An astronaut named Farmer

ON CIRCUIT: Emotional manipulation in The Astronaut Farmer, the flimsy The Hitcher and Catherine Zeta-Jones in No Reservations.

The Astronaut Farmer

Another expensively good-looking piece of emotional manipulation from the Dream Factory. Billy Bob Thornton plays a former astronaut/engineer who is now a rancher or farmer, hilariously named Farmer, determined to build a rocket and orbit the Earth on his own. He has the fulsome support of his ridiculously cute and perfect family, but is opposed by all sorts of state agencies and doubted by his creditors.

Still, he has the courage to pursue his dream regardless; he will fail, then succeed at the last minute, so that we can go through the full range of fake feelings. Cheer, sob, cheer … And when you have to wheel on Bruce Willis to do “gravitas”, you’re in trouble. None of it is remotely believable for a second, and the inordinate amount of feel-good sugar could, by the end, make your teeth fall out — if you haven’t already ground them to dust in frustration simply watching this tosh. — Shaun de Waal

The Hitcher

Tense, brooding, scary — there are plenty of words to describe 1986’s superior B-movie. None, however, apply to this remake. Only neglible changes have been made — the lead victim is female, for example — but they are enough to unhinge an already flimsy premise as a wandering psychopath searches for someone to stop his killing spree. Sean Bean is miscast in a role that Rutger Hauer played almost as an unstoppable force of nature. Don’t even slow down for this one; certainly don’t tag along for the ride. — Phelim O’Neill Â


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