Entertainment

Brian Viner had high hopes for No, but alas, no


No (15, 130 minutes)

Verdict: Don’t stop a yep

Rating:

Until 2017, Jordan Peele was known as a comedian. As far as he was known in this country at all. But that changed with his feature debut as a writer and director, the brilliant horror thriller Get Out, and he further honed his reputation as a filmmaker with the clever and deeply disturbing Us (2019).

So expectations were high for his third feature, Nope, a sci-fi thriller in which aliens arrive in the skies over California, especially since the film reunites Peele with its Get Out lead, the ever-excellent Daniel Kaluuya.

Get Out made a bona fide movie star of Kaluuya, the lifelong Arsenal fan of a municipal estate in north London, who still scares the public in the United States when he comes forward to take home awards (he deserved an Oscar nomination for Get Out and did even better last year for Judas and the Black Messiah). He is so convincingly African American on screen that it comes as a shock to many when he opens his mouth.

Daniel Daluuya, pictured, plays OJ Haywood in Nope, whose father was killed due to alien activity

The siblings are descendants of the anonymous black jockey featured in 1878 in a groundbreaking motion picture series by English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, which is believed to be the earliest antecedents to the films as we know them today.

The siblings are descendants of the anonymous black jockey featured in 1878 in a groundbreaking motion picture series by English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, which is believed to be the earliest antecedents to the films as we know them today.

In Nope, he plays the taciturn OJ Haywood, who runs a horse ranch north of Los Angeles with his much brighter sister Emerald (Keke Palmer). The siblings are descendants of the anonymous black jockey who appeared in 1878 in a groundbreaking series of motion pictures by English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, considered to be the earliest antecedents to the films as we know them today.

So while Nope doesn’t tackle the topic of racism head-on like Get Out, it does take a sideways shot; Understandably, Peele understands that black contributions from early film history have been airbrushed.

As for the modern day, the ranch is home to Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, who provide equestrian talent to the film industry. But we get to know OJ and Emerald in the wake of tragedy; their father is apparently murdered as a result of alien activities.

There seems to be some kind of spaceship watching humanity from behind a suspiciously stationary cloud. Yes, as with 95 percent of the alien visitors in the movies, America is what interests them most about planet Earth. But if the result is films on the scale of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), which Peele remarkably borrowed in the making of Nope, we probably shouldn’t carp.

Moreover, his film begins with an alarmingly poignant image that Spielberg would be proud of. On the set of a 90s sitcom featuring a chimpanzee, the show’s furry star apparently ran amok, killing some of the cast and leaving a terrified child actor under a table.

The traumatized boy is now an adult. His name is Jupe and, as played by Steven Yeun, now owns a Wild West theme park featuring Haywood horses. However, other than that vague convergence of the two stories, it never becomes entirely clear why they belong in the same movie. And really, that’s the problem with Nope. It’s as if Peele had lots of ideas, many of them very good ones, and couldn’t bear to leave none out.

Imagine a cocktail so full of ingredients you can’t quite taste it. That sums up the messy story of this film.

Even the ominous biblical quote at the very beginning – ‘I will throw abominable filth at you, make you vile, and make a spectacle of you’ – becomes a source of discussion. What is its meaning?

And wait, there’s even more to cram in. Once OJ and Emerald determine that there’s definitely something up there, with the help of a guy (Brandon Perea) from the local tech shop who sets up a CCTV system, they realize they’re making money off this creepy UFO.

All they have to do is get it on film to capture the so-called ‘Oprah shot’, which they persuade a skilled cameraman (Michael Wincott) to evict the ranch. This allows Peele to satirize that very 21st century lust for fame and the happiness that comes with it.

The actual cinematography, by the modern Dutch master Hoyte van Hoytema (Spectre, Interstellar, Dunkerque), is a good reason to see Nope. And there is much more that I found intriguing, even rewarding.

Kaluuya plays great as the enigmatic OJ, but the title (a reference to OJ’s deadpan response when an alien apocalypse is imminent) is about how I felt about the movie.

It’s a no, not a yes; too disjointed to be judged as anything but the least of Peele’s three features to date. That said, roll on the fourth.

So the Eiffel Tower was just a giant love letter?

Eiffel (15, 108 minutes)

Rating:

The iconic sights of Paris are getting some dramatic attention this summer. Released just a few weeks ago, Notre-Dame On Fire, and now another French-language film, Eiffel deftly weaves fact and fiction into the story of how engineer Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) conceived and then executed his plan for a mighty grid structure soaring 330 meters above the Seine.

The actual part pertains to the tower itself and is more engaging than a story about rivets may be. Belle Epoque Paris is evoked very nicely and the construction scenes are beautifully done.

In addition, there are all kinds of fascinating historical fragments. For example, there were serious objections from the Vatican, on the grounds that the modern monstrosity would overshadow Notre-Dame. Meanwhile, his visionary creator was revered, reviled, and finally revered as his tower took shape.

Where Eiffel falls over may well be the fictionalization of a revived love story between Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) and an old flame, Adrienne, played by the bilingual Emma Mackey in her first major Francophone role.

Where Eiffel falls over may well be the fictionalization of a revived love story between Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) and an old flame, Adrienne, played by the bilingual Emma Mackey in her first major Francophone role.

The actual part pertains to the tower itself and is more engaging than a story about rivets may be.  Belle Epoque Paris is very beautifully evoked and the construction scenes are beautifully done

The actual part pertains to the tower itself and is more engaging than a story about rivets may be. Belle Epoque Paris is very beautifully evoked and the construction scenes are beautifully done

Where Eiffel falls over is perhaps the fictionalization of a revived love story between him and an old flame, Adrienne, played by the bilingual Emma Mackey in her first major Francophone role.

It’s cheesier than an overripe Camembert, and the idea that Eiffel designed his A-shaped tower as a wrought-iron love letter to Adrienne might be too much for some. But the acting is great and I must confess that I bought into it with all my heart and soul. It’s a pleasantly old-fashioned movie, an image that could have come out of 1950s Hollywood with American accents everywhere, perhaps featuring Alan Ladd or even Kirk Douglas as Eiffel. I enjoyed it very much.

Where is Anne Frank? (PG, 99 mins)

Rating:

gives American accents to the famous teenager and imaginary friend Kitty, to whom she wrote her diaries. That irritates a bit, but otherwise the Israeli director Ari Folman knows how to animate Anne’s heartbreaking story, flashing back and forth, sometimes rather erratic, between wartime and present-day Amsterdam.

Whether you want to see an animation of it is another matter. But the film is aimed entirely at a young adult audience and is made with sensitivity and skill.

  • Both films are now in theaters.

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