Ad Astra

Years ago, James Gray gave us The Lost City of Z, based off of a book and a real life dude, and it was very ambitious. It felt a bit too long, but it had a lot of good going for it, and I know some critics who had it on their top of the year list.

I hadn’t seen anything else from Gray, but I have seen all of his films since then. You know, this one, Ad Astra.

Space Drama? Brad Pitt? Mystery?

Sign me the god damn fuck up.


Sorry Mr. Pitt. I will watch my language in the future.

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is a decorated veteran in the armed forces, and has lived a life full of patriotism, honor, and sacrifice. He does his job, and he does it well, with little fuss. He also has a famous father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), the most successful astronaut explorer in human history. He has done so much for space travel and has been held in the highest of honors, and also for this fact, been completely absent from Roy’s life.

Their emotions are distant, both mentally and physically.

And then Clifford had to go missing, on his further adventure yet. No one is sure what happened to his crew. Maybe he died. Maybe he is alive. But the folks are having a sure enough difficult time trying to get in contact with him, so they figure maybe his son will have a better shot. At the same time, there are these pulses that are putting a damper on space travel and getting worse and worse, and they might have something to do with why Clifford and his crew have gone missing.

Can Roy find his father? Basically a man he has already been searching for his whole life?

Also starring Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland.

recording studio
In space, no one can hear you scream. Unless you have a space recording studio.

Where does one begin with a movie like Ad Astra? The previews don’t tell a lot, and neither did my plot section. This is a movie about the journey, about the dangers of space and putting real limitations on our travel. I don’t believe everything was fully explained in terms of how things worked, but they felt realistic. It felt like a real potential for our future, without relying on mysterious future technology too much.

No mysterious space magic or space technology lasers here to solve the day, no siree.

And this is a movie to showcase Brad “The Pit” Pitt. One who knows nothing about him would assume almost that he isn’t acting. He is very passive, telling more with his inner monologue and face than his lack of actions with others. The sins of the father story line is strong here, and so on the nose it is the entire face.

Ad Astra is a movie that is best experienced on a large screen, with large speakers, and an open mind. It is definitely light on the action (despite glimmers and shocks), and heavy on the sorrow. This is a strange epic that is completely unforgiving along the way with one main story to tell. It will be hard to top this level of care that went into an original story this year, but one I am glad I was able to witness.

4 out of 4.

Basmati Blues

I first heard about Basmati Blues at least 2 and a half years ago. I tend to rather frequently look up the Wikipedia List of Musical Films By Year. It is always good to know what is coming up, because damn it, I like musicals. Just like how I waited for almost two years for The Greatest Showman.

But this was different. This one had the star of Room , which was wildly popular at the time, and it was a goddamn musical. It just took forever to come out, with delays, and then eventually a quiet VOD and even quieter DVD release.

This is a film they tried to bury, instead of riding off of her coattails. Can it be that bad?

Dance
Foreigner learning to do local dance scene? Check.

Rice 9 is amazing! It gives more protein, more rice per yield, less waste, and blah blah blah. It has been genetically modified to be the very best rice there is and can do a lot for hunger and poverty!

The designers of this crop are the father daughter team of Eric (Scott Bakula) and Linda (Brie Larson), although Linda did most of the legwork despite her younger age. She is passionate about helping save the world and happy that she works for a company that is trying to get things rolling. However, there is a problem. Their rep that was supposed to go to India to sell the plant to a small group of farmers to prove its effectiveness got into some really bad trouble. He wouldn’t be welcome in those parts.

The heads (Donald Sutherland, Tyne Daly) need to find someone new to send over stat. Someone who is passionate, kind, and believes in their product. And although she is just a scientist, they think Linda is just the girl for the task.

Now we have a girl going to a country she has never been, to peddle a product she loves, to farmers who are mostly resistant to change. And because she is alone, why not throw in some love complications as well? Oh yeah, also, the corporation is bad.

Also starring Utkarsh Ambudkar as our love interest / competitor, Saahil Sehgal, and Lakshmi Manchu.

Musical
Corporation revealing their evil ways in a plan with office workers? Check

No, I wouldn’t say it is that bad. But it is is that forgettable. There were definitely songs and it was definitely musical songs. I imagined this could be a movie where the songs came out naturally and realistically, like Begin Again or so. These songs however are mostly the show stopper type films, breaking the ordinary, music playing in the background. I have no hate for these type, I love them!

Just this one didn’t have too many and they weren’t too spectacular (spectacular). I can’t remember really any of the songs, just maybe 1-2 seconds. None of the tunes stuck in my head and maybe only a few made me smile.

The plot and the story is relatively weak. I am happy it was anti-corrupt corporations and not anti-genetically modified food, which is where I thought it would go. They are totally fine with genetically modified food, just not fine with dick companies who lie.

It was strange to set a musical in India and not go harder for the actual Bollywood feel. We had a Bollywood ending number, and the rest was just standard fare. The cinematography during the songs is incredibly low key, and just felt like a movie that was filmed in about a week.

Basmati Blues is the thankfully not the only musical to come out this year. Check out Hearts Beat Loud for my current number one if you need something to get you moving.

1 out of 4.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Hooray another franchise is over! After Harry Potter, I am grateful book series are still afraid to break from the trilogy format. Or else we’d get these yearly movies that drive up the box office and everyone freaks out about and so on.

You know, like Marvel movies. Or the upcoming Star Wars films. One a year. Fuck.

Of course, this time it is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. The studios will say over and over again it is because the last story needs all that time to tell the story, but it is just for money grabbing purposes. It is putting a pause in the plot, usually meaning neither half are a complete film and overdrawn.

Part 1 was the worst film of the franchise. It had about 30 minutes of plot spread out over two hours. And because of that, Part 2 is almost definitely going to suffer for similar reasons. Even if Part 2 is great, the fact that Part 1 exists and is bad, instead of one coherent picture, means both are weaker than they should be. Happened with the final two Twilights, happened with the final two Harry Potters, and will probably happen again here.

Grope
You know, Katniss, this is the last time I might get to dress you.” – Creepy Effie

Katniss Katniss Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). Katniss found herself choked up over the fact that they saved Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capital, her emotions all over the place. She knows one thing now. She will help Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and the rebels in any way she knows how. The Capital and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) must fall! And die!

Got it? Good. I’m done with that point of view. Lets change it up.

My man, Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) is still a bad ass mother fucker, cool spear trident weapon thing. No one can take him one on one. Except one girl. That’s right, Finnick is getting married. They will have ginger babies. Apparently they are all Irish, and Irish is a thing in this world, because their wedding has Irish violin music and jigs and shit. But that won’t stop him from putting his life on the line to take down the bad guys, YEAH!

Okay okay one more. Caesar Flickerman (StanleY Tucci) is the best host in all of the districts. He has flair, hair, and style. Unfortunately in this movie, he only has one scene as a shitty news anchor person. We don’t delve more into his life. Sad news.

Alright, everyone else in this movie are played by the same people you have seen before. Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Patina Miller, and of course, Elden Henson as the best video camera man in the world. Formally best at shooting the puck really hard.

Walk
“What are you going to do, just walk up to the door stop and kill him?”

I felt a bit silly typing up the plot outline for this film, as you may have guessed. They are finally doing that fight thing. No longer is this about the hunger games, it is about a revolution, damn it. They should really assume the viewers are smarter and just call it Mockingjay without THG.

Part 2 ended up being a lot better than Part 1, but not as good as the first movie or Catching Fire. The ending wasn’t full of epic moments, but just a slow fuse that slowly ran out of steam. And then a couple more scenes, and an epilogue. Hell, the ending was very confusing just in terms of time. I can’t be more specific without bigger spoilers, but the events being shown and that were talked shouldn’t have overlapped as such.

There were some decent action scenes in the middle though. The best was the sewer scene, although it was also confusing. Dark places means they don’t have to make coherent action, which might just be an allusion to the first film where they just changed the camera angles a lot and shook the camera. They threw in zombies out of no where, which is I guess the cool thing to do in a teen book franchises (see Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials). I am sure technically they are not zombies, but they came out of no where and never were really explained, so that is all I can really call them.

When I think back on the Hunger Games franchise in the future, I will just think about the first two movies. As long as you accept that Catching Fire ends with a crappy cliff hanger and doesn’t resolve anything, it will save you from the extremely mediocre two film filler after the fact. With only a handful amount of Finnick scenes to get you by.

2 out of 4.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Ugh. So here we go.

Brief recap of the series from my POV. Hunger Games – Too much training, not enough games. Too much shaky cam, not enough actual action. It is okay. 2 out of 4. Catching Fire – Figured the plot would be contrived and forced to be similar, but it wasn’t. A much better movie, less shaky cam, better acting. 3 out of 4.

So that is some of my biases coming in to this movie. Or should I call it half a movie? After all, The Hunger Games Mockingjay, the final book, was split in half for movie sake. Oh joy. Just like Twilight. Just like Harry Potter. I am sure Divergent will split the final book into three parts. Hell, this is becoming so annoying, The Maze Runner got praise for saying it wouldn’t split up any of the books! Yay!

It should be noted, I really really really fucking hate this. It is just a franchise milking more money before it becomes irrelevant. If they can fit the other X books into one movie, they can do it for the final one too. And the first of the two always ends up being weaker. It was the worst Twilight film, and a more boring Harry Potter. That is because it is all set up for the final more exciting part, and usually bullshit.

But at least Harry Potter had the decency to release the films within a year of each other, about 7 months apart. Part 2 of Mockingjay won’t come out until next November, a whole year later, making it seem like another complete movie and not a continuation.

I guess I am mostly mad because for a movie, I want a complete story and not just crappy tv show cliffhangers. Catching Fire ended on a crappy TV show cliff hanger, and this one will give me only part of a story and make me wait a whole year to see the second half. That is abusing the part 1 and part 2 system and is malarkey. The only reason to wait that amount of time is to make more money, and unfortunately it will make it too.

Conference
Rough plans for their new conference center to discuss ways to make money once this franchise is done.

For those that aren’t in the know, Catching Fire ended with The 75th Hunger Games ending prematurely. Shit broke, lot of chaos and anarchy, people got left behind, and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in the once thought destroyed District 13. Looks like they have had a rebel group in here for some time. And so many people are a part of it!

Like, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman)! And Gale (Liam Hemsworth)! And Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks)! Although their involvement may have been less than voluntary.

Katniss has been brought here for one main reason. To help lead a revolution to take down the capital, to unite the districts as one, and to be the face of PR and propaganda. However, when they rescued her, they notably left a few people behind, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a couple other tributes. She doesn’t want to get involved in this war, she just wants to save Peeta. But she gets sucked into it anyway once she finds out that all of District 12 was basically destroyed.

And that’s that! Let the PR campaign begin! Yay warring governments,even if the District 13 President (Julianne Moore) is kind of boring.

Also featuring a whole lot of other people of course. Most returning. Like Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Wright and Willow Shields. But there is also Mahershala Ali and Natalie Dormer guys. Don’t. Forget. About. Them.

Desolate
They asked the extras who wants to be Jennifer’s BFF.

I don’t want to sound like a self fulfilling prophesier, but…

I think Mockingjay Part 1 is easily the worst film in the series. And the good news is I gave the recap on top of the other two, so I don’t have to explain their advantages, just talk about this film! The good news is that this film is only 2 hours long, not 140 minutes like the last two. It makes sense, as it is only half of a book anyways. And another good aspect of this movie is that it actually tells a complete story, more or less. We have goals at the beginning of the movie, and by the end, those goals are accomplished in a few ways. They just create a couple more issues and lead up to a bigger and more intense thing.

My issues with the film still relate to the parts though, I guess. Despite its shorter run time, this felt like 30-45 minutes of plot spread out over 2 hours. Everything felt slow, much slower than normal. I can only watch so much angst.

In additional, I cringed quite a few times at lines and actions of characters. They felt so unbelievable or unrealistic given the circumstances that I had to roll my eyes. I found it had at times to really get lost in the movie and allow time to go by easily.

It is still not a terrible film or anything, I just think it didn’t get anywhere close to its full potential. Oh well, we will see how I feel a year from now when I can finally get the end to the story.

2 out of 4.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Before we get started, I should mention some things about The Hunger Games. I gave it a 2 out of 4. I also didn’t watch it until 5-6 months after it went to theater. Not surprisngly, I didn’t read the books, so I had no stake in it.

I knew the rough outline. For some reason, teens have to go into a competition and kill each other, with only one remaining. Literally teens killing teens, very brutal. So I knew it should have been a brutal movie, but they decided to have it about teen death, and show practically nothing, through the use of shaky cam and just not showing crap. Shaky cam makes things look hectic and rushed, placing the viewer in the shoes of a character I guess. It is supposed to increase tension, but really is cheap, lazy, and lowers the rating. So that was annoying for the entirety of the games.

Outside of other random issues, the story felt complete after the games. Her life is going to change, but whatever, that doesn’t mean we need more story about it. Basically, I feel like I felt after watching Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Interesting story, no need to move on. But they both move on? The next two movies for Girl felt forced, and just didn’t feel as good as the first. So I am worried the same thing will occur here too, with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

I mean, we will see how it goes, just throwing out my thoughts ahead of time, so you know where I am coming from.

Mermaid
All of those thoughts were quelled when I realized it featured a literal merman, though.

The sequel takes place almost a year after the original movie. Everything is back to normal. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) isn’t anything special at home, for whatever reason. She just wants to get her love on with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), but has to pretend to be in love with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Or else like, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) said he would kill all of her loved ones. You know, typical teenage girl stuff.

Why? Because she is a threat to the government. The districts are furious that two winners were allowed for once, and if it isn’t true love, they will feel scammed. They will riot. They will assume the government isn’t all powerful. But her love games aren’t fooling anyone it turns out. So they have to make an alternative strategy.

Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is made the new games dude, and they are allowed to fuck up the rules when they hit a quarter mark anniversary. Oh good timing! Number 75 is here! In an act to show that the government is the greatest power and no one can defy their power, not even past winners, they decide to pick the tributes solely out of the past winners still alive per district. Yay! We are talking old people and adults! Also people who know how to kill.

So what is a Katniss going to do? Maybe she is going to have to kill Peeta yo.

Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and Stanley Tucci reprise their roles from the first film. Also introducing Sam Claflin as the merman (kind of), Jena Malone as an axe wielder, and Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer as really smart people from District 3. All in the games, of course.

Protest
Peeta gave that bitch some protests. That bitch loves protests. [But still not Peeta]

Despite the weather’s best attempts, I still was able to watch this movie on its opening premier, which means surrounded by a lot of rabid fanboys and girls. Armed with my best Twilight T-Shirt, I was able to sit down and get ready to criticize all of the problems I already saw from the trailer with the story. And then the unthinkable happened. The movie explained the “problem areas” in the movie, and all of my pre-concerns were gone. Damn. Ain’t that a bitch?

Seriously. Fuck the trailer for Catching Fire. It was badly put together in comparison to the movie, showing some nonsensical crap and in retrospect, basically a piece of shit. Because the movie explains everything and doesn’t leave any of the potential plot holes out there. It does a great job of explaining it all.

What else did I dislike about the first movie? The shaky cam. Well, there is a lot less of that. Easy enough fix. I am not saying there was more action, because that is debatable, but there is definitely less shaky cam.

Overall, I was pretty entertained by watching Catching Fire. It was full of surprising moments to me, as a movie watcher, and kept me more or less on my toes. I do have to wonder why the tributes, if they were all super pissed that they had to be there (literally all of them, who wouldn’t be?), even decided to battle and kill the tributes. It would be a good show of solidarity if they just all refused to do it, you know. But that isn’t action-y enough I guess, we need some bad people still.

Costume
This section was looking too wordy, so I threw in a third picture to distract you. And make it look even longer.

I disliked how the film chose to end. Reminded me of the ending of Matrix Reloaded, which was bad enough that I didn’t watch the third one. I get it. Based on a books so stories won’t be completed. But they chose to end it after giving a lot of new information and changing things up, which should only be a tactic for weekly TV shows, not movies. It is already enough bullshit that the third movie is being split into two again because “there is so much story to tell!” (re: money to make). And now I am getting what feels like childish cliffhangers instead of a full story for a movie.

In addition to that issue, I will note the games themselves felt way easier this time than last time, which is kind of annoying. I am being advertised that this is the best of the best, all born killers, but she has a pretty easy time during these games compared to the last. Not only is it easier, but she has fewer moral choices to make too. A bit disappointing.

Catching Fire is definitely a step up from the first film though, and overall, pretty decent of a movie..

3 out of 4.

The Hunger Games

Somehow The Hunger Games came out to theaters in March, and I still was able to see it in a theater a few days ago. Crazier, considering the DVD comes out in a couple weeks (on a Saturday? Wtf?). Either way, yay Capitalism.

Celebrate
And woo to the future! Woo to human sacrifices!

In this future, America is split up into 12 Districts, and a Capital somewhere in the Rockies. There was a revolution, the capital won, and to pay tribute each district has to send 2 individuals aged 12-18, male and female, every year, to fight to the death. What?! Yeah, kind of fucked up and random. 80 years later, shit is still happening.

Our heroes are from the 12th District, somewhere in Appalachia, bunch of coal miners. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is really good with a bow, in her late teens, and has a younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields) about to be up for her first Reaping ceremony. Also, some dude, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), probably has a thing going with Katniss, but isn’t really important to this movie. Maybe later!

But yeah, at the choosing ceremony, of course Primarose gets randomly chosen, super unlucky. Katniss is like, no, none of this shit. Doesn’t want her sister to die, so volunteers in her place. The boy picked is some nobody, Peter Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). So Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the head kid snatcher, takes them to the capital, to represent district 12 and stuff.

Wait a minute. That was Elizabeth Banks? Picture now.

Banks
Da fuq?

How in the heck is that Elizabeth Banks? I am completely taken aback by that fact. And man was that character annoying. She won a damn MTV movie award for Best On Screen Transformation, so at least MTV agrees with me.

They go to the capital, get their training on. Have a mentor who won from District 12 a long time ago, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), kind of an alcoholic. Also some fashion designer to help? I didn’t know what Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) did. Stanley Tucci is an Emcee, Wes Bentley runs the game, and Donald Sutherland is the president.

Lawrence is Popplewell
Also, I think Jennifer Lawrence looked like an older Anna Popplewell this whole damn movie.

I definitely felt this movie was too long, and probably a better book than a movie. It had the feeling of a movie that wanted to fit everything from the book into the movie, but couldn’t, yet still tried. You know? Tons of what I feel as unnecessary scenes. And some wtf scenes. There was a riot in this movie, in another district, and I have no idea why it would have happened. Zero reasons why it happened in this tournament, and not any time in the 70 or 80 before hand. Just out of no where.

A lot felt confusing to me. The first half almost feels like it is entirely about impressing sponsors, but never fully explain it. When the tournament started, I was thinking “How the fuck is there no sponsors yet? What the hell is going on?” Far too much time on something unexplained.

And lastly I kind of got a head ache. They did some extreme shaky cam stuff with this movie. The movie had a good plot and acting. But my head hurt, because all of the action that the movie should have, given it is about a kill all the people tournament, was covered up by making it unintelligible. But it wasn’t just the killing. Just normal District 12 life was shaky cam. They rotated around Effie’s face in so many directions during her first speech, I got dizzy. And the zoom ins. They loved zooming in way too close to stuff. Just felt like an annoying mess, and less of a movie.

So really the biggest complaints are technical issues. And what felt like too much extra, pointless story line. I think this is what happens when you have the writer of the books trying to help with screen play and script. They feel everything is important. Totally isn’t.

2 out of 4.

The Eagle

I hadn’t expected to watch two movies where Channing Tatum played a pivotal role in it so close to each other. Guy just has a face that bugs me, so I usually avoid his stuff. And by pivotal role, I mean the main character this time, damn.

Tatum
Yeah. That’s the face right there.

This story is about the Roman Empire, fucking up Britain. Back in the 100s, when trying to Conquer Britain, a Roman Legion was lost and their flag standard, an Eagle, was lost with them. The leader of that division was the father of Marcus Aguila (Tatum), so there was some shame on his family. Since then he has become a commander himself, and has been sent to lead the troops at Hadrian’s Wall, a wall in GB south of where the legion had since been missing.

On like his first night, they get attacked and raided, but thanks to him they win. Too bad he gets fucked up. Oh well, honorable discharge and sent back home to his uncle (Donald Sutherland). Unfortunately he still hasn’t cleared his dads name. Gah! Once he feels better (albeit still crippled), he heads back to the wall with his slave and confidant, Esca (Jamie Bell), to go North of the wall in their own small group and try and find the eagle.

They have to deal with the natives (Britain was very uncivilized at the time), the lost legion, and friendship strains. Aww.

What!
“Bitch don’t you know you’re about to get cut!?” – Audience member

This is a pretty gritty feeling movie. And it feels like a movie set way back when. Both were probably obvious I guess? Either way, it took me awhile to really care about the main two characters. Having the big going home after the first battle, downtime, relaxation thing, hurt the flow of the film for me. I think it would have been better if he just recovered at the wall, got discharged and instead of going home, going straight into the wild to search for the Eagle. His slave friend could have came to pick him up, or whatever.

Fighting was cool though. I could actually understand most of the fight that occurred at night, which is a great bonus. A lot of movie like to do shit at night just so they don’t have to make things obvious. Thought the ending was pretty swell too.

But there were also larger more boring moments that kept taking me out of the story line, weirdly enough. My favorite moment was when Aguila saved Esca from the gladiator arena. Such a small moment, but just really really liked it.

2 out of 4.

The Mechanic

Remake alert!

Did anyone even know that? Did anyone even care that The Mechanic was a 1972 film? I know I don’t. Back to the violence, please.

Statham hilarious
I am cutting my original joke, because this screen shot from the movie is hilarious.

What is a mechanic? If you answer a guy who fixes shit, that is an acceptable answer. But in the world of assassinations, it is a guy who will kill and make it look like natural causes, or an accident, or suicide. Very useful, that ability to kill and make it look okay. Right?

Jason Statham is one of those guys, of course, and the movie opens showing him do that shit. He gets paid mad monies from Donald Sutherland, one of the few people he gets missions from. Good friends they are.

UNTIL TONY GOLDWYN SHOWS UP. He gives him a new mission, to kill Sutherland! Why? Because he might have intentionally failed a mission in South Africa, and blah blah plot. So he does it. Unfortunately. At Sutherland’s funeral, Statham meets his son, Ben Foster, who has that young guy rage. So JS is all, hey lets make him a mechanic too! So he uses him as bait / to help kills, get him in the know.

Sure, there’s the fact that JS killed his dad, and made it look accidental, but that probably won’t come back to bite him in the ass, right? Right!

Chihauhuahauhauh
That chihuahua is not Photoshopped in.

Overall though, the story I just didn’t find that interesting. It went the obvious route, especially the supposed “twist” near the end. That twist is actually what was expected. Not having the twist would be a better twist. But you know, billing order and stuff, that matters. Jason Statham is the star, damn it. Acting is as you’d expect for the movie.

Action scenes were fine. But its amazing how these professionals tend to have things go wrong so often, despite all the supposed planning. I guess we have to assume that in the movie, that first success he did is how it normally goes, and that every other time in the movie happens to be not the norm, despite evidence showing the contrary.

2 out of 4.