Ad Astra Movie Review

Roy McBride has major dad issues in James Gray’s Ad Astra, a space epic that’s more consumed with the personal. As played by Brad Pitt, McBride is a supremely subdued astronaut with a legendary father. He disappeared years ago and is assumed deceased after his mission to Neptune to find extraterrestrial life. This is all a giant metaphor for a father and son relationship that’s literally and figuratively separated by billions of miles. Tommy Lee Jones plays distant papa Clifford and Roy accepts a classified mission to retrieve him after it turns out he may be alive. Only the Earth’s fate hangs in the balance as all of human life is threatened and perhaps by dad’s activities far far away.

We are told that Ad Astra takes place in the near future, but there’s been time for moon bases, plenty of Mars exploration, and the capacity to get to Neptune in a relatively short period of time. Roy is not just estranged from Clifford, but so focused on work that his emotions leave him ambivalent about his wife (Liv Tyler) leaving him. For both him and the father who abandoned him, the mission of work trumps anything familial.

Much credit should be given to the design of Ad Astra. This is a beautiful looking picture as Roy’s travelogue takes him to stunningly desolate set pieces. Director Gray and his team pay attention to how this future world functions in a way that Minority Report did. Those details are worth exploring. It’s the rather tired dynamic between Roy and Clifford that gets in the way. The screenplay seems to think their relationship and what it represents is more profound than it is.

Astra is certainly a visual feast and a bit of a non-starter on a poignancy level. Midway through, I thought of the Dave Matthews Band track “The Space Between”. That could have been the title of this picture, which is more admirable than engrossing. There’s been efforts in this genre with parental themes (Gravity and Interstellar to name two) that landed the emotional stuff with more accurate precision. They didn’t leave me with Dave Matthews warbling gooey lyrics in my head either.

**/2 (out of four)

2019 Oscar Predictions: September 27th Edition

When it comes to Oscar prognosticating, it’s been a fairly quiet weekend without any festivals or particularly high profile screenings. Yet that’s bound to change tomorrow because The Irishman cometh.

Two months ahead of its Netflix debut, Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster drama with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci will open the New York Film Festival. There are a few notable Academy hopefuls that haven’t screened like 1917, Bombshell, Little Women, and Dark Waters. Mr. Scorsese’s latest is the most eagerly awaited and we will know its potential Oscar viability in just a few hours (expect my individual post for it no later than Saturday).

So as we await that verdict, there were some developments in the past week:

  • I have moved Christian Bale from lead actor to supporting and that means he’s in for the first time, replacing Jamie Foxx.
  • Awkwafina gets the Best Actress #5 spot over Alfre Woodard.
  • The Two Popes has shifted to Adapted Screenplay and that takes Joker out.
  • The misfortune for Joker continues as I’ve moved it out of my top ten Picture projections in favor of The Farewell. 
  • With Popes removed from Original Screenplay, Waves takes its slot.



Let’s get to it!


Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. The Irishman (PR: 3)

4. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 4)

5. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

6. Parasite (PR: 5)

7. 1917 (PR: 6)

8. The Two Popes (PR: 8)

9. Little Women (PR: 10)

10. The Farewell (PR: 13)

Other Possibilities:

11. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 11)

12. Joker (PR: 9)

13. Waves (PR: 12)

14. Pain and Glory (PR: 18)

15. A Hidden Life (PR: 15)

16. Bombshell (PR: 16)

17. Ad Astra (PR: 23)

18. Just Mercy (PR: 14)

19. The Lighthouse (PR: 17)

20. The Report (PR: 21)

21. Booksmart (PR: 19)

22. Dark Waters (PR: 20)

23. Judy (Not Ranked)

24. Rocketman (PR: 24)

25. Knives Out (PR: 22)

Dropped Out:

The Good Liar 


Predicted Nominees:

1. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 3)

3. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 4)

4. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

5. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

7. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

8. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 8)

9. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 9)

10. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory (PR: 10)

11. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life (PR: 12)

12. Lulu Wang, The Farewell (PR: 14)

13. Trey Edward Shults, Waves (PR: 15)

14. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 11)

15. James Gray, Ad Astra (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Todd Phillips, Joker 


Predicted Nominees:

1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 2)

3. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 4)

4. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 3)

5. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 6)

7. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 8)

8. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 7)

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar (PR: 10)

10. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: 11)

11. Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love (PR: 9)

12. Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts (PR: 12)

13. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 13)

14. Kristen Stewart, Seberg (PR: 14)

15. Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Elle Fanning, Teen Spirit 


Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 2)

3. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 5)

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 9)

8. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 8)

9. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra (PR: 13)

10. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 10)

11. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy (PR: 12)

12. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters (PR: 14)

13. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar (PR: 11)

14. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse (PR: 15)

15. Daniel Kaluuya, Queen and Slim (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (moved to Supporting)


Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 2)

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 4)

5. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: Not Ranked – moved from lead)

Other Possibilities:

6. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 6)

7. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 5)

8. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: 7)

9. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 8)

10. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 9)

11. Alan Alda, Marriage Story (PR: 10)

12. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: 11)

13. Tracy Letts, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 13)

14. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy (PR: 12)

15. Chris Evans, Knives Out (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Bell, Rocketman 


Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 2)

3. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: 3)

4. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 4)

5. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 7)

7. Meryl Streep, Little Women (PR: 6)

8. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 8)

9. Jennifer Hudson, Cats (PR: 12)

10. Meryl Streep, The Laundromat (PR: 11)

11. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell (PR: 9)

13. Margot Robbie, Bombshell (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Anna Paquin, The Irishman (PR: 13)

15. Octavia Spencer, Luce (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory 

Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters 

Ana de Armas, Knives Out 


Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

3. The Two Popes (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Original)

4. Little Women (PR: 3)

5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joker (PR: 5)

7. Just Mercy (PR: 6)

8. Judy (PR: 10)

9. Downton Abbey (PR: 8)

10. Dark Waters (PR: 7)

11. The Good Liar (PR: 11)

12. Luce (PR: 12)

13. Hustlers (PR: 13)

14. The Laundromat (PR: 9)

15. Toy Story 4 (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Motherless Brooklyn 


Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. The Farewell (PR: 5)

5. Waves (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Pain and Glory (PR: 8)

7. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 9)

8. The Report (PR: 10)

9. Booksmart (PR: 7)

10. Bombshell (PR: 12)

11. The Lighthouse (PR: 13)

12. Knives Out (PR: 11)

13. Ad Astra (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Uncut Gems (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Honey Boy (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

The Two Popes (moved to Adapted)


Ad Astra Box Office Prediction

Mr. Pitt goes to space next weekend in James Gray’s Ad Astra and the reported $80 million plus budgeted sci fi pic hopes for a stealthy launch. Brad Pitt is an astronaut who leaves Earth to find his lost father (Tommy Lee Jones). Costars include Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland.

Astra premiered last month at the Venice Film Festival to mostly positive critical reaction. It stands at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, but seems to lack the awards buzz that could help its grosses. Competition for male moviegoers could be hindered a bit by the opening of Rambo: Last Blood.

A debut above $20 million is certainly feasible and Pitt is fresh off Quentin Tarantino’s hit Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is earning him Oscar chatter. However, I’ll say high teens is where this lands with a similar number to last fall’s First Man.

Ad Astra opening weekend prediction: $16.9 million

For my Rambo: Last Blood prediction, click here:

For my Downton Abbey prediction, click here,

Oscar Watch: Ad Astra

James Gray’s space opera Ad Astra premiered overseas at the Venice Film Festival today and the Brad Pitt led saga certainly has its ardent admirers already. Some reviews are proclaiming it a masterpiece while others are more mixed.

Director Gray has had his share of appreciated works such as The Immigrant and The Lost City of Z. He has yet to garner any attention from the Academy. This is his first major Hollywood production with a considerable budget and it’s a bit unclear at the moment whether Oscar voters will reward this effort. Pitt is being praised for his starring role and would stand the best shot at any recognition over costars including Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland.

That said, Pitt (who’s never won a gold statue) is already a serious contender to win Supporting Actor for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. That could detract from him being named as lead for Astra. The film’s best hope could be in some tech races, but I’ll wait and see further critical and audience reaction before rendering final judgment. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The 2019 Oscar Season Cometh

As the summer season winds down, the movie industry and this blog’s attention will soon turn to the Oscar race. And if you think it’s too early to do that, consider that less than a month from now – an avalanche of Academy hopefuls will be unveiled at film festivals. Toronto, Venice, Telluride, and the New York festivals are on deck. The programmers behind those events have already released the names of many of the pictures premiering. Here are some of the pictures wishing for Oscar glory that are hitting the circuit:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks is iconic children’s host Mr. Rogers in director Marielle Heller’s follow-up to last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which nabbed nods for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. Premiering at Toronto.

Ad Astra

James Gray has made multiple critical darlings, but has yet to pop up on the awards circuit radar screen. Could this sci fi drama with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones change that? Premiering at Venice.

An Officer and a Spy

It will need serious acclaim to overcome the baggage that comes from its maker Roman Polanski, but this historical thriller will attempt to do so in Venice.

Dolemite Is My Name

Prior to its anticipated Netflix launch, Craig Brewer’s biopic of comedian Rudy Ray Moore portrayed by legendary comic Eddie Murphy will bow at Toronto.


Pablo Larrain has had his pics No and Jackie attract awards nods and this Chilean drama hopes to follow suit. Premiering at Venice.

Ford v Ferrari

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in James Mangold’s 1960s set tale of the flashy automotive industry. Premiering at Toronto.


Cynthia Erica was a breakout in last year’s Widows. This year she has an Academy baity role as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in this historical epic from Kasi Lemmons. Premiering at Toronto.

Jojo Rabbit

This concoction from Taika Waititi is set during WWII with a dark comedic premise finding a young child with an imaginary friend who happens to be Hitler. The filmmaker himself plays Hitler. Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are among the cast.


Heath Ledger won a posthumous gold statue as the comic book villain in The Dark Knight. Joaquin Phoenix will attempt the same here. Premiering at Venice.


It’s been awhile since Renee Zellweger had a role receiving awards buzz. This biopic of Judy Garland could alter that. Premiering at Toronto.

Just Mercy

This drama about a falsely accused prisoner features Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson. Premiering at Toronto.

Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s murder mystery has a sprawling cast of hopefuls including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, and Michael Shannon. Premiering at Toronto.

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach is a favorite of the critical community. This drama is headlined by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and hits Venice and other fests before its Netflix premiere.

The Goldfinch

Brooklyn director John Crowley adapts this drama based on a well-known 2013 novel. The cast includes Nicole Kidman and Oakes Fegley. Premiering at Toronto.

The Irishman

Rightly kicking off the New York Festival, Martin Scorsese directs this gangster saga starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.

The Laundromat

Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh directs this dramatic thriller with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas. Premiering at Venice.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Lion nominee Dev Patel is the Charles Dickens character with a supporting cast including Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie. Premiering at Toronto.

The Two Popes

Jonathan Pryce is Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins is Pope Benedict in this Netflix effort from director Fernando Meirelles. Premiering at Toronto.

Followers of this blog know that I’ll do Oscar Watch posts on each of these and many others as they screen in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!


The Lost City of Z Box Office Prediction

James Gray’s The Lost City of Z opens in semi wide release this weekend after a pretty impressive debut in very limited fashion over Easter weekend. The pic tells the true story of explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) in the Amazon in the early 20th century. Costars include Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, and Tom Holland.

closed the New York Film Festival last fall to positive word of mouth and it stands at 88% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed over $100,000 on just 4 screens this last weekend and is slated to expand to approximately 500 on Friday.

I believe this could perform similarly to The Place Beyond the Pines four years ago. Though there’s no obvious comparison between the two titles, both appeal to a more adult audience and received encouraging critical reaction. Pines made $3.8 million when it hit around 500 theaters. If accomplishes the same, that means I have it out doing The Promise, Phoenix Forgotten, and Free Fire in their debuts.

The Lost City of Z opening weekend prediction: $3.7 million

For my Unforgettable prediction, click here:

For my Born in China prediction, click here:

For my The Promise prediction, click here:

For my Phoenix Forgotten prediction, click here:

For my Free Fire prediction, click here: