FILM

"Ad Astra" or How the Perfect Astronaut Saves the Universe

World War Z called: They want their infallible action hero back.

Ad Astra is a technically stunning film.

The cinematography and sound design set a new bar for what an outer space adventure film should feel like. The film cleverly utilizes designs from real-life spacecrafts to shape the "near-future" aesthetic of the Space Corps and blends dazzling lights and sounds to create a believably fantastical world just beyond the stars. If Ad Astra looks a lot like Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, that's because they share the same cinematographer (award-winning DP Hoyte van Hoytema). It's like watching a moving painting, and IMAX provides a visual feast.

The plot, unfortunately, is not as impressive. Brad Pitt plays Major Roy McBride, a cool-under-pressure astronaut whose heart rate never rises above 80 bpm. He's charming and collected, handsome and capable. He knows how to fly a spaceship, shoot a laser gun, and lead a team. We're told through voiceover that McBride is a tortured soul; his pragmatic, cool-guy demeanor is a mask to hide his internal anguish and resentment. Through flashbacks, we discover he had a beautiful wife (Liv Tyler) who left him. We also learn that his father went missing in space over 16 years ago but has been heralded as an astronaut hero for going further into space than any human before. So when McBride receives word that his father may be alive and connected to a series of shock waves suddenly devastating planet Earth, he takes it upon himself to travel into space to find him.

Pretty cool, right? The plot seems tailor-made to push McBride to the edge of his composure, eliciting feelings that he's been compartmentalizing and forcing him to confront his demons! Except that never happens. Pitt's performance is stellar, tormented and nuanced, but the emotional burden he executes so well never actually plays into the narrative. Instead, what starts out like a solid character piece devolves into just another action movie. McBride gets caught up in an epic Moon rover chase and keeps his composure under enemy fire. He survives a violent catastrophe en route to Mars. Do his emotions ever get the better of him, threatening to sabotage his mission? Nope. He handles all his problems perfectly, always returning in one piece. He never even seems stressed, and there's no voiceover to tell us otherwise.

Rinse and repeat. Trouble pops up, McBride is badass, everything works out. People die around him, but he never gets a scratch, physical or otherwise. His emotions never get the best of him, and he does the right thing at every opportunity. There's a moment when McBride is faced with violence during the climactic scene – the perfect opportunity to have him lose his cool and reveal the inner agony that's been alluded to the whole movie. But he passively tries to de-escalate. Ultimately,he just floats around stoically as the movie takes care of his conflict for him.

It's hard to criticize Ad Astra when it gets so many things right. It's a superb visual achievement, a truly immersive movie-going experience full of fantastic performances. The Moon rover chase scene alone is worth the price of admission. But Pitt's performance is underutilized; and while the story promises character depth, it doesn't seem to be in service of anything greater. It's great that Brad Pitt can still impress us, but I wish he was allowed to enhance the story.

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡/5

FILM

Is “Hamilton” Sexist?

The hit musical will drop on Disney+ July 3rd.

Lin Manuel-Miranda's Hamilton has taken the theater world by storm since its 2015 Broadway premiere.

A hip-hop musical about America's founding fathers doesn't sound immediately appealing, but Manuel-Miranda's brilliant song writing and diverse casting not only captured the attention of audiences, but proved that major change is possible within an art form as encumbered by traditions as musical theater.

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The only thing more American than apple pie is a nip slip.

Or in this case, bottom slips. On August 29th, Farrah Abraham of Teen Mom fame accidentally showed more skin than planned on the red carpet for the screening of Ad Astra. Her floral-print ball gown by French designer Christophe Guillarme featured a thigh-high slit that made it clear Abraham had opted to attend the premiere sans undergarments. You might think that in this age of sexual freedom, skimpy outfits, photo leaks, and body positivity, we'd be past making a big deal out of something as run of the mill as a skirt revealing more than intended. But the incident immediately made headlines, overshadowing the premiere and causing a stir on social media. She later posted a picture on Instagram.

Interestingly, the reality star had a similar "accident" at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and video later showed that the crotch-shot was intentional. Commenters on Abraham's Venice Instagram were not going to let her forget it.

One person wrote: "So you had to flash your vag just like you did at the Cannes? Pretty sad that's how you choose to keep your name in the tabloids. At each event you were clearly pulling your dress to flash everyone your vag." Another said, "Farrah 101 for when you're an irreverent wannabe...of course we flash our cooter...oooops I mean 'wardrobe malfunction'...you've got to be one of the most desperate people I've ever seen...and all in the presence of poor Sophia...such a roll model."

If the "malfunction" was in fact intentional, one has to admit that if the goal was free publicity, it was a savvy move. If you Google "celebrity wardrobe malfunction," 32,100,000 results appear immediately. Admit it, you can't name who won the 2004 super bowl, you probably can't even say for sure which teams played, but you absolutely remember the exact instant during the half time show when Janet Jackson showed America more than her killer dance moves.

The iconic wardrobe malfunction made headlines everywhere, throwing the game into the background. Or maybe you remember when Chrissy Teigen didn't account for the breeze and accidentally showed off her immaculately waxed undercarriage. Or the famous instance of Britney Spears exiting a car without any underwear on. So why are people vilifying Abraham for merely giving the people what they want?

Why do we care so much about glimpses of usually covered human anatomy? Why do we find nip slips and accidental cr*tch shots more titillating than images of bare bodies that are readily available online or even in movies? What is the undeniable appeal of an outfit going rogue?

The truth is that we love seeing someone's body without their explicit consent.

People are so riled up about Abraham's manufactured malfunction because knowing it was intentional takes away much of the appeal. And that's pretty f*cked up.

As we take baby steps towards becoming a society that prioritizes consent, we have to realize that reveling in wardrobe malfunctions can't be a part of that better future. The human body isn't inherently sexual or scandalous, and it's never okay to look at someone's naked body if they don't mean to show it to you. It's 2019: Aren't we a different society than we were when n*pple gate shook our worlds? Isn't it time to stop treating the human body like a spectacle? Maybe, instead of shaming Farrah Abraham for merely capitalizing on an American perversion, we should take a look inwards and think about why we're still so fascinated by wardrobe malfunctions—and what exactly that says about us.