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Friday, July 21, 2017

Screen Savor: Get Scared

Written by  Gregg Shapiro

Don’t be put off by the Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner meets The Stepford Wives / Rosemary’s Baby vibe of Get Out (Universal), because Jordan Peele’s mind-blowing debut as writer and director, is so much more. It’s a smart comedy, a reverent and referential horror flick, and it’s a meaningful statement about race in the age of Trump. It’s also the first step to forgiving Peele for 2016’s abysmal Keanu.

Promising photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams), his girlfriend of five months, are leaving the city for a weekend trip at her parents’ house in lily-white suburbia. Chris experiences some trepidation, joking with Rose about whether or not her parents know that he’s African-American, but she puts his mind at ease. However, Chris’s cautious TSA agent best friend Rod (LilRel Howery) is more concerned about the potential for trouble than Chris is.

Initially, it seems that Rose’s neurosurgeon father Dean (Bradley Whitford) and psychiatrist mother Missy (Catherine Keener) couldn’t be nicer. As Rose predicted he’d do, Dean tells Chris he would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could. And Missy appears genuinely concerned about Chris’s cigarette habit, even using hypnosis as a means of cessation.

But soon Chris begins to detect that things are amiss, beginning with the family’s black staff; cook Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and gardener Walter (Marcus Henderson). The arrival of Rose’s unstable brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) only increases Chris’s sense of unease. When word of a long-planned annual party, to take place while he and Rose are there, is announced, Chris (and the audience) are right to think that not everything is as it seems.

Included among the almost exclusively white partygoers is African-American guest Logan (Lakeith Stanfield), whom Chris attempts to relate to as a “brother,” only to find out that he acts as suspiciously as Georgina and Walter. When the flash from Chris’s camera phone momentarily breaks Logan’s spell, he urges Chris to “get out,” a familiar horror-film refrain. Unfortunately, already hypnotized by Missy without fully realizing it, it’s already too late for Chris.

That’s basically all that can be said without revealing each brilliantly conceived twist, turn, and homage to contemporary horror and suspense cinema. Gory and giddy, terrifying and totally hilarious, Get Out is already an early wild-card contender for one of the best films of 2017, and Peele probably has a Best Director Oscar nod in his future. Blu-ray+DVD+Digital bonus features include alternate ending and deleted scenes with commentary by Peele, feature commentary, a featurette and a Q&A with Peele and the cast.

Life (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Columbia), originally released in theaters a couple of months before Alien: Covenant, has a lot in common with the Alien series. The main similarities involve a crew of astronauts on a mission who wind up returning to earth with an insidious alien life form, whether or not they want to do so.

Life’s crew includes David (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has spent 473 consecutive days in space, and Rory (Ryan Reynolds), a kind of space cowboy. Other crew members include the CDC’s quarantine officer Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson), Hugh (Ariyon Bakare), Sho (Hiroyuki Sanada), and Kat (Olga Dihovichnaya). Hugh is the one who works closest with the large inert single cell samples from Mars, attempting to “reanimate” them. By the 12th day, Hugh is successful. The specimen cells begin moving together and growing, interacting with their environment. This newly created species is named “Calvin.”

Hugh’s happiness doesn’t last, however. Following a problem in the lab, Calvin becomes inactive. Eventually, Hugh tries stimulating Calvin with a low voltage charge. Calvin wakes from its deep sleep and grips Hugh’s hand in an effort to escape the lab. Almost killing Hugh, Calvin attacks a lab rat and – spoiler alert – kills Rory who enters the chamber to help Hugh. That’s right, Ryan Reynolds’ character is dead 40 minutes into the movie.

Rapidly growing, Calvin escapes into the space station’s ventilation system. As communication with earth is lost, the body count mounts, with Calvin drowning Kat in her space suit, and eviscerating Hugh and Sho. Rapidly moving into earth’s atmosphere, David and Miranda hatch a plan to ensure that Calvin never reaches our world. But Calvin is smarter than it looks, as the surprise ending reveals. DVD special features include deleted scenes, astronaut diaries, and three featurettes.

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