Paul McGuire Grimes, the creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, fills us in on a movie that seems to be flying under the radar that’s available on Netflix.
THE MITCHELLS vs THE MACHINES (Netflix)
If you’re a parent and feel like you’ve seen the same movies on repeat, have your kids watch The Mitchells vs the Machines. It’s now streaming on Netflix and should become their new favorite without annoying you. Our narrator Katie Mitchell, a high school grad bound for college, describes her family as “the worst family of all time” Abbi Jacobson voices Katie as she shares how weird and discombobulated her family is. She’s off to film school to finally be with her people. Her cross-country family road trip with Dad Rick, Mom Linda, younger brother Aaron, and their pug doesn’t quite go to plan when they find themselves caught up in the robot apocalypse. The Mitchells are some of the only humans remaining and must figure out how to work together if they want to save themselves and the rest of the world.
-The voiceover cast includes Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Olivia Colman, Beck Bennet, and Fred Armisen.
– It’s apparent from the very beginning that The Mitchells vs the Machines comes with a high-energy, bright color palette vibe and the animators have chosen a variety of animation styles to bring their world to life including a 2D style of scribbles and sketches when Katie’s filmmaking projects come to life. She has a fast thinking, creative mind and the film brings that to life making every second pop. Kids will love the effects especially when Katie thinks a stressful moment would feel better with a cat filter on it.
-Creators Mike Riana and Jeff Rowe have created a widely clever film full of kid humor to witty quips and all too real moments for parents to revel in. Dad’s trying to get everyone’s attention but they’re all glued to their devices. Mom is comparing their family to the Posey’s (voiced by John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen) who always post their picture-perfect life on Instragram, and there’s the larger concept of a big tech company and their operating system taking over the world right down to the tennis rackets that have a chip in them.
-It’s clear that the filmmakers pay homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey by calling the evil voice of the OS Pal instead of Hal and the robots come with a black head and red dot in the corner. Pal is voiced to perfection by Olivia Colman.
-You can see a little bit of Pixar’s The Incredibles here as well. It’s great to see a family, even if its dysfunctional, come together the way the Mitchells do in the massive action sequences.
-It’s sci-fi fantasy with big action and lots of humor throughout that really caters to everyone that sits down for a family movie night. If that wasn’t enough there’s a touching father/daughter moment in the climax to give it that extra boost of heart.
-Much like Spider-Man Into the Spider Verse, you just have to watch The Mitchells vs the Machines to fully experience all of the creativity at hand.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
MARE OF EASTTOWN (HBO, HBO Max)
Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce won rave reviews for the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce in 2011. They’ve now reunited ten years later for the new HBO limited series, Mare of Eastown. Winslet stars as the title character, Mare Sheehan. She’s the detective sergeant in the small community of Easttown, Pennsylvania. It’s been one year since the disappearance of young girl. All eyes are on Mare who hasn’t cracked the case yet and pressure is building. Her home life is crumbling as her ex-husband is set to be remarried, she’s the primary caregiver of her grandson, and her mother, played by Jean Smart, is full of opinions. If life wasn’t already complicated, the body a high school girl is found in a nearby creek. The two crimes seem to be unrelated but it’s another tragic event for this small community.
-Starring: Kate Winslet, Jean Smart, Guy Pearce, Evan Peters, Julianne Nicholson, David Denman
-The seven-episode limited series airing Sundays on HBO
-If you feel like you’ve seen numerous limited series with a whodunnit bent, you’re not wrong as HBO’s True Detective and The Undoing earned high praise for their gripping mysteries. The characters of Mare of Easttown are a far cry from The Undoing’s uppity and wealthy characters.
-Creator Brad Inglesby’s approach is an examination of a small tight-knit town and the history that looms large. You’ll naturally want to start finding suspicious characters, and there are some, but Inglesby and director Craig Zobel don’t give this a “everyone’s a potential suspect” vibe. More time is spent analyzing the toll it’s taken on Mare and how these crimes continue to haunt everyone.
-There’s a familiar anti-police sentiment building up against Mare, and American Horror Story-alum Evan Peters arrives in the second episode as a county detective brought in to help with the case. He’s young and spunky, the opposite of Mare who reminds him she will continue to do things her way, and he’ll have to follow along.
-As Mare, Kate Winslet crackles in a role we haven’t seen from her in her decades long career. She carries herself with the weathered stress that years on the force have had on her. She’s dropped her natural British accent for the Delco accent, found in Delaware County. It’s a meaty role for which Winslet handles with ease sinking her teeth into Mare’s richly layered soul.
-The cast is rounded out by Jean Smart who’s always captivating and makes something as small as playing a game on her tablet stand out.
-Mare of Easttown comes with its share of bombshells to earn its bleak tone. There are messy relationships, questionable choices, secrets and lies that muck up any sort of progression for what a warm and innocent town should be. Kate Winslet gives one of the best performances of her career and makes this appointment viewing television every Sunday night.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD (HBO Max, In Theaters)
A high powered district attorney is shot down in Fort Lauderdale at the hands of two hitmen played by Aiden Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. The attorney’s accountant knows he’s the next target, so he flees to Montana with his son. The hitmen find him and kill him but his son manages to escape into the forest. Angelina Jolie plays a firefighter and smoke watcher who finds the young boy and tries to keep him safe from the hitmen while a forest fire rages on around them.
-Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Aidan Gillen, Nicholas Hoult
-Taylor Sheridan directed and co-wrote the film with Charles Leavitt and Michael Koryta which is adapted from Koryta’s novel of the same name.
-Sheridan is best his western set tales like Hell or High Water or the widely popular TV series Yellowstone. There’s an old-fashioned approach to his work with straight forward storytelling.
-He kicks the ground running with a stressful opening, but the downside is that it’s a bit choppy as he scrambles to centralize all our key players to one location quickly without getting derailed in too much backstory. Sheridan keeps the tension high by keeping this moving at a brisk pace. The fire moves in fast trapping our key players which gives Sheridan this ticking clock approach for Bernthal and Jolie to save the boy and take down the two hit men.
-We see through flashbacks that Angelina Jolie’s character suffers some PTSD and inner demons after lives were lost in a fire that got out of her control. Her attempts to save the boy act to absolve her from her past. She naturally has the protective and maternal instincts down, but the role doesn’t give her much to play on outside of that.
-Aiden Gillen played smarmy so well as Littlefinger in Game of Thrones and he’s ruthless and diabolical here as well. The real MVP of the film is Medina Senghore as Bernthal’s pregnant wife. She’s a complete badass in the film who can go toe to toe with any of these characters.
-One downside to the short 95 minute runtime is that this is a lean film without a lot of padding. I almost felt like whole scenes and character development were cut down just to keep the pace up. Tyler Perry shows up for a one five-minute scene, which seems like a waste for someone of his stature. I was hoping he’d have a meaty role, but we never see his character again.
-Those Who Wish Me Dead is a compelling action thriller, but it falls short of being something special and powerful.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS