In Jordan Peele’s latest horror offering, Nope, we get a familiar premise told in a very unique way. The inhabitants of a remote California town are thrust into a highly peculiar and possibly life-threatening situation, involving what may or may not be an extraterrestrial presence. All of the cinematic pieces are in place in this film and the characters are interesting enough that you will be invested in them and care what happens.The mystery surrounding the bizarre events is displayed well and we, the viewer, are taken on a twisted journey unlike any other.

Hollywood horse-training royalty OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Em (Keke Palmer) Haywood manage a horse ranch that film and tv productions utilize their services. When a tragic event shakes the siblings to the core, they begin to suspect serious foul play in the form of an unidentified flying object. They soon enlist the help of former child actor Jupe Park (Steven Yeun), tech store employee Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), and renowned cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) and this motley crew embark on a wild adventure to try and find out what exactly is going on.

Ever since 2016’s Get Out, Peele’s horror film sensibility has been praised by audiences and critics alike, even resulting in an Oscar win for Peele’s screenplay. Us in 2019 continued this trend to a wonderful degree and the most recent reboot of The Twilight Zone as well. These films and tv are highly disturbing and it isn’t surprising that Peele started out in comedy. A lot of humor comes from a dark place Get Out was basically a natural transition for the filmmaker. There are a number of frightening moments in Nope that will keep you thoroughly creeped out. The trailer alone, which dropped last February, was bone-chilling all by itself and now months later, we finally get the full picture.

With any horror film or film in general, the cast is at the forefront and the relationships between everyone is what really sells any movie. Kaluuya and Palmer are just great as the Haywood siblings and their chemistry is just spot on. OJ is the no nonsense straight man and Palmer, the zany comic relief with large ambition. Yeun and Perea also add quirky humor to the mix and Wincott is a delight as a true artist who, like everyone else, has been pulled into this truly nutty predicament.

Horror films these days often lack the originality necessary to pull in viewers but Nope strays very far from this movie trap. Peele’s direction coupled with the brilliant sound design and score (by composer Michael Abels) create a film experience not seen in a while. If possible, one should try seeing this film in IMAX, just so you get the full effect and immerse yourself in the intensity of the plot. Filmed in the desolate yet lovely mountainous region of Aqua Dulce, California, the setting is just as much a character as the people in it are. Anything can happen in this region and it pretty much does. Acclaimed cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema has definitely painted a gorgeous picture with the camera, a worthy member on Peele’s gifted team. Together, they manage to draw the audience in and created something really quite special.

One of the other fascinating aspects of Nope is the strong marketing campaign over the past year which was successful in keeping the film’s plot and tone a little mysterious. The title alone suggests comedy but the disturbing images suggest a horror movie that is potentially traumatic. Thankfully, we get a lovely combination of both and while the film is scary in parts, there are equal moments of humor which definitely lighten things up a bit at the appropriate moments. While Nope isn’t a perfect film or even better than Peele’s previous works, there is a lot of meat here and the plot and themes are certainly up for discussion. Multiple viewings are warranted because an initial viewing might leave audiences wanting more. This is a film with many merits and if you want a truly different viewing experience, that with the originality of the story coupled with the performances, this makes for one interesting ride. Say “yes” to Nope.

Like a Boss


The buddy comedy formula has been something of a staple in American cinema for decades. The “comedic team” or “duo” is a rather precious and relatable entity to many moviegoers and the latest entry in this genre, Like a Boss, follows many of these tried and true filmic tropes. The brash and eternally outspoken Tiffany Haddish and the more reserved and proper Rose Byrne headline this silly female bromance and the results are actually a lot better than you might think. Both actresses handle themselves very well here and if you’re looking for a raunchy and frequent gross-out movie, then look no further.

Mia Carter (Haddish) and Mel Paige (Byrne) are best friends since college, joined at the hip, and going places in their shared career. They started their own cosmetics company (Mel & Mia’s) from the ground up and are a true underdog story. When industry powerhouse Claire Luna (Salma Hayek) discovers the small startup and decides to get involved financially, Mel and Mia’s friendship is put to the test, balancing the desire for a quick buck and preserving the integrity of their strong friendship.

Like a Boss is one of the many risqué female comedies to be released in the wake of 2011’s tremendous hit Bridesmaids. That film, like many after it, relies almost exclusively on gross-out gags and sexual gags. Rose Byrne starred in Bridesmaids, so her talents and expertise are put to good use here. She and Tiffany Haddish form an unlikely pair but their chemistry is one of the film’s saving graces. One can even see these two pairing off again in the future.

Now, while Haddish and Byrne are good in this film, it is the wonderful supporting cast that really manages to steal the scene. Salma Hayek is a great villain and her fancy tech office complex (complete with drones floating around randomly) is ridiculously over the top. You can tell she had a lot of fun in this role. The same can be said for the employees at Mel & Mia’s. There’s Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s mom from the American Pie films) in a role tailor-made for her. Her ditzy one-liners are fantastic and add a good amount of quirk to the proceedings. Finally, there’s Billy Porter (Broadway thespian), an actor with impeccable comedic timing and a style that is simply unmatched. He plays a flamboyant makeup chemist and he had me laughing harder than at anything else in the film. I don’t know much about Porter’s pervious work but I’m going to start exploring it now.

Like a Boss is mindless, yes, but it’s mindless fun. The jokes are good to a certain extent and I’m just glad this movie wasn’t very long. It actually clocks in at 83 minutes and it does breeze by. Any longer and this might have been painful or if it were longer, then maybe develop the characters a bit more and dig deeper into the leads’ college life together. The jokes fly fast and furious in Like a Boss and that is why it is so short. It’s bittersweet because there are some good actors here (like Porter) but they aren’t fleshed out or given the attention they deserve. Frustrating.

With many comedy films since Bridesmaids and anything by Judd Apatow to fill multiplexes over the past decade, it’s safe to say that originality has somewhat gone out the window. Lazy writing and gross-out gags seem to be the norm here unless you happen to catch a smart well-written comedy like Jojo Rabbit, which not only offers good sight gags but inserts music at clever moments and comments on history in a cute and smart way. Unfortunately, Like a Boss is not this type of comedy and that’s okay. It is still fun and features amusing and likable performances.

Tiffany Haddish is perfect in this movie because she has made a name for herself playing this loud and wild type of character. It is her persona, it is in her DNA, and it works. Ever since Girls Trip, she has proven that this acting method works. The same can be said for Rose Byrne, who typically plays the same uptight straight woman I many of her films. They definitely play off of each other well and one can really believe they are besties and partners in crime. The film is a commentary of friendship and business and how those two worlds can intersect and cause friction. Salma Hayek’s character creates that friction and the results are very humorous. Like a Boss won’t win any awards but it just might win your heart because the performances are so likable. It is the type of movie you know exactly what you’re going to get out of it going in and that is simply to be entertained. On the radar.

The Song of Sway Lake

Relationships between family members can sometimes be complicated. Add death to the mix and things can turn dark and almost unbearable. In the new film The Song of Sway Lake, we get a wild mix of not only a life lost but of troubled souls struggling to make sense of their lives and forming new yet awkward bonds. This is a smaller movie than most but it has a wide scope and deals with a myriad of important issues. The location is gorgeous, the acting top notch, and the direction really quite special. The film recently screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, earning high praise from those who were fortunate enough to view it.

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The Beguiled

Historical dramas can go one of two ways. They can either be syrupy, melodramatic snoozefests or they can be absorbing and utterly exquisite works of art. With The Beguiled, we get something more in sync with the latter and with an absorbing story and strong performances, we have a film that goes beyond the average cinematic work and leaves an indelible impression on its viewer.

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The Big Sick

When a standup comedian makes the sometimes lackluster transition to feature films, it can be a risky move. The comic stage and the movie screen are obviously very different and sometimes, comedians’ success doesn’t transfer over. Thankfully Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Adventure Time) has made a smooth move to film and the new romantic dramedy The Big Sick highlights his talents, not only as an every/funnyman but as a sensitive actor who draws the audience in.

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The New York Pops Plays the Music of John Williams – Recap

When it comes to film music, one name seems to pop up no matter how much of a movie aficionado or novice you are. He is a man with numerous awards and accolades to his name and he is responsible for scoring some of cinema history’s greatest titles. That man, of course, is John Williams and on June 8th, 2017, the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY hosted The New York Pops as they performed Williams’ music in a glorious concert setting. It was a truly lovely evening featuring music played expertly in a more than special venue.

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Beatriz at Dinner

Guess who’s coming to dinner. This is what is on everyone’s mind in the new offbeat dramedy Beatriz at Dinner, a quirky little film that not only presents an amusing premise but actually tackles some very timely issues. The film stars Salma Hayek in a role that seems tailor-made for the gorgeous actress and John Lithgow is in fine form here as he simply chews up the scenery. The film is smart, funny, full of terrific performances and really in a league of its own.

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New York Philharmonic: John Williams’ ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ in Concert – Recap

There have been many collaborations throughout cinema history that have made a memorable and profound impact on moviegoers. Creativity can only mushroom if likeminded individuals join forces and put forth great art together. Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg is one such individual and he has been working with maestro and genius composer John Williams for over 40 years now. Their work has gone beyond just art and continues to endure in the collective consciousness of society. The New York Philharmonic recently brought the Spielberg / Williams masterpiece E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to vivid life as they performed the orchestral score live while the 1982 film screened simultaneously.

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Big Apple Comic Con 2017 – Recap

With every year, comic cons get increasingly popular. At this point, they are pretty much a staple of modern society and why shouldn’t they be? They bring people together, people with similar interests and a passion for all things pop culture. This past March saw the return of the Big Apple Con, a fun little con that has been around since 1996. The Penn Plaza Pavillion in New York City has once again played host to the con and once again, the results were pretty great. Movie, tv, comic book, and wrestling stars delighted attendees with their presence and it was certainly a weekend to remember.

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Katsucon 2017 – Recap

Every February, a little bit of Japan comes to Maryland. Actually no, that’s not right. A LOT of Japan comes to Maryland. The annual anime and cosplay festival glow sticks comes to National Harbor and attracts a bevy of anime enthusiasts and professional and amateur costumers. It is a yearly celebration and with thousands of joyful participants, it is truly a time to treasure.

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