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.

Jason Bourne

The Bourne series of films are not my overall cup of tea. The original trilogy got worse with each additional movie for me, with less realism, and overall just less interest. They got really close to Luc Besson Euro-Trash level of films.

But The Bourne Legacy I did enjoy, most since Identity, because it at least gave me something different. I was mostly alone with these thoughts and people were angry at Jeremy Renner and wanted their Matt Damon on. In fact, they never even considered having Renner involved. Pretty crazy.

So now we have Jason Bourne. A return to Jason Bourne the character. Apparently we know his name. Apparently this is what we want and need. And yes, I hate the title of this, the fifth film. Makes it feel like a reboot.

Boxer
I honestly can’t hype up shirtless Matt Damon like I can other actors.

In this time line, Jason (Damon) is minding his own business, kicking ass in gambling fighting rings and keeping to himself. But you know who isn’t keeping to herself? Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), a member of their same program who also has gone rogue. But she is a hacker or something, so she goes to Reykjavík to access the CIA database and steal a lot of files. The CIA of course finds out and tries to tack her. But not before Nicky can contact Jason to let him know that he NEEDS to know more.

Like that Jason’s dad (Gregg Henry) is involved in all of this, or was, back in the day. That he may have been considered for the program before he volunteered to sign up. That he could have been watched for a long time. Oh no! Time to get some classic Bourne revenge. Once he can get out of Athens and the political riots existing for reasons. Probably the economy. Dunno.

His revenge is going to be against CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), who has been there for awhile even though this is the first time you have heard about him. He has a new head of technology or something, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who is going to use her sweet computer skills to find Bourne and Parsons. There is also a CIA agent who we only know as Asset (Vincent Cassel) who would love to get some Bourne revenge and Riz Ahmed playing the creator of some sort of website/social networking thing that people really love for not spying on its users.

Also starring Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd, and Bill Camp.

Awkward
There has to be a way for this still to not make everyone look like uncomfortable mannequins.

Bourne Bourne Bourne. I might be doing some revisionist history here, but I feel like what I remember about The Bourne Identity is that it helped kill James Bond and also introduced us to shaky-cam for action movies. It added some realism to the fights making them more chaotic. I don’t remember them being that bad, but it has also been many years since I saw that film.

Jason Bourne goes to some EXTREMES with the shaky cam aspect. It goes to more extremes than Billy Joel. And it isn’t just shaky cams. We get quick cuts all over the place, and the camera zooming in quickly into peoples faces. Zooming in, cut, cut, shake, zoom. The hacking scenes early on felt EXTREMELY HECTIC and it just never stopped. We had shaky cam for people just walking into hotels and restaurants, completely chill situations, but there is no time to relax.

About a third of the way through the movie, I had a headache, and yes, it stuck with me for the rest of the film. At least with Hardcore Henry I barely got a headache and it offered something original. In this movie, it is Bourne finds out new secret information about the government program some how and gets revenge. Like every Bourne film before that (I think, I forget).

The ending has an extremely long and disaster filled car chase, but it is so over the top, any level of previous realism the franchise had is just thrown out of the window. It wasn’t enjoyable, it just dragged. Not to mention understanding just what is happening during it is a battle in itself. You know why. The constant cuts and shakes. It wasn’t Getaway bad, but it was damn near close.

For Jason Bourne, the stakes just aren’t there. The Asset is an interesting character at least, someone who Bourne did screw over. So I could not find myself cheering his eventual demise because of other plot reasons. This film wants to launch more Bourne films, it leaves it way too open with more secrets to find out. And they will be made but I will not be happy to see them if they keep up this repetitive plot line and refuse to change it up for once. Or maybe, just maybe, make the damn thing watchable.

1 out of 4.

The Family

I was really excited for The Family, I really was. Luc Beeson, who gave us Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, was directing this movie, and Martin Scorsese was the executive producer. If anyone knows mob movies, it is Scorsese.

An all star cast, the only person really missing from it was Ray Liotta. What could go wrong?

Niro
Nothing could go wrong with his beard, that is for sure.
Well, a lot could, apparently.

The Family starts off with the family moving to the wonderful land of Normandy, France. Why? Well, Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) used to live in NYC, working high up in the mob. But he is a snitch, and as we know, snitches dig ditches…unless they can’t be found. To reward his snitchiness, the FBI (Tommy Lee Jones) has rewarded him with witness protection for the rest of their lives. After all, if they let snitches die, then people won’t snitch, and they won’t arrest the bad guys. That would be sad.

Too bad Giovanni keeps causing too much of a scene wherever they go, so they have to keep finding new places across France to live.

Normandy, famous for getting invaded by the good guys in World War II, is now getting invaded by the “Blake” family. His wife, “Maggie” (Michelle Pfeiffer), daughter, “Belle” (Dianna Agron), and son, “Warren” (John D’Leo).

Of course, with a new town, comes new backgrounds. Hopefully Giovanni’s idea to become a writer, working on his actual memoirs, doesn’t come to bite him or his family in the ass.

Also featuring Jon Freda as the main hit man after the family, and Vincent Pastore as a mobster. Classic Vincent.

Jones
Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t smile. Tommy Lee Jones is not amused.
The good news is that Ray Liotta is totally in this movie. For about a second, just his voice, and technically a cameo, but darn it, I am counting it.

The premise of the film is simple enough. Quirky characters trying to assimilate into a quiet community, but they’re not trying too hard. Each character has a unique plot line, however only two of them are really fleshed out, De Niro and Agron.

Pfeiffer’s side plot (getting involved with a church) has the fewest scenes actually associated with it, and D’Leo’s sideplot seems to be missing important steps. He goes from getting in trouble at school one moment to running away the next without a real explanation. Agron’s sideplot involved falling in love with her math tutor, and unfortunately, the love or the repercussions of that love all felt fake.

Strangely enough, the only person I really enjoyed in this movie was Tommy Lee Jones. His character wasn’t in large portions of the film, and he was incredibly sarcastic, but somehow it all worked.

But in all honesty, for an action comedy, I barely laughed, and the action was pitiful. De Niro was charming at least. The film climaxed with a sudden blood bath, and then just sort of ended. No real conclusion and an unsure amount of character growth.

Basically, an overall waste of talent and my time. That is when I realized that The Fifth Element was 16 years ago, and Beeson hasn’t done too well since then. Clearly the man has lost his touch.

 

1 out of 4.

Hope Springs

Hope Springs is another one of those films that only had one preview and was played quite a lot. Heck, surprised it is still not out on DVD, I feel like I started seeing the previews four months ago, and took forever to see it come out after its initial run in theaters. I mean, sure, it looks interesting. But the trailer also looks like it gave it all away.

But hey, we got the potential for a movie about “old people sex”. So I can’t wait to see what happens.

Laugh it up
Laugh it up lady. We will see who is laughing by the end of this encounter.

Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been happily married for 31 years. Or at least, they have been married. Happy for a lot of it, sure. Just not as much now. Arnold is complacent, he wakes up, has breakfast made for him, and he goes to work. He goes home, eats dinner, watches his golf shows or a movie, then off to bed. In his guest room. Kay wants more romance in her life, it has been a long time since they have even had sex or touched. Kind of weird. Not even on their anniversary!

But when she hears about Hope Springs, a small Connecticut (maybe?) town with a renowned relationship expert, Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). She throws an ultimatum, come with her, or the marriage is basically over. Well shit.

But yeah, then there is a week of marriage discussion, intimacy problems, experiments, and a rekindling. Maybe. Maybe they just don’t work well together anymore. I did call it a comedy drama after all. Some serious shit is going to go down, but what?! Also, Elisabeth Shue is a bartender, and has one scene in the movie. Relevant to the big picture? Not really, but she made the trailer, and gets a place in this review!

Therapy
This man also made the trailer. I guess he is important to the plot. I guess.

I was kind of expecting just a normal dramcom movie, about getting old, and growing apart. Which is what I got. I just didn’t expect to get as attached to the characters as I did! Meryl is so good at that acting thing, I was surprised at the events that eventually unfolded. I might have teared up a bit too. It was a bit more serious than the trailers eluded, with a lot more problems with their marriage to go through and establish. But yet I loved it anyways.

This movie is all Streep and Jones and no other character matters. I can’t relate to it, as I obviously have not been in a loveless marriage after 31 years, but still it is easy to connect regardless.

3 out of 4.

Lincoln

Hooray for movies about the dead presidents of our past. I mean, Steven Spielberg is going for a hot ticket president in Lincoln, who just had another movie which you all might recall. Technically, both of them are biographies, I guess.

But hey, if anyone should do a good movie on the man, it is probably going to be Spielberg. Especially if they can get a person to look just like him. Which they succeeded quite insanely.

HolyLincoln
Look at how fucking Lincoln he is.

Well, if you wanted a full Lincoln backstory, too bad. This movie takes place entirely in the last five months of his life, from Dec 1864 to April 1865. For those Lincoln historians out there, you know that is way after his Gettysburg Address! Don’t worry, you still get to hear it, just not out of his own mouth.

Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) has recently been reelected as President, which he took as a sign saying that the people like what he is doing. They wan’t slavery to be illegal! So he pushes to have the 13th Amendement passed, just needs the House to vote on it. It would make slavery illegal, yet there is a lot of concern. Most of the republicans love it, the conservative Republicans are a bit weary though. Most of the Democrats are violently against it though. That will make the war last forever. No way will the South surrender then!

But a lot of them are losing their jobs. Maybe, just maybe, they will change their vote because of it? Especially if they can get some sweet government jobs…

Basically it is really fucking hard to get this shit passed. He may have even had to do things behind the back of his Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn). Like allowing one of the conservative Republicans set up a meeting with the South to end the war (Featuring Jackie Earle Haley as “VP” Alexander Stephens). He also has some men hired to help convince the democrats to change their vote (James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson) without bribes.

Our major Republican players are James Ashley (David Costabile) who brought forth the bill, and Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), a revolutionist who actually believes all men area created equal! Joseph Gordon-Levitt is his son returned from school, and Sally Fields is his wife, super distraught and crazy in the eyes of others.

I mean, honestly. You know the 13th Amendement passes, and you know what happens in April of 1965. But somehow that doesn’t matter, it is still a captivating tale.

Horse
Here is Lincoln on a horse motherfucker. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

I’ll say it again, Daniel Day-Lewis is Abraham Fucking Lincoln. Did you see that picture? Look at it long and hard, but that is so much Lincoln and so little Daniel Day-Lewis that I am actually scared. From his voice to his mannerisms, you will love the portrayal you see in this film. Basically everything I found captivating. My biggest smidgen of concern comes from the House of Reps. While watching it is like “Ooh, debating between Republicans and Democrats and Tommy Lee Jones in a time machine!”. He can’t help it, he is too famous. I had a had time picturing the actor outside of the character. I recognized a lot of the other faces, just not at Tommy Lee Jones levels.

Lincoln seems like a pretty kick ass guy to hang around with. One of the features they highlight is his love of telling stories, and they are just so well done. That is really all I can say. The movie is super well done.

Again, you know what happens, and its only five months in time, but it doesn’t seem to matter. If you hate Dramas with mostly just talking, you might not like this one. But I hope more Presidents get this treatment (albeit if they do less famous ones, maybe a longer bit of their life). I even like the questionable way they chose to end it, setting up a scene in a way I just didn’t imagine.

A lot of this could be dramatized for the film, but if it is, we need more dramatization. It makes life better.

4 out of 4.

Men In Black 3

Here’s something I have learned today. Men In Black 3 is the first movie Will Smith has done in four years. FOUR YEARS.

Isn’t that weird? Someone who used to do action movies every other year on average since ID4, with a drama or two thrown in? I only looked this up because Will Smith was not tagged on my website yet. Just found that shocking.

But now on his IMDB, he has like, 6 things in production or rumored. So I guess he just took a little break. Work on his daughter’s singing career. Stuff like that.

Smithy Willy
Maybe instead of a movie review, we can just talk about all of the achievements of Will Smith.

Needless to say, I would suggest you have seen MIB and MIB2 before this movie, even though MIB2 is dumb and isn’t necessary for this movie.

But in MIB3, we have a new head of the department, Agent O (Emma Thompson). Don’t remember her? Well she has totally been there forever, shh. Long story short, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) has escape from the moon prison, and is coming back to earth. He is the last of his kind, and missing his arm, thanks to Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) from 40 years earlier in the past.

And he does! Agent K is wiped out of existence, and the only one who can remember him is Agent J (Smith). Why? Because Spoilers. Either way, Agent J gets the idea to go back in the past as well, a day prior, kill the original Boris, so the future can be even better than it was before. Just needs help from a pot head time jumper (Michael Chernus).

Needless to say, going back in time doesn’t work out as planned, and despite being told not to, he teams up with the past version of Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save the future, and the world. Also Bill Hader has a small role as Andy Warhol. a

Jemaine
For the first time, their main villain actually looks and is pretty bad ass.

First things first: entertaining? Yes. Dealing with time travel tricky, pretty sure they dealt with it badly, but hey, I’m fine with that right now. Was a fun story, good action, good humor.

And Josh Brolin. Josh Brolin as young Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K was astounding. That dude had TLJ from these movies down to a T, and it was just crazy to watch. He really felt like a younger version of himself, which was pretty great.

This movie also lacks a forced love component for Will Smith’s character like the other two. Is there some love? Sure. But not really. Instead a good movie with some pretty awesome acting

3 out of 4.

The Company Men

Sometimes the best thing to do after watching a bad movie with Matt Damon in it is to counteract with a Ben Affleck movie you have never seen.

The Company Men cover had only dudes heads on the cover, and most of them wearing suits. It was either a giant con movie, or some modern piece about the economy and how it sucks to be a rich executive. It is the latter of course, only Matt Damon can be a con man.

dogma angels
But they both can be angels.

This movie is about orporations, mergers, getting stocks up, downsizing, and those damn engineers. Also pesky college kids working for less taking our jawbs away. (Not really). More or less it is how the different people in the ladder deal with their now layoffs, having to find new work, and stuff. Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper are much higher level executives who also eventually find themselves jobless, so we get to deal with the early retirement of old rich people as well.

I thought at the beginning “man, I bet someone kills themselves by the end of this movie.” Yep. Of course it happened.

Kevin Costner plays the step brother who works with his hands for a living for a smaller wage who teaches Affleck how to live and love a woman. (One of those isn’t true). This is hardly relatable to anyone my age, more or less just a scary thing that could happen in the future when I personally am rich and successful. It was an okay drama, little bit predictable. Including the message that corporate work is stupid, manual labor is where it is at. (Stolen from Office Space?)

2 out of 4.

Captain America

Alright! The long awaited Captain America movie that people would assume would not do well internationally. I mean, who cares about American Patriotism, outside of Americans and Terrorists who want to find its weaknesses? Most importantly for this movie is the last set up movie before every nerd boys dream, The Avengers, which if you missed, had a large preview at the end of Captun AMurrika.

Chris Evans plays the titular character, making this the 5th comic based person of his career. He was of course Johnny Flame in Fantastic Four movies. But he was also in The Losers, a graphic novel, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, a graphic novel, and the voice of Casey in the TMNT movie, originally a comic. This guy better love comics. The next closest person would be Ryan Reynolds, who is just trying to be in everything these days.

A lot of talk on the CGI used to display Evans before and after the serum. He looks weird scrany, but it wasn’t actual CGI but some other complicated method. It was actually his body the whole time though, so at least we get that. Movie was long enough with enough action in it to give the complete story, even his return to the present. It sucked knowing his relationship would never last. I liked how they showed his conquests throughout Europe, giving small detail, but leaving enough room for a Captain America 2 to take place during this time, pre Red Skull as well.

Speaking of Red Skull, how about that Hugo Weaving? How good is he at sci-fi, fantasy, action movies?

Red Skull /Hugo Weaving
Multiple personality disorder is serious business.

Also this film does a good job of tricking you. You think one thing will happen, and not only do they do the opposite, they kind of tease the fact that you just guessed wrong. See: kid being thrown in the water. We also have Tommy Lee Jones as a big army dude, Hayley Atwell as a love interest, and Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark.

3 out of 4.