Shaft

Shaft-2019-movie-posterJJ, aka John Shaft Jr (Usher), may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ’s youth, the legendary lock-and-loaded John Shaft (Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem’s heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ’s own FBI analyst’s badge may clash with his dad’s trademark leather coat, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.

[Promotional text from the Dvd sleeve]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

JJ Shaft (Jessie T. Usher) is an FBI analyst. When his childhood friend Karim dies in strange circumstances, he decides to investigate despite his boss opposition. He has no choice but to ask the help of his estranged father, former NYPD detective and private investigator John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) — which greatly displeased his mother (Regina Hall). With the extra help of his girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp) and his grand-pa, John Shaft, Sr. (Richard Roundtree), they will attempt to solve the murder and avenge Karim’s death…

This is a funny movie with a high (very high) count of bullets and profanities. It offers a thin and rather unoriginal story wrapped in a series of very entertaining and quite violent action sequences. It is a sort of hommage to a classic blaxploitation legend (four previous movies — three in the 70s with Richard Roundtree [1971, 1972 and 1973] and a 2000 remake with Samuel L. Jackson — and a TV series). That’s it. The movie was not profitable and was scorched by the critics (32% on Rotten Tomatoes) but the viewers seem to have liked it (rated 6.4 on IMDb and audience score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes). Brainless comedy or outdated reboot, I found it entertaining. Check it out and be the judge — but watch it at your own risk, motherf**ker. stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

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Ad Astra (DVD)

Ad_Astra-dvdBrad Pitt gives a powerful performance in the “absolutely enthralling” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) sci-fi thriller set in space. When a mysterious life-threatening event strikes Earth, astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) goes on a dangerous mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

[Promotional text from the Dvd sleeve]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

In a “near future”, astronaut Roy McBride is told that his father — Clifford McBride, lost in a failed intelligent life-seeking mission around Neptune and presumed death — could still be alive. Powerful particules’ flares are hitting Earth and causing dangerous power surges and the authorities think that his father could be creating the flares with the “Lima Project” ship propulsion system which is using dark matter (!). He is sent to Mars, via the Moon, to record a secret message for his father but discovers that the authorities intentions are far more nefarious than he was told. Despite the lack of trust on both side, he manages to board the Cepheus on its way to Neptune in order to find his father and resolve the situation…

The movie is very slow and has little action (mostly when he falls from the “tower” (space elevator?), when he is attacked by pirates on the Moon, when he boards the distressed Norwegian biomedical research space station and when he tries to escape the “Lima Project” ship). It is also filmed in a very theatrical way, with little dialogues as most of the movie is narrated in voice-over by the main character. Therefore it feels a lot like 2001: A Space Odyssey with some influences from Philip K. Dick (the use of mood altering drugs and the constant psych eval — like seen in Blade Runner 2049).

The director, James Gray, said that he wanted a movie with a “realistic depiction of space travel” but I think he was not very successful. The movements of the characters seemed sometime a little odd and often the laws of physics were broken: a twenty-day trip to Mars? Eighty days to Neptune? You can sure have ships with bigger acceleration but I doubt that human would be able to survive them (and they didn’t look like accelerating a lot in the movie). Also, no matter what kind of radio communication you are using (even with a laser beam) you are limited to the speed of light and transmitting a message to Neptune would take some time (certainly over three hours in each direction), therefore you cannot get an immediate response !

It is said that the movie is set in the “near future” and that also is doubtful. Space elevator, significant bases on the Moon, a base on Mars, all this cannot happen in a few decades. Maybe in a couple of centuries, considering how slow humanity has been doing space exploration lately. Also, the world in which the movie is set seems quite interesting — even if it is barely glimpsed at. Everything looks computer controlled, people are kept on a tight leash with constant psych eval and mood altering drugs to keep them “happy” and well behaved. It is maybe a 1984-style dictature? Everyone seems to have strong religious belief, so maybe a very conservative and fundamentalist world? The movie doesn’t offer enough clues to say so with certainty. Or maybe the Millenials / strawberry generation needed this level of protection and control to survived and feel safe in a “difficult” future?

However, despite its slow pace, technical flaws and lack of action, Ad Astra remains a beautiful movie, with great photography, excellent special effects, good actors and acting (Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland) and a very interesting subject (solitude, family bonds and commitment). The movie made a slim profit at the box office and was well-received by the critics (with a rating of 6.6 on IMDb and 84% on Rotten Tomatoes) but was not as well appreciated by the public (audience score of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes). People probably found it not as exciting as they were expecting because it feels more like a psychological drama than a sci-fi action movie. It is stimulating to the mind, but only mildly entertaining…

All in all, I found Ad Astra disappointing but still worth watching. Anyway, catch it on TV or on DVD (maybe from the library) and be the judge yourself. stars-2-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

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Tolkien

TolkienPosterThis is a very good and touching biopic about the genesis of J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe (what he called his legendarium, set in the Middle-Earth, which includes novels like The Hobbit and Lord of the rings) without really talking about it. It is quite subtle and interesting. Very well done. Although, I am a little disappointed as I was under the impression that the movie was about the Inklings, a literary club that Tolkien (played by Nicholas Hoult) was a member of at Oxford along with C.S. Lewis. The movie is actually about another club, the T.C.B.S. (Tea Club and Barrovian Society), where he pledged with his college friends Rob (Patrick Gibson), Geoffrey (Anthony Boyle) and Christopher (Tom Glynn-Carney)  to change the worlds through their art (literature, painting, music and poetry). His writing was greatly influenced by his experiences in World War I, his interest in philology (particularly in creating new languages) and in European mythologies (Norse, Germanic and Finnish), as well as by the love for his wife (Edith Bratt played by Lily Collins).

The movie was not endorsed by the Tolkien Estate (which considered it inaccurate) and received mixed reviews (it was rated 6.8 on IMDb and 50% / 73% on Rotten Tomatoes) but I nevertheless found it quite interesting. The movie is mostly criticized for lacking imagination, but I disagree: it has plenty, but it just requires a little effort from the viewers. While entertaining, it offers great (but subtle) insights on the life of Tolkien and his creation. Whether you’re a fan or not, Tolkien is worth watching. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

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Vendredi nature [002.020.031]

Tête de dasplétosaure (moulage)

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[ iPhone 8+, Musée de la Civilisation, 2019/06/26 ]

Daspletosaurus torosus, Alberta, Crétacé (72 à 75 milions d’années), Musée canadien de la nature.

J’ai pris cette photo en visitant l’exposition “Curiosités du monde naturel” qui se tenait au Musée de la Civilisation de Québec du 16 mai 2019 au 19 janvier 2020. J’en ai déjà parlé dans mes billets “Vendredi nature” des 002.020.017 et 002.020.024.

Selon la fiche signalétique, “ce proche parent du célèbre Tyranosaurus rex vivait dans la région de Red Deer River, en Alberta, il y a plusieurs dizaines de millions d’années. Il a été découvert en 1921 par Charles M. Sternberg, fils du réputé paléontologue Charles H. Sternberg. Des analyses réalisées au Musée canadien de la nature dans les années 1960 ont révélé qu’il s’agissait d’une toute nouvelle espèce de dinosaure. Parce que les fossiles originaux sont si uniques et précieux pour la recherche, les musées exposent souvent des reproductions de ceux-ci — des moulages.”

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Vendredi nature [002.020.024]

Squelette de Balaenoptera acutorostrata

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[ iPhone 8+, Musée de la Civilisation, 20191/06/26 ]

J’ai pris cette photo en visitant l’exposition “Curiosités du monde naturel” qui se tenait au Musée de la Civilisation de Québec du 16 mai 2019 au 19 janvier 2020. J’en ai déjà parlé dans mon billet “Vendredi Nature [002.020.017] — Squelette de Delphinapterus leucas (béluga)”.

Selon la fiche signalétique du musée, le petit rorqual de l’Atlantique Nord (northern minke whale) est l’une des plus petite espèces de baleines à fanons qui se nourrit dans les eaux de l’estuaire et du golfe du Saint-Laurent, de mars à décembre. On note que les nageoires pectorales ont conservé une anatomie s’apparentant à celle d’une main, ce qui démontre que les cétacés auraient évolué à partir d’un ancêtre qui était probablement un mammifère terrestre quadrupède. Ce spécimen, échoué en 2003 aux Îles-de-la-Madeleine, provient du Musée du squelette.

En souvenirs de cette exposition, voici un album photo des spécimens qui m’ont semblé les plus intéressants:

…ainsi qu’une autre bande-annonce de l’exposition (disponible sur Youtube):

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Egyptian mummies: Exploring ancient lives

IMG_7086“Egyptian mummies: Exploring ancient lives” is the North American premiere of an exhibition created by the British Museum. Using digital image projections, explanatory videos and over two-hundred objects from ancient Egypt, it “reconstructs the lives of six people who lived along the Nile”. It tells the story of each of those individuals, their beliefs and the diseases they suffered from.

The original British Museum exposition (opened to the public from May to November 2014) was showcasing eight mummies, one-tenth of their Egyptian mummies’ collection. However, for its international tour the exhibition was limited to six mummies. It first opened at the The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia (from December 2016 to Avril 2017) before moving to Hong Kong in 2017, then Taipei, Taiwan (from November 2017 to February 2018) and it is now at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal from September 2019 to March 2020. The next stop will be in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum from May to September 2020.

In the early days of Egyptology, the only way to learn about mummies was to unwrap them. 19th century European collectors were even turning this into a social event with lavish “unwrapping parties.” However, the British Museum, with its strong ethics about artifact preservation, always refused to perform any invasive intervention on its mummies and its collection is therefore in excellent condition. Since the 1970s the development of cutting-edge technology, like combining x-ray devices with high-resolution three-dimensional computerized imaging (computerized tomography (CT) scanning) in order to create detailed 3D visualizations of the internal structures, has revealed much more informations that a simple unwrapping would have provided — while still preserving the mummies’ integrity. Combining the resources provided by medical science with those learned from anthropology and archaeology, has allowed the egyptologists to learn a tremendous amount of information about the life and death of ancient Egyptians: not only their culture and way of life, but also their biology, genetics, diet, diseases, burial practices and embalming techniques. This exhibition is illustrating all this through the exemples of six in dividuals (and their mummies) who lived in the Nile valley between 900 BCE and 180 CE.

Apparently the only official catalogue of the exhibition’s international tour was produced by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and is now sold out. However, the catalogue from the original British Museum exhibition is still available.

You can visit (and visit again) “Egyptian mummies: Exploring ancient lives” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1380 Sherbrooke Street West) from September 14, 2019 to March 29, 2020.

It is a superb and fascinating exhibition, rich in informations and artifacts. I enjoyed it greatly and everyone must absolutely see it. When I visited, in early January, the museum was packed (so, PLEASE don’t bring your five or six year-old Kids, as they might not be old enough to understand the complexity of such subject, and don’t bring your crying baby in its giant stroller !!!). stars-4-0

Here’s a teaser of the exhibition (available on Youtube):

More information and pictures after the jump >>

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Vendredi nature [002.020.017]

Squelette de Delphinapterus leucas (béluga)

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[ iPhone 8+, Musée de la Civilisation, 2019/06/26 ]

J’ai pris cette photo en visitant l’exposition “Curiosités du monde naturel” qui se tient au Musée de la Civilisation de Québec jusqu’au 19 janvier 2020. Conçue par le Musée d’histoire naturelle de Londres, elle nous raconte l’avancement des sciences naturelles de Darwin à nos jours, à l’aide d’environ deux-cent objets provenants des collections du Musée d’histoire naturelle de Londres (un squelette de tigre à dents de sabre, une météorite de Mars, une page manuscrite de l’Origine des espèces de Charles Darwin, une améthyste maudite, une momie de chat et autres curieux trésors) ainsi que de quelques spécimens locaux (un squelette de béluga provenant de l’estuaire du Saint-Laurent [Musée canadien de la nature], des fossiles du site patrimonial de Miguasha, des minéraux uniques au monde provenant du Mont St-Hilaire, etc.). Je partagerai plus tard quelques unes des photos parmi la cinquantaine que j’y pris. En attendant, voici une des bandes-annonces de l’exposition (disponible sur Youtube):

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