Film Review: AD ASTRA (USA 2019) ***1/2

Ad Astra Poster
Trailer

Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

Director:

James Gray

The concept of AD ASTRA began with director James Gray’s (THE YARDS, THE LOST CITY OF Z) idea which he announced in 2016 of making a  realistic depiction of a space travel movie.  The baby of both Gray who co-wrote, produced and directed and star Brad Pitt who also share producing credits, AD ASTRA is a very serious, if not always realistic depiction of a space movie.  For example, there is one scene where astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) closes the hatch of his spaceship in the deeps of outer space and the audience can still hear the latch bang shut when one clearly knows that there is no sound in the vacuum of outer space.  But some minor complaints aside, AD ASTRA lives up to Gray’s ambition.  AD ASTRA has so far been positively reviewed by film critics and is quite a serious and authentically looking space drama.  Note that this is not an action movie but a thriller that plays around with other classic space movies.

Astronaut Roy McBride travels to the outer edges of the Solar System to find his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of humans on Earth.  A surge has been received from the Neptune project near Neptune where the father had worked.  The surge might destroy earth and all in it.  Roy’s journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and its place in the cosmos.

To list a couple of important space moves in the past, Gray’s AD ASTRA draws from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and GRAVITY while sharing common traits with APOCALYPSE NOW and his LOST CITY OF Z.

Gray attempts to show the marvels of space technology as in Kubrick’s 2001.  The modern look of the spaceship including its exterior shots are stunning, thanks to the expensive production design.  The rest mishap with the unexpected surge takes place on the exterior of a space antenna is one fo the film’s most exciting scenes.  There are not that many, but when they arrive, they are a knock-out.  The zero-gravity and the re-entering into the spaceship share common thrill elements with Cuaron’s GRAVITY.  Gray’s zero gravity fight with the two battlers tumbling around is a new set-up not seen (or seldom seen) before.  The crazy and obsessive father in AD ASTRA reminds one immediately of the Marlon Brando character in Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW and the traveller IN LOST CITY that lost himself reminds one of the protagonist in AD ASTRA.

The story is somewhat predictable with it set primarily on astronaut Roy McBride and his human condition.  For most part of the film, Roy is in acceptable psychological state but when he goes into ager mode, he is in trouble.  Director Gary anchors his story on Roy’s mental state.  There is little information provided on Roys personal life, with his wife played by Liv Tyler showing up for just a brief token moment.

Credit to 20th Century Fox on financing an thinking adult space movie.  It is a big gamble and hopefully it will do well at the box-office with Brad Pitt’s name to help.  Disney that bought Fox have expressed concerns on Fox’s slate of movies on making money like this one and Fox’s upcoming FORD V FERRARI. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykC_wu6ffOU

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Film Review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD (USA 2019) ****

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood Poster
A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

One of the year’s most anticipated films, Quentin Tarantino’s 9th and latest film, ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD follows the misadventures of has-been star Rick Danton and his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth set in 1969 Hollywood.  The action takes place in three separate days on February the 8th and 9th and August the 8th, the night of the Charles Manson murders.

To reveal more of the plot would spoil ones entertainment of the film.

Tarantino is so much loved by cineastes that he can get away with murder.    ONCE UPON A TIME also contains minor racist humour, regarding Mexicans, Germans and Indians.  “Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans”  “Fresh sauerkraut” “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” are three such lines uttered in the film.

There are just so many impressive plusses in the film.  Foremost are the performances from the two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio as the has-been Hollywood star Rick Danton and Brad Pitt as his stunt double Cliff Booth.  DiCaprio exhibits the paranoia and childishness of a spoilt star while in perfect contrast Pitt plays the super-cool macho stuntman that supports Dalton but at  the same time needs him for employment – a excellent irony of a relationship.  Apparently Tarantino noticed the relationship between an actor and his stunt double and their support for each other and based his script from that keen observation.  To make matters more interesting, their relationship unfolds in the background of the infamous Charles Manson murders which included the death of Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate.  Or so it seems.  Tarantino has played with History as in his best film INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and he does the same (not to be detailed in this review as to reveal a spoiler) in this film.

The film contains lots of references to the late 60’s films (as the film is set in 1969) that those growing up during those times will find particularly nostalgic.  Seen in posters in the film or heard announced on the radio are films like Jack Smight’s 1969 THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, Gordon Douglas’ Tony Rome 1968 LADY IN CEMENT, Richard Wilson’s 1968 3 IN THE ATTIC, Mike Sarne’s 1968 JOANNA, Phil Karlson’s Matt Helm flick the 1968 THE WRECKING CREW and Alexander Mackendrick’s 1967 DON’T MAKE WAVES the latter two films also starring Sharon Tate. These are not classics but the typical type of films common that help mold many a cineaste, me included.  It is puzzling why Tarantino did not include the Roman Polanski’s 1967 film THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS in the list.  Fans are also in for a treat with a scene in THE WRECKING CREW where Sharon Tate takes down Nancy Kwan.  If these films are not enough, Tarantino also creates fake films starring Rick Dalton and other stars at the time like Telly Savalas and Ann-Margaret.

Cliff Booth gets fired from a job on a Hollywood set.  Tarantino shows the incident that led to the firing in the film’s best and funniest scene where Cliff Booth kicks Bice Lee’s (an excellent Mike Moh) ass in a fight on the set of THE GREEN HORNET.

This film, Tarantino’s 9th and reportedly his lasting clearly displays the director’s indulgence in his passion for film within a certain period. There is nothing wrong with this.  Though a little overlong, there are details that can be observed (especially in the background) and tons of references.  No Tarantino film has failed to surprise and this film is no exception.  And with so much detail, ONCE UPON A TIME IN … HOLLYWOOD which premiered in Cannes to a 15-minute standing ovation deserves to be see a second time.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Film Review: WAR MACHINE (USA 2017) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

war_machine.jpgAn absurdist war story for our times, writer-director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) recreates a U.S. General’s roller-coaster rise and fall as part reality, part savage parody.

Director: David Michôd
Writers: Michael Hastings (book), David Michôd (screenplay)
Stars: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro

Review by Gilbert Seah

A Netflix original movie opening only on Netflix and proudly not in theatres May 26th, WAR MACHINE opens as arrogantly as its voiceover, as its content and as its platform. It is a film directed and written by David Michôd inspired by the nonfiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings. It fictionalizes the events in the book based on the firing of United States Army General Stanley McChrystal.

The voiceover praises America, that seeks peace, that needs to find peace and win wars. If the war like the one in Afghanistan in 1993 cannot be won, then they sack the guy in charge and hire a new guy. Thus the film’s protagonist, first introduced as Glen (Brad Pitt) with the WAR MACHINE is described and said to be called THE LION KING by his men, and shown walking confidently at an airport lounge before deployment telling his men: “Let’s do it!” The beginning sequence primes the audience for an exciting 2 hours to follow, where hopefully they see a quirky film, different from the ones screened theatrically. It also warns the audience to be careful of the accuracy projected on screen. After all, how can Glen’s men call him The Lion King in 1993 when that film was released only in 1994. Glen eats one meal a day, sleeps only 4 hours and runs 7 miles every morning. Glen loves his men and his men love him back.

It’s Brad Pitt’s movie. Pitt is in almost very scene. He has a constant sarcastic growl painted on his face throughout the film. Pitt shows he is star material and he definitely commands screen presence. His gruff voice sounds like George C. Scott’s in PATTON. He hams up every scene and is as funny as his funniest role – the fitness instructor in BURN AFTER READING. Tilda Swinton who seems to be appearing in every Korean or Netflix movie is immediately recognizable in a cameo as a German reporter who questions Glen. Topher Grace has the supporting role of Glen’s loyal public relations supporter while Ben Kingsley plays the Afghanistan President. Meg Tilly has the odd role of Glen’s long-suffering wife. She provides the film’s most sentimental moment when she confesses her true feelings to her husband at their 30th Anniversary dinner.

As a satire, WAR MACHINE is funnier than it should be, where it should be more biting. Many critics have agreed on this point that the film is thus a bit below average.

For a war film, there are hardly any battle scenes except for the one at the end. The film also lacks a climax, expected in most films.

WAR MACHINE is a worthwhile watch if one has Netflix. It is at least a new and an original film compared to all the other films (mostly more than a year old and already seen by most subscribers) available. The film is currently playing on Netflix since Friday May 26th.Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIqXRDDdo7c 

 

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

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Happy Birthday: Angelina Jolie

angelinajolie.jpgHappy Birthday actor Angelina Jolie

Born: Angelina Jolie Voight
June 4, 1975 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Married to: Brad Pitt (23 August 2014 – present) (6 children)
Billy Bob Thornton (5 May 2000 – 27 May 2003) (divorced)
Jonny Lee Miller (28 March 1996 – 3 February 1999) (divorced)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

ALEXANDERAlexander
2004
dir. Oliver Stone
Cast
Colin Farrell
Jolie

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROWSky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
2004
dir. Kerry Conran
Cast
Jude Law
Gwyneth Paltrow

A MIGHTY HEARTA Mighty Heart
dir. Michael Winterbottom
Starring
Jolie
Dan Futterman

Beowulf
dir. Zemeckis
Starring
Jolie
Anthony Hopkins

WantedWanted
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Starring
James McAvoy
Morgan Freeman
Jolie

Kung Fu PandaKung Fu Panda
Directed by Mark Osborne
John Stevenson
Voices by
Jack Black
Dustin Hoffman
Jolie

ChangelingChangeling
dir. Clint Eastwood
Starring
Jolie
John Malkovich

The TouristThe Tourist
dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Stars:
Johnny Depp
Angelina Jolie

SALT  Salt
dir. Phillip Noyce
Stars
Jolie

KUNG FU PANDA 2KUNG FU PANDA 2
dir. Jennifer Yuh
Stars:
Jack Black
Angelina Jolie

movie posterGONE IN SIXTY SECONDS
2000
dir. Dominic Sena
Starring:
Nicolas Cage
Angelina Jolie

MOVIE POSTERPUSHING TIN
1999
dir. Mike Newell
Stars:
John Cusack
Cate Blanchett

MOVIE POSTERTHE GOOD SHEPHERD
2006
dir. Robert DeNiro
Stars:
Matt Damon
Angelina Jolie

MOVIE POSTERMALEFICENT
2014
dir. Robert Stromberg
Stars:
Angelina Jolie
Elle Fanning

SEE – 2010 PHOTO

SEE – 2011 PHOTO

SEE – AFRICA PHOTO

SEE – ANOREXIC PHOTO

SEE – AUTOGRAPH PHOTO

SEE – BEDROOM PHOTO

SEE – BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTO

SEE – BIKINI PHOTO

SEE – BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO

SEE – BLACK HAIR PHOTO

SEE – BLACK DRESS PHOTO

SEE – BLONDE PHOTO

SEE – BODY PHOTO

SEE – BOOBS PHOTO

SEE – BOOTS PHOTO

SEE – BRA PHOTO

SEE – BRAD PITT PHOTO

SEE – BREASTS PHOTO

SEE – BROTHER PHOTO

SEE – BUTT PHOTO

SEE – CALENDER PHOTO

SEE – CLEAVAGE PHOTO

SEE – CLOSE UP PHOTO

SEE – CLEOPATRA PHOTO

SEE – CLOTHES PHOTO

SEE – COSMO PHOTO

SEE – CROSS PHOTO

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SEE – DAD PHOTO

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SEE – EARRINGS PHOTO

SEE – ESQUIRE PHOTO

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SEE – FACE PHOTO

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SEE – GLASSES PHOTO

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SEE – HEADSHOT PHOTO

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SEE – JEANS PHOTO

SEE – JENNIFER ANISTON PHOTO

SEE – JOHNNY DEPP PHOTO

SEE – JONNY LEEE MILLER PHOTO

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SEE – LIPS PHOTO

SEE – MAKEUP PHOTO

SEE – MINI SKIRT PHOTO

SEE – MODEL PHOTO

SEE – MODELING PHOTO

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SEE – NO MAKEUP PHOTO

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SEE – OSCAR DRESS PHOTO

SEE – POSTER PHOTO

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SEE – PROFILE PHOTO

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SEE – ROLLING STONE PHOTO

SEE – SERIOUS PHOTO

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SEE – STYLE PHOTO

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SEE – SUNGLASSES PHOTO

SEE – SWIMSUIT PHOTO

SEE – TATTOO BACK PHOTO

SEE – TATTOO THIGH PHOTO

SEE – TATTOO WANTED PHOTO

SEE – TEENAGER PHOTO

SEE – UNDERWEAR PHOTO

SEE – UPDO PHOTO

SEE – VAGINA PHOTO

SEE – W PHOTO

SEE – WALLPAPER PHOTO

SEE – WEDDING DRESS PHOTO

SEE – YELLOW DRESS PHOTO

SEE – YOUNG PHOTO

2011
2012
Abs
and Aishwarya Rai
and Billy Bob Thornton
and Brad Pitt
and Brother Kiss
and Charlize Theron
and Clint Eastwood
and Clive Owen
and Daniel Craig
and Drew Barrymore
and Dustin Hoffman
and Elizabeth Taylor
and Ethan Hawke
and Family
and First Husband
and George Clooney
and Gwyneth Paltrow
and Jack Black
and James Haven
and James McAvoy
and Jennifer Aniston
and Johnny Depp
and Jon Voight
and Kate Middleton
and Kristen Stewart
and Megan Fox
and Oscar
and Paparazzi
and Son
as a Fish
as a Man
as Catwoman
as Christine Collins
as Cleopatra
as Evelyn Salt
as Gia Carangi
as Grendel’s Mother
as Julia
as Kay Scarpetta
as Lara Croft
as Lisa Rowe
as Maleficent
as Mariane Pearl
as Marilyn Monroe
as Mrs. Smith
as Queen Olympias
as Tigress
as UN Ambassador
as Wonderwoman
at Airport
Back
Bangs
Beach
Before and After
Bikini
Black and White
Black Dress
Blonde Hair
Body
Boots
Breasts
Casual
Cleavage
Curly Hair
Directing
Dolls

Drawing
Dreads
Earrings
Esquire
Eyebrows
Eyes
Face
Fashion
Green Dress
Hairstyle
in Alexander
in Beowulf
in Changeling
in Gia
in Girl Interrupted
in Gone in 60 Seconds
in Hackers
in Mr. and Mrs. Smith
in Salt
in The Tourist
in Tomb Raider
in Wanted
Jewelry
Knives
Leather Dess
Leather Pants
Lips
Lipstick
Long Hair
Makeup
Measurements
Modeling
Naked
Nose
Nylons
On Set
On the Street
Outifts
Pants
Ponytail
Pregnant
Profile
Purple Dress
Red Carpet
Red Dress
Sexy
Short Dress
Short Hair
Skinny
Smile
Style
Suit
Sunglasses
Tattoos
Teeth
Thin
Underwear
Updo
Vampire
Vanity Fair
Vogue
Wallpaper
White Dress
Without Makeup
Yellow Dress
Young
Zombie