Keke Palmer makes Nope worth saying yes to and Fire Of Love is a sight to behold
The Get Out and Us director’s latest body-snatcher tale can at times feel like a lovechild between M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. It’s better than that though.
Nope is a mysterious comic thriller about a flying saucer hovering over a ranch where horses are trained to be in the movies. It’s steeped in Hollywood history and ephemera, and as you might expect, it becomes a movie about making movies.
As usual with Peele, there’s a lot unpack, what with the symbols and allegories that gesture toward the business of spectacle: wrangling the incredible and the tragic for our entertainment or curiosity. These ideas occasionally drag the narrative into wonky territory in a way that reminds me of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Nope may not have it all together, but its internal tug-of-war is fascinating.
And it’s damn sure is entertaining and awe-inspiring, getting enough mileage from Peele’s wit and craft, the majestic sights (shot in IMAX) by Interstellar’s cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, and the incredibly charismatic Keke Palmer paired with Daniel Kaluuya, who once again gives his director a magnetic clenched-teeth performance. 131 minutes. Now playing in theatres everywhere. NNNN
Fire Of Love
This is a mesmerizing nature doc that ropes you in with a cute central love story. Fire Of Love is ostensibly about Katia and Maurice Krafft, a French couple who wear Where’s Waldo? hats while dedicating their lives to studying volcanoes – until one killed them in 1991. That they died capturing the kind of beauty we see on screen adds a queasy and compelling layer here. Honestly, it’s not like the footage needed them for personality. The images of walls of fire crashing down with the force of Niagara Falls or exploding into rocks underwater is reason enough to witness Fire Of Love. At times it feels like you’re watching evolution in fast-forward; at others, it’s like staring down the apocalypse. 93 minutes. Now playing at TIFF Bell Lightbox. NNN
The Gray Man
(Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)
Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans are pitted against each other in Bourne For Dummies, aka The Gray Man.
Gosling is Sierra Six, a killer in the U.S. government’s shadow squad with a traumatic history that gets trotted out when the movie needs a beat between extremely loud and obnoxious CGI-heavy action scenes. You know the lay of the land. Six becomes a target after discovering highly sensitive information. The government unit that wants those secrets buried hires Chris Evans’s Lloyd, a smug contractor who colours outside the lines – he tortures for fun, kidnaps kids and reduces blocks and blocks of European real estate to rubble. The Russo Brothers clearly saw Evans’s terrific performance as an asshole in Knives Out and figured they could do it better by putting a porn-stache on their Captain America star. They also plucked Knives Out star Ana de Armas, casting her as a conflicted assassin.
By now, the Russo brand should be familiar. They’ve been absurdly successful in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, directing Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame (the second-highest grossing movie of all time). They make cameos in The Gray Man, confident that fans will recognize the in-joke when they see Anthony Russo strapped to a chair with electric cables clamped to his teeth, playing the former Captain America’s first onscreen torture victim.
Their first MCU entry, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was also arguably Marvel Studio’s best. Like The Gray Man, it borrowed liberally from the Bourne movies and its influences like Three Days Of The Condor. Watching the Russos return to similar terrain without the costumes and costly logos, I can’t help but think that Winter Soldier was a fluke. That movie had elegant action sequences and an involving camaraderie between Evans’s Cap and Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow. Anything like that would be drowned out by the clichés and bombast in The Gray Man. The movie has a high-calibre cast (including Indian star Dhanush as a Tamil assassin) who only have room to give intense stares between the most predictive text dialogue.
The reportedly $200-million-plus budget affords a level of anxiety-inducing mayhem and even a solid bit of excitement during a tram sequence in Vienna, all of which pales in comparison to what Michael Bay can do on a $40 million budget (see Ambulance). The Gray Man has the crassness of his movies, but none of the visual grandeur. 122 minutes. Now playing on Netflix. NN
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