Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies gives us his take on “Nope”, “The Gray Man”, and “Anything’s Possible.”
NOPE (in theaters)
Jordan Peele quickly became an in-demand director after his Oscar winning Get Out shook audiences. He’s now back with his third film, NOPE, looking to challenge audiences all over again. Peele reunites with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya who stars as O.J. Haywood who works for his family business training horses for Hollywood movies. He’s struggling over his father’s tragic and untimely death. His sister, Emerald, also works for Haywood’s Hollywood Horses and is the energetic face of the company. Their latest client is Jupe, played by Steven Yeun. He’s a former child star who now runs a small little amusement park with attractions and side shows. There’s something shifty going on with Jupe, which comes at the same time O.J. and Emerald believe they’ve seen a UFO in the sky. In true Jordan Peele fashion, it goes from mysterious to shocking as he takes his audience on one wild, alien ride.
-Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea
-Jordan Peele set the bar very high for himself with Get Out and Us bringing horror fans and non-horror fans to his movies, which oftentimes come with a social commentary. He continues to not only challenge us but also himself in the execution of his unique stories.
-From the beginning, it’s easy to get swept up in the cinematography and frequent use of IMAX cameras. You see the depth in the sweeping shots of this deserted ranch and the unending dark skies above. Peele makes you look all around and through the images on screen for the horrors that await in the distance and the ones that jump out in your face.
-This is a slow burn as Peele amps up this unnerving feeling of a close encounter with aliens. I could audibly hear people around me jumping and screaming as Peele pulls out a few jump scares. You can easily see him paying homage to Steven Spielberg, The Twilight Zone, and more. Like Spielberg, Peele knows not to reveal too much early on.
-Looking at this as an alien encounter type of movie is just looking at it on the surface, but Peele seems interested in looking at how society reacts to spectacle and capturing it on camera to then be stars in this age of TikTok and YouTube challenges. Steven Yeun’s character Jupe has created a whole business out of spectacle latching onto what happened to him as a child star. We then see O.J. and Emerald buying high tech cameras and hiring a tech guy and documentarian to hopefully capture the aliens on film to make a profit on their “Oprah moment”
– The cast delivers from Daniel Kaluuya’s perfect line reading of the title to his brother/sister chemistry with Keke Palmer who carries Emerald with a big and lively personality complimenting the opposite nature of her brother who’s more reserved and quieter.
-NOPE is Jordan Peele’s most ambitious film to date while making it the most accessible in terms of separating themes from reality. He still packs a punch having you jump out of your seat one minute and then laugh in discomfort the next. This will be one where you’ll sit and let it take over you in the first sitting and then dissect it upon multiple viewings.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THE GRAY MAN (Netflix, in theaters)
The Russo brothers are known for their work with the Avengers and Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s hoping they have another potential franchise on their hands with The Gray Man. Ryan Gosling stars as the titular character. We first him in prison in 2003 when he’s visited by Billy Bob Thorton’s character, a CIA agent who promises to commute his sentence if he agrees to work for the CIA taking down other wanted bad guys. He describes, “You’d exist in the gray” Gosling’s character knows he’d be disposable but agrees. The story jumps 18 years picking up with The Gray Man who’s also referred to as Sierra Six in Bangkok working next to Ana de Armas’ agent, Dani. The Gray Man’s latest mission falters, so he sets out on his own ignoring the mission assigned by CIA boss Carmichael. Carmichael is furious and hires Chris Evans’ character, Lloyd Hansen to terminate The Gray Man.
-Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Regé-Jean Page, Billy Bob Thorton, Ana de Armas, Alfre Woodard
-With The Gray Man, the Russos stick to a simple concept while still make an entertaining and solid action flick with fun characters. The film is based on the book by Mark Greaney. The story itself is fairly basic and nothing new, but the Russos have made this a globe-trotting cat and mouse chase taking them from Bankgok to Monaco to Chang Mai to Turkey and everywhere else.
-The Russos know how to shoot action sequences and they manage to elevate their own game with each one. It starts with a flashy shoot out against fireworks in Bangkok. We later see Ryan Gosling’s Sierra Six jumping out of a plane and it gets riskier after that. I felt them drawing inspiration from the classic action films of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer that defied logic.
-Ryan Gosling makes Sierra Six stealth and resourceful who knows how to literally get himself out of any sticky situation MacGyver style. He makes for a good sparring partner next to Chris Evans’ character. You can tell Evans is having an absolute blast as this reckless hotshot who dons some slicked back hair, a sharp mustache, and is the anti-Captain America.
-The Gray Man moves at a brisk pace, no scene lingers for too long and its action upon action upon action against some stunning set pieces, and we still get a sense of character along the way.
-This may be on Netflix, but it would play so well in a big movie theater with that surround sound. There’s a potential for more with these characters, and it would be fun to see what messes The Gray Man/Sierra Six could find himself in.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE (Amazon Prime)
“Anything’s Possible” is an uplifting title for a high school coming of age story. We’ve seen plenty of examples of this type of story, but this film features a trans girl, Kelsa, at the center of the story. It’s the first day of senior year, and Kelsa is just trying to survive her final year of high school. While she documents her transition of being trans, she doesn’t want it to be the sole thing that defines her. She’s obsessed with animals and believes that “what makes them unique is what helps them survive. This is true for humans,” as she explains. Her life takes a bit of an unexpected spin when the Khal, the cute and nerdy boy in her class seems to have a crush on her. She’s taken aback and slowly starts to have feelings for him as well. Word of their romance starts the hit the hallways of school and their parents causing major pushback and transphobic remarks thrown at Kelsa.
-Directorial debut of Billy Porter and stars Eva Reign, Abubakr Ali and Renée Elise Goldsberry
-Eva Reign is a young star on the rise with a bright and lively energy about her.
-We’re slowly getting more coming of age/coming out movies featuring gay teens, but it’s even rarer having a teen story about being trans. A movie like Anything’s Possible is vital and a huge forward for positive representation of diversity and inclusion on screen.
-If you love Heartstopper on Netflix or Love Simon, you would enjoy this movie. It has a good-spirited, innocent nature about it that should help teens relate to it unlike the dark and damaged characters on Euphoria.
-We see Kelsa and Khal use YouTube and Reddit as their online platforms for their emotional outlets. Kelsa’s videos are eye-opening for the teens and parents watching this film. They’re open and vulnerable about the many aspects facing trans teens today. In one video she states, “When they look at me, all they see is gender.”
-The movie also features different opinions and perspectives for parents that may be all over the spectrum on this hot topic and the reality trans teens are facing today. Reneé Elise Goldsberry has a powerful monologue as Kelsa’s mom about the unconditional love she will always have for her daughter.
-Short and accessible and can be a nice teaching tool to aid in the conversations regarding its themes.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS