Going To The Stars In a Drier, In Depth, And Artistic Approach

Ad Astra Poster

 

Space, the final frontier, a void of endless possibilities for us humans to explore, colonize, and potentially ruin with our wasteful culture.  For now though, it serves as a great medium to make a movie about science-fiction for.  Throughout the history of movies, space films have allowed the imaginations of many to take off and bring some of the most memorable movies that we still latch onto today.  Tonight, the review focuses on yet another film that hopes to soar to new heights and win a new award.  Robbie K again with another review, this time on:

 

Movie: Ad Astra (2019)

 

Director:

James Gray

Writers:

James GrayEthan Gross

Stars:

Brad PittTommy Lee JonesRuth Negga

 

LIKES:

 

Beautifully Shot

Interesting Concept

Realistic Science-Fiction

Good Acting

 

 

DISLIKES

Some Subplots

The Ending

The Obscure Answers

The Tangents

The Pacing

 

SUMMARY:

 

Space movies vary in a number of things, but the presentation can make or break the film as a whole depending on what their focus is.  For Ad Astra, the movie managed to tailor it’s fiction component to provide a more realistic tale that will appeal to a wider variety of audiences who sometimes get lost in the fantasy element.  Ad Astra’s plot is interesting in the point of an incident known as the Surge, whose origin lies in the last know place that Brad Pitt’s father (Lee-Jones) was seen going.  To help minimize the Surge from further destroying the world as we know it, Pitt is sent into space and through it goes on a journey of self-discovery that adds the psyche element analysis on board.  This interesting concept is going to be great for Sci-Fi book lovers, as it feels much like those stories where the first-person perspective is portrayed from the third-person look.  It’s a bit dense, but the fact they were able to keep to their own rules they established at the start was a big win for me.  Certainly the story is brought out by great acting, mostly on Pitt’s part who hits the depressed space hero going on dangerous mission well.  You can feel the suffering of the character, see the thoughts reflected in the tiniest gestures, and feel the emotions of the character in the dialogue/monologues he unleashes.  It’s a great leading role,, though it could have benefitted from more inclusion of other characters to even out the sullen nature of Pitt’s character.  My friend and I both did agree though, that the special effects and movie magic were the best element of the movie.  Ad Astra’s cinematography was gorgeous, with fantastic integration of CGI structures into realistic shots, and more so designing the sets to which this drama plays out on.  It’s these stunning effects that bring everything to life and will most likely catch they eyes of moviegoers everywhere as you are pulled into the venture at hand.

 

Yet all these unique approaches and special visual story telling do not quite get you set for the more artistic/symbolic approaches that movies sometimes take.  Ad Astra’s  subplots and tangents open up the new adventures and accomplishes the task of getting character development rolling.  With each “stop” so to speak, there is a reflection by the character and what he is thinking that is awesome for the character component, but semi-worthless in terms of story over all.  Again like a book, this film’s treks across the void are awesome to see, but not necessarily carrying much point past the artistic visualization.  As the movie continues on, it does not quite tell the story in the most black and white aspects.  Much of the film’s lines are very in depth or vague, capable of providing you insight to piece things together, but the delivery is a little stuffy and theatrical that it dilutes the significance this scene plays.  Thus, these side avenues, while certainly extra tales to further dive into Pitt’s psyche, were not the best use of time in my opinion.  When the ending finally came and the overall goal we set out was reached, I again was disappointed in the results it took.  I think i always knew where it was going, but Ad Astra’s finale needed some excitement or further tension to justify all the time invested, and I felt I did not get that outside of the symbolic gestures it took.  This may not have bothered me as much had the pacing of this film been better.   Pitt’s journey is very slow and given the amount of details it brings, did not have too much excitement or speed to get to the goal fast enough.  This led to me fighting sleep occasionally and I would have loved again some editing to add a little pep or do some more editing to get out the film faster.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Ad Astra achieves the prize of beautiful style, deeper tales, and great acting to come to life.  It throws away the idea of space battles or aliens and instead subjects the goer with impressive looks into a character and the symbolism that space travel can bring.  It feels much like a book put to movie and I give mad credit to the vision that James Gray had when putting this film together.  However, this unique and detailed approach may also be the downfall of the tale as the cascading subplots and tangents become a little overbearing at times.  kA sort of linear, connect the dots like approach does not quite give the most exciting narrative and the ending, no matter how beautiful it is, seems a bit of a sucker punch that made the movie’s dragging pace not so great for me.  Yet again, if this kind of vague and symbolic approach is your cup of tea, definitely check this film out because there are enough visuals and effects to utilize theater technology well. However, if you want a more traditional space movie and need the lasers, aliens, and tension, this film should be on the home viewing instead.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Drama/Mystery:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

On The Basis Of Girl Power

On the Basis of Sex Poster

 

Historical documentaries always fall victim to the dramatization treatment of the cinema world.  As such, we end up eating them up, except for the purists, as we become enthralled in the spark’s notes version of the historical legacy these people left.  So, in the age and time of politics, let’s pick a supreme court justice as the next one and see what stories are told. Robbie K back on review duty as he checks out:

 

 

Film: On The Basis Of Sex (2018)

 

Director:

Mimi Leder

Writer:

Daniel Stiepleman

Stars:

Felicity JonesArmie HammerJustin Theroux

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Use of most characters
  • Makeup and Costumes
  • Good Writing
  • Jargon translated
  • Message towards key demographic

 

Summary:  You can certainly get this from the trailers, but the hallmark of these movies is often the acting, and this film is no exception. Felicity Jones talents continue to soar in her bravado, mannerisms, and wonderful delivery of a lawyer fighting for what’s right.  Hammer as well finds his stride as the supporting character working to help Ruth’s goals.  The rest of the crew have wonderful acting ability, and most of the characters are well integrated into the tale to really bring the most out of the case that would change so much.  And in regards to looks, the makeup and costume department gets special props as they bring the times of the past into history and capture the looks of that era.

Yet while the look is there, does this film have the feel?  For the most part, yes it does.  On the Basis of Sex has good writing behind it, as a grand display of passionate speeches, impressive vocabulary filled monologues, and fiery, passion filled scenes unfold. It’s smart, witty, and quite fitting of the prowess of the woman and probably something the older audience will enjoy.  Not familiar with the law and all the technical terms that come with it?  No problem!  This film has got the spark’s notes version of relevant information there to keep you integrated into the case and not get too lost in all the convoluted terminology. In addition, the film makes use of the speeches to really try to inspire and fire up the young women watching.  It held the heart and soul of the movie and I think was the central aspect of the film.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Pace
  • Not utilizing other characters
  • A little convoluted
  • The Opening’s necessity

 

Summary:  With these types of films, the key is to work hard to make it entertaining and yet truthful.  On the Basis of Sex’s pace was not for me, becoming a little tedious at times as it hobbled along to get to the big case at hand.  This uneven pace brought rough patches that had me fighting sleep, that took away the momentum of the movie.  What helped amplify this component was the convoluted moments where the law jargon took over the movie magic.  While Basis of Sex has interpreted much of the heavy technical terms there may be some very detailed moments that can bring a fog to your brain and potentially tire you out.  Fantastic attention to details, but not the most engaging at times.

In addition, the other thing that also didn’t woo me was some of the characters they didn’t put as much focus on.  Kathy Bates, the legend herself, has little appearance in the movie despite being a selling point for the trailer.  The rivals led by Sam Watterson  were semi-used, but only in the latter half instead of throughout the movie.  The result is taking away some of the heat and suspense I think they wanted to go for. As for the opening moments of the movie, well they are okay.  Yes, they do justice in setting the stage and introducing all the pieces to the puzzle. However, these rather important moments feel a little fast forwarded to me, rushed over and almost feeling unnecessary as much of the focus is on the big case instead of her entire life as the trailers portrayed.  Thus, I think the direction was not all there in terms of how they wanted to bring her entire life into focus.

 

 

The VERDICT:

On the Basis of Sex accomplishes the goal of appealing to its key demographic, showing off the amazing talents of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and waving the girl power flag high.  It’s acting and character to use are fantastic for the most part, with makeup and writing to really bring out the full prowess of the scene.  However, the movie still needs some balance in terms of using all characters, trying to tone down the legal jargon, and figuring out what they wanted to highlight.  As picky as this sounds, the movie was good and has artistic nature to it, but it didn’t quite deliver the ultimate performance they were going for.  Worth a trip to theater? Not so much, but still worth checking out when it comes to home viewing.

 

My scores are:

Biography/Drama:  7.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

Baking This Bun Is Fun: Comedy Meets Romance

bridget-jones-3

            We all love a good love story in one form or another. Whether it takes the form of a realistic relationship or drops into the make believe perfection of a Nicholas Sparks movie, Hollywood is happy to play on affection for entertainment. And this weekend another sequel attempts to make us oooh and ahh only this time adding a little “bump” in the road. I speak of Bridget Jones’ Baby, the latest installment in the single woman’s legacy starring Renee Zellweger and her lovely ensemble. So let’s get started shall we?

 

Likes:

  • Surprisingly witty comedy
  • Acting chemistry
  • Well paced plot

I can’t lie that I went into this movie with low expectations, after all it’s been 15 years since the last movie and a lot can change. However, age hasn’t stopped our writers from placing some clever comedy in the 2-hour runtime. The dialogue has plenty of quips thrown at our cast, meant to poke fun at our characters quirks and qualities. In addition, our characters throw jabs at various movements, popular trends, and media ploys that prove just how ridiculous we humans can be. But the laughs are not limited to just dialogue. Bridget Jones tale is filled with situational awkwardness, a well-designed soundtrack to mirror scenes, and a little slapstick to liven things up. A majority of the comedy has wit and timing to maximize laughs, but there are plenty of stupid moments that are good for a quick chuckle.

Writing aside, the three actors played their characters extraordinarily well and certainly brought the words to life. Renee Zellweger reprises her role as the single spinster transitioning into a new role, managing to bring all of Bridget’s qualities out of storage while evolving her character. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is yet another notch in the stuffy, English gentleman belt that he still plays fantastically even after the tenth reiteration. And newcomer Patrick Dempsey is a welcome addition to the world, bringing a new twist on the more fun side of life that Hugh Grant once played. These three certainly play well together, able to form a reverse Archie Comics love triangle that so many will love.

In regards to the plot, again I was surprised by how much I wasn’t annoyed by this love story. We know many romance tales are about drawing out the drama because our characters are too shy to commence their feelings until some episode, usually alcohol, leads to sex and the tension breaking. Not the case for this film, as our crew was able to cram so much romance into a short running time and keep the plot moving that it was entertaining to watch. Nice job guys!

 

Dislikes:

  • Very Formulaic at times
  • Sometimes a bit too preachy and silly.

 

I’m probably going to be berated on this, but Bridget Jones still follows the formulaic, love ritual that the genre has become. Much of the story is predictable, with our cast of characters falling into the typical pitfalls and romantic gestures that audiences continue to eat up. You can see the ending coming a mile away at whom she will choose and I only hoped I was wrong so I could be surprised. In addition, the jokes sometimes do get predictable and lost their punch for me (not the case for a lot of the audience). Oh well at least it is safe for fans of the series and will certainly deliver the expected. Still I was hoping for a little more twist to the familiar tale.

Another dislike for me was the preachiness of the film at times. I’m all for the revolutionary movements (e.g. equal rights, kindness towards others, and single moms) but to have my face smeared in over aggressive montages takes away from the magic for me. My least favorite moments involved Bridget’s mother, because it was forced comedy focused on pointing out how different certain people were. Come on people, put the message in the movie without making a spectacle of it, we know that’s not the most constructive means. In addition, the whole you can do it as a single mom was kind of pointless in this movie as she continued to pine over her two suitors without much hesitation. If you are again going to take extreme measures about promoting an image, follow through with it please. Regardless, the grandiosity of the movie wasn’t my favorite aspect at times, but the comedy was able to dilute some of it.

 

The Verdict:

            Overall, I’m happy to say that Bridge Jones’ Baby was one of the more enjoyable romantic comedies I have seen in a while. The comedy is by far the best part of this, and although raunchy and stupid at times, is dynamic and fun to say the least. In addition the chemistry of the actors alongside the fast moving plot only further enhances the fun of this adventure. But again it is formulaic and overly preachy at times, much of which is geared toward the intended audience that was often eye -rolling to me. Worth a trip to the theater? I have to say yes this a movie worth the price for how much fun it is, especially for fans of the series, middle-aged women and older, or those who appreciate feminine comedy. Otherwise catch this one on RedBox when it hits bins in a few months.

 

My scores are:

Comedy/Romance: 8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

Bourne To Be Wild or Bourne To Be Walking

Bourne

 

Robbie K back again with the third movie review of the week. Tonight, we move away from the comedy/drama and move into the action film of the seven-day spread. Our film to review today is Jason Bourne, the fifth installment (fourth if you don’t count Legacy) in the spy with the same name. Upon seeing the trailer, I didn’t know what to expect with this movie and could only pray the fifth film could maintain the spark. Has the Bourne series returned to the glory of the first trilogy with the return of Matt Damon, or is it another Hollywood sham? As always, let’s get started.

 

The GOOD

  • Acting is top notch
  • Decent crime/conspiracy plot
  • Exciting conclusion…ish

 

Let’s kick off the review with a quality you might not really care about in terms of a movie like this…the acting. At this time I must say that the emotional spectrum in this movie is limited to stoic faces, slightly angry outbursts and looks of alarm when loud noises are made. But our cast does this so well that you have to appreciate how good the edge works for them. Matt Damon has not let the time delude the sharpness he had as the assassin from years ago. While he certainly looks the part, Damon also keeps his emotions in check and delivers his anger in a manner that is not overdone. As for Tommy Lee Jones, well he still has the reliable delivery that we all know and love in his various agent roles (again not showing any emotion). Alicia Vikander as the new leading lady gets thumbs up as well, but she isn’t quite as endearing as the others outside of providing a great connecting character for the story (and potential sequel).

Now that the acting is put aside, let’s talk plot next. Jason Bourne’s plot is decent, a very technical movie that explores the complex web of lies the agency likes to weave. This film does a great job of reintroducing the classic hero (though the opening is a little slow) and helps get the audience prepped for the tale at hand. The focus of this movie involves explaining a little more about Bourne’s origin stories and just who is the source of all his anger is. While certainly not the most unique tale I have ever seen, it does fit well with the Bourne universe and provides the backbone for all the chaos to be had. And perhaps my favorite part of it all was the exciting finish.

Speaking of the finale, man did Bourne’s tale end with a bang. All of the tension comes to full boil, forcing Bourne and his allies to make some hasty decisions that leads to adrenaline pumping chases. What starts out as a foot race quickly amps up to vehicles and gunplay where the special effects come to full life and the sound grips you harder than a vice grip. Yes it is a bit over the top, and the amount of damage is ridiculous, but it certainly is good for a laugh.

 

 

 

 

The BAD

  • Slow to take off
  • Action masked as lots of walking
  • Nicky Parsons limited role

 

I already mentioned this, but the Borne movie took a little time to take off for me. Yes, the set up is building some tension, but it took a little too long to get to the good action parts. There wasn’t as much drive to the set up and the dry dialogue did not help things along at all. Maybe if there had been a little more emotion in our characters or some symphony score to amp it up it could have been better for me. However, the slowness is forgotten once you get to that first chase scene that proved Bourne still had skills, outside of punching untrained guys.

And then the action hits the wall that makes you wonder how it is considered the most action packed of the series. After the chase scene, most of the action is actually our cast speed walking around various cities in an attempt to escape the technology superior government. While the cinematography certainly gave you great shots of these locations, seeing the actors get a good cardio workout is not my ideal vision of action. Seriously, I was waiting for the Lord of the Rings walking music to play. Even when the action scenes hit, the camera work got quite shaky and could be difficult to follow at times. At least the finale restored my faith in the series a bit.

And finally Nicky Parsons. The woman was certainly awesome in the first trilogy, but in this movie she was robbed of the much needed screen time. As impressive as she was in the opening, her character exited the stage too soon to satisfy the promise the trailers provided. Maybe the story, the action, or the delivery could have been more exciting had they teamed up some more.

 

The VERDICT

 

            The fifth Bourne movie has everything you expect in the series including a convoluted plot, intense chase scenes, decent gunplay, and emotionless flat characters who only care to kick butt. While I don’t agree that it is the best movie of the series, it still fit in well with the series and provided some entertainment. True, I did want a faster tale, better action, and a little deeper story, but hey there is always another movie to accomplish that goal. Would I recommend it for a theater visit? I can say yes, especially for die hard fans of the series, but would suggest other films in place of this one.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Thriller: 7.5

Movie Overall: 7.0