‘Nope’ Proves Keke Palmer Deserves Every Lead Role Hollywood Has to Offer—and an Oscar

Jordan Peele’s Nope is everything movie fans have come to expect from him. 

The director’s third feature film is over the top, odd in the best ways, terrifying, smart, original, and captivating, as well as perfectly cast. The film also follows the trend of Peele’s mysterious films continuously summoning audiences to theaters in an era where Marvel, franchises, and reboots rule the box office. Nope opened with $44 million on its opening weekend, making it the best for an original film opening since Peele’s Us, which made $71.1 million in April 2019.

The director knows that people are thirsty to be entertained, while others want to be stimulated. That’s why he made Nope a spectacle that is also injected with thoughtful commentary and symbolism that will feed the curious minds who love to dissect his films. Peele’s casting choices are also one of his greatest strengths as a filmmaker and that was reinforced by having Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as his leads in his third directorial project. 

The sci-fi thriller’s storyline is about siblings OJ Haywood (Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Palmer), who have been Hollywood horse trainers since they were children. The film picks up six months after their dad’s bizarre death and OJ is the one living and working full time at the ranch, while his sister pursues other paths like acting, directing, singing, producing, etc. OJ is the muscle behind the operation; he cares for the horses and the ranch, but he is too introverted and reserved for a Hollywood set. Emerald is the one with the charisma and the upbeat energy needed to work in showbiz. OJ looks to his sister for rescue when they’re on set for a commercial at the start of the movie, and from the first time you see Palmer on the screen, all your focus shifts to her.

As the film progresses, we learn that there is an otherworldly object, or creature, living in a cloud above the ranch that may have caused their father’s death. Down on their luck and short on money, the Haywoods set out on a mission to capture the creature on video so that they could have the “Oprah shot” that could launch them into fame and wealth. There has been a connecting thread of societal commentary throughout Peele’s films that he often leaves open to interpretation for the audience, and Nope was no exception. In this case, the film explores Hollywood and the film industry and how Black people have had “skin in the game” since the beginning of filmmaking. 

The chilling horror moments in the film provide plenty of jump scares while also showing the great lengths people are willing to go to get that one viral moment that could change their lives because anyone in their right mind would pack a bag and leave. Nope also explores the trauma that child stars often live with through Ricky “Jupe” Park’s (Steven Yeun) story, as well as the importance of siblings—who are oftentimes the people by your side when shit hits the fan regardless of your differences, which Emerald and OJ so perfectly represent here.

Both of the characters are so incredibly dissimilar, but so are Palmer and Kaluuya in their delivery as actors. Palmer’s character Emerald helps the tense film breathe a little easier. She adds levity, humor, and an authenticity that’s difficult to portray if that’s not something you already carry within. During a global press conference for the movie, Complex asked the actors what they learned from each other as professionals during filming, a question that gave them both pause. “I found it hard to show joy and be natural. And be extroverted and natural with it. It’s a very hard balance to do. It is way harder than people realize,” Kaluuya said. “People look at drama and think (it’s difficult)—but it’s kind of really simple. But in terms of being joyous and exuberant and then having a reality and a realness to it is very difficult, and Keke has that for free, naturally.” 

He added: “She’s just got it. That is what I was taking in a lot, the decisions she made, like, ‘Oh, that’s how you do that? That’s how you could do that? I didn’t see it that way or think of that way, I never would have arrived at that.’”

Emerald’s humor is perfectly sprinkled throughout Nope, and at times you almost forget you’re watching a horror film. Palmer, alongside Brandon Perea (who plays an electronics store employee named Angel Torres and also delivered a standout performance), add the necessary comedy to make the story feel more realistic. Even in real life, sometimes we laugh to keep from crying. Both Emerald and Angel don’t seem to take things as seriously as OJ does at first, so in the hectic moments where they do panic, the audience knows it’s for good reason. Palmer shines the brightest in the third act, though, going from the film’s comedic relief to a full-on horror and then action star—adding even more excitement for all the roles she will inevitably land after Nope.

Palmer’s relaxed acting style is comparable to some of the most seasoned and respected actors out there. She’s genuine and raw and completely natural at what she does, which makes for the best acting. She may have decades of experience, but Nope is her best performance yet. Emerald is her vessel to let the world know what she is all about. Peele recognized that in her when they met, and he told Complex in an interview that he wrote the role specifically for the actress. She hits the full spectrum of human emotion throughout the film—joy, fear, sadness, confusion, resilience, etc.—and those last 15 or so minutes of the film undoubtedly belong to her. Palmer is a star, and an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actress category seems appropriate here.   

Palmer is also obviously not alone in her greatness. Kaluuya delivers yet another masterful performance as OJ, who is a quiet, focused man of few words, and whose priority is the ranch and its animals. In the film’s most frightening moments, Kaluuya’s character stays calm. OJ keeps his cool while managing to also show slight glimpses of fear, intimidation, heart, and determination as he dodges the creature in the sky. The actor’s poise in the roles we’ve seen him in so far is what made him a star and an Oscar winner so early on in his career. I’ve referred to him as the Denzel Washington of our generation, but that doesn’t seem like enough anymore. Peele referred to Kaluuya as being to him what Robert De Niro is to Martin Scorsese, which is the most fitting comparison, and my only hope is that there will be more collaborations between them down the line. READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/keke-palmer-nope-lead-roles/third-act

Jussie Smollett attempts career comeback with LGBT film on BET+ streaming service

Jussie Smollett has launched his directorial debut with BET+ “B-Boy Blues.” The LGBTQ+ centered show will debut on the streaming network June 9, just in time for Pride Month.
This project marks the first for Smollett since he was found guilty of making false reports on what he alleged to be a hate crime. He was then sentenced to 30 months’ probation, 150 days in jail, after making false reports to the police in January 2019 that he was a victim of a hate crime.
“Through our content slate, we are intentional about representing the fullness of the Black experience, including that of the LGBTQ+ community,” BET+ exec VP/GM Devin Griffin said to Variety. “‘B-Boy Blues’ is an artful, heart-rending film about the complexity of love – something we all can relate to.”

“B-Boy Blues” is based on the James Earl Hardy novel and will star Timothy Richardson, Brandee Evans, Marquise Vilson, Broderick Hunter and Thomas Mackie. 


JUSSIE SMOLLETT RELEASED FROM JAIL PENDING APPEAL: ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL TO CHARGE SOMEONE TWICE,’ LAWYER SAYS


The indie film first debuted in 2021 at the American Black Film Festival. The film won the Narrative Feature Fan Favorite Award.


Smollett’s first project since released from jail is described as “a clash of class and culture when Mitchell Crawford, a college educated journalist from Brooklyn and Raheim Rivers, a bike messenger from Harlem, fall in love.”

“B-Boy Blues is a beautifully bold, funny, heartwarming bro-mance and I was thrilled to partner with Jussie to help this wonderful film gain greater exposure,” Mona Scott-Young of Monami Entertainment told the outlet. 


JUSSIE SMOLLETT RELEASED FROM JAIL: WILL HE SUCCESSFULLY APPEAL CONVICTION? LEGAL EXPERTS WEIGH IN


“Falling head over heels and fighting for love are universal emotions and experiences and we are so grateful to BET+ for shining a powerful spotlight on the still seriously underrepresented black LGBTQ+ community and bringing this impactful love story to an even greater audience.”
Three weeks after Smollett was released from jail, he released a song titled “Thank You God.”
The former “Empire” star shared the single on his Instagram account, which according to his bio is “currently run by” the Smollett family. 

Why Black Biopics Reign at Lifetime

From such global icons as Whitney Houston to lesser-known civil rights activists like Lori Jackson, the network is leading the industry in spotlighting the stories of Black women

When the idea of making a biopic about Mahalia Jackson first came up, about half the members of Lifetime’s Original Movies group hadn’t heard of the gospel legend and civil rights leader — which, for that team, was a selling point.

“ We had been talking about women who have historically made impacts that no one talks about,” says head of movies Tanya Lopez of the group’s brainstorming sessions. It was programming manager Mekita Faiye who suggested Jackson, and though her pitch was met with unfamiliarity, it wasn’t dismissed. “Everyone loses when we don’t take the time to understand others’ unique experiences, especially when it’s due to economic, ethnic or even religious differences,” says Faiye, one of six people of color (including Lopez) on the 11-person LOM team. “Fortunately, Lifetime creates a culture of openness and compassion while making a concerted effort to value everyone’s voice in the room.”

So when Lopez had lunch with Robin Roberts (who has a production deal with the network) and the Good Morning America anchor mentioned Jackson as a subject of interest, the soil was already fertile for its latest biopic, Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which stars Tony nominee Danielle Brooks and premiered April 3.

Mahalia is Lifetime’s third biopic of 2021, all of which focus on Black women (Salt-N-Pepa bowed Jan. 23, followed by Wendy Williams: The Movie a week later). In all, 22 of the network’s 68 biopics since 1993 have centered the lives of Black women. That’s nearly a third — far above the demographic’s 3.7 percent share of lead or co-lead characters among theatrically released films (according to a study released in March by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and USC, which examined the 100 highest-grossing films each year from 2009 to 2019). In an era in which inclusion can be received as a begrudging mandate, LOM’s development process reveals a blueprint for a more organic path.

To hear Lopez tell it, Lifetime has come by its track record somewhat incidentally. “Our biggest victories are telling stories of women and things that people don’t know about,” she says of choosing subjects. And since Black history has long been minimized or excluded from textbooks and news involving Black communities left off the front page, those stories provide a rich vein for Lifetime to mine, from 1999’s Dangerous Evidence — the story of efforts by civil rights activist Lori Jackson (Lynn Whitfield) to exonerate a Black Marine falsely convicted of rape — to last year’s The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel.

While Lifetime has given the biopic treatment to plenty of universal household names, like Whitney Houston, Simone Biles and Meghan Markle, The Clark Sisters is an example of a decision to commit resources to figures beloved within the Black community but not as well known outside it. Once again, it was a Black executive, LOM manager Mychael Chinn, who surfaced the name. And, once again, though non-Black teammates didn’t recognize the gospel group, they didn’t discard the idea as “niche.”

“When we all did our due diligence, we were almost ashamed we didn’t know who the Clark Sisters were, and that has to do with everybody’s education,” Lopez says. “It’s definitely a cultural and racial divide.”

Lifetime’s forays into bridging that divide haven’t hurt its critical or commercial prospects. The network’s 2006 Fantasia Barrino biopic is its second-highest-rated original film of all time, behind 2004’s biopic of Jessica Savitch and just ahead of the network’s 2012 Steel Magnolias remake, starring Queen Latifah and Phylicia Rashad alongside Alfre Woodard, who earned Emmy and SAG nods for her performance. L opez says the themes in these projects — the female friendship dynamics in Salt-N-Pepa, the heroism of a school employee who talks down a would-be shooter in 2018’s Faith Under Fire (starring Toni Braxton) — are compelling to any female audience. “These are the stories we’re interested in telling, no matter the background,” she says, turning again to Mahalia Jackson. “She’s a huge name in the civil rights movement, but a certain portion of our audience only knows of Martin Luther King, because he’s the one the white media and history focused on. So when we look at iconic figures, what’s the story of the woman standing next to the person the light is shining on?

‘Monster’ Trailer: Netflix’s Walter Dean Myers Adaptation Has All-Star Cast Led By Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Netflix has dropped the first trailer for Monster, a film adapted from the classic Walter Dean Myers novel of the same name. The film first premiered way back in January 2018 and had an extended festival run, a name change (it was once known as All Rise) and a prior acquisition announcement by Entertainment Studios.

The stacked cast is led by Kelvin Harrison Jr., before his star-making turns in Waves and Luce. It also features Jennifer Hudson, Jeffrey Wright, a pre-When They See Us Jharrel Jerome, a pre-BlacKkKlansman John David Washington, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson, Nas and A$AP Rocky.

Directed and written by acclaimed music video director Anthony Mandler, the screenplay is from Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version, Colen C. Wiley and Janece Shaffer.

The logline: Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) a seventeen-year-old honor student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. The film follows his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. 

Harrison, an in-demand star on the indie and festival circuit, told Shadow And Act back in 2018 that Steve was one of the hardest characters he’s had to play. “Steve in Monster is probably the hardest to play, because I was learning so much about myself growing up,” he said.“It’s hard to look back on your life at 17 and how you may have been. Steve comes from this privileged home and has a lot of opportunity. Then things happened, and he thought he was an anomaly in a world where black boys are incarcerated or killed because of the way they look. The hardest part is just really digging deep in yourself and coming into your own realities and then separating from the character so you can tell their stories truthfully.”

BRON Studios, ToniK Productions and Get Lifted Film Co. are the movies’ producers, in association with Charlevoix, Red Crown and Creative Wealth Media. Tonya Lewis Lee, Nikki Silver, Aaron L. Gilbert, Mike Jackson, and Edward Tyler Nahem produced the film.

John Legend, Ty Stiklorius, Dan Crown, Yoni Liebling, Wright and Jones are executive producers, alongside Brenda Gilbert, Steven Thibault, Brad Feinstein, Joseph F. Ingrassia, Ali Jazayeri, David Gendron, Linnea Roberts, Jason Cloth, and Richard McConnell.

Watch the trailer below:

Mahalia Jackson: 5 Things To Know About The Gospel Legend At The Center Of Lifetime Movie

Lifetime continues its streak of biopics with Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which premieres April 3 at 8 p.m. ET. Orange Is The New Black alum Danielle Brooks stars as Mahalia Jackson, who is one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history. The film, executive produced by Robin Roberts, chronicles Mahalia’s rise to fame and her impact on the music industry and the civil rights movement.

Mahalia lived an incredible life and had so many memorable moments. Decades after her death, her legacy remains more vibrant than ever. Get to know Mahalia before the Lifetime movie airs.