US

Jordan Peele was known for his comedic nature until recent years. Then in 2017 critics and box offices were taken by storm by the horror hit Get Out. Now he’s made his horror follow-up with Us, a horror movie where it’s revealed that different versions of people are out to get them. I’d also like to state that I’m not a big fan of horror as a genre. I like movies that make you think or creative concepts, but I’m not into slashers or being scared. I had to be convinced to see Get Out and that’s what convinced me to see Us.

We start off in 1986 with a girl (Madison Curry) watching a television and some odd scenes of rabbits in cages. The girl, Adelaide, and her family go to a carnival where they enjoy time together and the father gets overly enthusiastic about winning some games. The girl wanders away and into a house of mirrors. She gets progressively more scared as the power goes out and she hears a noise. She tries whistling to calm herself, someone whistles back. She starts running bumping into a mirror that she though led her to the exit. Adelaide eventually finds another girl standing still. Adelaide turns around and it looks just like the other girl, and Adelaide screams.

After the incident we see that Adelaide had to go through some therapy for the incident and she wasn’t speaking after it. Then we cut to modern day with a family traveling in a car, the mother a grown-up Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o). They share a scene bonding over the music. We see them interacting in their summer house where the father, Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), reveals he bought a boat. They end up going to the beach the next day despite Adelaide initially objecting. The son, Jason Wilson (Evan Alex) gets lost. Adelaide starts to panic as her son is lost at the beach and she looks around and eventually finds him.

They end up going to the summer house from the beach and Adelaide expresses that she wants to go home. She feels like something is wrong and shares her childhood experience of seeing herself to her disbelieving husband. He agrees and they all get ready for bed. Soon after they see a family standing outside in the driveway. The husband is calm at first, but Adelaide immediately asks to call 911. Adelaide tells her daughter, Zora Wilson (Shahadi Wright Joseph) to get her running shoes on. Eventually the family approaches the house and it’s revealed that they all look like the family.

This movie has an interesting premise for sure. The characters all have their own struggles to overcome which make them much more interesting at the start. There’s likely a deeper meaning to the struggles of the characters, but I don’t want to spoil too much with speculation. To me, this was more frightening than Get Out but not as intriguing. It’s a movie that’s worth talking about after seeing, but it’s not as an enthusiastic recommendation to me. There are still some comedic moments in this one that help break up the dark atmosphere. Rated R.

Ryan

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Captain Marvel


While I know much about certain comic book characters, I don’t know as much about Captain Marvel. I’ve only read Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel comic book run, which is similar to the movie version. Otherwise I’ve learned about her through Avenger’s stories, X-Men, Ms. Marvel, or character synopsis. So, I was curious to learn what story they’d try to tell with her. Overall, I think the advertising campaign helped keep that a mystery. Something many may not know is that this takes place mostly in 1995.

The movie starts out with Vers (one of three names for Captain Marvel in this movie), played by Brie Larson, waking up from a dream. She goes to spar with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), where he tells her she needs to focus on controlling her emotions. She talks about how she doesn’t seem to recall her past. They talk about some of Kree society on the planet Hala, which they’re on. We learn of their enemies the alien shapeshifters, the Skrull. Soon enough they get into a conflict with them and Vers is taken captive. The Skrull begin to explore her memories. She eventually frees herself from the Skrulls and crash-lands on Earth.

Some Skrulls follow her to Earth and soon she is met by Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Fury and Coulson are understandably apprehensive about Vers’s story of space travel and shapeshifting aliens. They’re soon shot at with an alien weapon from the nearby roof. Vers chases after a Skrull. After the chase, it becomes clear to Fury that Ver’s story is real. So Vers and Fury end up teaming up to deal with the threat.

After seeing this movie, I compared it to other Marvel movies. I think this one feels most closely related to Thor. They’re both powerful characters from alien societies. I think they learned from Thor that having a “fish out of water” character isn’t necessarily enough to tell a compelling story, when there are now numerous origin stories. So, they added more action and supporting characters to make a relatable narrative. The story is less overwhelming than it could have been, as introducing two alien societies is a lot to explain in one movie. We could have ended up with several more societies, and that’s hard to keep track of.

There is a lot going on in the movie with three prominent species. The character of Carol Danvers really has a lot of complexity to her as well. I personally think they could have spent multiple movies introducing her prior to Avenger’s: Endgame. Doctor Strange was the last Marvel character to be fully introduced in their own movie and I think his story felt less rushed in comparison. One problem with the character is that they explain early on that she’s supposed to stifle emotion from her Kree training. So, I suspect we’ll see a different version moving forward. I do think this movie nailed the points it needed to for the bigger universe. It’s a fun addition to the great Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rated PG-13.

Ryan

Cleveland International Film Festival Re-Cap

The Cleveland International Film Festival is such an incredible experience and this year several of our staff members attending screenings. Here’s a compilation of some movies we saw.

The Chaperone

chaperone


Directed by Michael Engler, Screenplay written by Julian Fellowes, Based on the book Laura Moriarty

Starring Elizabeth McGovern and Haley lu Richardson

A young Louise Brooks has the opportunity of a lifetime to attend a dance institute in New York City in the 1920s, under the condition that she is accompanied by a chaperone.  Local housewife, Norma Carlisle, volunteers to chaperone Louise and they embark on a life-changing adventure.  Norma seizes the opportunity to find closure with her past and redefine her future.

– Beth

Princess of the Row

Winner of the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award

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Directed by Max Carlson, Written by A. Shawn Austin, Starring Ana Ortiz, Taylor Buck, Martin Sheen

A persistent young girl is determined to take care of her mentally ill father who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq, and now lives with severe PTSD on the streets of LA’s skid row.  This movie was beautifully shot with such a powerful message.  If you get a chance watch it, be sure to have tissues on hand.

-Beth

Shorts Program 3

Lunch Break – Directed by Tyler Smith

A Monsoon Date– Directed by Tanuja Chandra

Death Metal Grandma – Directed by Leah Galant

Bertie- Directed by Garry Crystal

Digital Age– Directed by Piripinghi

I am Black and Beautiful – Directed by Hawanatu Bangura

Light Work – Directed by Scott Kawczynski

With Thelma – Directed by Ann Sirot & Raphael Balboni

-Beth

100 things

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Directed and written by Florian David Fitz, Starring Florian David Fitz,  Matthias Schweighöfer, Miriam Stein

Lifelong friends, Tony and Paul develop a software that helps big data companies precisely advertise consumer goods to users.  As they are on the brink of breaking into a huge market, their egos force them to challenge each other in a bet.  They make a bet that the other can’t live without all their stuff for 100 days.  Each day they can reclaim one of their possessions.   The movie was hysterical and a great commentary on how much time and energy we spend being consumers.

-Beth

To Kid Or Not To Kid

To Kid or Not to Kid is a documentary directed by Maxine Trump. My wife and I previously met the filmmaker and identified with the topic, so our schedule was centered around making sure we were in the audience for one of the screenings of this personal film during CIFF43. Maxine interviews several women and traces her own journey of deciding whether or not to be a mother. She explores how the medical industry makes it difficult for women to make choices about their own bodies. She examines the cultural/societal pressure that pushes women to have children and makes them feel as if something is wrong with them if they don’t either by choice or by chance.

-Byron

Storm Boy

Storm Boy is a family drama from Australia directed by Shawn Seet. Geoffrey Rush plays a retired business man. The movie is primarily his reminiscences of his childhood when he raised orphan pelicans. Like the many stories about a boy and his dog or a girl and her horse or any other kid learning about the circle of life from raising a pet this was a bit of a tearjerker. This is actually the second adaptation of a short book by the same name. The production design set in modern day and back in the ’50s is well done, and the cast does an excellent job.
-Byron

Around the Sun

Around the Sun is an indie drama directed by Oliver Krimpas. This British film consists entirely of two actors having various conversations at a French chateau. Our library was one of the sponsors of it. There are multiple chapters and parallel realities imagined through this film where the young man and woman are at the chateau for different reasons and they meet under slightly different circumstances. They discuss big ideas of science and philosophy and human relationships. It is a bit disorienting keeping the different versions of their story straight, but I liked it. It was a challenge like putting together a puzzle.
-Byron

The Kleptocrats

This film is a documentary about the scandal surrounding Malaysian wealth fund 1MDB.  Investigative reporters from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal manage to trace the money trail and unravel the scheme.  3.5 billion dollars was allegedy stolen from a Malaysian government wealth fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhard.  This fund was intended for strategic development projects in the areas of energy, real estate, tourism and agribusiness in Malaysia. To the utter dismay of the Malaysain people, this fund evolves into one of the world’s biggest white collar heists.  Portions of the allegedly stolen money was used to bankroll the 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio blockbuster Wolf of Wall Street.  This is a compelling film about greed and a financial scandal of global proportions. As a viewer, I was very engaged and on the edge of my seat. 
-Mary

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I’m a comic book fan, so I’m a bit biased towards the genre. Honestly, I prefer older Peter Parker as Spider-Man as I’m used to him. So Spider-Man: Homecoming was a good movie to me, but lacked some of the things I’m accustomed to in the comics. After seeing the end credits of Venom, I wasn’t sure what I’d get as the scene was so silly. While this movie does have some silliness, there are many reasons why it won the Oscar for best animated film in 2018.

Right from the opening, alternate credits give a feeling for the raw style this movie is going for. The movie starts off with a recap of the life of Peter Parker (Chris Pine) over the years. It’s very similar to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man but it has some clear differences. We get a feel for a very triumphant life of Peter vs the evil he faces. Then we cut to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and his daily life. Very early on we get the feeling of a teenager struggling to fit in. He wants to be ordinary at public school, but his parents want him to strive to be better at a highly exclusive private school. After school, Miles goes to see his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). They have a good rapport together and eventually go to a hidden area to do some graffiti. There Miles gets bitten by a spider with the number 42 on it.

The next day Miles wakes up feeling off. He ends up getting his hand stuck to a girl’s hair who is played by Hailee Steinfeld. Then he ends up in his room reading a Spider-Man comic. He sees that he appears to be going through the same things as Spider-Man. Later that night, he goes to the same place he was bitten by the spider and investigates it. While he’s there he gets drawn into a fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Spider-Man is moderately successful against Goblin and The Prowler, but then things go wrong and Peter gets trapped under some rubble. Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) proceeds to finish Peter off leading to a shocked Miles fleeing only to have the terrifying Prowler pursue him.

Later at Peter’s grave, Miles bumps into someone wearing part of a Spider-Man suit who can shoot webs, played by Jake Johnson. Miles accidentally knocks him out and we get the chase scene used to promote this film found at the end of Venom. There’s a lot more to the movie than this. We get to see more incarnations of Spider-Man as many promotional materials have shown. Each character has their own interesting take on the lore and many are played by well-known actors.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse really does a great job bridging the gap between comics and accessibly through its animated format. It’s funny, action packed, and even has some deeply emotional scenes. The animation style is a bit jarring at first and I was worried about it being an issue. After a minute or two, my brain adjusted to the movement. The style overall lends itself to creating a feel like the comics with even noise lines coming out of a character’s mouth when they laughed. With how well it’s critically received, I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes the standard to measure others against. I saw it three times in theaters, so I really enjoyed it, and I’ve not heard anything negative from someone who has seen it. Rated PG.

Ryan

Aquaman

DC movies have largely met with mixed feelings in recent years. Going into this I wasn’t sure what I’d get. Wonder Woman reinvigorated the brand and I think Aquaman continues that trend in solo movies. Much like Wonder Woman, Arthur Curry is from a society that doesn’t live with humans. Unlike her, he lives with his human father on the shore. We start with a bit of a background on how this character came to be.

The movie starts with Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) finding Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) unconscious on the rocks near the lighthouse he mans. He nurses her back to health and they initially struggle to understand each other, but they learn to get along. They seem to fall in love and they have Arthur. When some others from Atlantis come to take Attila back, she realizes they’d keep pursuing them and put her family in danger. She leaves promising one day to come back. She doesn’t return, and we’re introduced to Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) who saves a submarine from pirates including Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Manta swears revenge as his father dies.

After Arthur performs a rescue we see him with his father, Mera (Amber Heard) approaches him warning Arthur he must come to try and claim the throne. He decides not to go with her but then the surface world is attacked by a giant wave that hurts Arthur’s father. It’s sent by Arthur’s half brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson). He partially agrees to Mera’s plan but doesn’t seem interested in finding the Trident of Atlan to prove he’s the true king of Atlantis. After things go wrong, Arthur and Mera begin a quest to find this powerful artifact lost to the ages. This is all the setup to what feels like a story from mythology.           

The movie overall has a few story lines all centered around Arthur Curry, which often can go awry in other films. Here though it just seems to weave together a more elaborate story without getting weighed down by side plots. It’s a story about King Orm, Atlantis, Arthur, the quest for the Trident of Atlan, and Manta. This movie has solid special effects, some beautiful scenery, and overall just speaks to an epic adventure. It barely feels like a super hero movie as it’s more focused on the journey than the action. It’s just a great adventure movie that you really don’t need to know much about the character or universe to enjoy. Rated PG-13.

Ryan