2/2 Movie Trip

Paul McGuire Grimes, creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his take on three movies out now in theaters.

ARGYLLE (in theaters)

Matthew Vaughn put a fresh spin on the spy genre with his film Kingsman: The Secret Service. He’s back at with a new spy character who is full of surprises in Argylle. Henry Cavill makes for the quintessential spy with his dashing good looks, British accent, and the ability to take anyone down. He’s got his team ready to help behind the scenes to aid in his escape plan. They’re played by John Cena and Ariana DeBose.  He can get out of any situation as he has for four different adventures. See, they’re characters in a spy novel series written by Elly Conway whose played by Bryce Dallas Howard. She’s out promoting her fourth novel while putting the finishing touches on the fifth book. Elly’s books have oddly predicted what happens in the real espionage world. She finds herself caught up in a real spy adventure when she meets Sam Rockwell’s character on a train who tells her she’s in grave danger and that a sinister group is out to use her to predict where some dangerous codes and files could be located. She finds herself in way over her head as life imitates art, and she has no one to trust except her cat, Alfie.

-Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Catherine O’Hara, Bryan Cranston, Samuel L. Jackson, Ariana DeBose, Dua Lipa

-Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle is meant to be taken as a wild, twisty nod to the spy genre that acknowledges all the tropes and silly characters along the way. Vaughn certainly leans into this from the beginning with its bombastic, Fast and the Furious-style chase sequences that defy any sense of logic.

-Every actor seems in on the style and is clearly having a blast leaning into the heightened acting that comes with the genre. Vaughn lets them play into what they do best from Bryan Cranston leaning into the evil leader type, Catherine O’Hara gets to add her quirks as the overbearing mother, and Sam Rockwell brings his usual brand of wackiness.

-The first half of Argylle works well as I was still piecing this all together. Director Matthew Vaughn lets his own ego get in the way in the second half which comes with one too many twists and a completely bonkers climax. It’s almost as if he wanted to see how many surprises and reveals he could throw out. Some of them work, but it often just meant additional shoot outs and action sequences which makes for a bloated runtime.

-Vaughn has a fun voice for the spy genre as we’ve seen with his Kingsman movies and now Argylle. There’s potential for this to be a franchise, as Argylle will certainly keep you guessing until the very end. Vaughn needs to remember that less is more in the meta approach he gave this film. 


ORIGIN (in theaters)

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor gives a deeply moving performance for the in Origin which should not be missed. Writer/director Ava DuVernay has frequently tackled the subjects of racism, politics, and the systems at play with films and series like Selma, 13th, and When They See Us. Now she’s tackling the life of Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson whose played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor. DuVernay sets her film in the backdrop of the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Isabel is approached to write about the murder, but she feels conflicted as its not where she feels her career is at after writing her first book, “The Warmth of Other Suns” that won her the Pulitzer. She wants to have the answers and feel a part of the story instead of asking the questions. Within a short time, she is faced with unimaginable grief after the death of two loved ones. It’s a time when she feels like she has no one left in life and pours her grief into her work. She starts to probe into the differences between racism and caste and the connection she finds between Jim Crow laws and Nazi Germany.

-Starring: Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Jon Bernthal, Niecy Nash-Betts, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald

-Ava DuVernay takes a unique approach in adapting Wilkerson’s book “Caste” which became a massive bestseller in 2020 after the death of George Floyd. This isn’t a direct adaptation of the Wilkerson’s concepts but rather takes us into the personal journey she had during this tumultuous time in her life.

-This angle allows the audience to see inside the author’s mindset when it seems like there’s nothing left to offer the world and to then trying to understand something so monumental.

-Working through grief is relatable at any level and we see her take on something much greater than she could have anticipated.

-The first three quarters of the film dives into her research but DuVernay knows the audience will have a greater impact by understanding the visuals as part of her history lesson. She makes Isabel’s research come alive as she takes the audience into Nazi conference rooms, concentration camps, and life in India under their caste systems.

-There are some beautiful and tender images on screen that juxtapose the horrific visuals DuVernay wants us to take note of.

-Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor commands the screen at every point giving Isabel a hard outer shell despite that personal pain and heartbreak she’s feeling in the inside.

– Origin is reminder that no matter where we are at in life, there’s always room for growing and understanding. This is a history lesson by way of one person’s learning versus an academic history book approach.


MEAN GIRLS (in theaters)

Mean Girls became a cult classic after its release in 2004. It lead to a hit Broadway musical that is currently being performed by high schools across the country. The Plastics are back at it as now it’s been adapted as a movie musical. Tina Fey wrote the original film and is back again penning the screenplay for the new movie which takes the same plot and characters we love but places them in present day instead of 2004. Angourie Rice plays, Cady, a new transplant to North Shore High School after her mom moves them to the US from Kenya. Cady makes friends with Janice and Damian, they’re the two outcasts at school who introduce her to all the cliques at school. One clique is The Plastics, three mean girls led by the queen bee, Regina George. She’s played by Renee Rapp, who also played the part on Broadway. Janice and Damian convince Cady to infiltrate the Plastics and at the same time she starts to fall for Aaron Samuels, who happens to be Regina’s ex.

-Starring: Angourie Rice, Renee Rap, Auli’i Cravalho, Avantika, Bebe Wood, Jaquel Spivey

-There will be a lot of comparisons to the original film, but directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. and their cast have really tried to make this their own version of this story.

-Renée Rapp blows the house down with her knockout vocals as Regina George. Even the marketing materials and trailer use her star power to sell the film. Auli’i Cravalho is another standout as Janice. She’s all grown up after voicing Moana and steals every scene as Janice who also happens to be given the best songs in the musical including the big number “I’d Rather Be Me”

-If you don’t know the music, you may find yourself grooving to the songs even if they seem a bit shortened than their original Broadway versions. They feel a bit tightened up much like I felt about the songs in The Color Purple. Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. treat the numbers like altered realities, dream sequences like in Chicago where the lighting dims and the ensemble comes alive in different ways.

-Tina Fey’s script captures the snark she wrote in the first film, plays with some of the iconic lines, and uses social media as a big part of the story when that wasn’t as prevalent back in 2004. There’s a #ReginaChallenge that goes viral.

Mean Girls is an entertaining pop movie musical that doesn’t need the audience to have seen the original film or know the Broadway musical to appreciate what this cast brings to the material. The quirky characters and high school lessons should appeal to a new generation.