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Ad Astra doesn’t add up. [Movie Review]

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to outer space to figuratively kill two birds with one stone - or one trip. There are electronic waves coming from the heavens threatening earth and this phenomenon leads scientist and high-level government officials to believe that there’s a connection between the waves and a space voyage 30 years earlier led by McBride’s father (Tommy Lee Jones) from which his father never returned.

Despite Brad Pitt’s stellar performance, Ad Astra never really takes off and it gets a Rent It rating. Screenwriters James Gray and Ethan Gross layout the story effectively and clearly. There’s the threat to destroy the world which is likely connected with the McBride’s father space journey decades earlier. But other than that, this story moseys through a series of modestly interesting scenes serving as little more than filler until McBride reaches his final destination.

And those of you who expect Star Wars-type battles and scenes, you’ll be disappointed. Many of the scenes are serene and calm – which probably better represents what outer space is really like. There’s a mildly amusing portion: The film is set in the future where passengers can take commercial flights to the moon. Those wanting the comfort of an on-flight blanket pay a cool, $125!

Again, Brad Pitt does all he can to propel this story into an entertainment sphere. And the cinematography is out of this world, with creative angles and vantage points. However, those features are not enough.

Ad Astra gets a “B” for cast diversity. This is very much a white male-dominated cast. However, Ruth Negga has a major supporting role. Kimberly Elise plays an astronaut, but with very little to say. There are other people of color with visible but minor roles.

Ad Astra is rated PG-13 for some violence and bloody images coupled with brief strong language. At 124 minutes, it’s too long.

In the end, Pitt’s performance coupled with the visually stimulating scenes is what gives this film some entertainment value. But don’t see it now. Wait and Rent It

Movie Review: Allied starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard

Allied, an old-fashioned war drama, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, an actress with a striking resemblance to Angelina Jolie is sure to become a classic film!

She announces to her neighbors that her husband arrives soon. Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) lives among the Westerners residing in 1942 (World War II) Morocco. Her husband, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) arrives. He meets her friends and they are sufficiently charmed. The couple then goes back to the apartment she rents for them. That's when the coaching begins. Because they are not really married. They have never even met before.

Each is on assignment as a spy. He's a part of Canadian intelligence. She's a French Resistance fighter. The have to convince those around them that they are husband and wife. The sexual tension between the supposedly married couple builds immediately. A little bit more on her part than his. He believes that acting upon their desires would undermine their operation.

Once their assignment is over, he's ordered to London. But now he's in love and asks Marianne to marry him and join him in England. She does. They have a baby girl and all is well until he's given the task of investigating his wife!

Allied, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is a truly outstanding movie and will become a film classic. First and foremost, it succeeds because Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt rock together. They have more chemistry that Pfizer. Their banter is amusing. Max is supposed to be from Paris but Marianne dismisses his French as definitely Quebecois. As they sit outside the first night in Morocco, aware that neighbors are watching, she guides him in appropriate couple behavior and says at this point we would laugh. He responds, "We're married. Why would we LAUGH?"

Marion Cotillard has sort of a Joan Crawford quality. She had to have a large presence in this role. And she did. It would have been easy for her to have been overshadowed by this powerful story and her internationally known, top of his game, co-star, Brad Pitt.

This is an excellent screenplay written by Steve Knight. The characters are rich, the scenes flow fittingly from one to the next, and drama and intrigue builds steadily throughout the film.

I do have to take Allied's filmmakers to task over diversity. Throughout the scenes of military operations in England, there were no black servicemen. According to Timeline Museum, there were 130,000 African-American troops in England during this film's time period. And that does not include thousands of Caribbean soldiers. By the way, there was a great deal of controversy among the white and black American military forces over the British women's attraction to these men they called, the Tan Yanks.

I will give Allied a D+ in cast diversity because it does feature a lesbian storyline.

Despite my diversity cast rating, Allied is a remarkable production. It gets our highest rating, See It!

Allied, opens today, November 23, 2016, is rated R (for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use) and is 124 minutes in length.

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