Tag Archives: Get Out

The Hunt

14 Mar

‘The Hunt’: Liberals don’t want to take their guns – because they really add zest to the human hunt

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The film “The Hunt,” not to be confused with the 2012 Danish film of the same name starring Mads Mikkelsen, had been shelved by Universal last year because of sensitivity issues related to the film’s central plot of humans using other humans as prey – nothing new, but back in the day Fay Wray was in “The Most Dangerous Game” (1932) or Cornel Wilde was “The Naked Prey” (1965), Charles Whitman had yet to show the world what human-on-human carnage was really about.

The strategy had been to release “The Hunt” as a horror film; now the curio is being spun as a satire-cum-horror, or something “unclassifiable.” If we hadn’t seen Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (2017) or “Us” (2019), tagging it as unique, new or groundbreaking might work, but that crossover zone has already been defined and owned. “The Hunt” begins like a “Saw” chapter with a dozen random people waking up in the kind of bucolic field you might find in “Midsommar” (2019), semi-bound and gagged and not knowing where they are. Turns out they’re in a kill zone. Once they find a key to unlock the gags, a helpful park ranger comes out bearing arms. “Why do we need these?” comes a groggy question as semi-automatic pistols and assault rifles are meted out. Before there is any real answer, the asker’s brains are splattered by a high-caliber projectile and it’s game on, with the rest of the crew scattering and taking cover.

The what and why as bullets and arrows fly pull at the minds of those on the run as well as the audience. A trio eventually gets outside the barbed wire confines, muttering something about “Mansongate.” It’s along their journey that we get an inkling of what’s going on: rich liberals hunting deplorables and rednecks for their racially insensitive online posts, denial of climate change and so on. “I bet he used the N-word a lot,” one Richie Rich says. “You fail and we pay,” another says in the middle of hand-to-hand combat. It’s cheeky irony that the East Coasters have set up their slaughter shop in Arkansas, and another wicked barb that filmmaker Craig Zobel and his writers, Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof (both of TV’s “Watchmen”), have us rooting for the “deplorables,” who in this case seem far less a threat to democracy than rich liberals who want to impose their will with dollars and cents, and, in this case, semiautomatic weapons.

It’s hard to discuss “The Hunt” more without selling the farm, and that’s the real fun of the film: the twists, pitfalls and revelations that confront the hunted as they seek safe ground. I will say that Betty Gilpin of Netflix’s “Glow” cuts a captivating presence as the unassuming waif with kick-ass can-do (think Ripley by way of “Emma”) tagged Snowball (“Animal Farm” tries to factor into the plot, but the convention is oddly inserted). She’s matched by Hilary Swank’s righteously indignant badass, who likes to discuss the delineating factors between a house and a mansion, and Amy Madigan and Reed Birney make a wonderful side dish as a pair of yokels who run a ma-and-pa gas station. The plot’s got a bunch of holes in it, but “The Hunt”’s more about the pursuit, cheeky spoofs and the notion that elitism ain’t pretty no matter what flag you’re waving.

The Top 25 Films of the Decade

29 Dec

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2010-2019 list in alphabetical order with links to reviews/articles.

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. The Act of Killing
  3. Birdman
  4. Blackkklansman
  5. Blue is the Warmest Color
  6. Burning
  7. Citizenfour
  8. Dunkirk
  9. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  10. The Florida Project
  11. Get Out
  12. The Handmaiden
  13. Isle of Dogs
  14. Mad Max: Fury Road
  15. Moonlight
  16. O. J.: Made in America
  17. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  18. Parasite
  19. Shoplifters
  20. Spring Breakers
  21. The Social Network
  22. The Tree of Life
  23. Under the Skin
  24. The Wolf of Wall Street
  25. Zero Dark Thirty

US

24 Mar

‘Us’: Jordan Peele’s terrific sophomore flick shows how scary it can be to fight with family

 

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Jordan Peele’s follow-up to the genre-rebranding horror classic “Get Out” (2017) is something more pure in terms of blood and gore, but not as sharp politically or socially. Not that that makes it a bad movie – I’m just not sure it’s possible to improve on “Get Out.” And while “Us” is something else entirely, it is cut from the same cloth.

What’s to know? The Wilson family are off for a summer vacation in Santa Cruz, replete with a house on the bay and an amusement park boardwalk. It sounds dreamy, but as the nuclear family rolls in there’s dread on the mother’s face, with good cause. Turns out when Addy was 10 (played by an effectively wide-eyed Madison Curry) she had an encounter with an identical girl who accosted her in the house of mirrors and, as a teen, went through years and years of therapy. They unpack, dad (Winston Duke) scores a sputtering speedboat and they take in a few beach beverages with well-off bores Josh and Kitty (Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss). It’s not until they settle in that evening that a family shows up on the front lawn. A call to the cops and Duke’s Dave wielding a bat does little. Soon the summer home is invaded and the Wilsons are looking at four versions of themselves, each dressed in a red Michael Myers jumpsuit and holding mother-sized pairs of gardening shears.

Only Addy’s twin can speak; the rest make only animal noises. But their intent is clear: Separate and exterminate their original. It’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” done Jason Voorhees style.

The real fun here is watching Lupita Nyong’o play Addy and her evil “tethered” twin. She’s amazing on both sides of the equation, and it’s nice to see the Oscar-winning actress (“12 Years a Slave”) take full center stage. Duke, who costarred with Nyong’o in “Black Panther” (2018) is up to the task as well, and Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex cast as the Wilson kids are convincing both as imperiled humans on the run and the shadow demons looking to replace them.

While “Us” revolves around a black family in a largely white setting, it doesn’t have the sociopolitical punch that “Get Out” had. When Addy asks her evil who they are, she replies “We are Americans.” Perhaps it’s a light reference to equity disparity? It doesn’t matter – “Us” is best seen as a straight-up chiller that’s well crafted and fantastically acted. As Peele pulls back the camera and the plot widens, the film doesn’t quite hold its spell. Sometimes horror films on the lake are best when they stay by the lake.

Widows

17 Nov

‘Widows’: Their husbands left with a job to do, and if goes even a little wrong, it’s their funeral

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The latest from “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen could have easily been called “Bastards” and worked as well. As is, “Widows” is a sweeping heist movie that plays out in alluring shards spliced together kinetically by editor Joe Walker, who’s teamed with McQueen on several projects. Early on we get loving embraces between a soft teddy bear of a man named Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) and his betrothed Veronica (Viola Davis). Could a couple be any more perfect? We cut to Harry pulling off a guns-blazing armored car job. The authorities are hot on his tail, but he’s got his crackpot team he tells to “stick to the plan” as bullets rain down. But things don’t go as planned, and soon we’re left with the trio of the title.

Joining Veronica are Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), all three pretty much left high and dry by their exes, and it does’t provide any solace that local gangster Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), whom Harry ripped off, comes knocking and wants his dough back. There’s nothing left to square up with, and Jamal’s sociopathic brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) lurks at every turn, so what’s a trio of ladies in mourning to do? Simple: Execute the next job detailed in Harry’s secret notebook, pay off Jamal and start anew.

Easier said than done, especially when you learn your driver can’t drive. A quick call to “Baby Driver” might have fixed that, but remember, folks, this is an all-woman affair. Add to the mix the shifting sands of Chicago politics as Jamal runs for alderman against an old-school pol by the name of Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) whose pa (Robert Duvall) held the post in the past and fancies himself something of a power broker.

If the plot and cast couldn’t get anymore crowded, why not throw in Jacki Weaver (think of her performance in “Animal Kingdom”) as Alice’s mother. She likes the good life so much, she’s willing to sign her daughter up as a high-end escort, and isn’t it a blessing that Lukas Haas (the wide-eyed kid from “Witness”) pops up as her john named David? There’s a lot of moving parts and plenty of action. Bored you will not be.

Behind the lens, McQueen, like David Fincher helming “Gone Girl,” orchestrates the noisy fray and rippling plot within a plot with artful care. It helps that he’s blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the casting. Kaluuya, so good in “Get Out,” gets squandered here, but Henry and Cynthia Erivo, seen recently in “Bad Times at the El Royale” and a scene-grabber here as a late add to the crew, score quiet knockouts. Debicki, a tall, angular blonde with a blend of gangly, goofy sensuality that calls to mind a young Laura Dern, registers the fullest character onscreen. We get knowing resignation offset by a warm smile as she accepts the next shitty hand she’s dealt. Alice can’t catch a break, and that’s how the film wants it. These women are more than survivors when their backs are against the wall, that much is clear early on, though the action often feels heavy handed. The shifting lines of race and gentrification and behind-the-scenes political jockeying and backroom deals feel like something right out of a Richard Price novel and make for the most alluring subplot of the film – made even more so by the vitriolic relationship between Farrell’s son and Duvall’s megalomaniacal father – though never fully developed. It could have been its own movie. As is, the film hangs squarely on Davis holding it all together with pursed lips, unbending posture and a laser stare. 

The story by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, whose other projects “Gone Girl” and “Sharp Objects,” were similarly steeped in webs of crime, circumstance, depraved pasts and hidden agendas, is based loosely on a British TV crime drama, and Flynn knows how to get you on the hook. She’s just yet to master the reel-in, and the wrap-up comes as something of a shrug. It’s not quite as significant or moving as you might hope, but getting there’s an electric, Windy City Slip ’N Slide full of unsavory characters in the shadows and the front office – almost all of them men.

Get Out

24 Feb

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is a devilish little bit of social commentary that takes the essence of “Guess Who’s Coming to Diner” and forces it, with vehemence but also panache, into a “Wicker Man”/“Stepford Wives” construct. The result is something clearly borrowed, incredibly fresh and nearly perfect in light of the current political climate. What’s also remarkable is that the horror flick-cum-black comedy marks Peele’s directorial debut, and a surprising one at that – not only because is it so sharp and confident, but also because Mr. Peele is better known as half of the comedy team of Key and Peele on Comedy Central.

The setup’s simple enough. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an aspiring photog, agrees reluctantly to meet the parents of his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams of “Girls”), whom he’s been dating for five months – just long enough to have to take these things seriously.

“Do they know I’m black?” Chris asks, a question that the lily-white Rose shrugs off, telling him that her dad would have voted for a Obama for a third time if he had the chance. It’s a pointed little barb, but since “Get Out” started filming long before it played at Sundance in January, I’m not certain Peele understood the whole political backdrop he’d be facing. Given the results of the election, the daggers the film throws couldn’t be any more on point. Continue reading