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Us

This horror masterpiece forces us to look in the mirror 
© Universal Pictures Dopplegangers called “the tethered” terrorize a family in Us, a breathtaking tour de force that should be part of the conversation this awards season.
     Left mute and wounded by a childhood trauma, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) struggled into adulthood. Now she is married, has two children and is thriving by American standards.
     But husband Gabe (Winston Duke) is status-obsessed. Daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) barely looks up from her phone. Son Jason (Evan Alex) is oddly given to masks and magic tricks. 
     Adelaide herself can’t shake the feeling that something awful is coming. She tries to dismiss her premonitions as remnants of traumas past, but her dread won’t abate. 
    Her worst fears are realized when four people break into the family’s summer home. Worse, the intruders, who call themselves “the tethered,” are exact copies of her family. 
      Richly layered and metaphoric, this challenging horror movie may demand multiple viewings. Director Jordan Peele has followed his Oscar-winning debut of Get Out with a boldly ambitious movie that challenges conventional thinking on many fronts. 
      You’ll see lots of metaphors of American selective memory, and you’ll find a treasure trove of horror references. Peele creates tension through framing, storytelling and craft. Visual tricks and musical cues ratchet up the tension. A technical trick, the split diopter lens, keeps focus perfect in both foreground and background in scenes featuring the tethered. Because our eyes don’t typically view everything in our field of vision in perfect focus, this technique unsettles our brains, subtly creating angst. 
     Us is also pretty funny. Peele uses humor and visual gags to cut the tension, giving both audience and characters a welcome reprieve from the chills. 
     Nyong’o offers not one but two stunning performances. As Adelaide, she is all crackling tension and fear. As Red, Adelaide’s tethered twin, she is a manic whirlwind, her words seeming to choke her as she threatens her double. It’s a breathtaking tour de force that should be part of the conversation this awards season. 
     See it with friends so you can pick apart all the hidden messages and visual cues. Us delivers both complex horror and chills and thrills. 
Great Horror • R • 116 mins. 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
The Aftermath
      In 1946, the United Kingdom is helping rebuild Germany after World War II. As he works to stabilize the war-torn nation, Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) sends for his wife Rachael (Keira Knightley) to join him in Hamburg. Horrified by the state of the country, Rachael is further shocked to learn they’ll be staying with a German man (Alexander Skarsgård) and his daughter. Rather than monsters, her new housemates prove to be endearing. Soon, Rachael finds herself drawn to the German. Can love thrive in the ruins of war?
     A steamy melodrama, The Aftermath is a bodice-ripper for historical fiction fans. Post-war melodramas tend to be light on the political commentary, so don’t expect insights on German reconstruction. Still, Knightley and Skarsgård are fun to look at, and watching them be beautifully in love should be fun for a couple hours. 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 108 mins. 
 
Dumbo
     Wounded soldier Holt (Colin Ferrell) returns to the circus. No longer able to perform, he takes a job tending the animals. When an elephant with enormous ears is born, Holt and his children are enamored. 
      To most, the elephant is a joke. But a slick businessman (Michael Keaton) sees dollar signs. He invents an aerial show featuring the big-eared elephant. 
     A reimagining of the classic Disney film, Dumbo should be a heartwarming family film. But there are ifs. Can director Tim Burton, who has a signature visual style, make the story feel fresh and new? Will his focus on humans rather than magical animals help — or lead him astray? 
      If you’ve got little ones keen to see an elephant fly, or you’re a Disney maniac, give Dumbo a chance.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 130 mins.