Nope Review: A Unique and Horrifying Take on the Alien Invasion Movie.

I had been excited to see Jordan Peele’s Nope ever since the first trailer. 
It is one of my all time favourite trailers, since it made me want to watch the movie while revealing very little about its plot.
Even though I think the second trailer showed a bit much, I was still excited for it, especially since it’s a Jordan Peele film.
He is certainly one of the most inventive directors working today when it comes to story ideas and social commentary.
I loved his first film Get Out and, while I did enjoy his second film Us, the third act broke my suspension of disbelief.
So, going into Nope, I was hoping for an experience more akin to Get Out than Us.
My wish was granted, since my time with Nope was the exact opposite of Us.
Driving home from watching Us at the movies, I kept realizing a bunch of problems and things that did not make sense when I was driving home.
But for Nope, when I was driving home, I realized a lot more things I loved about it.

There’s a lot of interesting details in Nope, which should make a second watch more than worth it.

There is so much I want to talk about with this movie but a lot of it is spoilers, so I will keep that part of the review at the bottom, while this section remains spoiler free, apart from the premise.
Nope stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as siblings, OJ and Emerald Haywood, the descendants of the black man who starred riding a horse in the very first assembly of photographs used to create a motion picture.
Now owning a ranch, OJ and Emerald begin to realize it is a hot spot of potential extraterrestrial activity that is targeting their horses.
The two seek to obtain proof of the aliens now haunting their land, what they call “the opera shot”, to recieve fame and fortune from the spectacle.
Nope is a film about the dangers of such endeavors with not only OJ and Emerald being at risk but also the characters of theme park owner Ricky “Jupe” Park (Stephen Yeun), tech assistant Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), as they also seek their own forms of spectacle.
Such spectacle is not the only focus, however, because Nope also discusses exploitation, primarily that of tragedies and animals, and I think it does this exceedingly well. 

Both of Nope‘s primary themes, those of spectacle and exploitation, are handled excellently.

Some have argued that a certain plotline does not work cohesively with the main story of the movie.
This is a criticism I can understand because the farthest this plotline goes in connecting to the actual story is providing an understanding of Jupe’s motivations and actions.
However, when you look at the themes of exploitation and the danger of fame seeking spectacle, this plot line serves as a perfect parallel to the events of the main story; a story which is both funny and terrifying.
The terror, especially, stands out, with there being three specific scenes that had me constantly whispering “Nope!” to myself while watching.
One of these horrifying scenes ties into the spin Peele pulls with the alien invasion storyline, which is easily the most unique take on aliens I have seen put to film in a long time.
It was a clear step up from Us, where the explanation for what was going on raised many plot holes for me.

Nope’s reveal made me appreciate the film even more.

As for my criticisms of the movie, I do feel like some of the characters were a bit underutilized to the point that their actions and intent needed to be explained a little better.
This was particularly the case for Antlers Holst’s character, since something he does in the third act had me scratching my head a bit.
I do think this action works with the film’s themes, and Antler’s dialogue does seem to explain it, but I still needed a little more explanation about what drove him to come to the mindset which caused him to make such a choice.

It felt like some scenes showcasing Antler’s mindset were cut, making his later actions lack some context.

This was only a minor issue though.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Nope.
It is a unique take on the alien invasion movie, is terrifying at times and, like most of Peele’s films, has compelling themes.
I would say it is currently my second favourite Jordan Peele film, right behind Get Out. 

Spoiler Section:
Now for the part of the review where I can speak freely about spoilers because, oh, boy, do I have things to say.
For starters, I absolutely loved the twist that the UFO was actually the alien.
It actually redeemed a prior part of the movie for me, which was the aliens in the barn scene.
This scene was so unnerving, at first.
I remember seeing the alien stand up in the theatre, and then seeing another one pop out, causing me to constantly whisper “Nope!” to myself
Then, it was revealed to be a fake out, with Jupe’s kids playing a prank on OJ and I felt letdown.
The scene was so tense and then it lost steam instantly with that reveal.

The alien scene went from creepy to disappointing the moment it was revealed to be a fake out.

This is why the reveal of the UFO being the alien saved this scene for me.
Had the film actually been about little green men, then it would have been just another alien invasion movie.
The actual reveal brought a unique spin that I have not seen before in an alien movie, and quite a horrifying spin at that.
Watching Jupe, his entire family, and their audience get sucked up into the alien, called Jean Jacket, to be eaten alive was horrifying.
The slow realization that they were all being sucked into a claustrophobic digestive track had me wincing. 

What an absolutley horrible way to die.

What makes the whole thing even more tragic is how it ties in perfectly with Jupe’s past.
The Gordy attack (based off the very real and horrifying attack from the monkey Travis) plays out as a perfect parallel to Jean Jacket’s massacre.
Gordy, a wild animal, was exploited on the set of Gordy’s Home, leading to him mauling the stars and traumatising Jupe.
Then, decades later, Jupe repeats the same cycle, attempting to exploit Jean Jacket, but it gets him, his family, and dozens of innocent spectators violently killed.
As for Jean Jacket, I like how Peele leaves so much about it unexplained, since it allows the audience to come to their own conclusions.
In fact, I don’t think Jean Jacket is even an alien.
I think it’s just a species of animal that evolved like a chameleon to avoid detection so it can stalk its prey.
Every real UFO sighting is just another one of its species on the prowl, mistaken for flying saucers.

One detail that could point to Jean Jacket being an animal rather than an alien is that its look and movement when it unfurls is supposedly based on animals like the jellyfish, giving it connections to Earth.

There being more Jean Jackets out there also makes for quite the horrifying thought, as you have to wonder how many missing people have been killed by them?
If one were to see what they thought was a UFO, then they would naturally try to get a good look at it, which would then be seen as a sign of aggression, causing them to be eaten.
That’s why Jupe and the spectators were eaten and it’s probably why the two missing hikers went missing before the movie started as well, with their belongings then being shot down onto the Haywood ranch by Jean Jacket, resulting in the Haywood siblings’ father’s death.
That last detail is one Peele left evidence for throughout for the audience to connect the dots, rather than outright confirming it. 
It was details like this I picked up on during my drive home from seeing Nope in theatres and I am sure that there will be more hidden details to find on subsequent watches.

Toy Story 4 Review: Four Installments in, Still Going Strong (Reposted).

4 and a half stars
I can honestly not think of a single film series where there have been four fantastic installments in a row, except Toy Story.
Before seeing the most recent of them, I, like many, was concerned about where the story would go.
Toy Story 3 felt like a perfect sendoff for the franchise so I was concerned that they were just doing another one for a cash grab.
I was wrong, however, because Toy Story 4 is another heart warming installment in the series with great character growth, animation and laughs.

animation toy story.jpg
Toy Story 4 delivers a strong story with the best animation out of all the films by a wide margin.

Directed by Josh Cooley, the film follows Woody (Tom Hanks) who is still dealing with the departure of Andy in the previous film pretty heavily.
When his new kid, Bonnie, literally makes a toy out of a spork, which she names Forky (Tony Hale), Woody makes it his mission to protect him to ensure her happiness.
However, this becomes difficult when Forky is separated from them on a family trip and, upon looking for him, Woody is reunited with the long lost Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who has certainly changed a lot since Woody, and the audience, saw her.

Bo Peep
Woody and Bo Peep’s relationship is at the center of the story, being a key part to Woody’s character arc.

The two then work together to rescue Forky and bring him back to Bonnie, before she and her family leave them behind.
Accompanying this story is, once again, the animation and comedy, which are all spot on.
Animation continues to get better and better every year, and it looks especially stunning in Toy Story 4.
Along with this, the comedy is also fantastic with new characters Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), and Duke Caboom (Keeanu Reeves) being particular highlights.

Ducky and Bunny.jpg
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are hilarious as Ducky and Bunny, especially during the plush rush scene, which is more than the trailers make it out to be.

It is with the character development of Woody, though, that the film truly shines, with Woody having what is probably his best arc out of any of the films.
Many of the new characters have great arcs as well, including the film’s villain (if you can even call her that) Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks).
However, this also ties into the one issue I have with the film.
This being that, even though Woody, Bo, and other characters’ arcs are fantastic, characters like Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and many more of Woody’s friends feel a bit underdeveloped and underused.
Otherwise, Toy Story 4 is another great installment in the franchise, and it will be interesting to see if it continues or if this is the final one for real this time.


US Review: A Double Edged Explanation.

3 and a half stars
Jordan Peele is an interesting director.
He started out doing comedy so it was a huge surprise when he successfully transferred to horror in his first film Get Out, which was my second favourite film of 2017.
So, needless to say, I was very excited to see his next film Us, even more so when I heard the premise.
Us follows The Wilson family, consisting of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong-o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Johnson) and Jason (Evan Alex), as they go on a trip to Santa Cruz.
However, their fun is cut horrifically short when a family of doppelgangers invade their home, intent on killing them.
What follows is an intense battle for survival as the Wilson family fights their doppelgangers.
First of all, I will say that the performances in Us are all stellar.
Lupita Nyong-o steals the show both as Adelaide and her demented counterpart Red, in two very different performances.

The two performances Nyong-o gives are both great, with Red being dementedly creepy, and Adelaide sympathetically human.

And it is not just her because every other actor does a great job as the real person and the doppelganger, pulling off relatable and creepy performances simultaneously.
Another great thing about Us is Jordan Peele’s direction, with him balancing horror and comedy very well.
I remember one scene where the audience and myself were horrified at what was happening on screen, only to laugh seconds later when an incredibly funny joke was made.
The balance is just that good.
I also loved the symbolism and foreshadowing in the film, which were some of my favourite things about Get Out and certainly continues here.
This symbolism and foreshadowing all builds up to the big explanation of the origins behind the doppelgangers, something I had been dying to know for the entire film.
Unfortunately, the explanation we get is a double edged sword.
On the one hand, it brilliantly cements Peele’s social commentary about American society, however, on the other, the explanation makes absolutely no sense.
I was very confused about the logistics of it all when I was sitting in the theater and came up with plot holes every minute while I was driving home.

While the explanation for the doppelgangers in Us does drive home the great commentary, it raises a boat load of questions that hindered my experience.

Finally, there is the way the film ends, which is, in all honesty, very predictable.
Still, these may not be problems for everyone.
If you have a rather large suspension of disbelief you may be able to look past the plot holes of the explanation, and even if the ending is predictable it is still a good one.
It is just that these aspects kind of brought the film down for me.
Us is still a lot of fun though, and Jordan Peele continues to do a great job at creating commentary on American society with it.