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

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