According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more people say they are sleepy on New Year’s Day than on any other day of the year. The first day back at work in January came in second (57% vs. 45%). I think we know the reason why, and it hasn’t much to do with having stayed up until midnight the previous eve. So, many of us will be on our couches tomorrow with chips on the coffee table, aspirin in our bloodstreams, and TV remotes in our hands. (I personally plan to be hangover-free this year, but only because I’ve experienced being otherwise in past ones.) If the reader has seen too many Twilight Zone marathons to wish to see another one and is furthermore no big fan of college football, he or she might struggle to find something watchable with that remote. This past weekend I happened to watch (in one case rewatch) three movies, all of which I can recommend. By the end of the third, the funk should be lifting – depending on just how much overindulgence was involved.
Ad Astra (2019)
I almost saw this in the theater several months ago but ultimately opted for Joker instead. That was the right choice, but this would not have been a bad one either. (I could, of course, have seen both, but I don’t go to the theater frequently anymore.) The title (“to the stars”), as any first year Latin student knows, is part of several Latin sayings, notably ad astra per aspera (“to the stars through difficulty”: the motto of Kansas of all places) and sic itur ad astra (“thus one goes to the stars”: Aeneid IX 641).
Even scifi films that make an effort to portray spacecraft and space habitats realistically tend to make them overly polished. Not Ad Astra: here they are credibly worn, gritty, and lived-in. The special effects in the film are phenomenal without overwhelming the story. Brad Pitt pulls off a much deeper and contemplative performance as the astronaut Roy than I had expected from him.
Earth is suffering damaging EMP surges that seem to come from the anti-matter power source of a presumed-lost crewed probe beyond Neptune. The probe was designed to image planets in other solar systems. It is commanded by Roy’s father. The highly skilled but deeply flawed character Roy sets out to find the probe and destroy it. There is much in the film about personal identity, generations, morality, and whether meaning is to be found out there or within oneself. Lest that sound like too much philosophy and not enough action, there is enough of the latter, too. The pacing isn’t rushed, but at 2 hours it doesn’t drag.
For those who like hard scifi (e.g. The Martian), this is a solid entry.
Ready or Not (2019)
Getting the balance right between humor and horror when mixing the two is no easy matter. A few pull it off including Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Ready or Not does, too.
Grace (Samara Weaving) marries a young scion of a super-rich family that made its fortune in playing cards and board games. Family tradition has her pick a game card from a very special game on her wedding night. Most of the cards are innocuous, but unknown to her one of the cards will declare her “it” in a game of hide-and-seek in which the family tries to kill her. Her only chance is to survive until morning. Naturally, she draws this card.
This is a warped but entertaining film with something to say about what people will do for love and money – and love of money.
Road House (1948)
This has nothing to do with the better-known Patrick Swayze movie of the same title.
The 1940s were a marvelous decade stylistically and in the popular arts. Film noir defines the decade on the screen more than any other genre, and this noir drama is one worth seeing. Ida Lupino is superb as the world-weary performer Lily in a rustic road house owned by the somewhat unstable Jefty (Richard Widmark) and managed by his best friend Pete (Cornel Wilde). A love triangle develops. Betrayals upon betrayals including attempted murder ensue. There is suspense, fine acting, and a well-written script.
The clip from the film below is Ida singing about the reason so many of us are on our couches with remotes.
If, after those three flicks you’re still feeling off, have some Alka-Seltzer and take a nap. Tomorrow all will be better… unless tomorrow is that work day that came in second in that AASM survey.
Ida Lupino - One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)