Showing posts with label movie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movie. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: Ad Astra

The beautifully crafted space drama that defines the father and son relationship between Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) and Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is essentially a story of a workaholic father who is willing to sacrifice everything in order to pursue a goal that he deems to be his life's purpose.

The computer generated imagery is beautifully sublime, letting the audience experience the void of space in all its glory, as well as the void of a father who was never really there for his son. Make no mistake, unless you own your personal movie projection room, this one is for the theater going experience and not for the personal streaming.

The common thread throughout this space odyssey are the consistent psychological evaluations, performed by an AI computer and supplemental biosensor, of the central character played by Brad Pitt. In his desire to live up to his larger-than-life father, Brad Pitt's character is so in control of his body that his beats per minute previously never exceeded 80 in all of his missions on the International Space Antenna. He is as close to a machine as he can come, always making the logical decisions instead of emotional ones. The station, a scientific collaboration between world's nations, is designed to reach out deep into space in order to make contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Beyond this point, you will find movie spoilers. If you haven't seen this movie, which I highly recommend you do, you may want to take a rain-check on reading the rest of this post.

Upon suffering a fall due to a mysterious power surge, he is summoned by the Space Command representatives on earth to embark upon a top secret mission to Mars. The Space Command believes Tommy Lee Jones' character Clifford is alive, leaving his son Roy as the best hope of communicating with him. That is in essence his task, to communicate with the Neptune vessel, which was the principal vessel of the Lima project.

The Lima Project was supposed to be the pinnacle of Tommy Lee Jones character's achievement in its attempts to make contact with intelligent alien life. But the vessel was believed to be lost with all crew aboard, up until the mysterious power surges began originating from Neptune - the final stop of the Lima project,

Brad Pitt's character soon discovers that his father is not the man he believed he was. After getting a jump drive of a classified communique from his father's former co-worker (played by Donald Sutherland), he soon learns that his father's obsession with discovering alien life drove him to do the unthinkable - murder his crew members who didn't share his passion.

On Mars, Brad Pitt's character attempts several times to send a scripted communication to Mars, but to no avail. When he finally goes off script and sends an emotional plea to his father, it appears as though the Space Command operators captured a response from Tommy Lee Jones' character, but nothing is mentioned. Instead, he gets a job well done from the officers and is told that his further involvement in this mission is terminated due to his emotional connection.

He finally fails a psychological evaluation and is sent into a comfort room to regain calm and control. Through a lower ranking Space Command official (who also had parents on the Lima project vessel), he learns that the rocket he hitched a ride on to Mars is actually meant for the final destination to Neptune and carries nuclear munitions. Connecting the dots, Brad Pitt's character realizes that this was a mission to terminate the Lima Project vessel. Furthermore, with his successful transmission exchange with Tommy Lee Jones' character, he pinpointed the target for the Space Command.

Using an underground pipeline, he is able to become a stowaway on the rocket to Neptune, but in their attempt to kill Brad Pitt's character, the rest of the crew perishes. When he finally arrives at the destination coordinates at Neptune Brad Pitt's character finally makes contact with his father, only to come to a heartbreaking realization - Tommy Lee Jones' character never really cared for his son or his wife. Clifford McBride's only purpose in life was to discover new corners of the universe and to ultimately discover intelligent alien life.

Nevertheless Roy McBride still tries to save his father, after planting nuclear bomb on the Lima space vessel. At this point, Clifford forces Roy to let go of him, as he'd rather die in space. Begrudgingly obliging him, Roy returns to his ship and sets a course back to earth - using nuclear detonation as his propellant.

The final psychological evaluation Roy goes through, shows him in touch with his emotional side. Willing to love and be loved, letting go of the void left by his father who was never there to begin with.

The movie is a wonderfully crafted tale that I give 4.5 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend this movie to anyone that loves space movies and strained father-child relationship flicks. Dating back to a movie a few years earlier, I would say if you loved "Interstellar", you will love "Ad Astra".

Until next time, grab your popcorn, milk duds, turn off the phone, and enjoy the movie. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

It is quite rare, in this day and age, that I get to see a movie with an original story line that is so well written and directed, that I find myself truly forgetting that I am sitting in a movie theater. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is exactly the type of cinematic experience I recommend every movie lover and story lover enjoy.

This movie will drag you out of your seat and make you to empathize with people who are completely unlikable, laugh at things that are tragic, and make you want to hope where there is hopelessness.

Frances McDormand gives a remarkable performance of a grieving mother who cannot reconcile the past without justice. Unable to find peace, she approaches the problem just like she has approached everything else in her life - through confrontation. Her son, ex-husband, the chief of police, and an admirer; all bear the brunt of her abrasive and determined crusade to get a measure of revenge.

Woody Harrelson plays the Chief of local Police. A career lawman who has done well for himself, he is terminally ill, which is apparently the town's worst kept secret. He brings to the story the thematically relevant issue of racism among some police officers, where he shelters a deputy accused of wrongdoing. Butt he is a man of law, giving Frances McDormand's character all the latitude she is legally entitled to, despite her attack that is aimed at him.

Sam Rockwell plays the deputy who is rough around the edges. He is a brute force individual, who has been accused of racism in the past. He attempts to uphold the law and protect his boss, the chief of police at every step; even when it means pushing the envelope of what is legally allowed. He is a foul mouthed, disorganized, and nasty individual that doesn't evoke anyone's sympathy in the beginning. Yet he is key to the unfolding of the story's final chapter.

The theme of the story centers on justice and a measure of revenge. Whether it is revenge for a lost daughter, a fallen co-worker, or any other wrongdoing that a person has been subjected to; the exposure to hatred and anger are key. Throughout the entire movie, the carefully woven undertones show that if you hold on to the hatred and anger, you ultimately become the instrument of injustice - the very opposite of your initial intent.

Judging by the reaction of the theater's audience, it is my understanding that a lot of people didn't get the ending. The problem is that we, the audience, have been often exposed to movies that process everything for us right down the final meaning. It is far rarer to experience a move that leads you down the path to the finale, where all parts are aligned, and leave the finale up to the viewer's interpretation.

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My interpretation of the ending is that it doesn't particularly matter whether the suspect is guilty of this particular crime or another crime. It doesn't matter whether the suspect dies or not. What matters is that Sam Rockwell's character finally found his ability to be a detective, guided by a letter from his late chief. What matters is that Frances McDormand's character knows she is not alone and that she finally has hope due to the work of a dedicated police officer. Here is what we know before the screen fades to black:

1) Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell know that the man they are chasing is not the man responsible for the death and rape of Frances McDormand's daughter.

2) They have reconciled themselves that the man they are chasing is evil because he has committed a crime.

3) They have not finalized the decision to kill the suspect. They agree to see how things play out, to determine if he will pay for his crime with his life.

The moral of the story is that the aspect of anger and vengeance that both of these characters live with is a destructive force. It made them both chase down a man who is not responsible for the specific crime at the center of the story. Just because the man must be "guilty of something", forces both main characters to come to the brink of becoming the Judge, the Jury, and the Executioner.

The only plausible poetic unwinding version of this story leads me to believe that the execution will not occur. Whether it is Rockwell's character realizing that it is wrong to take a man's life for another crime, or McDormand's character understanding that killing a man for a different crime will not bring back her daughter; the leading towards this path ultimately is foreshadowed by the doubt in their dialogue as the screen fades to black.

A highly enjoyable cinematic experience. Highly recommended.

I give it 5 out of 5 gummy bears!!!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review: The Mummy

Having fond memories of the original late 90s Brendan Fraser movie, I had some hesitation to watch this reboot of a series. I held true to this hesitation, as I didn't want to pay money for this amalgamation of stories that are as predictable as the trailer foreshadows them to be.

However, when no other good movie was available on the return flight from my Bermuda vacation, I decided to spend the two hours watching this work of corporate art. After watching this movie, I have a far greater appreciation for Brendan Fraser's acting skills over those of Tom Cruise. Tom really is a very terrible actor when it comes to real human expressions without any dialogue.

Moving on, the story line is highly speculative due to the wild gaps in logic all along. Such as, if Tom Cruise and his comic relief sidekick are soldiers, they would have been long deemed AWOL and court marshaled, before any question of black market adventures arose.

But it doesn't stop there, the mystery of the organization that keeps order between good and evil devolves into British literary villain of dual nature played by Russell Crowe. Something that has nothing to do with ancient Egypt. At this point, I got the suspicion that even before establishing this movie as entertaining enough on its own, it already began to set up for a sequel.

Furthermore, when the mummy does reanimate, her minions appear to be not the ancient soldiers of movies past, but zombified humans she collects along the way. The way she completely reanimates is also reminiscent of the way vampires regain strength, rather than mummified royalty.

Lastly, the main character's "sacrifice" does not make sense and runs counter to the manner in which the story should have easily resolved the main conflict. It also tends to be very silly in suggesting that an ordinary human being can "will" themselves over the all powerful god of death.

Aside from these shortcomings, this movie is only good for a brainless action thrill ride full of computer generated imagery that is the very well crafted. If you're a fan of Universal's Dark Universe, you may enjoy some of the characters involved. But this is not a movie I would recommend for anyone that enjoys the story line or the plot.

I give this movie 2.5 out of 5 gummy bears.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Review: Beatriz At Dinner

I found this movie to be very well paced, with expressive and human touch at every turn. The dialogue between the main characters of the story was executed in a flawless and consistently connected fashion. Beatriz at dinner is a very well scripted and acted portrayal of a practical modest spiritual therapist that unintentionally enters the world of the well off and often oblivious to reality.

A good mannered client invites Selma Hayek's character (Beatriz) to the dinner party, after she is stranded on location by her stalled vehicle. She soon learns that she is surrounded by people who aren't interested in their own health, spiritual satisfaction or their environment.

Their only pursuits are image, self-gratification, and money. At the dinner table, the values clash in a very direct but well mannered fashion. However, all manners are eventually stripped away when Beatriz finds out what the guest of honor's business and hobby involve.

The sparring escalates to a full blown confrontation. And while Beatriz defends her position with concern for humanity and spiritual well being, the hosts and guests of the dinner party are only concerned with their finances and status.

The evening's main guest is a very brash Real Estate mogul named Doug Strutt, played masterfully by John Lithgow. He is a man who is engulfed by his own ambitions and aura of infallibility, requiring an occasional adrenaline rush that he achieves through big game hunting expeditions.

The screenplay soon reveals that there are two connections between him and Beatriz. She first realizes that Doug shares the same profession as the man who destroyed her hometown with a hotel project, and initially thinks they are one in the same.

Despite animal hunting and passion for real estate finance that rub Beatriz the wrong way, she feels a sudden overwhelming desire for revenge when she realizes that Doug is the man who killed her goat. At the last minute, she comes to her senses and does not go through with it. Instead, the movie ends on a note of letting go and cleansing herself in the ocean.

My thoughts is that the movie is a very excellent portrayal of clashing values between the people who are true to themselves and their humanity, as opposed to those who are trapped in the pursuit of material satisfaction at the expense of others. It also offers a view of what effects of any given action can have on the lives of others. Finally, it truly underscores that the action of revenge and violence are not the way to resolve conflict between people. Instead, the moral of the film is to let go of the pain and let go of the hate.

Outside of the incredibly overly sensitive Beatriz, whose character was by design made such to contrast with the rest of the characters, the movie hits every mark as far as entertainment and message delivery is concerned. Beatriz's sentiments border on unbelievable, which is why I cannot give it the perfect mark it otherwise deserves.

I give Beatriz at Dinner 4.5 out of 5 gummy bears.

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