Elsewhere Reviews: Naomi Booth, “Sealed”

Originally published at The Green Man Review!

“Oh lord, keep me safe from harm. Oh lord, keep me safe from my skin”

This is a first novel? Wow. Absolutely stunning. Feels a bit like Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. Alice, a young woman who’s almost-to-the-finish-line pregnant, moves to the Australian Outback with her partner Pete to get away from the city and ready themselves for their baby. Oh, and did I mention that there’s an outbreak of “Cutis Sigillatis”, a horrible (and thankfully fictional) condition that causes people’s skin to rapidly grow over every bodily opening? Is this caused by pollution, toxins in food, or something else? Whatever the cause, Alice becomes more and more unsettled, focusing solely on cutis to the detriment of her relationship, her job, and human interaction. Continue reading

Posted in Books, Elsewhere Reviews, Green Man Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Us” is a wild ride that shows Jordan Peele has more stories worth telling

“Stick with me and I’ll keep you safe. Okay?”

Story: Adelaide Wilson does not like the beach in Santa Cruz. Why would she, when a terrifying event happened to her back in ’86? But now she’s grown with kids of her own; time to go back to grammy’s (now her) beach house! Hubby Gabe thinks everything’s hunky-dory, and it is. Well, until it’s not. Who’s that in the driveway?

Genre I’d put it in: Twilight Zone-esque Horror

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Basically an original but…according to Peele himself, it’s based on the Twilight Zone episode “Mirror Image”. And no, I didn’t know that ’til right now, after I searched Wiki to see if this one was an original.

Gotta say: Idris Elba. Michael Sheen. Sean Bean. Y’all need to make a bit of room. Because I have a new movie crush, and his name is Winston Duke. Yes he’s awesome (and hilarious) as M’Baku in the MCU, but here in Us, he gives the best “Oh, Dad” dad ever. EVER. Walking that fine line between over-the-top and every real-life dad that’s too much, Duke owns this role. He even went for the dad bod. I tip my hat to you sir.

Now about the movie itself. Whoa it’s a lot. Writer/Director Jordan Peele throws a ton of stuff at the wall in this film, and every single bit of it sticks. Okay sometimes it’s a bit messy, with acts that blend into each other at such a frenetic pace that the usual second act climax just feels like more of what’s been happening from the jump. But Us is an amazing collection of themes, ideas and messages, wrapped up in a plot that’s heavy on the Twilight Zone vibe while being wholly its own thing. In fact, consider this film an apéritif for Peele’s reboot of that television show coming next month.

Peele’s story is an ambitious one, as it deals with ideas of our hidden selves, socioeconomic disparity, how we deal with our past, our place in humanity, and so much more. Why’d I just punk out at the end of that last sentence? Because with Us, while there will be several ideas that stick with you, each viewer may have several more that will feel just as apt. This is the kind of story that will linger with you, as you re-examine bits and pieces before you drift off to sleep. Which probably isn’t the best idea for those of you who are light touches when it comes to horror; Us also packs lots of scares, and doesn’t shy away from the red stuff.

I have a few quibbles though. There’s so much packed into this story it’s tough to keep up, and tougher to let unanswered questions slide. As filmgoers, we’re use to answers, or at least hints. But Peele gives no quarter, allowing the confusion to turn to disorientation, then to dread. Would I have liked more information on what the hell was going on? Absolutely. Did I need that information to become invested? Absolutely not. And while nine times out of ten Peele’s blend of humor and horror hits the mark, there are a few scenes that drew laughs when fear was probably the desired response. Can’t have it all, I guess.

Us hits you like a freight train, so be prepared for a rush of ideas hitting you all at once. Everything means something in this film. I’m not just talking about symbolism, I’m talking about props, settings, and even the music. (The score and soundtrack is impressive, with what has to be the best use of NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police” ever.) Hair and make-up goes overtime in helping to tell the story, with natural looks for Adelaide, her family and friends, juxtaposed with clammy, ashen makeup for the “Tethered”. Which reminds me; the performances here are absolutely incredible. Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex not only deliver lived-in performances as the Winstons, but they give excellent creep as their terrifying doppelgangers. Elizabeth Moss is wonderfully hilarious as Adelaide’s buddy, stereotypical drunken W.A.S.P. Kitty Tyler, and gets to let her comedic chops shine…and that’s all I’ll say about that. Y’all have seen the teaser. You know that except for Moss’s outstanding performance, it’s not gonna be good for Kitty.

But honestly? As compelling as each performance is, it’s Nyong’o who steals the show. She runs the gamut from sweet to terrified, bloodthirsty to loving, and everything in-between. Theater and film students should watch this simply to see a master class in channeling your character. It’s that good. Bonus? Seeing Duke’s 110% suburban Gabe Wilson “go thug” when he tries to scare the “Tethered” away. Thank you, Jordan Peele, for inserting these moments of humor into what otherwise would have been a film too intense to really sink into. And thank you for this crazy ride of a film. I may have walked away not knowing everything you wanted to say, but damn if I didn’t hang on every second.

Grade: B+

#ProTip: “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” – Jeremiah 11:11 (Did you just get chills? Because I just got chills.)

Posted in 7 Pieces Of | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The new “Game of Thrones” season 8 poster sums it all up

And it’s glorious. Who needs to sit on the Iron Throne when you are the Iron Throne? Holy blip HBO. Y’all did this last season ad proud.

Can’t wait? Me neither. We’ll all be able to start this final Game on April 14th. Dracarys!

Posted in HBO, TVness | Tagged | Leave a comment

TrailerWatch: hot damn “ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD” can get it

Tarantino’s last film, maybe?* Who knows for sure? But I do know this trailer looks absolutely amazing. Check out the incredible art direction – those sets are on point. Even the film stock feels like a throwback. Plus, I’m digging the chemistry between Pitt and DiCaprio big time. Synopsis!

Quentin Tarantino’s
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

And btw, this ain’t no ordinary Hollywood story. It’s not hinted at much in this trailer, but the story is about the Manson Family murders… Hooked yet? Yeah you are. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hits theaters July 2019.

*Actually, this is his NINTH film. If he’s gonna stick to his guns and retire at ten – and I wouldn’t doubt it as he’s said just that time and time again – his next film will be his last. Thank you to a dear Secret Squirrel that knows how to math!

Posted in Trailers | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: “Dumbo”!

Let’s get our live action Disney on, shall we? Because I’ve got FOUR PACK passes for the B’more area screening of Dumbo! Synopsis!

Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

Ready? Let’s go!

Continue reading

Posted in Free Screenings | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Elsewhere Review: Jen Agg, “I Hear She’s A Real Bitch”

Originally published at The Green Man Review!

A look behind the kitchen door, into the world of restaurants, chefs and what it takes to thrive in this business, Agg’s unflinching look at her life feels like a master class in the art of running a restaurant, but I’m sure it’s just a tip of the iceberg. NOTHING is off the table, from her life as a suburban teen (complete with exploratory vibrator sessions) and falling in love to running her award-winning restaurants and her love of food. Agg has a charming prose style, one that feels as if you’re sitting right next to her at a bar, sharing some charcuterie. And it’s just as delicious.

While she calls herself a “bad feminist”, the book is ripe with bits on how women are treated in the world, shining the light on what she’s done in her own life that fed the patriarchal beast. In fact, by leaving no stone unturned in this memoir, Agg shows feminism in its warts-and-all splendor. Throw in pictures from an illustration of a charcuterie board to Bogie and Bacall, and you’ve got one delicious book you may just devour in one sitting.

(Penguin, 2017)

Posted in Books, Elsewhere Reviews, Green Man Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: “The Best of Enemies”!

The trailer for this one caught my eye awhile back, so I’m happy to say I’ve now got passes for the B’more screening!  Synopsis!

THE BEST OF ENEMIES is a timely, inspiring drama starring Academy Award® nominee Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) and Academy Award® winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Based on a true story, THE BEST OF ENEMIES centers on the extraordinary relationship between Ann Atwater (Henson), a fearless and outspoken civil rights activist who faced off against C.P. Ellis (Rockwell), a local Ku Klux Klan leader, to blaze the way for school desegregation in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971.

Henson! Rockwell! Let’s go!

Continue reading

Posted in Free Screenings | Tagged , | Leave a comment