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Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Lee Jones’

Brad Pitt

“AD ASTRA” My rating: B

124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Equal parts “2001” and “Apocalypse Now,” James Gray’s “Ad Astra” is meditative journey to both outer and inner space punctuated with moments of high melodrama.

The film is drop-dead beautiful and features a contemplative performance from Brad Pitt which is among his finest; best of all, one leaves it feeling we’ve truly been on an intergalactic journey.

In the near future Major Roy McBride (Pitt) is a model astronaut, though in voiceover narration he reveals the price of the clear, dispassionate thinking that makes him the equal of any situation.

McBride is a master at suppressing his emotions, a skill that has wrecked his marriage (his ex, who is seen only briefly, is played by Liv Tyler) but made him the poster boy of space program efficiency. Only the occasional twitch of an eyelid suggests Roy’s inner turmoil.

Moreover, Roy comes by his heroism genetically — his father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), was an astronaut who decades ago went off on a mission to Neptune to look for extraterrestrial life and hasn’t been heard from for 30 years.

As “Ad Astra” begins Roy is doing maintenance work on a radio tower so tall its upper reaches scrape the stratosphere.  A mysterious electrical pulse blows the tower’s power grid, sending our man in freefall back to Earth.

Roy survives, thanks to his parachute, but he subsequently learns in a top secret briefing that the authorities believe the damaging electromagnetic pulses are coming from Neptune, the last-known location of the elder McBride’s exploratory ship. If Roy’s father is behind these pulses — which threaten human life — perhaps a message from his son will bring a happy resolution.

The plan is for Roy to radio his Pops from an outpost on Mars.  First, though, he has to take a commercial shuttle to the moon (a pillow and blanket kit costs $150), then make his way to a launch complex on the dark side of that satellite (apparently the moon is an international combat zone with marauding pirates on speeding lunar rovers attempting to highjack official vehicles).

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Matt Damon as Jason Bourne

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne

“JASON BOURNE” My rating: C+

123 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

It’s good to see Matt Damon back in action.

“Jason Bourne” marks his return to the renegade spy franchise after sitting out 2012’s “The Bourne Legacy” (in which Jeremy Renner played a fellow super assassin).

But let’s get real: This installment is less a continuation of the saga than a recycling of stuff we’ve already seen.

To say it’s superficial is giving it too much credit.

Writer/director Paul Greengrass (who helmed Nos. 2 and 3 in the series, “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”) doesn’t even make a token effort at original plotting or character development. Nobody in this film has an inner life.

What he concentrates on to the exclusion of all else is movement.

The film is one long chase around the globe (Greece, Iceland, D.C., Berlin, London, Las Vegas) captured in jittery handheld camerawork and rapid-fire cutting. Is there one shot here that runs for as much as five seconds? Don’t think so.

At first it’s exciting. The movie radiates energy like a pubescent boy on a three-day Red Bull binge.

After a while it becomes numbing.

We encounter our fugitive hero on the Greece/Turkey border, where he has a gig as a street fighter. Basically he beats up other pugilists for money. It’s ugly work, but it keeps Bourne off the grid.

Enter former CIA agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who has turned on her former employers and has now discovered evidence of the origins of the Treadstone superspy program — including a revelation about the crucial role played by Bourne’s late father.

But back in Virginia, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, looking ever more like a 3-D topographical map of Arizona) is on the hunt for our man. Dewey is putting the final touches on a sixth-generation version of Treadstone and doesn’t want a wild card like Jason Bourneout there to spill the beans.

He employs the talents of cyber analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) to track down Bourne. Soon Heather comes to believe that maybe Bourne isn’t such a bad guy after all (although her long game is hard to pin down).

But Bourne still must contend with another assassin, known only as “The Asset” (Vincent Cassel), who carries his own grudge against our hero. (more…)

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Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank

Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank

“THE HOMESMAN” My rating: B+ 

122 minutes | MPAA rating: R

At age 68, Tommy Lee Jones is not going gently.

His recent selection of film roles — “No Country for Old Men,” “The Company Men,” “In the Valley of Elah” — have found him facing the dark side of human nature (not to mention the darkness at the end of the line) with varying degrees of resistance and resignation.

His choices as an auteur are even bleaker.  He made his directing debut in 2005 with the angry, violent “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” playing an American rancher transporting his friend’s body to Mexico for burial.

With his sophomore effort, “The Homesman,” Jones gives us a revisionist Western that defies expectations at every turn.

It’s a genuine art film in the vein of Aussie productions like “The Proposition.” Moreover, “The Homesman” embraces a world view as bleak as anything in Cormack McCarthy.

Hilary Swank is Mary Bee Cuddy, a single woman operating her own small farm in the Nebraska Territory of the 1850s.  In the opening scene she proposes marriage to her closest neighbor, a fellow eight or nine years her junior. For her effort Mary Bee is rejected as “homely and bossy.”  Well, she is definitely both.  But she is also, as she says, “uncommonly alone.”

The plot of “The Homesman” is kicked into gear by three local women (Miranda Otto, Grace Gummer, Sonja Richter) who all have gone mad during a miserable Nebraska winter. (more…)

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“CAPTAIN AMERICA” My rating: B  (Opening wide on July 22)

125 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Just when it seemed the whole comic book/superhero thing had burnt itself out in a conflagration of too much money and not enough inspiration, along comes “Captain America: The First Avenger” to make us remember why these movies can be so much fun.

“Captain America” is corny in all the right ways. It’s tongue-in-cheek funny, touching when it needs to be, warmly nostalgic and it perfectly captures its WW2 setting. (more…)

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