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Ad Astra - 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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Ad Astra

Films of the ilk of last year’s Ad Astra are always a quandary for me to write about. With the output of most of Hollywood’s efforts being what some might sarcastically call formulaic and digestible, it is both a blessing and a curse when something is offered to buck the trend. James Gray’s science fiction think piece is indeed a film that challenges you to think. It bucks traditional stereotypes of characterisation and makes you work for the answers it offers, whatever your interpretation on them may be.

"brilliant, thought-provoking but limited in its accessibility"


While critics the world over have been almost universal in their praise of this admittedly spectacular looking film, critics are like everyone else: one opinion—no better, no worse than yours. I may be a critic, but like every other person out there, I bring to each subjective work proclivities that either move me, or don’t. Ad Astra did not move me.

Brad Pitt stars as second generation Astronaut Roy McBride, and renowned cool under fire legend who has chased the legacy of his long thought dead father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones). Ironically, the next mission he is tasked with is to go to Mars to try and confirm if his father actually is dead. Clifford was declared lost 16 years before from a mission to Neptune to seek out Alien life, and that area is sending surges that could threaten the earth. His oh so long journey is fraught with opposition, unexpected secrets, and some real internal questioning for Roy about whether he is just dedicated to the mission or is on a search of self as he searches for his old man. {googleads}

Gray continues to build on his reputation as a thought provoking and patient director. Whenever he delivers a film, one has come to expect long drawn out shots, minimal dialogue and a looming camera that requires actors to bring their A game. Ad Astra has doubled down on all of this. His technical proficiency is also unequivocally masterful and some of the visuals are downright gobsmacking. There are nods to Kubrick’s style throughout, and equally understated uses of score and long moments of silence. Also dangerous for most, but effectively handled by Gray, is the copious inner monologues in voice over throughout. So I tip my cap to the director for this A-level work.Ad Astra

So why didn’t this movie move me? Pitt plays a man that is bereft of normal human emotion, it’s written that way, and he plays that pitch perfectly. But he’s also hard to relate to (for me) and frankly a fucking bore to spend that amount of time with. I don’t want to go as far as to say he’s a robot, nor that there aren’t some heart wrenching or blood pumping moments throughout for this low key man, but anything that registered as interesting or relatable to me is brief and interspersed with very, very, very long periods of reflection or the vastness of space. Those moments that would have been interesting are told in voice over and are as detached from the present as the main character is to this viewer. While the visuals and themes of this film are cinematic, the characters aren’t—not to me.

I cannot fault the execution of a film like this—it was very well done—but I can’t pretend it was particularly enjoyable either. It’s brilliant, thought-provoking but limited in its accessibility.

3/5 stars

Ad Astra

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available on Blu-ray
- December 17, 2019
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1; German: DTS 5.1; Italian: DTS 5.1; Japanese: DTS 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Czech: Dolby Digital 5.1; Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K region-free; blu-ray locked to Region A

Josephine Chesterfield and Penny Rust may be conning the rich and powerful in this lackluster heist comedy, but there's no pulling the wool over our eyes, as Universal's Blu-ray + DVD + Digital edition is anything but a sham with its glorious 1080p 2.39:1 transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks.

Included in the eco-case package are a blu-ray disc, DVD copy, and an iTunes digital redemption card. Accompanying the presentation is a feature commentary with Director Chris Addision as well as a trio of EPK-type bonus featurettes.

Video

Okay, this is an effects heavy film so unsurprisingly it’s a 2K upscale. Having said that, what an upscale it is. I’m guessing the live actions parts of this film were rendered on film, not digitally, because there is some significant detail, and organic variance through certain scenes that could fool you into thinking this is a 4K native scan. HDR aids the colour timing massively and adds interesting details in the vastness of many star fields. It’s a pretty spectacular job for an up-scaled disc.
4/5

Audio

Flawless Dolby ATMOS 7.1 mix that delivers pensive quiet moments as effectively as rocket thrusters firing and baboons screeching and thumping. Voice overs are copious and centred and crisp as all get out. There is fantastic LFE directionality and immersion throughout. It certainly aids this already impressively crafted film to sell its narrative.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Audio Commentary by James Gray

Special Features:

It’s got a director’s commentary and 1080p Blu-ray included… wow

The blu-ray disc houses the extra features

  • Deleted Scenes
  • To the Stars
  • A Man Named Roy
  • The Crew of the Cepheus
  • The Art of Ad Astra
  • Reach for the Stars
  • Trailers

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

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Ad Astra

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language.
Runtime:
123 mins
Director
: James Gray
Writer:
James Gray, Ethan Gross
Cast:
Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga
Genre
: Adventure | Sci-fi
Tagline:
The Answers We Seek Are Just Outside Our Reach.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Here we go again. Fighting for resources. What the hell am I doing here?"
Theatrical Distributor:
20th Century Fox
Official Site: https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/movies/ad-astra
Release Date:
September 20, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 17, 2019.
Synopsis: Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

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Ad Astra

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