Paul McGuire Grimes from “Paul’s Trip to the Movies” shares three more flicks to watch this weekend!
AD ASTRA (in theaters)
The beginning of the film tells us that it is the near future, a time of both hope and conflict. Advancements at NASA and space exploration are greater than the current state in real life. There are extensive space stations on both the moon and Mars making them somewhat habitable places. Roy McBride is a renowned astronaut working for NASA. His father was also an astronaut but went missing in space decades prior. News has spread within NASA that there are solar rays coming from Neptune causing power surges on Earth. They believe this may be a sign that Roy’s father may still be alive.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, Kimberly Elise.
-I say this as a warning that you have to go in with an open mind. This isn’t a film about modern day space realism. There are lofty concepts from the beginning as well as tangible realities within this world writer/director James Gray created including an action sequence on the moon between a NASA rover and some astronauts who have gone rogue.
-Gray is less concerned about the specific science involved and instead using the moon, Mars, and Neptune as set pieces for this intimate and complicated father/son story. It has the futurist look of Blade Runner or 2001: A Space Odyssey but with a meditative vibe to it.
-The relationship between Roy and his father was cut short and we see how decades of the unknown has taken an emotional toll on Roy. There’s anger and resentment with Roy as we realize that his father essentially chose space and the unknown over his family. The public and media love and cherish his father’s work but there is this other side to his story. We also see Roy wrestle with if he’s wanted for his own accomplishments and work ethic or for being the son of Clifford McBride.
-As Roy, Brad Pitt gives one of the best performances of his career. It’s a deeply internalized performance but one where we can see and know everything he’s feeling just by looking in his eyes. He has to carry quite a bit of this film himself, not only physically on screen but also by his voice over narration detailing his inner thoughts and struggles with what he’s going through. Pitt reminds you of the quiet power he can have over a story.
-There’s a singular focus in Ad Astra as Roy confronts the relationship he had his father. It asks the audience how long a person should suffer for the sins of their father before they and others can move on. Roy has a personal and professional mission, and there are fatal consequences along the way with the choices he makes. With this, the film comes with a slower pace, a story that floats around not always sure of where its going, the audience don’t really get to know the various supporting characters, but this all fits Roy’s uncertain state of mind.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It may not be as crowd-pleasing as The Martian, but one that shouldn’t be missed on a massive movie theater screen with immersive sound.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
DOWNTON ABBEY (in theaters)
The Downton Abbey estate receives word via the postal service that they will be hosting the King and Queen on a royal tour they are embarking on. The royals will be spending one night at Downton, but the estate and the Crawley family aren’t quite ready for such an endeavor. The servants rally together to get the entire palace spotless. When their guests arrive, the King and Queen bring their own servants, valets, butlers, and chef leaving the Downton servants furious and jobless. For the Crawley family, it means a reunion as Edith heads back home to join her parents and sister, Mary. Quarreling elders The Dowager Countess and Isobel also arrive at Downton for the festivities.
-Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Allen Leech, Imelda Staunton
-Series creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler who directed a few episodes of the series including the series finale.
-If you loved the TV series, you will love the movie. It feels like an extended two-hour episode of the show. It’s as if no time has passed as the actors fall right back into their characters seamlessly.
-The series transitions to the big screen well, even the theme song and the castle seem bigger and grander on the big screen. It’s easy to get swept up in the spectacle of it all.
-It’s great to see smaller characters like Branson and Barrow get their storylines expanded in some new and surprising ways.
-As a whole, the movie is entertaining frothy escapism. Having a limited scope of a two-hour film helps it stay a bit more playful and funnier than the series looking to stretch storylines over nine episodes in a season.
-There are still some themes of classism as we see the servants being rudely treated by the royals employees as well as an underground gay establishment and the idea of moving on and away from what we are comfortable with in life in terms of family and tradition.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Have a tea, a scone, and enjoy this grand affair.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
LATE NIGHT (streaming now on Amazon Prime)
Molly works for a chemical plant but is an aspiring comedy writer. She gets the nerve to interview for “Late Night with Katherine Newbury” with no experience in television writing. She gets hired on the sole basis she fills the minority quota in an all-male writers room. The show is sliding down in the ratings. Katherine Newbury has been the host for decades doing long informative interviews. The industry wants short, funny bits with YouTube stars instead. She’s at risk of losing her own show, but Molly may be the fresh, authentic voice to save it.
-Starring: Mindy Kaling (Molly), Emma Thompson (Katherine Newbury), John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, and Reid Scott
-Written by Mindy Kaling. If you didn’t already know Mindy Kaling’s comedy from The Office or her show The Mindy Project, you’ll fully appreciate it here.
-Her script is sharp, biting, and topical. Emma Thompson’s character may be fictional, but Kaling draws from the real late night landscape as it calls out our culture’s desire for young comics, goofy bits, and pranks that go viral instead of long form interviews.
-Kaling isn’t afraid to talk about gender disparities and ageism in the work place. The network would rather have Ike Barinholtz character who’s a crude, misogynist comedian on air than someone who’s actually talented but is seeing a decline in ratings
-It can be hard to find your footing. We see with Mindy’s character, Molly, that she needs to find her voice and use it and then be so true to yourself that they can’t help but love her. She has to cut through the toxic male culture and remind people she’s more than a diversity hire.
-If that wasn’t enough, the film is incredibly honest about marriage and career as we see between Emma Thompson and John Lithgow. This subplot isn’t completely necessary but when you have the two of them bringing such weight to it, it adds another level to Emma’s character.
-Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson has already had a rich career, and still gives one of the best performances of her career. She can easily let her wicked sense of humor shine with every line but it’s the gravitas and history to Katherine that makes her impactful. You understand who she is and why, you forgive her, and feel empathy to someone who could be considered a cold-hearted villain.
-Late Night generously funny throughout while digging deeper and reminding the audience to really fight for what you want and deserve in the workplace.