6/23 Movie Trip
Paul McGuire Grimes, creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his reviews on Black Mirror on Netflix and two movies out in theaters.
BLACK MIRROR Season 6 (Netflix)
Creator Charlie Brooker’s anthology series, Black Mirror, is back on Netflix after a long delay between its fifth and sixth season. Each episode is a standalone story acting like an individual short film and doesn’t connect to the other episodes. This season tackles everything from space exploration, the dangerous work of paparazzi photographers, what happens when your life becomes the basis for a new streaming show all in the name of content creation and more.
-5 episodes ranging between 40 minutes and 80 minutes
-Features notable actors like Salma Hayek, Annie Murphy, Aaron Paul, Kate Mara, Josh Hartnett, and Zazie Beetz
-The episodes always start off in a grounded reality that feels tangible whether they take place decades ago or in the near future. From there, it evolves into a heightened reality with some sort of twist testing audiences every step of the way.
-Annie Murphy is quite stunning in the first episode “Joan is Awful” It’s a character far removed from her role as Alexis on Schitt’s Creek and will get people thinking about the future of content creation and entertainment. It’s a brazen episode that feels ultra-meta with Netflix.
-Josh Hartnett and Aaron Paul’s episode “Beyond the Sea” is a bleak love story featuring a Matrix-like space travel
-Each episode is unique in its storytelling, themes and ideas yet never strays away from that Black Mirror concept.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
ELEMENTAL (in theaters)
Pixar has been a game changer in the world of animation from bringing toys to life to teaching kids about our emotions and the afterlife. In their new film Elemental, it’s an unlikely friendship between fire and water that lies at the heart of their new creation. In the land of Element City, Air, Water, Fire, Earth all live together in their own little communities. They have to be careful as some don’t mix well together. A young fireball named Ember co-runs her family shop called The Fire Place. Her dad Bernie is in declining health, and she knows the future of the store falls on her shoulders. The store’s pipes flood leading to fines from the city inspector. He’s a happy and charming water guy named Wade. It’s not all bad luck for Ember as this begins a new adventure and an unlikely friendship between fire and water that will open her eyes to her true calling in life.
-Features the voices of: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Catherine O’Hara.
–Elemental comes from director Peter Sohn, and it’s clear he’s made this a personal film from adding in personal stories of being from an immigrant family and what it means to be in an interracial relationship.
-You can also feel the symmetry to Pixar’s Inside Out and Soul which tapped into intellectual concepts and personified them to educate children. Using the elements and characteristics of fire and water is a lesson in science and comingling with someone or something that may be deemed opposite in nature.
-Throughout Elemental we see Ember and Wade fall in love and there’s this “opposites attract” love story woven in.
-Like most Pixar films, the world building and animation is exquisite drawing the eyes into the gorgeous world of Element City.
-Some of humor falls into obvious fire and water puns and can be very on the nose for kids to understand. The water people are always crying, Wade is afraid of sponges, the Fire Place store has plenty of wood, blown glass and spicy foods.
-It takes awhile before the actual story of Elemental falls into place. I was waiting for the hook and drive to kick into high gear and that happens once the soulful connection between Ember and Wade happens.
-Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie are wonderful together as Ember and Wade. Lewis brings out the fiery temperament of Ember, and Athie has all the charm and loveable qualities in Wade.
-I was missing that third sidekick type character. I think it needs a comedian like Ellen Degeneres, Amy Poehler, or even Tom Hanks who have had memorable Pixar characters thanks to how they can throw their voices around.
–Elemental hits on a variety of important topics, but I don’t think its lands as impactful as Inside Out or a Wall-E. It’s a cute Pixar love story that drives home the understanding of what makes each of us special, which will hopefully resonate with younger audiences.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
ASTEROID CITY (in theaters)
There’s no mistaking a Wes Anderson film from his centrally framed shots to his intricate choices in color palettes to the zany characters. Anderson’s style continues with his latest ensemble film Asteroid City. Bryan Cranston acts as the host and narrator of this story presenting the inner workings of the double narrative that Wes Anderson has created. Asteroid City is a small, western town in the middle of the desert that happens to be the location of a meteor landing. Its infamy has led to a three day celebration for young star gazers and space cadets to witness and celebrate space. Jason Schwartzman is a frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson and plays Auggie Steenbeck who arrives in Asteroid City with his three daughters and son. He’s a war-time photographer and recent widow. Tom Hanks plays his father-in-law who’s summoned to help Auggie, and then there’s Scarlett Johansson, who plays Midge an actress visiting the city while prepping for her next big role. In true Wes Anderson style, the other narrative also features Schwartzman, Hanks, and Johansson as actors in New York City starring in a play about Asteroid City under the direction of Adrien Brody’s character.
-Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Edward Norton, Maya Hawke, Tilda Swinton, Jeffrey Wright, and Jeff Goldblum.
-The film toggles between using a traditional squared black and white format for the behind-the-scenes narrative with a widescreen color aspect ratio for the play they’re performing of Augie, Midge and the others in Asteroid City.
-The story is divided into acts with a quick intermission like the play that’s unfolding.
–Asteroid City harkens back to the Anderson I love after The French Dispatch and Isle of Dogs left me wanting more. It demonstrates a very playful Wes Anderson whose whimsical and retro vibe here is clearly inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and cheesy sci-fi B movies with low budgets.
-The plot itself felt very loose at first but comes into focus at the end of the first act with an unexpected surprise.
-Anderson’s ensemble of players all feel comfortable with his unique characters with Tom Hanks and Steve Carell adding in their own brand to the mix.
-Don’t expect to always understand what’s going on. The black and white behind the scenes narrative almost felt unnecessary and cut away from the nuttiness and colorful hues of the main story.
-The longer Wes Anderson works the more eccentric his films come across even for us long-time admirers. They’re never easy and oftentimes need multiple viewings to pick up the details he infuses in any given frame.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS