Film Review – AD ASTRA (2019)

Ad Astra (2019) — Contains Moderate PerilAD ASTRA (USA/Brazil/China, 2019) **
      Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Production Company: New Regency Pictures / Bona Film Group / Keep Your Head / MadRiver Pictures / Plan B Entertainment / RT Features / Regency Enterprises / Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 29 August 2019 (Italy), 18 September 2019 (USA/UK); Filming Dates: began August 2017; Running Time: 123m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: SDDS | Dolby Atmos | DTS (DTS: X) | IMAX 6-Track | Auro 11.1 | Datasat | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX version) | Dolby Surround 7.1; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW (3.4K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: James Gray; Writer: James Gray, Ethan Gross; Executive Producer: Marc Butan, Jeffrey Chan, Paul Conway, Sophie Mas, Yariv Milchan, Anthony Mosawi, Michael Schaefer, Lourenço Sant’ Anna, Dong Yu; Producer: Dede Gardner, James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon Milchan, Yariv Milchan, Brad Pitt, Rodrigo Teixeira; Associate Producer: Christina Oh; Director of Photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema; Music Composer: Max Richter; Film Editor: John Axelrad, Lee Haugen; Casting Director: Douglas Aibel; Production Designer: Kevin Thompson; Art Director: Christa Munro; Set Decorator: Karen O’Hara; Costumes: Albert Wolsky; Make-up: Nana Fischer, Jaime Leigh McIntosh; Sound: Brad Semenoff; Special Effects: Scott R. Fisher; Visual Effects: Allen Maris.
      Cast: Brad Pitt (Roy McBride), Tommy Lee Jones (H. Clifford McBride), Ruth Negga (Helen Lantos), Donald Sutherland (Thomas Pruitt), Kimberly Elise (Lorraine Deavers), Loren Dean (Donald Stanford), Donnie Keshawarz (Captain Lawrence Tanner), Sean Blakemore (Willie Levant), Bobby Nish (Franklin Yoshida), LisaGay Hamilton (Adjutant General Vogel), John Finn (Brigadier General Stroud), John Ortiz (Lieutenant General Rivas), Freda Foh Shen (Captain Lu), Kayla Adams (Female Flight Attendant), Ravi Kapoor (Arjun Dhariwal), Liv Tyler (Eve), Elisa Perry (Woman in White Pants / Shirt), Daniel Sauli (Sal), Kimmy Shields (Sergeant Romano), Kunal Dudheker (Technician One).
      Synopsis: An astronaut 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.
      Comment: Whilst the film is a technical triumph it is also a dramatic failure. The mission for Pitt to seek out his father (Jones), who is perched in an experimental lab at the edge of the solar system, in order to prevent a life-threatening electrical pulse wave is fanciful and more than a little contrived. The space setting also ensures the story unfolds at a slow pace, with echoes of Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY but actually working against the story here because in reality, it takes a long time to get to Saturn and then to Neptune. The story’s main theme of a father-son relationship turned sour is set against a canvass so broad it feels inconsequential and saps the film of any dramatic core it hoped it would provide. The performances are one-level and the script totally lacks any saving grace of humour. The result is a depressing and monotonous experience. Occasional glimpses of a more exciting movie emerge in two scenes. A buggy chase across the surface of Saturn and a bizarre encounter for Pitt, answering a distress call, with two apes aboard a Norwegian space vessel. These two set-pieces aside there is little else to connect the viewer to the characters and their plight. The visuals are outstanding and well shot but are wasted on such a shallow story. A great example of how to blend of visuals with dramatic tension can be seen in 2013’s GRAVITY.

Film Review – THE FUGITIVE (1993)

1993 – The Fugitive – Academy Award Best Picture WinnersTHE FUGITIVE (USA, 1993) ****
      Distributor: Warner Bros; Production Company: Warner Bros. / Kopelson Entertainment; Release Date: 29 July 1993 (USA), 24 September 1993 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 February 1993 – 15 May 1993; Running Time: 130m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo (4 channels); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Andrew Davis; Writer: Jeb Stuart, David Twohy (based on a story by David Twohy and characters created by Roy Huggins); Executive Producer: Keith Barish, Roy Huggins; Producer: Arnold Kopelson; Director of Photography: Michael Chapman; Music Composer: James Newton Howard; Film Editor: Don Brochu, David Finfer, Dean Goodhill, Dov Hoenig, Richard Nord, Dennis Virkler; Casting Director: Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Amanda Mackey; Production Designer: J. Dennis Washington; Art Director: Maher Ahmad; Set Decorator: Rick Gentz; Costumes: Aggie Guerard Rodgers; Make-up: Peter Robb-King, Kathe Swanson; Sound: Bruce Stambler; Special Effects: Roy Arbogast, Tom Ryba; Visual Effects: William Mesa.
      Cast: Harrison Ford (Dr. Richard Kimble), Tommy Lee Jones (Samuel Gerard), Sela Ward (Helen Kimble), Julianne Moore (Dr. Anne Eastman), Joe Pantoliano (Cosmo Renfro), Andreas Katsulas (Sykes), Jeroen Krabbé (Dr. Charles Nichols (as Jeroen Krabbe)), Daniel Roebuck (Biggs), L. Scott Caldwell (Poole), Tom Wood (Newman), Ron Dean (Detective Kelly), Joseph F. Kosala (Detective Rosetti), Miguel Nino (Chicago Cop #1), John Drummond (Newscaster), Tony Fosco (Chicago Cop #2), Joseph F. Fisher (Otto Sloan), James Liautaud (Paul), David Darlow (Dr. Lentz), Tom Galouzis (Surgeon), James F. McKinsey (Surgeon).
      Synopsis: Dr. Richard Kimble, unjustly accused of murdering his wife, must find the real killer while being the target of a nationwide manhunt.
      Comment: In this big-screen adaptation of the TV series, Ford plays Dr Richard Kimble, accused of killing his wife (Ward) in a  domestic dispute, when in fact she was murdered by a one-armed man. When Ford escapes after being convicted, US Marshal Jones is brought in to track him down, Whilst Ford tries to clear his name. This high-energy action thriller is very well directed by Davis and in Ford and Jones has two stars at the top of their game. Ford’s everyman role plays to his strengths, whilst Jones’ determined lawman is a great rival. Good use of Chicago locations and some superbly staged action sequences – notably the train crash leading to Ford’s escape – led to the film being a box-office smash and well-received by critics. Jones won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Based on the 1963-7 TV series created by Roy Huggins. Followed by U.S. MARSHALS (1998) and a second TV series in 2000.

Film Review – SPACE COWBOYS (2000)

Image result for space cowboys 2000SPACE COWBOYS (USA, 2000) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Clipsal Films / Mad Chance / Malpaso Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures / Warner Bros.; Release Date: 1 August 2000 (USA), 22 September 2000 (UK); Filming Dates: 19 July 1999 – 19 October 1999; Running Time: 130m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35mm, D-Cinema (Texas Instruments DLP 1280 x 1024, 1.9 : 1 anamorphic); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Ken Kaufman, Howard Klausner; Executive Producer: Tom Rooker; Producer: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Lazar; Director of Photography: Jack N. Green; Music Composer: Lennie Niehaus; Film Editor: Joel Cox; Casting Director: Phyllis Huffman; Production Designer: Henry Bumstead; Art Director: Jack G. Taylor Jr.; Set Decorator: Richard C. Goddard; Costumes: Deborah Hopper; Make-up: Tania McComas, Francisco X. Pérez; Sound: Bub Asman, Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: John Palmer; Visual Effects: Nelson Cabrera, Susan Greenhow, Michael Owens, Lisa Todd, Judith Weaver.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Frank Corvin), Tommy Lee Jones (Hawk Hawkins), Donald Sutherland (Jerry O’Neill), James Garner (Tank Sullivan), James Cromwell (Bob Gerson), Marcia Gay Harden (Sara Holland), William Devane (Eugene Davis), Loren Dean (Ethan Glance), Courtney B. Vance (Roger Hines), Barbara Babcock (Barbara Corvin), Rade Serbedzija (General Vostov), Blair Brown (Dr. Anne Caruthers), Jay Leno (Jay Leno), Nils Allen Stewart (Tiny), Deborah Jolly (Cocktail Waitress), Toby Stephens (Young Frank), Eli Craig (Young Hawk), John Asher (Young Jerry), Matt McColm (Young Tank), Billie Worley (Young Gerson), Chris Wylde (Jason), Anne Stedman (Jason’s Girlfriend), James MacDonald (Capcom), Kate McNeil (Female Astronaut #1), Karen M. Waldron (Female Astronaut #2), John Linton (Male Astronaut #1), Mark Thomason (Mission Control Tech), Georgia Emelin (Jerry’s Girlfriend), Rick Scarry (State Department Official), Paul Pender (JBC Security Guard), Tim Halligan (Qualls), Manning Mpinduzi-Mott (Press Reporter #1), Steve Monroe (Waiter), Jean-Michel Henry (Centrifuge Tech), Steven West (Construction Tech), Cooper Huckabee (Trajectory Engineer), Hayden Tank (Boy at NASA Tour), Jock MacDonald (Press Reporter (1958)), Gerald Emerick (T-38 Pilot), Renee Olstead (Little Girl), Don Michaelson (NASA Doctor), Artur Cybulski (Press Reporter #2), Gordy Owens (Simsupe), Steve Stapenhorst (Vice President), Lauren Cohn (Teacher at NASA Tour), Michael Louden (Young Pilot #1), Deborah Hope (Female Engineer), Jon Hamm (Young Pilot #2), Lamont Lofton (KSC Guard), Aleksandr Kuznetsov (Russian Engineer (as Alexander Kuznetsov)), Erica Grant (Female Engineer).
      Synopsis: When a retired engineer is called upon to rescue a failing satellite, he insists that his equally old teammates accompany him into space.
      Comment: Highly entertaining, if wildly implausible, space rescue thriller. It coasts on the charisma of its four veteran leads and generates much humour out of their character interactions. Also impressive are the in-space special and visual effects. Eastwood directs with confidence and generates a fair amount of tension in the movie’s final act. If you can accept the premise you’ll find much to enjoy, just don’t scrutinise the plot too closely.

Film Review – STORMY MONDAY (1988)

Image result for stormy monday blu-rayStormy Monday (1988; UK/USA; Rankcolor; 93m) ***½  d. Mike Figgis; w. Mike Figgis; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Mike Figgis.  Cast: Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting, Sean Bean, James Cosmo, Mark Long, Brian Lewis, Ying Tong John, Mick Hamer, Ian Hinchcliffe, Andrzej Borkowski, Caroline Hutchinson, Les Wilde, Desmond Gill, Benny Graham, Derek Hoxby, Catherine Chevalier, Brendan P. Healy, Clive Curtis, Heathcote Williams. A crooked American businessman tries to push the shady influential owner of a nightclub in Newcastle, England to sell him the club. Atmospheric British gangster thriller pays homage to the Hollywood movies of the 30s and 40s. Bean is effective as out-of-work drifter drawn into a stand-off between Sting’s jazz club owner and Jones’ American gangster over a new property development. Griffith oozes appeal as the moll caught between her ties to Jones and her love for Bean. Well-judged script and neat camera work add to the noir feel. Followed by the TV series Finney in 1994, which ran for just one season. [15]