‘Us’

Unlike Jordan Peele’s first feature, the immensely enjoyable Get Out, Us is an overthought, overwrought home invasion horror thriller.

The Wilson family’s beach vacation turns into a nightmare as doppelgängers appear with vacant stares, guttural grunts and wielding sharpened golden scissors. But this home invasion is not restricted to the Wilsons’ holiday home – and it’s soon apparent Santa Cruz and beyond are impacted by these murderous zombie-like creatures.

Lupita Nyong’o (Twelve Years a Slave, Black Panther) takes control to protect her family (the man of the family, Winston Duke – Avengers Infinity War, Black Panther – is something of a fool) as it appears her doppelgänger is the one in charge. Lots of frantic night-time activity, blood and gore (and occasional foray into humour) fail to hide the film’s shortcomings and predictability.

Rating: 42%

Advertisements

‘The Sisters Brothers’

An easy going western as famed sharpshooting assassins the Sisters Brothers are dispatched to the Californian goldfields by the Commodore to deal with one Herman Kermit Warn.

Patrick deWitt’s award-winning The Sisters Brothers is a gripping, darkly funny and wholly compelling novel. Condensing the sprawling nature of the brothers journey from Oregon in its adaptation for screen, Jacques Audiard (Rust & Bone, A Prophet) cuts to the chase, with brothers Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Walk the Line) and John C Reilly (Stan & Ollie, Chicago) quickly catching up with Warn (Riz Ahmed – Venom, The Reluctant Fundamentalist). But not everything is what it seems – resulting in the boys reconsidering their long term prospects.

There’s a great deal lost in translation from page to screen – in particular Eli’s moral and ethical rumination of life as a gunslinger. But, in his first English language feature, Audiard has captured the boisterous, humorous gung-ho of the genre, supported by a great cast and, albeit foreshortened, an offbeat and garrulous storyline.

Rating; 72%

‘Searching’

SEARCHINGA tense thriller, as a narrative Searching is hardly original – father (John Cho – Star Trek, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay) desperately searches for his missing teenage daughter with the help of concerned police detective, Debra Messing (TV’s Grace of Will & Grace).

Yet every single scene of this self-assured first feature from director Aneesh Chaganty is revealed within a screen – I-phone, I-pad, Face Time, computer, surveillance camera, news bulletins. The result is a cutting-edge thriller that, in making up for lack of character development, ramps up the tension as, in commenting upon our use of (and reliance upon) computer technology, it heads for a somewhat unexpected denouement.

Rating: 74%

‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ by Karen Joy Fowler

besidesReadable it may be, interspersed with the occasional provocative wit, but overall, Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves left me cold and unengaged.

Rosemary Cooke (our narrator) has a sister. Or did. Fern disappeared from the family around Rosemary’s fifth birthday. And to add to the childhood trauma of loss, her older brother Lowell walked out of the family home in Indiana seven years later – and hasn’t been seen since (although news of his whereabouts occasionally filters through). Now a college student in Davis, California (the place of Lowell’s last reported sighting), a lonely Rosemary grieves for her lost siblings. Only it transpires that Fern was a chimpanzee (apologies for the spoiler).

Inspired by real-life experiments dating from the 1930s onwards, the family ‘twin‑sisterhood’ was part of an experiment conducted  by her psychologist father for five years before being abruptly terminated. Just why never becomes completely clear until towards the end of Fowler’s novel. It’s Rosemary’s culpability (or at least her belief of it) that forms the core – a motormouth child who now prefers silence as an adult and who remembers only snatches of her earlier formative years. But then a simian upbringing is likely to silence most discussions with peers!

Psychology theories abound in Fowler’s book (transpires her father was a professor of psychology in Indiana) as Rosemary looks to justifications and answers. And she is constantly looking for answers. But those answers are in her past.

What starts out as a traditional family narrative soon becomes anything but. And whilst the dysfunctional family is well written, it soon becomes overanalysed – as does the message regarding animal lab testing. Ultimately, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves becomes a labouredrepetitive story as Rosemary looks to understand just what happened when she was five years old.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Booker Prize (the first year where American authors qualified for consideration), Karen Joy Fowler lost out to Richard Flanagan and The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

‘Lady Bird’

lady_bird_ver2_xlgWarm and quirky, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a coming-of-age narrative as 17 year-old Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson struggles to come to terms with living in Sacramento, California rather than New York.

As Lady Bird, Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Brooklyn) nails it as the eccentric, generous yet ultimately self-centred teenager determined to get what she wants – even if it pits her against her loving but exasperated mom (a superb Laurie Metcalf – Stop-Loss, Fun With Dick and Jane), a supportive dad (Tracy Letts – The Big Short, August: Orange County) and school friends.

Personal and honest, Lady Bird is a lightweight gem.

Rating: 79%

’20th Century Women’

HO00004115The latest from Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker) is a beautifully balanced late 70s nostalgic ensemble piece of likeable people.

As a single mother, the matriarch, a never better Annette Bening (American Beauty, The Kids Are Alright) quite rightly takes centre stage, persuading Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning help raise and guide her 15 year-old son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). Arguably not the most sensible choices as mentors – Gerwig’s feminist influences leave Jamie in fights with school friends over clitoral orgasms and Fanning heads off on a road trip with Jamie in tow.

It’s a film full of contradictions and it does occasionally slip into anecdotal gratification but relative newcomer Zumann is a delight and, possibly for the first time, I personally liked Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America) on screen.

Rating: 69%