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Review: The Midnight Sky

Not sure what George Clooney thought he was making, but this post-apocalyptic drama is a slog. In it a heavily bearded Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney) is left behind at an arctic research outpost by choice after everyone else evacuates. He’s got only one goal and that is to alert Sully and the rest of the astronauts on a distant space mission that they can’t come back to earth because an unnamed disaster has made it uninhabitable. But he can’t reach them. And then he finds a cute little girl named  Iris (Caoilinn Springall) who’s been left behind and the two of them have to make it to another research station across the unforgiving frozen landscape to get to a stronger antenna. Meanwhile, up in space Sully (Felicity Jones) and her crew that consists of her husband Tom (David Oyelowo), Sanchez (Demian Bichir), Maya (Tiffany Boone), and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler) are happily heading home from a mission to scout out a habitable planet, oblivious to what’s happened back home, but growing more concerned each day that they aren’t able to reach NASA – or anyone else for that matter.

Quickie Review: The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts is one of those movies that plenty of folks will like, but a lot of critics will wrestle with. It’s good, but it’s also disappointing. I saw The Aeronauts at the Middleburg Film Festival immediately following a screening of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and that may have clouded my foray into the clouds with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Mister Rogers is a tough act to follow! Redmayne and Jones (co-stars in The Theory of Everything) play a pair of adventurers trying to set a world record – and prove you can predict the weather – by sailing a hot-air balloon thousands of feet up into frigid skies in 1862. Oxygen deprivation is never a good thing. The Tom Harper-directed film, inspired by true events, has some great special effects and cinematography but overall drifts more than it soars.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2019

Another super tiring weekend in the bucolic Virginia hamlet of Middleburg watching more films than I should! I predicted early on that this festival would outgrow itself and I think it has come to that point. Too many people know about it and the growing pains have become chronic overcrowding at venues without room for expansion. I’m already searching for another festival for next year. (All suggestions are appreciated.) I saw fewer films this year, too, just nine — Marriage Story, The Capote Tapes, The Aeronauts, Frankie, Waves, The Report, The Two Popes, Atlantics, and Knives Out. I only gave one of them four stars and several were surprising disappointments. For too many it was great cast and great performances in an otherwise just okay movie. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Quickie Review: On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex is a solid, feel-good movie about a real-life superhero and pop culture icon, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It serves as a great companion piece to the recent RBG documentary, i.e. there’s no harm in seeing both. It may even help that both films hit theaters in close proximity, at a time when SCOTUS is top of mind in the political and social arena.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

It’s got that sweeping, familiar-sounding score. And on-screen text that instantly takes you back a long time ago, to a galaxy far, far away. And it’s got battleships, space creatures, men and women ready to sacrifice themselves for a cause, and of course, that Darth Vader guy and some references to the Force. In other words, Rogue One delivers exactly what the subtitle promises: A Star Wars Story. And Star Wars fans will eat it up, especially if they’re well versed in all the characters and chronologies that span decades of Lucas filmmaking. As far as I can tell, Rogue One is the first in an Anthology Series that is not to be confused with the Sequel Trilogy that began with last year’s The Force Awakens, or the Original Trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) that began in 1977 and spawned a Prequel Trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith) that I somehow managed to miss between 1999 and 2005. Now that we’ve got out of the way… here’s the gist of Rogue One:

True Story

True Story is based on, well, a true story. But I suspect the actual events were more gripping than this somewhat interesting, but often boring psychological crime drama starring James Franco as accused family killer Christian Longo and Jonah Hill as disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel. For some reason, Longo took on Finkel’s identity while on the run for the gruesome murders of his wife and three young children. When he was caught, Finkel was the only one that Longo was willing to tell his story to.

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is an unusual love story. It is adapted from the autobiography of Jane Wilde, physicist Stephen Hawking’s first wife, who met him while he was working on his thesis about time at Cambridge in the early 60s. Despite finding that he had a motor neuron disease (ALS, as in the ice bucket challenge) that the doctors predicted would kill him within two years (it didn’t,) the two married, had several children, and attempted to lead a “normal life,” that is if one of the most brilliant people on earth who cannot speak or move without aid can be said to ever have a normal life. The film covers about 15 years time as he becomes world renowned and as their marriage disintegrates. No doubt Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables) will be getting some Oscar love for his physical transformation into the wheelchair bound Hawking. It is a great performance in a good film.

Like Crazy

I wasn’t crazy for Like Crazy like a lot of people seem to be. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it. I just didn’t love it. Maybe it’s because I’m old(ish) and jaded and have always been more of a realist than a romantic, but this movie just didn’t resonate with me. Yes, the performances are excellent from both Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, who won a best actress award at Sundance for her role. And the director, Drake Doremus, does a good job of conveying how all consuming first love can be with a lot of tight close-ups of the young couple’s adoring, besotted glances, and then of letting the relationship unfold at a languid pace as they try to figure out how to and whether they should stay together. Too bad I didn’t really care if they did or not.