[Early Review] Ad Astra (2019)

Director: James Gray

Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Live Tyler, Donald Sutherland

Screenplay: James Gray, Ethan Gross

122 mins. Rated PG-13 for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language.

 

I’m assuming Brad Pitt (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, World War Z) saw his Ocean’s Eleven costars George Clooney and Matt Damon receive acclaim for making a space movie, and he got incredibly jealous. Well, be jealous no more Brad. The balls in your court now, Julia Roberts.

Ad Astra is the story of Roy McBride (Pitt), astronaut and son to the famous H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive, Just Getting Started), who disappeared on a secretive interstellar expedition some 30 years ago. Now, in the near future, Earth has been ravaged by a series of power surges believed to be caused by Cliff’s secret experiment, The Lima Project. Roy has been tasked with traveling to Mars to deliver a message to space, hopefully reaching his possibly still living father, in order to put an end to the power surges before they threaten the entire solar system.

I admire the idea of taking Heart of Darkness and moving it into the sci-fi genre. It worked so well as a war film when Francis Ford Coppola turned it into Apocalypse Now. The problem for me came out of an unimpressive shell for this film. I don’t think we got enough insight into The Lima Project or The Surge or many of the science fiction elements that would have enriched this telling of the classic story. The film kept being marketed as the closest thing to actual space travel, but then I kept getting hung up on the sound work every time there was an explosion. The film looked gorgeous, but my investment was wavering throughout.

Brad Pitt is incredible as Roy, giving a subtle but impressive performance as a man who hasn’t taken much care in his world as he sinks himself into his work, ignoring all outside relationships and distractions. The whole film is carried by Pitt as no other character is given much screen time to match him. In fact, Pitt’s performance is so internalized that he doesn’t even look like he’s acting at all. I liken his work here to another space film from last year, First Man with Ryan Gosling. Comparing this subtle work to Pitt’s other major film this year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, just goes to show that this is an actor who really can do it all.

There’s a lot to really love about Ad Astra. I think, from a technical view, everything is seemingly executed quite well, but I just wasn’t drawn in by the story in the way I wanted to. It’s magnificently shot and the score is impactful and deep. The effects were strong, but the story just didn’t take me. Still, I would recommend you checking it out if you’re a fan of sci-fi, as this contemplative opera showcases another incredible performance from Brad Pitt.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: The Mystery of Mrs. Booth “Will Be Answered”

[WARNING: Contains Spoilery Talk for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood]

So everyone working in Hollywood appeared in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering, which is currently in theaters. One of the quicker appearances involved Rebecca Gayheart, who showed for a scene playing Cliff Booth’s wife in a flashback. The flashback happens to revolve around the question of whether or not Cliff, played by Brad Pitt, murdered his wife. It’s a bit of a legend around the Hollywood stunt scene that Mr. and Mrs. Booth were not happy, and we are meant to wonder if Mrs. Booth was murdered on the high sea or if it was just an accident.

By the end of the film, we still have no idea, but Gayheart, and apparently Pitt, do know.

Gayheart spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the film, and she said:

I tend to believe that that question will be answered at some point.

She didn’t elaborate on how or where, but there has been speculation of a Netflix miniseries version of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and there’s also that mystery tenth film. Or, maybe she’s bullshitting us. Who knows?

I don’t want the question answered unless it’s fluid to another story. If, for example, Tarantino decided his tenth film should feature Cliff Booth or his wife, then sure, let us know, but I don’t see a version that will make me want to know. It’s like the totem in Inception. I actually don’t want to know.

So what do you think? When, if ever, will we find out the answer to this mystery? Should we ever find out or is this mystery better left mysterious? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino

Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino

161 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references.

 

I’m a sucker for movies about making movies and Hollywood. I also adore the 1960s as a setting. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a film seemingly tailor-made for me, including having my favorite director, Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained) at the helm. So what did I think?

The year is 1969. The once-bankable film star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception, The Revenant) is making his living by appearing in guest roles on various television series, usually as the villain. His agent, Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino, Serpico, Paterno) doesn’t think these roles are helping his career, and he tries to push Dalton into doing Italian Spaghetti Westerns. Rick’s stunt-double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, Moneyball, Deadpool 2) is searching for work himself as Rick needs a double less and less, but he has a bad reputation in the industry. Rick’s concern over his career is causing him to have a personal crisis, but he is reinvigorated when he discovers that he is living next to director Roman Polanski and his new wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad, Mary Queen of Scots). All the while during this, out on the Spahn Movie Ranch, a cult is forming led by Charles Manson.

Many have come to the belief that Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a central element to the film. Her character, in fact, is a lot more like a looming presence that the 1960s and the free-love hippie culture are coming to an end very soon. She’s not featured as much as one might think in the film, and neither is Charles Manson, who barely has any dialogue whatsoever.

The stars of the film are DiCaprio and Pitt, and they are the two characters that are most engaging, and they are the two with the best chemistry in the film. Don’t kid yourself about this being a Manson family film because it isn’t, and that’s fine because the incredible Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are worth the price of admission alone. They are two fully-realized, equally flawed, and equally enthralling. These two are some of Tarantino’s best characters in his entire career, and both actors put their all into it.

The third big character in the film is Hollywood, and it is gorgeously shot. This is Tarantino’s love letter to a world that has changed and, for the most part, disappeared. It’s a rare glimpse into an aging has-been’s world as it begins to crumble and the stunt-double/driver/entourage/friend who tries to keep him in one piece, and without the amazing production design, costuming, and cinematography, the film wouldn’t work half as well.

The pacing is rather strong here as well. I didn’t notice the time flying by and I was surprised when the film had concluded because I didn’t think nearly three hours had gone by that quick. It’s a testament to the world that Tarantino puts to the screen, and it didn’t take me out of the film to see actors I knew from today playing actors I know from decades ago because each was so meticulously collected for the cast, and it’s an impressive damn cast.

If there’s a flaw with the film, it’s only that I’m somewhat divided on its conclusion. I will have to see it again to know for certain how I feel about it. I’m not going to get into any specifics but it is definitely an exciting finale to say the least.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a very strong Quentin Tarantino that’s more melancholic and thoughtful. He takes his time building the story and seemingly every sequence has a purpose in developing character or moving plot. This is a film that may divide audiences more than some of his previous outings, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about everything that takes place, but I loved the theatrical experience, the characters, and the world. Go see it as soon as you can…and don’t spoil it for others.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, click here.

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Well, 2018 is done. What do we do now? Talk about 2019.

Just a couple of quick notes again this year:

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to as of right now, so there will be more blockbusters than indies because that’s just how it plays out. With that being said…

NOTE: I’M GOING TO TRY THE COUNTDOWN THIS YEAR RATHER THAN JUST A LIST.

 

10. Captain Marvel

-What excites me so much about Captain Marvel is its timing. This will be Marvel’s second true prequel in setting the film in the 1990s. I like the idea that this film could tie into Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love Brie Larson and I think her addition to this story is very exciting. This just feels like a great space adventure that we are less likely to get for some time now that the third Guardians film has kind of disappeared. This one is a blockbuster want for me.

 

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

-I’m happy that Guillermo del Toro has a Best Picture under his belt so he can do what he wants. One of the exciting projects from him in 2019 is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the popular horror story collections for youths. I grew up reading these stories and they gave me chills and have kept me awake at night. I chose this over Nickelodeon’s big-screen version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? because I think del Toro will push the horror whereas I worry that Nick will not take the horror seriously. We are seeing a small possibility of scary children films due to The House with a Clock in its Walls in 2018. This one excites me.

 

8. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

-This is the batshit crazy film of 2018. Until I saw the trailer, I was not looking forward to it. Why would you choose to make the first live-action Pokemon about Detective Pikachu instead of a traditional Pokemon story? Why would you select Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu? Why? Well, the trailer seemed like a lot of fun. I’m still not sure about the film as a whole, but I want to support a Pokemon film universe, and if that starts with Detective Pikachu, so be it.

 

7. Pet Sematary

-This new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel (it’s my wife’s favorite King novel) is getting me very excited. As much as I enjoy the original adaptation, I have to admit that it didn’t follow the masterful source material as much as it could. This new film features the incredible Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, and the first trailer got me going. I love the look of Church the cat, and I love the visual look of the film overall.

 

6. Glass

-Where the hell did Glass come from? How did this happen? When Split came out, nobody expected the [SPOILER ALERT] twist that Split was connected to Unbreakable. Nobody expected that this would further in a third film called Glass which would bring together Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, and Anya Taylor-Joy for a final confrontation. Glass is one of the most unexpected films of the last few years, and I’m overjoyed to see what it brings.

 

5. It: Chapter 2

It was a film that surprised everyone. I enjoyed the trailer even though the first images were lacking that bite. Director Andy Muschietti brought a much more emotional experience to the film than I expected, and while it doesn’t contain literal translations of some of King’s massive tome, it does translate the feeling and tone of the book quite nicely. Breaking It into 2 films is strange because a bulk of the film is set during the childhood, so I’m curious where it could go with that. The second half of the 1990 miniseries is where it loses me, so Muschietti has a lot on his plate for this follow-up.

 

4. Avengers: Endgame

-Okay, this had to be on here somewhere, right. It’s a testament to the great plate of films we have before us in 2019 that Avengers 4 is below three other films. Yes, we have to find out how this thing finishes. We knew a lot of where Avengers: Infinity War was going to travel, but I have no idea where we go from here. Yes, I feel like we will have a lot of the third film reversed, but I cannot deny the palpable excitement for this one.

 

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

-When Quentin Tarantino makes a film, I get excited. When he sets it in the 1960s, I get more excited. When he compares it to Pulp Fiction, I lose my freaking mind. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie star in this new film from the master which also features Al Pacino in his first collaboration with Tarantino. Not much is known still but I cannot wait.

 

2. Us

-In about 3 minutes, Us became one of my most-anticipated films of 2019. That trailer. That trailer! Oh! I was already looking forward to this follow-up from the director of Get Out, and then I saw that trailer. His usage of popular music in a horror setting with some oozingly creepy imagery is what made me most excited for this film, and it comes out on my birthday too. So much win.

 

1. Star Wars: Episode IX

-C’mon, you had to know this. It’s been called the culmination of the Skywalker saga, and it brings back J.J. Abrams who killed it with The Force Awakens. After The Last Jedi (my favorite of the new films), I simply cannot wait to see where this new film goes, and it just has so much riding on it. It has to be Star Wars. It’s my most anticipated film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. What are you most excited to see in 2019? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

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Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst

Screenplay: Anne Rice

123 mins. Rated R for vampire violence and gore, and for sexuality.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

I always find it intriguing when a non-genre director of merit gets involved in a horror film or something with supernatural elements, as if Martin Scorsese got up one day and decided to direct the next Star Wars. When Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Byzantium) decided to direct the adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, I’m sure it shocked some people. After all, this doesn’t happen often, but I think he proved that when it does happen, it can be a magical thing.

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Interview with the Vampire follows Louis (Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds, Fury) a man of means and a wonderful family back in the 1700s. When Louis is bitten and turned by a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow), he learns the details of his life from his new sire and, through his recollection of the past to patient listener Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater, True Romance, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1) in present day 1994, he recounts the tragic details of his 200 years of death.

Damn, such a great movie, and twenty years haven’t hurt it. It still looks stunning, in part due to its tremendous set design, for which it was nominated for an Oscar. Tom Cruise is at his top form here as the infamous Lestat. This is the kind of role that Cruise should go for more often. I find that much of his work harkens back to Mission: Impossible style action-thrillers (which work sometimes) but I feel like taking chances offers up some pretty amazing work. Brad Pitt as Louie is another performance where you actually forget who is playing the role, but I think the big winner here is Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) as Louis’ new sire Claudia, forced to live forever in the body of child. She just steals those scenes where her mind has developed but not her body. She is forced to watch as her partners Lestat and Louis practically salivate at the sight of a nude woman in all her sensual glory.

That’s the reason someone like Neil Jordan would take on a project like this. It has depth. Its characters are not presented as one-dimensional flat cardboard cutouts. These are really people, or undead beings, portrayed by those who have learned the craft, and Jordan takes these talents and puts them to good work, showcasing a veritable Forrest Gump of the undead. This is a film with wit, charm, blood, and sex. It has a lot of things going for it, including a great script from the novel’s author Anne Rice, who “adapts” her novel instead of just putting the same story on the screen. Rice understood where changes need to be made, and she did.

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Watch this movie if you love horror movies. Watch this movie if you don’t. In case I need to be clearer, watch this movie. Please.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 7 – World War Z (2013)

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Director: Marc Forster

Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox

Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.

 

Last year saw the release of World War Z, the adaptation of the book by Max Brooks (that is, son of Mel Brooks). World War Z, the book, was a written account full of transcripts, interviews, and news information pertaining to a worldwide outbreak of the living dead and the many people who contributed to finding a solution. World War Z, the film, is a bland and tasteless attempt at a popcorn flick with virtually none of the subtext of the novel for which it is based. There is one main character as opposed to the books cadre of first-person POVs.

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It stars Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds, Fury) as Gerry Lane, a scientist who just might be able to solve this epidemic, if only he would stop risking his neck and almost dying. We are talking about someone that allows his wife (played by Mireille Enos of TV’s The Killing and If I Stay) and children come dangerously close to death themselves because he cannot protect them. These are really unmotivated, undriven, and underdeveloped characters.

Matthew Fox appears in the film as Parajumper, a role significantly reduced by rewrites from Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Cloverfield) and Damon Lindelof (TV’s The Leftovers, Prometheus). Matthew Fox’s character was initially very multifaceted and was supposed to be setup as the villain for a sequel. He was so rewritten and removed from the film that he now has five measly lines of pseudo-exposition. The irony here being that both of these writers worked on Lost, and removed its star from this film completely.

The newly formed screenplay gleans very little from the novel, so much so that the film is practically unrecognizable at this point.

The only major win here is that this film featured Peter Capaldi as W.H.O. Doctor, an in-joke as the filmmakers were well aware of his appointment as the new Doctor Who. Kind of made me giggle.

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I hold out hope that the possibility of World War Z 2 may actually get it right, but I don’t know how long I can hope on that. Skip this disappointing fair. There are better zombies.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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