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Non-Review Review: Ad Astra

“I am attempting to communicate,” astronaut Roy McBride offers into a microphone, his voice translated into a signal to be broadcast via laser signal out to Neptune, where his long-absent father is lurking in the darkness.

Although the film is nominally set in the “near future”, director James Gray pitches Ad Astra as a nostalgia piece. It is Heart of Darkness (really Apocalypse Now) by way of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it also has faint shades of Star Wars in its portrayal of a father-son schism elevated to cosmic drama. Ad Astra presents the universe as a stark-yet-beautiful place, and the film itself fits that aesthetic. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema has experience making space look stunning from Interstellar, and that carries over to the rich-yet-sterile look of Ad Astra.

Spaced out.

There are times when Ad Astra feels a little too arch and a little too dry in its meditative space odyssey. Roy’s constant internal monologue walks a fine line between profundity and self-parody. The film locks itself so firmly to Roy’s perspective, and nestles itself so snugly inside his head, that the world around him occasionally feels illusory. Of course, all of this is intentional. Gray clearly intends to contrast Ad Astra with the obvious epic space adventures to which it is indebted, and his stylistic sensibility certainly allows it to stand apart.

Ad Astra is a vivid story of extraterrestrial alienation, just one that doesn’t happen to feature any aliens.

Shock and launch.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #30!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast.

This week, I join Ronan Doyle and Graham Day from Speakin’ Geek to discuss the week in film news, what we watched, the top ten and the new releases. Films discussed include The Long Goodbye2001: A Space Odyssey and Upgrade. New releases include a number of arthouse releases (including The Guardians) and reissues (including Mildred Pierce), along with more conventional fare like Christopher Robin and The Equaliser 2 – which is sadly still not called “The Sequaliser.” Oh, and Ronan discovers that Sergeant Stubby: An American Hero exists.

Give it a listen at the link, or check it out below.

32. 2001: A Space Odyssey (#90)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

At the dawn of man, a strange observer appears to witness the instant at which mankind comes into existence. Millennia later, the object appears again, beckoning mankind out towards Jupiter, beyond the infinite.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 90th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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The Why of Sci-Fi…

“Science-fiction” is one of those genres which finds itself consistently boxed in by film fans. Mentioning that hyphenated word calls to mind images of “warp speed”, space ships, transporters, aliens, time travel and all manner of weird genre devices. It’s part of the reason why so many film viewers attempt to stay away from the genre – I have encountered more than a few people will dismiss a science-fiction film or television show off-hand because it must be camp or ridiculous. I remain convinced that this is the reason that Battlestar Galactica never got the attention it deserved (with advertisements on my local channels playing down the fact that it happens “in space”). However, what is science-fiction when you boil it all down?

Are viewers spaced out by sci-fi?

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