This is Us

No, not the overrated NBC “drama.” This is Us: the next movie from Jordan Peele.

The trailer caused me to think this (Us) would be a twist on other home invasion films such as The StrangersFunny Games, The Last House on the Left etc. — and certainly that element is a factor.  The same trailer gave me pause that I would be kept from sleeping.  Not so much: Us was a disappointment, and did not get under my skin.  It did not mark, as I had hoped, a narrative progression vis-à-vis Get Out. No, this is a distinct regression in all ways compared to the film tied for first place of 2017.

A ZOMBIE FLICK – DOPPELGÄNGER PIC RE-HASH/MASH-UP 

Peele had a concept with Get Out that was fresh and thrilling; that level of concept was not to be found in Us.  There are several new ideas here, but essentially we’re talking about a zombie – doppelgänger re-hash mash-up pic that makes you appreciate how much better David Lynch handles this kind of material.

Even so, Us is an entertaining film, especially in the first half.  Fun, and ultimately a bit lame, and underwhelming, which goes to explain why I waited two weeks to publish this post.  7/10

Film Brief: Double Lover

At first, I loved Double Lover.  In the early going especially, the storytelling was strong, driven by the leads’ performances.  But the story was uneven, eventually falling into a derivative doppelgänger tale crossed with silly, even absurd, David Cronenberg-esque elements.  David Lynch has proven to be the master of the doppelgänger / film as soufflé .  A key to his success is that he doesn’t belabor the point.  The doppelgänger isn’t the story itself, as it was with Double Lover.  For Lynch, it’s almost incidental to the larger story at hand.

As the doppelgänger elements were mishandled here, a better tack would have been more the approach displayed in Thelma.  That is, the approach of a better movie.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Vertigo, Cronenberg films, Mulholland Drive + other Lynch projects.

A Foreign Affliction: Ich Seh Ich Seh

Goodnight Mommy - poster

Ich Seh Ich Seh, marketed in English as Goodnight Mommy, is a captivating little Austrian psychological drama.  Though being marketed as a horror film, it is hardly anything of the sort.  It does a great job of throwing us in this intriguing world, a house set amongst nature.  Makes me want to visit Austria immediately!  And it does a good job building its story of two boys suspicious of their mother and her odd behavior.

But I don’t like it when a movie — in its final three minutes — yells out to the audience: “Ha Ha!  We got you!  We were lying the whole time!”  Oh yea, you got me.  Boy was I a fool to believe the entire movie up to that point.  Silly me.

Goodnight Mommy - text block215px-Uninvitedposter

 

 

And when the entire film is based on that lie, then the entire film collapses upon its revelation.  Something else – another lie, but a tiny white lie compared to the big one at the end: This film’s title is Ich Seh Ich Seh (English: I See I See).  Nowhere in the film is it titled Goodnight Mommy — so if you’re going to sell it like that, then put it in the movie.  Otherwise just translate the title, which is much more relevant to the film’s content.  A marginal thumbs-down because of the cop-out ending; 5/10

Comparison Notes (both recommended, and both much better than Ich Seh Ich Seh): Secret Window, The Uninvited

On The Double

The Double - poster small

The Double, an adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novella, earns lots of style points, with its bleak, Eraserhead-conjuring industrial world.  The writer-director Richard Ayoade certainly has an idea.  But this movie is fairly pointless, and worse, not entertaining.

With Synecdoche, New York, BirdmanFight Club, Secret Window, The Machinist and Moon, and the granddaddy of all, Mulholland Dr., there is little reason to watch this rather weak take on the doppelgänger sub-genre.  4/10

The Double - text block

 

 

 

B-Movie Log: Triangle

Triangle - poster med

IT’S BAD ENOUGH that the Tomatometer is so wildly off for many bigger films, now I’ve found out that I need to be careful with tiny ones.  Triangle was the sort of movie I was in the mood for, and with Apple Movies was telling me it had an 82% score, I went ahead and sprung for it.

Only afterwards did I find out no real consensus existed, and that only 2 “Top Critics” had reviewed it.  That’s how small it was.  Triangle begins with a rather fake setup and some blatantly bad acting, but then gets better as the story sets in.  But you can do a lot better in the horror/thriller genre, and the (SPOILER ALERT!) doppelgängler genre — try instead Mulholland Dr., the generally underrated Secret Window, or Moon.  I like the poster though.

Before jumping on those Tomato scores, make sure some critics you respect (like me) have given the thumb’s up.  A few positives yield a 4/10.

Christian Bale Movies on Netflix

For some reason, “Ryan Gosling Movies on Netflix” has endured as by far the most popular post on my site.  Ironic, I think, considering the post is no longer accurate  — only All Good Things remains.  Too bad, but that’s the here today, gone tomorrow nature of Netflix.  And also a little funny that that’s my most popular post; I think it’s hitting Google when people search, which they could just as easily do directly on Netflix.

Christian Bale movies - text blockWith that, I wanted to point out two outstanding Christian Bale films currently on Netflix.  A friend of mine and I disagree on who’s the better actor – Ryan Gosling or Christian Bale.  It’s clear to me that Gosling has demonstrated greater breadth, but Bale is no slouch.

The first Christian Bale film I wanted to highlight is American Psycho, the visionary masterpiece I wrote about in 2013.

When you’ve had adequate time to recuperate from that, check out The Machinist [prior post].  It is not quite the complete triumph of American Psycho, but it’s still a great film.

Netflix includes a handful of lesser Christian Bale films, such as Out of the Furnace.  But American Psycho and The Machinist by themselves are worth six months of a Netflix subscription.

Romantic Twists in The One I Love

THE ONE I LOVE, US poster art, from left: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, 2014. ©RADiUS-TWC/Courtesy

Manohla Dargis in the Times:

“The One I Love” is diverting, but nothing catches fire, despite Ms. Moss, an amazing actress fast breaking free of the limits imposed on her by “Mad Men.”

Yes and no.  Mad Men is the most exquisite television show ever produced, and it hardly limits Elisabeth Moss’s acting skills.  Her characterization of Peggy Olson in Mad Men is complex, nuanced and layered to a degree not at all achieved in The One I Love.  Reading Ms. Dargis’ review, I think she’s a little overly taken with Ms. Moss’s performance.

The One I Love - text blockHaving said that, I am in complete agreement with the remainder of her astute and exceptionally well-written evaluation.  While mainly praising The One I Love, she criticizes it as a “modestly sized puzzler” with an “inadequate, muddled finish” — sentiment which expresses the failure of the movie to live up to its promise.  It could have gone so much further.

Nevertheless, this was an entertaining, refreshing, quick little movie with a likability — yes, largely due to Moss’s performance as so vaunted by Ms. Dargis — that makes it an easy recommendation.  Due to the “narrative uncertainty, marital gamesmanship and speculative foolishness” (Dargis again) that take place within the tight confines of these vacation homes, I see The One I Love as a successful take on last year’s disappointing Much Ado About Nothing.  7/10