BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (OPINION) — “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” Grade 3 ½ stars: Directors Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe have managed to put together a highly entertaining tale that looks at the importance of family while making a serious commentary on a world heavily dependent on technology. The blend is so smooth that each element supports the other completely.
It all starts with a family road trip where a father (voiced by Danny McBride) – who is set in his ways – is trying to figure out a way to deal with his daughter, Katie (Abbi Jacobson). She is more interested in her phone that her family. But Katie’s real passion is making Internet movies with the majority featuring her dog as Dog Cop.
Their family tension during the trip across country to take Katie to college is magnified when their drive is interrupted by a machine apocalypse that threatens to wipe out all humans. It’s not a shocker that the threat starts with a new phone.
Rianda and Rowe deliver their smart script with animation that ranges from traditional to chaotic. Even when the presentation jumps around, the film never loses focus. A lot of that comes from a solid voice cast anchored by McBride.
In many homes, animated films get watched repeatedly by youngsters. This offering is so funny that even parents won’t mind sitting through the production over and over again.
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” Grade 2 ½ stars: If it wasn’t for an untethered performance by Tom Hardy, this sequel would be just another series of over-the-top action scenes. Hardy’s fearlessness in playing both journalist Eddie Brock and the lethal Venom holds the production together.
The script – written by Hardy and Kelly Marcel – has Brock trying to keep Venom under control while trying the find a story that could save his career. Brock lands an exclusive interview with convicted murderer and death row inmate Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who discovers Eddie’s secret and becomes the host for the menacing and terrifying symbiote known as Carnage.
Seeing Hardy dealing with Venom and Harrelson handling Carnage shows how not every actor can handle roles dependent on computer-generated characters. Hardy embraces the madness of being part Venom but anchors his performance in a reality. Harrelson takes a sillier approach with Carnage and his work is not as strong.
Director Andy Serkis gets enough support from Hardy and fills the screen with enough big explosions to make the end result fun.
Also new on DVD and Blu-ray
“The Last Duel”: The tale of betrayal and vengeance set in 14th century France comes from visionary filmmaker Ridley Scott.
“South of Heaven”: Paroled felon Jimmy (Jason Sudeikis) vows to give his girlfriend Annie (Evangeline Lilly), who is dying of cancer, the best last year of her life but things are never that simple.
“Manifest: Season 3”: Passengers of a missing plane continue to look for clues to what happened to them.
“Pond Life”: A small town is turned upside down by a legendary giant carp.
“Future of Work”: PBS documentary explores major changes in the workplace and the long-term impact on workers, employers, educators and communities.
“Dangerous”: An ex-con with social issues must face his fears to find out what happened to his brother. Scott Eastwood stars.
“Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy”: Set contains three critically-acclaimed animated films – “The Secret of Kells,” “Song of The Sea” and “Wolfwalkers.”
“The Waltons’ Homecoming”: Family prepares for a Christmas without all of them being together.
“The Card Counter”: Ex-military interrogator turned gambler is haunted by the ghosts of his past decisions.
“The Fabulous Dorseys”: The special-edition release of the 1947 film comes with a restoration of the film featuring a 4K transfer from archival film elements.
Available through digital platforms
“The French Dispatch”: Wes Anderson’s film is a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in the fictional 20th-century French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé. It will be released on DVD on Dec. 28.