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LawrenceA

Recently Watched SF & Fantasy

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Ad Astra (2019) Brad Pitt has had a very good year. First, there was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Now he delivers another memorable performance as taciturn astronaut Roy McBride, who is haunted by the long shadow cast by his father, Cliff McBride, played by a grizzled Tommy Lee Jones. Sixteen years ago, Cliff led a mission to Neptune called the Lima Project in the hope of discovering intelligent life.  The ship was lost, and Cliff presumed dead, although an agency called United States Space Command believes he may be alive, living à la Colonel Kurtz. The Lima Project triggered deadly anti-matter surges that threaten to destroy Earth and the entire Solar System.  Roy is recruited by Space Command to travel to Neptune and stop the surges.  With his nerves of steel and extraordinary skills, Roy could be humanity’s last hope.

Pitt’s performance is internalized, powerful and full of gravitas, conveying pain and longing with little or no words.  Roy is walled off emotionally, regretful for not being a better husband. Numb rather than angry, he forgives his father for not being there in the service of science. Ad Astra is set in the not too distant future.  Mars is a divided planet with murderous space pirates roaming about. The production design reminded me of the Moon Landing images, with a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Director James Gray also helmed the excellent The Lost City of Z (2016).  Like that picture, Ad Astra takes its time in developing characters, and gradually slipping in plot details, an expository style with action set pieces that doesn’t necessarily result in a big dramatic denouement. Characters are driven by a higher calling at the expense of family. The supporting cast includes Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga and Liv Tyler.  Grade: A-

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"Killer Klowns from Outer Space" (1988) the Chiodo brothers clever spoof of  1950's sci-fi invasion films- this time the aliens are shaped like clowns.   The film features some excellent make up and retro special fx. 

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Jeff Morrow and sexy scientist Mara Corday encounter " The Giant Claw" (1957) produced by Sam Katzman and directed by the ever reliable Fred F Sears.  The movie first half hour is a typical but effective 1950's B sci-fi creature feature about a mysterious UFO which might responsible for airplane crashes. But then the monster shows up- a giant bird from an anti-matter galaxy- unfortunately Katzman saved money by not hiring Ray Harryhausen and instead we get one a cheap turkey puppet which looks more comical than menacing . 

 

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Richard Denning and S John Launer  hunt down "Creature with the Atom Brain" (1955) a fast past paced sci-fi horror written by Curt Siodmak  and directed by Edward  L Cahn. This is better than usual production from schlockmeister Sam Katzman.    A gangster and a Nazi scientist turn dead men into radioactive powered killer zombies.  Siodmak seemed obsessed with brains. The premise reminds me of Michael Chrichton's "The Terminal Man" (1974)

 

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