Brad Pitt soars in career defining “Ad Astra”
Oct11

Brad Pitt soars in career defining “Ad Astra”

The Hubble telescope estimates there are 100 billion galaxies in our universe. Outer space is an inconceivable, infinite place. Ad Astra is Latin for “looking to the stars,” which has been a sign of hope on our Earth, a symbol of a kind of goal for humanity to achieve. We’ve been looking for life outside of Earth for so long. What happens if we figure out that there is no other life? What if we’re all alone in our galaxy? Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is struggling in “Ad Astra.” His father (Tommy Lee Jones) left Roy when he was 16 to search for alien life at the edge of our galaxy. Roy’s wife has left him. He has no friends in the space program. He is just a machine with no true goal. He’s stopped struggling with his depression and now, he’s just living. He’s alone, just like humanity. When the space program comes to McBride with news of his father’s survival on Neptune, McBride does not know what to feel. He just knows that he needs to see his father again. Maybe he’ll finally feel something. The movie “Alien” was released in 1979 with the tagline “in space no one can hear you scream.” In “Ad Astra,” apparently no one can see your pain either. In a lot of ways, Brad Pitt’s character is screaming for help. With every fiber of his soul, he wants to help people so that they see him. He can get people out of the most difficult situations. He can fight space pirates, but he also has to fight his thoughts of worthlessness. That’s depression for many people. It’s an inner struggle that you just can’t escape, no matter how much you want out. “Ad Astra” is a slow-moving movie. Almost in the vein of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” there are scenes in the film that merely show off the sheer beauty of space. That beauty, in all forms, is a testament to what McBride truly wants. He hopes that one day he won’t feel so alone. “I am looking forward to the day my solitude ends,” Pitt narrates at one point of the movie. We all hope for that same thing, right? Recently the sci-fi genre has been groundbreaking with its cinematography. Movies such as “Annihilation” (2018), “Arrival” (2016), “Interstellar” (2013) and “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) are beautifully shot. Sci-fi is a genre that is truly able to revolutionize the way we look at films, and “Ad Astra” keeps that trend going. The film studies themes of solitude and depression not just through the story, but through the lens...

Read More
The Peanut Butter Falcon – Movie Review
Sep20

The Peanut Butter Falcon – Movie Review

It’s September, which means that we’ve finally reached my favorite season of the year. Oscar Season. The Peanut Butter Falcon is a perfect start to the art house and indie film segment of the film cycle. The film stars Zak (Zack Gottsagen), who plays a man with Down Syndrome. His character Zak runs from a state nursing home to have his hero, The Saltwater Redneck (Thomas Hayden Church), train him to become a professional wrestler. While running from his nursing home caretaker (Dakota Johnson), Zak meets a fisherman on the run named Tyler (Shia LeBeouf) and so begins a fantastical Mark Twain style film in the deep south. On the surface, one could argue that The Peanut Butter Falcon is typical Oscar bait. The film has great acting, a great script, a diverse cast and is beautifully shot. These are all typical for Oscar films, but Falcon stands out because of its authenticity and boldness as well as because of the particular message that it carries. For instance, actor Zak Gottsagen actually has Down Syndrome like his character. This makes The Peanut Butter Falcon groundbreaking and exciting, especially because Gottsagen’s performance is so great. Hollywood films are often criticized for their portrayal of people with special needs and for not casting actors in the films who actually have those needs.  Recently, The Upside comes to mind. In that film, Actor Bryan Cranston gave an earnest performance of a man with Cerebral Palsy. However, Cranston doesn’t have Cerebral Palsy, there are actors who actually have Cerebral Palsy who should have been given a chance.  Another film, Rain Man, featured Dustin Hoffman giving a beautiful portrayal of a man with Autism, but he also did not have the condition of the character he played. Gottsagen isn’t the only standout of the film. LeBeouf plays his best role yet. LeBeouf has had quite a series of missteps lately in his acting career, but Falcon shows off his acting in an exciting way.  LeBeouf and Gottsagen have chemistry that is off the charts, and their friendship is what drives the film. LeBeouf gives an astounding performance as he displays the many layers of his character, Tyler. He is a rough person, but also loves Zak so realistically and beautifully throughout the film. There’s a scene where Zak tells Tyler that he isn’t a hero because he is “a Down Syndrome person.” Tyler responds beautifully with a question: “What’s that got to do with your heart?” The Peanut Butter Falcon’s message is clear and impactful. The film isn’t afraid to go to places that aren’t often shown on screen. Zak is consistently belittled by...

Read More