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!

August 2018~ Christopher Robin

*Obligatory Spoiler Warning!*

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This isn’t the kind of film I’d normally go and see but I had my niece and nephews with me. My nephew Charlie is obsessed with Tigger and my niece Jessica had a similar obsession with Piglet when she was younger (though secretly I think she still does).

The story starts with a young Christopher Robin, preparing to leave 100 acre wood, his friends and his home to go to boarding school. He promises never to forget Pooh and the rest of the group. Lots of time-jumps occur including Christopher’s time at school, fighting in World War 2, meeting Evelyn (Agent Peggy Carter Hayley Atwell), getting married to Evelyn and finally having a daughter called Madeline.

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Grown-up Christopher Robin (Obi-Wan Kenobi Ewan MacGregor)¬†has forgotten all about Pooh and his friends and is now head of efficiency at Winslow’s Luggage Company and is told by his boss (Mark Gatiss) that he has to make cuts. The pressure of the job is affecting his home life, including his relationship with Madeline, as well as causing him stress at work.

Meanwhile, Winnie the Pooh has woken up to find that all of his friends have vanished. He needs Christopher Robin’s helpto find them. Pooh risks going through the door to Christopher’s world to find him, battling Woozles and Heffalumps on the way.

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It’s a great film for kids, though some younger children may need the opening part of the story read to them as there is a lot of on-screen text, just as if it was taken straight from one of the books. There are lots of humorous moments and whilst it’s not as funny as Paddington, it does have its own unique charm.

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Pooh, Eyeore, Piglet and Tigger are all well used. Not enough is seen of Kanga, Roo, Rabbit and Owl which is a shame as the scenes they are in a awesome.

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If you are an adult it’s still well worth a watch, especially if you grew up with the stories of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of the gang from 100 acre wood. It’s got quite a powerful message for adults

August 2018~ The Meg

As usual, beware of spoilers!

It’s the summer holidays, I have my Odeon Limitless card so why not try and see every film possible this summer? Even one I was convinced was going to be a total rip-off of one of my favourite films, Jaws.¬†It didn’t help that I’ve never really been a fan of Jason Statham either but I thought why the hell not. Off I trotted to the Odeon Tottenham Court Road to see this new shark movie.

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I was wrong. I was also pleasantly surprised.

The story begins with a submarine in distress and the crew in need of rescue. Cue Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) and his mini-DSRV. He manages to save everyone but loses two of his crew before ‘something’ crushes the submarine.

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Two years later Dr Zhang (Winston Chao), an eminent Marine Biologist and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) are welcoming billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) to the research platform where they work and he (Morris) funds.

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Morris has been invited to witness an historic occasion. A mini-sub is about to prove that the Marianas Trench isn’t the deepest part of the ocean, and that what they believe to be the sea floor is actually a thermocline (a thin layer in a large body of water where the temperature changes rapidly with depth with different temperatures above and below. The thermocline acts as a barrier meaning these temperatures never mix). Once proven, they expect to find a whole new environment with never before seen species.

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As you can guess, something doesn’t go quite right and Jonas Taylor is brought in to help save the crew. On return to the research station they quickly find out that something has followed them through the break in the thermocline. a creature that was thought to be extinct; A Megalodon (a very old, f***ing great shark!).

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Things quickly descend into utter chaos and the usual amounts of screaming, crying and dying take place.

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There are also at least 6 homages to Jaws in the film. Director John Turteltaub said in an interview that whenever a shark film is released, critics will inevitably compare it to the 1975 Speilberg epic, so why not pay homage to one of his favourite films.

The links to Jaws that I noticed include:-

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  1.  The way the shark was filmed. From overhead shots to the silhouettes- it was remarkably similar in style.
  2.  Morris makes a comment about attaching a tracker to the shark, very reminiscent of the scene where Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Quint (Robert Shaw) try to attach a tracker using harpoons and barrels.
  3. There is a scene with Jason Statham trying to take aim at The Meg- very similar to the scene at the end of Jaws where Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) is aiming at the gas canister that eventually destroys Bruce.
  4. The attack on the beach is similar to that of the attack on Amity Beach.
  5. A dog ends up in the water. The dogs name is Pippin- very similar to Pippet, the black Labrador that perished in Jaws.
  6. The attack on the boat is visually similar to the attack on The Orca where Quint dies.

This film isn’t going to win any Oscars, but it’s a good, fun, romp worth of a repeat viewing. Very entertaining with lots of (sometimes inappropriate) chuckles throughout!

Rainn Wilson as Morris was a pleasant surprise! Wilson recently recreated the role of Harry Mudd, who was first seen in the original Star Trek, for the new show Star Trek: Discovery. There was a Trek reference in The Meg, said by him. I wonder if it was his idea?

Check it out!

August 2018~ The Darkest Minds

Beware- Spoiler alert below!

I had no knowledge of this film prior to watching it. I now know it to be part of a series of Young Adult (I like to think I still am one!) novels a bit like The Hunger Games- another book/film series that I enjoyed even if the middle film was a bit of a let down! I have ordered the books so that I can make a comparison for future use. Interestingly, I spent a lot of the film trying to work out where I had seen the lead actress, Amandla Stenberg before. It turns out she played Rue in The Hunger Games!

The Darkest Minds is a sci-fi thriller set  in the very near future in the USA. A disease called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration, or IAAN kills off 90% of the children aged under 18. The 10% that are left are all endowed with powers. The general public and the government are fearful of these children who are quickly placed in Nazi-style internment camps. It is in these camps that the children are classified and colour-coded according to his or her power. Of the powers, Greens are the least dangerous and have a very high level of intelligence and memories; Blues are classed as mildly dangerous and have telekinetic abilities; Golds are dangerous and can control electricity; Reds are highly dangerous and have the ability to generate and manipulate fire; Oranges are lethal and have the ability to enter and control the minds of others- they are also shot on sight.

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Ruby Daley celebrates her tenth birthday with her parents. That night, her powers first manifest themselves- she is an Orange. Ruby causes her parents to forget her and shortly thereafter ends up in an internment camp where she witnesses another Orange force a guard to commit suicide. She is then taken to be scanned where the doctor learns she is an Orange and tries to terminate her. Using her powers, Ruby escapes with the aid of another doctor and ends up on the run. On the way she meets three others: Liam, a blue with telekinetic powers, Zu a Gold who has to wear rubber gloves due to her electrical powers, and Chubs, a super-intelligent Green.

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Together, they head towards East-River, a haven for psionic kids in Virginia, run by Slip-Kid, one of the only surviving Oranges. On the way they have to contend with other kids, trackers who are hunting them and more.

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The film has received negative comments and ratings on sites like RottenTomato. For me, I found it an enjoyable movie that could easily be developed into a series of films. Yes,I found the ending to be weak, but I’m hoping its because they are hoping for a sequel. Performances all-round were fairly good considering the cast is quite young and the idea behind the story I find interesting. The only thing that let me down was their depiction of Salem, Virginia, It’s somewhere I know well and have visited it many times. It doesn’t look anything like what it did in the film. It’s a minor thing and doesn’t take away from the film, just me being picky!

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August 2018~ The Equalizer 2

Spoiler-ish review so beware!

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The Equalizer 2 is the follow-up to the successful 2014 film The Equalizer which was based on the 80s TV show of the same name starring Edward Woodward.

This film marks the first time that Denzel Washington has appeared in a sequel to one of his own films.

Once again, Denzel plays the part of Robert McCall, ex-Marine who helps people who have a problem and no-one to turn to. At the start of the film, McCall helps reconcile a child, who was abducted by her father and taken to Turkey, with her mother and begins to help an old man who was separated from his sister during the holocaust.

Now living in Chicago and employed as a Lyft driver (Like Uber), Robert is helping a young black man, Miles who is on the verge of joining a gang and getting revenge for the death of his brother. Instead, Robert takes him under his wing and guides him towards completing his studies and continuing with his painting. Robert even employs him to do some painting in his apartment complex.

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Robert’s old friend, Susan Plummer is investigating the murder of an agent and his wife in Brussels with Dave York (Pedro Pascal) who is an old teammate of McCall and believes him dead. Things go wrong during the investigation and Susan is murdered and Miles is kidnapped. Robert sets out to find her killers, rescue Miles and dish out his own personal brand of justice.

It is Denzel’s best sequel yet! ūüėČ An enjoyable action film that’s not too hard on the brain and captures the essence of both the original show and previous film.¬† I actually prefer it to the original film as we get more of an insight to the kind of thing Robert does as The Equalizer!

Thanks to Odeon Limitless for the advanced screening!

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