I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching “Ad Astra” (2019). Director James Gray’s film blends a solar system travelogue with the family drama of Brad Pitt’s Roy McBride hoping to connect with his estranged father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones). Clifford is on a spaceship orbiting Neptune as Roy starts off from Earth. “Ad Astra” is one big metaphor about a gulf in a relationship, but its space-porn visuals and the delicate, somber music from Max Richter made it irresistible for me. (Other viewers will find it too slow; this is a matter of taste.)
Superman II” (1981) has always been a beloved film, but when an alternate version came out in 2006, it became even more beloved. The theatrical Richard Lester Cut rates a 6.8 on IMDB and the newer Richard Donner Cut rates a 7.7. That’s not a trivial gap. But in my opinion the difference in quality between the two films is minor, and upon a close analysis, I’d argue the Lester Cut is slightly superior.
Because the five volumes of “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick” have been reprinted many times under many different names, I’m referring to them here by their volume number, which is what they are known by in their original 1987 publication by Underwood-Miller.
Martian Time-Slip” (1964) is set on the frontier of Mars, so naturally – this being a Philip K. Dick novel – it’s about … the nature of schizophrenia. Granted, the setting isn’t totally random, but it’s interesting that PKD goes to Mars and a 1994 future where Earth has become overpopulated in order to tell a timeless story about the subjective natures of time and perspective. Sometimes you have to go crazy before you can be sane, repairman Jack Bohlen learns, and the wild sci-fi ideas are in service of his search for simplicity and sanity.
July 21, 1969, had the moon landing. Fifty years later, July 21, 2019, had everyone talking about a batch of movies and TV shows that are – with the exception of “Black Widow” – well over a year away. NASA conquered the moon, and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe has conquered the Earth, as the Phase Four announcement at Comic-Con proved. Here are my thoughts on these five movies and five TV shows, along with “Go Bananas” Levels on a 10-point scale:
The grand experiment is over, and it’s a success. The first 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comprise a saga similar to a TV serial, but with way more characters, way more side journeys and way more money. And most remarkably for a movie series, it has an ending for the initial batch of six Avengers, with “Avengers: Endgame.” We knew all this going into the film, which itself raises one final question: Does it stick the landing? The answer is a qualified yes.
Who will live? Who will die? Who will be resurrected? How will our heroes defeat Thanos? Big questions are on the minds of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans heading into the 22nd outing, “Avengers: Endgame,” which will hit theaters Friday, April 26. It’s not the end of the saga by any means (trailers for July’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” are already out, so I have a good feeling about Spidey’s fortunes), but it’s definitely the end of an era as some of the original Avengers – such as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America – might be calling it quits with this film, one way or another.
After his love letters to jazz — “Whiplash” (2014) and “La La Land” (2016) — a film fan wouldn’t be surprised if director Damien Chazelle’s next movie was about Louis Armstrong. But “First Man” (2018) instead chronicles Neil Armstrong, and while it might seem like the pantheon of historical space-program cinema doesn’t need another recounting of Apollo 11, it turns out this is a very welcome addition.
Looking for a “Valerian” fix after last year’s movie, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” I’m delving into the comics that started it all, by Frenchmen Pierre Christin (writer) and Jean-Claude Mezieres (pencils and inks). Here’s a look at the final volume, an epilogue of sorts that isn’t included in the collected volumes from Cinebook.
Looking for a “Valerian” fix after last year’s movie, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” I’m delving into the comics that started it all, by Frenchmen Pierre Christin (writer) and Jean-Claude Mezieres (pencils and inks). “The Complete Collection, Volume 7” includes the conclusive trilogy: “At the Edge of the Great Void” (2004), “The Order of the Stones” (2007) and “The Time Opener” (2010). It looks like this will be the final collection from Cinebook, but I’ll be back to review to the uncollected coda volume, “Memories from the Futures.”