Movies to Watch With Ad Astra

Sure, Brad Pitt saving the galaxy from space vibrations is good, but what about Pitt fighting the crushing despair of the endless void? How fun is that?

An unofficial sequel to Space Cowboys, James Gray’s Ad Astra represents the newest incarnation of the waxing/waning trend of interstellar travel as metaphor for mankind’s internal search for meaning – a far cry from the rubber-suited aliens of the 20th century.

Naturally, that’s no big surprise from an auteur whose personal brand is interpersonal relationships with a dash of daddy issues, but it taps into a current, deepened fascination with what’s out there and whether it has sharp teeth.

Here are 6 options to double feature with Ad Astra that will make you, finally, jealous of Brad Pitt.

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glass movie review

The first act of The Incredibles is still the fairest portrayal of what superhero home life would look like. The flurry of domestic bliss and panic mirrors a lot of families with young children, but there’s an additional anxious hum to the rhythm of their lives. That fear of being caught, of suppressing who they are for the “greater good” of a fearful, misinformed larger society imbues every choice they make.

Yet it’s only one family. One view on what it might be like for a very small group of super powered humans trying to fit into the suburban model of peaceful boredom.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough stories of real people living in superhero universes and superheroes living realistically in the world. Chris Evangelista’s review of Glass – which he opened by reliving the pleasant surprise of learning Unbreakable was about comic books – was another reminder of that. That’s one reason M. Night Shyamalan’s original film hit so hard in 2000. It came during the superhero genre’s puberty, treating those figures with far more respect than the average spandex fantasy and dissecting the human psyche behind grand acts of heroism long before The Dark Knight‘s literal prisoners dilemma.

Treating super people as people is still rare. What’s even more fascinating is that Marvel and DC’s dominance has created a world where the standard story involves superheroes navigating a world where everyone accepts that superheroes exist, creating a subgenre of movies about people who may or not be super trying to survive in a world where people think they’re crazy. It’s a subgenre to which Glass now belongs.

I’m assuming you’ll fire up Unbreakable (they’re alive, damn it!) and Split, so here are 6 other movies to wrap your supervillain mind around.

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(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their most recent/last – to get a sense of who they are.)

You’re gonna be thinking of Murder, She Wrote while reading this. That’s okay. It’s only natural. The grandmotherly Columbo dominated Dame Angela Lansbury‘s persona so strongly that a certain generation of viewers can’t imagine her as anything but a cardigan-wearing bicycle enthusiast whom death follows like a puppy. After more than a decade, the series ended when Lansbury hit the traditional retirement age, but she’s never quit working.

She’ll turn 100 in 2025. She’s worked through 8 decades. She’s a stone cold force of nature.

No one (except maybe Dick Van Dyke) has had that kind of flourishing longevity. And like your friend’s great-grandma who talks about her misspent youth as an arms dealer in South America, Lansbury is so much more than the kindly figure she’s become in popular culture. So much more than the quiet ex-teacher from small town Maine who solved 268 murders.

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Movies to Watch With Escape Room

The first escape room I did was in the office park section of Amsterdam in 2011. The building was nondescript, live escape rooms were still a novel concept, and I had visions of Taken running through my head. The paranoia was just strong enough to make me send a tweet telling people to call Interpol if I didn’t tweet again an hour later.

It went fine. Those were early days where rooms were linear and filled only with numerical locks. Since then, I’ve stopped the assassination of JFK in Berlin, solved a gruesome series of murders before a serial killer returned home, and walked through a lot of armoires into hidden rooms.

As with any entertainment craze, it was inevitable that it would be twisted into a horror movie, especially since Strangers Fatally Competing For Cash is already a well-trafficked sub-genre. Considering the parallel sub-genre of Deadly Party Games (which went from Ouija to Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board in depressing time), it’s amazing that a horror movie specifically name-checking escape rooms as a phenomenon wasn’t made years ago.

Now it’s here. Escape Room features six strangers who converge on a mysterious location to vie for a million bucks. The catch? Just like your office team-building exercise, they have to escape without getting killed.

Here are 6 movies to play after you escape.

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Green Lantern Arrived Too Early or Too Late

Most movies come and go without a second thought. Only a very few rise to the top of our minds and burrow into our subconscious as the exact movie we need at a particular time. The right movie of an age. Saturday Night FeverThe French ConnectionCluelessApocalypse Now. A moment. A mood. They capture something fundamental about the time they exist in and say precisely what needs to be said about it.

Green Lantern isn’t one of those movies. It’s an even rarer artifact. The kind of movie that came out exactly at the wrong time.

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Movies to Watch With Mary Poppins Returns

It has taken Mary Poppins a really long time to return. Like, “avoiding the statute of limitations” long. She flew off into the clouds over a half century ago, and now she’s returned with a new look, some new music, and several impossible leaps forward in animation technology.

Mary Poppins Returns also enters our lives after the semi-true Saving Mr. Banks gave us some insight into why author P.L. Travers resisted selling the rights to Walt Disney for so long, as well as her disappointment at the finished product. Julie Andrews was too young, too bubbly, and too likable for her taste. Of course she was perfect (not just practically) for everyone else. Andrews owned the role, making it almost unthinkable that someone else could take up the mantel.

Emily Blunt has that honor/horror. She has to simultaneously make us remember Andrews and be comfortable without her. To evoke the spirit of the character as so many remember her without stepping on her toes or clinging too closely. There’s only room for one under that umbrella. The rest is effervescent nostalgia. For bad cockney accents. For sidewalk dance routines. For chalk.

Here are some movies with interesting connections to Mary Poppins Returns to keep that supercalifragilisticexpialidocious vibe going.

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(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their most recent/last – to get a sense of who they are.)

There are two options when you picture Clint Eastwood. His image has been frozen in amber twice during his career, offering us only the cigar-chomping, heavily tanned silence of Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” and the gray-headed, lawn protector of Gran Torino. One is a genre king during the halcyon days of wild west romanticism; the other is the fantasy fulfillment of old man anger at the world. One is everyone’s dad’s favorite actor; the other is what almost everyone’s dad has morphed into over the past twenty years.

That’s not to say that he didn’t branch out as an actor. He made not one, but two buddy comedies with an orangutan after all. Yet even though he talked enough as Dirty Harry to earn a globally-recognized (and almost always misquoted) catch phrase, his unhinged detective was a simmering extension of his tight-lipped western anti-heroes. Different haircut, less stubble, same attitude.

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Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies to Watch With ‘Vox Lux’

Movies to Watch With Vox Lux

Cinema often treats tragedy either as an incubator for profound goodness or for unspeakable monstrosity, recognizing that cataclysmic change – no matter the flavor – is inescapable when the worst happens. For the two young women at the center of Vox Lux, it’s both.

But silver linings can turn out to be tin foil, especially when seen through the starry-eyed glasses of fame. Celeste (Natalie Portman) and Ellie (Stacy Martin) survive a childhood nightmare and convert it into a song. The song lands them both an eager manager (Jude Law) and a ticket on the rocket ship of celebrity.

The film by writer/director Brady Corbet growls with a message about the intertwining notions of televised fame and terrorism and hums with original songs from Sia. That it comes out the same year as a version of A Star in Born starring Lady Gaga is cosmic coincidence that needs to be revisited once both are available outside theaters.

Fortunately, there are several other golden voiced, grim views of success to watch with Vox Lux.

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(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their most recent/last – to get a sense of who they are.)

What does it mean to be the best actor of a generation? And is it possible that kind of talent can remain hidden for decades?

Those are the questions we need to consider when contemplating Viola Davis‘ explosive, peerless ability to embody another person from root to tip, from birth to death, to their very soul.

And if there were any doubt that she was one of the world’s best at what she does, consider the oldest rule in the book: game recognizes game. That’s why Meryl Streep shouted, “My God, somebody give her a movie!” during her 2009 SAG acceptance speech for Doubt and said, “She is arguably the most immediate, responsive artist I have ever worked with,” when presenting Davis with her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Game recognizes game.

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ralph breaks the internet clip

Ralph leaves the arcade for the internet in Ralph Breaks the Internet. For kids of a certain age with SafeSearch and a bunch of sites blocked, that might be a fun option, but for the parents and adult fans of Disney Animation’s bad guy hero, there are enough headlines about social media to make staying in the warm belly of the arcade justified.

Luckily, Ralph (voiced once more by John C. Reilly) has his best friend, Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), to protect him if the cyber bullying gets too rough. It won’t, because this is Disney, so they’ve depicted Twitter as a happy tree full of chirping birds sharing cat videos instead animating five dumpsters on fire next to a billboard that says, “This user didn’t violate our rules surrounding abuse.”

In the first genuine sequel in almost two decades (and arguably longer), Ralph has returned after learning to be a better person in the first film to a contented existence of wrecking things professionally and hanging out with Vanellope after punching the clock. Vanellope is antsy for adventure, and she gets it when a gamer breaks her wheel – sending her and Ralph into the big bad internet to order one. There they encounter a slew of memes, recognizable nostalgia nuggets, and a pile of new challenges.

So what to watch with it? Here are six suggestions.

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