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.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

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.

Follow us on Instagram!

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.


Street Date 9/13/22;
Box Office $ 118.31 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action/peril.
Voices of Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Efren Ramirez, Keira Hairston.

When first announced, the idea of a solo Buzz Lightyear movie caused a lot of confusion among “Toy Story” fans, particularly with the casting of Chris Evans to voice the character instead of Tim Allen.

The rationale, as originally explained, was that the movie would be the story of the astronaut that provided the basis of the toy that ends up in Andy’s collection. This conjured notions of Pixar doing a “Right Stuff” type movie set during the Cold War, which would seem to justify the casting change.

Then the trailers arrived and previewed a story containing the usual Buzz Lightyear staples associated with the toy: futuristic ships, Star Command and Zurg, belying the notion of this being about a “real” character within the “Toy Story” universe.

No, as the opening text of the film makes clear, Lightyear is a movie released in the early 1990s in the “Toy Story” universe that provided the inspiration for the Buzz Lightyear IP and became Andy’s favorite movie, which is why he wanted the toy.

Providing in-universe backstories for the fictional toys in Andy’s room is certainly not out of the ordinary for the “Toy Story” franchise. The second movie went into a lot of detail about Woody’s origins as a character in an old 1950s Western puppet show.

When it comes to Buzz Lightyear, however, Disney and Pixar already played the IP expansion card with the “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” cartoon in 2000 that established in its first episode that it was the inspiration for the Buzz toyline. The show even had a spinoff video game like the one seen in the second movie.

But if the Buzz Lightyear the toy is supposed to be the merchandising for Lightyear, then that just brings back the question of why Tim Allen isn’t doing the voice, since the actors in sci-fi movies record voices for toy versions of their characters all the time.

Changing the voice isn’t so unusual in those circumstances either, as toy tie-ins often bring in soundalikes to save money. But is that supposed to mean Tim Allen’s voice for the Buzz Lightyear toy has now been retconned to be a cheap imitation of Chris Evan’s voice from this movie? That doesn’t seem very respectful to Allen’s contributions to the franchise for the past 25 years. (And it’s doubly ironic considering how much Evans is trying to echo Allen’s performance.)

To be fair, the “Star Command” series did have Patrick Warburton voicing Buzz, though Allen did the voice for the movie version of the first episode.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Lightyear pretty much disregards any storyline connections to the “Star Command” show anyway. It plays a lot more like a reimagining of the Buzz character, with the tag line about it being Andy’s favorite movie added later to tie it more explicitly to the franchise.

The idea of Lightyear being a big-budget sci-fi adventure movie from the early 1990s doesn’t quite ring true either, as it presents themes and plot points that while common among Hollywood attitudes today would not have been touched by studios 30 years ago.

On top of that, Lightyear, though animated for us, is supposed to be a live-action movie within the context of the “Toy Story” movies. That’s yet another aspect to the presentation that franchise fans couldn’t quite wrap their heads around, and when all was said and done it ended up being among the lowest-grossing box office performers in the Pixar canon.(Maybe that’s the movie they should have made — an actual live-action Buzz Lightyear movie done in the style of early 1990s actioners with minimal CGI. It certainly would have upped the curiosity factor.) 

The story itself seems like a pastiche of better films of the past decade, from Interstellar to The Lego Movie 2, that presents a rather generic Buzz Lightyear adventure layered with subtle references to the “Toy Story” movies.

Buzz is part of a Star Command expedition that crashes on an alien world. Vowing to get the crew home, he volunteers to test-fly new ships with hyperdrive technology, but each mission pushes him years into the future while he doesn’t age at all. He witnesses the crash survivors form a new colony, and a new generation decides to stay on the planet and cancel further missions. So Buzz finds himself a man out of time, but after his last attempt to break the lightspeed barrier he discovers the planet is under attack by an army of killer robots led by Zurg. To stop them, he is forced to team with a ragtag squad of Star Command cadets, their efforts ultimately conveying a message of teamwork and togetherness over individualism. Plus there’s a cute little robot cat.

Lightyear has its moments, but it’s probably going to end up as the least memorable “Toy Story” movie. The funniest thing about it just might be how many kids will want to see it thanks to the glut of Lightyear toys released to stores as a marketing tie-in, just like Andy did, apparently. Judging by the box office returns, not that many — I guess parents weren’t fooled (or waited for it to show up on Disney+).

Follow us on Instagram

The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with the key filmmakers, who discuss how the story evolved and how scenes changed over time because they weren’t meeting expectations. For example, the film was originally going to be the story of Buzz’s first Star Command mission and earning his iconic suit, while the final product starts with him already on active duty and wearing the suit.

Also included are nearly 27 minutes of deleted sequence storyboards that provide more insights into this early conception for the film’s storyline.

Rounding out the extras are three featurettes. The 14-minute “Building the World of Lightyear” show’s off the process of designing the film’s various environments, ships and characters; The nine-minute “The Zap Patrol” profile’s Buzz’s new team; and the 10-minute “Toyetic” is about the film’s toy merchandise, as well as how toys such as Legos were used to help design various ships for the film with an eye toward creating the toys later. The heavy toy haul isn’t unexpected for a “Toy Story” movie, but seeing the how the production and toy development are tied together certainly explains a lot.

Competition Series ‘Foodtastic’ to Debut on Disney+ Dec. 15

All episodes of the Disney+ original series “Foodtastic” will debut Dec. 15 on the streaming service.

Hosted by Emmy award-winning actress Keke Palmer, “Foodtastic” is a global competition series in which skilled artists create extravagant scene work and larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of food. From vegetables and butter to fruit and cheese, everyday items are transformed into works of art. Each episode is rooted in iconic Disney IP and the food-based builds are an extension of that world.

Flour Shop founder Amirah Kassem and NYC’s City Cakes founder chef Benny Rivera serve as food art experts on the series.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!



Street Date 12/10/19;
Box Office $104.88 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive sexual material, drug content, language and nudity.
Stars Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B, Mercedes Ruehl, Lizzo, Frank Whaley.

On the surface, Hustlers would seem to be little more than the simple tale of strippers ripping off their clients. But it’s actually a deeper story of friendship, empowerment and disenfranchised women striking back to get their cut of the system.

Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, the film was inspired by the New York Magazine article “The Hustlers at Scores: The Ex-Strippers Who Stole From (Mostly) Rich Men and Gave to, Well, Themselves,” which detailed a scheme to bring wealthy clientele into the club and intoxicate them to the point where they would run up huge credit card bills while passed out, with the ladies taking a generous cut.

Seeing Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s names pop up as producers (their production company owned the film rights to the article) might lend to an assumption that this is a comedy, although it turns out to be much more of a character drama.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Constance Wu stars as Dorothy, a newcomer to the exotic dancing business who is taken under the wing of Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) in the early 2000s. The film does a good job showcasing the less glamorous nature of exotic dancing as a profession for women who are just trying to raise families and get by just like everyone else. Technically regarded as independent contractors, they have to pay the clubs for the opportunity to work there. But Ramona has been around long enough to have learned all the tricks to make the job both fun and profitable. In 2007 Dorothy made more than most high-profile surgeons, she brags to a reporter (Julia Stiles) in a flash-forward meant as a nod to the story’s origins as a magazine article.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram!

The other half of the equation is the clientele, mostly sleazy Wall Street types who love to flash their money around for a good time.

But with Wall Street hit hard by the 2008 recession, the strip clubs end up taking a hit, just as an unexpected pregnancy forces Dorothy to exit the business. After a few years trying to get by with limited job prospects, she returns to the club to find that most of the new dancers are Russian prostitutes she won’t degrade herself enough to compete with.

Enter Ramona, who decides it’s time for the girls to get their piece of the Wall Street action. She and her team of girls head into the city to “market” the club, which usually just involves picking up a lonely guy at a fancy bar and getting him drunk enough to come back with him, so they can get a cut of whatever he spends.

To up the ante, they start drugging their potential clients and stealing their credit cards, getting all the necessary PIN codes and personal information they need from the half-conscious dupes, who usually head home too embarrassed to report anything was stolen.

According to Scafaria in a solo commentary track on the Blu-ray, the film was shot at a real strip club, whose actual owner and some of the real girls who worked there appeared in the film, which lends a healthy verisimilitude to the proceedings.

Scafaria’s energetic and informative commentary turns out to be the Blu-ray’s only extra feature. In it, she also relates the themes she wanted the film to explore and expresses how fortunate she was to have landed most of her first choices for the casting and song rights.

That she apologizes for the film’s depictions of smoking and people wearing fur coats is just a sign of the times we live in now, I guess.