Film reviews: new for July 22

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  • Universal images
  • Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya in Nope

Fire of Love ***

When a filmmaker has access to tons of incredible archival footage – as director Sara Dosa does here with the material shot by volcano researchers, husband and wife Maurice and Katia Krafft – it’s understandable to want to make a narrative, when maybe it would be nice to let the material speak for itself. Miranda July tells a fairly simple chronological story about the Kraffts, speculating on the nature of their first meeting and following them through more than 20 years of risky work, until their death in 1991 during an eruption in Japan. Dosa finds ways to get creative with animations and other quirky elements, and July’s voice delivers an ethereal quality that sets it apart from standard issue. National geographic-style profile. The real star of the show is the stunning sequence captured by the Kraffts – from bubbling rivers of lava, to underwater eruptions forming strange sculptures, to massive explosions of smoke, all with the pair dangerously close. While the title and framing structure suggest fire of love is going to focus on their relationship, however, their personalities rarely emerge except to make it clear that Maurice courted danger more directly than Katia. The data they gathered through direct experience and the life-saving uses they were able to put to it prove far more fascinating than what it is like for a couple to work together in life-threatening conditions. Available July 22 through Broadway Center Cinemas. (NR)

The Gray Man **1/2
Clearly Netflix was aiming for the moon with this mega-budget, mega-action, world-touring show, but Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Endgame) might have had something much nicer on their hands if they had just embraced its simple dad-paperback roots. Adapting the first book in a series by Mark Greaney, it features Courtland Gentry (Ryan Gosling), a Florida inmate recruited to become a shadowy CIA agent. Eighteen years into his career on the program where he is simply known as “The Six”, he is caught up in the search for evidence of his employers’ dark doings and hunted down by sociopathic freelance killer Lloyd Hansen ( Chris Evans, always happy when he plays a bastard). The narrative has a deeply odd structure, pausing briefly for a flashback that gives Six a responsibility as a surrogate father clearly tied to his own traumatic childhood, when any other film of its kind would have made it the center of attention. the Leon (the professional). But instead of indicating a unique willingness to avoid clichés, it’s evidence of a film that throws absolutely everything up the wall – several revered mentors for Six, a reluctant partner (Ana de Armas) in her efforts to stay alive, a lot of ironic dialogues, etc. – hoping to find something that will stick. It feels like a patchwork of materials, where the decent action beats are buried inside of dragging backdrops. A streaming service’s summer tent pole shouldn’t look like something you saw parts of on TNT last night. Available now in theaters; available July 22 via Netflix. (R)

No ***1/2
Give me another viewing, or even a few more days before the deadline, and maybe I’ll be able to cobble together the ambitious, seemingly unrelated ideas at the center of writer/director Jordan Peele’s alien invasion thriller; that’s the main thing holding me back from even more enthusiasm for his wonderfully entertaining summer movie. On the outskirts of Southern California, OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) attempt to keep the family business of trained horses alive for film and television productions after their father dies in a bizarre accident. But they’re also trying to stay alive, period, after it seems their ranch is the focal point of… Something high in the sky. As a filmmaker, Peele’s instincts are nearly always perfect, from the gripping opening shot that places a shoe at the focal point of bloody mayhem, to his ability to use the sudden loss of electrical energy in various ways to indicate The approach. of his mysterious threat. It’s a creature feature built more on a sense of fun and creativity than disaster and spectacle, which makes Tremors one of its closest gender cousins ​​(which I consider high praise). Peele also has some things to say about erasing black innovators from film history, what it means to have documentary evidence, and the arrogance involved in thinking you can tame a wild thing for entertainment value. (that last something that feels done to death by the jurassic park franchise) – and I don’t see where these pieces fit together yet. East Nope as insightful as it is purely pleasing to the eye? Come back to me in a year. Available July 22 in theaters. (R)