‘Ad Astra’ Film Review

Photo via Francois Duhamel/Twentieth Century Fox

Coming off the stellar Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt once again stars in a masterpiece of cinema in 2019 with the new space drama, Ad Astra.

This movie takes place in a fictional world where space exploration has reached impressive feats, such as settlements on the moon, an underground base on Mars, and exploration into the outer Solar System is possible.

The premise of this film is that astronaut Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, is sent into space by the government to track down his father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who is viewed as a threat to humanity’s existence.

This film is downright brilliant. First, the cinematography is beautiful to look at on the big screen. Hoyte van Hoytema did an excellent job portraying the vastness, the beauty and the awe of space. Seeing the planets and their rings on the big screen was breathtaking and made the theater experience memorable.

Another memorable aspect of this movie was the acting. Pitt is the star of the film and the story is told solely from his point of view. The character study of Roy McBride was excellent as it delved into his emotional state and what was on his mind during a situation or conflict. Pitt gave the character so much authentic emotion and depth that made him feel like a real person and not a fictional character. Even though it dealt with fictional science-fiction elements, the performance and the writing of McBride made it feel much more grounded than other sci-fi blockbusters such as Star Wars.

Last, the film thrived when it came to immersing the audience into their world. Not only did the cinematography help make the film look great, but also through great writing, it makes the world feel natural and authentic. They established on the moon how there are territories that are disputed, and this would come into play in the film. Also, the shot where they showed a strip of restaurants, such as Arby’s, on the moon made it feel like that was a real strip and not some fantastical concept.

The only complaint is the film took too long to get going and the beginning was very forgettable, but once the plot kicks in, the film is incredible.   

With great writing, acting, and cinematography, Ad Astra is a cinematic masterpiece that will leave viewers in deep thought after the film ends, and in awe of the beautiful and stunning world it set up.

Rating: 9.5/10

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IT: Chapter Two review

IT: Chapter Two is the continuation of the 2017’s hit horror film, IT. The film takes place 27 years after the events of the first film with our beloved “Loser’s Club” now as adults and all are living outside of Derry, Maine except for Mike Hanlon. When Mike discovers that “It” has returned from hibernation to feast on the children of Derry, he calls in the gang to return to Derry and fulfill the promise they made as kids. I absolutely adore the 2017 film. It was my second favorite film of that year behind Dunkirk, but at the time, it was the most fun I have ever had in a theater because it was my first R-rated, horror film theater experience. The child actors were incredible, the cinematography and set designs were immaculate, and Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Clown was convincingly terrifying. With all the hype for the second part to this adventure, would Chapter Two deliver the same quality the original gave us? For the most part, the film excels in its scares over its predecessor but at the expense of more flaws.

To start off, the casting was perfect. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain could not have been more perfect choices for the characters of Bill and Beverley. Bill Hader steals the show as Richie Tozier; not only because he is hilarious throughout the film but he also, surprisingly, delivers an emotional, “tug-at-your-heartstrings” performance that I cannot praise enough. As a big fan of Saturday Night Live, seeing Hader on-screen is an absolute treasure. There is never a dull moment when you see him on anything and he never fails to put a smile on your face. James Ransone, who plays adult Eddie Kaspbrak, shines as well and is the adult embodiment of Jack Dylan Grazer, who played young Eddie in the first film. There are times where I feel as though moviegoers forget just how important it is to have a good cast. If you don’t have a cast that can deliver the performances that you can latch on to and get behind, regardless of the grandeur of the scenes, the movie will not work. If there is one perfect element of this entire epic, it’s the casting.

Another positive about this film is the freak-show horror going on constantly. These movies know what they are trying to be and that is something to be respected. IT is not meant to be this serious, dark horror film like that of The Conjuring. Most scenes feel as though you are walking through a nearly three-hour-long haunted house. Everywhere you turn, there is another unsettling supernatural element that appears on-screen. While some come off as goofy, a majority of them did terrify me. The jumpscares, while aplenty, are not false scares and most were executed the way they should be, especially this one scene involving a little girl being lured under baseball bleachers by Pennywise. This movie does not hold back on anything. Take it as you will but you will be shocked by a couple of scenes where you will say to yourself, “Wow, they really did that”. AND IT IS MAGNIFICENT. However, as I said before, this film does have more flaws than the original.

This film is nearly three hours long and there are points where you will feel it. While I respect the choice to stick to the book, there are scenes that do not need to exist. Book-to-film adaptations are called adaptations for a reason. The characterization of the adults is lacking as well with the constant flashbacks to their childhood days. They are really just in the movie to defeat Pennywise and that is about it. Richie and Eddie are the only two characters with a deeper element to them. There are technical choices that could throw off some people. With the kids trying to reprise a role from the same time period that they filmed three to four years ago, they look completely different and you may catch that Finn Wolfhard is de-aged and some of the voices are processed because… PUBERTY.

In the end, IT: Chapter Two delivers a satisfying ending and is a respectable conclusion to such a beautiful film from 2017. While you may get bored and hear a bunch of people say that this film wasn’t scary, this is a good film and you are going to have a blast when you see it.

Rating: 7.5/10

 

Thoughts on ‘Rise of Skywalker’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a smash hit back in 2015 as it marked a triumphant return to a movie franchise that fell on hard times during the early 2000s with the prequel trilogy. After some success with Rogue One, the Disney era of Star Wars has become very divisive among its fanbase with its last two films Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Coming into Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, there are many different views as the film approaches its release date in less than four months. There are some that are cautiously optimistic as Force Awakens director JJ Abrams returns to direct the latest installment after Rian Johnson directed the controversial Last Jedi. There are some that were so disappointed by the last two releases that they have checked out of the franchise. However, there are some that are excited to see how this new trilogy ends.

That is where I lie. I am a huge Star Wars fan as Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie of all time, and I have enjoyed every Disney Star Wars movie. While I will admit the Last Jedi had its issues, I think it was nice to see some risks being taken. Killing Luke Skywalker was bold, but his death was a satisfying one for his character; seeing Kylo Ren develop into the main villain was satisfying to witness, and seeing where Rey and Ren go from the end of The Last Jedi is intriguing. These two characters have been great and the parallelism between them is great.

JJ Abrams made Force Awakens a great movie and I am confident he will deliver on this last movie. There is a lot of pressure to deliver, but I’m excited to see what ends up happening with Rey and Ren, and the balance of power in the force moving forward. I’m also intrigued by what they’ll do with the return of Emperor Palpatine who has been teased in posters and teasers, and will Rey have a red bendable lightsaber in the movie. If they can erase unnecessary characters and sequences like the Last Jedi had, it will be a satisfying conclusion.