AD ASTRA (2019)

Part CONTACT, part GRAVITY, part 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, part SOLARIS, part INTERSTELLAR… and that’s kind of the problem.

Because for all its ambition to be a Terrance Malick-like space movie it doesn’t have anything to offer that hasn’t already been covered in more arresting fashion elsewhere.

The visuals are great and would have likely been impressive as hell on a big screen, but at the end of it all we’re left with a perfectly mechanical character performance from Brad Pitt that only ever threatens to become transcendent and ultimately doesn’t serve anything especially interesting.

Underwhelming.

JAY & SILENT BOB REBOOT (2019)

I’ll confess that there’s a lot of me that’s grown past much of the kind of humour particular to this slice of the View Askewniverse, and yet there’s an unassailable honesty and sincerety to everything that Kevin Smith makes and an infectious sort of fun to the rolling roster of celebrity appearances, self-aware jokes and cheap gags that makes it impossible not to get at least a little caught up in his enthusiasm.

Even better then to see it in a packed theatre while he and Jason Mewes regale a crowd of late-night fans at The Rio with tales of the journey that’s taken them from JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK almost twenty years ago forward into the same universe, with all the people who have grown up in the meanwhile (some forty-plus cameos??) and their now adult children too.

Smith himself claims the title of The Biggest Kevin Smith Fan, but that’s not for love of himself but for absolute joy of what he gets to do as Kevin Smith.

Who else could pull three Batmans into one dumb film and still have room for a last joke with the great Stan Lee?

KNIVES OUT (2019)

An old-school whodunnit with modern sensibilities and an A-Grade cast.

Twin lead performances from Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig are equal parts charming, hilarious and empathetic, anchoring a great ride, makes you wonder why this sort of film seems to have fallen out of vogue for the last… what? 20 years? Whenever THE USUAL SUSPECTS came out.

<a google visit later> (It was 1995).

Clearly, any major discussion is spoilerific, but just know that it’s a smart, well executed mystery full of solid performances, plenty of humour and deftly handled class culture undertones.

I was expecting two or three extra twists come the end, but I’m not going to hold that against it.

Recommended!

SIDE NOTE: I’m going to try and add an illustration to each review to spruce things up around here going forward, the complexity and style of which will probably be utterly random. Enjoy!

THE MANDALORIAN s01 e01/02 (2019)

Only two episodes in and already the best thing to come out of STAR WARS in 20 years.

Has a really vintage feel to it, like older pulp Westerns against a SW universe backdrop and enough balance of practical effects and higher concept space stuff to keep it interesting yet still very grounded.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that a certain integral character is the most adorable critter ever and they’re 100% going to sell a billion toys of it.

So far, so good. Very promising.

FORD v FERRARI (2019)

More the story of capable, passionate people being throttled and bullied by idiotic corporate groupthink than the simple “make car go fast” story that the trailers might have let on.

Anchored by two excellent performances from Matt Damon and Christian Bale, director James Mangold (LOGAN/3:10 TO YUMA) wisely keeps the focus on what’s driving <haha> these men towards perfection over explicitly celebrating the sport itself.

For anyone with an interest in motorsports this is a must watch, for anyone else (myself being included on this side of the fence) there’s great character studies and some excellent action to enjoy while you’re fuming at the arrogant bastardry of corporate oversight.

Recommended.

CRAWL (2019)

Exactly what it says on the box: alligators in your basement in a hurricane and the water level keeps on rising.

Minimalist in concept, capable in its execution, all around a pretty tight little horror film with decent effects and good performances.

Alligators/crocodiles are legitimately terrifying creatures and this does well to dress them up as little as possible — that groundedness really helps sell the dread.

Worth a watch.

SERENITY (2019)

No, not the wonderful Joss Whedon Space Western of the same name from 2005.

In fact, just go and watch that. Even if you’ve already seen it. Even if you didn’t care for it much. Anything but this.

This is 116min of utter pointlessness, even factoring in what should have been a fascinating and intriguing twist (google it) there’s nothing of any weight, feeling or consequence here at all. On paper this might have seemed like a great idea. On film it’s entirely unremarkable in every way.

I’ve heard this decried as the worst film of the year and I think that’s being generous. It’s so severely mediocre as to be a waste of such a grand title, much like this is a complete waste of your time.

Pass.

JOJO RABBIT (2019)

Only Taika Waititi could take a film about a fanatic 10yo Nazi boy and make something so charmingly funny, heartwarming and honest.

Waititi himself plays Jojo’s imaginary friend Hitler, spurring him on to be the best little Jew investigator he can be.

In anyone else’s hands the premise would be tasteless, especially in today’s climate, but here we have a whole cast of strange, damaged, hilarious figures riding the farce with enough emotional weight that its silliness never floats away.

It’s wonderful, a must watch.

THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019)

One half a slow, darkly funny buddy-sailor drama about isolation, one half a hallucinogenic, intense psychological nightmare.

Brilliantly disturbing performances from both Dafoe and Pattinson draped in gorgeous cinematography, stark imagery of tempestuous dread and unnerving sound design.

That it’s filmed in a square aspect ratio only further serves to make it feel like the horrifying relic of some dark, forgotten avenue of filmmaking.

Not for everyone, but those who can appreciate it will find a lot to chew on here.

Recommended for a stormy night.