Us

us-movie-poster

Weird things can happen on vacation. Many of us have stories we could tell.

None as weird though as the tale of the Wilsons, a typical American family on a typical getaway to a cabin in the woods. Their vacation is interrupted by an odd quartet of dead ringers for each of them, in red jumpsuits. These menacing dopplegangers unleash a night of terror and violence.

Writer/director Jordan Peele has crafted another winning film. Us is a suspense thriller with plot elements that will have you thinking and rethinking about the story well after you leave the theater.

Us has laughs as well. Nothing as gutbustingly funny as the best Key and Peele bits on Comedy Central, but enough to take a bit of the edge off at timely intervals.

The mom, Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), has a backstory which is told in the film’s opening segment. Her memory of a scary time in a funhouse from childhood causes her to have qualms about going to Santa Cruz beach with the family. But her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) cajoles her and the kids Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) into a day at the shore.

At the beach, they hang with family friends the Tylers (Elizabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker and Cali and Noelle Sheldon). The dads have a cordial visit, but Adelaide’s nervousness inhibits any meaningful mom talk with Mrs. Tyler. When Jason briefly disappears, Adelaide freaks out until he is found. Then when the Wilsons get home that the real horror begins.

Nyong’o is the key player among the talented cast. As Adelaide’s doppleganger, she is the only one among that crew who can speak coherently, although in an unpleasant, distorted voice.

The Us soundtrack features the haunting opening song “Anthem” from composer Michael Abels as well as several tunes by pop artists ranging from Janelle Monae to the Beach Boys.

Yes, the film’s title is the name of our country: U.S. And when asked “who are you” Adelaide’s doppelganger replies, “We’re Americans!” So you may impose whatever political message you wish. Or you can just choose to be entertained by a well-made film!

Interestingly, among those receiving special on-screen thanks at the end of the movie is Steven Spielberg. In a way, Us recalls stories Spielberg told in films like E.T. (director) and Poltergeist (story/script) of normal families facing extraordinary occurrences.

A recommendation: see this film sooner rather than later when spoilers are more likely to be freely shared online and in conversations with friends and family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Earth To Echo

 

Earth To Echo is the most derivative film I’ve seen in years. It has elements from The Goonies, E.T., Short Circuit, Stand By Me, Poltergeist, Blair Witch Project, The Matrix and District 9, among others. Those elements are crafted together in a film that can only be considered original if you’re a 10-year-old kid who hasn’t seen those aforementioned films.

This PG-rated family feature is perfect for the preteen and early teen crowd. Three boys are due to move from their homes in a Nevada subdivision to make way for a highway. On their last night together, they each tell their parents that they’ll be playing video games at another kid’s house and spending the night. Instead, the trio rides their bikes into the desert to see what’s up with these weird disturbances on their cell phones.

The three boys are Munch (Reese Hartwig), the cautious kid; Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley, resembling a full size Gary Coleman), who archives everything on video; and Alex (Teo Halm), the good-looking foster child. Halfway through their adventure, they are joined by Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) to get some girl power in the film.

Along the way they encounter the alien they name Echo who, like E.T., wants to go home. They take Echo under their wing and dash through an overnight adventure that eventually solves the mystery.

While E2E draws from other films, it has a contemporary look with much hand-held POV footage and the constant presence of smartphones. Directing a feature for the first time, Dave Green maintains a good tempo. The script by Henry Gayden manages to squeeze a good deal of plot—and character—into a 90-minute film.

Earth To Echo is a decent amusement for young kids. And for parents, it might be fun to see if you can come up with more movies—other than those listed up top—that the filmmakers have “borrowed” from to make E2E.