Ad Astra – DeaconsDen Reaction

AD ASTRA is the latest in a line of existential, thought provoking science fiction films. It clearly shows its inspirations from movies like, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, SOLARIS and even more recent fare like GRAVITY.

Brad Pitt is Roy McBride. After an accident that is the result of powerful surges that threaten the safety of the earth, McBride is recruited to search for the source of the surges. It is believed that they are the result of experiments performed by his father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared on a mission to search for intelligent life called the Lima Project.

To understand what AD ASTRA is, you need to understand what it is not. This film is slow burning personal odyssey despite the huge stakes presented at the opening. Action sequences are lightly peppered in the film. As these sequences occur, more individuals who are part of the mission Roy has to accomplish are removed resulting in each instance, Roy having to compete the objective on his own. As I mentioned earlier, this is more along the lines of a film like SOLARIS and not STAR TREK.

Brad Pitt gives another great performance in 2019. In AD ASTRA, he portrays Roy as far more reserved and somewhat conflicted about his demeanor and its influence on those around him. Throughout the film, Roy is subjected to psychological evaluations that he must prove he has shed emotion and will accomplish his mission objectives pragmatically and logically. The organization Roy works for SpaceCom what’s all emotion she and Roy has to dig into those emotions so that he can do what needs to be done. In a way, it sort of presents an effort to fight back against the coldness of a film like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. My only issue is that the film brings up questions about the search for life outside of the Earth and it actually answers that question. However, I don’t feel that was needed as the main text of the film was very prominent and that was just a secondary plot device in retrospect.

AD ASTRA begins with a mission to discover life beyond our solar system, yet what it manages is to ask another question. What good does it do to explore outside our space, if we’ve not yet understood ourselves and the reasons why we choose to explore? AD ASTRA reminds us that we have to carry these things with us. There is no future without them.

Return of the Gaming Gallery Vol 8 – Mortal Kombat 11

It’s been a while since I posted another Gaming Gallery. I love video game photo modes so this is content I want to continue. Today’s photos are courtesy of Mortal Kombat 11, the newest edition of the fan favorite fighter. Like NetherRealm Studios prior game Injustice 2, MK11 lets you provide a little customization to your favorite characters. These photos were taken from the Nintendo Switch version of the game.

The Thunder God (Raiden)

Blood Queen (Skarlet)

War Path (Sonya Blade)

These next photos are of my two main fighters hence the reason they have more.

Fans (Kitana)

Emerald Defender (Jade)

Rambo: Last Blood – DeaconsDen Reaction

Sylvester Stallone returns to screen as Vietnam veteran John Rambo in the fifth installment of the Rambo series of action films that began in 1982 with the thriller FIRST BLOOD. This is the first film in the franchise since 2008’s RAMBO which was directed by Stallone. This go around, he is directed by Adrian Grunberg with Stallone sharing script duties with Matthew Cirulnick. How does LAST BLOOD fare?

LAST BLOOD involves Rambo traveling to Mexico to rescue his niece from a sex trafficking cartel. From there the story moves to a bloody version of HOME ALONE.

There really isn’t much to discuss about LAST BLOOD. It’s said to be a send off for the character of John Rambo, but this film doesn’t do that at all. It’s a competently made action-revenge thriller but it never felt like it was in the world of Rambo. Even with the often parodied action of FIRST BLOOD PART II and RAMBO III you always managed to remember the man who was harassed in FIRST BLOOD. In this film, the character may be named Rambo and you may have flashbacks to prior films, but this easily could have have a different title and character name without changing a thing. That’s how standard it is. Now I like standard, I love seeing stuff blow up, but I really thought this was going to close the story of the Rambo and it never was that. In all honesty, the 2008 film does a better job of that and it’s not even a swan song.

As far as the action goes, it’s brutal and bloody just like the 2008 film. It definitely showcases the the effect these various weapons have on the human body. That violence is a criticism I slightly disagree with only because it’s something that was already present in a prior film. Another talking point is the portrayal of the Mexican antagonists in the film. Now I’m someone who grew up watching action films with all sort of nationalities used as villains. I’m not saying to ignore it, more so that it’s something I was already familiar with, however in the current sociopolitical climate, it’s something that is to be noted. So for that mileage may vary with the viewer, but I fully understand the apprehension with the choice.

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD is not the send off it claims to be. Despite its pretty cool end credits (which it did not earn) and well staged action, it’s does nothing to close out the story of John Rambo. It’s passable action at best and maybe loathsome at worst depending on the viewer. Would I watch it again? Sure. Yet I’m also sure nothing will ever revisit the broken man from FIRST BLOOD.

Ready or Not – DeaconsDen Reaction

Every year I see a movie that seemingly comes out of the blue, and ends up being one of my favorites of the year. This film is never one of the major releases that I’m already planning to see from the moment it’s announced, it’s typically a much smaller film. Last year it was A SIMPLE FAVOR. In 2017 it was HAPPY DEATH DAY. Along the lines of both of those films comes READY OR NOT, which is the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year.

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, READY OR NOT is the story of Grace (Samara Weaving), a woman who is getting married to Alex, a member of the wealthy Le Domas family. The craziness begins once Grace agrees to play a game on her wedding night which is a tradition of the Le Domas family to initiate new members into the family. Unfortunately for Grace, the luck of the draw gives her hide and seek. This results in the family taking up arms to hunt her down throughout the night.

READY OR NOT juggles multiple genres. There are elements of horror, thriller and comedy and it manages each of them perfectly. Normally this can be difficult for films, but this one manages to shift gears near flawlessly. One moment you are on the edge of your seat as Grace fights to survive and then you are bursting into laughter at the family’s failed efforts.

As the matter of performances go, Samara Weaving proves to be quite the lead with her comedic timing, physicality and a dash of vulnerability. Obviously with a character being in a situation like, you may expect one type of performance from the lead, but Weaving weaves (pun intended) from moment to moment just as the film’s tone changes. An honorable mention has to go to Adam Brody who gives a very conflicted performance as Daniel, who is at odds with his family’s garish history and his role in it. Also I must give a shoutout to Andie MacDowell, who it is always great to see.

It’s not just blood and laughs in this film. READY OR NOT has something to say as well. I felt it similar to Jordan Peele’s GET OUT, another recent horror release that also doubled as commentary. Here we have a comedic takedown of the concept of the wealthy and how it can be interpreted what they fee they must do to maintain that wealth and power. There is a reason the Le Domas family hunts Grace. The social subtext of the film becomes quite evident and enhances the experience.

READY OR NOT is a ride. With a length of 95 minutes, it covers a lot of ground early and covers it quickly while losing not an ounce of it triple decker of thrills, laughs and commentary.