October 2018~ First Man

I love a good space film- from films based on real-life events like ‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘Apollo 13’ to fictional films like ‘Space Cowboys’. I just love them!

Thanks to my dad I’ve always had an interest in space, space travel etc. My dad used to write off to NASA in the 60s and they sent him loads of things- maps, photos, an Apollo 11 kit and more. This was something that I also did during the late 70s onward. I have loads of photos, documents etc on the various space shuttles, the ISS and more recent projects.

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I was also lucky enough to take a week-long course, run by a guy from NASA, called ‘Space Camp’. It was based on the US camp of the same name but designed to work in UK schools. Up until a few years ago I ran lots of camps.

So as you can see my interest in space is extensive!

Early in 2017 I read that a film about Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, would be going into production and I’ve waited patiently ever since!

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I finally got to see it this week and I was blown away!

Unlike Apollo 13, it’s not a film just about the moon landing. It is first and foremost about Neil, his family, and his time as an astronaut. It shows us the struggle that Neil went through after the death of his daughter Karen, how her death affected him and his work, his relationships with his wife Janet, his sons and other astronauts.

The film begins in 1961 with Neil in an X-15, an experimental aircraft attached to the underside of a B-52 wing. Neil takes it through its paces but encounters a problem which he eventually resolves. He manages to land safely.

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The story then shifts to his daughter Karen, her battle and eventual succumbing to a brain tumour.

We have a number of time-jumps- the first show Neil’s selection as a Gemini astronaut, his partnership with astronaut Elliot See (who would die in a plane crash) and eventual command of Gemini 8 where he became the first astronaut to successfully dock two spacecraft, something of vital importance to the future Apollo missions. It also included the first critical in-flight incident in which the two docked craft went into a roll due to a faulty thruster.

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The next time-jump brings us to the events of Apollo 1 and the sad demise of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee- all friends of Neil. This again had an impact on him.

Finally we end up with Neil’s command of Apollo 11. We see Neil testing (and crashing) a lunar lander prototype before skipping forward to a press conference shortly before the mission. Neil’s wife Janet is adamant that he must tell he children that he may not return. A job which he reluctantly undertakes.

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As we know the mission is a success and the crew return to earth. The are some scenes that no one knows for sure happened but Neil’s sons (who are apparently big fans of the film) believe happened due to conversations with their dad prior to his death. I won’t say any more but they are quite emotional.

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Ryan Gosling was absolutely amazing as Neil Armstrong. It has always been known that Neil was a quiet, private man, with near-genius level intellect and a dry sense of humour. Gosling pulled this off perfectly! From the way Ryan portrayed Armstrong, every pain over the loss of his daughter was transferred to the audience and this thread carried through the entire film.

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Claire Foy played Neil’s troubled wife Janet with ease. She was believable and you felt her every worry.

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The recreation of all the official video as well as the tech, suits etc was absolutely astounding and will no doubt help fuel the moon landing conspiracy theories!

There have been so many amazing films this year, but this and ‘A Star Is Born’ both deserve to do well during awards season!

Go see it! It’s out of this world! (sorry, I had to! ūüôā )

Addendum- Trump and his followers have lambasted this movie saying that not showing Neil and Buzz planting the US flag is unpatriotic and people should boycott the film. He and his kind are wrong- if the film were about the US Space Programme then I would agree but it’s not. It’s about one man struggling with the memory of his dead child and friends, overcoming all the emotions that go with that whilst trying to do something courageous and succeeding. No flag needed.

October 2018~ A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born, co-wrote, directed and starring Bradley Cooper, alongside Lady Gaga is the fourth iteration of this story. The first being in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Fredrich March, then again as a musical version in 1954 starring Judy Garland and James Mason and then as a rock musical in 1976 with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

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The basic story is unchanged:- A celebrity whose fame is waning, meets a young performer with hopes of stardom. He helps her into the spotlight whilst his career is in decline.

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I won’t go into specifics of this version. Suffice to say that if it doesn’t win awards then something is wrong. Lady Gaga puts in an amazing performance as Ally and Bradley Cooper (who learned the guitar and learned to sing and play well enough to perform at Coachella and Glastonbury for this film) is simply awesome as Jackson Maine. I felt not only Ally’s excitement through the film, but also Jackson’s pain. An amazingly emotional performance by both.

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The soundtrack, in which both Lady Gaga and Bradley perform, is definitely worth a listen.

A list of Easter Eggs put into the film by Bradley can be found here.

Go see it!

September 2018~ King Of Thieves

Michael Caine’s latest offering is based on the true story of The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Burglary which took place in 2015.

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It has a all-star cast including¬†Michael Caine as Brian Reader,¬†Jim Broadbent as Terry Perkins,¬†Tom Courtenay as John Kenny Collins,¬†Charlie Cox as Basil,¬†Paul Whitehouse as Carl Wood,¬†Michael Gambon as Billy “The Fish” Lincoln and¬†Ray Winstone as Danny Jones.

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It was an enjoyable film, but nowhere near as good as some critics have made out. The film was at times a bit disjointed, almost as if some scenes had been missed out during editing. It was hard to tell the relationship between the characters and it truly showed that there is no honour among thieves. Flashbacks to younger versions of the characters, using footage from the actor’r previous films (such as Get Carter) should have enhanced the film but flew by too quickly.

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As much as I try I just don’t like Ray Winstone as an actor. This role however, seems to fit him perfectly. It doesn’t matter who he portrays, Henry VIII, Beowulf, Indiana Jones’ sidekick, he always comes across as an East-End criminal- not much range.

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I was also very confused about Charlie Cox’s character Basil. He was “the one that got away” and not much is known about him. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but it came across as the character may be on the Autism spectrum. Was a tad confusing…

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Its an ok film and I’d probably see it again on TV or Blu-Ray as its always good seeing Michael Caine play a villain.

How close is it to what actually took place? Not a clue!

September 2018~ Crazy Rich Asians

*SPOILER-FREE REVIEW*

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This is one of the funniest, feel-good movies I have seen in a long time (apart from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again…).

It tells the story of Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu), a Chinese-American economics professor from New York who travels with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore only to find out that he is the heir to one of the richest families in Asia. Rachel finds herself struggling to fit her American ideals together with ancient Chinese traditions and way of life.

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Its a great film with an equally great cast, including Michelle Yeoh from Star Trek: Discovery as Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother. Awkwafina plays a hysterical Peik Lin, Rachel’s college buddy and Gemma Chan plays Nick’s sister Astrid.

An excellent soundtrack accompanies nearly every scene.

It’s well worth a watch, probably more than once. Take tissues as you’ll laugh and cry….sometimes at once!

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September 2018~ The Predator

It’s not often that I see a film only once but I have no intention of seeing this film again in the cinema.

The Predator is set on earth, 20-ish years after the events of Predator 2.

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Two Predators arrive on Earth, one hunting the other. The one being hunted intends to deliver a gift to the people of Earth and the other is out to stop him.

This should have been a good solid action/sci-fi film but sadly it falls flat. The story concept is a sound one but is poorly delivered. A weak script which relies too heavily on laughs, many of which seem forced, leave this film feeling flat and predictable.

A number of plot holes are blatantly obvious. Olivia Munn’s character starts off as a simple Biologist but ends up as some kind of Lara Croft. At one point in the film she appears with a space age tranquilizer gun that seemed to come out of nowhere. Later in the film she is watching a Predator ship fly away in the distance, and we are talking a good few miles, yet minutes later she appears next to it! This and other strange occurrences had me shaking my head throughout the film.

One of the characters is a Tourettes sufferer and his condition was used for laughs constantly throughout the film. This didn’t sit well with me at all.

The soundtrack wasn’t great and didn’t really fit well in certain scenes.

There was the odd callback to earlier films including “get to the chopper” which could easily have been missed.

Unfortunately this is a poor addition to the Predator universe, which is sad as the end of the film has left it open for a sequel.

Not worth the cost of the cinema ticket in my opinion.

August 2018~ The Spy Who Dumped Me

*Spoiler Alert*

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I’m honestly not sure what to write about this film. I was looking forward to this a lot- the trailer was funny and the interviews I have watched got me interested. Mila Kunis is normally a good watch and Kate McKinnon was probably the best thing about the most recent Ghostbusters film. That, alongside a good plotline (Girl finds out her boyfriend is a spy, he gets killed. Girl and her BFF decide to finish mission) what could go wrong?!

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I was disappointed to say the least. Whilst the storyline was good and Mila Kunis was brilliant, Kate McKinnon let the film down. Yes, her character was supposed to be OTT, but she was too over-the-top! McKinnon tried too hard to be funny and certain jokes were obvious and fell flat. It took her too long to become serious and it should have happened earlier in the film as the last 15-20 minutes were fine!

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There were a few big names that were underused including Paul Reiser, Jane Curtain and Gillian Anderson. They could have done more, especially with Gillian’s character.

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Would I watch it again? If I was drunk and in the mood for cheap laughs and a bit of Mila Kunis then yes, otherwise no.

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August 2018~ BLACKkKLANSMAN

*Potential spoiler*

The latest offering from Spike Lee is BLACKkKLANSMEN. It is a biographical comedy-drama set in the 1970s and based on the real-life experience of Ron Stallworth and his time as an African-American detective at the Colorado Springs Police Department.

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Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) is the first African-American to be recruited by the CSPD. Stallworth is assigned to the records room where is has to deal with mistreatment and blatant racism from his colleagues. Eager to prove himself, he requests transfer to the undercover section as is quickly thrown into action infiltrating a local rally being organised by the Colorado Springs Black Student Union President, Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier).

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Following on from his success, he is assigned to the intelligence division. One day he sees an add in the paper, recruiting new members to the Klan. He quickly applies much to the shock and amusement of his colleagues.

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What follows is an intense, and at times amusing, story of life for black people in the 1970s from more than one angle. Ron- who believes he can do good and help change the system. Patrice- head of the student union who believes there is no hope and that violence may be the only way. Ron’s colleagues- most are openly racist whereas a few others are slowly coming around to Ron’s way of thinking. Finally, the narrow-minded, violent point-of-view of the Klan members, including Chief-Wizard David Duke.

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The film also parallels the current racial tensions in the USA and quite rightly points the finger at the current president. I won’t spoil it but the last few minutes change the film quite dramatically and is incredibly powerful and moving.

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I’ve read a few reviews (2 actually) that state they think that Spike Lee was trying to say that the white police officers are the allies of the black man. I don’t agree. If anything I would say that he was trying to say that yes, there is institutionalised racism present in the police, but that doesn’t mean that every officer is racist and that only by working together and getting rid of the racism will this war be won.

I can highly recommend this film and if you leave untouched by it I would be surprised!