Monthly Archives: September 2019

We Review: Ad Astra “An interesting film. Slow. Well portrayed, with solid effects, but VERY boring. A let down. 3.5 stars” – MR

Ad Astra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ad Astra
Ad Astra - film poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Gray
Produced by
Written by
Music by
Cinematography Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by
  • John Axelrad
  • Lee Haugen
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date
  • August 29, 2019 (Venice)
  • September 20, 2019 (United States)
Running time
124 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80–100 million[2]

Ad Astra is a 2019 American science fiction action adventure film produced, co-written and directed by James Gray. Starring Brad PittTommy Lee JonesRuth NeggaLiv Tyler and Donald Sutherland, it follows an astronaut who goes into space in search of his lost father, whose experiment threatens the solar system.

The project was announced in early 2016, with Gray saying he wanted to feature “the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie”. Pitt signed on to star in April 2017 and the rest of the cast joined later that year. Filming began around Los Angeles that August, lasting through October.

Ad Astra had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019, and is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on September 20, 2019 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, under the 20th Century Fox banner.[3] It received mostly positive reviews from critics, with universal praise for Pitt’s performance.


In the near future, the Solar System is being struck by mysterious power surges of unknown origin, threatening the future of human life. After surviving an incident on an immense space antenna caused by one of these surges, Major Roy McBride, son of famed pioneering astronaut H. Clifford McBride is informed by U.S. Space Command (SpaceCom), the United States Armed Forces branch operating in Space, that the source of the surges has been traced to the “Lima Project” base. The Lima Project had been sent some twenty-six years prior to search for intelligent life from the farthest regions of the Solar System under Clifford McBride’s leadership, and disappeared sixteen years prior in orbit around Neptune. A SpaceCom officer informs Roy that they believe Clifford may still be alive, and he is tasked with the mission of travelling to Mars to try and establish communication with him. McBride accepts the mission, and is joined by an old associate of his father, Colonel Pruitt.

After taking a commercial flight to the Moon, McBride and Colonel Pruitt are escorted by US military personnel to the SpaceCom lunar base, taking them across no-man’s-land. En route to the base via lunar rovers, they are ambushed by scavenging pirates, who kill most of the group except for McBride and Pruitt. After reaching the base, a dying Pruitt is placed into intensive care. McBride transfers to a SpaceCom flight, crewed by four SpaceCom officers, flying to Mars.

During the journey to Mars, the ship receives a distress signal from a Norwegian biomedical research space station. Boarding the space station, McBride and the ship’s captain find it abandoned, only to be attacked by an aggressive baboon escaped from the Norwegian station. The ape kills the ship’s captain before being neutralised by McBride. Another baboon attacks McBride but he is able to escape the station with the captain’s body.

While making a routine landing on Mars, another power surge hits the ship, forcing manual intervention. The interim captain finds himself too scared to fly, leaving McBride to take the controls and land the ship safely.

Having landed on Mars, McBride is taken to the underground SpaceCom base, where he briefly meets Helen Lantos, the facility Director, and is then tasked with recording voice messages to be sent to the Lima Project, in hopes that Clifford will respond. After going off-script, the crew apparently receive a response, but Roy is abruptly taken off the mission, as his personal connection to the mission is deemed to pose a psychological risk to himself and the mission’s success.

While being kept in a “comfort room”, he is visited by Lantos, who reveals she is a native Martian and has only been once to Earth as a child. She also reveals that she is the daughter of Lima Project crew-members. In a secret conversation, she shows Roy classified footage from the Lima Project, revealing that Clifford’s crew mutinied against him trying to return back to Earth, leading him to kill them all by turning off their life-support systems, and that her parents were among the crew killed. She also tells him that the crew that brought him to Mars are soon heading to the Lima Project base themselves, where they intend to destroy it with a nuclear payload. The two decide that Roy is the only person who should confront Clifford, and Helen sneaks Roy out of the base, leading him to an underground lake beneath the rocket launch site.

As the rocket takes off, Roy climbs aboard, and after being discovered, the crew is instructed to neutralise McBride. The ensuing altercation results, despite McBride’s best efforts, in the death of the entire crew. Now alone, Roy takes command of the ship. During the long journey to Neptune, he reflects on his relationship with his father, as well as that of his estranged wife, Eve. The isolation and stress of the mission take a toll on his mental condition, but after several weeks he arrives at the Lima Project.

While approaching the base in a small module, another surge strikes, damaging the module and forcing Roy to enter the base through a space-walk. Finding the Lima base nearly abandoned and most of its crew dead, he plants the nuclear payload and meets his father. Clifford McBride, now the sole survivor of the base, explains to his son that the cause of the surges is the ship’s malfunctioning anti-matter power source, which was damaged during a mutiny, and which he has been unable to solve. Clifford also reveals that he has continued to work on the project all these years, refusing to lose faith in the possibility of non-human intelligent life.

Despite his father’s protests, Roy arms the payload and prepares to return to his ship with Clifford, who ultimately resorts to using the thrusters on his spacesuit to launch himself into deep space, refusing to go back to Earth. Roy tries to save him, but Clifford refuses the help, leaving a distraught Roy to watch as his father drifts away in Neptune’s orbit. Alone, Roy manages to thrust himself back onto his ship, going through Neptune’s ring using a piece of the Lima Project ship’s hull to shield himself, while also bringing along with him the data retrieved from the base. Not having enough fuel to return on his own power, he uses the shock-wave from the nuclear explosion to propel the ship home.

Finding that the Lima Project data strongly suggests that humans are the only intelligent life in the universe after all, McBride finds himself imbued with a renewed desire to reconnect with those closest to him, and returns to Earth with a new-found sense of optimism. He seemingly reconnects with his wife.


Our Thoughts

Ad Astra was a long, slow moving flick about a man’s struggle with his and his father’s demons. It is set in space, in several NASA type old school, Apollo 11 style crafts and planet based stations, and not that deep into the need for effects.   Brad Pitt was great, as was Tommy Lee Jones, but the story was anticlimactic, and disappointing, really.  Not much action at all. And what action there was, was portrayed in low gravity and thus slow and not that exciting.  I was looking forward to a great space flick in IMAX, but was terribly let down. 3.5 stars – MR


Find Ad Astra and see the new trailer here.

We Review: It – Chapter Two “A different ending than the book, and some cool effects make it worth watching. 3.5 stars” – MR

It Chapter Two

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
It Chapter Two

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Produced by
Screenplay by Gary Dauberman
Based on It
by Stephen King
Music by Benjamin Wallfisch
Cinematography Checco Varese
Edited by Jason Ballantine
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
Running time
169 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60–70 million[2]

It Chapter Two is a 2019 American supernatural horror film and the sequel to the 2017 film It, both based on the 1986 novel It by Stephen King. The film is directed by Andy Muschietti and written by Gary Dauberman. Set in 2016, 27 years after the events depicted in the first film, it stars James McAvoyJessica ChastainBill HaderIsaiah MustafaJay RyanJames Ransone, and Andy Bean as the adult versions of the Losers Club. Jaeden MartellSophia LillisFinn WolfhardChosen JacobsJeremy Ray TaylorJack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles as the younger Losers, while Bill Skarsgård also returns as Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

Talks for an IT sequel began in February 2016. By September 2017, New Line Cinema announced the sequel would be released in September 2019, with Dauberman writing the script and Muschietti expected to direct. Principal photography began in June 2018, at Pinewood Toronto Studios and on locations in and around Port HopeOshawa, and Toronto, Ontario, and wrapped on October 31, 2018. The film was produced by New Line Cinema and Vertigo Entertainment.

It Chapter Two premiered at the Regency Village Theater in Los Angeles on August 26, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States by Warner Bros. Pictures on September 6, 2019. Much like its predecessor, It Chapter Two received praise from critics for its acting (particularly Hader and Skarsgård), themes, and faithfulness to the novel, though criticism was aimed at its runtime and lack of scares compared to its predecessor.


In the late summer, in Derry, Maine, Adrian Mellon wins a stuffed toy at the local carnival. After seeing a little girl who lost to him look upset, he gives it to her before reuniting with his boyfriend, Don Hagarty. Their kiss is interrupted by a gang consisting of John “Webby” Garton, Steve Dubay, and Christopher Unwin, who shout homophobic slurs, causing Adrian and Don to walk out of the carnival. Adrian and Don are later ambushed by the gang, and are severely beaten, Adrian to near death, before he is thrown off of the bridge into the water below. While he is gasping for air, he notices Pennywise the Dancing Clown near the edge offering help. Don catches up to Adrian, but not before he witnesses Pennywise brutally murder Adrian. Mike Hanlon, the only member of the Losers’ Club to have stayed in Derry, overhears on the police scanner and rushes to the scene. Upon realizing that It has returned to their old town, he calls the members of the Club and invites them back to town.

Bill Denbrough is a successful author and screenwriter but often gets criticism for his stories’ endings. Beverly Marsh lives a glamorous life as a fashion designer but endures an abusive relationship with her husband. Ben Hanscom has become fit and is a successful architect. Richie Tozier has become a stand-up comedian and has had several failed relationships. Eddie Kaspbrak is a risk assessor and has married a woman similar to that of his mother. Stanley Uris is a partner in a large accounting firm. All find the call from Mike to bring up bad memories, but ultimately agree to come, save for Stanley, who later commits suicide.

The remaining members of the Losers’ Club meet at a local Chinese restaurant and bond over old memories, while sharing stories of their new lives. When the time comes to open fortune cookies, they reveal a cryptic phrase that reads “Guess Stanley Could Not Cut It”. Soon after, the remaining fortune cookies begin moving on their own and opening, revealing disturbing monstrosities inside including a spider with a baby’s head, a one-winged bat, and a pre-birth bird covered in blood. Richie smashes a chair on the table and, after Mike reveals the real reason why he called them back to Derry, Richie and Eddie decide to leave. Bill comes with Mike back to his house, who drugs Bill’s water with special properties that help Mike explain what he has learned about Derry over the years. He reveals that he met with a Native American tribe and showed him the Ritual of Chüd, a way of destroying It once and for all. They return to the group’s hotel, and convince Richie and Eddie to stay and finish what they started.

Mike says that in order for the ritual to work, each Loser must have an artifact from their past to place in the ancient pottery. Beverly goes back to her old house and finds an old pack of cigarettes she hid, in addition to Ben’s love letter, before being attacked by a grotesque naked monster who masqueraded as Mrs. Kersh, a woman who lives there. Bill goes to the sewer where Georgie was killed and recovers his paper boat before having a run-in with a boy from the restaurant named Dean who happens to live in his old house. He tells the boy to get out of Derry and never come back, but the boy says he’s going to the carnival. Ben goes back to their high school and finds his yearbook page, which Beverly was the only person to sign. Eddie goes to the pharmacy and recovers an inhaler. Richie goes to the abandoned arcade and finds a game token, where he remembers a bad memory of him being taunted for his sexuality before being attacked by a giant Paul Bunyan statue. They use a shower cap from their clubhouse as a placement for Stan, and Mike finds the rock that started their rock fight against Henry Bowers and his gang.

Meanwhile, Henry Bowers is visited by Pennywise in the mental hospital where he has resided since the Losers’ attack nearly 30 years prior. He kills a guard and escapes, later ambushing the Losers at their hotel and stabbing Eddie in the side of the face. Eddie takes it out and stabs Henry back, but he escapes before Ben and Beverly can catch him. Bill finds a message from Pennywise alluding to the little boy from earlier, and realizes that Pennywise is going to the carnival. Bill arrives and chases Dean into the mirror maze, but is too late, as he watches Pennywise break a mirror and violently kill him. Bill, traumatized by his failure to save both Georgie and Dean, returns with a mission to murder It himself. The rest of the Losers, after killing Henry, follow Bill to the abandoned Neibolt house.

They climb into the sewers and make their way into a chasm where Mike sets up the steps necessary for the Ritual of Chüd, including burning the artifacts they gathered from their old memories. He instructs the others to chant a phrase, during which It’s “deadlights” appear and make their way into the ancient pottery. He seems to trap them, but a red balloon grows under the lid and out from the pottery, getting larger and larger in size until it pops and reveals a giant version of Pennywise with spider-like legs and blades on the ends of them. The Losers are thrust into nightmarish scenarios in which they are forced to escape from, resembling memories from old places in Derry they spent time in. Bill is forced to confront the fact that he pretended to be sick the day of Georgie’s death, inadvertently causing it, while Beverly finally realizes it was Ben who wrote her that letter years ago. Richie is caught in the deadlights, but Eddie saves him; however, Eddie is impaled and killed by Pennywise shortly after.

The Losers regroup and realize Pennywise can be killed if they make him feel smaller than he really is. They insult him and make him physically grow smaller and weaker, until they are able to tear his heart out and crush it together. Richie tearfully tries to save Eddie, but the group tells him that they have to go as the chasm crumbles around them. They return to the quarry where they once swam together, and Beverly and Ben share a kiss.

After these events, Bill is beginning to write a new book while Mike is moving out of Derry to start a new chapter of his life. Bill is told by Mike about a letter from Stan that he wrote to every member of the Losers’ Club before killing himself, explaining why he did it. Meanwhile, Ben and Beverly are in a relationship and Richie returns to the bridge where he had once carved the initials of him and another person, now revealed to be Eddie. He re-carves them before tearfully leaving.


The Losers’ Club

  • James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough:[4]
    The stuttering yet resourcefully determined former leader of the Losers’ Club who, out of revenge for the demise of his younger brother Georgie, fights his killer, Pennywise, during the summer of 1989. He promises that he and the other losers will return to Derry if It comes back. As an adult, Bill is a successful mystery novelist, and is married to a successful actress named Audra Phillips.

  • Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh:
    The only female member of the Losers’ Club, who was abused physically and sexually by her father, was bullied at school over false rumors of promiscuity, and was Bill and Ben’s love interest. As an adult, she has become a successful fashion designer in Chicago while enduring several abusive relationships that include her marriage to Tom Rogan.

  • Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom:[5]
    A member of the Losers’ Club who fought against It and was bullied as a child because of being overweight. As an adult, he is fit and a successful architect living in Nebraska.

  • Bill Hader as Richie Tozier:[4]
    Bill’s bespectacled best friend and fellow member of the Losers’ Club, whose loud mouth and foul language often get him into trouble. As an adult, Richie becomes a successful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, contrary to his occupation as a disc jockey from the novel.

  • Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon:[6]
    A member of the Losers’ Club who fought against It. As an adult, Mike is the only one to stay behind in Derry and becomes the town librarian and summons the other Losers back to Derry when It resurfaces. Mike also has a serious substance abuse problem stemming from being traumatized by the events in his childhood.

  • James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak:[7]
    A member of the Losers’ Club who is the epitome of a hypochondriac, overly exaggerated by the immense number of objects in his medicine cabinet. As an adult, Eddie is a successful risk assessor living in New York City and is married to Myra, who is very similar to his Munchausen syndrome by proxy-stricken mother Sonia.

  • Andy Bean as Stanley Uris:[7]
    A member of the Losers’ Club who fought against It. As an adult, Stan becomes a partner in a large Atlanta-based accounting firm and is married to Patty Blum, a teacher.

Our Thoughts

While I love the book, and like the first film version, I also liked this one well enough to review it.  Stephen King has his usual cameo appearance, but in this one he states he didn’t like the ending (of a character’s book) thus hinting this ending will be different, and I was glad it was. There are some cool “shock” scares, and some creepy effects, so it was worth the cost of a ticket. 3.5 stars – MR


Find It: Chapter Two and see the new trailer here.