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Wednesday, 25 September 2019 09:18

To the stars – ‘Ad Astra’

In the age of blockbuster franchises and repurposed intellectual property, it’s rare for a film based wholly on an original idea, whose concept wasn’t pulled from a preexisting source, to receive the big-budget treatment. A perfect storm of sorts is required – a combination of story and storyteller that can warrant nine figures without the crutch of already-extant exposure.

“Ad Astra” is just such a film. It’s a sci-fi epic, one that features the talented auteur James Gray in the director’s chair, working from a script Gray co-wrote with Ethan Gross. And Brad Pitt, one of Hollywood’s last movie stars, leads the way in an actual movie star-type role – something we haven’t seen a lot of from him in recent years.

It has all the trappings of big-time science fiction, but it uses those trappings to tell a much more intimate story. At its core, “Ad Astra” is a film about coming to terms with who we are, about understanding our choices and the motivations behind them. It’s about finding ways to let go of the past while holding onto the lessons we learned from it.

Published in Movies

There are no half-measures in Quentin Tarantino movies. There is nothing partial about the films that he makes. They might be shaggy or smug or gratuitous or plain indulgent, but they are never anything less than the full extent of what he intends them to be.

That utter commitment is a big part of what has made Tarantino into perhaps the most influential mainstream filmmaker of his generation. More than any of his peers, he has shaped both the creation and consumption of popular culture over the past quarter-century – largely by celebrating and appropriating the popular culture that shaped him.

In that sense, “Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” – Tarantino’s ninth (Ish? Still not sure I’m buying the “Kill Bill” duology as one movie) film – is the culmination of a creative journey of sorts. It’s a full-on love letter to the Hollywood of the late 1960s, the Hollywood that produced so many of the influences that impacted his creative development. At its heart, from the title on down, it is a fairy tale. It also might be the most sentimental offering of QT’s career.

While it unfolds using the infamous Manson Family murders as a backdrop, “Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” isn’t really ABOUT Charles Manson or his followers or even the doomed Sharon Tate. It’s about what it means to fade from a world that is itself fading away. It is about the ever-turning cogs behind the romance of Tinseltown and the notion that the end isn’t coming but has instead already happened without you noticing. It is about what it means to be a rising star and what it means to fall. It is a vivid reimagining of a tumultuous time, all viewed through the lens of one man’s battle against his looming irrelevance.

Published in Movies
Saturday, 26 November 2016 14:53

All's fair in love and war - 'Allied'

Period drama anchored by exceptionally talented leads

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 13:27

The quick and the dead World War Z'

Film offers waves of zombies, little else

As a critic, there are movies that you look forward to because you think they are going to be good and movies that you dread because you think they are going to be bad. There are always a couple of films in every season that have the stink of failure about them. Sometimes they are poorly conceived, other times they are decent projects torpedoed by bad personnel and/or financial decisions.

I've been very vocal about my misgivings regarding 'World War Z,' Brad Pitt's pet zombie action movie based on the 2005 Max Brooks novel. Everything I had heard cost overruns, multiple rewrites, a last-minute replacement ending indicated that this would be a misfire or even an outright flop.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 14:48

Killing Them Softly' with a big stick

Gangster movie suffers from overly aggressive message

There's nothing inherently wrong with using a film to send a 'message.' In fact, with the right combination of circumstances, a movie can manage to be effective both as an entertainment and as a conveyance of some larger truth.

However, when a movie allows itself to be overwhelmed by the message it is intended to convey, both the movie and the message wind up significantly diminished.

Published in Movies

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