Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has released 23 feature films. The combined budget for these films hovers around $4.5 billion while the combined box office adds up to more than $22.5 billion. Audiences love these movies, and our view of a superhero has morphed in the process. We look for superheroes to have at least one of a variety of traits, including but not limited to super strength, teleportation, mind control, suits with super armor, a godly hammer, or even just an array of assassin skills. With each new film, our expectations for a superhero and their abilities raise
Enter writer/director Julia Hart (Miss Stevens) and actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Motherless Brooklyn) and their film Fast Color. Hart’s movie focuses in on Ruth (Mbatha-Raw), a woman who has powers she cannot control, which cause earthquakes. Her abilities cause destruction, and we her on the run from the law and from scientists hoping to capture and study her.
After a couple close calls, she decides to head home, finding her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and abandoned daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney) living somewhat happily. Both also have these powers, and can see “the colors,” which Ruth hasn’t seen in years once she lost control of how to use her superhuman features. The women decide to help Ruth take back her life, her body, and her powers, as Ruth hopes to reconnect to her mother, her daughter, and herself in the process. The setup looks like a far cry from those Marvel movies we’ve come to know and love.
The difference between Marvel and Fast Color is in the protagonists. In most superhero or at least superhuman films, those with the powers save someone or something. They are protectors, last lines of defense. In Hart’s film, the superhero needs saving. She asks for help, and she’s the destructive force in the universe. An oddly poetic story follows, which pushes the narrative that we all require saving from time to time, and that superhuman abilities don’t need to translate into saving the world.
Mbatha-Raw gives more of herself as the film progresses, and the performance actually becomes much better after a few weeks of reflection. Fast Color is the first superhero movie, outside of Black Panther, that stuck itself in the corner of the mind, existing more as a thought-provoker than a one-time explosive experience. Hart’s film also becomes more beautiful as Ruth rediscovers her powers, and finally sees “the colors,” a worthy wait for the audience. Once she, and we in turn, see them, it all begins to have meaning on a deeper level and resonance beyond just a mother/daughter story.
Though it falters during a few scenes and the dialogue can be a bit shaky, Fast Color holds a weight in its hands, and changes how you think about the (de-glamorized) superhero as human instead of godly. It puts a face to a genre that usually is filled with masks and suits. It shows the pains and difficulties, instead of the heroics. Ruth’s gender and ethnicity only add to the nuance and importance of Fast Color, as you learn that she deserves screen time just as much as the Avengers, the Eternals, and any other group of people we assign admiration and value to as a society.
Fast Color and its hero have more than superhuman powers, they have drive and purpose, and intent to do good in the world. If more movies follow suit, a new superhero will be formed, one void of perfection and full of promise.
You’re sitting on an airplane. A JetBlue airplane to be exact. The perfect airline when you don’t want to spend too much money, but you still would like the illusion of luxury. You’re flying from New York to Los Angeles or vice-versa. You forgot your book at your apartment and your Kindle just lost power. Your phone, laptop, and aforementioned Kindle chargers are in your checked baggage. You have six hours to kill.
You really only have one option in this scenario. Maybe it was your first option anyways. You turn on the in-flight entertainment system, stapled to the back of the seat in front of you. You adjust the brightness, because it might be a red-eye flight and you’re a little sleepy.
Like every other person on the plane in your situation, you start the search for the perfect in-flight movie. You jump from the different tabs, and if you’ve had a busy year, you hop onto the “New Releases” tab on the mini monitor.
For the sake of this ranking, we’re throwing documentaries out the window-side window. But, if we want to rank the docs on the JetBlue “New Releases” tab, this would be the list in terms of watchability:
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
The Panama Papers
Now, what’s the criteria for the best movie while watching on an airplane? For this, we are going to look at a few different factors.
How comfortable do you feel while watching the film? You don’t want to be watching something that will make your seat neighbors feel awkward, which makes you feel uncomfortable, which makes asking for them to move so you can go to the bathroom even more horrible. For example, Her is a fantastic film, but a horrible in-flight watch. The surrogate scene is the epitome of uncomfortability. You score this out of 5. Her would have received a 1/5.
How engaged are you during the film? No one wants to watch a boring film while on a flight. Flying, even though it’s an amazing technological achievement, are inherently boring. You’re watching movies out of necessity, simply because there’s nothing else to do. You want to be entertained. You score this out of 5 as well. For example, Fast Five would score a 5/5 in this category. It’s entertaining as hell.
If turbulence occurs, will this film distract you? Turbulence was awful, is awful, and will remain awful. You want a film that will distract you from that turbulence, not add to the nausea. You score this out of 5 as well. For example, a space movie like Ad Astra or Gravity or really any space movie would score 1/5 in this category, because you’d feel more nauseous if there was unexpected turbulence. Comedies score high in this category.
Will you feel like you adequately used your time by watching this movie? Basically, this is asking is the movie is good or not. A bad film is still a bad film, even if you’re on an airplane with nothing else to do. Score this out of 5.
There you have it. That’s the scoring system. The maximum number a film can receive is 20 and the minimum number a film can receive is 4.
Here are the 14 films:Annabelle Comes Home, Godzilla: King of Monsters, Late Night, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Plus One, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Sword of Trust, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Lion King, Ugly Dolls, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Yesterday.
Movies Scoring 0-10: That Was The Longest Flight
We aren’t going to spend lots of time on these movies so let’s just run through them.
#14: Ugly Dolls — A bad movies with ugly animation and unfunny jokes. You want to be laughing, not cringing while on a flight. 5/20
#13: Annabelle Comes Home — You might already be scared because you’re on a plane, so why would you intentionally scare yourself more? 6/20
#12: The Art of Racing in the Rain — You either a) read the book and so you already know what’s going to happen or b) have not read the book and are watching a story narrated by a dog played by Kevin Costner. 8/20
#11: The Lion King — This live-action remake falls under the “I already know what’s going to happen” category which makes it much less engaging. It won’t leave you feeling like you spent your time on the flight wisely, making you wish you started your laptop. 10/20
Movies Scoring 11-15: Eh, I Survived My Flight
Let’s give these some scores on some categories, shall we?
#10: Spider-Man: Far From Home — 11/20
Comfortable: Very much so. No one will judge you for watching Tom Holland and Zendaya save the world, while Jake Gyllenhaal crushes his villainous role. Sort of a movie catered to teens, though. 4/5
Engaged: The film does a good job of keeping your attention. It has some laughs, some big set pieces, and some decent-sized stakes. You won’t be glued to the screen though, and you won’t mind taking a bathroom break in the middle. 3/5
Turbulence: This is a major problem. As Spider Man is swinging through the air, you are also metaphorically and physically bumping through the air. 1/5
Time: You won’t feel bad for watching it but you won’t go running to tell your friends. 3/5
#9: Godzilla: King of Monsters — 12/20
Comfortable: There have been so many Godzilla and King Kong movies that you really won’t be judged. Your neighbors could think you’re watching any one of them. They’ll understand. 4/5
Engaged: Somewhat. The huge action sequences will be great and the actors are giving far-too-committed performances. 3/5
Turbulence: Again, not great. If it’s during an action sequence, you’re in for a bad time. If it’s during one of the “let’s save the world” monologues, you’re safe. 2/5
Time: Just fun enough to watch that you won’t be regretting it. 3/5
#8: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu — 13/20
Comfortable: For the most part, yes. Will some people think you’re a little nerdy? Yes, but who cares. Will most people not care? Also, yes. 4/5
Engaged: During the time I was watching this film, the snack and drink carts came by. I never paused it. 2/5
Turbulence: Yes, almost the whole time. There’s a shocking amount of non-action in this film. Unless you’re watching the part where the ground starts moving, you’ll be more than fine. 4/5
Time: It’s a Pokemon world. We’re just all living in it. 3/5
#6: The Last Black Man in San Francisco — 14/20
Comfortable: Yes, yes, yes. It’s a fantastic film with high critical praise about gentrification and community and family and belonging. Fantastic. 5/5
Engaged: Unfortunately, if you’re tired, it might put you to sleep, as it’s a dialogue-heavy film. It lacks action and/or comedy to keep you awake. It might be one of the best films on the in-flight system but not for plane-watching. 2/5
Turbulence: You’ll feel about the same. It won’t help you tons or hurt you tons. 3/5
Time: It’s a super solid film with a beautiful score and gorgeous cinematography, what else can I say? You’ll wish you were in a theater. 4/5
Movies Scoring 15-20: Wait, That Flight Was So Short!
#5: Late Night — 15/20
Comfortable: Mindy Kaling is beloved in many circles of life, as The Office and The Mindy Project are highly watched, highly acclaimed shows. 4/5
Engaged: Not as engaging as you hope for, but still engaging enough. The story has some lulls, but keeps your attention for the most part. Kaling and Emma Thompson are quite lovely. 3/5
Turbulence: It will make you laugh and so you’ll feel better about the turbulence. You won’t feel like the situation is nearly as awful. 4/5
Time: A solid film with a solid premise with a solid cast with solid jokes. 4/5
#4: Plus One — 16/20
Comfortable: A rom-com pretty comfortable. And it’s all about weddings, which is a situation in at least 50% of all movies. 4/5
Engaged: Though this movie is largely enjoyable, you won’t be stuck in your seat, watching without distractions. You won’t rewind if your headphones fall out. 4/5
Turbulence: No action, all talk. You’ll (hopefully) laugh through the bumps. 5/5
Time: A truly inventive and heartfelt romantic comedy that makes you want to watch more romantic comedies. Enjoyed the hell out of it. 4/5
#3: Sword of Trust — 18/20
Comfortable: It just looks like any other comedy. If anything, people will ask you what you’re watching because truly no one has seen this movie. 5/5
Engaged: If you buy into the plotline, it’s an enjoyable movie with pace. You’ll laugh a ton and be invested in the story. Not lots of action but it’ll keep you eyes on the screen. 4/5
Turbulence: Again, you’ll be laughing. Wait what turbulence? 5/5
Time: You’ll feel like you found a gem of a film. You’ll tell your friends about it when you get off the flight. You might even use the in-flight Wifi to post on Twitter. It’s not the best film of the year, but it’s real good. 4/5
#2: Once Upon a Time In Hollywood — 18/20
Comfortable: This is possibly the most recognizable film on the list, outside of The Lion King or Spider Man. It has major star power in Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie. The only issue is the violence towards the end of the film. 4/5
Engaged: To me, this is the highest quality film available during your JetBlue flight. The actors give incredible performances, the cinematography explores different perspectives of Los Angeles, and the story grabs your attention. 5/5
Turbulence: If you were watching the last 20 minutes during turbulence, it’d be unfun. Everything else is more than ok. 4/5
Time: This film will be nominated for Best Picture, and millions of people watch the Oscars so you’ll feel like it’s time well spent. Also, the film is over two hours so you’ll have made a real dent in your flight time. 5/5
#1: Yesterday — 19/20 — THE BIG WINNER
Comfortable: With friendly faces like Ed Sheeran, James Corden, and Kate McKinnon in the mix, people will know you’re watching actors they also enjoy. 5/5
Engaged: It’s just not the greatest film overall. The seemingly endless amount of Beatles songs will keep you watching, though. It has enough comedy, enough romance, and enough goodness. Himesh Patel offers a fantastic performance. 4/5
Turbulence: Nothing gets you through Turbulence like the music of the Beatles. 5/5
Time: You’ll feel much happier after watching the film and that is the greatest gift an in-flight movie can give you. For a bit, you might even forget you’re flying. You’re just along for the ride. It’s the perfect in-flight movie. 5/5
Shockingly, JetBlue is not yet a sponsor of Peach Fuzz Critic. What’s your go-to in-flight movie?
It’s been the day, the month, the summer, and the year of Brad Pitt. He’s shared that highest Internet honor with Keanu Reeves. While Keanu dominated the first half of 2019, Pitt has taken the virile title belt, jockeying for position by appearing on Ellen, avoiding the Oscars race, and starring in two massive films, one by Quentin Tarantino which I’m sure you’ve heard of, and James Gray’s new space odyssey Ad Astra.
Gray’s film is full of questions, some he cares to answer, some he prefers to leave dangling on the edge of space. The film’s plot interested me, but Gray’s character study on Brad Pitt as a man, a father, and a superstar was enthralling. It came in with huge expectations with a man at the height of his powers, focusing on his most vulnerable moments and delivering a space thriller, a bit of a generous categorization, for watchers to process.
Ad Astra asks these questions to Pitt, to Pitt’s alter ego Roy McBride, to the audience, and to society at large. Gray is attempting to tackle longstanding concerns and ideas in the span of two hours. It’s a film I enjoyed much more after reflection, and I’m already convinced a second viewing would act as a palate cleanser, rather than a bland main course that doesn’t satiate your hunger. I can’t stop thinking about Ad Astra, not about the film itself, but rather the uncertainties it can’t help raising.
Should we have the same profession as our parents?
In the film, Brad Pitt’s father was an astronaut, committed entirely to his job and to the places beyond Earth’s graspable elements. Pitt, playing McBride with self-efficacy and awareness, becomes an astronaut as well. His choice, a decision we’ve all thought about, to follow in his father’s footsteps is a choice with stages.
Stage 1: you idolize your father and you develop similar interests to him. This is more about acceptance than it is about passion. You, I, most people want to be loved by their fathers, so we pick up the same habits, learning about their professions. Stage 2: you reject your father (and/or mother) and want to be an individual. You’re in middle school and you decide to be your own person, choosing a path that your parents would never expect. Stage 3: you circle back around and are genuinely interested in the same profession as your father, or you find what you’re truly passionate about and follow that instead.
Many people I know have followed those stages at one point or another. There are of course exceptions, like Pitt, who falls somewhere in the middle of these stages. He hasn’t processed his father’s disappearance, or abandonment, and is dealing with decades of trauma throughout the film. He believes his father to be a hero, then a villain, then a hero once again, back to a villain, and finally just an old man that wanted to die. His choice to pursue his father’s livelihood has resulted in heartbreak and closure. He has been given the opportunity to save the world and lose his father in the same trip. Now that’s quite a job.
Pitt has the conflicting desires of wanting to be as successful as his father but also needing to be a better man than his father. He will never reach his father’s impact, nor stoop to his dad’s level of pain-infliction.
Answer: Roy McBride likely should have gone into real estate.
Does Brad Pitt look good in an space suit?
Come on. It’s Brad Pitt.
Answer: Yes. Of course. Why would we think otherwise?
What if our destiny, the path we choose to follow, is wrong?
Gray raises this contention through both Pitt’s portrayal of Roy McBride and his father, played by a wrinkly-as-ever Tommy Lee Jones as H. Clifford McBride.
Roy McBride seems to be an astronaut because he hoped to one day find his dad in space, while Clifford McBride was obsessed with finding intelligent life somewhere in the galaxy. Clifford believes that his destiny is to find extraterrestrial life, and Roy, as we find out throughout the film, is chasing a destiny of finding living up to his father’s name and finding him once he knows he’s alive. Ad Astra is addressing failure on both accounts. Clifford has failed in his efforts to find what he’s been looking for, while Roy finds exactly what he has always wanted, only to be let down in the most severe way possible.
Once we study in and graduate from college, we are expected, by society’s standards, to choose a career path and stick to it. We were required to pick a major for a reason. More often that not though, we change, we grow, and we adapt, leading us to switch the path we’re marching on. This is pegged as a mid-life, or for myself and the people I orbit, a quarter-life crisis. Clifford even has a three-quarter-life crisis towards the end of the film.
But it’s far from that. We are gravitating closer to fulfillment, something Clifford McBride never took the time to feel, and something Roy McBride seems to be grasping by the end of the film. His destiny has been altered, and in that way, it wasn’t his destiny in the first place.
Answer: Gray doesn’t know, and neither does Pitt. We choose something and just hope that it’s right. When we get pulled in an opposite direction though, we need to follow that tug.
Is Brad Pitt okay?
This is one is a bit tricky. Just like in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Pitt is playing a version of himself. He’s a lonely man in Ad Astra, with no wife, no kids, and dedication to his job. His family is rife with instability, and he doesn’t seem to be nurturing anyone outside of himself. He’s one-track, plowing his way forward, causing death and destruction around him, despite his best intentions. In the end, he’s successful, but he took an awful woeful path along the way.
Pitt has been in the public eye since 1991, when he had a small but memorable role in Thelma & Louise.
He’s been engaged or married to Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, and Angelina Jolie, all massive stars. He has gone through very public breakups and even more public divorces. He has six kids with Jolie, all of whom have grown up in the eyes of paparazzi. According to IMDb, Pitt has appeared in 80 films and produced over 50 films. He’s a busy guy with a shocking amount of fame thrust his way, properly earned in most respects.
None of us know how lonely or happy Brad Pitt truly is. Every long-form interview he gives, and he’s given quite a few in the past half-year, details his struggles but also his laid-back triumphs. Roy McBride is similar to Brad Pitt in more ways than one.
Answer: Who knows? It seems so, but it’s been a bumpy road to get there.
Have we had too many movies (recently) about space?
People seem to be discussing this with some serious contention. There’s no need to compare Interstellar, Gravity, The Martian, and Ad Astra. Let them be stand alone projects made by important directors highlighting fantastic actors.
Answer: No, space movies are great, but we might need to find some new stories, new angles to explore. Make a space movie with Adam Sandler and I’ll be in the theater before you can say “sandman”.
What happens when a film tries to answer too many questions at once?
I’ve seen several reviews describing Ad Astra as a “slow burn” of a film. Usually, the result of a slow burn is the bubbling up of anger, frustration, or conflict. Gray’s film ended with a fizzle, not a bang. He’s tackling a monster amount of topics in a two-hour window. These questions are raised throughout the film, but there’s not nearly enough time to figure out the thought-provoking mess of his own creation.
The universe Gray crafted is commendable yet it’s surprising a film like this, a solemn character study with an $80 million budget, can still get made in today’s shifting industry. It’s a big, beautiful, bonkers film.
As Norman Vincent Peale, a famously positive man, once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” And Grey certainly is somewhere, even if he’s a bit lost, deep in the galaxy of stars.