Ad Astra

‘Ad Astra’ puts a new spin on the father/son dynamic. Family relationship films have been around almost since the format was invented. Making such a well-worn trope feel fresh is a challenge most movies have attempted. ‘Ad Astra’ sets its familial drama in space, with the solar system a witness to personal issues. Made compelling due to fine performances, it charts a course towards consistently engaging viewing.

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an Astronaut travelling the depths of the solar system. His mission is to find his missing father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones). En route, he discovers several secrets threatening Earth’s survival. Attempting to save his home world from destruction as well as reuniting with his dad, Roy puts his life on the line with chances of survival slim.

Directed by James Gray, ‘Ad Astra’ is an interesting exploration of past regrets and determination. Portrayed with his usual stoic skill, Pitt embodies many realistic qualities in his role. McBride is a man tortured by his father’s previous and present actions. How he overcomes his issues enables him to complete his mission and sort out his life. Pitt gives a fine performance as does Jones, in a rare sympathetic role.

‘Ad Astra’ doesn’t always work as it often repeats much of its central premise. But the overall themes are captivating as is the fantastic cinematography. Whilst all obviously done via CGI, the outer regions of space look spectacular. These sequences enable you to fully immerse yourself into McBride’s situation along with several genuinely tense action scenes.

Although it can be slow, ‘Ad Astra’ rewards the viewer with its dense script. Pitt’s magnetic presence enlivens such glacial moments with much emotional heft. Stories featuring fathers and sons will never fade with this current take managing to reach out from its star studded vistas.

Rating out of 10: 7

Rambo: Last Blood

You have to hand it to Sylvester Stallone – he never gives up. Proof is in his continual success with the ‘Rocky’ and ‘Rambo’ franchises. They keep coming back with ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ the fifth in the action series. Despite his advancing years, Stallone sees no need to gently retire. Good for him as his recent films have been better than many of his earlier work. Thirty-seven years after the first Rambo entry, his latest has what one expects as only the mumbling Italian Stallion can deliver.

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a Green Beret and Vietnam War soldier living on a farm after an arduous life. Peace isn’t Rambo’s friend with trouble always just around the corner. Asked by his house-keeper to rescue her grand-daughter from a Mexican drug cartel headed by the evil Hugo Martinez (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), Rambo takes up the challenge. Aided by reporter Carmen (Paz Vega), Rambo takes no prisoners in what he hopes is his final dance with vengeance.

‘Rambo: Last Blood’ is the least of the franchise. This isn’t due to the violence or acting, which is exactly what you pay for, but more to do with the story. Rambo works best in a jungle setting with the unknown areas of the deep forest his bloody playground. ‘Last Blood’ finds him in an urban setting which robs the film of any individuality. This makes it like any other action movie with the main plot feeling very familiar.

Few may be aghast at the violence but this is a Rambo film after all. It’s as ghastly as you’d think although Stallone successfully conveys the internal rage and despair his character feels. He’s a far better actor than people give him credit and still equipping himself well in the action sequences. The brisk pacing papers over the cracks of other performances which are adequate at best.

Although Stallone keeps on continuing with what he does, hopefully ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ is the final entry in this series. The franchise has clearly run out of ideas on the basis of this instalment. With rumours of further entries, the mantra ‘ it ain’t over until it’s over’ apparently applies to Stallone’s cinematic stamina.

Rating out of 10: 5