Michael Scott

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US


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Movie: :4stars:
4K Video::4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:



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Movie

It’s kind of hard to imagine that Jordan Peele, co-star of the long standing sketch comedy show Key & Peele has become such a horror mogul these days. 2017’s Get Out was a fresh of breath air in the horror community, as he seemed to be channeling equal parts Wes Craven and Stephen King, so most people were enormously excited to see his sophomore attempt this year with the film US. While I LOOOOOVED Get Out I got turned away by everyone and their mother claiming how political and socially satirical the film was, claiming that it was even more so than Get Out. Now while I really loved Jordan’s first films, one of my biggest pet peeves is being beaten over the head with social commentary overtones. Especially ones that deal with race and social status, as many times they are used as blunt instruments, instead of finely tuned scalpels. By the time the Blu-ray/4K UHD release came to me this week I had heard every theory under the sun. It was about social injustice. It was about how America has to come to grips with its racist past. It’s about the evils of capitalism. It’s about how we as a society abuse those less fortunate than ourselves, and the list goes on and on. However, after finishing the movie I have to sit and scratch my head wondering WHY all of these theories were bandied about? Maybe I’m blind, but while there is some social metaphors bandied throughout the film, the movie seems to focus on the mental trauma of one person from a childhood PTSD moment, and the constant introspection about Jordan Peele’s latest effort seems overly sensationalized.

The year is 1986, and young Adelaide (Madison Curry) gets lost at an amusement park by the California beaches, where she meets a doppleganger of herself. 30 years later, Adelaide (now played by Lupita Nyong’o) is grown up and revisiting this same beach side home that she once visited as a child, this time as a parent with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Johnson) and Jason (Evan Alex). Feeling a bit uneasy, Adelaide pushes those thoughts from her head as best she can, until suddenly she and her family are beset upon a family of dopplegangers. Each one looking like a member of the family.

The new “family” of clones introduces themselves as the “tethers”, beings that somehow share the same soul as the original person, but without the luxuries and pleasantries of growing up in the human world. Now is the “untethering”, as Adelaide’s now grown up doppgleganger tells her before trying to murder the poor woman. Running as best they can, Adelaide and her family soon find out that this phenomenon isn’t localized to themselves as clones of people around them are popping up everywhere. Desperate and afraid, the family is forced to face off against an army of soulless copies, each one who knows their every move, and whose only delight is tearing apart the bond that links them to each other.

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Jordan Peele is visually one of the most stunning horror directors I’ve ever seen. He has a complete MASTERY of tone and feel in a horror movie, blending complex staccato beat scores, as well as incredible visual shots that pay homage to other visionary directors out there. While Get Out was more of a horror film that got its scares from the creepy social situations that the main character was in, US manages to be a more traditional horror movie. Peele himself said that he actually wanted to go more traditional this go around, and he did that with his own unique twist. The film really thrives during the 2nd act (the center hour of the movie) as we get to see Adelaide’s family slaughtering the tether’s one by one in their desperate race to stay alive. It’s not till the third act when we see the movie start to unravel a bit. I won’t say WHAT it is, but there’s a massive third act twist that is left up to the viewers own perceptions, and gets a little too convoluted for its own good. The movie shifts off into more of a sci-fi nature at this point (which he kind of did with Get Out, and is kind of his thing), and the resulting mess is so filled with plot holes that you have to not even THINK about it in order for the movie to not go completely off the rails.

It’s creepy, it’s disturbing, it’s not nearly as good as Get Out, but US is a solid horror film that has an incredible amount Easter egg homages (The same boardwalk as The Lost Boys, overhead shots as in The Shining, hints of A Nightmare on Elm Street) litter the landscape, but Jordan Peele doesn’t ever feel like he’s COPYING these masters. Instead it feels completely unique and those homages are more nods than they are rip-offs. However, there is a flaw running through the whole thing that it took me until the second watching to really grasp. It’s the scope of the movie. The film opens up with the dopplegangers answering the question of “who are you?” with “We’re Americans!”. From what I can glean from interviews with Jordan Peele, this theme was supposed to show how America has a dark underbelly (which we do, no one will deny that we have some skeletons in our closet), but throughout the film that theme is never expounded upon. Instead Peele seems to get overwhelmed with the elasticity of his own metaphors, piling one on top of each other until even he can’t keep up with them all. I caught a ton of different ones (covering up our past, the evil in the closet being ourselves, etc etc), but the lack of keeping with one or two main metaphors throughout the film really hampered the film from being as great as Get Out was. The movie is definitely good, and Jordan is probably the visually delightful horror director of recent times, but his scripting for US was a roadblock for him, and hopefully one he can overcome for his next outing.




Rating:

Rated R for violence/terror, and language.




4K Video: :4stars: Video: :4.5stars:
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According to IMDB US was filmed with digital cameras with a 3.4K capture resolution, then mastered at 2K for the home video release. As is the case with many of these 2K mastered 4K UHD discs, the clarity and detail levels aren’t night and day better than the Blu-ray, but do show modest improvements to the overall look of the film. The biggest boost is naturally in the use of DV and HDR, with the opening shot of the night time carnival showcasing deeper blacks, and richer primary colors. The candy apple that Adelaide carries during her wandering away feels like it’s just popping off of the dark screen and shines with a luster that wasn’t present on the Blu-ray. The film is a VERY dark movie, and takes place primary at night, so the black levels are super important. The darkness is able to render even the most minute details exceptionally well, and you can see the crazy look in “Red’s” eyes when she attacks Adelaide, as well as the burning glow of the flame while Jason and “Pluto” play in the closet with fire.

There is also a very obvious uptick to clarity from the Blu-ray, with facial details and the background imagery showing noticeably better textures. The water itself where Gabe and his doppleganger fight shows more nuances in the waves and little textures of said water, and the blood along his face is richer and deeper thanks to the use of HDR. While the 4K UHD may not blow the already excellent Blu-ray out of the water, it most certainly is a welcome step above the 1080p version.







Audio: :4.5stars:
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US’s Dolby Atmos track is more than up to the task of handling the film’s powerful score, and really infuses life into the movie in ways I wasn’t expecting. The score itself is the highlight of the track, as Jordan Peele infuses the film with a sort of oddly cadenced staccato score that feels stilted, yet ohhhhhhhh so deliciously creepy. The music flows throughout all of the channels effortlessly, imbuing a sense of intense dread and nervousness to the movie’s flow. Dialog is creepy, but evenly balanced, allowing for Red’s rasping and quiet voice to gently come from underneath, only to be slammed back in your seats with powerful LFE and the screaming as people run away from the golden sheared monsters of the film. Discrete effects, such as screams or the roaring of a bit from all around the listening position, makes good use of the overheads and expands the directionality of the surrounds, and even some of the LFE heavy moments feel like they shift around the listener at times. It’s a wildly dynamic horror track, and intensely savage in it’s ferocity.






Extras: :3.5stars:
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• Scene Explorations – The making of three iconic scenes from the film including the Tyler house massacre, Jason's abduction and Adelaide's underground flashback.
- Seven Second Massacre​
- It's a Trap​
- I Just Want My Little Girl Back​
• The Duality of US – Jordan Peele goes in-depth on some of the key themes and imagery in US– including Doppelgängers, Hands Across America, The Nutcracker dance scene, rabbits and the infamous 11:11 coincidence.
• The Monsters Within US – Examine how the great cast were able to find their characters, whether they were playing one of the Wilsons or their sinister doppelgängers.
• Tethered Together: Making US Twice – Making of a movie is hard. Making a movie where all the main cast play dual roles can be downright mind-bending. In this piece, filmmakers, cast, and crew discuss some of the technical challenges to making the film, as well as some of the design choices for the characters.
• Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peele's Brand of Horror – In the space of two films, Jordan Peele has set himself apart as an invaluable artistic voice. Hear cast and filmmakers highlight what makes him so unique, as well as Jordan's own thoughts on his inspirations and the relationship between horror and comedy.
• Becoming Red – Using behind-the-scenes footage from between takes, we take a closer look at Lupita Nyong'o's intense and mesmerizing performance as "Red."
• Deleted Scenes
- I Am Not Even Near You​
- Rabbit Season​
- That's Bad@ss​
- Driftwood​
- The P is Silent​
- I Wanna Go Home​
• We're All Dying – Hilarious outtakes from the conversation between Winston Duke and Tim Heidecker on the beach.
• As Above, So Below: Grand Pas de Deux – An extended version of the dance sequence from the film, cutting between adolescent Adelaide at her recital to Red in the Underpass.






Final Score: :4stars:


US is a decidedly fun second outing for director Jordan Peele (still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this is the Peele from Key & Peele), and is a solid entry into the horror universe. The elasticity of the metaphors that Peele winds throughout the whole film is both it’s biggest strength and largest weakness, as Peele has a hard time reconciling and keeping up with them. My personal interpretation is more in line with Adelaide dealing with mental trauma and the film acting as a mirror for what PTSD does to a person, but due to the ambiguous nature of many of the scenes, others may get something completely different out of the movie. Universal’s 4K UHD disc is great, with the same amazing audio track from the Blu-ray as well as a nice looking 2160p encode. Combine that with some ample extras and the film is well worth checking out as a VERY creepy watch.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong'o, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Anna Diop, Cali Sheldon
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Written by: Jordan Peele
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, English DVS
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Universal
Rated: R
Runtime: 116 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 18th, 2019
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Recommendation: Creepy Watch

 

Todd Anderson

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Great review, Mike. Looks like a super solid release
 

JBrax

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I’ve been looking forward to this. As usual a great review Mike. :T
 

JBrax

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I couldn’t wait for the drawing. Rented the 4K copy and watching tonight.
 

Sonnie

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Ain't nooooooooo way... ain't gonna happen. Even the thought of doppelganger of myself is eerie... and of an entire family... yikes... mixed with a horror story...:eek:
 

Todd Anderson

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JBrax

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And......???
Honestly, I’m not sure? I interpreted the movie completely different than my wife and I still don’t know what to think. Definitely eerie!
 
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