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"NOPE"
(2022) (Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: A brother and sister attempt to capture evidence of extraterrestrial abductions taking place in and around their remote horse ranch.
PLOT:

Following the unexpected death of their father after he was struck by an object falling from the sky, OJ (DANIEL KALUUYA) and Emerald Haywood (KEKE PALMER) have taken over the day-to-day operations of Haywood's Hollywood Horses that provides equine talent for film and TV productions.

OJ is the more active participant, but due to a dire financial situation, he's been forced to sell some of their horses to Ricky Park (STEVEN YEUN), a former child actor who survived an on-set tragedy and now runs a tourist trap, old west attraction out in the middle of nowhere California.

When the siblings discover that their area has attracted UFOs, they head to the nearby electronics store where techie Angel Torres (BRANDON PEREA) sells them the gear needed to capture such sightings on video. Their intent is to make money selling footage of the aliens showing up and sucking horses and people off the ground, presumably to their deaths.

When that doesn't work out as planned, they eventually turn to filmmaker Antlers Holst (MICHAEL WINCOTT) in hopes that he'll be able to capture such events on film. All of which means they put themselves in harm's way where they could just as easily be the next victims as they might strike it rich if they sell such footage.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

Ever have one of those "maybe it's just me" moments? You know, where you end up going against the grain and overwhelming majority opinion about some person, place, or thing? For instance, I know a lot of people who love blue cheese dressing and deviled eggs (not necessarily together). For me, they smell like mold and sewer gas respectively, and you couldn't pay me to eat either (okay, maybe if the money amount hits a ridiculous figure, but you get the point).

The same holds true for certain movies that most people -- critics and regular moviegoers -- love. I wasn't a big fan of the "Lord of the Rings" movies (they walk, and walk, and then walk some more), and I didn't see what the big deal was about the extraterrestrials-are-here sci-fi movie, "Arrival." Ditto for director Jordan Peele's third offering that touches on some of the same subject matter, the simply titled "Nope."

Now, before you think I have a thing against sci-fi movies, in general, I love them, including those where beings from other worlds show up, be that "E.T.," "War of the Worlds," the silly "Mars Attacks," "A Quiet Place" or the superlative "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Steven Spielberg's masterpiece came to mind more than once while watching Peele's film, most notably in the moments designed to induce goosebumps and fright.

Working once again from his own script -- but mostly abandoning, beyond a moment or two, his social commentary about race and such that fueled "Get Out" and "Us" -- Peele delivers some creepy "they're here" moments that are quite effective. But he begins with a flashback prologue featuring the sounds of violence, screaming, and shouting, and then the brief view of a blood-covered chimp on the set of a TV show, next to the motionless legs of one of its victims.

We then move to present-day California, out in the middle of nowhere on a horse ranch where OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and his "Pops" (Keith David) are tending to their horses that they provide for TV and film productions. Out of the blue, odd sounds come from somewhere in the sky and then ordinary items start raining down around them, with one fatally striking the older man.

Six months later, Haywood's Hollywood Horses is in financial straits, with OJ getting little support from his sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer). Accordingly, he's had to sell some of their horses to a nearby "wild west" tourist trap type attraction run by Ricky Park (Steven Yeun) who just so happens to be a former child actor who just so happened to witness the aforementioned chimp attack as a kid.

Things look dire for the Haywood siblings until both witness what they believe are repeat UFO appearances above their ranch, prompting Emerald to believe that if they capture that on video, they could sell said footage for some big bucks. That results in them buying surveillance gear from tech guy Angel (Brandon Perea) and eventually convincing filmmaker Holst (Michael Wincott) to help them, especially since he has a hand-crank film camera not subject to electronics temporarily rendered useless by the UFOs' EMP-type effects.

If anything, Peele keeps the viewer on their toes trying to figure out how everything is interconnected and in what ways things might play out. Alas, at least for yours truly, that doesn't end up being much, thus resulting in diminishing returns the longer we proceed through the 130-minute film. It doesn't help that the characters aren't much more than sketch outlines that we know next to nothing about, especially the usually charismatic Kaluuya who's oddly far too stoic despite what's occurring around and eventually to him.

As a result of all of that, I never felt that engaged with the characters or, ultimately, the story despite some standout individual moments. I appreciate Peele mostly leaving the social commentary horror approach that fueled his first two films and going for something on a more ambitious, larger scale, but the results just aren't as impressive as a whole. Then again, maybe it's just me. "Nope" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.




Posted July 22, 2022


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