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.

Loving

I don’t know a lot about Loving, but what I do know is that I do love the concept.

Without getting into too many details in my introduction (as I should properly tease it out), I also learned that finding a friend or colleague to watch Loving with you is sort of weird. I had one friend who wanted to see good movies, but his wife didn’t approve, because she wanted to watch it with him.

And then I found out inviting anyone based on the concept would be awkward. So did I watch it alone? Hell no, I watched in a theater of people, like I do most movies.

Family
Don’t worry, we are a family in there, I don’t feel like a stranger.

Loving ain’t always easy. Just ask Mildred (Ruth Negga) and Richard (Joel Edgerton). A black woman and a white man, living in the 1950’s Virginia. Richard has always been around black people and his dad used to work with them, so he doesn’t care about color, but everyone else does. Needless to say, they do the thing together that they aren’t supposed to do, so they decide to get married before the baby comes out.

Unfortunately, they are not allowed to get married by state law, because of something Jesus said or something. Instead, they head up to DC, get their marriage on, and beat the system! Richard buys some land to build a house, and everything is swell.

Until the Sheriff (Marton Csokas) and a couple others break into her family home and see them in the same bed. Because of shitty laws, they get arrested, cannot bail each other out, and have a problem. Their crappy lawyer agrees to get them out of jail if they plead guilty, they are just banished from being in Virginia for the next 25 years at the same time.

Obviously there are issues. They can get legally married in one part of America, and arrested for it in another. How does that work? They should eventually fight this and get the Supreme Court to make marriage legal for all. What a good idea.

Also starring Will Dalton, Christopher Mann, Nick Kroll, Jon Bass, and Michael Shannon.

Cuddle
To show your loving, you just need to cuddle. It is science.

Loving is a movie about an important case that is still referenced and relevant in our time. It is about love, and our protagonists have the last name of Loving. It is like a cheesy movie idea, but in real life. And with the title of Loving, I expected both a whole lot of love from some characters, and an equal amount of hate from others.

Instead, what I feel after the fact and felt from the characters feels mostly apathetic.

I will freely admit that Negga and Edgerton did great acting in this movie. I will say especially that Negga’s character is a bit more likeable and her personality basically carries the movie. I believe the way Edgerton portrayed his character was probably realistic to the real life man. But what I didn’t really feel in the movie was a realistic relationship between our leads.

The chemistry didn’t just feel off, but it felt stale. I wasn’t feeling anything from the two characters, and most of it thanks to the way Richard was portrayed. There was one moment of actual sincerity between them near the end, and it can be a director’s choice to show them that way until the case is finally won. But a third of the way in I am already checked out because of how fake it feels.

Loving was a film that spent 95% of its time focusing on the relationship between two people and their struggles. We barely get any court room drama, which is a disappointment. No, we just see how they react to it all as the lawyers fight for them in court over the various levels. It felt like we were given a media portrayal of their relationship and never a personal look between the two, despite the focus of the film clearly being on just their relationship.

If it wanted to make it more historical, we could have gotten more court room drama and things like that, but nope. Just relationship for this story. A relationship that portrayed by two well acted individuals in a seemingly non loving relationship.

2 out of 4.

Warcraft

How long was Warcraft in development hell? It had to overall be at least 10 years before it was announced that this movie would happen and its final release. I remember that it was supposed to come out in 2009. But then delays and director changes. Sam Raimi was originally going to direct it before being replaced by Duncan Jones.

For a bit of context as well, I definitely played World of Warcraft. I played the game a lot three different times in my life, so it is easy for me to say I will not go back to it, because it is never worth it. More importantly, I played a lot of Warcraft 2 and 3. Warcraft 2 was my first ever real time strategy game, and I played the heck out of Warcraft 3 Story Mode and early DotA.

So I like the Warcraft IP. I might not care for the MMO as much, with a similar hipster mind set. “Kids these days think it is just an MMO and don’t know the previous games!” At least with Warcraft 3, the games were really rich with story and there is still a lot of story that could be still said with the franchise. A movie with more story actually seems like a nice place to put some of it. As long as I get my Warcraft 4 eventually.

Baby
Aww look at the cute little green baby. What was I talking about again?

For those wondering, the official timeline of this movie puts it BEFORE Warcraft II. I don’t know anything about the first game, but presumably that means it is after the first one as well. So you won’t be seeing a lot of the WoW or Warcraft III plot lines, just allusions and hints towards the future.

In this land, a great warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) has united the various Orc tribes on their dying planet. Using a dark, green, and evil Fel magic, gaining power from sacrificed souls, and creating a massive portal to another world. So they get all of their best warrior and chieftains to lead the charge into the new world. Once they secure enough slaves, they will build a new portal and bring the rest of their tribes over. The other Orc leaders include Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and his pregnant wife, Draka (Anna Galvin), Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky), Blackhand (Clancy Brown), and the half-orc slave of Gul’dan, Garona (Paula Patton). While running through the portal, Draka gets all funny and of course gives birth to her son right on the other side. Yay Orc babies!

Ahem. Speaking of the other side. We have a lot of different races. Humans. Dwarves. Some of those cool Night Elf things. But as of right now, the Orc raiding parties seem to be only a threat to human settlements, so the other free nations stay out of it for now. King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) of Stormwind City is tasked with finding out what unknown entity is killing his people. His best soldier, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) is sent to investigate which leads him to Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a young mage who abandoned his order sensing a great evil. He discovers The Fel, so they also bring in The Guardian (Ben Foster), the most powerful mage in the kingdom to help figure out this new threat.

And yeah. Then a whole lot of fighting. It should be noted that the Orcs are a not all mindless blood fiends. There is a growing movement in their camps, led by Durotan, to bring down Gul’dan. They don’t trust that Fel magic that kills the land and inhabitants, forsomereason.

Also starring Ruth Negga as the Queen, Callum Keith Rennie as The Guardian’s assistant, and Burkely Duffield as the son of Lothar.

Mage
THE POWER OF THE LICH KING COMPELS YOU!

The one thing I didn’t want for this movie to be was average. I wanted it to be awesome or shit and definitely not in between. Part of that is for selfish reasons. Average movies are hard to feel passionate about to write. But good news, despite the rating, there is plenty of things to talk about. Because we have a lot of things that are good, and a lot that are bad, and that just balances the movie. In fact, it is the perfect film for one of our LIKES/DISLIKES lists. Yay bullet points!

Likes:

  • The fights. This is an action packed movie, there are a lot of encounters between the humans and orcs, between the orcs and orcs, between magic users, between magic users and humans, and more. This is a movie called WARcraft and damn it, the war is here.
  • The fights. Yes, a second point. There is a difference between these CGI heavy fights and something else recent, like TMNT2. In this movie, you can actually clearly see, for every fight, what the hell is going on. It doesn’t blur, it doesn’t constantly cut away. You can see who hits who and it makes them a more enjoyable experience.
  • Schnetzer was one of the highlights of the movie for me. He provided a character I felt I could actually cheer for and of course comedic relief at times is extremely helpful.
  • Patton, as our half-orc was also pretty decent. She wasn’t hounded by CGI so she could make real expressions and have a nice and tragic story line. Fimmel as Lothar was decent and almost crossed into very compelling territory but never fully reached his potential. Still better than others!
  • Good throwbacks. Both to zones in WoW, the capitals, the towns, characters, and of course, a couple spells or two.
  • That baby orc. I saw it in a trailer and was like, ew. But things must have changed because I loved it and wanted to play with it.

Dislikes:

  • CGI consistency. For the most part (see: fights) the CGI worked really well. Both in terms of magic and hulking orc bodies smashing humans and orc bodies lounging. But at other points (budget or time reasons?) it was incredibly weak and looked like a B-Movie. One especially bad scene involved a character lying in a greenish pool and I remembered visibly ugh-ing.
  • The ending. The ending battles feel all over the place, and I don’t just mean geographically. The final fight between humans and orcs is incredibly forced based on the scenes right beforehand.
  • The ending. The fights at the end all felt just lower quality. Not just in CGI, but in purpose and proper set up. A character joins the Orc/Human fight after it is basically over, causing even more fighting to take place out of nowhere. It felt awkward and could have been handled better to not drag it out.
  • The ending. For the most part, this movie felt like it was planning on telling just a story and giving us resolution. But only one major point gets resolved out of about three, leaving more story for sequels. And I know this is based on source material, but on the Orc side, it feels like absolutely nothing really got resolved by the end. I didn’t get satisfying deaths of major characters that are supposed to. It is possible to tell a story and make it feel complete, despite part of a larger arc, damn it. Warcraft fails to really make it seem like a worthwhile movie ending.
  • Stars. I don’t know if it is a good complaint, but seeing Foster and Cooper in this movie felt odd. They were very recognizable and I couldn’t really see them as their characters.

Ah, those are always fun. What’s that? Review done? Okay good, I want to go play Warcraft 2 now.

2 out of 4.