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Movie Reviews

Get Out

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2.38

Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Jordan Peele

Stars: 

Released: March 17th, 2017

Get Out is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele who you might recognize from the sketch comedy show, Key & Peele. Get Out is not a comedy though it contains a fair amount of laughs, namely from the performance of stand-up comedian LilRel Howery who will get many, many jobs from this star-making performance. What Get Out actually turns out to be is a rather striking thriller that provides a topical conversation around racial tensions that then amplifies and exaggerates the inherent tensions of its presented scenario in a way that both plays with the tropes of the horror genre while delivering commentary on innate and unavoidable fears in the black community. I heard someone explain it as, “playing on black people’s fear of white people’s fear of black people,” and it’s hard to put it any better or more simply than that. This is all to get to the point that Get Out is making the point that we need to stop pretending we know what it’s like to walk in other people’s shoes. Not that these assumptions can’t be compassionate, but more that they are unnecessary. Get Out begins as one thing-playing on the natural awkwardness that comes along with a black guy going to meet his white girlfriends entirely white family in their very white/suburban neighborhood for the first time and then, once it arrives there, takes steps using its genre classification to get at this idea that no matter how good or well-intentioned one might be, it is near impossible to have a real comprehension of what people who have experienced struggles and/or faced some kind of oppression have indeed been through and more over, who they became out of such experiences. Get Out is a film that plays on those facets of ourselves that we’d rather not acknowledge-that no matter how much we believe ourselves to be above stereotyping people or forming preconceptions, that there is a truth to such ways of thinking and Peele uses this unavoidable, unflattering truth to draw out a fair amount of anxiety. Peele plays on those anxieties and social standards exceptionally as through to the very last frame Get Out keeps things as taut as any horror movie in recent memory while never losing sight of its original intent no matter how crazy the genre hijinks get.

Peele is in the zone from the word go when it comes to crafting his film as a whole though. The opening sequence in which an unassuming young man (Lakeith Stanfield) walks the streets of a nice neighborhood while talking on his cell phone and is very critically in the midst of a light conversation delivers key context clues. We immediately sympathize with the character as he appears pleasant and anxious to see the girlfriend he is chatting with on the phone while not unaware of his predicament when a car begins to slowly follow him. A black guy walking the sidewalks of a suburban neighborhood late at night. He and we get how this might look. To those that aren’t black or any other color than Caucasian that haven’t felt as if they’ve been profiled due to factors having to do with everything but their personality it is hard to imagine a world where one has to be cautious of such things, but Peele is smart enough to recognize this and to immediately place us in that headspace before taking things to what we’d like to imagine is mostly an exaggerated extreme. The opening title sequence is a bit of brilliance in and of itself as well as the film cuts from the deliberately terrifying opening sequence to something very much in line with the horror genre-a camera moving quickly past endless, bare trees with a dark and ominous score hovering in between them before jolting us out of the mood and into our protagonists modern apartment where his photography skills are displayed through prints of gorgeous black and white portraits on the wall with the music switching to that of Childish Gambino’s, “Redbone,” in which the chorus warns to, “Stay Woke.” The foreshadowing is not lost on the discerning viewer. By glimpsing these two very distinct tones, very distinct flavors by the time the opening credits have finished the audience is immediately steeped in the atmosphere the film intends to simulate and, for a first time feature director, Peele is able to expertly carry this tone throughout the entirety of his film; heightening it as the arc calls for it and executing plot lines effortlessly so as to bring everything full circle by the time the big reveal is made and further into what is one of the most breathtaking and satisfying denouement’s in my movie-going experience.

Our protagonist, Chris, is portrayed by British actor Daniel Kaluuya who you might have seen in Sicario, but here he is an American photographer who very intentionally fits the bill of average mid to late twenties male. There is nothing particularly exceptional about Chris, but he is clearly a well put together guy who has a good enough eye with his camera that he’s been able to become fairly successful as a photographer. We meet his girlfriend of four five months, Rose (Girls‘ Allison Williams), as she does the whitest of white things and waits in line to buy overpriced coffee and pastries at what is no doubt a hip, local bistro before arriving at Chris’ apartment to make sure he’s all packed and pick him up before they hit the road. Neither of these leading roles seem as if they’ll be much of a stretch or even too challenging for the two actors, but as the film progresses and the complexity of the bigger picture is made more clear it becomes all the more impressive what these two have been laying the foundation for since those aforementioned humble beginnings. Add into this the delightful aura that Bradley Whitford brings to his character of the overcompensating dad who is trying to impress his daughter’s new boyfriend as much as he is trying to impress him coupled with Catherine Keener’s opposite end of the spectrum and it’s as if one could feel the sense of unease in the air. And as mentioned previously, when Chris and Rose first arrive at the Armitage estate Peele uses the inherent delicate situation that presents itself as a means from which he draws the chills and tension before taking things to whole other allegorical levels. Aiding in this transition from a more reality-based scenario to that of the exaggerated heights Get Out eventually reaches though, is the fact the family employs black people as servants. Walter (Marcus Henderson) is the groundskeeper who, for one reason or another, likes to exercise in the pitch black of night while Georgina (a revelatory Betty Gabriel) is the maid. Both seem more subdued and willing to work and mind their own business than what would be typical of someone in a role such as these, but neither ever hint at anything that would contradict reality being more than it appears. Caleb Landry Jones, who can’t seem to help but to play disturbed and psychotic young men, shows up as Rose’s younger misfit brother who Whitford’s Dean assures Chris will soon be following in his father’s footsteps as a neurosurgeon. File in party guests that are never obvious in their racism, but don’t realize the implied ill will in their sometimes downright lewd comments and there is more than enough to unpack when it comes to social constructs and racial profiling in the performances alone.

Furthermore, it is the writing of Peele that gives these performers such biting material to deliver and that, most impressively, stays consistent throughout the films entire runtime and most striking-through its faultless pacing. No matter how well the majority of horror films begin the trickiest part is always pulling off an ending in a way where every facet and action that has been laid out prior is paid off in the reveal and in the actions and consequences the characters take and are made subject to in the final moments. Does the end justify the means we took to get there? In Get Out, everything has a purpose. Early on, when Chris and Rose are on the road to Rose’s parents something happens that is very much a cliché when it comes to horror films and my first inclination was to wonder how this might play into the story as a whole. As Chris especially is affected by the event we are made to wonder why this resonated so strongly with the character. It becomes a key part of not only why Chris behaves the way he does-from what habits he has formed to what action he feels he needs to take and not take in different situations-but also in lending the character a rare weakness and opening for Keener’s Missy to take advantage of as she’s (too) desperate to try out a hypnosis trick on this young man she just met. We see Georgina constantly messing with her hair only for that to be explained in a truly shocking turn of events. We meet Stephen Root as one of the only, seemingly level-headed guests that attend the Armitage’s weekend get-together, but whose comments may or may not hide a deeper truth and envy than Chris interprets upon first speaking with him. As the film does, but almost unfortunately, draw to its conclusion it gives way to a single, throughline idea that is executed in flawless fashion. Everything lines up. Even the initially muddled objective becomes clear once it is explained through action rather than speech and is understood in a way that both makes sense, but is simultaneously even more revolting than one might have imagined when they couldn’t quite wrap their head around it all two scenes prior. Get Out may not be necessarily scary in the traditional sense of how we expect horror/mystery movies to frighten us, but it is more disturbing on a much deeper level and one that is benefited all the more for being so. Not just in its success as a piece of art, but as a satirical social commentary that exposes the vicious circle of assumptions and prejudice Get Out works on nearly every level it attempts to play on. It is a great film. I can’t wait to see it again. I can’t wait to experience a different audience’s reaction to it. I can’t wait to discuss it even more.

I love movies, simple as that. I watch them with an intent to write about them and have always enjoyed discussing the latest news and releases with others. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Mass Communications/Digital Filmmaking and combined those interests when I began writing about cinema. Hope you enjoy the reviews, Happy reading!

Featured Review

Climax ★★★★★

Climax is electrifyingly abstract and a true champion of 2018.

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Released: 21st September 2018 (UK)

Directed By: Gaspar Noé

Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude Gajan Maull and Giselle Palmer

Reviewed By: Dion Wyn

Birth and death are extraordinary experiences. Life is a fleeting pleasure.

Master provocateur Gaspar Noé has been warping our fragile little minds for over 20 years. After the vast disappointment of Love 3D in 2015, he finally returned to Cannes this year. Where he won best picture at Director’s Fortnight; with his latest feature Climax. The win truly has reinvigorated interest and buzz of Noe’s work. The big question is does it actually live to the hype? Climax is set in the mid 1990’s, 20 French urban dancers join together for a three-day rehearsal in a closed-down boarding school located at the heart of a forest to share one last dance. They then make one last party around a large sangria bowl. Quickly, the atmosphere becomes charged and a strange madness will seize them the whole night. If it seems obvious to them that they have been drugged, they neither know by who nor why. And it’s soon impossible for them to resist to their neuroses and psychoses, numbed by the hypnotic and the increasing electric rhythm of the music. While some feel in paradise, most of them plunge into hell.

Climax grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Gaspar Noé’s fine form has returned with his sangria-soaked neon nightmare. Climax opens very subtly with interviews from the dance troop. We get a candid view into their lives and what drives their passion for dance. Noé shows the naivety of his cast before we enter the pressure cooker of the dance hall. Once the usual closing credits happen at the beginning, the true story starts to unfold. The opening dance sequence is electrifying and full of raw kinetic energy. You have succumbed to the euphoria of Noé, the camera becomes another dancer in the troop. We are witnessing the synchronicity and passion for the art of dance. You suffer from a slight come-down after the initial performance, but the depravity and relaxed inhibitions of the dancers start to flow out. There is no real script to Climax it is largely improvised, we delve into the sexual depravity of the dancers. These conversations are not for the faint of heart. You start to see where Noé is going with Climax or do we?

Climax Still Movie Marker

Once the LSD soaked sangria kicks in Noé begins his wizardry behind the lens. Distortion and blurriness are subtly put into frame. You can feel the sweat pouring through the walls. The music intensifies and the dance becomes a lot more aggressive. We have now entered the hellish nightmare we were expecting from the get go. It isn’t the drug trip we witnessed in Enter The Void either. Once the LSD has kicked in, you only see the reactions to their hallucinations. Gaspar Noé challenges you to think what is actually going on? The usual camera trickery now ensues, a classic Noé move. The journey warps your senses and you don’t always know what is going on. The crucial element in sustaining the tension is the killer soundtrack. It really is the beating heart of Climax (Vinyl has been pre-ordered all ready). After the explosion of this pressure cooker of a situation, the story goes no holds barred with scenarios of extreme violence, incest and self harm. Noé doesn’t create an in your face scenario in this instants, it is rather out of character for him.

Sofia Boutella has shed away the action star. Her raw and un-tameable energy is addictive. She flows so powerfully through Climax and you can feel her passion for dance. The casting of the dancers is a master stroke. They all bring a different element to the piece and the diversity of characters gives it great balance. Our inner darkest ideas and nightmares flow through Climax like a virus. You are tested from the get go and Climax is a true cinematic challenge. It is a true testament of youth and the ever flowing challenge of perfecting your artistry. Gaspar Noé’s Climax is electrifyingly abstract and a true champion of 2018.

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Movie Reviews

The Little Stranger ★★★★

Adapted from the Booker prize nominated novel by Sarah Waters, the cinematic incarnation of The Little Stranger has much to live up to.

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Released: 21st September 2018

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter, Liv Hill

Reviewed By: Sinead Beverland

Adapted from the Booker prize nominated novel by Sarah Waters, the cinematic incarnation of The Little Stranger has much to live up to. At the helm is Room Director Lenny Abrahamson, with an impressive cast including Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson and Charlotte Rampling.

Set shortly after the second world war, Doctor Faraday (Gleeson) introduces us to the faded grandeur of Hundreds Hall, a place he envied feverishly as a child. Having belonged to the Ayres family for several generations, the house is now inhabited by just Mrs Ayres (Rampling) and her two adult children, Roderick (Will Poulter) and Caroline (Wilson). When Faraday is called to the house to visit the unwell young housemaid Betty, he recollects his childhood adulation of the place. Remembering the presence of a young girl, he is told that this was Mrs Ayres first daughter, Susan, who had died as a child. It seems the spectre of Susan (affectionately known as Suki) still lays heavily over the house, as housemaid Betty tells Faraday she fears something ‘isn’t right’. As he becomes more entwined with the family and their home, strange events begin to raise concerns and individually threaten members of the family.

From the very outset, the film breeds an unsettling feeling, the house is imposing with long shots conveying the sense that the characters are being observed. The audience follows Faraday in to this fading world of status and money, sensing his childhood desire and starched formality. The family are equally intriguing and unnerving. Roderick, badly injured during the war, is now an invalid struggling to cope and disturbed by the sense that something in the house does not want him there. Matriarch Mrs Ayres seems to be doing her best to keep the past alive and daughter Caroline (the best of the bunch as attested to by a fellow doctor) seems strong yet vulnerable. When Faraday begins an intriguing friendship with Caroline, their relationship evolves to hinge the entire ethereal story together. With fantastic performances all round, the characters all emerge fully formed, conveying depth without the need for swathes of expository back story.

The terror of the film gradually reveals itself, impacting in set scenes that are truly disturbing and realistic. Director Abrahamson has a subtle touch (as seen in the Oscar Nominated Room) and these climactic scenes engulf you, whilst revealing the fate of certain characters. Abrahamson knows how to accentuate the fear for the audience and uses restraint to devastating effect. As the house leaks secrets and the memory of the deceased Susan comes to the forefront, the story is told with an intensity that uses strikingly rich music and extreme close ups to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. However, to reveal too much of the story here, would spoil the experience of discovering for yourself what is happening at Hundreds Hall.

The Little Stranger is a mature and nuanced film, layered in such a way that it address status and class alongside desire and emotion. The period setting is detailed and worn, bridging the gap between transitioning eras in Britain.  This is no straightforward horror or ghost story and the film certainly feels to have done justice to its excellent source material. Rich in theme, characters and style, I would gladly take The Little Stranger home.

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Movie Reviews

Dogman ★★★

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Released: 19th October 2018

Directed By: Matteo Garrone

Starring: Marcello Fonte

Reviewed By: Rhys Handley

Dogman is the anti-Paddington. Antithetical to the marmalade-loving bear’s enduring mantra – “if we are kind and polite, the world will be right” – dog groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte) carves out a life in the dilapidated outskirts of Rome modestly tending to his estate’s canine residents and enjoying the respect of his neighbours.

But Marcello’s submissive, accommodating kindness is pushed closer and closer to its limit by the hulking Simone (a terrifying Edoardo Pesce, surely masked in near-mutant prosthetic), a brutish ex-boxer who stalks the estate terrorising the residents. Unable to say no to a friend, Marcello facilitates Simone’s egregious coke habit to little recompense.

When Simone’s scheme to rob a nearby jeweller’s implicates Marcello and he is apprehended by the police, the Dogman takes the fall himself and goes inside for a year for the sake of the bully who pretends to be his friend. When he comes out, something has changed.

Marcello, diminutive and always sporting a toothy grin, strikes an unimpressive, but likeable figure. He is perfectly happy with his lot as the film opens – a divorced father who takes pride in his work and loves trips to the beach with his daughter. While director Matteo Garrone makes a meal of the grim, filthy aesthetic of the film’s setting, he peppers in moments of levity and blissful tranquility to reinforce the humble satisfaction of Marcello’s daily life.

To see him repeatedly indulge the cruel, selfish whims of Simone quickly becomes a source of frustration, as the brute encourages vices in Marcello that seems entirely at odds with his persona. Marcello is swept away on break-ins and hedonistic strip club nights in jarring scenes more in keeping with Garrone’s work in the gangster canon such as 2008’s Gomorrah.

In these scenes, the toxicity fuelling Marcello reveals itself. Fonte delicately skews the kindly facade when Marcello enters Simone’s world. Behind his courteous smile is a sickening glimmer of delight – Marcello loves the thrill and decadence of life of crime. His latent desires mix with his better nature, to create something more insidious than Simone’s overt depravity.

Dogman stumbles in its closing chapter as Marcello is released from prison, returning to a community who despises him for violating their trust and chasing Simone’s false offers of brotherhood and fortune. Marcello reemerges not exactly changed, but more honest to himself about what he is. Garrone and his co-writers steer this portion of the story with a steady hand, but it is hard to shake comparisons to other established squares-gone-rogue like Walter White.

Marcello’s resolve and vengefulness is convincing thanks to Fonte, but its emergence is sudden and teeters dangerously close to cliche. His push and pull with Simone is rote, which makes its languid pace a little irritating – this has suddenly become a very different film, and it can’t carry the slower moments of contemplation as well as it could before Marcello was locked up.

An inevitable confrontation takes place, bursting with brutality and gore. But rather than a release of tension, it feels like a betrayal of the thoughtful, measured character piece Garrone set up. The violence overreaches for shock value where Garrone had before been satisfied with something more pensive and empathetic.

Luckily, he pulls back in the final moments of the film and dovetails elegantly by concluding what is essentially his thesis on ‘little guy’ psychology. He frames Marcello not as a good man pushed too far, but as someone whose better and worse natures are intrinsically tangled to create a monster very different to the bully who ultimately leads him to snap.

No matter how kind and polite the Dogman might try to be, he cannot deny the malice that festers in his heart – and Garrone artfully distills Marcello’s melancholic final moment of self-realisation in a resonant closing shot that gracefully irons out the kinks in this curious, inconsistent little film.

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