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.

Oscar Foreign Language Entry ‘Burning’ and Horror Film ‘Accident’ Coming to Disc from Well Go in March

Burning, South Korea’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 91st Academy Awards, and the horror film Accident are coming on disc from Well Go USA Entertainment in March.

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Due on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD March 5 is Burning, based on the short story “Barn Burning” by Haruki Murakami. The psychological tale of all-consuming jealousy follows the story of three individuals, an alienated young man, Jongsu (Ah-in Yoo); Haemi (newcomer Jong-seo Jun), a spirited woman who offers romantic possibilities; and Ben (Steven Yeun, “The Walking Dead”), a wealthy and sophisticated young man who returns with her from a recent trip. When Jongsu learns of Ben’s mysterious hobby and Haemi suddenly disappears, his confusion and obsessions begin to mount, culminating in a stunning finale. Special features include the behind-the-scenes featurette “About the Characters.”

Due March 19 on Blu-ray is the horror film Accident, the first feature-length film from writer-director Dan Tondowski. Stephanie Shield (Death Race 2), Roxane Hayward (Death Race: Inferno), Tyrone Keogh (Starship Troopers 3: Marauder) and Keenan Arrison (upcoming Tomb Raider) star in this thriller about a group of teenagers trapped at the bottom of a ravine with a psycho out to kill them. When a foursome “borrows” a car for a night of fun, what starts as a wild joy ride turns into a nightmare. After a violent crash, they discover that being stuck at the bottom of a ravine in an overturned car is the least of their problems. The psychotic owner of the car that they stole has them in his crosshairs and will stop at nothing to get both the car and its contents back.

The Star


Street 2/20/18;
Sony Pictures;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for some thematic elements.
Voices of Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Aidy Bryant, Anthony Anderson, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Mariah Carey, Phil Morris, Roger Craig Smith.

This fluffy faith-based animated adventure frames the tale of the Nativity from the point of view of a group of animals whose lives intersect with the coming of the Messiah.

The Star follows a little donkey (Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead”) with big dreams who befriends the pregnant Mary (Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin,” playing another woman pregnant by unusual means here) before she leaves for Bethlehem, then sets off with his animal friends to protect her after learning King Herod (Christopher Plummer) has sent hunters after her in his attempt to prevent the birth of the King of the Jews. The camels (Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey) of the Three Wise Men also seek out the impending birth of Jesus to protect him.

Lest anyone worry about the film straying too far from scripture with its talking animals, one of its best running gags involves the fact that the animals can communicate freely with each other, but just sound like animals to the humans around them.

It’s a testament to the earnestness of The Star, and a sign of how it expects its audience to approach the film, that an early scene involves Mary returning home to her husband, Joseph, after being away for an extended period of time. Visibly pregnant, she explains it’s the Son of God and that it’s his duty to help her bring the child into the world, and he embraces the calling. Were this not a faith-based movie aimed at children, I suspect most men being told that story by their wife might have a different reaction.

The film’s screenplay was originally intended for a live-action production of the Jim Henson Company, which reportedly would have employed a style similar to Babe, using visual effects to make the animals appear to talk. When that didn’t pan out, the project was revived at Sony Pictures Animation by DeVon Franklin, a prominent Christian preacher and motivational speaker who has produced a number of notable faith-based films, such as Heaven Is for Real.

The end result is a cute adventure that, despite some broad Looney Tunes-type humor, remains grounded in its piety. While not a musical, the film relies heavily on a soundtrack consisting of modern renderings of some classic Christmas songs.

The songs are the subject of a good portion of the Blu-ray’s bonus materials, which include several “lyric videos,” two sing-alongs and a dance-along video.

The Blu-ray also offers some typical behind-the-scenes featurettes, such as the 13-minute “An All Star Cast” and the two-minute “Creating the World of 9 Months B.C.” There’s also a commentary with executive producer Franklin and director Tim Reckart.

But the Blu-ray also has ambitions to serve as a faith-based teaching tool, and to that end it includes the 10-minute “Faith All Year Round With DeVon Franklin,” in which the producer discusses the film’s message with a group of children. For those who prefer something more interactive, there are three arts-and-crafts videos.

Finally, the Blu-ray offers a bit of background art for special occasions in the form of an animated Nativity scene that runs on a 21-hour loop.