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It’s tipped to be a big Oscar winner, but is Ad Astra any good?

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Copyright: 20th Century Fox

By Adam Brannon
Film Reviewer from Movie Metropolis for What’s On Hub

What’s your favourite sci-fi film of the last decade? Interstellar, The Martian, Blade Runner 2049: any of those? For me The Martian is an absolute masterclass in turning what can be a fairly difficult genre into box-office and critical gold.

Ridley Scott and Matt Damon created one of the best sci-fi films, not only of the last decade, but in the history of cinema and I confidently named it Scott’s best film since Alien, an accolade I still feel it deserves. Fast forward to 2019 and there’s another space flick vying for our attention: Ad Astra, but can it compete with the behemoths of the genre?

Copyright: 20th Century Fox

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) journeys across a lawless and increasingly dangerous solar system to find his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) – a renegade scientist who poses a threat to humanity. But not all is as it seems as McBride tries to come to terms with the loneliness of space.

Director James Gray (The Lost City of Z) comes to the project as a comparative newcomer to the genre and manages to create a deeply immersive and striking film that’s filled with powerhouse performances from its lead cast.

Brad Pitt is as dependable as ever as Roy McBride, an eerily calm presence over the course of the film. His character arc is nicely fleshed out as he comes to terms with increasing amounts of new information as the running time etches on. Elsewhere, Donald Sutherland is sorely underused but reminds us what a magnetic and relatively understated performer he is and Tommy Lee Jones is again a little short on screen time but manages to pull off a troubling character nicely.

However, Ad Astra is all about the space and it does feel vast here. Shot on a fairly small budget of $80million, James Gray and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema bring to the screen some truly striking imagery which highlights the emptiness of our solar system. There are moments of Interstellardotted about and this is perhaps no surprise, given that Hoytema was the cinematographer on Christopher Nolan’s film as well.

And while the action is fleeting, the intriguing plot, not spoilt in the trailers, and nicely choreographed sequences add a sense of claustrophobia to proceedings. The film’s strongest scene takes place on a lawless moon and highlights the destructive nature of human beings as a species: immensely powerful stuff.

Unfortunately, for all it does right, Ad Astra falls down in a couple of key areas. The first, and probably biggest gripe relates to the continuous narration Brad Pitt’s character provides throughout. It feels overly pretentious and while we feel his emotional angst from this constant monologue, we would definitely feel the same without it. As it stands, this narration adds unnecessary bulk, not allowing the audience to revel in some of the film’s moments of quiet contemplation.

Secondly, there’s an issue with some of the characters who seemingly disappear without trace, never to be mentioned again, even as the end credits role. These characters are so nicely written and investable that it seems a shame we don’t learn of their fates – perhaps this was intentional, but it’s jarring and at odds with the rest of the film.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t spoil what is a finely crafted and emotionally arresting film. Filled with beautiful landscapes and intense performances from the lead cast, Ad Astra may not be wholly original, but is fun while it lasts.

Our score: ★★★

Ad Astra is showing now at Odeon Luxe Cinema, Hull

Check Cinema Times

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Two Big Names Coming to Hull’s Bonus Arena in 2020

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The Bonus Arena, Hull have announced two big names who will be performing at the venue in 2020.

Rick Astley is set to return to the city early next year as part of his Greatest Hits UK tour. After wowing crowds in Hull last year, the icon will be back with a bang, performing his all-time classic hits such as ‘Never Going To Give You Up’, ‘Together Forever’, ‘Beautiful Life’, ‘Hold Me In Your Arms’ and ‘Cry For Help’.

He will be supported by KT Tunstall at the all-seated gig on Tuesday 7th April 2020.

Elbow have also been announced to play the following day on the 8th April 2020 as part of their 22-date UK tour.

Having built a deserved reputation as one of Britain’s best live bands, they’ll be delivering their all-time classic hits in an intimate setting such as ‘One Day Like This’, ‘Grounds For Divorce’, ‘Lippy Kids’, ‘Mirrorball’, and ‘Golden Slumbers’.

Tickets for both gigs will go on sale at 9.30am next Friday (27th Sep)- available from Ticketmaster. Accessible tickets can be purchased by calling 0800 9884440.

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Simply Red Are Coming to the Bonus Arena Hull in 2020

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Iconic band Simply Red have today announced details of a highly anticipated 13-date UK arena tour which will head to the Bonus Arena, Hull on 7 th October 2020.

Tickets for this all seated show go on sale at 10am on Friday 20th September.

Hailed as one of the most successful live acts ever to come out of the UK, Simply Red will be firing on all cylinders delivering their all-time classic hits from a stellar career, such as ‘Stars’, ‘Holding Back The Years’, ‘Fairground’ and ‘Money’s Too Tight To Mention’, as well as some raw and soulful new grooves.

Mick Hucknall has been Simply Red’s songwriter and bandleader since the very beginning in 1985, aided by long-serving saxophonist Ian Kirkham since 1986. The current line-up has remained consistent since 2003, and the new tour will play to the core strengths of this fantastic band. “I want them to enjoy playing, for crowds to get up and move around, and everybody to put their heart into it. It’s all about capturing the groove”, says Hucknall.

The tour is also visiting some of the country’s biggest arenas with dates at London The O2, Manchester Arena and Liverpool Echo Arena.

Tickets go on sale from www.bonusarenahull.com from 10am on Friday 20th September. Alternatively call 0844 8440444. Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

Accessible tickets can be purchased by calling 0800 9884440.

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Does John Godber’s Up N Under Work on the Big Stage?

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When I first saw that Up N Under by the fantastic John Godber was coming to Hull New Theatre, I admit that I was a little bit worried. I was concerned that it would not be able to transfer over from the intimate stage of Hull Truck, across Prospect St, to the large auditorium of Hull New Theatre. I sat last night with trepidation, looking at a solitary rugby ball illuminated mid stage. Yes, Hull is a Rugby League mecca, but to move Up N Under to the bigger stage?
I need not have worried at all. John Godber and his brilliant cast of six came on stage with no microphones and quickly had the audience eating out of their hands.
Godber is definitely the King of Northern Comedy; His witty and fast moving script had us all in stitches. I even found myself once or twice wanting to jump up and cheer as if I were actually at a match.
The story is about a bet. Ex-player Arthur (Jamie Smelt an East Hull lad and Hull Kingston Rovers fan) accepts a bet from another fellow ex-player Reg (Adrian Hood) that he cannot turn any team in the North into one which will beat the champion amateur team: The Cobblers Arms. Reg picks the team from The Wheatsheaf in Kirk Ella – A team so unfit and so bad that they have never won a match. They can’t even get a team together for a game of 7’s. What chance do they have?
We then meet the team which featured some familiar faces from other Godber productions such as Frazer Hammill as Tony, Lamin Touray as young Steve, James Lewis as Frank, and Luke Adamson as Phil.
The team, well three of them have met for training. Ill equipped and most would rather be elsewhere, especially Tony who would rather be out stripping (not wallpaper). Arthur comes in and challenges the lads to train up to beat the best team in the North and somehow wins them over and they agree to meet for training on Hessle Foreshore.
Arthur meets up with gym owner Hazel (Martha Godber) whose dad was once a great, well known player. She agrees to train the team and the hilarity commences. Can this bunch of unfit middle aged blokes be trained in 5 weeks to stand a chance?
The training scenes were hilarious. Being a small company, the scenery was sparse, which ultimately worked to the production’s advantage. With the aid of the audience’s imagination and props on stage, our hapless heroes somehow transformed from a joke to having a chance.
The choreography of training was great. Five unfit blokes weaving between traffic cones almost looked balletic. Use of resistance bands twanging buttocks and sit up/press up develop from cringe worthy to half decent. The audience were in stitches and the cast managed not to tie themselves in knots. The commentary added to the hilarity.
Along came match day and our boys are fitter. To make up numbers, Hazel steps into her dad’s boots and joins in. The slow motion choreography added to the excitement and tension of the important match. Oh did I forget to mention? Arthur has only gone and bet his house that his team will win!
With the aid of cleverly designed rugby kits, the cast’s transformation between the Cobbler’s huge and burly players to Wheatsheaf players was smooth and effective; making it clear who was who.
This match was more exciting than some rugby matches I’ve seen played at Wembley! The tension rose and the audience were gripped and cheered the Wheatsheaf on.
This was a great and gritty night’s entertainment. It transferred perfectly across to the big stage. The audience were thoroughly engaged throughout and no matter which Hull team you support, you will enjoy and appreciate this production.
The performance I saw was a signed performance. The signer, Andrew Higgins was very entertaining. He didn’t detract from the production and if you are learning to sign, you will learn some er…..interesting new signs.
Up N Under is running at Hull New Theatre until the 14th of September so don’t miss out!
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Global Phenomenon Les Misérables Comes to Hull New Theatre

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Man the barricades! Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s musical Les Misérables is coming to Hull New Theatre in autumn 2020.

The announcement comes as casting was announced for the second year of the UK and Ireland tour. Dean Chisnall will play ‘Jean Valjean’, Nic Greenshields ‘Javert’, Katie Hall ‘Fantine’, Ian Hughes ‘Thénardier’, Harry Apps ‘Marius’, Charlie Burn ‘Cosette’, Barnaby Hughes ‘Enjolras’ and Helen Walsh ‘Madame Thénardier’.

Also in the cast will be Joseph Anthony, George Arvidson, Adam Boardman, Olivia Brereton, Danny Colligan, Rebecca Ferrin, Aimee Good, Jenna Innes, Ebony Jonelle, Robert Madge, Liam Marcellino, Emily Owens, Jordan Simon Pollard, Corinne Priest, Jamie Pritchard, Aaron Pryce-Lewis, Dean Read and Janne Snellen.

Since Cameron Mackintosh first conceived this new production of Les Misérables in 2009 to celebrate the show’s 25 th  anniversary it has taken the world by storm. Originally touring the UK in 2009/10, and concluding with 22 performances at the Barbican, this production was hailed by audiences and critics alike.

This production is inspired the hugely successful movie version starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne. This brilliant new staging has scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, and has to date already been seen in North America, Brazil, Mexico, Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, Manila, Singapore, Dubai and Broadway.

Boublil and Schönberg’s magnificent score of Les Misérables includes the songs, I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, Stars, Bring Him Home, Do You Hear The People Sing?, One Day More, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Master Of The House and many more. Seen by over 120 million people worldwide in 52 countries and in 22 languages, Les Misérables is undisputedly one of the world’s most popular musicals.

Tickets for Les Misérables will go on sale to Hull Theatres Extras members at 10am on Monday 16 September 2019, with general sale starting at 10am on Monday 23 September. Book at the Hull City Hall Box Office, call 01482 300 306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk to book online.

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James Blunt to Bring His UK Tour to the Bonus Arena in 2020

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James Blunt will visit the Bonus Arena, Hull on Sunday, 16 February 2020 in support of his
new album due out in October.

The announcement comes on the day the Arena celebrates its first birthday, having seen 200,000 people either visit or buy tickets in the first 12 months.

As well as visiting Hull, James Blunt’s tour will visit arenas in Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle and end with a huge show at the Royal Albert Hall.

Tickets for the all seated concert go on sale at 9am on Friday, 6 September from www.bonusarenahull.com

James has sold over 23 million albums and has showcased his wit and charm more recently with his always engaging twitter account. He is best known for songs such as You’re Beautiful, 1973, Goodbye My Lover, Same Mistake and many more.

After flirting with electronica on his last album, James Blunt returns to what he does best on new album ‘Once Upon A Mind’, writing classic songs that touch both the heart and the head. Highlights are many and include the breezy first single ‘Cold’, the poignant ballad ‘Monsters’, the pop swagger of ‘5 Miles’ and the country tinged ‘Halfway.’

Tickets go on general sale next Friday at 9am from www.bonusarenahull.com or alternatively call 0844 8440444* Accessible tickets can be purchased by calling 0800 9884440. *calls costs 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge

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User Review: Johnny Marr @ Hull Welly Club

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When Johnny Marr announced he would be playing at Hull’s Welly Club on a Wednesday night in July, indie folk young and old couldn’t believe their eyes and began scrambling to get tickets to see such a musical legend in such an intimate setting. To no one’s great surprise, tickets sold out in a matter of hours with many disappointed that they wouldn’t get to see their Mancunian hero in a small club on Beverley Road. But for those lucky few who did manged to bag themselves a ticket, they knew they were in for something special. 

Related: See more music events happening in Hull

Having already seen the former Smiths man twice this month at Mad Cool Festival and Tramlines Festival, I was intrigued to see what a full headline set would bring. We were all expecting some solo singles and of course, some Smiths classics, but what else would Johnny pull out of the hat? As the band were about to take the stage, the room was packed. I was in a sold out Welly Club for the first time in a while and had forgotten just how little space there is in there compared to some of the larger venues Mr Marr can frequent. Arriving onstage to a hero’s welcome, the band raced into ‘The Tracers’ from new album,’ Call The Comet’ before blasting straight into The Smiths’ 1985 single, ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again.’ The sing a longs were loud and proud with gig goers young and old rejoicing in those fantastic words and incredible guitar lines. Not that someone of his musical stature would need any boost in confidence but a clear sign of how comfortable Johnny has become as a solo star was that of the first six songs of the set, five were his own, with 2018 single, ‘Hi Hello’ showing that he certainly hasn’t lost his song writing abilities. 

Related: See the biggest music events coming up in 2019

One of the biggest songs of the night was with little surprise, ‘This Charming Man.’ The song that many fans will identify as some of Marr’s best writing was met with such love and it was clear to see that the love was mutual from the stage back to the crowd. As many fans will be fully aware, Johnny has been involved in an awful lot of musical projects throughout his career and he was able to show off more of his collaborative efforts by showcasing two Electronic singles, the band he formed with Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and New Order fame. Having not delved deep into their back catalogue, I was surprised to see just how many people knew these songs and it was a pleasant surprise to see them received so well. Another Smith’s classic ended the main set with ‘How Soon Is Now’ reminding everyone in the room of just how they felt in those lonely times in life that The Smiths managed to capture so beautifully. 

Returning for the encore, Johnny declared how, ‘This reminds me of the old days’ before transitioning into the short but amazing, ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.’ Looking around the room during the song, it was clear just how much these songs mean to people. Grown men with their eyes closed, singing every word showed that despite how their lives might be now compared to previous years, the songs still speak to them in the same way and how that emotional connection is just as strong. Johnny’s son Nile (who had supported the band tonight) then joined the band for the last few songs and with both of them wielding the same Fender Jaguar style guitars they treated the crowd to fellow Manchester band, A Certain Ratio’s ‘Shack Up.’ The night was to end in the same way it had the previous two times I had seen him this month but on this occasion it felt so much more special. ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ is a song that has been written about thousands of times, been sung at weddings, funerals, festivals and all the like and why wouldn’t people want to wrap their lungs around that amazing melody and those fantastic words. On a mid-week trip to Beverley Road, who would have thought that singing a song about death surrounded by hundreds of other like-minded people could feel so good.

Words by Joe Bryant

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