Filmmakers have been looking to the stars for answers to questions about our existence on this earthly plane since at least 1902 with Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon, but few have taken that interstellar inspiration and executed a project as stunning as James Gray's Ad Astra. Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is tasked with heading to Jupiter to investigate deadly solar surges that may or may not have something to do with his father (Tommy Lee Jones), an astronaut who disappeared on a space mission 30 years earlier. Despite the film's impressive visuals (see this in an IMAX theater), which include a car chase and a shootout with space pirates on the moon, Ad Astra is at its core a deeply human story, and one very concerned with masculinity—usually the toxic kind. Gray has said he wrote the role of McBride for Pitt, and it shows. The actor's smoldering intensity has perhaps never been better as the character charts a course through his own Heart of Darkness—one not unlike Capt. Willard's in Apocalypse Now. Beautifully constructed and centered on the human search for connection, even beyond our planet, Ad Astra is a reminder of the joyous awe you can still experience at the movies. PG-13. DONOVAN FARLEY. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius Cinemas, Eastport, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.
*** A decade after Wall Street nearly destroyed America—before voters had the chance to do it themselves—Hollywood is finally getting around to telling stories about the Great Recession that aren't weepy dramas focused on farmers losing their homes or cynical castigations of the 1 percenters who caused the financial crisis. In Hustlers, writer-director Lorene Scafaria illustrates how the crash disrupted one previously unexplored ecosystem in particular: New York's strip clubs. Before 2008, the hustle in question was more of a symbiotic agreement—dancers danced, CEOs spent, and no one told the wives. After the collapse, the clubs emptied, and separating horny slimeballs from their cash got a lot harder. One real-life group of dancers' solution? Roofies, basically. Scafaria directs like Hype Williams remixing Scorsese, delivering a handful of eye-popping scenes, including an opening long take that follows Constance Wu on a walk from the dressing room to the stage like Henry Hill entering the Copa, and Jennifer Lopez's acrobatic routine set to Fiona Apple's "Criminal." Though the scene that follows, with Lopez literally taking Wu under her wing—or, rather, her fur—is even better. It's hyperkinetic stuff, marred by a time-jumping narrative device that interrupts the flow of the plot and diluted by a script that's really interested in only two members of its ensemble cast. (Note that Cardi B and Lizzo, who factor heavily into the film's marketing, disappear in the second half.) But the movie stays afloat on the strength of its lead performances, with Wu as a woman desperate for someone to entrust with her secrets, and especially Lopez as a charismatic but closed-off survivalist who might let you into her fur, but never much deeper than that. R. MATTHEW SINGER. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius Cinemas, Eastport, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose, Studio One.