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“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.” - Jeremiah 11:11

In Rodney Ascher ’s  documentary “ Room 237 ,” four theorists attempt to explain the hidden messages in Stanley Kubrick ’s movie “ The Shining .” The ideas about what the movie is about range from the possible to the downright bizarre. One theory fixates on the possibility that “The Shining” was Kubrick’s way of confessing he faked the landing on the moon footage, and another obsesses over the details of the hedge maze. The other two see evidence that the 1980 film indirectly references either the genocide of Native Americans or the Holocaust.

Like “The Shining,” there are a number of different ways to interpret Jordan Peele ’s excellent new horror movie, “Us.” Every image seems to be a clue for what’s about to happen or a stand-in for something outside the main story of a family in danger. Peele’s film, which he directed, wrote and produced, will likely reward audiences on multiple viewings, each visit revealing a new secret, showing you something you missed before in a new light.

“Us” begins back in 1986 with a young girl and her parents wandering through the Santa Cruz boardwalk at night. She separates from them to walk out on the empty beach, watching a foreboding flock of thunderclouds roll in. Her eyes find an attraction just off the main pier, and she walks into what looks like an abandoned hall of mirrors, discovering something deeply terrifying—her doppelgänger. The movie shifts to the present day, with Janelle Monae on the radio as the Wilson family is heading towards their vacation home. The little girl has now grown up to be a woman, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), nervous about returning to that spot on the Santa Cruz beach. Her husband, Gabe ( Winston Duke ), thinks her reaction is overblown, but he tries to make her feel at ease so they can take their kids Zora ( Shahadi Wright Joseph ) and Jason ( Evan Alex ) to the beach and meet up with old friends, the Tylers ( Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker ) and their twin daughters. After one small scare and a few strange coincidences on the beach, the family returns home for a quiet night in, only to have their peace broken by a most unlikely set of trespassers lined up across their driveway: doppelgängers of their family.

Part of the appeal of “Us” is how you interpret what all of this information and images mean. No doubt the movie will give audiences plenty to mull over long after the credits. In the film, the Jeremiah 11:11 Bible verse appears twice before pivotal moments, and there are plenty of other Biblical references to dig into, including an analogy to heaven and hell. Perhaps Jason’s “ Jaws ” shirt is a reference to the rocket sweater the little boy wears in “The Shining” or it could be a warning about the film’s oceanside dangers. In the ‘80s scene, when young Adelaide walks into the mysterious attraction, the sign welcoming her is that of a Native American in a headdress above the name “Shaman Vision Quest.” When the family returns to the beach, the sign has been replaced with a more PC-friendly sign bearing a wizard advertising it as “Merlin’s Enchanted Forest,” a bandaid solution to hiding the racist exterior and the horror inside its halls.  

As he did with “ Get Out ,” Peele pays significant tribute to the films that have influenced him in “Us.” Though this time, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus. As I spoke with others who saw the movie, we focused on different titles that stood out to us. For me, “The Shining” looked to be the film that received the most nods in “Us,” including an overhead shot of the Wilson family driving through hilly forests to their vacation home, much like the Torrance family does on the way to the Overlook Hotel. There’s also a reference to “The Shining” twins, a few architectural and cinematography similarities and, in one shot, Nyong’o charges the camera with a weapon much like Jack Nicholson menacingly drags along an ax in a chase. However, “Us” is not just a love letter to one horror movie. Peele also pays tribute to Brian De Palma with a split diopter shot that places both Adelaide and her doppelgänger in equal focus for the first time in the movie. There’s also a tip of the hat to Darren Aronofsky ’s “ Black Swan ” in terms of dueling balletic styles and a gorgeously choreographed fight scene that looks like a combative pas de deux.

This delightfully deranged home invasion-family horror film works because Peele not only knows how to tell his story, he assembled an incredible cast to play two roles. The Wilsons are a picture of an all-American family: a family of four that looks to be middle class, with college-educated (Gabe is wearing a Howard University sweater) parents doting on their two children. Their doppelgängers may look like them and be tied to them in some way, but their lives are inverses of each other, and their existence has been one of limits and misery. It’s one of the most poignant analogies of class in America to come out in a studio film in recent memory. For the actors, it’s a chance to play two extremes, one of intense normality and the other of wretched evil. In “Us,” Duke shows off his comedic strengths as the dorky father who often embarrasses his kids, and his doppelgänger is a frighting wall of violence with little to say other than grunts and fighting his adversary. If Nyong’o doesn’t get some professional recognition for her performances here, I will be very disappointed. As Adelaide, she’s fearful, trying to keep some traumatic memories at bay but putting on a brave face for her family. To play her character’s opposite, Nyong’o adopts a graceful, confident movement for her doppelgänger, sliding into the family’s home with scissors at the ready. The doppelgänger looks wide-eyed and maliciously curious as if she’s looking for new ways to terrorize this family. She whispers in a raspy but sinister voice that would make many people jump and run away.

A suspenseful story and marvelous cast need a great crew to make the film a home run, and “Us” is not short on talent. “ It Follows ” cinematographer Mike Gioulakis creates unsettling images in mundane spaces, like how a strange family standing at a driveway isn’t necessarily scary, but when it’s eerily dark out, they’re backlit so that their faces go unseen and the four bodies are standing at a higher elevation from our heroes, so it looks like evil is swooping in from above. Kym Barrett ’s costume designs not only supply the doppelgängers’ nefarious looking red jumpsuits but also the normal, comfy clothes the Wilsons and Tylers wear on vacation. Michael Abels , who also composed the score for “Get Out,” and the ominous notes from the sound design team lay the groundwork for nerve-wracking sequences.

Jordan Peele isn’t the next Kubrick, M. Night Shyamalan, Alfred Hitchcock or Steven Spielberg . He’s his own director, with a vision that melds comedy, horror and social commentary. And he has a visual style that’s luminous, playful and delightfully unnerving. Peele uses an alternate cinematic language to Kubrick, seems more comfortable at teasing his story’s twists throughout the narrative unlike Shyamalan, uses suspense differently than Hitchcock, and possesses the comedic timing Spielberg never had. “Us” is another thrilling exploration of the past and oppression this country is still too afraid to bring up. Peele wants us to talk, and he’s given audiences the material to think, to feel our way through some of the darker sides of the human condition and the American experience.

This review was originally filed from the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 9, 2019.

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo is a critic, journalist, programmer, and curator based in New York City. She is the Senior Film Programmer at the Jacob Burns Film Center and a contributor to  RogerEbert.com .

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Film credits.

Us movie poster

Rated R for violence/terror, and language.

120 minutes

Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson

Winston Duke as Gabriel "Gabe" Wilson

Evan Alex as Jason Wilson

Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson

Elisabeth Moss as Mrs. Tyler

Tim Heidecker as Mr. Tyler

Kara Hayward as Nancy

  • Jordan Peele

Cinematographer

  • Mike Gioulakis
  • Nicholas Monsour
  • Michael Abels

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Review: Jordan Peele’s “Us” Is a Colossal Cinematic Achievement

the movie us review

By Richard Brody

Lupita Nyong'o

The success of Jordan Peele’s 2017 film, “ Get Out ,” bought him time, he said, in a recent interview with Le Monde —for his new film, “Us,” he had twice as many shoot days. The expanded time frame allowed him to produce a work of expanded ambition: “Us” bounces back and forth between 1986 and the present day, and its action, compared to “Get Out,” has a vast range—geographical, dramatic, and intellectual. The movie’s imaginative spectrum is enormous, four-dimensionally so: it delves deep into a literal underground world that lends the hallucinatory concept of the “sunken place” from “Get Out” a physical embodiment. And it captures the transformative, radical power of a political conscience, of an idea long held in secret, as it ripens and develops over decades’ worth of time. “Us” is nothing short of a colossal achievement.

Structured like a home-invasion drama, “Us” is a horror film—though saying so is like offering a reminder that “The Godfather” is a gangster film or that “2001: A Space Odyssey” is science fiction. Genre is irrelevant to the merits of a film, whether its conventions are followed or defied; what matters is that Peele cites the tropes and precedents of horror in order to deeply root his film in the terrain of pop culture—and then to pull up those roots. “Us” is a film that places itself within pop culture for diagnostic—and even self-diagnostic—purposes; its subject is, in large measure, cultural consciousness and its counterpart, the cultural unconscious. The crucial element of horror is political and moral—the realities that metaphorical fantasies evoke.

Peele reaches deep into the symbolic DNA of pop culture to discover a hidden, implicit history that he brings to the fore, at a moment of growing recognition that the deeds of the past still rage with silent and devastating force in the present time. After a title card notes the presence of a vast hidden network of tunnels (as for abandoned railways and mines) beneath American soil, the action begins with a bit of pop archeology: a shot of an old-fashioned tube TV set, on which a commercial is playing for “Hands Across America,” a 1986 philanthropic fund-raising event that involved an effort to create a human chain from coast to coast. (The announcer’s voice-over says, “Six million people will tether themselves together to fight hunger in America.”)

At that time, a young girl named Adelaide (though her name isn’t heard until much later in the film, when she’s an adult) is visiting a Santa Cruz beach with her squabbling parents. The child (Madison Curry) wanders off, enters a beachside haunted-house attraction, and, there, walking through a hall of mirrors reminiscent of the one in Orson Welles’s “The Lady from Shanghai,” sees not her reflection but her physical double. After the incident, her parents find her traumatized, but just what happened isn’t clear to them. In the present day, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is married to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), and they have two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), a teen-ager, and Jason (Evan Alex), who seems to be about eight. The Wilsons are prosperous—they’re heading to a summer house by a lake, where Gabe buys a speedboat (albeit a beat-up, run-down one) on a whim. It’s not clear what they do for a living; Adelaide used to dance but gave it up. What is clear is that she now has an aversion to the beach because of the haunted house, which is still there, in a slightly different guise. Her memories and flashbacks suggest that the trauma from whatever happened in the house has haunted her for her whole life.

The Wilsons are black, a fact that, as depicted, has little overt effect on their lives. Avoiding the stereotypes of black Americans in movies, Peele instead knowingly depicts them as a stereotype of a financially successful, socially stable, and cinematically average American family. It’s as though they naturally and unintentionally use what Boots Riley’s film, “Sorry to Bother You,” would call their “white voice,” the voice of white-dominated corporate prosperity. (There’s even a wink back to “Get Out,” regarding the Wilsons’ utterly untroubled confidence in the police.) Their summer companions are a white (and wealthier) family, the Tylers, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker), and their twin daughters, Becca (Cali Sheldon) and Lindsey (Noelle Sheldon).

Back at their summer house that night, Adelaide experiences premonitions—she tells Gabe that she feels that her double is out there somewhere. “My whole life I’ve felt as if she’s still coming for me,” she says, and, on this night, she feels as if “she’s getting closer.” Moments later, Jason sees another family standing outside the house; it turns out to be four doubles of the Wilson family, distinguished by their matching red jumpsuits (reminiscent of prison uniforms) and tan sandals, their static posture—holding hands side by side, in the manner of Hands Across America—and their silence. The doubles soon burst into the house, facing off against the Wilsons while Adelaide’s double (named, in the credits, Red)—the only one of the four doppelgängers to speak—states, in a hoarse and halting voice, her demands.

No less than “Get Out,” “Us” is a work of directorial virtuosity, in which Peele invests every moment, every twist, every diabolically conceived and gleefully invoked detail with graphic, psychological resonance and controlled tone, in performance and gesture. Here, as in “Get Out,” Peele employs point-of-view shots to put audience members in the position of the characters, to conjure subjective and fragmentary experience that reverberates with the metaphysical eeriness of their suddenly doubled world. (Recurring nods to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” suggest a mysterious transformation of the natural order.) Exactly as the title promises (and as the drama delivers, when Jason identifies the intruders, saying, “It’s us”), the movie turns the screen into a funhouse mirror in which the distortions prove to be truer representations of the state of things—in the world of its viewers—than more familiar, realistic depictions.

A distinctively American vision is planted throughout the action of “Us,” with an explicit and monitory allusion to the notion of national destiny. As a child, Adelaide sees, at the beach, a silent beachcomber-prophet with a sign that reads “Jeremiah 11:11.” In that chapter, God grants people land on the condition that they keep their covenant with Him, but when they revert to “the sins of their ancestors,” they face divine retribution: “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.’ ” When Adelaide asks the family’s doubles “What are you people?,” the wording of the question (not “who” but “what”) is less offensive than it is literally ontological: Are they alive or dead? Are they zombies or robots or creatures from space or figments of their imagination? Red’s answer is “We’re Americans.” (Even the title, “Us,” doubles as “U.S.”)

“Us” is intensely suspenseful (it would be sinful to spoil its twists or even to hint at its scares) and moderately gory—yet the bloodshed rigorously serves the drama. It’s never there to gross out viewers or to test their threshold of shock or disgust. (And I’m squeamish.) In particular, the explicit violence provides a serious view of life-threatening dangers that compel bourgeois characters to get their hands dirty with the act of killing—it shows what they’re up against and what they have to face, and to do, in an effort to save themselves. Yet “Us” also offers that safety, that salvation, with bitter irony. (It brings to mind Florence Reece’s pro-union song “ Which Side Are You On? ”) It’s a movie that, true to its genre, is plotted with hair-trigger mechanisms that tweak suspense with surprises—intellectual ones along with dramatic and sensory ones.

With its foretold emphasis on tunnels, “Us” proves to be something like Peele’s version of “ Notes from Underground ,” complete with its fiery arias of torment from those whose voices otherwise go unheard. (There’s a relevant wink along the way at Samuel Fuller’s jangling masterwork “ Shock Corridor .”) The term that describes the link between the Wilsons and their doubles is called “tethering”—and that word, in its many grammatical forms, recurs throughout the film (not least, in repeated allusions to Hands Across America). The nature of bonds—social bonds, voluntary and involuntary connections of some people to others—is at the heart of the movie, the desire for solidarity with some, the intended or oblivious dissociation from others.

The movie’s many pop-culture references—whether kids wearing T-shirts for “Thriller” and “Jaws” or the presence of “Good Vibrations” and “Fuck tha Police” on the soundtrack—are no mere decorations. Peele’s radical vision of inequality, of the haves and the have-nots, those who are in and those who are out, is reflected brightly and brilliantly in his view of pop culture, current and classic (including riffs on romantic melodrama and on the notion of emotional expression as a luxury in itself). Mass media is presented in “Us” as a rich people’s culture, if not in the immediate origins of its artists, then in the production, distribution, marketing, platforming, and lawyering of the work—in the very notion of its valuable and ubiquitous legacy. (In the Le Monde interview, Peele cited the soundtrack as another principal benefit of his higher budget.)

“Us” highlights the unwitting complicity of even apparently well-meaning and conscientious people in an unjust order that masquerades as natural and immutable but is, in fact, the product of malevolent designs that leave some languishing in the perma-shadows. (Designed by whom? The movie doesn’t name names, but it winks and nods and nudges in a general direction that runs from the sea to the lake.) It dramatizes this world, but with a twist—one that (avoiding spoilers) risks overturning conventional values and sympathies with ecstatic fervor. Suffice it to say that “Us” reserves empathy for its unwitting villains while gleefully deriding their comfortably normal state of obliviousness—and the ordinary absurdities of the world at large.

The movie’s exquisite perceptiveness and its alluring details are part of a vision that ranges between the outrageously sardonic and the grandly tragic. It renders the movie, for all its suspense, violence, and moral outrage, as much of a joy to recall, moment by moment, as it is to watch. Zora, after wielding an improvised weapon in a desperate, defensive rage, wiggles her arm in fatigue, as if she’d just completed a household chore. Gabe, challenging the doppelgängers with a metal baseball bat, adopts a stereotypical black-dialect voice as if, by doing so, he could make himself more menacing. Jason, suspicious of his own double (named Pluto), crafts a chess-like strategy leading to results and images of anguished grandeur. There are all kinds of magnificently world-built elements that only make sense in the light of big, late reveals, such as a strange and bloody preview, on the Santa Cruz beach, of the Wilson family’s doubles, and Adelaide’s early success as a dancer (and her double’s ability to use it against her).

This world-building has a stark thematic simplicity that both belies and inspires immense complexity. “Us” is a movie that defies the jigsaw-fit, quasi-academic interpretation that pervades recent criticism. As much as the movie offers a metaphorical vision of the enormities of social and political life, it also offers implications of an inner world, a projection of Peele-iana that maps his personal vision onto that of the world at large—and that, in turn, calls upon viewers to receive that world as intensely and consciously and imaginatively as he tries to do. The results of doing so, he suggests, are intrinsically political, even revolutionary.

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“Get Out”: Jordan Peele’s Radical Cinematic Vision of the World Through a Black Man’s Eyes

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‘Us’ | Anatomy of a Scene

Jordan peele narrates a sequence from his film..

“I’m Jordan Peele. I’m the writer, producer, and director of the movie “Us.’” “There’s a family in our driveway.” “So here we have the scene where the tethered family arrives at the Wilson house for the first time. Jason, of course, says “there’s a family in our driveway.” A line designed, giddily, to attempt to be an iconic line, like “they’re here” from the “Poltergeist” movie and sort of help congeal this sense of an Amblin-esque predicament with a black family in the center of it.” - [heavy breathing] “What?” “Zora, give me your phone.” “I’m not on it.” “Zora!” “This is the point in the movie where I want the terror to really kick into a new gear for the audience. One of the techniques that I utilized to get that terror was that all of a sudden we go into real time. The movie before this has been going from some time dashes here and there. When we get into this moment where the four family members are standing holding hands outside, then we go into this sort of fluid — we use a lot of the Steadicam with very few edits. Really trying to subliminally signal to the audience that this sort of relentless, real time event has begun and is taking place.” “Wait, wait, wait, just one sec — Gabe.” “So we see Gabe leave. He goes out. He’s the dad, he’s got to deal with it. This is kind of like — probably pulled from my own anxieties of being a father and realizing, yeah, you got to man up sometimes.” “Hi. Can I help you?” “One of the things in this scene that really inspired me was the scene in “Halloween” where Michael Myers has the ghost sheet over him. And no matter how many questions he’s asked, he just doesn’t respond. The less response you get, the more impending and physical, I think, the threat gets. Probably after the second time someone doesn’t respond, you know one of you’s got to go down. [laughing] “A’ight, I asked you nice. Now I need y’all to get off my property.” “One of the pieces of this scene that works really well is we’ve got Winston to this spot where he’s code switching. You know, he goes back to some of his roots, as it were, to try and intimidate this mysterious family out there. That maybe if sort of reasoning with them doesn’t work, a good old fashioned low register, throwing some bass into his voice, coming out with a little swagger and a bat might work.” “O.K., let’s call the cops.” “Winston is just remarkable in this scene, and the audience really I think is in this tug of war between feeling the tension ratcheting up and the fear of what’s to come and the little bit of a comic relief of watching this kind of goofy dad who’s in over his head.” “Gabe.” “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. All right.” “Gabe!” “I got this.”

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By Manohla Dargis

  • March 20, 2019

Jordan Peele’s new horror movie, “Us,” is an expansive philosophical hall of mirrors. Like his 2017 hit, “Get Out,” this daring fun-until-it’s-not shocker starts from the genre’s central premise that everyday life is a wellspring of terrors. In “Get Out,” a young black man meets a group of white people who buy — at auction — younger, healthier black bodies. What makes “Get Out” so powerful is how Peele marshals a classic tale of unwilling bodily possession into a resonant, unsettling metaphor for the sweep of black and white relations in the United States — the U.S., or us.

“Us” is more ambitious than “Get Out,” and in some ways more unsettling. Once again, Peele is exploring existential terrors and the theme of possession, this time through the eerie form of the monstrous doppelgänger. The figure of the troublesome other — of Jekyll and Hyde, of the conscious and unconscious — ripples through the story of an ordinary family, the Wilsons, stalked by murderous doubles. These shadows look like the Wilsons but are frighteningly different, with fixed stares and guttural, animalistic vocalizations. Dressed in matching red coveralls and wielding large scissors (the better to slice and dice), they are funhouse-mirror visions turned nightmares.

The evil twin is a rich, durable motif, and it winds through “Us” from start to finish, beginning with a flashback to 1986 at a Santa Cruz, Calif., amusement park. There, a young girl (the expressive Madison Curry) and her parents are leisurely wandering the park. The girl is itsy-bitsy (the camera sticks close to her so that everything looms), and she and her parents maintain a chilly, near-geometric distance from one another. She’s clutching a perfect candied apple, a portentous splash of red and a witty emblem both of Halloween and Edenic forbidden fruit. Movies are journeys into knowledge, and what the girl knows is part of the simmering mystery.

the movie us review

The Wilsons, a family of four headed by Adelaide (a dazzling Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe (Winston Duke), enter many years later, introduced with an aerial sweep of greenery. The bird’s-eye view (or god’s-eye, given the movie’s metaphysical reach) evokes the opener of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” a film Peele references throughout. A true cinephile, Peele scatters “Us” with nods and allusions to old-school 1970s and ’80s movies including “Goonies,” “Jaws,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” (One disturbing scene suggests that he’s also a fan of Michael Haneke.) But “The Shining” — another story of a grotesquely haunted family — serves as his most obvious guiding star, narratively and visually.

[Read about Lupita Nyong’o and her work on the movie.]

Peele likes to mix tones and moods, and as he did in “Get Out,” he uses broad humor both for delay and deflection. There’s a cryptic opener and an equally enigmatic credit sequence, but soon the Wilsons are laughing at their vacation home. It’s a breather that Peele uses for light jokes and intimacy (Duke’s amiable performance provides levity and warmth) while he scatters narrative bread crumbs. There’s a beach trip with another family, this one headed by Kitty (a fantastic Elisabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker), who have teenage twin girls (cue “The Shining”). At last, the movie jumps to kinetic life with the appearance of the Wilsons’ doubles, who descend in a brutal home invasion.

The assault is a master class of precision-timed scares filled with light shivers and deeper, reverberant frights. Working within the house’s tight, angled spaces — soon filled with fluid camerawork and bodies moving to dramatically different beats — Peele turns this domestic space into a double of the funhouse that loomed in the amusement park. After much scrambling and shrieking, the Wilsons and their weird twins face off in the living room, mirroring one another. Adelaide’s shadow, Red (the actors play their doubles), takes charge and splits up the Wilsons, ordering her husband, daughter and son to take charge of their terrified others while she remains with Adelaide.

[ Read Jason Zinoman’s essay on why this is the golden age of grown-up horror. ]

A vibrant, appealing screen presence, Nyong’o brings a tremendous range and depth of feeling to both characters, who she individualizes with such clarity and lapidary detail that they aren’t just distinct beings; they feel as if they were being inhabited by different actors. She gives each a specific walk and sharply opposite gestures and voices (maternally silky vs. monstrously raspy). Adelaide, who studied ballet, moves gracefully and, when need be, rapidly (she racks up miles); Red moves as if keeping time to a metronome, with the staccato, mechanical step and head turns of an automaton. Both have ramrod posture and large unblinking eyes. Red’s mouth is a monstrous abyss.

The confrontation between Adelaide and Red testifies to Peele’s strength with actors — here, he makes the most of Nyong’o’s dueling turns — but, once Red starts explaining things, it also telegraphs the story’s weakness. “Us” is Peele’s second movie, but as his ideas pile up — and the doubles and their terrors expand — it starts to feel like his second and third combined. One of the pleasures of “Get Out” was its conceptual and narrative elegance, a streamlining that makes it feel shorter than its one hour 44 minutes. “Us” runs a little longer, but its surfeit of stuff — its cinephilia, bunnies of doom, sharp political detours and less-successful mythmaking — can make it feel unproductively cluttered.

Peele’s boldest, most exciting and shaky conceptual move in “Us” is to yoke the American present with the past, first by invoking the 1986 super-event Hands Across America. A very ’80s charity drive (one of its organizers helped create the ’85 benefit hit “We Are the World” ), it had Americans holding hands from coast to coast, making a human chain meant to fight hunger and homelessness. President Reagan held hands in front of the White House even while his administration was criticized for cutting billions for programs to help the homeless.

In “Us,” the appearance of unity — in a nation, in a person — doesn’t last long before being ripped away like one of the movie’s masks. Peele piles on (and tears off) the masks and the metaphors, tethers the past to the present and draws a line between the Reagan and Trump presidencies, suggesting that we were, and remain, one nation profoundly divisible. He also busies up his story with too many details, explanations and cutaways. Peele’s problem isn’t that he’s ambitious; he is, blissfully. But he also feels like an artist who has been waiting a very long time to say a great deal, and here he steps on, and muddles, his material, including in a fight that dilutes even Nyong’o’s best efforts.

Early on, Peele drops in some text about the existence of abandoned tunnels, mines and subways in the United States. I flashed on Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Underground Railroad,” which literalizes the network of safe houses and routes used by enslaved black Americans, turning it into a fantastical subterranean passageway to freedom. In “Us,” Peele uses the metaphor of the divided self to explore what lies beneath contemporary America, its double consciousness, its identity, sins and terrors. The results are messy, brilliant, sobering, even bleak — the final scene is a gut punch delivered with a queasy smile — but Jordan Peele isn’t here just to play.

Us Rated R for horror violence, featuring scissors and a pesky boat motor. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes.

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the movie us review

“Us” offers no easy answers, but indicts us all.

Full Review | Original Score: A | Oct 13, 2023

the movie us review

Peele crafts a story that sucks us into a waking nightmare, and along the way it touches on such weighty themes such as economic disparity, nature vs. nurture, and our propensity for self-destruction.

Full Review | Jul 26, 2023

the movie us review

Once again, Jordan Peele offers a thought-provoking, deeply layered, and incredibly suspenseful narrative.

Full Review | Original Score: A- | Jul 24, 2023

the movie us review

A devastating critique of the American Dream with indelible performances by Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss.

Full Review | Dec 7, 2022

the movie us review

With “Us” the aim may be a little messy, but Peele brings it together with sharp instincts and a better grasp of scene-to-scene storytelling and tension-building.

Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5 | Aug 21, 2022

the movie us review

Peele has committed most of his film's runtime to an unyielding, scary premise that proves the filmmaker has his audience wrapped around his little finger.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Mar 3, 2022

the movie us review

Just like that, Us has confirmed that Peele has become a tour de force as a director in Hollywood.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4 | Feb 18, 2022

the movie us review

It grips you immediately.

Full Review | Sep 30, 2021

the movie us review

Episode 32: Captive State / Pandorum / Mirror Image / Us

Full Review | Original Score: 66/100 | Sep 14, 2021

the movie us review

It doesn't pack the psychological punch of Get Out, but Us confirms that Jordan Peele's phenomenal debut film was no fluke -- and the praise he's given is indeed well deserved.

Full Review | Jul 13, 2021

the movie us review

Similar to his first film, Peele practically demands multiple viewings.

Full Review | Original Score: 4 / 5 | Jun 25, 2021

It's a film that confirms Peele as that rarest of things - a true auteur.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | May 11, 2021

Jordan Peele returns with another inventive and ambitious psychological horror film.

Full Review | May 11, 2021

the movie us review

There's a messiness here, a beautiful anamorphic widescreen messiness that Peele seems to relish.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Mar 13, 2021

the movie us review

Us introduces so many ideas that it can be difficult to focus. But it's fascinating to watch those ideas emerge, contort and dance around on screen, even if they don't always come together to form a cohesive story.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Mar 8, 2021

the movie us review

An outlandish story but the powerful message resonates in Trump era America.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Mar 4, 2021

the movie us review

While imperfect, Peele and his team get enough right with Us to make it a worthy follow-up to Get Out. Combining popcorn thrills with thoughtful commentary is Peele's calling card, something that should make him a director to watch for years to come.

Full Review | Feb 18, 2021

the movie us review

Smart and quick witted, Peele knows when he needs to be obvious - title Us also doubles as US, as above so below/mirror image concept, in a pivotal moment, and when to be subtle - ok, not really.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Feb 13, 2021

the movie us review

The best advice I got before heading to the theater was just not to think too hard about it.

Full Review | Feb 8, 2021

the movie us review

Us is a perfect storm of horror, acting, and social commentary: a beautiful dark mirror that conveys a confidence seldom seen in sophomore efforts.

Full Review | Original Score: B+ | Jan 29, 2021

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Will Haunt You

By Peter Travers

Peter Travers

It’s scary as hell, and that’s just for starters. But Us , the new mesmerizing mindbender from writer-director-producer Jordan Peele , also carries the weight of expectation. Get Out , Peele’s smashing debut from 2017, was a brilliantly caustic satire of race division in America that won Peele an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (he’s the first African-American to triumph in that category) and became a phenom with critics and audiences. How can Peele top that? Short answer: he can’t and doesn’t. In interviews , Peele insists that Us is a straight-up horror show. Not really. Leave it to Peele to blaze a trail by putting a black family smack in the middle of a commercial thriller-diller. That’s more than a novelty, it’s a quiet revolution. And Peele’s hints at the larger conspiracies of race, class and social violence festering inside the American dream resonate darkly. Ding Peele all you want for taking on more than he can comfortably handle, but this 40-year-old from New York who started as one half of the sketch-comedy team of Key & Peele is now shaping up as a world-class filmmaker. Flaws and all, Us has the power to haunt your waking dreams. You won’t be able to stop talking about it.

Related: Jordan Peele on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Critics, in mortal fear of the spoiler police, need to shut the fuck up. Or at least tread carefully as Peele introduces the Wilson family of sunny California. Mom Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), dad Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two kids — Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) — are on vacation in Santa Cruz. Gabe has an unspoken competition with his friends the Tylers (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker), a white couple with twin daughters given to conspicuous consumption. Everyone is up for a fun time, especially dad (the excellent Duke — looking much like Peele — gets laughs in the unlikeliest places). But Adelaide is not feeling it. In a chilling prologue, set in 1986, we see Adelaide as a child getting majorly freaked out by a trip to a beachside funhouse containing a hall of mirrors. Now the grown Adelaide is back on the same beach where she was traumatized as a child, and she’s taking her own children along. You can cut the foreboding with a knife — or a pair of gold scissors.

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Scissors figure prominently when the Wilsons are confronted in their driveway by unexpected visitors. Since the scene is included in the film’s trailer, I’m not giving away anything to note that these home invaders — clad in red — are exact doubles of the four Wilsons. And the scissors these zombie-like doppelgängers carry are meant to slit throats. “What the hell are you?” asks Gabe. The answer is croaked out by Adelaide’s evil twin (the only double who speaks) in a voice that induces shudders: “We’re Americans.”

The political implications of that genuinely creepy setup are tantalizing, as are the film’s allusions to Hands Across America — the 1986 event in which a human chain of millions was formed to help alleviate poverty and hunger — and the thousands of miles of empty tunnels that run under the continental United States, including the Underground Railroad that symbolizes African enslavement. Is Peele referencing the Sunken Place of the Trump era in which the new gospel preaches fear of the other? If so, the theme remains frustratingly undeveloped. Yet Peele, the supreme cinema stylist, is on a roll. The violence is unnerving as the doubles set out to untether themselves from their human counterparts. By necessity,the Wilsons become a family that kills together. Even the Tylers get invaded. Kudos to Moss, who takes a small role and runs with it. The scene in which her character’s wild-eyed double smears on lip gloss is an unforgettable blend of mirth and menace.

Still, the acting honors in Us go to Nyong’o, who is actually playing two roles, one as protective mother and another as predator. She is superb as both. And what she does with her voice as Adelaide’s double is impossible to shake. Nyong’o, already an Oscar winner for Twelve Years a Slave , should be in the running again for delivering one of the great performances in horror movie history, right up there with Sissy Spacek in Carrie and Jack Nicholson in The Shining .

Peele, an unapologetic horror fanatic, nods to those films and dozens more in Us , including Invasion of the Body Snatchers , Jaws and Michael Jackson’s Thriller . Yet his style is completely his own, as assured as it is ambitious. With the help of cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, up to his It Follows mischief, and a score by Get Out composer Michael Abels that is built to shatter your nerves, the action never lets up. The Beach Boys anthem “Good Vibrations” is featured in the mix, as is “I Got 5 On It” by the hip-hop duo Luniz. You’ll never be able to hear those songs again in the same way.

SXSW 2019: Jordan Peele's 'Us' Is Terrifying

The first time: jordan peele, lupita nyong'o fights to survive in a very loud ‘a quiet place: day one’ trailer.

There are times when Us plays like an extended and exceptional episode of The Twilight Zone , the 1950’s TV series revived next month on CBS All Access and hosted by Peele in Rod Serling mode. But Peele can’t stop himself from reaching higher and cutting deeper. The twisty road he takes us on opens itself to many interpretations. There are times when the film grips us with such hallucinatory terror that you may think it’s another of Adelaide’s PTSD-induced nightmares. Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s a ghastly reflection of the way we live now. Peele uses a Biblical quote from Jeremiah 11:11 that suggests even God has turned his back on us. What is never in doubt is that Peele is using the scare genre to show us a world tragically untethered to its own humanity, its empathy, its soul. If that’s not a horror film for its time, I don’t know what is.

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Us Doesn’t Live Up to Get Out , But It Shows the Promise of Jordan Peele

Portrait of David Edelstein

Once you get over the disappointment that Jordan Peele’s second feature , Us , isn’t as trim or impish in its satire as his marvelous debut, Get Out , you can settle back and salute what it is: the most inspiring kind of miss. It’s what you want an artist of Peele’s sensibility and stature to attempt — to broaden his canvas, deepen his psychological insight, and add new cinematic tools to his kit. However clunky and repetitive, Us continues to demonstrate Peele’s understanding that great horror requires metaphors that are insanely great, that might have come to him in dreams of falling into a “sunken place” or, in this film, into a parallel subterranean world denuded of all material pleasures. Imagine Alice’s White Rabbit down and out and eaten away by deprivation. Imagine that it’s a white lab rabbit. Imagine a fusion of Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, and James Baldwin — plus arterial spray. So much here to love.

Peele’s opening is up there with the nightmare classics. After titles that assert there are thousands of miles of tunnels under the U.S., many of which “have no known purpose at all,” we’re in a beachside Santa Cruz amusement park in 1986, where a little girl wanders away while her father is distracted by a game of Whac-a-Mole. (What better metaphor for macho futility?) Gothic convention compels the girl to enter a fun house on the beach with a sign reading vision quest: find yourself. In the hall of mirrors, she nervously whistles “Itsy Bitsy Spider” — and then hears someone whistling it back. What appears to be her mirror image is actually … well, that’s the question. The credit sequence that follows is diabolically brilliant: The camera rests on a white rabbit, then slowly pulls back to reveal a cage and then a vast wall of cages, each with its own leporine specimen. Michael Abels’s blend of The Omen –like Latin chants and polyphonic Afro-rhythms is so infectious you don’t even realize that by tapping your feet you’re helping to conjure the devil. It possesses you, this music.

The first scenes lose the pulse, though, and the film never really recovers. In the present, the reasonably prosperous Wilson family goes to Santa Cruz for a vacation, its arrival broken by flashbacks to ’86 and the aftermath of the little girl’s trip to the fun house, when she’s mute, apparently in shock. The connection is Adelaide Wilson, who was once that little girl and is now a jittery mom played by Lupita Nyong’o. Adelaide is nervous about going back to the beach, which is easy to understand — but then why is she there in the first place? Peele’s writing is blah and perfunctory, especially when Adelaide’s husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), shows up with a powerboat he bought in a vain attempt to keep up with the Tylers (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) and their much fancier house and athletic blonde daughters. The Wilson kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), are more cerebral, but we don’t get to know them before the so-called “us” arrive.

If you’ve seen the trailer , you know Us centers on the appearance of the Wilsons’ exact doubles in the family’s driveway, which might lead you to expect semi-farcical scenes in which the identical Not-Wilsons take their look-alikes’ places or cause at least momentary (potentially deadly) confusion. But apart from Adelaide’s double, the invaders have little in the way of personality — only pairs of scissors they aim to sink into their counterparts’ throats. Peele and his cinematographer, Mike Gioulakis, show their relish for the genre in the attacks, in how the doubles seem to rise up from the ground (you don’t see how they got there) to envelop and then puncture their victims. But I almost wrote “ zombie attacks”: Although it’s packed with mythically scary images, much of the movie plays like just another walking-dead splatterfest. Peele saves the big reveals for the end, when they’re effective but too late. In the ways that matter, the attackers are “them” and not “us.”

This is the sort of movie that fans will rewatch to appreciate the fillips, the purposeful echoes, the bits of foreshadowing, and the performances. Moss has little screen time, but she shows her genius as her character’s murderous double. Watch her savor the act of putting on lip gloss: Her eyes turn dreamy, and her smile spreads so wide it looks as if it will swallow her face. This is zombie Kabuki. Nyong’o hits extraordinary notes. When she’s the double, her voice is the whistle of someone whose throat has been cut, with a gap between the start of a word in the diaphragm and its finish in the head. It’s like a rush of acrid air from a tomb, further chilled by eyes like boiled eggs, fixed on nothing in this world. The terrestrial Adelaide is more subtly scary; Nyong’o builds extra beats into the performance, lurches and ellipses that keep you from identifying with her too closely. Something’s off — but what?

When the movie ends, you can rearrange the pieces in your head and appreciate the breadth of what Peele set out to achieve. Social scientists and pundits speak of human society in terms of gaps — in wages, in education, in quality of life. It’s Peele’s ingenious notion that the under- and over classes are not estranged but “tethered” in ways that those at the bottom perceive as mockery and theft but that the privileged can’t see — and can perhaps feel only at the instant those scissors slash their jugulars. As in Get Out, that privilege breeds dissociation, one of the ripest subjects for a genre that brings to roaring life the revenge of the repressed.

But to give Peele’s vision its due, you’d need the skills of an artist-animator like Hayao Miyazaki, for whom the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds is porous and those rabbits could take human form — and vice versa. As a horror buff, I hate to admit it, but Peele’s attachment to creaky genre tropes is already starting to hold him back. The good news is that he’s more than halfway to creating his own syntax, his own means for illuminating the sunken places of the world. I have a feeling there will be miraculous excavations to come.

*This article appears in the March 18, 2019, issue of  New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

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Jordan Peele’s Us turns a political statement into unnerving horror

Like his previous horror film, get out, it’s a social exploration of america as much as gripping horror.

By Tasha Robinson

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the movie us review

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special-event releases. This review comes from the 2019 SXSW Interactive Festival. It has been updated to coincide with the film’s theatrical release.

When Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out hit screens in 2017, it was a revelation. Peele was known as an incisive comedian from his racially frank, wide-ranging sketch show Key and Peele , but nothing in his history suggested he had such a talent for crafting mesmerizing horror stories. Get Out is a startling, frightening film, but it’s also meticulously crafted to make the audience politically and socially uncomfortable, with a candid, unflinching message about how black and white Americans interact, and an allegorical underpinning designed to make viewers of any race squirm with discomfort — while still laughing at the ironic humor in Peele’s script.

Peele has been hugely in demand ever since — he’s been tied to a vast slate of films and TV shows, including producing the Tracy Morgan comedy The Last O.G. , the YouTube series Weird City , and the fast-approaching Twilight Zone reboot . But the new feature film Us is his first solo writing-directing project since Get Out. And it’s being met with vocal anticipation and nervous hope, as his fans wonder whether Get Out was an unrepeatable one-off flash of genius, or just the first salvo in a long line of memorable movies to come. Us suggests that both of those things might be true — the new movie isn’t as unconventional as Get Out , or crafted with the same kind of watchmaker’s attention to how every tiny gear fits together. But it’s striking and unsettling, the kind of horror movie designed to make audiences walk away feeling leery about ordinary things around them, from shadows at night to mirrors to rabbits to scissors.

What’s the genre?

Pure blood-curdling horror.

What’s it about?

Opening on a shot of a television in 1986, helpfully framed by shelved VHS copies of highly relevant horror movies like C.H.U.D. and A Nightmare on Elm Street , Us initially takes place in two timelines. In 1986, as the Hands Across America benefit is being staged, a young girl (Madison Curry) visits a Santa Cruz beach boardwalk and confronts an eerie apparition that looks just like her. As an adult, Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) remembers this encounter with a heavy sense of dread, and when her husband Gabe (Winston Duke, M’Baku from Black Panther ) books a vacation that takes her back to the same beach, she starts experiencing frightening flashbacks. Soon, eerie dopplegängers of Adelaide, Gabe, and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) appear, wearing red jumpsuits and wielding brightly colored, hellishly sharp shears. Everything that falls out from there — what the doubles are, where they come from, and what they want— comes as a series of shocks better experienced than described.

the movie us review

What’s it really about?

Us doesn’t foreground its social metaphor as openly as Get Out , but it’s baked into the premise just as thoroughly. At the post-premiere Q&A at SXSW, Peele said the film is fundamentally about America’s misplaced fear of outsiders. “This movie is about this country,” he said. “We’re in a time where we fear the other, whether it’s the mysterious invader that we think is going to come and kill us and take our jobs, or the faction we don’t live near, who voted a different way than us. We’re all about pointing the finger. And I wanted to suggest that maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil, it’s us.”

But while that metaphor plays out in the most literal way, as Adelaide and her family face warped mirror images of themselves, another strong metaphor emerges from the story: a message about wealth inequity, and how easy it is to be unaware of privilege and comfort, while other people are suffering and hungry. Adelaide and her family — and their friends, the Tyler family (Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, and twins Cali and Noelle Sheldon) — live in comparative luxury, and have the freedom to fixate on trivia like whether Jacob can get a magic trick to work, or whether Gabe’s tiny new boat is big enough for the whole family. They’re oblivious to the depths of the suffering going on not far away, among people who are remarkably similar to them, apart from the circumstances of how they came into the world.

And Peele makes the point that where the doubles may look and act like monsters, especially to their victims, they still have an unacknowledged humanity that brings them a kind of horrible pathos. When Adelaide, badly shaken by their arrival, asks one of them what it is, it answers, with a rictus grin, “We’re Americans .”

the movie us review

Is it good?

It’s a hell of a heady experience while it’s running, but it leaves behind a lot of baffling questions. Compared to Get Out , Us feels like more conventional modern horror. It follows a familiar storytelling pattern — initial scare, a drop back to calm and familiar scenes that set up the characters, a series of foreshadowing events and fake-out scares, a sudden escalation of tension. The leadup sometimes feels frustratingly slow and repetitive, especially when the audience isn’t really learning anything new about the characters, apart from the fact that Gabe is oblivious to Adelaide’s past trauma, and that Zora and Jacob don’t particularly get along. And the transition into real horror is so abrupt, it’s almost comical — until it isn’t.

Fans of modern horror will find a lot of familiar ground in Us once the dopplegängers appear. Their initial entrance into the Wilsons’ lives echoes home-invasion thrillers like The Strangers , and the later stalking sequences resemble It Follows in their particular combination of lurking, inevitable terror, and abrupt violence. Us also echoes It Follows in that familiar horror-movie feeling of characters trying to adjust to the new rules of their reality, and figuring out how to exploit them. (Though an early claim that minor but startling coincidences herald the doubles’ arrival doesn’t seem to come to much.) And as the story unfolds, it picks up some resonance with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening , though without the tone of extreme self-importance and ridiculous that made that movie so laughable.

Part of what made Get Out so memorable was the way it echoed a recognizable reality — the discomfort the lead character experiences when he’s away from his friends and the people who really get him, the friction that can arise in a racially mixed group, even when both sides are supposedly well-meaning, even the simple embarrassments of trying to get along with a romantic partner’s irritating family, for the sake of the relationship. There’s a lot less recognizable territory in Us , which instead mines tension from the extreme unrecognizability of the situation. The characters are faced with something they don’t understand and don’t know how to fight, and the more the story unfolds, the weirder and wilder it gets, with Peele keeping the reveals coming up to the film’s final moments. The ending seems likely to kick off a lot of frustrated debate — at the SXSW Q&A, Peele said, “My favorite thing is the idea that people will leave ready to have a conversation, with whoever they’re with.” And that certainly seems likely.

the movie us review

But the movie’s biggest strength comes from the cast’s stunning eeriness in playing their own dopplegängers. As “Red,” Adelaide’s double, Nyong’o is staggeringly creepy. She gives Red a voice that sounds like a rock-record backmasking accident, and an overall affect of a collection of primal elements glued into the shape of a human, and making a game effort to play at being one. Duke plays Gabe as an affable dork, trying to jolly his family along with lame dad jokes and an upbeat affect, but he turns his own double, “Abraham,” into a wordless, baffled beast, suffering and dangerous at the same time. 

And the kids are similarly creepy, but Shahadi Wright Joseph may be the film’s unheralded MVP — as Zora, she’s sullen and phone-addicted, a kid just testing the limits of adolescence and her ability to resist her parents by finding them annoying. As her own double, she’s a frighteningly perfect specter with an unwavering smile — seemingly a rebuke to the irritating phenomenon of strangers telling women they’d be prettier if they smiled more , most recently seen in the pettiest backlash against Captain Marvel . Joseph doesn’t show her teeth when she smiles, but Us certainly does — everything about its creepy approach to seemingly-normal-things-being-horribly-abnormal comes out in that fixed, unwavering grin.

Peele directs Us with a masterful collection of horror-movie tricks — jump scares that actually pay off, a cat-and-mouse game in an isolated place filled with bright lights and deep pools of impenetrable shadow, a throat-closing Michael Abels score full of intense drumming and choral chanting that elevates the action to operatic levels of drama. But his greatest asset is the performances, which turn an already creepy premise into something endlessly inhuman and unnerving. His stated intention is to get people thinking about their own capabilities for harm, and their own culpabilities in what goes on in America. The capabilities Nyong’o and her castmates show in stepping outside of familiar humanity, and dragging an audience along with them into an unrecognizable place, make a strong argument that we don’t always know what we’re capable of, or what horrors we might contain.

What should it be rated?

There’s plenty of blood, but the violence isn’t all that graphic. A PG-13 makes sense, with the understanding that younger and older viewers may have trouble sleeping afterward.

How can I actually watch it?

Us is in wide release in American theaters as of Friday, March 22nd, 2019.

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Jordan Peele follows 'Get Out' with 'Us,' a horror film starring Lupita Nyong'o in which the monsters look just like the heroes.

By John DeFore

John DeFore

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“We’re Americans.”

That single line will be the portal through which Jordan Peele ‘s fans might seek sociopolitical meaning in Us , an often terrifying thriller whose fantastical premise isn’t nearly as easy to read allegorically as that of his shockingly good debut, Get Out . Clearly the work of an ambitious writer-director who can see himself inheriting the mantle of Rod Serling (the Peele-hosted Twilight Zone reboot launches in less than a month), it offers twists and ironies and false endings galore — along with more laughs than the comedian-turned-auteur dared to include in his debut film. Though probably more commercially limited by its genre than its hard-to-pigeonhole predecessor, it packs a punch.

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Release date: Mar 22, 2019

Opening with a shot of a television surrounded by VHS tapes that tease at some of the film’s possible inspirations ( C.H.U.D. , The Goonies , The Right Stuff ; which of these does not belong?), Us introduces Adelaide (Madison Curry), a young girl in 1986 Santa Cruz who’s about to have a traumatic experience at a beachside amusement park.

Cut to the present day, when Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) is a mother of two, heading out with husband Gabe (Winston Duke) for a vacation at her childhood home. Though she recoils at Gabe’s suggestion that they take young Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright-Joseph) to the beach — the idea triggers memories she hasn’t told Gabe about — she relents; once there, mysterious forces seem to be pushing her toward whatever once harmed her.

A general air of icky dread builds toward the scenes that, having been spilled all over the film’s trailers, can’t be spoiled here: Back home that night, four mysterious assailants trap the Wilsons in their house. Each one is the near-identical twin of a family member, though only Adelaide’s twin speaks. In a gasping croak, she identifies herself as Adelaide’s “shadow,” who has lived a life of misery “tethered” to her but far away. She and the others have come to do some un-tethering, and it’s going to hurt.

To this point, Duke (previously the fearsome clan leader M’Baku in Black Panther ) has been a surprisingly winning source of comic relief, stealing scenes as most dads only wish they could. Now, those laughs are rationed out stingily, used to cut the tension between two very intense, very fine performances by Nyong’o. While her Adelaide is nearly paralyzed by a combination of maternal panic and childhood memories, her Shadow is an old-school bringer of violent justice, settling scores the Wilsons didn’t even know existed.

As home invasion standoffs go, Us would be a thrill ride even if its villains weren’t horrifying grotesques of the characters they seek to destroy. It ends with satisfying violence, but of course this is not the end: The doppelganger vision expands, taking in the neighbors ( Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker, 2018’s version of Me Generation vapidity) and making escape much harder than the Wilsons imagined. And then things get weirder still.

I’ll save you the trouble of googling the Bible verse cited by a madman here: Jeremiah 11:11 reads, “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.'” But nobody cries out to God in the apocalypse Us winds up conjuring. They fight and fight, while viewers cower and pray that the answer to Peele’s mystery will be worthy of the bloody road leading to it. We’ll leave that question for viewers to hash out over a post-viewing drink. What isn’t up for debate is the obvious pleasure Peele takes in crafting a film whose many references to pop-culture history — you’ll be too tense to giggle when a boy in a Chewbacca mask yells, “It’s a trap!” — are sometimes transmogrified into an iconography all their own. Monstrous beings wearing red jumpsuits and a single fingerless glove, carrying giant gold scissors while howling wordlessly to their partners lurking in the shadows — that’s an image that will provoke nightmares, even before we can explore where its components come from.

Perhaps Us is making the obvious point that, whether we’re black or white, it’s people who look just like us who’ve made our world a disaster we cannot escape. Maybe we’re doing the same, both of us creating a living hell for someone, likely without even knowing it. Maybe we’re Them and they’re Us. Maybe every happy ending is somebody else’s catastrophe, and therefore, no horror film is ever really over.

Production company: Monkeypaw Productions Distributor: Universal Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright-Joseph, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Madison Curry, Cali Sheldon Director-screenwriter: Jordan Peele Producers: Jordan Peele, Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Ian Cooper Executive producers: Daniel Lupi, Bea Sequeira Director of photography: Mike Gioulakis Production designer: Ruth De Jong Costume designer: Kym Barrett Editor: Nicholas Monsour Composer: Michael Abels Casting director: Terri Taylor Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Headliners)

Rated R, 116 minutes

the movie us review

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Screen Rant

Us review: jordan peele returns with another terrific horror movie, us manages to be funny, freaky, and thrilling all at once, and marks another step forward in peele's evolving sense of storytelling and craftsmanship..

Jordan Peele caught many people off-guard with his directorial debut on 2017's Get Out . The acclaimed horror-thriller was a big hit that went on to snag an Oscar for Peele's screenplay and firmly established the former Key & Peele comedian as a filmmaker on the rise. As such, moviegoers are a little more prepared for Peele's second movie Us , knowing now that the writer-director is a horror aficinado with someting to say (even if he's not necessarily commenting on racism in America, this time around). Still, even his biggest supporters may not be entirely ready for the twisted concoction that Peele's asssembled for his sophomore feature.  Us manages to be funny, freaky, and thrilling all at once, and marks another step forward in Peele's evolving sense of storytelling and craftsmanship.

Naturally, there are parallels between Get Out and Us , like the way that they both start out with characters going on what promises to be a fairly normal trip - even after a foreboding prologue that lets us know that all is not right in this world. In Us ' case, that means a summer vacation to the Wilson family beach house, with husband Gabe and wife Adelaide ( Black Panther costars Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong'o) leading their children Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) along the way. The movie's first act does an excellent job of building up tension in the process, while at the same time laying the foundation for the story developments to come in ways both subtle and overtly threatening. And that's alll before the trouble really hits the fan and the Wilsons look out in their driveway one night to see (bizarre as it seems) doppelgängers of themselves... ones that definitely do not come in peace.

Evan Alex, Lupita Nyong'o and Shahadi Wright Joseph in Us

From the very beginning, Us serves to showcase Peele's improvements as a director since his debut on Get Out . The sound editing in the film's prologue alone is richly detailed and specific, as are the subjective camera angles that Peele and his DP Mike Gioulakis ( It Follows , Split ) use to make something as inocuous as a boardwalk carnival appear ominous and dangerous onscreen. These early scenes in particular further illustrate how much better Peele has gotten at using silence and a lack of music to create suspense since he began directing, as does his later usage of Get Out composer Michael Abels' score (which, like his prior work, is fueled by spooky chorus singing and unsettling orchestral compositions). Peele doesn't drop the ball when the movie becomes more action-driven either and succeeds in crafting some genuinely exciting set pieces here, while at the same time carrying over the visual motifs introduced in Us ' first third (reflections, mirror images, doubles, and so on).

Meanwhile, Peele's script here is as carefully structured as his screenplay for Get Out and finds ways to organically weave humor into the mix throughout the story, in ways that befit the movie's generally off-kilter tone. It helps that the main cast is strong across the board and make their characters feel like fully-rounded individuals, both before and after their doubles (aka. The Tethered) show up. Speaking of which: Nyong'o is the standout here in the dual roles of Adelaide and her doppelgänger "Red", which allow the Oscar-winner to flex her acting muscles in surprising and engaging ways. At the same time, she's able to generate real sympathy for both characters and give them distinct personalities, despite the fact that (obviously) they are dark reflections of one another. Duke is also pretty great in the film, especially since his role as the loveably adorkable dad Gabe is worlds apart from his breakout performance as the Wakandan warrior M'Baku.

Lupita Nyong'o in Us

The one element of Us that might prove to be relatively divisive is the film's central metaphor - or, more specifically, whether it has one. Peele, in another move that signals his continuing maturation as a storyteller, ultimately ties everything together here in a way that makes it clear that there's a deeper parable behind the larger narrative, but leaves room for audiences to interpret it as they will. As such, there are certainly different yet equally valid ways to read into Us , based on the film's themes about trauma, privilege, fractured social identities, and, of course, what it even means to battle your "other self". In that regard, the movie really works as a spiritual descendant of the original Twilight Zone (a series that, fittingly, Peele will revive in April) and skips over spoon-feeding its messages to audiences, in an effort to encourage them to consider the darkness that simmers beneath the surface of our society (quite literally, in the Us universe).

While Peele could've easily rested on his laurels with his sophomore feature and tried to simply recreate what he did so well on Get Out , he instead chose to challenge himself as a filmmaker and tackle a thought-provoking horror allegory that might be even more layered than his breakout effort. Suffice it to say, Us is a must-see for cinephiles and is sure to generate lots of interesting post-screenings discussions about what the film's saying and the symbolism baked into the narrative (not to mention, its clever use of '90s pop songs). For everyone else, Us is just like Get Out in the way that it wants to entertain and make audiences laugh and scream (sometimes within the same scene), while also serving up social commentary without feeling like a sermon. In short: Jordan Peele the director is not only here to stay, he's also just getting started.

Us  is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 116 minutes long and is rated R for violence/terror, and language.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comments section!

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  • Review: Jordan Peele’s <i>Us</i> Is Dazzling to Look At. But What Is It Trying to Say?

Review: Jordan Peele’s Us Is Dazzling to Look At. But What Is It Trying to Say?

Us

W riter-director Jordan Peele’s 2017 Get Out was a brash and intriguing debut, a picture that wrestled with the notion of whether or not America can ever be a post-racial society: Vital and spooky, it refused to hand over easy answers. With the ambitious home-invasion horror chiller Us, Peele goes even deeper into the conflicted territory of class and race and privilege; he also ponders the traits that make us most human. But this time, he’s got so many ideas he can barely corral them, let alone connect them. He overthinks himself into a corner, and we’re stuck there with him.

Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide, who has overcome a traumatic childhood experience and now has a family of her own, including husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and two kids: graceful, well-adjusted Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and the slightly more awkward Jason (Evan Alex), who wears a wolfman mask pushed up on his head as a kind of security blanket. We meet the comfortably middle-class Wilson family as they’re heading off on vacation to Santa Cruz, the site of Adelaide’s childhood ordeal. On their first night away, they look out and see a family of four, mute and stony echoes of themselves, standing in the driveway. From there, Peele unspools a story of “shadow” people, long forced to live underground but now streaming to the Earth’s surface to claim, violently, what they feel is rightfully theirs.

The effectiveness of Us may depend on how little you know about it going in, so the spoiler-averse may wish to stop reading here. But it’s impossible to address any of the movie’s larger ideas without giving away key plot points: Before long, that shadow family has infiltrated the house, and now that we can get a good look, we see that each of them is a not-quite-right replica of a Wilson, dressed in a red jumpsuit and wielding a pair of menacing-looking shears. At one point a terrified Adelaide asks the other mother, a twin of herself but with vacant, crazy eyes and a demented smile, “What are you people?” “We are Americans,” the lookalike responds, in a whispery growl.

That’s a bright, neon-lit Author’s Message if ever there was one, though the idea of using a group of sunlight-deprived semi-zombies as a metaphorical element in a parable about class complacency isn’t necessarily a bad one. Are you and your family doing great? Do you live in a nice place, drive an expensive car, and have plenty of food for everyone to eat? Be grateful for it. But be aware that there are others who, through no fault of their own, don’t live at the same comfort level—or are, in fact, barely surviving. (The Wilsons also have close friends, Josh and Kitty, played by Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss, who have more money and nicer stuff than they do, a source of irritation for Gabe in particular, and another of the movie’s threads about class consciousness in America.) But Peele doesn’t always lay out his ideas clearly. Us isn’t always fun to watch; there are stretches where it’s plodding and dour. He’s overly fond of heavy-duty references, including Biblical ones: A creepy dude holds a sign that reads Jeremiah 11:11. (If you don’t know it outright, it’s the one that goes, “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.”) The mood of Us is sometimes chilling, but even then, you’re not always sure what, exactly, is chilling you. Maybe it’s just the feeling of being trapped in an over-air-conditioned lecture hall, because there’s a strain of preachiness running through the whole thing.

One thing that’s unquestionable: Peele is a dazzling visual stylist. (Peele’s cinematographer is Mike Gioulakis, who also shot David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, as well as M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and Glass .) The movie’s opening, which details young Adelaide’s nightmare—it takes place in a ghoulish hall of mirrors on the Santa Cruz boardwalk—is a mini-horror masterpiece by itself, an evocation of the outright weirdness of childhood rather than its wonder: As the girl wanders away from her parents, in an almost trancelike state, she clutches a candied apple so shiny it’s like blood-red crystal ball—and puts us in a trance, too.

Yet the rest of Us is laden with metaphors, and they pile up so quickly that not even Peele can keep up with them. The movie repeatedly references Hands Across America, a 1986 benefit event in which some 6.5 million people joined hands along a route mapped out across the contiguous United States. (Many participants had donated $10 to reserve a space in the chain; the money was donated to local charities dedicated to fighting hunger and ending poverty.) In Us, the shadow people form a similar chain. But it’s hard to know what Peele is trying to say with that image. Are the semi-zombies of Us just less fortunate versions of us? Are they actually us and we don’t know it? Is their clumsy anger somehow superior to thought and reason? After all, it has unified them, while we aboveground humans are more divided than ever.

How, in the end, are we supposed to feel about these shadow people, for so long deprived of basic human rights—including daylight—that they have become murderous clones? Sometimes great movies are ambiguous, but ambiguity resulting from unclear thinking makes nothing great. It’s one thing for a movie to humble you by leaving you unsure about yourself and your place in the world; it’s another for it to leave you wondering what, exactly, a filmmaker is trying to use his formidable verbal and visual vocabulary to say.

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the movie us review

Peele's bloody, startling, inventive horror movie.

Us Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Raises interesting questions about idea of doppelg

The family members (including kids) do what they h

Very scary (jump scares, etc.); also lots of blood

A man is affectionate toward his wife, kissing her

Several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass,"

Michael Jackson "Thriller" T-shirt.

Secondary characters drink a lot (wine, whiskey, b

Parents need to know that Us -- a shocking, inventive, often funny horror movie about doppelgangers starring Lupita Nyong'o -- is writer/director Jordan Peele's follow-up to his enormously popular Get Out . While this film isn't likely to have the same cultural impact, it's still quite good. It's also…

Positive Messages

Raises interesting questions about idea of doppelgangers. But real message here is that movie portrays a rather ordinary, interesting, likable African American family with no strings attached -- which is very welcome. Also promotes idea of the depth of a family's love.

Positive Role Models

The family members (including kids) do what they have to do to survive, including killing doppelgangers in very bloody ways. They rise above an unexpected challenge, but their survival is largely about luck and brute force. A villain's voice is based on the disability known as spasmodic dysphonia, which has caused some controversy.

Violence & Scariness

Very scary (jump scares, etc.); also lots of blood and gore. Blood splatters, pools of blood, dead bodies. Characters bash doppelgangers with blunt instruments (baseball bat, fireplace poker, golf club, etc.). Doppelgangers killing humans by slicing or stabbing them with sharp scissors. A character is ground up by a boat motor. Character hit by car. Choking with chains. Character's leg injured by baseball bat. Female character handcuffed. Boy with burn scars on his face. Boy on fire. Children in peril.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

A man is affectionate toward his wife, kissing her, hinting that he's going to have sex with her, and arranging himself on the bed to try to seduce her.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "anus," "goddamn," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). In one scene, song "F--k tha Police" by N.W.A. plays, with brief, incessant language, including the "N" word. "Bulls--tty" spoken by a young boy.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

Drinking, drugs & smoking.

Secondary characters drink a lot (wine, whiskey, beer, etc.) to comic effect; no hangovers or consequences. Character says he's "going for a smoke."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Us -- a shocking, inventive, often funny horror movie about doppelgangers starring Lupita Nyong'o -- is writer/director Jordan Peele 's follow-up to his enormously popular Get Out . While this film isn't likely to have the same cultural impact, it's still quite good. It's also very scary and violent. There are jump scares, plus many attacks and killings with blood and gore. Characters use blunt objects on doppelgangers, and doppelgangers slice and stab people with sharp scissors. A woman is handcuffed, and children are sometimes in peril. Language is also strong, with many uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The "N" word is heard in a song ("F--k tha Police" by N.W.A.), and a boy uses the word "bulls--t." A man kisses his wife and makes silly comments and gestures to indicate that he'd like to have sex, but it doesn't go any further. Secondary characters are seen drinking heavily in a comic way, without consequences. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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  • Parents say (46)
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Based on 46 parent reviews

some violence, a song plays the "N-word"

What's the story.

US begins with young Adelaide enjoying the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with her parents in 1986. While her father is distracted, she wanders off and winds up in a house of mirrors. The power winks off, and she finds herself standing next to what looks like her own reflection ... except that it's not a reflection. Flash forward to the present: Grown-up Adelaide ( Lupita Nyong'o ) is now married to Gabe (Winston Duke), with a teen daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and a young son, Jason (Evan Alex). While the family vacations at their summer home, Gabe suggests going back to Santa Cruz; though the idea terrifies Adelaide, she reluctantly agrees. Jason is briefly missing, but otherwise the day goes well. But when they get home, they discover a strange family of four standing in their driveway. And they look a lot like the Wilsons ... except that they don't seem friendly.

Is It Any Good?

Jordan Peele 's horror shocker can't compete with its sensational predecessor Get Out , but it doesn't have to. Made with precision, intelligence, and humor, Us is inventive and wildly entertaining in its own right. It can be said that Us has something to do with doppelgangers, but just how far the story goes and what it all means is best left to individual discussion. It's like a carnival ride of crazy ideas -- it's startling and also actually sometimes funny. While Get Out had little pockets of comic relief inserted into strategic places, the laughs in Us , based both on ironic jokes and on the happy feel of relief and release, are scattered throughout. Any character in this film can earn a laugh.

Since Peele -- well known as part of the comedy team Key & Peele -- understands the primal, bodily sensations of both laughter and fear, he approaches the filmmaking in Us with supreme confidence. His camera never shakes but rather moves in such a way to hide or reveal information for maximum impact. He's as precise here as Hitchcock or Kubrick. He also understands the use of music and sound, merging back and forth between a chilling, chanting orchestral score and pop songs, each adjusted at just the right volume or tone. It's an undeniably well-crafted and brutally effective movie, but where Get Out created a sharp, satirical commentary on race relations, this one very simply presents a positive portrayal of an African American family.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about the violence in Us . Do the blood and gore seem over the top? Do the violent scenes help tell the story in an effective way? Is it shocking or thrilling? Why? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?

Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies ?

What is a doppelganger? Do you think they exist in real life? Could there be a "good" and "evil" version of a person? Why or why not?

How many movies have you seen that portray an average/regular African American family? How did this one compare? Why is the family's ordinariness notable?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : March 22, 2019
  • On DVD or streaming : June 18, 2019
  • Cast : Lupita Nyong'o , Wilson Duke , Elisabeth Moss
  • Director : Jordan Peele
  • Inclusion Information : Black directors, Female actors, Black actors, Latino actors
  • Studio : Universal Pictures
  • Genre : Horror
  • Run time : 116 minutes
  • MPAA rating : R
  • MPAA explanation : violence/terror, and language
  • Last updated : October 15, 2023

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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  • Jordan Peele’s Us — and its ending — explained. Sort of.

The new movie’s conclusion is one elastic metaphor after another. That’s what makes it frustrating. And brilliant.

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Share All sharing options for: Jordan Peele’s Us — and its ending — explained. Sort of.

The doubles arrive, and they’re not playing around.

Guess what? Spoilers follow!

First things first: I’m going to give this article a headline that’s something like, “ Us ’s ending, explained” or “ Us ’s ending, dissected,” and I should tell you upfront that I’m not going to explain Us ’s ending. I can’t.

Jordan Peele’s second film has an ending that dares you to bring what you think to it. Where the ending of his first film, Get Out (for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), was a series of puzzle pieces snapping into place, Us ends in a way that causes the film’s structure to sprawl endlessly. It’s five different puzzles mixed up in the same box, and you only have about 75 percent of the pieces for any of them at best.

But I found that approach incredibly engaging. The audience leaving my screening the other night seemed sharply divided on the film — and its last-minute twist — but I plunged deeper and deeper into it because of that messy, glorious ending.

the movie us review

So let’s talk first about what happens in that ending and how we could read that ending, and then try to find a way to synthesize all of these ideas.

What happens at the end of Us

Us breaks evenly into a classic three-act structure. The first act is all unsettling setup — first with a flashback to our protagonist, Adelaide ( Lupita Nyong’o ), as a young girl, meeting an eerie mirror version of herself, then to the first few days of a family vacation that she takes with her husband ( Winston Duke ) and kids as an adult. The second act follows Adelaide’s and her family’s actions after being menaced by horrifying double versions of themselves — played by the same actors — over the course of one long, gory night.

The second act — roughly the middle hour of the 116-minute film — is pretty much perfect, the kind of expertly pitched horror comedy we see far too rarely. And all along the way, Peele is seeding in exposition, like when we learn that Adelaide and her family aren’t the only ones being menaced by their doubles (who are called “Tethers” in the film, because they’re tethered to their mirror images), and the film cuts away to the vicious murder of two of their friends ( Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss ) by the friends ’ doubles.

Some of this exposition is stated outright, as when Adelaide’s double, Red, explains exactly who she is and who her compatriots are. Other exposition is mostly implied. (Pay close attention, for instance, to whom the Tethers kill and whom they just maim.) And still other stuff is probably just me reading my own opinions into the movie.

Anyway, the third act begins when the family finally makes it to daylight, having killed two of their doubles, with a third double falling right at the top of Act 3. The only Tether left is Red, who absconds with Adelaide’s son, Jason ( Evan Alex ), and races with him down into a gigantic complex of tunnels that exists beneath the Santa Cruz, California, boardwalk and — it’s implied — the entire country.

The tunnels have the feel of an abandoned military facility more than anything else, and they’re filled with rabbits, which have been set free from cages. (The bunnies are the only food the Tethers get.) This vague military feel tracks with something Red tells Adelaide when the two finally face off in what seems to be a classroom. The Tethers were created by a nebulous “them” to control their other selves.

Lupita Nyong’o in Us.

But the experiment was abandoned for unexplained reasons, leaving the Tethers belowground, mimicking our every movement up here, and living lives where they have no free will, lives entirely dictated by our choices. (The long expository monologue where Red basically explains all of this is the movie’s weakest section and kills its momentum. This was also true of the long expository monologue in Get Out !)

The status quo held until Red and Adelaide met as young girls, and the two begin a fight that’s almost a dance but still recognizably a fight. (Peele intercuts this with footage of the teenage Adelaide — a great ballerina — dancing beautifully as Red replicates her actions in a weirdly grotesque mirror belowground.) Finally, Adelaide overcomes Red and kills her. She finds Jason and exits the tunnels.

But aboveground, the many Tethers have joined hands together in a mirror of Hands Across America , the 1986 event meant to raise money and awareness of hunger, which stretched a 6.5 million-person chain (almost all the way) across the Lower 48. The presence of this massive chain of Tethers should hopefully clue in viewers to the film’s final twist. An ad for Hands Across America is one of the last things little Adelaide sees before she goes to the Santa Cruz boardwalk with her parents — which is where she meets Red and (the final scene reveals) is forced to take Red’s place in the Tether world while Red comes up to ours.

The movie never makes clear whether this is long-buried trauma that Adelaide is resurfacing as she and her family ride off into the new, post-apocalyptic landscape of a world where seemingly millions have been murdered by their doubles and a chain of those doubles stands athwart the continent, or whether it’s something she’s pointedly avoided referencing throughout the film. You can make an argument for either.

The movie leaves you with the twist: Adelaide was Red, and Red was Adelaide, and they switched places as young girls. Jason, somehow, seems to realize this in his mother’s eyes, and he looks worried as the scene cuts to the camera tilting over the hills surrounding Santa Cruz — where a long chain of Tethers stretches, presumably from sea to shining sea.

What’s it all mean?

There is no single meaning to the conclusion of Us , and the beauty of it is how elastic its metaphor is

The family in Us.

One of the reasons Get Out took off so readily with online theorists was that every single piece of it was crafted to add up to the film’s central revelation about elderly white people literally possessing the bodies of young black people. It was a potent commentary on racial relations, yes, but Peele seeded hints about the big twist into the plot as well. He had clearly thought through every little detail of the movie’s world.

You can’t really say the same for Us . Every time you think you’ve got the movie pinned down to say, “It’s about this!” it slips away from you. Its central metaphor of meeting a literal evil twin of yourself certainly can be read as a commentary on race, but it’s also a pretty brilliant commentary on class, on capitalism, on gender, and on the lasting effects of trauma or mental illness. You can probably add your own possibilities to this list.

All of these concepts keep informing one another. If you want to read what happens to Red and Adelaide as a commentary on how differently traumatic incidents weigh on children of means versus children who grow up with little money, doing so can support both an interpretation of the film as being about mental illness and one where it’s about class.

What’s more, Us doesn’t seem to want to be read as social commentary in the same way Get Out was. That middle hour is so fun precisely because it never really bothers to stop and make you think about the movie’s deeper themes. It’s too busy killing off Tethers by chewing them up in a boat’s motor.

Now, granted, my experience of Us was pretty different from a lot of folks’ experiences (at least from the people I’ve talked to), because I guessed from the first flashback sequence that Red and Adelaide had switched places as kids. I assumed the movie wanted me to figure this out, because it was essentially the only way the movie’s larger plot — the idea that everybody has a Tether, and not just this specific family — could make any sense. Something had to have caused this breach in reality, and the connection between Adelaide and Red seemed the most likely culprit.

Yet it’s honestly remarkable that the movie works as well as it does when you figure out its big twist early on, because Peele does a terrific job of teasing you in ways that make you think maybe you didn’t figure it out, or that the twist is something else entirely. ( Get Out , after all, didn’t really have “a twist” in the way this movie does, only a reveal that happens before the ending.)

Still, set the twist aside, and let’s take Red at her word when it comes to the origin of the Tethers. Some strange experiment produced them, and now they’re a kind of national id, a barely checked shadow self that every American has. (At one point, when asked who she and her family are, Red croaks, “We’re Americans,” which ... fair.)

The natural pushback to this is — it’s preposterous. By giving so much information but still so little, Peele creates a situation where it feels like he’s going to answer all our questions and then just doesn’t. (Credit where it’s due: I love how accurately the whole third act replicates the experience of falling down a particularly disturbing Wikipedia hole at 3 am, right down to somehow finding yourself reading about Hands Across America .)

And yet ... is the twist that preposterous? I don’t literally have a shadow self, but there’s some other person out there in the country right now who could have had my life and career but, instead, has some less comfortable one because he grew up with parents who didn’t have enough money to send him to college, or because he grew up some race other than white, or because he was born a girl, or ... fill in the blank.

Taking Red at her word means believing in an idea that seems self-evidently kooky, but it’s also an idea that drives much of modern society. Capitalism demands that we cling desperately to what we’ve got, and the fear that some dark underbelly might come and rob us of what little we have is always present.

Yet the very idea of society means we’re all tethered together somehow, and the actions of those of us with power and money often make those without either jerk about on puppet strings, even if we never know how what we do affects our doppelgängers.

And all the while, “they” — whoever “they” are — get richer and richer and more powerful.

Thoughts on a universal read of the ending of Us (with apologies to Stanley Kubrick)

Lupita Nyong’o in the movie “Us.”

But Us isn’t really “about” capitalism, unless you (like me) want to read that into it. The movie’s metaphor is so elastic that you could easily mount a read of the film that says it’s about climate change or the 2016 election or zombies. (In the scenes set in the underground complex especially, Peele plays off the familiar images of zombie films, like legions of people shuffling about, shadows of some life they should otherwise be living.) And I also want to be clear that if you just want to watch Us as a super-fun horror comedy, it is absolutely possible, and you should do that.

But I think you can get to a kind of universal understanding of Us, one that drills down into what the film is about at its core while still leaving room for the elasticity that allows you to read as much or as little into its central metaphor as you’d like. To get there, we have to look at the hall of mirrors that first brings Adelaide and Red together as kids.

In 1986, the hall of mirrors features a stereotypical painting of an American Indian that sits atop its entrance. The art is offensive in the way all thoughtlessness is. Nobody cared who might be hurt by this painting; they just went ahead and painted it. Peele isn’t digging into one of America’s original sins here in the way he alluded to slavery in Get Out , but the evocation of a terrible genocide is at least there .

In 2019, the hall of mirrors has now, clumsily, been converted into one for Merlin the wizard. The inside is the same. Most of the outside is the same. But the painting of the Indian has been replaced — not particularly convincingly — with a painting of Merlin that’s seemingly just been mounted over the old American Indian one. It’s a really good joke, honestly; it’s a spin on how willing modern America is to gloss over the horrors in its past in the name of simply coming up with some other story entirely.

It’s also key to the movie’s more universal read. The hall of mirrors was constructed in the first place as a distillation of tropes around a racially charged stereotype. Just because it’s now ostensibly about Merlin doesn’t mean that it’s no longer built around those darker ideas. You can’t simply scrub away the darker past by putting a more palatable face on it.

America (okay, this is, like, 99.9999 percent on white America) likes to pretend it’s a country without a grim history, that its self-proclaimed exceptionalism makes it free from anything too dark. But, of course, that’s not true. The hall of mirrors was constructed with an American Indian atop it because whoever built it could be reasonably certain no one would care if it was offensive. Those who might care are mostly sequestered on reservations or died generations ago. And you, if you’re an American, live on the land you live on because they died.

(Sidebar: This could also be a really elaborate riff on Peele’s part on The Shining , another horror movie that is occasionally read by some of its hardcore fans through the lens of America’s general inability to deal with the genocide lurking in its root system. Peele has been dressing like The Shining ’s Jack Torrance on the press tour...)

Now consider Hands Across America. The movement did raise some money for hunger — around $34 million — but much of that was eaten up by operational fees, leaving $15 million to be donated to the actual cause. That isn’t chump change, but it’s a drop in the bucket of the problem of actually trying to fight hunger. Is there anything more American than thinking you’ve solved a problem by creating a gigantic spectacle that accomplishes less than you’d think? Again — something dark is covered up by something glossy, and we celebrate the glossy surface.

Us put me in mind of a book I read recently. In The City in the Middle of the Night , the new novel by science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders, the protagonist, Sophie, meets members of an alien species whose telepathic links mean that they are essentially forced to remember everything that has ever happened, stretching back into their distant past. Even when one member of the species dies, that member’s memories are carried forward by those who knew them, and those memories become part of the collective consciousness.

Anders not only shows just how hard this could be for those who don’t quite feel at home in the collective (those who are dealing with huge emotions that they need to understand privately, say), but she also keenly contrasts this species’ long memory with humanity’s short one. Sophie carries the burdens of decisions made millennia before she was born, back on the massive spaceship that brought her ancestors from Earth to this new planet. Those ancestors were shaped by the decisions that you and I are making right now, even as we’re shaped by decisions made hundreds of years ago, and so on. And many of those decisions are now half-remembered dreams.

It is hard to really deal with this, maybe all but impossible. To really sit and think about all of the ways that you are a product of human history, floating through the immense sweep of time and space, rather than someone who can take control of their life and make a difference, is so dispiriting . So we try to gloss over all of that. We put up paintings of Merlin where once paintings of an Indian stood, and we smile and say, “That’s better.” But the painting is still there, underneath the surface. If the aliens Sophie meets in Anders’s novel are doomed to remember, then we, perhaps, are doomed to forget, to pretend that we are more powerful than we are, simply because we’re alive.

This, I think, is why both Anders’s novel and Us spoke so profoundly to me. To try to escape the past is to try to escape yourself. But to try to escape the past is also deeply, deeply human, because to make any progress, we have to find a way to excuse, forgive, or ignore our own faults, to lock them up in a subterranean basement and hope we don’t remain tethered to them forever. But what a fool’s errand that is.

And this reading of the film’s ending, that it was always about the perils of trying to ignore inconvenient truths when they’re looking right back at you in the mirror, is one that unites every other possible reading of the film, too. Race, gender, class, trauma — they’re all covered by the idea that you can have a great life and be a good person but still unknowingly be causing so much suffering.

All of which is to say, when Jason looks at Adelaide late in this movie, seeing, for the first time, his mother’s true self, he’s not realizing that she’s Red, or that she’s Adelaide, or anything like that. He’s realizing that she is, and always has been, both.

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In This Stream

Jordan peele’s new movie, us, is out in theaters.

  • Us’s Jason/Pluto theory, explained and debunked
  • Us is Jordan Peele’s thrilling, blood-curdling allegory about a self-destructing America

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the movie us review

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‘Us’ Explained: When the “Why” Is Far More Interesting Than the “How”

If you’re trying to “solve” Jordan Peele’s new movie, you’re going about it the wrong way.

Spoilers ahead for Us .

For the most part, movies are not puzzles. They may have mysterious aspects that lead to an answer, but if your movie just asks you to “solve” it, then the film dies upon its resolution. A far more interesting and lasting picture doesn’t ask for solutions, but instead looks for interpretations. When it comes to Jordan Peele ’s new movie, Us , I can understand the temptation to solve how the doubles work, how they relate to the people above ground, and so forth. But these questions miss the more interesting and engaging subtext the doubles convey.

The text of the doubles is ultimately unsatisfying because it just leads to more questions . The “how” of it is pretty basic. There was a government program where everyone got a double and these doubles lived underground in tunnels. These doubles were created to control the above-ground population, although how this was supposed to happen is never explained. The doubles lived off rabbits (a food source known for its vast replication) and then the program was abandoned. They were given a new purpose by “Red” ( Lupita Nyong’o ), who led an uprising where everyone was set to kill their double and then join hands across America, inspired by the real 1986 benefit event, “Hands Across America”.

us-poster-lupita-nyongo

A family's serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.

Jordan Peele's 'Us' Gives More Questions Than Answers

Of course, this just raises more questions. How did they feed the rabbits? Where did they get their clothes? Where did they get the scissors? And even if these questions had answers, they would be unsatisfying because the text, itself, is a rabbit hole that doesn’t lead to the more interesting aspects of the film , which is the subtext presented by the doubles.

We’re told that the tethered don’t have souls, but I don’t think it’s as simple as “everyone’s dark side”. Rather, it’s the darkness we choose to ignore . It’s not simply a matter of inverses. It’s not like sociopaths have well-rounded people wandering the tunnels. So why have it uniform? Because it’s far more terrifying that our individuality is an illusion and that there’s nothing special about our brutality. Furthermore, if the doubles are soulless, then they can’t know individuality. However, they’re still tethered to us . Their actions are tied to ours, which isn’t explained. Again, any explanation would probably be unsatisfying, bu t they don’t get any of the benefit of our uniqueness, regardless of the fact. They live sad, hollow lives, and it’s hard to blame them for being a little stabby.

Jordan Peele's 'Us' is a Social Statement

You can also look at the various social reads on this. It doesn’t seem to really work as a slavery or indentured servitude metaphor, because the doubles don’t produce anything and no one seems to rely on their labor. Instead, I see a parallel in how we let our dark sides out . In our interpersonal relationships, we keep things polite and cordial. But in our anonymity -- that is , the uniformity that denies the doubles any individuality -- we lash out. And just as the doubles rise and link hands across America, so too are we becoming far more comfortable expressing hatred and violence and letting that darkness unite us. This can be evidenced by any social media commentary.

us-lupita-nyongo-slice

'Us' Blu-ray Details Promise Six Deleted Scenes & a Bounty of Behind-the-Scenes Features

There will be those who get hung up on the “how” of Us , but the “why” is far more interesting. Additionally, while we can critique Peele for what he doesn’t do, we shouldn’t miss what he is doing. If he chooses not to paint inverse personalities for the doubles, then we should look at why he chooses to make them largely uniform with only minor variations. In Us , our dark sides are not a fully realized totality. Instead, they are a potent but fractional part of ourselves. The fear comes if we let them out and run wild.

Us is available for streaming on Netflix in the U.S.

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Us

  • Adelaide Wilson and her family are attacked by mysterious figures dressed in red. Upon closer inspection, the Wilsons realize that the intruders are exact lookalikes of them.
  • In order to get away from their busy lives, the Wilson family takes a vacation to Santa Cruz, California with the plan of spending time with their friends, the Tyler family. On a day at the beach, their young son Jason almost wanders off, causing his mother Adelaide to become protective of her family. That night, four mysterious people break into Adelaide's childhood home where they're staying. The family is shocked to find out that the intruders look like them, only with grotesque appearances. — jesusblack-30225
  • Not far from the sun-kissed Santa Cruz beach where a traumatic experience shaped her, Adelaide, now a mother of two, reluctantly returns to the serene lake house of her childhood to spend the summer vacation with her husband. But after all this time, Adelaide still can't shake off the ominous feeling that the terrifying incident will somehow affect her unsuspecting family. And before the end of the day, the happy holidaymakers' worst fears will come true. Now, an evil quartet bearing an uncanny resemblance to them has set foot in their driveway. Then, their sharp scissors enter the picture. What do "they" want from them? — Nick Riganas
  • Santa Cruz, California. 1986 A young Adelaide (Madison Curry) goes to the beach on a trip with her parents Rayne and Russell (Anna Diop and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). After Russell wins Adelaide a Michael Jackson 'Thriller' T-shirt at a carnival game and plays Whac-a-Mole, Adelaide wanders off and encounters a homeless man with a Jeremiah 11:11 placard and then walks into a nearby fun-house. Inside, she's terrified by the mirrors and vibe of the place and eventually comes face to face with an exact doppelganger. The incident scares her. Some time later, Adelaide is refusing to talk as her parents worry about her. The therapist tells them to make Adelaide tell her story through the form of anything - reading, writing, or dance. In the present day, an adult Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o) goes on a beach trip with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children 12-year-old Zora (Shahidi Wright Joseph) and 10-year-old Jason (Evan Alex). While the family has lunch at their beach house, we find out several things - one is that the beach trip was to help the children cope with the death of their grandmother and the other is that Adelaide appears to still be terrified of the idea of going to the beach because of what happened before and refuses to go. After some persuasion, however, she reluctantly agrees to join her family to go to the beach. On the way, the family sees a man being brought into an ambulance - it is the same homeless man that Adelaide encountered many years ago with the Jeremiah 11:11 placard. At the beach, the Wilson family meets their friend the Tylers, comprising of Kitty (Elizabeth Moss), Josh (Tim Heidecker), and their twin teenage daughters Gwen and Maggie (Cali and Noelle Sheldon). While the kids are all at the beach, Kitty and Adelaide talk about Adelaide's soft-spoken nature and her past as a young ballet dancer. Jason soon wanders off on his own and finds a man with his arms stretched out dripping with blood. Adelaide notices her son missing and panicking, eventually finds Jason and decides that it's time for the family to go back to the house. Later that night, after the family settles down, Adelaide tells Gabe all about her childhood trauma and worries that recent events mean that her doppelganger is coming to get her. Gabe tells her not to worry... and almost instantly, the power goes off. As Gabe is about to run the backup generator, Jason alerts the family that there's a family in their driveway. Adelaide quickly calls 9-1-1 while Gabe attempts to scare the family off. Eventually, the family begins entering the Wilson's house, and one of the figures hits Gabe with a baseball bat while everyone else corners them in the living room. Inside the living room, the Wilsons get a better look at the family... and it is all doppelgangers of themselves... all of them wearing red jumpsuits and wielding a pair of scissors. Adelaide's doppelganger tells them of a story of a princess and her shadow and their relationship, before forcing Adelaide to handcuff herself to the table. She then makes Zora run away from the house with her doppelganger in hot pursuit, makes Jason join his to play, and has Gabe's drag him off to a boat. (Note: for posterity's sake, although their names are never explicitly used, the doppelgangers are referred to by their names in the closing credits - Adelaide's is Red, Gabe's is Abraham, Jason's is Pluto, and Zora's is Umbrae.) From this point on, we encounter the family dealing with their doubles in several ways. After running far away, Zora thinks she's outrun her doppelganger Umbrae... only for her to appear on the top of a car. A neighbor spots the commotion and confronts them... but Umbrae murders him with her scissors while Zora escapes. Abraham drags an unconscious Gabe all the way to the family's boat and then places him inside a bag. Gabe eventually awakens and successfully throws Abraham overboard. Later on, however, the boat engine fails, and Gabe falls in the water. He ultimately makes his way back to the boat... only for Abraham to emerge and grab him. After a fight, Gabe manages to turn on the boat's engine in time, completely eviscerating Abraham. Back at the house, Jason leads Pluto inside a closet and notices that he mirrors his actions almost simultaneously. He takes off his mask and finds that the lower half of Pluto's face is burned off. Jason impresses him with a magic trick, but when Pluto demands that he do the trick again, he successfully traps him in the closet and escapes. Meanwhile, Red holds Adelaide hostage in the living room and begins trying to slam her face against the glass table, but the commotion caused by Jason's escape leads her away. In a panic, Adelaide manages to get the fireplace poker, destroys the leg of the table, and get Jason. They are both reunited with Zora and Gabe, and the Wilsons manage to escape on the boat with Red and Pluto watching them. At the Tylers, Kitty thinks she sees something outside. Josh pretends that he does see it, only to reveal that he's just messing with her. The twins then come out of their rooms and talk, and the second they think that everything is alright...a set of doppelgangers wearing red jumpsuits, similar to the Wilsons, all emerge and kill the whole family. When the Wilsons arrive looking for help, Kitty's double drags Adelaide into the house while Gabe attempts to distract Josh's double. After a fight, the Wilsons manage to kill all of the Tylers' doppelgangers and reunite inside the house. The Wilsons turn on the TV and find out from frantic news reports that the red-clad doubles have been inexplicably appearing and killing people all over the world, and have joined together to hold hands (similar to Hands Across America). Gabe wants to take refuge in the house, but Adelaide says they have to keep moving and escape. The family decides to take the Tylers' car, but when Adelaide looks for the key, a still-living Kitty's doppelganger attacks her. She manages to kill her, but when the family gets to the car, Umbrae appears. After a chase sequence, they manage to kill Umbrae when they speed up and abruptly stop the vehicle, causing her to fly into a tree. It is now morning, and the Wilsons get to the boardwalk. At the boardwalk, they see their original car burning with Pluto standing in front. Adelaide decides to get out and walk to him... and soon realizes that it's a trap. Jason acts fast and makes Pluto walk backwards into the burning car, and just as the family thinks it's over, Red grabs Jason. Adelaide runs after them, while Zora and Gabe see that the beach is now full of red-clad doppelgangers joining hands. Adelaide makes her way back to the fun-house and goes all the way down into an underground tunnel with rabbits roaming free. She finds Red inside one of the many rooms, and Red explains her plan. Red says that all this time, the underground facility (presumably a part of the dimension of Hell) has been filled with everyone's doppelgangers, and now it is their time to be on the surface. She says that she has always been a part of Adelaide, and when she was a ballet dancer as a kid, it led her out of the tunnels and into the fun-house where they met. It took her a long time, but a plan was made with everyone in the tunnel which was now being executed. After a fight, Adelaide manages to overpower Red and kills her by impaling her to the fireplace poker and gets Jason back. The family reunites and drives away. All is good, and everyone looks relieved until a quick flashback shows that when "Red" met Adelaide in the fun-house all those years ago, she knocked her out, took her Thriller T-Shirt, and went off into the real world. The "Adelaide" we've been watching for the whole movie is actually the doppelganger, and "Red" was simply the real Adelaide getting her revenge (this also explains why "Red" is the only one of the doubles to have concrete speech while all the other doppelgangers in the film have guttural, animalistic sounds). Jason appears to realize the truth, and puts his mask on uneasily. The film ends with a zoom out showing all the red doppelgangers around the United States joined together, holding hands (similar to Hands Across America), with news and police helicopters surveying them from above.

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J.lo can't stop telling us about herself. why can't i stop watching.

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Brittany Luse

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Jennifer Lopez's latest film is a direct-to-streaming musical extravaganza called This Is Me...Now: A Love Story. Prime hide caption

Jennifer Lopez's latest film is a direct-to-streaming musical extravaganza called This Is Me...Now: A Love Story.

I had barely cycled through my Usher-Beyoncé-Taylor induced pop culture hangover from the Super Bowl when it was time to receive the latest offering from yet another omnipresent star, Jennifer Lopez. Her newest film, This Is Me... Now: A Love Story, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is a movie musical/visual album starring and co-written by Lopez herself and directed by music video veteran Dave Meyers. It's a sparkling temple to the self, disguised as a romantic odyssey — and quintessentially Lopez.

The 65-minute film follows the tortured love life of a somewhat fictional version of Lopez, a character I'll hereafter refer to as J.Lo. Like the real Lopez, J.Lo is gorgeous, wealthy and has a reputation as a hopeless romantic on the hunt for her one true love. It's autofiction in the vein of Richard Pryor's Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling , but with the silliness of Mariah Carey's Glitter and the subtlety of the music video for Kanye West's "Bound 2". Days after watching This Is Me...Now , I'm still not sure whether or not it was good, or if a one word summation is even a fair way to assess the hour-long ( and self-financed ) $20 million art therapy session Lopez has produced.

Jennifer Lopez: Then and now

Jennifer Lopez: Then and now

Like many of her most beloved movies, This Is Me...Now is campy, nonsensical, and easy to watch. Still, for every rote monologue from J.Lo about the virtues of forever love, a few rays of Lopez's genuine charisma and onscreen chops shine through reassuringly.

We see J.Lo trace her romantic troubles back to the 1970s Bronx of her girlhood, unpack them in therapy sessions with a practitioner played by rapper Fat Joe, and augment them through a tongue-in-cheek carousel of splashy weddings and couples counseling sessions with various unnamed husbands. Weddings are a perennial theme for Lopez, who has married four times and played a bride on at least twice as many occasions for a film. It's a phenomenon I detangled with critic Rachel Handler in an episode of my show It's Been A Minute from last year.

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Breaking down the jennifer lopez wedding industrial complex canon.

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In this latest portrayal, judging J.Lo's relationship foibles from heaven above are members of her own personal Zodiac council, played by Jane Fonda, Post Malone, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Keke Palmer, among others. In between sparse bits of dialogue, J.Lo coos and sashays along to serviceable R&B-tinged songs from her first new album in a decade, aptly titled This Is Me... Now .

One standout sequence depicts Lopez overcoming an abusive relationship. This trauma is represented in literal, harrowing detail, but also artistically, through percussive modern dance moves that recall the push-pull of a toxic relationship dynamic. Here and throughout This Is Me...Now Lopez's dancing is career-best, her staggering athleticism punctuated by evocative choreography and imaginative staging. Lopez is showing all her hard work, and begging us to take it seriously, even as her character lays charmingly about on a J.Lo-monogrammed custom sofa, nursing a broken heart with a Barbra Streisand movie.

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Jennifer Lopez performs during the Super Bowl halftime show in February 2020. Tom Pennington/Getty Images hide caption

Jennifer Lopez performs during the Super Bowl halftime show in February 2020.

Seeking validation, by Lopez's account, has been a long-running theme in her life and public works. In her 2014 memoir True Love , Lopez details how she used her relationships to mask low self-esteem. Lopez's need to be taken seriously is also expressed within the first minute of her 2022 Netflix documentary, Halftime , a film in which we see her headline the Super Bowl halftime show, win deserved praise for her role in Hustlers , and perform at President Biden's inauguration . Lopez's lengthy and trailblazing career as a Latina in Hollywood is a wonder in and of itself. And though the legitimacy of her singing career has taken a few hits over the years, she has wrung nearly a quarter-century of superstardom out of what is arguably her third best talent, even after dancing and then acting had already made her a household name.

But it's her naked desire for adulation, as opposed to unbridled artistic expression, that undercuts Lopez's film, and echoes our current celebrity oversaturation. Lopez herself is a marvel of allure and moxie. Her lovesickness, steady ambition, and irrepressible theater kid energy don't repel the public, they delight us. When This Is Me...Now leans into that sensibility, it soars. And when Lopez talks, I'm listening. But when pressed, Lopez, similar to many of her A-list peers these days, seems unable to tell us much beyond platitudes about self-love and upcoming tour dates.

Lopez recently told NPR's Morning Edition host Leila Fadel that This Is Me...Now is her most personal project yet, a tall order for someone who's been a tabloid fixture for over 25 years. But despite Lopez and her personal life being the only subject the film covers, This Is Me...Now doesn't actually shed any more light on her emotional journey than True Love or Halftime did. Unlike Beyoncé's acclaimed 2016 visual album Lemonade , This Is Me...Now drops no apparent bombshells or clear enough Easter eggs to spark flames of social media speculation. The film instead hits all the expected beats — hot, successful woman looks for self-assurance through romance, breakups ensue — while speeding past its more revealing moments without reflection.

How Jennifer Lopez Fought For Her 'Second Act'

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How jennifer lopez fought for her 'second act'.

In This Is Me...Now , J.Lo exists purely to love and be loved in the most general sense; first by a partner, then by herself, and finally, most importantly, by us.

Perhaps we'll get some deeper insight from Lopez's upcoming documentary, The Greatest Love Story Never Told , a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this visual album. The trailer teases fat tears, juicy confessionals, and tense rehearsal footage , but it's unclear what Lopez will reveal until the film hits Prime Video on February 27. Once again I'll be watching, amusedly and shamefully. When it comes to the confessional temple of J.Lo, I'm not disciplined enough to look away.

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Jennifer Lopez in This Is Me...Now: A Love Story. Prime hide caption

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Madame Web review – Marvel’s junky spin-off is a tangled mess

Dakota Johnson lazily leads an incompetent attempt to set up a new character, made almost incoherent by last-minute changes

I t was an inevitable collapse after a reign of such unwarranted length and unparalleled indulgence, superhero movies totalling eight a year during the 2010s, a lucrative yet tiresome stronghold. There were brief highlights within the flurry but such lazy overreliance left little room for other blockbuster genres to flourish and led studios to scrape barrels, giving us more and more of something we’d ultimately had enough of. Last year saw an overwhelming rejection (The Flash, Shazam 2, The Marvels, Ant-Man 3, Aquaman 2 all underperforming) and now the fallout, the first of the year doubling up as a Powerpoint presentation on what went wrong and how not to fix it.

Developed back in 2019, given a green light in 2020, filmed during 2022 and then allegedly undergoing reshoots last year, Madame Web was envisioned as a way to extend Marvel and Sony’s Spider-Man universe: a business, if not creative, sense decision after the surprise success of both Venom and Into the Spider-Verse in 2018. An elderly clairvoyant known in the comics for assisting Spider-Man is now turned into a young paramedic, played by Dakota Johnson, who doesn’t even know that Spider-Man exists, in a film desperate to pretend that it’s something it isn’t. Such confusion was on display in the launch of last year’s trailer, immediately going viral for its laughably unsure tone, convoluted plot and checked-out leading lady. Grimly aware of the sea shift, it’s now being referred to as a gritty suspense thriller in press materials with Johnson insisting during press that it’s a standalone movie in its own standalone universe.

The tangled mess that has all created will surely lead to a fascinating oral history years later but for now, with everyone involved fearfully and contractually insisting that the finished product is exactly as intended , all we have is a 110-minute head-scratcher, a baffling string of question marks that remain unanswered. A clumsy opener set in 1970s Peru is our first red flag, junkily directed and shoddily written, setting up our heroine’s absurd backstory which has something to do with spiders as well as spider-people. Thirty years later, she’s a paramedic working alongside Ben Parker (Adam Scott), also known to most as Peter Parker’s uncle, except for in this movie, or at least this version, with all references to Spider-Man scrubbed from the end-product. After a near-death experience she discovers that she can briefly see into the future which allows her to save the lives of three teenagers (Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced and Celeste O’Connor) being targeted by a madman who also has ties to her past.

With a script written by four people, including its director, SJ Clarkson, a location that’s mostly Boston doubling up as New York, and a lead who looks like she’d really rather be anywhere else, there is something sickly compelling about how disjointed and thoroughly incompetent Madame Web is, less as so-bad-its-fun Midnight Movie and more studio film-making in the 2020s at its very worst case study. The attempt to reposition it as a “suspense thriller” ultimately does the film more harm than good not just because there are absolutely no suspense or thrills here but also because if we were to take it as something more grounded, with no ties to the heightened superheroics of the world it comes from then we would find it even harder to suspend our disbelief throughout.

There is nothing gritty or believable about any of it. The film is as dumb and schlocky as the worst of the genre, with lousy network TV effects, uninvolving action and unfunny and inelegant dialogue, its characters drowning in poorly written exposition (even if the much-memed viral line from the trailer is sadly not in the movie itself). It also contains some of the most egregious examples of product placement I have seen in a long time, the worst of which has Pepsi and Pepsi ads show up at key dramatic moments, including an entire final set piece involving the actual Pepsi-Cola sign in Queens (before a coda involving the characters enjoying some ice-cold bottles of Pepsi).

As teased by the trailer, Johnson is distractingly disengaged. She is an actor who can work so well if used in just the right way by just the right director, here showing us the real limit of her abilities, one of the most ill-fitting tentpole leads I can remember. There’s such misjudged lethargy to her performance, not helped by her co-star Sweeney, in bizarre schoolgirl cosplay, and a small, odd role for Zosia Mamet, three actors who play as far too internal and muted for the frantic urgency of a flashy film such as this. Their casting is just one of many baffling decisions made here, the most baffling of which is the removal of any Spider-Man reference, made seemingly late in the day. An entire subplot has Emma Roberts as Ben Parker’s pregnant sister about to give birth to a baby whose name is never revealed (we almost hear it might start with maybe a P in one poorly edited scene) while the finale awkwardly rushes through the three teens in superhero costumes in the future (all play characters from the comics, including Spider-Woman). There’s even a strange butchering of the classic line about power and responsibility, its words scrambled around like we’re watching some janky rip-off made by people afraid of legal action.

What the average cinema-goer is supposed to get from this unholy mess, made curious only after a read of its torturous Wikipedia page , is a mystery. Superhero films are not dead (just today the trailer for Deadpool & Wolverine broke a YouTube record ) but the age of superhero films like Madame Web surely is – soulless boardroom product made by no one who seems to care for no one who wants to watch.

Madame Web is in cinemas on 14 February

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The Beekeeper (2024) – Movie Review

Plot summary.

W hen we meet Adam Clay, he is retired, just enjoying his bees, which he keeps on the estate of Ms. Eloise Parker. But, with Ms. Parker being conned out of millions, her own money, and that she uses for a charity, she is overwhelmed to the point of killing herself.

Adam, who hasn’t been treated as well by anyone in his life, can’t simply mourn Eloise like her daughter Verona. He wants justice. The problem is, Adam’s form of justice is absolute and doesn’t operate through the legal system like Verona’s, who works for the FBI.

Thus leading to Adam tearing through the network that conned Ms. Parker and forcing Verona to decide whether, as an FBI agent, she will turn a blind eye to the man who is getting revenge for her mom or stop him since it is clear his rampage will make it so her mother won’t be the only person who will have to get buried.

Content Information

  • Dialog: Discriminatory Language (Handful of Scenes), Cursing (Throughout)
  • Violence: Amputation/Dismemberment, Blood, Weapon Violence (Type: Gun and Knife), Torture, Self-Harm
  • Sexual Content: None
  • Miscellaneous: Drinking, Drug Use (Type: Smoking, Powdered Substance)

General Information

Character descriptions.

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Adam Clay (Jason Statham)

Adam Clay was a beekeeper, partly in a literal sense, for an undisclosed amount of years, decades even. It isn’t clear why he was part of the organization, but he is a notable, now former member who wanted to spend his retirement years in peace. However, with one of the first people in years to be kind to him getting scammed and it being so bad they killed themselves, he is right back in action.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre .”

Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad)

A former teacher who now runs a non-profit dedicated to helping those in the Boston/Springfield, Massachusetts area with their education, Eloise was beloved. But, like many, she wasn’t the most tech-savvy, and because of that, the events that triggered Adam’s quest happened.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ Creed III .”

Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman)

Verona is Eloise’s daughter, who doesn’t visit as often as she should, potentially because she feels second to her brother in the military. Nonetheless, she loved her mother, and like Adam, she got a bug in her behind to bring the people who pushed her mom too far to justice.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ The Umbrella Academy .”

Derek (Josh Hutcherson)

The President’s only child, Derek, is a whizz kid when it comes to technology, but he is also a horrible person who has no issue scamming the elderly for approximately $180 million a month.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ Escobar: Paradise Lost “

Wallace (Jeremy Irons)

The former CIA director, now head of Derek’s legal team and a fixer of sorts, Wallace’s love for President Danforth is what pushes him to help and tolerate Derek.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ Red Sparrow .”

President Danforth (Jemma Redgrave)

Thanks to her former husband’s company, President Danforth could afford to self-finance her campaign for President. But whether or not she intentionally used, or even set up, the system Derek has exploited is worth questioning. Never mind if she truly wants to be a public servant or take advantage of all the insider information the President gets to know.

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Notable Performances or Moments

Jason statham.

Let me begin by recognizing Jason Statham. While he is a man of few words and doesn’t really portray much, if any, emotions beyond anger or frustration, there is no denying that when his focus is purely on action, there might be no one better consistently working right now.

Though, with “The Beekeeper,” I’d say, even with his usual monotone voice, because of it being Phylicia Rashad, an American treasure, who he is getting vengeance for, when he says his work is personal, it feels that way. The moves, while likely choreographed and scenes shared between him and his double Tom Connelly, feel quick and violent because this isn’t about being calculated and always keeping minimal casualties.

No, you get one warning, and if you stay in his vicinity, maybe even raise your arm the wrong way, at best, you are getting knocked out, and at worst, you’re dead.

The Question of Good and Evil

Because of who is associated with Derek, including his mother the President, there is a question of who is good, lives in the gray, or is evil? It doesn’t feel intentional to question this but consider who Wallace, the legal handler for the President’s former company, is and what he is willing to do for the President. You are constantly left questioning how deep any character involved is.

Heck, even in terms of Verona and the rest of the FBI? It isn’t like a film like this isn’t ripe for having a lot of government corruption, so the potential of her being involved, her partner, anyone really, is possible and makes it so every time Adam and Verona share a scene, you wonder if she may shoot to cover up what she may know, or what she did.

Hatable Villains

You’ll love to hate Derek and nearly everyone who works for him. They are tech bros without a moral compass, and there is no effort to make them redeemable. So when Adam approaches them, it is hard not to get giddy about what he’ll do, even if you have never suffered like Eloise or Verona did.

Whipping Ass & Taking Names

With such a strong emotion behind Adam’s actions, again, it makes each scene potentially seeming sped up, and how the camera moves, not feel like action movie trickery but like a man who is in a blind rage as soon as his adrenaline kicks in. Which leads to your usual punches and kicks, but then when weapons get involved?

But, the top fight scenes are when it is close-quarters combat, like Adam’s final fight when it is him and one of the people hired to protect Derek, and they are in a long hallway where the two can barely stand shoulder to shoulder. That back and forth, Adam no longer getting to be the Rambo type, with only a bit of blood on his face, but still in a fresh suit? To me, that was the scene that made it clear Statham deserved praise.

I’d even add one thing I don’t think gets praised, or maybe seen enough, is a tense action sequence. The genre, like its often disrespected cousin in horror, has unfortunately become flashy over the years, and in the process, it has lost its ability to become tense. “The Beekeeper” certainly doesn’t have that issue and you’ll be glad about that.

On The Fence

The beekeeper organization remains mostly in the shadows.

For better or worse, the organization Adam worked for plays a minor role in the film. On one hand, this is a good thing, because there is no push for them to be featured or part of a sequel. Also, how could it be a secret organization if enough people talk about it for you to know every detail?

Yet, them tapping out involvement early on also leads you to question so much about the team’s would-be lore. Be it how they recruit, train, past corrections to the hive they were a part of, or even just Adam on his own.

But maybe it is best they don’t dive too deep since it is fairly easy for film to become bloated these days.

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The post The Beekeeper (2024) – Movie Review first appeared on Wherever I Look and is written by Amari Allah .

Jeremy Irons stars as Wallace Westwyld in director David Ayer’s THE BEEKEEPER. An Amazon MGM Studios film Photo Credit: Daniel Smith © 2024 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Madame Web and 16 Other Movie Trailers That Lied to Us

The most misleading trailers in hollywood history..

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Warning: beware of some plot spoilers ahead!

Movie trailers are designed to sell us on a product, but they’re not always 100% honest. Sometimes they misrepresent the tone or plot. Sometimes they feature dialogue or entire scenes that aren’t actually in the final product. Madame Web is the latest example of that latter trend. The movie became an Internet meme on the back of one line from star Dakota Johnson, and it turns out that full line isn’t even in the final cut.

Now that Madame Web is in theaters, we thought it might be fun to look back at the movie trailers most guilty of misleading viewers. Whether it’s featuring characters not in the final product or conveniently disguising the fact that a movie is a musical, these are the trailers that blatantly lied to us. For shame!

17 Movie Trailers That Lied to Us

Whether it’s featuring characters not in the final product or conveniently disguising the fact that a movie is a musical, these are the trailers that blatantly lied to us. For shame!

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

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This iconic slacker comedy focuses a great deal on the one-sided sibling rivalry between Matthew Broderick’s Ferris Bueller and Jennifer Grey’s Jeanie Bueller. But did you know Ferris was supposed to have more siblings? The film originally featured younger sister Kimberly (Hannah Cutrona) and younger brother Todd (Josh Peden), but both were cut from the final version. They can still be seen in the trailer , however, with Kimberly accusing her brother of having contracted “syphilitic meningitis.”

Alien 3 (1992)

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It’s not necessarily a great idea to release a teaser trailer for a movie before that movie has even begun filming. You risk getting audiences hyped up for a project you ultimately can’t deliver. Case in point - the early teaser for Alien 3 promised a movie very different from the one we actually got in 1992. It teased the idea of the Xenomorphs arriving on Earth to wreak havoc. Instead, Alien 3 takes place on a penal colony world, and most of the surviving characters from Aliens are unceremoniously dumped in the waste bin. It’s enough to wonder what might have been…

Kangaroo Jack (2003)

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Kangaroo Jack is pretty much the poster child for misleading movie trailers. Based on those trailers , you’d be forgiven for thinking the film is a family-friendly adventure about two bumbling friends chasing a talking, rapping kangaroo across the Australian backcountry. The actual film is far more raunchy, and said kangaroo doesn’t actually talk, rap or even appear all that much.

Part of the problem here is that the producers were in the midst of attempting to water down their adults-only mob comedy into something more all-ages-appropriate, following a series of poorly received test screenings. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly work, resulting in a lot of angry parents and widespread critical drubbing.

Jarhead (2005)

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2005’s Jarhead has easily one of the most misleading trailers in Hollywood history. The trailer paints the film as an action-packed war epic a la Saving Private Ryan. In truth, this film (based on a Marine’s memoir of serving in the Gulf War) is actually about the tense but tedious day-to-day reality of serving overseas. Jarhead did eventually spawn several direct-to-video sequels that are much more in the vein of what the original trailer was selling.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

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Musicals can be a tough sell for modern audiences, leading many studios to go out of their way to disguise them in marketing. We saw this trend in action with 2023’s Wonka, whose trailers went out of their way to downplay the songs. But this trend really took off with 2007’s Sweeney Todd, featuring Tim Burton’s spin on the iconic Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical. The trailers didn’t exactly advertise the musical element, resulting in some moviegoers filing complaints about false advertising .

Fortunately, Sweeney Todd proved to be a critical and commercial hit anyway, suggesting that maybe Hollywood’s fear about advertising musicals is overblown.

Drive (2011)

The Fast and Furious franchise was beginning to blow up again in 2011, so we suppose it makes sense that FilmDistrict wanted to market Drive as another adrenaline-fueled, high-octane movie in that blockbuster vein. But as anyone who’s actually seen Drive can attest, that’s not at all the kind of movie it is. The trailer is almost comedic in hindsight, making Ryan Gosling’s brooding, monosyllabic Driver seem downright chatty.

After Earth (2013)

His stock may have fallen a bit in recent years, but there was a time when Will Smith was among the most bankable stars in Hollywood. We can understand why Sony may have wanted to fudge the numbers a bit where After Earth was concerned. The trailers for this M. Night Shyamalan-directed sci-fi epic make it seem as though Smith and his son Jaden are equal co-stars, akin to 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. But in reality, Will Smith’s character breaks his legs early in the film, leaving Jaden Smith to shoulder the heavy burden when it comes to this tale of survival. It’s hard to say how much that contributed to the lackluster box office numbers, but the relative lack of Will Smith screen time certainly didn’t help.

Godzilla (2014)

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla remake hit in the wake of Breaking Bad’s acclaimed final season, a time when Bryan Cranston was at the zenith of his popularity as an actor. Perhaps that’s why the trailers for Godzilla go out of their way to make it seem as though Cranston’s character Joe Brody is the main protagonist. In reality, Brody dies in the first act, and the focus shifts to his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Not that audiences likely cared much. They just wanted to see Godzilla smash things.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Godzilla isn’t the only Gareth Edwards movie marred by misleading trailers. Look no further than the Star Wars prequel Rogue One. The Rogue One trailers are notable for including many shots, scenes and lines of dialogue that are nowhere to be found in the final cut. That’s because the climax was reworked extensively via reshoots, leaving a lot of Scarif-based material on the cutting room floor. Still, the final version is a pretty darned great Star Wars movie, so we like to think it was all for the best.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Credit where credit is due - the trailer for Suicide Squad did a pretty good job of selling the movie. It advertised a dark but fun DC epic full of anti-heroes grooving to Queen music and battling Jared Leto’s Joker. The trailer was so well-received, in fact, that Warners wound up working with the company that produced the trailer to re-edit the film. But even with that shift behind the scenes, the actual film proved nowhere near as peppy or entertaining as the trailer made it out to be. And as for Leto’s Joker, it’s clear a lot of material was left on the cutting room floor. Nor does it seem like the fabled “Ayer Cut” will ever see the light of day.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

The trailer for Avengers: Infinity War features a number of scenes that don’t quite play out like they do in the actual movie. For example, a shot of Captain America wrestling with Thanos in Wakanda features an Infinity Gauntlet with fewer Infinity Stones, an apparent attempt to disguise how far along Thanos is in his master plan by that point. Or there’s the scene of Thor saying, “Who the hell are you guys?!?”, which then cuts to a completely different shot of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the trailer.

For the most part, those differences are minor. But the Infinity War trailer does include one major lie. It features a shot of the Avengers charging through the Wakandan jungle with Hulk in tow. As we all know now, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner never transforms into Hulk after the opening act. In the finished version, the Avengers are seen charging through different terrain alongside a Hulkbuster-clad Banner.

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary features one of the most memorable horror movie plot twists this side of The Sixth Sense, as Milly Shapiro’s character Charlie is killed off in gruesome fashion early in the film. That twist was all the more shocking because the trailers make it seem as though Charlie was actually the main character of the film. Pretty sneaky, A24.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Like its predecessor, Avengers: Endgame features a lot of material in the trailers that doesn’t play out exactly the same in the finished film. In this case, most of the changes seem intended to disguise spoilers. Hulk was edited out of multiple shots, while a scene with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark trapped in space was modified to hide his loss in muscle mass. Shots of the final battle at the New Avengers compound were especially different in the trailers. For instance, the trailers hide the fact that Cap is wielding a broken shield, and the circa-2014 Thanos is shown wearing the Infinity Gauntlet when he teleports to the battlefield.

Yesterday (2019)

Like Ferris Bueller before it, Yesterday is guilty of advertising a character in its trailer that doesn’t appear in the final cut. The problem here is that said character is played by the very popular Ana de Armas. De Armas played a love interest for Himesh Patel’s Jack Malik, but that subplot was trimmed from the theatrical release. Some fans actually went through the trouble of suing Universal over this bit of false advertising , though the judge eventually threw the case out .

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

By the time Spider-Man: No Way Home’s final trailer hit, it was an open secret that Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire were both reprising their roles as alternate universe Spider-Men. Marvel and Sony were determined not to acknowledge those leaks, however, and the trailer was carefully edited to eliminate any sign of these two extra heroes.

Almost, anyway. The Brazilian version of the trailer includes a slightly longer shot of Spidey charging into battle against Lizard, Sandman and Electro, only for Lizard to be knocked back by an invisible force. There was clearly meant to be another Spider-Man in frame, a fact borne out by the actual film.

Morbius (2022)

Marvel Studios hardly has a monopoly on misleading superhero movie trailers. Sony’s Morbius trailers were also guilty of misrepresenting the finished product, specifically in terms of its connections to the larger Spider-Man universe. They show Jared Leto’s Michael Morbius encountering a still-imprisoned Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), and include graffiti art of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. In reality, Morbius and Vulture only meet during the post-credits scene, and the Spidey graffiti is MIA.

Madame Web (2024)

Madame Web’s trailer made a strong impression on the Internet, with a meme quickly forming around one particularly stilted line from Dakota Johnson’s Cassandra Webb - "He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died." Sadly, it turns out that the complete line isn’t in the final version of the film. Though as IGN’s Madame Web review explains, that’s hardly the only problem facing the latest entry into Sony’s Spider-Man Universe.

What do you think is the most misleading trailer in Hollywood history? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Madame Web Is One of the Worst Superhero Movies in Years—and One of the Most Enjoyable

The superhero genre just got its first camp classic..

If Marvel is the Coke of superhero movies and DC is the Pepsi, Sony is the RC Cola, a passable substitute when they’re out of what you really want. Although the studio has had the rights to Spider-Man, one of the most iconic characters in comic-book history, since the end of the 1990s, it spent much of the 2010s struggling to convert that prize property into a watchable movie, let alone an expandable franchise. After Sony struck a deal to incorporate Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and especially after it cast the buoyant Tom Holland, the character’s fortunes soared. (2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home is the seventh-highest-grossing movie of all time.) But the studio was left in a peculiar position, owning both Spider-Man and the 60-plus years’ worth of secondary characters that have populated his world but unable to use them in the same movies. The result, beginning with 2018’s Venom , has been a singularly strange series of films that take place in a world built around a figure whose name cannot be uttered within it, like a production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead where no one thought to check in advance who owned the rights to Hamlet .

While the previous DC Universe has wound down in preparation for next year’s Superman-led reboot and Marvel has kicked all but one of its movies into 2025 as the company tries to reverse its precipitous loss of audiences , Sony has three comic-book movies on tap between now and November, claiming for itself the lowest point in the genre’s fortunes since at least 2007. RC Colas for everyone!

The first of those is Madame Web , and boy, it is a doozy. Its mockable, memeable trailer had prepared me for the worst, and on that level, at least, it did not disappoint. Directed by S.J. Clarkson and starring Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, a paramedic who gains the ability to see the future after a drowning accident, the movie is marginally competent at its best, and at its worst, it’s an incoherent mishmash populated by slumming movie stars who make little effort to disguise the dawning realization that they’ve made a terrible mistake. It’s a travesty, a disaster, a blight on the history of superheroes and cinema itself. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

For as often as movie critics are accused of having rarified taste, of just not liking anything, the opposite can also be true. Seeing hundreds of movies a year for years on end can lead to a condition where you place too much value on novelty, and even a minor twist on a worn-out formula feels like a life raft in a sea of sameness. It shouldn’t be a big deal, or even particularly noteworthy, that Madame Web takes place in a version of New York that actually feels like New York, or that its action sequences are spatially coherent and largely free of computer-generated murk. But by the recent standards of the genre, even its occasional jankiness comes as a pleasant change of pace. It’s the kind of superhero movie they made before superhero movies were all they made, disreputable and messy and kind of a hoot.

To be clear: Madame Web is bad. Really bad. As in, most of the main villain’s dialogue seems to have been dubbed by an actor who doesn’t particularly sound like him. Johnson may not mouth the now-infamous line from the trailer about how her mother was in the Amazon researching spiders right before she died, but she does pull out a valise crammed with her mother’s old notebooks and murmur, “Hope the spiders were worth it, Mom.”

Just as the dire and humorless Morbius ended with the promise of a team-up between Jared Leto’s living vampire and Michael Keaton’s Vulture (ported in, for reasons never to be explained, from the universe of Spider-Man: Homecoming ) and Venom 2 ended with Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock getting zapped into the MCU to set up a crossover that seems unlikely to ever happen, so Madame Web is infused with the promise that the next movie will be the good one. In the movie that actually exists, Cassie is tasked with saving three teenage girls (played by Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor, and Isabela Merced) from being murdered by Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), whose own visions of the future show the girls’ grown-up versions killing him. Like Cassie, Ezekiel has gained powers from the bite of a Peruvian arachnid worshipped by a tribe known as Las Arañas, which the movie helpfully and non-litigiously translates as the Spider-People. (Naturally, some of those people are indeed -Men.) In both Cassie’s and Ezekiel’s visions, the three girls grow up to be various versions of a crime-fighting webslinger, one with mechanical legs protruding from her back, another whose wrists shoot meshes of electricity, but these glimpses of the future are so vague and hazy you have to indulge in some post-film Googling to figure out whom they’re meant to be playing (briefly: two Spider-Women and a Spider-Girl). You can only imagine the buzzy young actresses’ agents informing them they’ve been cast to play a superhero, only for them to later realize they spent 90 percent of the movie flouncing around in schoolgirl uniforms and getting their necks broken. Johnson, for her part, infects every scene with a dry sense of remove, as if she can’t believe she’s doing this either.

So many superhero movies, even the decent ones, approach audiences as if they’re directives issued from command central: You watch because you have no choice not to. But there’s no cost to missing Madame Web , except for passing up a hilarious couple of hours in a theater. The mainline MCU movies are self-conscious to a fault, full of quips and winks, but Madame Web is thoroughly un-self-aware, the rare modern movie that achieves the status of pure camp without meaning to. It might not be the kind of fun its makers intended it to be, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good time.

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‘Suspended Time’ Review: Olivier Assayas’ Sunny Indulgence Returns Us to the Early Days of Lockdown

The French auteur recounts his pandemic experience through a light gauze of fiction, though you couldn't accuse him of juicing up the drama.

By Guy Lodge

Film Critic

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Suspended Time

At its most interesting — and quietly gossipy, if you are so minded — “Suspended Time” could be read as a reply work of sorts to “Bergman Island,” a more ornate but similarly self-reflexive 2021 film by Assayas’ ex-partner Mia Hansen-Løve. Written in the wake of their separation, Hansen-Løve’s film mused somewhat tartly on the challenges of preserving one’s sense of self while maintaining a relationship with an older artist who regards you as a subject as well as a lover. Played by Tim Roth, said artist was plainly modeled on Assayas. Now, Assayas’ latest features a clear Hansen-Løve proxy: Flavia (Maud Wyler), now split from the helmer’s alter ego Paul (Vincent Macaigne), sternly smokes and dispenses passive-aggressive criticism over Zoom as they negotiate the upbringing of their daughter Britt (Magdalena Lafont) in a time of moderate crisis. As public celebrity flame wars go, this is as civil and sun-dappled as they come.

Paul and Etienne’s respective girlfriends, Morgane (Nina D’Urso) and Carole (Nora Hamzawi), complete a ragtag domestic quartet, and the film’s scant dramatic conflict hinges on the minor irritations that bristle between them — familiar to anyone who felt a little too close to their nearest and dearest in those strange, out-of-time months. There’s minor-key comedy in the brothers’ odd-couple differences — Etienne is coolly unflappable, if a bit of a poseur, while Paul is a twitchy neurotic — that flare up when they attempt to cook together or squabble over the ethics of Amazon purchases. But only once Carole departs, and an unleashed Etienne finally gets candid about Paul’s self-absorbed failings, does that friction gesture at something deeper.

For the most part, however, this is an uncompellingly pleasant house arrest, shot with bleached, summery warmth by Eric Gautier, and filled with meandering, high-minded conversations about Paul’s literary and artistic hobby-horses. “Enough about David Hockney,” Morgane instructs him toward the film’s end — speaking for the audience, though not soon enough. Beyond such occasional interventions, neither of the female characters is drawn in terribly illuminating detail.

Running semi-jokes about mask-wearing anxiety and hygiene theater feel entirely played out by 2024, and well beneath Assayas’ abilities as a writer, while Paul’s sporadic fretting about career stasis and creative blockage is countered by others reminding him of his rampant privilege. That the film calls out its own navel-gazing only makes it feel more removed from any potential audience: What’s our stake in Assayas arguing with himself?

It’s when Assayas drops the autofiction conceit to directly articulate his relationship to the house and its surroundings — via his own characterful, faintly melancholic voiceover — that “Suspended Time” takes on greater emotional heft, emerging as something of a parallel piece to Assayas’ lovely 2008 drama “Summer Hours” in its reflection on family spaces, heirlooms and their lingering resonance. It’s genuinely moving to hear Assayas talking about his father’s untouched office chair, or the regular running route he carved out as a teenager dreaming of eventual escape, now retraced with older, more complacent steps. Droll as Macaigne’s skewed Assayas impersonation is — to the very select audience that will even recognize it as such — this auteur curio might have been richer as a first-person documentary, minus the Covid-era observations that feel specific to everyone and no one at once.

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Competition), Feb. 17, 2024. Running time: 105 MIN. (Original title: "Hors du temps")

  • Production: (France) A Curiosa Films, Vortex Sutra co-production with the support of Canal+ with the participation of Ciné+ in association with Cofinova 20, Cinemage 18, Cineaxe 5, Ad Vitam, Playtime. (World sales: Playtime, Paris.) Producers: Olivier Delbosc, Olivier Assayas.
  • Crew: Director, screenplay: Olivier Assayas. Camera: Eric Gautier. Editor: Marion Monnier.
  • With: Vincent Macaigne, Micha Lescot, Nine D'Urso, Nora Hamzawi, Maud Wyler, Dominique Reymond, Magdalena Lafont.

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