5 Stars Movies

Minority Report (2002)

“The fact that you prevented it from happening doesn’t change the fact that it was going to happen”.

The line of dialogue from John Anderton is also his core belief, and one of the many lines of dialogue that has stuck with me for the countless times I have seen Minority Report (2002) over the years. It is a film that asks you to think long after, but not to a degree that certain films (especially science fiction) would make some viewers need to take a Tylenol. That, and it is as engaging as any film that has come out in the first two decades of the 21st century.

1 1/2 Stars Movies

Gemini Man (2019)

When Jesus said to build your house on the rock and not the sand (Matthew 7: 24-27), it is hard to argue that he would be talking about a movie, but this story ran through my mind frequently while watching Gemini Man. The film may have a big star, interesting premise, and high profile director, but the story it is set on is, well, sandy at best. This is the type of movie that seems to have missed its premiere in the public eye by a decade or so.

Fresh off his last mission, veteran hit man Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is looking forward to retirement. He soon finds out that he and his few close friends are sought after by the government (don’t ask why, for it is simple yet confusing at the same time), led by one of his old cohorts, Clay Verris (Clive Owen). Along for the ride is an upcoming agent (or whatever the proper title is), Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

If you have seen any of the previews for this film, it comes as no surprise that Henry faces off against a cloned version of himself (also played by Smith). This is a younger version (I believe the film said 25 years younger), who, we learn, has been brought up and raised by Verris. The movie does talk a lot about the issue of cloning (which I don’t remember being a hot topic since my freshman English Class of High School, which I lost the debate against cloning). The cloned version of Henry (called Junior) has all the skills and attributes of Henry, but would not have to experience the after affects such as PTSD and depression.

The action sequences are not much to marvel at (save for a cool motorcycle sequence). There are few (and I mean very few) glimpses of images that look affective, but they are muddled by choreography that ranges from the mediocre to the implausible. There are parts in the motorcycle chase (at the end of it) that seem to defy logic of any kind. What is more, none of that matters. We don’t get enough time with these characters to actually feel something about them when they are in these action set pieces.

Will Smith is undoubtedly one of the top five or so movie stars these days, but he dials down his talents here in both roles. Yes, we can tell the two characters he is playing apart through CGI, vocal work, and a shave, but there is so little to care about these characters that there is no point. This is also one of the first times I can every remember Will Smith having virtually zero chemistry with a female star. That is nothing against the actors. It is just clear the chemistry is not present at all.

Parents, there is one scene where Danny is forced to strip to her underwear that lasts only a minute or so. Nothing sexual. There is some swearing (one F bomb that I caught), and some intense action scenes. The PG-13 rating is just, so middle-schoolers and up would be okay.

The film does take a stance against the idea of cloning. It does not dive into the religious aspects of the idea of cloning (how we are, truly, made in God’s image). It is a topic (as is many of the branches of science) that is hotly disputed by Christians, and I will not try to start an argument about it here. What I will say is I would rather the movie be wrong over it’s stance of a topic and be presented in an effective way than have a film be correct about a stance of the topic and be boring.

Smith is indeed no stranger to having his share of what many consider bad movies. These include (but are not limited to) films like Bright (2017) Collateral Beauty (2016), After Earth (2013), Shark Tale (2004), and, of course, Wild Wild West (1999). Having a bad Will Smith movie is not something completely new to us. What does seem new (and completely shocking) is that this film was made by director Ang Lee. An Oscar winner for Best Director twice over, he has given us revered films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Brokeback Mountain (2005), and The Life of Pi (2012).

When I say that Gemini Man is one of the director’s worst films, keep in mind that includes his movie Hulk from 2003.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

4 Stars Movies

Ad Astra (2019)

In my mind, the two elements that are best exemplified in science fiction is that of fantasy and of the philosophical. We are intrigued by the technical wonder, yet still have reflections of our own life and world as we leave the theater. Certain movies make us think of one of said elements over the other (Star Wars is more fantasy), but others can balance them well (the all time great sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey does this, though it leans a bit more slightly on the philosophical side). The same is the case with Ad Astra, and while it is not up there with 2001 (to be fair, very few are), it is still a wonder to behold.

Set in the near future, Ad Astra (which means “to the stars”) centers on veteran astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), who also narrates. When a power surge occurs that affects all of mankind, he is approached to undertake a top secret mission and contact the leader of a past mission, Project Lima. The crew of that project was sent to the outer reaches of the solar system in search of extra terrestrial life. It launched nearly three decades prior, led by Roy’s father, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).

Roy is told his father has made it as far as Neptune, where the source of the power surge occurred. Along the way, he gets some help from an old friend/collegue of his dad, Thomas Pruitt (Donald Sutherland) and Helen Lantos (Ruth Negga).

Nearly the whole movie revolves around Roy, and Brad Pitt is no stranger to being able to carry a movie (he ranks up with Tom Cruise and Will Smith as one of the biggest stars in the world). He is much more subdued here than he was in Once upon a time…in Hollywood, and that is because the script demands it. Roy is required to keep self check ins, making sure he is fit emotionally and psychologically for each mission (it is said his heart rate has never exceded past 85 during a mission). He is so focused he is barely there mentally for his wife Eve (Liv Tyler).

What’s more, Roy must also live the life of knowing his father is a hero in the public eye, somewhat riding the coat tails. He has indeed looked up to his father, but soon realizes that being like him will indeed take a heavy toll on his life and soul.

Undoubtably, the film is breathtaking in how it handles its visuals. Long before the movie started, a part of me wondered if I should have taken the chance to see this in IMAX, and how I wish I had! Consider the scene on the service of the moon, where the Pitt and Sutherland characters are chased by pirates (since the moon has been colonized) on rovers. We know it is fiction, but it seems like it could actually happen in a century or so. The dangers of space travel are always shown in film (most notably 2013’s Gravity), but the views one would see make those dangers almost worth the risk.

Parents, the film is a very moderate PG-13. There is no sexual content of any kind, and only a few curse words (at least one F bomb I remember). There is also some violence, but nothing too much that would scare a preteen senseless.

There are still many questions raised that will puzzle some audience members (how an animal test subject was alive when the crew wasn’t was confusing). Still, the end result is more than satisfactory. The best part of the film I won’t give away, but it is what Roy discovers at the end of his journey, is something all of us need to remember, and what makes it unique among nearly any science fiction film I have ever seen.


Rating: 4 out of 5.
4 Stars

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Despite some holes and question marks in the screenplay, Blade Runner 2049 still manages to be the best sci-fi sequel since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

It is a movie that challenges the mind and brightens your eyes with some of the most gorgeous imagery of recent years. I have only seen the original once, but I know that I have to return to get some answers (though not all the questions will have them).

3 1/2 Stars

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Were he alive, I would think my dad would have loved this movie.

Back as a kid, he got me hooked on King Kong with the 1962 Japanese film King Kong vs. Godzilla (a movie you can never convince me is anything but great). If I remember correctly, I wanted Kong to win while my older brother was rooting for Godzilla (SPOILER: Kong wins).

Over the years, I have seen a few other monster movies, from the great King Kong remake in 2005 (a film my dad did not like) to the Godzilla films of 1998 (a let down) and 2014 (mildly good).

In Kong: Skull Island, the movie is set in the 1970s just after the Vietnam War. A researcher Bill (John Goodman) and his assistant Houston (Corey Hawkins) get the ok to explore a new island found on satellite photos. Of course, they need a military escort, which is led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson, of course). Joining their crew is tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston, proving he can be more than Thor’s adopted brother Loki) and photographer Mason Weaver (Oscar winner Brie Larson).

What I liked about this film was that, unlike other films when we had to wait a while to see the star (and really, who else would steal the show over Kong?), director Jordan Vogt-Roberts gives us a look at him rather soon into the movie. The same can also be said about some of the other creatures in the movie (I feel I should note there are some giant ants that look like spiders, for those of you who have arachnophobia).

Parents, the movie is rated PG-13 mainly for the swearing (I counted one F bomb) and the action (the violence is there, but is not any worse than that of The Lord of the Rings movies). Middle School and up is fine.

There are some scenes that seem tacked on that make the movie go on a lot longer than it needs to, but there are plenty of action scenes that make the movie more that worth recommending. There are some scary moments, but not any that will haunt your kids for days. If anything, they are the sequences that make kids turn away, yet look back in an instant.

To see the cast and crew treat a film icon like King Kong with this much honor and respect (which is really all Kong ever wanted) is a breath of fresh air.

(Note: There is a scene after the credits, which, if it is telling the truth, will have me buying tickets in a heartbeat).


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

4 Stars

Arrival (2016)

While director Denis Villeneuve (who did Prisoners and Sicario) does a great time of pacing and giving vivid visuals in his newest film, the one downside from Arrival is that it tends to be a tad too smart for its own good.

That is not to say the film is not worth checking out; quite the contrary. The story centers around the arrival of aliens in twelve locations around the world. We spend the majority of the time in location in Montana, where Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) has recruited Scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try to access the situation.