Movie Review

Jordan Peele’s “Us” isn’t perfect, but it’s a pretty damn good horror film

Jordan Peele’s “Us” isn’t perfect, but it’s a pretty damn good horror film

BY KIRAN PENMAN ’19

From director Jordan Peele’s growing body of work, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that there is no better choice for the voice of the new CBS “Twilight Zone” series. Peele’s first film, “Get Out,” demonstrated that he is a master at crafting tales of horror and intrigue. “Get Out” was achieved with undeniable cleverness; there’s a kind of art to the way he weaves his films’ plot together, where everything seems to have a setup and a payoff. Peele takes great care with detail, a fact which is equally clear in his latest film “Us,” which follows the story of a family on vacation who are confronted by their own doppelgangers

     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Photo courtesy of Flickr   Ryan Gosling is Neil Armstrong in “First Man” biopic  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     BY SABA FIAZUDDIN ’21  As the first biopic about Neil Armstrong, Damien Chazelle’s (“La La Land”) “First Man” is visually stimulating but fails to capture the context of the important social movements surrounding and impacting the first moon landing. The film, starring Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”) as Armstrong, is based heavily on the almost 800-page biography written by James R. Hansen, “First Man.” The book chronicles the adult life of Neil Armstrong as he navigates harrowing personal struggles — from the tragic death of his daughter to his difficult marriage — all while trying to become the first man to walk on the moon.  Chazelle packs the film with electrifying space sequences, immediately evoking comparisons to films like “Apollo 13” and “The Right Stuff.” What sets this latest addition apart from the rest of the genre, however, is the intimate personal experience it offers of flying into space with Gosling. Through unstable camera work and special effects, the film gives the audience the eerie sensation of being shot into orbit in a rocket, exposing the terrifying reality of space missions. “First Man” doesn’t depict its astronauts as just adrenaline junkies getting high on neardeath experiences; Chazelle also captures the pain, torment and sheer lunacy of the job these astronauts have signed up for. They don’t sit in their rockets admiring the great beauty of the earth. Instead, they are constantly handling information fed to them by mission controls and expending great mental energy to keep themselves afloat, completely aware that their mission is only one small mistake away from a nightmare. Chazelle also delves into Armstrong’s personal history; at the time of the mission he had just lost his young daughter and signed up to distract himself from turmoil at home. Gosling plays the laconic character with deftness and flair, alongside Claire Foy (“The Crown”) who steals the show with quiet fury in her role as Armstrong’s wife, Janet Shearen. Sometimes through just one twitch of the eye or a slight movement of her face, Foy is able to capture the emotional center of her character. By developing Janet’s character, Chazelle is able to comment on the unimaginable emotional terror the families of astronauts were subjected to. While Armstrong could launch himself into a rocket to escape his demons, Janet was still on Earth pacing the floors, worrying about him every second.  When the movie was first shown at the Venice Film Festival, it attracted a fair bit of controversy for not featuring the famous moment when the American flag was planted on the moon. However, Chazelle finds other ways to satisfy the American ego. Twice during the film, the American flag is shown staked on the moon. There are rockets with “United States” boldly printed on them. The astronauts use plenty of derogatory terms to refer to their rivals in the Soviet Union, and America is unsurprisingly depicted as the winner of the Space Race by the end of the movie. Chazelle knows what he is doing through these sequences: creating a sanitized version of history where Americans always win and everyone else loses.   The narrow-mindedness of Chazelle’s definition of Americans is obvious in “First Man.” White men like Armstrong (and Chazelle) are given space and celebrated while Americans fighting against Jim Crow laws and the brutality of the Vietnam War are almost erased. Chazelle does not show the political upheaval surrounding the war in favor of exploring Armstrong’s inner turmoil.  While the first space mission to the moon was being launched, Vietnam War and Civil Rights protesters were crowding the streets asking for their pain to be understood and addressed. Chazelle fails to capture this tension and its connection to the mission at all in “First Man.” Instead, if one were to watch this movie without any sense of history, it would seem like the astronauts, instead of activists, were the true heroes of the era. Their story has no place in “First Man,” the same way it didn’t in Chazelle’s last film “La La Land,” which lacked diverse perspectives (and featured Gosling playing a jazz musician). These omissions in “First Man” are glaring and tell a story which seems to be solely concerned with American patriotism and the sacrifices of white men.

BY SABA FIAZUDDIN ’21

As the first biopic about Neil Armstrong, Damien Chazelle’s (“La La Land”) “First Man” is visually stimulating but fails to capture the context of the important social movements surrounding and impacting the first moon landing. The film, starring Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”) as Armstrong, is based heavily on the almost 800-page biography written by James R. Hansen, “First Man.” The book chronicles the adult life of Neil Armstrong as he navigates harrowing personal struggles — from the tragic death of his daughter to his difficult marriage — all while trying to become the first man to walk on the moon.

“Searching” a triumph of experimental filmmaking

 “Searching” a triumph of experimental filmmaking

BY ERIN CARBERRY ’19

Originally premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018 before landing in box offices this August, “Searching” is a dramatic thriller that follows David Kim (John Cho, “Star Trek”) through his increasingly desperate search for his missing 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La, “Mom”). Aiding him in his search are his lazy younger brother, Peter (Joseph Lee, “Miracle That We Met”), and Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing, “Will & Grace”).

“A Simple Favor”: Plot twists leave audiences dizzy

“A Simple Favor”: Plot twists leave audiences dizzy

BY ERIN CARBERRY ’19

Based on the debut thriller novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, “A Simple Favor” follows widow and single mom Stephanie (Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”) as she befriends the enigmatic Emily (Blake Lively, “The Age of Adaline”). When Emily disappears, Stephanie becomes obsessed with finding her friend and is quickly drawn into the tangled web of Emily’s secrets. As the story unfolds and more stones are overturned, the audience discovers that no one — not even wholesome, mommy-vlogger Stephanie — is as innocent as they seem. But how far can a story like this go before it becomes too far-fetched to follow?

“The Titan” is its own worst enemy

“The Titan” is its own worst enemy

BY ERIN CARBERRY '19

The newest entry in an expanding catalogue of Netflix original films, “The Titan” examines issues of humanity, survival and hope. The futuristic thriller follows Abi Janssen (Taylor Schilling, “Orange is the New Black”) as she travels to a remote base with her family so that her husband, Rick (Sam Worthington, “Avatar”), can participate in a risky military experiment in genetic evolution and space exploration.

“Ready Player One” misses opportunity to be good

“Ready Player One” misses opportunity to be good

BY ERIN CARBERRY ’19

One of the most anticipated films of the year, “Ready Player One,” is directed by industry giant Steven Spielberg (“Jurassic Park”) and based on the 2011 debut novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. The film follows Wade Wyatt, or Parzival (Tye Sheridan, “X-Men: Apocalypse”), through the fantastical multiplayer virtual world of “the Oasis.” There, he and his friends battle for control of the virtual wonderland against a heartless corporation, Innovative Online Industries, and its head honcho, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, “Rogue One”). In the real world, Wade battles the realities of a rundown futuristic Columbus, Ohio. 

“Get Out” starts an important conversation

“Get Out” starts an important conversation

BY MARIANA JARAMILLO '20 

Some people like to say that racism is over — or at least, that it is almost impossible to find in certain “progressive” communities. “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s first feature-length film, expertly dispels that myth with the story of a family of pseudo-liberals hiding a disturbing secret.