Saturday 30 March 2019

Us (Movie Review)

Jordan Peele returns to the directors chair with his sophomore effort, Us, a horror film that was released stateside last week but only just made its way to Nigerian shores. The very fact that it is being shown over here is a welcome change, considering the fact that horror movies are rarely ever shown or given top billing at our local cinemas. So it was with equal parts dread and excitement that I had approached the movie, and I am happy to report that it delivered the scares, thrills and twists fans have come to expect.

The movie centers upon Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), a woman who has spent the better part of her life living in fear and anxiety following an experience she had in a funhouse as a child. She is forced to face her demons, so to speak, when she goes on vacation to her deceased parent's beach house, where the trauma began. She is accompanied by her wise-cracking husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), and their two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex).

At first, everything appears to be going according to plan, with the family trying its best to make the most of their vacation in spite of Adelaide's growing discomfort. Gabe even rents a beat-up motorboat, in a failed effort to oneup his friend and rival, Josh (Tim Heidecker), who is also there vacationing with his wife, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and their twin daughters. But things take a dark turn one night when the power goes out and they discover a family of doppelgängers standing in their driveway.

It is almost impossible to talk about Us and the full extent of its brilliance without threading into spoiler territory, but I'll try. The film is anchored by Lupita Nyong'o in the dual roles of Adelaide and Red (her doppelgänger), who gives what is arguably her best performance since her Academy Award winning turn in 12 Years a Slave. It also makes effective use of licensed music, with the Luniz classic, I Got 5 on It, in particular taking on an ominous tone as it is worked into the film's overall score.

The movie is also impeccably shot by Mike Gioulakis, who had also worked on the equally creepy and brilliant horror film, It Follows. And I guess that is the best way to describe Us as a whole, creepy but brilliantly so. It also boasts a twist ending that puts the likes of Glass to shame, one that seems so mind-boggling at first but fits perfectly into the overall narrative once you've given it a fair amount of thought. And it is all these things that come together to make it one of the best movies that has graced cinemas this year and every bit a worthy follow-up to Get Out.

Saturday 16 March 2019

Captain Marvel (Movie Review)

For those of you wondering why I am only just posting this review, this is due to the fact that the release of Captain Marvel in Nigeria was delayed by a week because of last week's gubernatorial elections. An annoying development for sure, considering that we'd all been waiting for it since that post-credits scene in Avengers: Infinity War last year. Thankfully, the excitement surrounding the movie had not been dampened by the delay, with the movie itself proving to be worth the extra wait.

Set in the mid-90s, the movie stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, the US Air Force pilot that would become what is being billed as Earth's mightiest avenger. When the film opens, she is part of the Starforce, an elite squad of soldiers fighting for the Kree Empire in their war against the Skrulls, a rival alien race. She has no memory of her Earth origin, or the origin of her special abilities, but she is trained to control them by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). During a mission to rescue a Kree spy on a Skrull base, she is captured by the Skrulls and taken aboard one of their spaceships.

Her memories are probed by the Skrull leader, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), who is hoping to find information about the whereabouts of a device called the light-speed engine. She manages to break free of her refrains during his probing, and she uses an escape pod that crash lands on Earth, where she meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). She struggles to bring both men up to speed on the war between the Kree and the Skrulls, but it doesn't take long before they are all swept up in the throes of that war.

Going into Captain Marvel, there were three main questions I felt the movie needed to address: who is Captain Marvel? Where has she been through all the global threats the Avengers have been fighting over the years? And is she powerful enough to stop Thanos? The movie doesn't only give satisfactory answers to all three questions, it also poses several questions of its own, some of which can only be answered in a post-Avengers: Endgame sequel. As a standalone movie, it delivers all the action, spectacle and laughs that fans have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), even though it never quite reaches the heights of some of its finer offerings, or even attempts to, which is okay.

It was always going to be tricky introducing another superhero origin story this late into the overall Infinity Gauntlet story arc, but Captain Marvel fits so nicely into the already-established MCU that it is little wonder why her movie hadn't been released sooner, alongside Phase One origin stories like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. The film even has a simple style and tone more in line with the films of that phase. But what it lacks in comparison to some of the more stylized movies of later phases it more than makes up for in the sheer promise of her forthcoming appearance in Avengers: Endgame next month.