GET OUT (2017)

Jordan Peele is famous for being one half of the amazing comedy duo Key and Peele, but after seeing GET OUT I’m pretty sure “Jordan Peele, Writer/Director” is his true calling. 

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is heading for a weekend away with his girlfriend Rose’s (Alison Williams) family. Worried that they may not be accepting of him being black, Rose assures Chris everything is going to be fine. Some strange incidents with the family’s (all black) staff and bizarre racial comments from Rose’s family lead Chris to think something not quite right is going on. 

Rose’s hypnotherapist mom ( Catherine Keener) is placed under suspicion as the house workers seem to be acting odd or brainwashed. Anything else is knowing too much. The hypnotism scenes were truly unsettling and I’ll probably never use a china tea set ever again. The whole idea of “The Sunken Place” is phenomenonal and transcends horror, especially in 2017. 

Slowly building tension, no cheap jump scares and a very sharp, clever script makes GET OUT quite possibly the freshest horror/thriller in quite some time. I wouldn’t call it scary, but this film really makes you feel something. Dread or anxiety maybe, something a little deeper than you’re usually feeling during a horror movie. 

Discussing racism in America is probably more socially important than it has been for quite some time, especially in this post Obama, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN landscape. GET OUT addresses this both head on and subversively. Peele pulls no punches and some of the tensest moments are with Chris and how he’s made to feel. The stark black and white colour scheme of the posters and ads reflects this perfectly. 

Daniel Kaluuya’s performance is nothing short of star making, I find it very odd he’s being criticised for being British and not Afrcian-American, but he’s responded marvelously to these comments, ironically proving he understands being marginalised for who he is. Truly an actor to watch. 

The supporting cast is phenomenonal, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as Kate’s white liberal parents managing to be lovely yet sinister and Stephen Root popping up with a creepy performance as a blind art dealer. Surely a metaphor in there somewhere.

I avoided all trailers and ads for GET OUT, mainly because Peele being the writer director was enough for me as well as the fact horror trailers ruin everything! Too much! I didn’t quite expect what we got. I think knowing as little as possible is the best way to see this movie,which is why I’m not about to ruin it here. 

9/10, GET OUT is in Cinemas now. 

FOR FANS OF

The Cabin In The Woods 

Hard Candy 

The Stepford Wives 

Ex Machina 

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

I’m going to get real. This film will not change your lives or win any Oscars. It will not give you any deep, introspective thoughts. It will however,  show you some footage of a big ape beating the shit out of helicopters. And for that alone we should be grateful. 

KONG: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a throwback to those 90’s action films that just cared about entertainment. He gives us a rag tag bunch of cannon fodder characters, a few big star leads, some awesome character actors and a hell of a lot of CGI explosions. It’s a stunning looking film, so many gorgeous shots, the helicopter sequence particularly standing out. 
Revealed to be part of Warner Bros’ larger MonsterVerse Cinematic Universe, this take on Kong is, in a way, a prequel to 2014’s Godzilla, with the Monarch organisation again being front and centre. Think of them as a kind of Monster-phobic version of Marvel’s SHIELD. But without all the years of being secrectly run by Nazis. That said, I would watch the shit out of Godzilla vs Hitler. 

Our story is set in 1973, giving us some very cool Vietnam era music and a nice backdrop to hang the action on. Monarch Monster Hunter  Bill Randa (John Goodman) wants to tag along with geological survey of a previously unknown island and requests a military back up, including the appropriately named Conrad ( Tom Hiddleston)  and anti war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). America has just lost the war so  Packard (Samuel L Jackson) is eager to take his troops back into a fight he can win. Of course, on arriving at the island, they’re encountered by a giant, angry Gorilla. 

What I enjoyed about this movie, more than anything, is that you can tell the creative team behind it just wants you to have fun. There are running gags, plenty of funny moments and loads of hugely exciting creature scenes. I really loved the variety of odd creatures, seeing them interact with each other and the human characters. The island feels alive, similar to Jurassic Park or Aliens, you’re constantly waiting for something to happen. It’s a nice tension builder, especially when we’re told of a “Big One” that comes out from the ground, we anticipate it’s arrival for the rest of the runtime!

Let’s look at the cast. Tom Hiddleston is billed as the star but honestly, he comes across as just another face in the ensemble, as does Brie Larson. The two most memorable cast members being a grumpy John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson in full bad ass mode, playing a slightly unhinged army general. The army grunts along with Jackson’s Packard remind me of the marines in Aliens ( another very Vietnam war influenced film) with their constant wisecracking and ribbing each other. It adds a layer of character a lot of action films don’t bother with now. Toby Kebbell pops up pulling double duty as both a marine and a motion capture Kong, along with Terry Notary, both actors also played apes in the last Planet of the Apes movie so Kong’s movements look authentic and powerful. I feel like I want to talk about John C Reilly’s character, a World War II pilot we meet in the opening scene, trapped on the island for 3o odd years. He’s a show stealer, so I’m hesitant to spoil him for anyone yet to watch the film. 

The creature design is, as expected, awesome,  if overly CGI’d. Kong looking grizzled and beaten up, scarred chest and all, lumbers around the island, truly fearless and proud. He’s not a realistic Gorilla. He’s fully bipedal and he is Kong.  Peter Jackson and WETA gave us a realistic looking ape in 2005, this flick returns us to a classic monster movie style Kong and I loved it. 

For a film as shallow on the surface as this seems to be, I did pick up on a lot of themes and subtext. Vietnam regret and the premise of an army invading somewhere they shouldn’t, lies heavy across the film. Contrasting that is the Samuel L Jackson character wanting to win the war, saving his country from the threats they face. Obviously, they took a fair amount of the symbolism from Apocalypse Now, but hey, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. I did like the nod towards Heart of Darkness, the novel Apocalypse Now was based on, naming Hiddleston’s character Conrad, after it’s author. 

The music was great, a soundtrack filled with Black Sabbath, David Bowie and Credence Clearwater Revival, alongside a suitably bombastic score from Henry Jackman.
While not being for everyone, Kong: Skull Island was certainly for me. A riotous mix of CGI chaos and old school adventure, I was laughing and smiling for most of the film. Sometimes you just need to see a giant ape use a tree as a baseball bat. 


7/10
  Kong: Skull Island is in Cinemas now. 

For Fans Of:

Aliens

Godzilla (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 

Jurassic Park 

Twin Peaks (1990)

I have two abiding memories of being five years old. One, is my fifth birthday party, where, it being 1990,  I was given Batman gifts, the 1989 movie still being very relevant. The other memory is something different.  

It was dark, it was late. I walked out onto the landing from my room. My mum’s bedroom door was open, the TV was on and there was music. I walked in and asked what she was watching. “Twin Peaks,  it’s very good. Someone has killed Laura Palmer”

 
Twin Peaks is returning to television in May 2017, brought back by Showtime and the original creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, with Lynch directing all 18 episodes. So now is probably the best time to go back and revisit the original show and it’s prequel movie, Fire Walk With Me. 

Twin Peaks has transcended Pop Culture and attained it’s own unique status as one of the most influential television shows in history. It’s no exaggeration to say this, literally hundreds of films and TV shows have borrowed that Lynch/Frost visual vocabulary for their own ends. 

Opening with the death of Laura Palmer, we are slowly drawn into surrealist web of drama, psychological horror and campy melodrama. Peaks becomes the very definition of Must See TV, simply by playing it’s strengths. The weirdness is compelling, obtuse, yet leaving us wanting more. 

In TV, when a series juggles multiple plots, sometimes it doesn’t quite work. Some scenes leave the audience waiting for the main plot to return. Lynch, Frost and their team never have this problem. 

The character work is sensational, from weepy Deputy Andy Brennan and Police Secretary Lucy’s slightly awkward love story to the sheer horror of Laura’s plight, not one arc is wasted. Even characters seemingly as minor as the town mayor get fun moments. 

Kyle McLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper is, hands down, one of TV’s greatest ever lead characters. Endearing, funny, yet so quirky,  Cooper is the heart of this show. His chemistry with Sheriff Harry S Truman, played by Michael Ontkean, is brilliant, the two becoming fast friends and a wonderful duo to watch. What I think works most about Cooper, is that his straight laced FBI agent is plonked down straight into a surreal murder mystery in a town full of weirdo Lynchian characters and doesn’t bat an eyelid. He normalises everything and accepts everybody. 

At one point in season two, Cooper’s old DEA colleague, Dennis Bryson shows up, having begun transitioning gender, to Denise Bryson, played by David Duchovny. Coop, not only accepts this, but seems happy for Denise for embracing her gender identity. It’d be  progressive for 2017, for 1991 it was incredible. Denise is treated well and her whole arc is a highlight of the entire series. 

I think trying to distill what I love about the show down to one blog, sort of short changes why it’s so good. The world of Twin Peaks is so rich and full, it’s impossible to do all of the characters justice

The various intertwined stories are precisely why Peaks is so great. Everyone sort of knows everyone. Noone’s love life is simple, business deals conflict with personal lives. The realism and relatability of these characters really makes the surrealism jump out so much more. One minute you’re watching a love triangle between Shelly, Leo and Bobby and the next thing you know, you’re in the woods with creepy Owls, or being chased by BOB. 

In fact, let’s talk about the weirdness. People made fun of Twin Peaks at the time, but the surrealism makes sense. Everything is slightly offbeat, but the supernatural elements really pop. When Cooper shows the Twin Peaks sheriff’s department his investigative methods based on Tibetan theology, you’re aware this is an odd show.

 When Coop visits the Red Room with the zigzag floor of the Black Lodge in his dreams, everything changes. This is beyond weird. It’s scary. Yet, nothing is wasted. Everything is there for a reason. The Man From Another Place gives Agent Cooper the clues he needs to start looking for Laura’s killer. Peaks turns a corner here and if you’re into it, the ensuing ride is an emotional, funny, scary, good time. 

Angelo Badalamenti’s gorgeous score is as much a character as anyone else, haunting and so very visceral,  nothing else would feel right. His music charges the atmosphere so well, backing Audrey’s dancing and providing a jazzy, finger clicking score for The Man from Another Place to dance backwards. 

The show ended on a huge cliffhanger, never fully explained in 1992’s Fire Walk With Me, so I’m very intrigued to see where Lynch and Frost take us in May. With a huge cast, most of the original stars returning and new additions such as Naomi Watts, Michael Cera and Trent Reznor, it will be a TV event like no other. Our television landscape has finally caught up with Lynch and Frost’s masterpiece so it’s the right time for it to return. 

I’ve avoided spoilers in this blog, as I would never want to ruin Twin Peaks and it’s twists, turns or revelations for anyone. I will however go into more detail when I talk about Fire Walk With Me.

Logan (2017)

James Mangold’s follow up to 2013’s The Wolverine has been garnering huge critical acclaim. I’m just not sure why.

 

Logan, is a dark, violent tale of an older Wolverine, in a dystopian future, devoid of mutants who are now largely extinct. The story is as deep as a puddle, Wolverine and Xavier have to take a mutant kid across the country,to keep her away from evil scientists. That’s it. 

Hugh Jackman reprises the role he is most famous for, with Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, Stephen Merchant as Caliban and a woefully underused Richard E Grant as Zander Rice. Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce, leader of the Reavers was great and I now really look forward to seeing him in Shane Black’s The Predator. 

It’s not that I hated Logan. It’s just that I found it bland and uninteresting. It was a retread of better films and better stories. It wanted to be  The Last of Us, Mad Max, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Children of Men and about fifteen different Westerns. Wearing it’s influences so blatantly invites comparison too easily. Why should I care about this movie when I’ve already seen, read and played the things it’s copying?

A lot has been said regarding the R Rating and Hugh Jackman’s paycut to ensure the gore and violence stayed in. This certainly is a brutal, more visceral affair than we’re used to from an X-Men film, something more akin to The Punisher or a Tarantino film, unflinching shots staying on some serious carnage. 

I also found the constant digs at brightly costumed adventures and slating comic books to be a bit daft especially in the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those jokes were ok 17 years ago. But we had a comic accurate Spider-Man take down Giant Man last year. Hugh Jackman with grey hair and a black jacket is hardly going to wow us now, especially knowing we will never see him in a real Wolverine costume. 

The cast were superb and deserved a better story. Jackman as Logan is iconic and remains the best screen portrayal of any comic book hero, he simply is Wolverine. Young Dafne Keen as X23/Laura is brilliant too, giving a Millie Bobby Brown level Breakout performance and surely ensuring herself a career in the process.

I did like elements of the movie, the direction was brilliant and the film looks gorgeous. The rumours of a black and white cut would definitely add to that. I also really enjoyed the scenes of Logan and Charles, playing off their history. The family meal with the Munson’s particularly hitting home.
One thing I really didn’t like, was the attempt to saddle Logan with a child. Charles Xavier tries to get across how Logan has never been able to have a family or love anyone, and he needs to learn to love Laura. This would have been fine if that wasn’t Logan’s story arc in: X1,2,The Last Stand,(Jean/The X Men), Origins (Kayla),  The Wolverine (Mariko/Yukio). You get my point. He finds it hard to love. Oh wait, hes found out how to open up to people. Every  damn time. 

One thing that I found funny is that Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall is fully in place in this film. Trump hadn’t won the election yet during production so a funny nod turned into a sadly ominous future. 

Entering spoiler territory, I found the ending to be a bit of a letdown. The climactic battle came across as an empty remake of X Men The Last Stand. Logan in the forest fighting faceless villains. I also couldn’t stop thinking of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, with Mel Gibson and his gang of Lost Boys style kids. X24 was basically a repeat of Weapon XI from Origins too. I get the whole thing of symmetry and showing a progression, but it didn’t work. It tries to elicit an emotional response based on films you’ve seen before, which is lazy. 

All in all, Logan is a letdown. It’s not boring, but it is hollow and just didn’t connect with me. I didn’t expect Old Man Logan, but I certainly didn’t expect a poor riff on Children of Men. 

Logan is in Cinemas now. 

4/10

For Fans Of 

Children Of Men

Mad Max Fury Road 

The Last of Us (PS4)

Batman V Superman