up with a crime boss to kidnap a woman to trap the boxer, but the boxer teams up with an Asian martial artist. It’s really bad but highly entertaining because of it.
Next is Lola. I guess it’s a comedy but the acting is so bad it’s hard to tell. Lola is a volleyball player who convinces her friends to go to university with her and play there. A rival team thinks they won’t have time to play while studying and challenge them to a game. It’s really badly made and acted and hard to get into because of it. I appreciate what these films are and what they meant in terms of film history, but this one is pretty rough to get through.
Swing Kids is a Korean film not to be confused with the 1993 Christian Bale of the same name and similar plot. This is about the Korean war with prisoners of war coming together to dance. I actually learned something from it, that North Korean POWs in the south actually fought against each other because some wanted to stay in the south and were against the Communists and Pro-Communists called them traitors. This one stars K-pop star Do Kyung-soo and my knowledge of K-Pop is zero so I have no idea who that is. I was expecting a light movie about dancing even though it takes place in a POW camp and it is light at times, but wow I was not expecting that ending. I was quite surprised at it to be honest and I won’t spoil it. If you are a fan of K-Pop you’ll probably love this and I’m happy I learned something from it. I didn’t expect much out of it to be honest but I got a history lesson and a shocking ending so I’m pleased.
The next two films came out in May but I didn’t get my copies until late last week. First is Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a fake documentary about a serial killer. If you read me enough you know I hate found footage or fake documentary films. Right away you know the film isn’t real and yes no films are actually real (besides documentaries), but I hate when they pretend they are. Two filmmakers get in touch with a man who said he was in prison but turns out he lied and is a killer who’s never been caught. They mic him and give him cameras and are surprised when he acts badly. He gets into their homes and follows their family while finding out he has a daughter of his own. I didn’t quite get the ending, maybe I missed something, but overall the film didn’t do much for me in the first place.
Last we have Dark Sense which was pretty good. It’s a mix of sci-fi and horror and is about a psychic who sees things and his own death. He hires a former soldier to protect him for a few days while he tries to figure out who the killer is. I’m not sure if I’m familiar with anyone in the cast and the budget gives it a sort of SyFy Channel look, but overall I liked it. I do think they tried to connect everyone too much with multiple characters being part of the killer’s connection along with priests, psychics and the government. I can see it becoming a cult flick with home video and streaming.