The Reviews For Jordan Peele's 'Us' Are Out, And They're Pretty Fantastic
'A MASTERPIECE OF DOUBLING'

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"Get Out" blew away critics, dominated the box office and earned writer-director Jordan Peele an Oscar — for his debut film, don't forget — so the bar for "Us" (which opened SXSW and is out on March 22) is dizzyingly high. Peele seems to have met or cleared it, in a way thinkpieces and theories will struggle with. Here's what the reviews have to say:

'Us' Introduces Its Spooky Doppelgänger Concept In The '80s Before Leaping To The Present Day

In the city of Santa Cruz, at a beach resort in 1986, a young Adelaide Wilson (Madison Curry) wanders away from her parents (played by Yayha Abdul-Mateen II and Anna Diop). She stumbles into a haunted mirror house escape called Shaman's Vision Quest. Underneath the marquee, it says "Find Yourself". Adelaide walks inside and sees a vision of herself, but what she thinks is a reflected image is facing backward rather than towards her. When the image turns around and looks at her face-to-face, Adelaide realizes that this is not a reflection but a doppelgänger of herself.

[Black Girl Nerds]

The story proper begins three decades later, when the fully grown Adelaide Wilson (now played by Lupita Nyong'o) heads back to Santa Cruz for a summer holiday with her family[…] One night, the Wilsons are confronted by another family standing in the driveway of their vacation home, a family to whom they bear an unsettlingly perfect resemblance. Who are these strange, menacing doubles?

[The LA Times]


It's Very Much A Horror Movie First And Foremost…

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.

[The Verge]

Think "Funny Games" collided with Cronenbergian body horror and Hitchockian suspense, and you're maybe halfway there.

[IndieWire]

Themes aside, US still fully invests in the horror genre. Glimpses of The Shining, Black Swan and others show that Peele does his homework. The bloody violence, the tears, the screams, the jump scares – all familiar, but still done in a fresh way. If you thought that Luniz's "I Got 5 On It" was only for the trailer, rest assured it's not. The way the song is used throughout the film, specifically for a major set piece later in the film, will have you looking over your shoulder next time it plays on shuffle.

[SlashFilm]


… But, Like 'Get Out,' It's Also Pretty Funny At Points

While this movie isn't quite as funny as Get Out, it still has plenty of laughs, largely provided by the Wilsons' obnoxiously wealthy friends: the Tylers, played by Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker. It's a relief to see Moss having so much fun after her two-season tenure on The Handmaid's Tale, and Heidecker, a cult-comedy god in his own right, sneakily steals almost all of his few scenes.

[Vanity Fair]

"Us" is a tour de force of comic tension and visceral release, a movie that weaponizes our chuckles against us and reminds us that laughing, screaming and thinking are not mutually exclusive pleasures.

[The LA Times]

This film is horror, but it does come with some laughs and incredible one-liners. My favorite was the line referring to the doppelgängers as "some kind of f*cked up performance art".

[Black Girl Nerds]

Lupita Nyong'o Gives Two Amazing Performances As Adelaide Wilson And Her Double, Red

Each of the actors plays their own double as a kind of bad knockoff; a combination of physical acting and uncanny makeup makes each of the "Tethered," as they call themselves, their own chilling creation. But Nyong'o's "Red," as she's credited, is an achievement on another level; a physical, vocal, and emotional performance so surgical in its uncanniness that it almost feels like it could not be the work of a flesh-and-blood human.

[Vulture]

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.

[RogerEbert.com]

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.

[The Verge]

Six years after her Oscar win, we are only scratching the surface of her range on screen and it's exciting to see a glimpse here.

[SlashFilm]

Peele And His Collaborators Have Assembled Another Visually And Sonically Arresting Film 

"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, it looks like evil is swooping in from above.

[RogerEbert.com]

A Jordan Peele film is a sensory experience. Any number of frames from Us could vie for a #OnePerfectShot meme, but there's a cheeky use of sound—maybe the most crucial element to a great horror film—that's perhaps more impressive here. Wild cinematography, wild dialogue, wild twists, and wild music (there's a "Fuck Tha Police" music cue that should go down in history) are working together here to recreate that throwback cinematic experience. That thing where watching a movie is an active task.

[The Daily Beast]

It was obvious from "Get Out" that Peele has a knack for indelible imagery, which "Us" matches with visual sophistication to spare: Reflections, doorways, and high ceilings frame some of the most absorbing moments, which avoid the obvious jump scares (although they make a few appearances). Cinematographer Michael Gioulakis plays with light and shadow to menacing effect, while Michael Abels' unnerving score builds to shrieking crescendos, some of which do push this jittery material over the top.

[IndieWire]


Some Critics Feel The Third Act Does Show Signs Of Sophomore Slump-ish Storytelling…

Its third act collapses during a fit of exposition that raises more questions than it answers, and its lingering twist lands with a palpable thud, failing to resonate due to a central metaphor that's a touch too translucent. Admirably, Peele resists leaning too hard into metaphor, focusing instead on story, but that also hobbles the final moments, which strain for an unearned resonance.

[The A.V. Club]

When the explanations and revelations start coming down the pipeline, none of it seems to click in that "ah hah" way that the best genre movies do. Not just mechanically, but thematically — there are a couple unexplained loose threads, but they didn't bother me so much as the sense that the big idea they were in service of never quite took shape.

[Vulture]

The ambitious film, which had been shrouded in secrecy, sees Peele once again using the language of horror to say something about where we are as a society. But that commentary manages to be neither as obvious nor as nuanced as that in Get Out. While provocative, it doesn't quite stick the landing this time[…] It's a disappointment to report, and something we feel almost sheepish doing, because the experience of watching the film is such an enjoyable one.

[The Daily Beast]


… But You May Find The Chaos Enriches The Film

Us is never just one thing. It's a masterpiece of doubling, layering, and tethering. It's also a movie packed to the brim with horrifying iconography—the red jumpsuits, vacant-eyed bunnies, and always those slicing shears—some of which has obvious meaning, while Peele is disinclined to break down the rest the way he did with Get Out.

[Vanity Fair]

Us is a film that is littered with metaphors and I'm certain that I haven't figured out all of them. In fact, the film paces in a fugue-like state with bewildering occurrences that don't particularly connect with the plot, but instead linger there for the viewer to try to unpack for themselves.

[Black Girl Nerds]

Where 'Get Out' Was 'Solved' By Internet Theorizers, 'Us' Demands To Be Watched Again For Essence, Not Answers

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.

[RogerEbert.com]

Us feels like something meant to be watched over and over until the tape wears down, and we graft our own meaning and nightmares onto it.

[Vulture]

The themes at play in this movie — the return of the repressed, the duality of the self, the loss of personal identity — are not particularly hard to grasp, but they are open to considerable interpretation. The closing twists, one of which is no less satisfying for being detectable a few minutes in advance, demand an immediate re-viewing.

[The LA Times]


TL;DR

Like Get Out, the film takes horror to interesting and new heights by, above all, centering Black characters. Peele doesn't care to do the same thing as others – and you shouldn't expect him to.

[SlashFilm]


Watch The Trailer

 



Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

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The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

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The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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