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“Ad Astra” Per Verba Omnium

Ad Astra!

If his space soliloquies mend just one broken father/son relationship out there, then they were worth it. Did they, though?

In the grand, 21st-century tradition of Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, and First Man comes another tale of an A-lister shot into space with a massive budget both in-story and in reality. Honorable mention goes to Duncan Jones’ Moon, which had to make do with a fraction of the cash but was more relatable than at least two of those tentpoles.

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My 2012 Movies in Retrospect, #15-8

In part one of our three-part miniseries, I reminisced about my least favorite theatrical experiences of 2012, works that other viewers may have liked a lot more than I did. Part two, then, is a veritable middle-ground parade — movies that weren’t a waste of my time, some even eligible for eventual addition to my library, but were a few steps removed from instant-classic status according to my recondite guidelines.

The countdown advances:

Jeremy Renner, The Bourne Legacy15. The Bourne Legacy. The way my mental math works out, this section of my list contains this year’s zestiest popcorn flicks — action yarns that propelled me along despite nagging storytelling flaws. Jeremy Renner’s two-hour overseas vacation video neatly fits that slot. Though the extended chases pale before the emotional stakes and the intricate cat-and-mouse games of the second and third Bourne chapters, Renner is fun to cheer on anyway as a plainspoken everyman upgraded to an outnumbered battle machine. In that sense it’s the spy-genre equivalent of a Rocky movie, albeit without a satisfying Ivan Drago analogue.

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“Lincoln”: a Multi-Purpose Crossover of History, Morality, and All-Star House Party

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"Despite a few dissidents who wished for something more, Stephen Spielberg’s new film Lincoln has received a host of rave reviews and much name-checking in articles about Academy Award predictions. The film aims to operate numerous levels, which may or may not work depending on what set of preconceptions and expectations you hope to see fulfilled:

* Historical drama: Based on the nonfiction book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, the script by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America) is a meticulous chronology of January-April 1865, when our beleaguered sixteenth President sought to end the Civil War and legislate abolition, but struggled through his negotiations with Congress to ensure that each occurred in the correct order, lest one set of dominoes send the other sprawling into chaos. Dozens of historical figures vie for screen time and take turns having their shared moment with either Lincoln or his henchmen. The result is a lot of nineteenth-century trivia compacted into a series of staged conversations, some of which are drier than others. Chances are, though, very few viewers will be able to say they’ve heard all of this before.

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