AD ASTRA (12A)
Brad Pitt blasts into space and delivers an out-of-this-world lead performance as an astronaut with deep-rooted daddy issues in director James Gray's sci-fi thriller.
Ad Astra hard-wires the visceral thrills of Gravity and the existential angst of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a near future setting that slingshots from Earth to Neptune via the dark side of the Moon. It's a curious juxtaposition and the script, co-written by Gray and Ethan Gross, struggles to find a smooth trajectory between edge-of-seat excitement and soul-searching, which is writ large in a superfluous voiceover that often verbalises what is achingly evident on Pitt's face. Those classical handsome features ripple with emotion in close-up and Pitt excels at conveying turmoil beneath his gung-ho trailblazer's placid surface with an expertly timed twitch or downwards glance. It's a meaty, complex role and the Oklahoma-born actor is mesmerising in every scene before his internal monologue interrupts the chilling silence in space, where no one is supposed to be able to hear you primal scream.
IT CHAPTER TWO (15)
In an early scene of director Andy Muschietti's overlong return to the highest grossing horror film of all time, an emotionally crippled character - a novelist turned screenwriter - becomes the butt of a running joke about his inability to write a satisfying ending.
Stephen King, who cameos in the sequel as the proprietor of a musty antiques store, weathered similar criticism for the resolution to his 1986 book, It.
Screenwriter Gary Dauberman doesn't stray far from the well-trodden path of the source text and condemns It Chapter Two to a fantastical final flourish that will come as a relief to audiences who have slogged through more than two-and-a-half hours of on-screen calamity.
The opening sequence - a brutal and unflinching hate crime - is the stuff of modern-day nightmares and sends a shudder of fear down the spine that ripples deliciously as grown-up incarnations of the characters are drawn back to the fictional town of Derry in Maine.
Once these reluctant heroes divide to conquer their fears, tension dissipates and the running time becomes a test of endurance.