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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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"Killdozer" (1974) made for tv movie about a group of construction workers terrorized by a bulldozer which has been taken over by an alien organism.   The cast Clint Walker, Carl Betz, Neville Brand and a young Robert Urich are good.  The problem is the the bulldozer is not very menacing.  The script is based on a Theodore Sturgeon short story but it was obviously influence by  Steven Spielberg's "Duel" but Richard Matheson script is much more suspenseful. You can watch it on You Tube

 

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"Slugs" (1988) mutant slugs terrorized a small town in the creature feature from the Juan Piquer Simon director of "Pieces".   Mike Brady (Michael Garfield) the town's health inspector must fight of the nasty creatures with the help of his best friend Don Palmer ( Philip McHale) - we get plenty of gratuitous nudity, bad dubbing  and some actually effective gore effects.  You can see it on an excellent print on Amazon Prime.

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"The Vast of Night" (2019) this one feels like an episode of "The Outer Limits"- about a mysterious sound that may be coming from outer space. Good work from a first time director- funny script, good cast and yes it does have effective scary moments.

 

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) is one of my favorite Star Wars movies. I loved Felicity Jones’ immersive performance as rebel warrior Jyn Erso. She can stand next to the likes of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo as one of the great heroes in the galaxy. I particularly liked the scene in which arrogant Imperial Commander Krennic (an excellent Ben Mendelsohn) has to brief Darth Vader on the slow progress involving the Death Star.  As Vader approaches, Krennic swallows hard, and you can practically see his fear while in Vader’s presence.  The screenplay beautifully connects Rogue One to A New Hope.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Alden Ehrenreich as as a young, pre-Luke Skywalker Han Solo captures Harrison Ford’s speech rhythms, and the character’s anti-authority persona. We learn how friendships with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian  (an excellent Donald Glover) were formed, and how Solo came into acquiring his prize possession, the Millennium Falcon. What I’ve always liked is how the character straddles the line between good and evil, while keeping his moral compass intact.  Solo is no saint, but his false equivalency has limits. Emilia Clarke as his love interest is a woman of mystery, and the actress plays her like a femme fatale. The plot itself has a noir-type entanglement. Ron Howard’s direction is dutiful to fan service, which is not necessarily bad. I found the production design a little uninspiring.  Standout performances include Woody Harrelson as a mercenary, and Thandie Newton as his partner.  Also with Paul Bettany, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge voicing the scene-stealing droid L3-37, who is practically in love with Lando. Solo lacks the grandeur and emotional arc of Rogue One, but there’s enough there to make it a decent viewing experience.  This may sound like I’m damning it with faint praise. It just won’t rank as high as other Star Wars stories.

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On 9/4/2020 at 2:52 PM, cinemaspeak59 said:

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Alden Ehrenreich as as a young, pre-Luke Skywalker Han Solo captures Harrison Ford’s speech rhythms, and the character’s anti-authority persona. We learn how friendships with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian  (an excellent Donald Glover) were formed, and how Solo came into acquiring his prize possession, the Millennium Falcon. What I’ve always liked is how the character straddles the line between good and evil, while keeping his moral compass intact.  Solo is no saint, but his false equivalency has limits. Emilia Clarke as his love interest is a woman of mystery, and the actress plays her like a femme fatale. The plot itself has a noir-type entanglement. Ron Howard’s direction is dutiful to fan service, which is not necessarily bad. I found the production design a little uninspiring.  Standout performances include Woody Harrelson as a mercenary, and Thandie Newton as his partner.  Also with Paul Bettany, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge voicing the scene-stealing droid L3-37, who is practically in love with Lando. Solo lacks the grandeur and emotional arc of Rogue One, but there’s enough there to make it a decent viewing experience.  This may sound like I’m damning it with faint praise. It just won’t rank as high as other Star Wars stories.

The movie had a lot  of things going for it- specially Donald Glover as Lando but the bottom line is that its story we really did not need to see

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