Friday, March 22, 2019

Trio of 'Us,' 'Hotel Mumbai,' and 'Gloria Bell' rings in spring at the movies

Even if the weather isn't exactly cooperating, spring arrives in northeast Ohio along with the freshness of three new movies.

First and foremost is the scary "Us," Jordan Peele's legitimate horror show through and through, only without the same satire and genre-blending hipness that helped the creative director win a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 2016's "Get Out."

Still, the creepy-crawly doppelganger family, which -- surprise!-- actually does not arrive in the driveway of the vacationing Wilson clan until 40 minutes into it all, is the same one promised in those endless trailers that whetted our appetites for the past couple of months. And, while the whole adventure might flaunt an occasional reach or two, Peele's initial set up, as well as some revelations that follow the sheer terror of that first introduction, show up quite unexpectedly.

Of course, the cast, led by the lovely Lupita Nyong'o as a couple of strong maternal types, plays top notch across the board, with "Dad" Winston Duke and kids (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) easily exploring dual roles, too.

Another kick is the nice turn -- literally and figuratively -- from Elisabeth Moss ("The Handmaid's Tale") in her unanticipated part as an upwardly mobile neighbor. 

Rated "R": violence/terror and language; 1:56; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

More terror, sadly the real kind, occurs in "Hotel Mumbai," based on the horrific 2008 extremist attacks on India's largest city, but centering on events taking place at the ultra-exclusive Taj Hotel.

Various staffers, led by its world-class chef (as always, convincingly portrayed by movie mainstay Anupan Kher), saved lives during the full-scale assault that some of us, perhaps numbed by so many such international occurrences, might not even remember. That being written, first-time feature director and co-writer Anthony Maras gives this Australian production a hard-core rush of urgency that assures we won't forget again after witnessing his head-turning scenes of cold-blooded murder and mayhem.

Sidebar stories involving characters carried by the notable likes of Dev Patel, Jason Isaac and Armie Hammer aside, this honest attempt to make cinematic art out of historical massacre will not exactly become an entertaining two hours at the movies, just a powerful one.

Rated "R": disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language; 2:03; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Moore and Turturro experience the rhythm that's "Gloria Bell."
Finally this week there's "Gloria Bell," the smartly similar remake of 2013's Chilean "Gloria," from the same director, Sebastian Lelio ("A Fantastic Woman").

This time, Julianne Moore jumps across the screen as the glorious lead, an L.A.-based divorcee who loves to dance, even alone if it serves her; leaves long messages on the answering machines of her "grown-up" kids (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorious); tolerates her own mom (Holland Taylor), and may or may not enjoy the thousand and one other things that fill the so-called lonely life of a fifty something.

Definitely that might include looking for love, but maybe not in all the right places, especially if it comes from the wimp played by John Turturro. But, for now, let's forget about him. Moore is THE reason to ring up this belle, a knockout from start to finish, even when it hurts.

Rated "R": sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use; 1:42; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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