Movie reviews:  Peele's horror film 'Get Out,' and Oscar nominated 'The Red Turtle,' 'Toni Erdmann' open
Universal Pictures, 2017.

The Academy Awards are this Sunday, so it's your last chance to get out and see all the nominated films (check out the full Oscar Nominations list here).  But there is also a slew of new films hitting theaters this weekend, including a new horror film from one half of the comedic-duo, Key & Peele, that has been getting rave reviews thus far.  What new films should you pay attention to this Oscar weekend?

Here are reviews of the movies opening on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017:

 

 



“Get Out”



Jordan Peele is best known for being one-half of the popular comedy duo "Key & Peele," and lately, he may be better known as "the one we haven't seen or heard from." His partner, Keegan-Michael Key, has seemingly been everywhere, having appeared in several films since the team's hit Comedy Central show went away in 2016. We know now what Peele has been up to lately, and "Get Out" is worth the wait. "Get Out" is not only written by Peele, but it marks his directorial debut in any format. It is a socially-conscious horror/thriller film, which in and of itself may seem a bit awkward to say, but it accurately describes what he's created. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, "the black boyfriend" to Allison Williams' character, Rose. The story is essentially "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" with a horrific twist. When Rose brings Chris home to visit her wealthy parents (vibrantly portrayed by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford), something just isn't right. There's Rose's creepy brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), and both of the house servants (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) both just happen to be black. Peele creates what might be the first horror film that doubles as a subversive commentary on race, class and social expectations. It's definitely not a comedy, but there are exchanges of dialogue and moments that are laugh-out-loud hysterical - usually channeled through Chris's buddy, played by LilRel Howery - occasionally reminding us that Peele is still present, and the man who is pulling the strings. But what the film says and does speaks volumes. On the other hand, it also plays as a sort of fantasy, where "the man" finally gets his deserved comeuppance from the oppressed, after millenniums of wicked tyranny and brutality. The last-third of the film sort of devolves into the common trappings of the horror genre, and the message becomes a bit lost, but "Get Out" is a smart, thrilling joy-ride throughout, and one that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Grade: B.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller. Run Time: 2 hours 11 minutes. Rated R. Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Stephen Root, LilRel Howery, Lakeith Stanfield. Directed by Jordan Peele (feature-film debut).



“A United Kingdom”



"A United Kingdom" is based on the true story about Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of Botswana, and his marriage to a British woman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). The interracial union between the two was highly controversial at the time in the late 40s, with apartheid looming in South Africa, and the Prince was exiled and estranged from his new wife. As riveting as the true-life story may have been, this film is a complete snooze-fest, and the racial injustices and issues it tackles feels watered down and over-simplified. Rosamund Pike, who was simply amazing in "Gone Girl," seems oddly miscast here. Oyelowo, perhaps limited by the material, doesn't seem to possess the same energy that he did as Dr. Martin Luther King in 2014's Oscar-nominated "Selma." And some supporting performances, namely from Jack Davenport as a cruel ambassador, are almost comedically bad. It has good intentions, but "A United Kingdom" is definitely going to divide its audience...between those that want to fall asleep and those that want to leave the theater altogether. Grade: D.

Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance. Run Time: 1 hour 51 minutes. Rated PG-13. Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto. Directed by Amma Asante (“Belle,” “A Way of Life,”).



“The Red Turtle”



Studio Ghibli has consistently been one of the best, most successful world-wide animation studios, with international classics like "Spirited Away,"Princess Mononoke" and "The Wind Rises." Their latest effort is the poetic and beautifully-crafted "The Red Turtle," a film that speaks volumes, which is ironic, since there is no dialogue at all throughout. It follows a man who washes up on a seemingly deserted island, who has to find his way to survive. In doing so, he somehow manages to lead a full life. There are surprises a-plenty for both our survivor and for the audience, as this tale doesn't quite go where one might expect. Like the tide that keeps our castaway from ever leaving the shores, it pulls you in and its best to just surrender to its current. Studio Ghibli has done it again, and the Academy agrees, as "The Red Turtle" is among this year's nominees for "Best Animated Feature Film." It actually may be too slow-moving for children, but for adults with the ability to practice patience, this is a must-see...it's recommended you turn off your phone and just let the music and imagery of "The Red Turtle" wash over you. Grade: B+.

Genre: Animation, Fantasy. Run Time: 1 hour 20 minutes. Rated PG. Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit (feature-film debut).