Jordan Peele Strikes Again With ‘Us’

Peele shocks audiences with a strong opening week and a haunting movie experience

Jordan Peele has gone from dipping his toes to diving right into the deep end of the horror genre. His latest work, Us, follows a black family of four on a weekend trip to the beach in Southern California as chaos ensues across the United States. The movie made a meteor landing at the box office last weekend, scoring an impressive $70 million and a spot in the top three biggest horror movie openings of all time.

The premise of the movie sounds like a fever dream without being able to watch it unfold in theatres, but here it is in short: a government program gone wrong leads to the hostile takeover of red-jumpsuited doppelgangers who come from abandoned underground tunnels and are inspired by the 1986 charity program Hands Across America. Sounds crazy, right? But once you watch it, the concept becomes increasingly more unsettling, leaving you to wonder: “During what mundane task will my evil doppelganger come and take me?”

As it turns out, though, tagging a specific character with the “bad guy” title in this film isn’t as easy as it initially seems. The cerebral thriller leaves the audience with many questions, the most prominent of which are, “What’s going to happen to the rest of Adelaide’s family? Will Jason confront his mother, now knowing she’s the ‘evil’ copy?” These questions, as well as many other questions viewers might have, could all be answered in the future.

“There’s always the possibility (though slim) that Peele has another twist up his sleeve — maybe this could be the first entry in a larger series…This could be Peele’s attempt at a larger universe.”

Josh Spiegel

Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Josh Spiegel explains that a franchise based on Us would be a welcome return for Nyong’o as Red/Adelaide, as she delivered nearly two full hours of an incredible onscreen performance.

Lupita Nyong’o as Red and Adelaide in Us

To read Spiegel’s opinion and more about Us, check out Josh Spiegel’s “The Questions Lingering After ‘Us’,” The Hollywood Reporter, (Mar 23, 2019).

The Drive-In Theatre: Old and Obsolete, or New and Refreshing?

The movie industry is always locked on the next best screenplay, or the newest high definition movie projection technology. But no one is looking towards the past for the next new experience, and they should be.

Take it back to 1933. The Great Depression was in full swing, but a man named Richard Hollingshead didn’t let that stop him from creating that next best thing in the film industry. In an attempt to design a movie theatre experience that was more comfortable for his larger-than-average mother, he revolutionized the movie industry for people of all shapes and sizes for decades to come.

The first drive-in theatre in Pennsauken, New Jersey, 1933

The concept: what if someone could just drive up, park, and watch a movie without ever having to leave their car? Everyone would be able to see the movie through their windshield on a multiple-story high screen and roll their windows down to listen in. The drive-in theatre started with a 1928 Kodak projector mounted on the roof of Hollingshead’s car, a large sheet nailed between two trees, and some low-quality speakers next to the screen. But it spread like a wildfire after Hollingshead patented the idea, and the experience improved rapidly. By the 1950s and 1960s, there were almost 4,000 drive in theatres across America. Visitors could tune in to a special radio station to hear the movie’s audio and leave their windows rolled in case it began to rain.

A showing at Shankweiler’s Drive-In, Orefield, Pennsylvania, circa 1950

Tragically, as interest rates for land tracts rose and more impressive projection technology developed, the drive-in theatre began to die out. By now, there are no more than 300 spread across the United States. It’s a shame that a vintage experience like the drive-in theatre is so hard to find nowadays. But is it? Surely there can’t be one within, say, an hour of your home. Even if there was an easily accessible one, the price of a ticket must be monumental!

Or not. The Ocala Drive-In is only a 45-minute drive from the University of Florida’s main campus, and you can get tickets to two showings in one night for a grand total of six dollars. Even after you incorporate the cost of gas (about three dollars each way), a trip to the drive-in theatre is half the price of two regular movie tickets. Plus, who wouldn’t want the brand-new, priceless experience of a vintage drive-in? The Ocala Drive In is a historical spot in Florida, and it is only one of eight total drive in theatres in the state.

A premiere showing of Cinderella at the Ocala Drive-In, Ocala, Florida, 2015

The theatre may be old, but it always has screenings of the industry’s best blockbusters, like Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Located at 4850 South Pine Avenue, Ocala, FL, the Ocala Drive In is bound to provide visitors with a memorable experience – one that’s bound to make you reconsider going back to your same old, local theatre.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ and the Marvel Fishhook

After eleven years of universe building, Marvel already has our attention and doesn’t need to do much more in the way of teasing

Since 2008, Marvel has had comic book nerds and action movie lovers alike raving over their ever-expanding cinematic universe. With every post-credit scene and every teaser trailer, the Disney-owned company charges up potential energy to slingshot the next installment under their name into the list of highest grossing movies of all time. Avengers Infinity War, released in late April 2018, sits comfortably at number 4 on the list; Captain Marvel, the franchise’s latest release, blew past the $500 million mark in just a week.

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

But Marvel barely needs to lift a finger anymore to get fans foaming at the mouth for their next film, and their recent trailer for Avengers: Endgame shows that they know it. The trailer, which mostly consists of shots from past Marvel movies, seems to act simply as a recap for fans to know what is at stake in the movies: the fate of the entire cinematic universe. Fans have speculated on who we might lose in the next film, but no one knows for sure.

“It [seems] impossible to not disappoint fans who [have] built impossibly high expectations about the conclusion of the Infinity War storyline…We’re two (three) trailers in, and Endgame has been appropriately teased without saying almost anything at all about the movie itself, therefore upsetting no one.”

            Graeme McMillan, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, hits the nail on the head when he explains why Marvel no longer needs to provide spoilers in their trailers. Spoilers ruin excitement and upset fanbases. All Marvel needs for their well-established universe (eleven years in the making) is a few urgent tones and ultimatums like those heard in the trailer, repeating “Whatever it takes” all the way through.

Scarlet Johansson, Karen Gillan, and Robert Downey Jr. in the trailer forAvengers: Endgame (set to release April 2019)

            For more information on Avengers: Endgame, check out Graeme McMillan’s “Avengers: Endgame and the Art of the Spoiler-Free Trailer,” The Hollywood Reporter, (Mar 14, 2019).

-Ian

The Beauty of a Split Second

A child gets a balloon in Hollywood Studios, in Orlando, FL

I’ve been taking photos of the people and places around me for as long as I can remember. When I was in the fifth grade, I got my first camera: a point and shoot Nikon that probably wasn’t worth more than $30. But the price of the camera never mattered. The brief moments and memories I captured had much more value. Over the course of the nine years since then, I’ve obviously gotten some better gear. I’ve amassed my own little collection of old film cameras, lenses, and film stocks, as well as my own ideology for taking the “perfect” photo. I love being able to capture a split second of nature, despite all of its volatility.

The skyline during a sunset on El Matador beach in Malibu, CA

I don’t only enjoy taking photos of landscapes, though. When I started writing a year ago, I began to fall in love with the idea of capturing human emotion as well. I started taking my camera with me everywhere. I constantly observe the interactions of my friends and family so I can find the perfect moment to take a quick snapshot of the beauty of human emotion. Some people throw their heads back a certain way when they laugh, and other people’s eyes light up when they get happy. The little moments like this hold so much meaning to me, and I love being able to look back on a shot from a few years ago and let all the emotion come flooding back.

Friends having a conversation at a bar in Hollywood Studios, in Orlando, FL

Photography is one of my only passions, and it’s one of the few things I feel proficient at in life. My friends and family frequently come up to me asking me to take photos for their next birthday party, or they tell me to make sure I bring my camera next time we see each other. Every time I get more film developed, we gather around and have a blast looking back at moments we might otherwise have forgotten about. These little moments that fade so quickly from our memories hold much more power than we initially believe, and I think that capturing them is crucial.

Streaming Competition Fires Up While Cable Struggles

Epix and Starz can barely keep up with HBO and Showtime, let alone increasingly abundant new streaming services

We live in an era of streaming. Whether you want to listen to music or podcasts, watch tutorials or talk shows, or cuddle up for original or classic movies, there are plenty of available services. The big names in movie and TV show streaming have been Hulu and Netflix for quite some time, but plenty of corporations want to get their hands on some of the industry’s bandwidth.

The hard hitters that everyone has been talking about are Apple, Disney, and WarnerMedia. All three companies have announced their respective new streaming platforms, further increasing the abundance of subscriptions available to consumers. Apple and WarnerMedia have yet to name their services, but Disney’s Disney+ has been well-known since late 2018; both Disney+ and Apple’s streaming services are expected to launch near the end of 2019.

All of these streaming services will have vastly different selections of media and will differ in minor details such as names and release dates, but what’s one thing they all have in common? Crushing cable. Writing for the latest edition of the Hollywood Reporter, Tim Goodman summed up a challenge that Epix and Starz, two premium cable services, face in light of these upcoming streaming services.

“Price point will be key in 2019 as Disney+, Apple and WarnerMedia all vie for your post-Netflix, post-Amazon and post-Hulu dollars. And obviously Starz and Epix have to keep churning out scripted fare that resonates with viewers. At this point, it’s a critical juncture for both of them. Zeitgeist-busting content is what everybody needs but especially non-Netflix and non-HBO channels.”

When it comes down to it, consumers are always going to want on-demand services – and with the ever-increasing availability of these services, cable TV just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Epix and Starz will have to get with the program if they want to continue to succeed in the visual media industry.

For more information on future prospects for Epix and Starz, check out Tim Goodman’s “Critic’s Notebook: The Curious Cases and Future Fates of Starz and Epix,” The Hollywood Reporter, (Feb 11, 2019).

-Ian

A Good Omen for Documentaries and Horror

A new reason to become a fan of the genres if you aren’t already

Get Out (2017), dir. Jordan Peele

When you hear the word “documentary”, your first thoughts aren’t anywhere near the feeling of an adrenaline rush, the suspense that brings you to the edge of your seat, or even remotely black representation. Director Xavier Burgin will hopefully change that with Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. This documentary, newly released on Shudder, is based on the non-fiction book Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1980s to the Present.

Writing for the Hollywood Reporter, Richard Newby gives a basic idea of what to expect from the documentary:

“The documentary… brings together some of the most prominent and educated black voices in horror history to discuss how the horror genre’s representation of black people has changed over the years.”

Horror Noire covers the history of black representation in the horror genre all the way up to Jordan Peele’s monumental directorial debut, Get Out (2017); but it only covers history. Newby does the rest of the heavy lifting by addressing the future for black horror in the rest of the article, beginning with a focus on Jordan Peele’s upcoming agenda. His new movie, Us, is set for release in March of this year; Peele and his production company will also provide us with the much-anticipated Twilight Zone reboot and an HBO adaptation of Lovecraft Country, a horror novel about the Jim Crow South.

Newby then moves on from Peele’s seemingly endless contribution to advancements in black horror:

…audiences can also look forward to the black-led Relive, Sweetheart, and films like Captive State, Doctor Sleep, and the recently released Escape Room that feature black people in prominent roles.

Thanks to every example of upcoming works that Newby provides, the future for black representation in the horror genre doesn’t look as bleak as the past. Every new instance of proper representation will hold the door open for upcoming black leaders in the horror genre.

For more details about Horror Noire, check out Richard Newby’s “How ‘Horror Noire’ Primes Viewers for a Year of Black Horror,” The Hollywood Reporter, (Feb. 7, 2019).

-Ian

Chapter One

Hi, my name is Ian! I’m a second-year student studying telecommunications at the University of Florida.

Visual media is everything to me. I spend my free time watching new blockbusters, re-watching old classics/my personal favorites, taking photos on 35mm film, and writing every day. My dream is to one day I move to Los Angeles and make a living as a writer, so I study screenwriting and storytelling in my free time. I think that writing is crucial, and I consider it a universal medium because it can be translated to so many different forms. Without it, your favorite movies, shows, and songs would never exist.

I plan to post about recent happenings in the film industry, from steps forward in minority representation to critics’ praises and criticisms of the newest releases. I hope that my love of writing for film will rub off on everyone who reads these posts, inspiring them to read more about the craft and maybe begin to practice it themselves. I think that it is truly an underappreciated art form, and that people should not only develop a deeper understanding of, but also grow a greater love for their favorite movies through the study of it.