Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies shared his latest roundup of reviews!
MIDNIGHT MASS (Netflix)
Writer/director Mike Flanagan is no stranger to horror thanks to his Stephen King adaptations and series like The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. His latest series Midnight Mass is mentally jarring like the others. Crockett Island population 127 is that small town where everybody knows each other’s history for the good and the bad. Riley Flynn is the prodigal son who’s returned home after four years in jail following a drunken fatal car accident. He’s starting his life all over with nothing but a reputation that will haunt him. His mother tells him, “This isn’t a community anymore, honey. This is a ghost” It’s a religious old timey town where people gather for church daily. They’re taken aback when their beloved monsignor doesn’t show up, but instead, a younger Catholic priest named Father Paul Hill. The cozy community is turned upside down after strange occurrences and miracles start to present themselves after the arrivals of Riley and Father Paul.
-Starring: Hamish Linklater, Zach Gilford, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel, Rahul Kohli, Samantha Sloyan, and Annabeth Gish.
-All seven episodes will be available to stream on Netflix September 24
-Flanagan takes his time setting up the community of Crockett Island. Despite the population size, it’s quite diverse giving it the nickname “the crockpot” There’s a generational divide at play with the older residents who are quite content in this town versus others who feel stuck and trapped at where their lives have ended up. This divide also manifests in some racism with the town sheriff whose Muslim beliefs don’t sit well with certain members of the community.
-Hamish Linklater keeps Father Paul a mystery. It’s evident from early on that there’s something off about him. There’s a built-in intrigue as he gets fired up with his homilies on renewal and resurrection on what that really means. Linklater is at his best when he gets to be truly untethered in the role.
-Zach Gilford is equally compelling as Riley. He has a youthful presence with an open and vulnerable soul but, but like so many, an inner saboteur. This inner conflict leads into a larger debate into of how we suppress that with religion or alcohol as our quick fix.
-As the episodes carry out, there’s a battle with deep-rooted faith versus science that Flanagan is exploring. For some people, it’s hard to understand how God works in the face of tragedy.
-If the first three episodes seem rich in religious turmoil, Flanagan cranks up the inexplainable in the back half of the season. He goes to some extreme supernatural places manifesting elements of the Bible that may seem disturbing or unrealistic. What transpires is truly shocking and the less you know going on the better as Flanagan isn’t afraid to shake up this community and his audience.
-Mike Flanagan has written some powerful monologues delivered by his exceptional cast that will continue to sit with you. He takes on you on a wild ride narrowing in on the journey many of us have with our faith.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
DEAR EVAN HANSEN (in theaters)
The Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is hoping to inspire audiences all over again as the Tony winning musical has been adapted for the big screen. Ben Platt won a Tony Award for playing Evan Hansen in the original Broadway cast. He returns to the role here playing a high school kid who suffers from severe mental health issues. His therapist asks him to write letters to himself. One of those Dear Evan Hansen letters gets into the wrong hands when his classmate Connor picks it up off the printer. Connor is no stranger to his own debilitating depression. After Connor’s suicide, his parents find Evan’s letter thinking Connor wrote it to Evan as if they were best friends when they really weren’t close. Evan can’t bring himself to tell his friends or family the truth which ends up spiraling into a messy web of lies and hurt.
-Starring: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Amy Adams, Danny Pino, Julianne Moore.
-It’s not uncommon for Broadway performers to take on their roles in the film version as we saw with Rent, The Producers, and Jersey Boys. You would think it’s a no-brainer decision, but these are two very different mediums to play a part and convey the story of a musical.
-It’s very obvious from the first couple of musical numbers which are led by Ben Platt that the 27-year-old is now much older than the character he’s playing. He originally shaped his performance when he was closer to the age of being a high schooler and to play to the back of a Broadway house. Now, it seems as if he’s trying to play younger while forgetting that the physical choices and mannerisms he’s making are in turn are too big for the camera. His choices stand out compared to his costars like Amandla Stenberg and Kaitlyn Dever who feel more natural playing high school students.
-The music in Dear Evan Hansen is a catchy score by Pasek and Paul that will stir some emotion within you with its anthems of self-acceptance.
-While the music is gorgeous to hear on stage, there’s something off about how the songs are interpreted as inner monologues for the film. Every number is primarily a solo and the other characters don’t realize there’s singing going on in the scene. That conceptual choice is then broken in one song when Evan and Zoe sing to each other. Inconsistencies like that happen all over the place with other storytelling choices.
-Director Stephen Chbosky attempts to strip Dear Evan Hansen down to make it as realistic as possible for the medium of film.
-Talking about teen mental health issues and suicide is heavy and tender material, but you’re still somehow asked to suspend your disbelief since it’s a musical. One that happens to revolve around a big lie with devastating consequences. It’s easier to do that with a Broadway musical than with a movie.
-While the film may not work, what matters more is if it will still resonate with its teen crowd and their parents and hopefully open up that dialogue around mental health that’s so important.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
CRY MACHO (in theaters, HBO Max)
Clint Eastwood may be in his nineties, but he’s not slowing down as a director and actor. His latest film Cry Macho finds him back in the saddle as an aging cowboy. His character, Mike Milo, was once a prized rodeo star winning many titles and ribbons, but alcohol and accidents got the best of him. It’s now 1979 and his friend, Howard, asks Mike to head down to Mexico to rescue his son and bring him back to Texas. Mike agrees and convinces Howard’s son Raphael “Rafo” to leave his mom and his street life behind to be with the dad he rarely knows. Being the rugged guy Mike is makes him a fish out of water in Mexico. He relies on Rafo and their newfound friendship to make their way safely across the border.
-Starring: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minnett
-Written by Nick Schenk who’s from Minnesota and an MCAD graduate. Schenk has worked on previous Clint Eastwood films like Grand Torino and The Mule.
-Clint Eastwood is swift and lean in his choices as a director. He’s known for minimal takes and not wasting his time. The beginning feels a little bumpy in setting up this story some awkward dialogue and forced acting and pacing.
-That won’t matter to some as this is an approachable story with some life lessons along the way. This is essentially a road trip movie with a 91 year old and a 13 year old. There’s some easy humor that comes with that generational divide between the two of them.
-Mike is the classic Clint character that we’ve seen him play for decades and there’s nothing wrong with that. It almost works as a swan song of his life and career. Despite his age, he’s a character that is still learning and growing.
-Audiences who are Clint fans and like these types of adult stories will appreciate this movie. It’s somewhat of a two-way straight street for Rafo to learn the cowboy life Mike led and for Mike to learn about Rafo’s culture and life.
-The dialogue between Mike and Rafo breaks down the images society puts on masculinity and personal strength.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS