Box Office $123.28 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for language throughout and some violence/bloody images.
Stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Steven Yeun, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David.

Comedian-turned-auteur Jordan Peele’s latest foray into metaphorical horror blends sci-fi and Western elements into an engrossing tale of a UFO plaguing a ranch on the fringes of Hollywood.

Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as OJ and Em Haywood, whose family business provides horses for use in Hollywood productions. After the death of their father months earlier due to mysterious debris falling from the sky, the Haywood ranch has been facing financial difficulties, forcing OJ to sell horses to a local Western-themed amusement park owned by former child star Jupe (Steven Yeun), whose biggest claim to fame was appearing on 1990s sitcom that was canceled after its chimpanzee star went on a rampage, destroyed the set and injured several members of the cast.

As the Haywoods struggle to reverse their fortunes, they discover what seems to be a flying saucer that neutralizes electricity when it flies by, often flying low to the ground and consuming everything in sight, horses and people included. Realizing that proof of UFOs could provide the windfall they need, they plot to photograph it by setting up a series of cameras in such a way that not all of them would be fritzed off by the UFO at the same time.

Joined by a local electronics store clerk (Brandon Perea) motivated by curiosity to assist their efforts, they soon start to understand the nature of the mysterious visitor and its role in their father’s death and family’s plight.

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A discussion in the Blu-ray bonus materials labels the film as a combination of Close Encounters and Jaws, which is an apt description given the prevalence of Spielbergian overtones throughout the film. Writer-director Peele himself calls the film a tribute to the oft-overlooked artisans of Hollywood, while also serving as an examination of exploitation and humanity’s addiction to spectacle. The prominent motif in this regard is reflected in the film’s depiction of attempts to placate wild animals for entertainment purposes. Even the horses, long considered a tame companion in mankind’s spread of civilization, can abandon their training and prove dangerous when startled.

Peele’s skill at layering tension draws the audience into the mystery of the flying object alongside the Haywoods, while brilliant sound design and fantastic cinematography enhance the unsettling mood.

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The making of the film is covered in great detail in the hour-long “Shadows: The Making of Nope” documentary included with the Blu-ray. Supplemental featurettes include “Call Him Jean Jacket,” a nearly 15-minute piece about the design and symbolism of the UFO; and the five-and-a-half-minute “Mystery Man of Muybridge,” an examination of the historical reel of a jockey riding a horse that is one of the earliest examples of the potential of film and is one of the central influences of Nope.

Also included is a five-and-a-half-minute gag reel, and five deleted scenes that run a total of nine-and-a-half minutes, though some are more akin to extended sequences with unfinished visual effects.

‘Nomadland,’ ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ Top New Disc, Digital Releases April 27

Oscar Best Picture winner Nomadland, from Disney’s Searchlight Pictures, tops the list of new disc releases April 27, while Warner’s Judas and the Black Messiah leads the list of new digital releases.

The critically acclaimed Nomadland, an exploration of modern-day van life on the road starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand, is available on Blu-ray Disc two days after winning three Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Chloé Zhao, and Best Actress for McDormand. Due to the pandemic limiting its theatrical run, it is also the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner ever, with just over $5.45 million worldwide. It was made available on Hulu concurrently with its theatrical run and released for digital sellthrough April 13. Read a review here.

Also arriving April 27 on DVD and Blu-ray is the crime thriller Vanquish, from Lionsgate. The film stars Morgan Freeman as a retired cop who forces a former drug courier (Ruby Rose) to do his bidding by kidnapping her daughter.

Oscar winner Judas and the Black Messiah becomes available for digital purchase April 27 before its Blu-ray Disc and DVD release May 4 from Warner. The story follows FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), who infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and is tasked with keeping tabs on their chairman, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). O’Neal soon finds his loyalties divided between Hampton’s message and the FBI’s orders to take him down. Kaluuya won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and the film also won the Oscar for Best Original Song (“Fight For You”).

The Liam Neeson action thriller The Marksman is available for digital purchase starting April 27 before shooting to Blu-ray and DVD May 11 from Universal Pictures. Neeson plays Jim Hanson, an ex-Marine and hardened Arizona rancher who simply wants to be left alone as he tries to make a living on an isolated stretch of borderland. But everything changes when he witnesses migrants fleeing from a band of assassins sent by a ruthless drug cartel.

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases the DC Comics-based animated superhero movie Justice Society: World War II for digital sellthrough April 27. The 42nd entry in the DC Universe line of animated movies finds The Flash (voiced by Matt Bomer), prior to the formation of the Justice League, speeding back in time to find the Golden Age’s top superhero team, the Justice Society of America, locked in an epic battle against the Nazis. It arrives on Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray May 11.

Robin Wright’s directorial debut Land, in which she also stars, arrives on digital April 27 from Universal Pictures. The drama tells the story of one woman’s search for meaning in the vast and harsh American wilderness. It will be released on Blu-ray and DVD May 11.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

‘Queen & Slim’ Due Digitally Feb. 18, on Disc March 3

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release the drama Queen & Slim through digital retailers Feb. 18, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 3.

While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) and a black woman (Jodie Turner-Smith), are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and tragic results, and the man kills the police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. But the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people across the country. As they drive, these two unlikely fugitives will discover themselves and each other in the most dire and desperate of circumstances, forging a deep and powerful love that will reveal their shared humanity and shape the rest of their lives.

The cast also includes Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Indya Moore, country singer Sturgill Simpson, and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. The film was directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe, who also produced the film together.

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Queen & Slim earned $42.8 million at the domestic box office.

Home video extras include commentary with Matsoukas and Waithe; the featurette “A Deeper Meaning,” in which the cast and filmmakers discuss the deeper meanings of the film; the featurette “Melina & Lena,” a behind-the-scenes look at the collaboration; “Off The Script,” in which Waithe reads from her original screenplay for Queen & Slim; and “On the Run With Queen & Slim,” a look at filming Cleveland and New Orleans.

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Black Panther


Street 5/15/18;
Box Office $694 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, 39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture.
Stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis.

Black Panther is a prime example of the effectiveness the superhero genre can have in drawing upon the mythological aspects of comic book storytelling to provide a thought-provoking allegory for modern times that is both powerful and entertaining.

Director Ryan Coogler’s entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the 18th film to enter the canon) is one of those films that presents a distinct point of view yet is also likely to be differently interpreted based on the mindset of the viewer, to the degree that deciphering its true message should spark a wide array of debates for some time to come. But, at its core, as a character-driven superhero action blockbuster, the film ranks among the most memorable and well-crafted in the genre, with the most pressing factor of its ultimate ranking on any best-of lists likely to be predominately determined by one’s own personal connection to the characters and story.

Not unlike the “Thor” movies, but more compelling and grounded, the story is driven by Shakespearean family drama, in this case centered on the character of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Picking up from the events of that film, T’Challa must return to his home country of Wakanda to assume the mantle of king.

As the centerpiece of one of the film’s primary motifs of things hiding in plain sight, the tiny African nation presents itself as a poor third-world nation, but in actuality is a technologically advanced civilization fueled by a magical element that crashed into Earth long ago.

T’Challa’s reign is soon threatened by a long-lost cousin (Michael B. Jordan) who grew up in America after a devastating fallout between T’Challa’s father and uncle, and resents that Wakanda never sought to help the global plight of the descendants of Africa.

Black Panther does a good job incorporating traditional African tribal culture and the natural beauty of the continent into a strong “what if” scenario involving a mighty African kingdom that had control of its own resources and avoided the imperialism of the past few centuries.

The film invites comparisons to The Lion King for its rich visual and musical representation of Africa. Yet Coogler is also adept at presenting the sci-fi elements of the story, from Wakanda’s technical marvels and vast cityscapes, to an energizing action setpiece in South Korea.

Black Panther also presents strong representation for women, from the spunky intelligence of T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who spearheads of the designs of Wakanda’s new technologies; to Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’Challa’s love interest and a savvy Wakandan spy; to the fierce Okoye (Danai Gurira), who commands a fighting force of female Wakandan warriors who would give Wonder Woman’s Amazons a run for their money.

The Blu-ray contains a number of good extras aimed at fans of both the film and the comic book Black Panther. Primary among these is a 20-minute roundtable discussion between Coogler, the film’s producers and some of the writers of the “Black Panther” comic book over the past few decades.

Coogler also offers an introduction to the film and an insightful commentary track that imparts some deeper meaning on some of the character dynamics.

The Blu-ray also includes four deleted scenes that expand a few aspects of the story.

In addition, the disc includes 25 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a two-minute gag reel. There’s also a nine-minute retrospective of the MCU’s 10-year history, plus a two-minute preview of the next film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, which hits theaters July 6.

The digital versions include exclusive Wakandan travel ads, plus a featurette about the fight training for the film’s stunts.