Movie Review: Ad Astra (2019)

Space, the final frontie- Hold on, this isn’t “Star Trek”. This is something else… so let’s talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Ad Astra”.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) must go on a potentially dangerous mission across the stars to try to uncover the truth behind what happened to his space-traveling father many years ago. And before you get too many assumptions, I have to tell you that this isn’t really that kind of space adventure. Don’t expect “Star Wars”. This is a slowly burning character study that will test the patience of some viewers. That’s not to say that there aren’t exciting bits in this movie, there are. But the more action-packed stuff is less of a priority here, making way for the slow burn drama. And I found it quite engaging. It’s not my favorite space drama, that crown still goes to “Moon”, but I still thought the plot of “Ad Astra” was very good.

There’s really only one character worth talking about here, and that is Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt. He’s shut off his emotional as a response of something that happened in his past. Which makes him a very reserved individual, not letting a lot of people in. And he goes through quite an interesting arc in this movie, making him quite a nuanced character. And Pitt is fantastic in the role. Yes, it’s a very subdued performance, but you can read so much just from eyes. And there are some damn solid supporting players here too.

The score for the movie was composed by Max Richter, and my god, it was fantastic. It often has a very dreamlike quality that perfectly complements Roy’s personal solitude, in combination with the desolation that we call space. Synths, strings, some piano, these are just some of the elements that get blended quite wonderfully to create the mesmerizing score.

“Ad Astra” was written by James Gray and Ethan Gross, with Gray handling direction. Gray’s direction manages to be both sweeping and intimate, really giving us some impressive vistas in combination with the tightness to Pitt’s McBride. His direction manages to generate a decent bit of emotion, making me care. Then it also builds some pretty good suspense in parts. And let’s talk about Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography, which is some of the most stunning I have ever seen, taking my breath away at many points. Seriously, the craft in this movie is meticulous.

This movie just came out, so scores may change. But so far it has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.

“Ad Astra” isn’t for everyone… but I thought it was great. It has a really good plot, a really good central character, great performances, fantastic music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *AHEM*. My final score for “Ad Astra” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Ad Astra” is now completed.

Ad Astra is about Brad Astra seeking his Dad Astra. The movie’s not Bad Astra, in fact it’s quite Rad Astra, which makes me very Glad Astra. 

Series Review: The Looming Tower (2018)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Usually I do, but there’s nothing I can think of here. This show deals with some sensitive stuff, so it’s hard to make up an intro that is fun. So let’s just get into it, I guess.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Looming Tower”.

Set in the late 90s, we follow people from both the FBI and the CIA as they both try to stop the rising threat that is the Al-Qaeda. But their inability to cooperate makes the process a lot more troublesome than it could be. So now we have our historical counter-terrorism drama. And let’s make it clear right now, this isn’t counter-terrorism in the Jack Ryan sense where there’s a bunch of thrilling action scenes. This is a slow burning drama all about investigating and bureaucracy and arguing and such. And I found it all utterly compelling, thanks to calculated writing that prefers to take the realistic and relatively mundane path to its goal, compared to so many counter-terrorism stories, which tend to go for the thrilling sensationalist route. But yeah, I really liked the plot here.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, an FBI agent keen on stopping Al-Qaeda the right way (arrest, court, all that jazz). And while he generally tries to be a good guy, he does have some skeletons in his closet shown throughout that make him quite compelling. And Daniels is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tahar Rahim as Ali Soufan, a new agent within the FBI who gets assigned to work with O’Neill in finding and stopping the various Al-Qaeda members who may exist. And he has some god development throughout that makes him quite interesting. And Rahim is great in the role. And we get supporting performances from people like Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin, Ella Rae Peck, Jamie Neumann, Louis Cancelmi, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Will Bates, who I think did a damn solid job. It goes for a relatively downplayed and somber style. You won’t hear big, tense brass in this to highten the tension of a scene, instead the pieces are smaller, more intimate, almost droning at times to sort of help capture that realistic/slow burning counter-terrorism style that the show’s going for. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on a book by Lawrence Wright, the show was created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright himself, with writing and directing by a whole bunch of people. And the craft here is really tight, giving us close and intimate examinations of all the various situations while also giving us the sweeping storytelling of everything leading up to 9/11. The directing gets in close with the characters and really made me feel like a fly on the wall in these situations, I was fully immersed thanks to the tight work of the crew. And the way the show occasionally splices in real life news footage is pretty damn good.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

“The Looming Tower” is a compelling counter-terrorism drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Looming Tower” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Looming Tower” is now completed.

You know what’s a little funny? I made a comment about this not being Jack Ryan-esque in style, but Alec Baldwin (who once played Jack Ryan) is in the show.

Movie Review: We Are Still Here (2015)

And the month of spooks continues. So what’s on the menu today? Haunted shit? Cool.

Ladies and gentlemen… “We Are Still Here”.

To try to cope with the recent death of their son, a couple (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) move into a remote New England house. But it doesn’t take long for them to find out that there’s something sinister about their new home. So now we have our spooky plot. And I find it to be good. I like that it plays around with a lot of haunted house clichés we’ve seen before in ways that makes it all feel fresh. I also like that it has an old school slow burn feel rather than the rushed factory made spookfest that so many are these days. That said, it’s not perfect. There are moments where the slow burn kinda turns into nothingness. I’m all for a slower burn, but there still needs to be some kind of hook. And there are moments throughout the movie where there is none, keeping those slow moments from feelings the most relevant. But overall it’s still a well crafted and intriguing story that both engages and chills.

The characters in this are layered, interesting, and overall entertaining. Barbara Crampton plays Anne, the woman at the center of this story, and the first to acknowledge that something might be up with the house. She’s still broken up about the sudden death of her son, and it helps make her a more interesting character as she goes through the film’s events. And Crampton is fantastic in the role. Next we have Andrew Sensenig as Paul, Anne’s husband. While the death of his son has had some effect on him, he clearly has moved on a bit more. He’s also a skeptic to the idea of spooky shit going on. But he’s never an asshole about it, as I found him quite likable. And Sensenig is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, Monte Markham, Michael Patrick Nicholson, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Wojchiech Golczewski, and it’s pretty good. It does have a similar sort of eerie droning sound as many other horror scores, but I think this one stands out a little better as it captures the isolated and cold feeling of the location. Would I be able to recognize a track from it if I randomly heard it? Not really. But it’s still pretty good and works well enough for the movie.

“We Are Still Here” was written and directed by Ted Geoghegan, and I think he did a really good job with it. He clearly has a knack for making a person feel uncomfortable with simple camera movements as well as what he puts in the fore/background. But his direction here is tight and helps build a decent amount of suspense throughout. And while I was creeped out in parts, I don’t think I was fully scared. But I don’t think I needed to, as the creepiness factor keeps it from feeling like a failure. Also, I’m not saying exactly what happened, but there are some really effective/enjoyable deaths in this movie that brings it up a notch for me.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,7/10.

While not perfect, “We Are Still Here” is still a really enjoyable and well-crafted movie. It has a good plot, pretty good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing. As previously mentioned, it is brought down a little bit by a few moments throughout being kinda dull. Time for my final score. *BOO!*. My final score for “We Are Still Here” is an 8,88/10. So while flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “We Are Still Here”.

That title sounds like something annoying house guests say when you try to get them out.

Series Review: Mindhunter – Season 1 (2017)

I know what you’re thinking. “Markus, you said that October was about spooky shit, and maybe some trailers and Thor!”, and that is true. However, sometimes an idiot like me has to make exceptions. Plus, this could technically count as Month of Spooks stuff… ’cause serial killers are scary.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Mindhunter” season 1.

Set in 1979, “Mindhunter” follows FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) as he investigates various murder cases while also developing a system for psychologically analyzing criminals. So now we have our drama plot. And is it any good? Yeah. Seeing the early stages of criminal psychology and how it develops is fascinating, and the way they use it to investigate these horrible crimes is quite riveting. The pace here is deliberately slow as a tortoise, which will turn some people off, but I thought it worked quite well for the show. But the plot isn’t just the development of the criminal profiling system, it is also an engaging character-drama. Seeing how these characters react to all the shit going on and how it affects their lives is quite riveting. So yeah, it’s a solid plot.

As you probably could understand from the end of the previous paragraph, the characters here are all quite interesting and engaging. It’s also pretty refreshing to have a cast where I didn’t know any of the main players. I recognized a couple of the supporting people, but for the most part I knew no one. Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford, the young man who we follow for the majority of the show. He’s slightly naive, but means well and shows great intelligence. And Groff is really good in the role. Holt McCallany plays Bill Tench, Ford’s colleague/partner. A slightly stern family man, Tench often get slightly annoyed at Ford’s plans and action, but understands that they can be important. And McCallany is great in the role. Anna Torv plays Wendy Carr, a consultant who gets brought in to help Ford and Tench in their work. She’s determined to get shit done, and she’s an interesting part of the team. And Torv is great in the role. Hannah Gross plays Debbie, a woman that Ford meets and starts a relationship with. She’s sassy, she’s smart, and she’s a nice foil for Ford. And Gross is really good in the role. The entire cast does a solid job here.

The score for the show was composed by Jason Hill and it was great. It was dark and quite chilling, reminiscent of the movie scores by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. It often helped elevate certain scenes, making them feel a little eerie and slightly uncomfortable. There were also licensed tracks used throughout the show and they were used pretty well.

This show was created by Joe Penhall, and directed by three people. The directors are Asif Kapadia, Tobias Lindholm, Andrew Douglas, and David fucking Fincher. And yes, the only reason why I listed all of them was for that dramatic effect on Fincher. And even though he only helmed four of the ten episodes, all of them feel very Fincher-esque. Cinematic, cold, steady, confident, it just oozes of David Fincher. So yeah, it is incredibly well directed. This show is also R-rated. Cursing, nudity, sex, some violence. Sure, it’s not “Game of Thrones” levels of R-rated, but it still has some stuff that makes it inappropriate for younger audiences. Also, this show was produced by Charlize Theron… not trying to make a point, just think that’s pretty cool.

This show just came out but has already been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,2/10 (but will most likely drop in the near future).

“Mindhunter” is great… don’t know what else I can say. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Mindhunter” season 1 is a 9,65/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Mindhunter” season 1 is now completed.

Month of Spooks, not Month of Spooks… Killers are scary, Month of Spooks.

Movie Review: We Are What We Are (2013)

And the Month of Spooks continues with another review! So let’s get into it!

Ladies and gentlemen… “We Are What We Are”.

The Parkers are a reclusive family who follow some ye olde customs. However, when the mother in the family dies the daughters (Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner) have to start taking more responsibilities at home, and they soon find their lives taking a turn for the worse It’s difficult talking about the plot of this without accidentally spoiling stuff, so I’m not gonna say anything more about the plot itself. I will however say that I thought it was great. It’s a slow burn, which might put some people off. But the movie rewards patient viewers with an engrossing, tense, and disturbing plot filled with twists and turns. It’s a very well handled plot and I thought it was great.

The characters in this are all flawed, damaged, and interesting. Ambyr Childers plays Iris, the older of the two Parker sisters. And while she is a fairly soft-spoken character that doesn’t speak too much, you can still tell a lot about her by just looking at her eyes. You can see the sadness and pain behind them, you can see that she wants something more out of life than what she has. And Childers is great in the role. Julia Garner (AKA Ruth Langmore from “Ozark”) plays Rose, the younger of the Parker sisters. As with Childers she acts a lot with her eyes, and you can tell that she isn’t as comfortable with their situation as her sister. And Garner is great in the role. Bill Sage plays Frank, the father of the Parker family. He is more often than not a very soft-spoken man, but can explode when things don’t go as planned. And like with the two ladies playing his daughters, he acts with his eyes quite a bit. And there are several other subtleties in his performance that I won’t get into here, but they do add layers to the performance. And Sage is great in the role. We also get Wyatt Russell as a police deputy that has some history with one of the Parker sisters, and he’s really good in the role. We also have Jack Gore as Rory, the youngest child in the Parker family. And while it isn’t one of the best child performances ever, I’d still say that it’s good (which is great to see). We also have Michael Parks (may he rest in peace) as a coroner that looks into the dead Parker mom. And he’s great in the role. We also have Nick Damici in a small role as a Sheriff. And he’s good… not much else to say for such a limited role. And we have Kelly McGillis as the Parkers’ neighbor, and she’s good in the role. Overall it’s a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Jeff Grace, Philip Mossman, and Darren Morris. And it was fantastic. It is tense, dramatic, eerie, and even emotional. It really helped elevate a lot of the scenes, adding so many layers to those scenes. Then there were also a couple of licensed tracks used throughout and they were used well in their respective scenes.

This movie was directed by Jim Mickle (a man who has popped up on this blog several times before), and written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle. And I have to say that he did a terrific job with his directing here. It is slow and methodical, with no shots feeling out of place or dull. He manages to build a lot of tension throughout the movie and even had me feeling uneasy from start to finish thanks to the eerie atmosphere of it. And I have to mention that Ryan Samul’s cinematography is fantastic. There’s also some gore in this, so if you’re slightly squeamish… you have now been warned. And as a final little mention here, this is apparently a remake of a Mexican film of the same name. I haven’t seen it… just thought I’d mention it’s existence.

This movie has gotten some slightly mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,9/10.

“We Are What We Are” is a damn good little horror-drama. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Are What We Are” is a 9,86/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “We Are What We Are” is now completed.

Another win for Mr. Mickle.

Movie Review: The Homesman (2014)

Something something, Markus likes westerns.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Homesman”.

After three women goes mad from living very tough lives they have to be transported to Iowa. So a woman named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) volunteers to take on this daunting task. However, she soon realizes that she might not be able to do this alone, so she employs a low-life drifter named George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) to help her out. So now we have our western-drama. And I’d say that it’s an interesting plot. It’s very serious and and at times even a bit disturbing, and overall it is very well told. My main issue with it is the first half which meanders quite a bit. I get that this is a simple road movie set during the old west, but even I feel like it doesn’t get very far plot-wise during that first half (a little less than half to be a bit more fair, but shut up). But when we get into the second half the plot picks up a bit more and I found myself really invested in the journey. And just to be clear: The first half isn’t bad… just a little bit too slow… a little bit.

The characters in this are layered and interesting. Hilary Swank is great as Mary Bee Cuddy, giving a vulnerable yet determined performance. Tommy Lee Jones is great as George Briggs, playing him as a kind of pathetic but still tough and semi-honorable man. Then we have the three crazy ladies (that is what they are, shut up), played by Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, and Sonja Richter. And they’re all great in their respective roles. They don’t say a lot, but they give great performances nonetheless. Then there are a bunch of good supporting performances throughout from people like Evan Jones, William Fichtner, John Lithgow, James Spader (his Irish accent isn’t very good), Jesse Plemons, Tim Blake Nelson, and Meryl Streep. Most of these actors aren’t in the movie for very long, but when they are… they’re good.

The score for the movie was composed by Marco Beltrami and it was really good. It was very dramatic and emotional, often adding to the quality of the various scenes in here. Sure, a lot of the music sound like stuff we’ve heard in other western-dramas, but that doesn’t make the music any worse… ’cause it’s really good.

This movie was directed by Tommy Lee Jones and I think that he did a really good job. The movie is directed with a lot of confidence which makes for an investing watch. It’s also a really good looking movie, having a bleak style that doesn’t feel too depressing and sad. I also feel like I should mention that this isn’t an action packed western. It’s a slow drama, with very few shots being fired. Just thought I’d mention that.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating and a “Fresh” ceritifcation. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,6/10.

“The Homesman” is a really solid western-drama. It has a good plot, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing. My main problem with the movie is that first half which meanders a bit too much. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Homesman” is an 8,84/10. So while it is flawed I’d still say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “The Homesman” is now completed.

Sloooooow burn.