‘The Tomorrow War’ Review: Mike Mitchell Edition

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The Tomorrow War (CREDIT: Amazon Studios)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge, Jasmine Mathews, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Keith Powers, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Mike Mitchell

Director: Chris McKay

Running Time: 140 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Alien Scum

Release Date: July 2, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

The Tomorrow War stars Chris Pratt as the leader of a fight between Earth and invading aliens in which he must be sent 30 years in the future. He teams up with a ragtag crew, including a future version of his young daughter (Yvonne Strahovski). But I’m not here to talk about them. Instead, this review is all about Mike Mitchell, who’s about 12th on the call sheet, but he’s pretty much the only reason I wanted to watch this movie. Mitchell is primarily known as a podcaster and a member of the Birthday Boys sketch comedy group, the latter of which featured him as a friendly alien who sings a jingle at birthday parties. His podcasting duties include co-hosting Doughboys, in which he reviews chain restaurants. The Tomorrow War, meanwhile, does not feature him chowing down on any good grub, which feels like a missed opportunity.

I’m guessing that Mitchell was cast to be the comic relief character, or one of the comic relief characters. And there needed to be multiple ones! Because, you see, the best part involving Mitch happens when Chris Pratt asks Mary Lynn Rajskub’s character what her name is, and she says “Norah,” which is indeed her character’s name. And then he immediately asks Mitch’s character what his name is, and he also says “Norah.” It’s really well-timed, I promise!

If you’re like me and watching The Tomorrow War only for the Mike Mitchell, you’ll have to be patient, because he’s only in a small percentage of it. But luckily today’s technology allows you to fast-forward and rewind as you please.And there’s also perhaps a consolation prize, as Sam Richardson (of Veep and Detroiters fame) has much more screen time, a good portion of which is meant to be funny. There’s one moment in particular when he continuously shouts a certain four-letter word over and over about a couple dozen times in a row. So I guess this review wasn’t entirely focused on Mike Mitchell. I hope you can forgive me.

The Tomorrow War is Recommended If You Like: Fast-forwarding through Amazon Prime Video’s viewing experience

Grade: 2 out of 5 Doughboys

‘The Glorias’ Shows Off Some Good and Some Bad Habits of Biopic Filmmaking

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Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander, Julianne Moore, Gloria Steinem, and Director Julie Taymor behind the scenes of “The Glorias” (CREDIT: Dan McFadden/LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions)

Starring: Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Timothy Hutton, Janelle Monáe, Bella Abzug, Lorraine Toussaint, Enid Graham, Kimberly Guerrero, Monica Sanchez, Margo Moorer

Director: Julie Taymor

Running Time: 139 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Language and a Nude Image

Release Date: September 30, 2020 (Amazon Prime Video)

I’m of the mind that biopics – that most staid of movie genres – ought to be a little bit wacky. Or A LOT wacky. And the Julia Taymor-directed The Glorias is undoubtedly wacky. Or maybe, it’s exactly as it should be, and it’s everything else that’s askew. The subject is Gloria Steinem, one of the most famous activists in American history, so I’m sure she can appreciate an approach that breaks the mold. Taymor ditches a strictly chronological approach by having all four of the actors playing Gloria frequently interact with each other. Ryan Kiera Armstrong (young Gloria), Lulu Wilson (teen Gloria), Alicia Vikander (young adult Gloria), and Julianne Moore (older adult Gloria) are all presented as passengers on a ride heading to the promise of Steinem’s life’s work. It’s a journey that’s still ongoing as conversations between the past and present remain passionate and relevant.

Taymor fills The Glorias with occasional flights of fantastical whimsy that reminded me a fair bit of Rocketman, the most exuberant biopic in recent memory. These include a sexist interview that turns into an encounter with all four Glorias as witches, and a moment of frustration leading to Gloria running along a series of seemingly endless M.C. Escher-style roads. These moments are fascinating on their own, but they’re a bit too scattered throughout to really pack as powerful a punch as they possibly could.

The Glorias also has plenty of much more prosaic moments, and that mix of straightforward and roundabout results in a running time that clocks in thickly at nearly two and a half hours. Some of the episodes in the 1970s section, like the founding of Ms. Magazine, were also recently covered more excitingly in the FX on Hulu miniseries Mrs. America. Taymor has bitten off plenty (which is what happens when you try to cover the entire arc of someone who’s lived for nearly 90 years), and she chews as much of it as she can. When she manages to really dig in, it’s a fine fiesta to behold. You just have to deal with the messier edges if you want to find the fun.

The Glorias is Recommended If You Like: Filmmaking that’s plenty ambitious but also a little messy

Grade: 3 out of 5 Marches

Talking Dog Alert August 2019 Edition: ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ Review

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CREDIT: Doane Gregory/Twentieth Century Fox

Starring: Milo Ventimiglia, Kevin Costner, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, McKinley Belcher II, Ryan Kiera Armstrong

Director: Simon Curtis

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for Doggy Messes

Release Date: August 9, 2019

The “racing” in The Art of Racing in the Rain refers to the Formula One circuit, but the real race is how fast Kevin Costner can get out all of his canine voiceover narration. There’s been a mini-explosion of talking dog (or rather, thinking-out-loud dog) movies lately, and this might be the most verbose one yet. Enzo the golden retriever wants to make sure that he fulfills all his familial duties, partly because he believes that being a good boy will help out where he ends up in his next life. If he’s good enough, he might even come back as a human, so that karmic balance sheet must be in the most tip-top shape possible. So he makes sure to explain to the audience everything that he must, and that means a heavy script burden for Costner, who keeps it laconic but also plenty dense. If the race to be the Best Cinematic Dog is measured in number of words, then Enzo takes it by the bone.

It’s nice that Enzo has it all figured out (or at least acts like he does) since much of the human interaction around him is infuriating. His owner Denny (Milo Ventimiglia) is an unfailingly sweet guy and devoted family man, but he gets things off on the wrong foot with his father-in-law Max (Martin Donovan), who makes just about no effort to deflate the tension. Max raises some legitimate concerns about Denny’s chosen profession on the track: it’s inherently dangerous, there’s little financial security, and it threatens to keep him away from his wife and daughter for long stretches of time. But Denny makes extra safety efforts and occasionally turns down races to specifically address these concerns. And one would hope that Max could put things in perspective when his daughter (Amanda Seyfried) is stricken with cancer. But instead he gets into a ludicrous custody battle with his son-in-law. This absurdity makes me wish that The Art of Racing in the Rain were filtered even more through Enzo’s outlook. His beliefs about reincarnation might not fit with everyone’s conception of existence, but they are a whole lot more sweetly satisfying than the machinations of fantastically stubborn in-laws.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is Recommended If You Like: A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, Watching old Formula One races

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Laps