Blog Archives

Make Room (Or Space) for ‘Ad Astra’ on 9/20/19

It seems as if major Hollywood studios have unintentionally (or intentionally) designated this week as a new movie trailer week.

On that note, the list of movies that take place in space is long and expansive. As in really long and expansive. Particularly in recent years, there’s clearly been interest from moviemakers in LA and demand from audiences worldwide who want to travel to space via the silver screen sans the otherworldly price tag with acting’s biggest headline-grabbers. Just since 2013, films like ‘Gravity,’ ‘Interstellar,’ ‘The Martian,’ ‘Passengers,’ ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘First Man’ (to name just a few) have explored space, based either on a true story or with a fairly high degree of realism within a fictional story to critical and box office success. Leading A-list actors and actresses in these aforementioned films include Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Octavia Spencer, and Ryan Gosling.

And now fellow A-List actor Brad Pitt wants in on the action with his new space thriller called ‘Ad Astra,’ which is Latin for “to the stars.”

Interestingly, Liv Tyler portrays Brad Pitt’s wife who remains on earth while her husband ventures into the unknown in the heavens above for a mission revolving around the existence of this planet, which is oddly reminiscent of her role in the 1998 movie ‘Armageddon.’

Hmmm…

Anyways, the plot seems intertwined with exciting action sequences and personal relationships — near and far — that will surely reveal the true purpose of this film involving the enigmatic father character portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones as well as potentially ushering in the newest chapter in 21st-century science fiction. One of ‘Ad Astra’ director James Gray’s films is the 2015 documentary ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut.’ With this in mind, we should keep a keen eye on whether Mr. Gray (who wrote and directed ‘Ad Astra’) utilized any suspenseful techniques made famous by Mr. Hitchcock. For a movie that takes place in space with infinite scale, weaving in Hitchcock thrills via claustrophobia, for example, would bring a level of closeness to a story that will prioritize every ounce of available oxygen.

We know what ‘Ad Astra’ means in Latin, but what does it mean cinematically in 2019? Does the movie’s poster playfully reveal any clues?

ad-astra-poster

While the eye immediately goes to the astronaut’s warped movement in space — which is tantalizingly puzzling — why is the “R” in the title sliced in half in the poster? And then there’s the movie’s tag line, “The answers we seek are just outside our reach.” That suggests a new dimension in space with a Gandalf-caliber “You shall not pass” barrier. Where have we seen that before?

‘Ad Astra’ arrives in a theater near you on September 20.

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Happy Monday!

For a while, there appeared to be no gravitational pull against Best Director Alfonso Cuarón’s space masterpiece as the film soared with Oscar after Oscar after Oscar (7 in total), except for the two it should have collected at the end of the night (especially for Best Picture).

Still, Gravity made a bold statement in 2013 and early into 2014. And we cannot neglect the other triumphant winners in Frozen (including Best Original Song), Dallas Buyers Club (Jared Leto & Matthew McConaughey), The Great Gatsby (3 golden statues) and 12 Years a Slave (Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o & Best Picture).

The 86th Academy Awards was a night full of speeches, tributes and celebration (and pizza!). If only there was a single picture that captured the spirit of the entire evening…

Twitter

Twitter

I am proud to say I was among the millions of people who retweeted this photo that set the record as the most retweeted picture in history (it even broke Twitter for a little while: true story).

And, let it be known that the words Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day were spoken on the Oscars stage last night.

Thank you Bill Murray (and of course Harold Ramis).

Let your imagination run wild today, this week and far off into the future!

Happy Monday!

Bottom of the Ninth

“As a celebration of the magic of movies involving baseball, at least one scene from a different film will be posted each day for the next nine days…”
—From “Top of the First” March 28th

2011 was the year that featured a movie that included two underdog story lines occurring simultaneously. The first was the major motion picture, “Moneyball,” which tells the true story of the Oakland Athletics in 2002, managed by Billy Beane, and how Beane dealt with the departure of his biggest stars: Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Jason Isringhausen. The second was the surprising chemistry between acclaimed leading man Brad Pitt and niche comedic actor Jonah Hill in this dramatic film about baseball…and so much more.

As described in “Top of the Second,” Brad Pitt portrays real life Oakland Athletics manger Billy Beane. He has to deal with the reality his clubhouse is, monetarily speaking, at the very bottom of the wealth ranks. “The problem we’re trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then, there’s fifty feet of crap and then there’s us. It’s an unfair game.” The fact is they cannot afford to pay any salary remotely comparable to that of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. This dilemma the As faced wasn’t even about tightening belts with regard to any kind of reckless spending. Rather, they actually had to throw the belts out into the trash. The status quo was not holding anymore.

It was a dire situation. Creativity on a shoe string budget was their only viable option. Numbers were the only asset they could afford. Luckily, Beane had the aptitude to grab the smartest guy for the job from his indistinctive cubicle in the bullpen in Cleveland.

Peter Brand: “Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. In order buy wins, you need to buy runs.”

The clip below is the final scene of the movie.

This is a SPOILER ALERT warning. If you have not seen the last scene of the movie “Moneyball” and would like to see the film in its entirety first, then please do not click on the video.

Either way, the final two and a half minutes show the ending to the true story of Billy Beane and his attempts to score more runs and strikeout more batters in the micro while trying to change the way the game is played in the macro.

On screen, actors Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill pulled off the underdog upset with their natural fluidity with each other in their respective roles that brought credibility and realism to the characters and the movie as a whole. Was the real life ending for the people they portrayed on film as victorious?

Billy Beane: “We are card counters at the blackjack table. And we’re gonna turn the odds on the casino.”

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! As can happen in this sport, we have a tie score at the end of nine innings and will be preparing for the top of the 10th!

Top of the Second

“As a celebration of the magic of movies involving baseball, at least one scene from a different film will be posted each day for the next nine days…”
—From “Top of the First” March 28th

In the game of baseball, there are teams that can afford to peruse through a catalog of players, glaze over their hitting percentages and “big name” status and then call them up with a single offer that would make them potentially the biggest fools on the planet if they were to reject the contract. In other words, money plays.

But what if there was a team that thought differently? What if a manager and his Ivy League educated assistant used statistics and mathematical equations to evaluate talent to determine the best value in players who would inevitably score x runs, strikeout y hitters and ultimately win z games?

And more incredibly, what if this was based on a true story involving the Oakland A’s?

“Bottom of the First” showed us how math had to be used to get the Minnesota Twins, of “Little Big League,” into the game. The first scene (and a bonus scene!) from “Moneyball” shows us the genesis of deciding to utilize statistics and math to win the game.