First Man (2018)

Director: Damien Chazelle

Writer: Josh Singer (Screenplay) James R Hansen (Book)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbot, Ethan Embry, Ciaran Hinds, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler

 

Plot: A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.


Tagline – Experience the impossible journey to the Moon.

Runtime: 2 Hours 21 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Beautiful Biopic

 

Story: First Man starts as we see how Neil Armstrong (Gosling) can solve problems in flight with one of his test mission to the limits of the atmosphere going wrong before he saved it, we meet his family wife Janet (Foy) and children Richard and Karen, we see how they suffered a tragic loss of young Karen, which drove him to apply to become an astronaut.

We follow the astronaut training program which showed Neil’s abilities to solve problems even after seeing his friends around him lose their lives to the pursuit of space. We follow up to the legendary mission he will always been known for as he was the first man to walk on the moon.

 

Thoughts on First Man

 

Characters – These characters are and were real people, Neil Armstrong is always going to be remembered as the first man to walk on the moon, we see how this shy man managed to overcome his own personal tragedies to achieve this as we see how he reacts and deals with everything that gets thrown at him until he made history. Janet is his wife, she also suffers through the tragedies, she will give Neil all the support he needs to make sure he will keep his promises to come home, we mostly watch how she must keep the life for their children normal and calm. Edward Higgins White is one of the fellow astronauts, one that becomes close friends with him through the training and the program, he is the one that will offer a shoulder if Neil ever needed it. We meet many famous names from the astronaut programs each gets there moment, we know Buzz Aldrin was onboard Apollo 11 and of the other big named astronauts we know Jim Lovell from the Apollo 13 mission.

PerformancesRyan Gosling gives us a magnificent performance as the icon of astronauts, he shows us how shy, timid and genius Neil was, never making him a cocky man, this simple performance makes you understand each emotion he is going through. Claire Foy sets away from the small screen to give us a flawless performance as the wife who must remain strong, but dealing with anxiety of the unknown through each mission. The rest of the cast are great through the film, each actor gets to pay the respect to the man they are performing as.

StoryThe story here follows Neil Armstrong’s life from 1961 to his moon landing in 1969. We do have plenty of interesting aspects to his life, be it the battle to remain strong after his daughter’s death or the feeling of proving himself worthy of being part of the astronaut program. While these are all wonderful to watch, they do feel like they are being told, like, this is what happened here, then this, then this and so on. It never feels like a smooth story and the movie does make out that Neil was an excellent astronaut, but terrible PR man, he didn’t do anything stupid or risky, he lack charisma that other astronauts had, he was just the right choice for the job. The biggest warning you must have before going in, is that this does follow his life over the space program, yes, we do have parts of the space program and they are the most entertaining parts, but we also follow his life away from this.

Biopic/History8 years in the life of the most iconic man to go into space, we see his lowest point in his life, to the crowning achievement, nobody can ever take away from him. The history side of the film shows us the key moments in the space race, if you know the basics you will know these moments.

SettingsThe film recreates the settings brilliantly, be it the world around the space race, or the cockpits the astronauts get rammed into with little space for any freedom on these deadly missions.

Special EffectsThe effects are mesmerizing, when we are in space we are left stunned by the beauty of the views these men had. The film is also used to make it feel like it is shot for the same time the events took place.


Scene of the Movie –
Apollo 11

That Moment That Annoyed Me Too many close ups.

Final ThoughtsAs a space race fan this manages to shed new light on the man who made history, it gave us brilliant performance, effects and shows us there was more behind the man than just the icon.

 

Overall: Must watch biopic.

Rating

 

 

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Tim Burton Weekend – Ed Wood (1994)

Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski (Screenplay) Rudolph Grey (Book)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Bill Murray

 

Plot: Ambitious but troubled movie director Edward D. Wood Jr. tries his best to fulfill his dreams, despite his lack of support.


Tagline – Movies were his passion. Women were his inspiration. Angora sweaters were his weakness.

Runtime: 2 Hours 7 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Wonderful

 

Story: Ed Wood starts as we meet Edward D Wood Jr (Depp) an aspiring director in Hollywood, with his work making the stage for now, when he learns of a story of a transvestite, he jumps at the chance to get his big break in Hollywood. Once Ed Wood makes friends with aging Hollywood icon Bela Lugosi (Landau) he gets given the chance to direct.

When his film gets completely panned, Ed Wood becomes an outcast in Hollywood and sets out to makes his own movies with Bela Lugosi in tow, become the cult favourite in the industry.

 

Thoughts on Ed Wood

 

Characters – Ed Wood was the aspiring director that has crazy ideas in his head, after his first studio produced film is panned, he must set up to make his own movies for limited budget with his new friend Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood also enjoys dressing up in women’s clothes which puts him out on the different in a time when that wasn’t considered acceptable. Bela Lugosi was once one of the most famous men in Hollywood after his role in Dracula, now he is older and mostly forgotten by the fans that once loved him. He befriends Ed Wood and starts to return to acting and hopefully see him kick his drug habits. Dolores is the long-suffering girlfriend of Ed Wood who stars in his pictures, even though she doesn’t like his lifestyle. Kathy O’Hara is a woman that Ed Wood meets that brings new meaning to his life. We meet other characters who are involved in the life and Ed Wood and the films he makes.

PerformancesJohnny Depp is fantastic in this leading role, he showed how he was carving out his career by taking chances against his typecast of a pretty boy. Martin Landau went on to win an Oscar for his supporting performance, this is easily one of the greatest portrays of an actor you will ever see. We do have a host of talents in the supporting roles with Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette and Bill Murray who are good through the film.

StoryThe story follows the career of Ed Wood as he was trying to make his name in Hollywood and is only known for bad films which have their own cult following now. Seeing how he went about making this happen is very interesting and the friendship he struck up with Bela Lugosi is what we know with fellow directors and actors in modern film making. Any film that tells a story about Hollywood and the movie making process is one to be checking out.

Biopic/ComedyThe biopic side of the film comes from where we find Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi friendship and the eventually production of Plan 9. The comedy comes from just how the movie was made with the reactions of the people involved.

SettingsThe film is set in the 50s Hollywood and from start to finish you will feel like you are part of this era in time.


Scene of the Movie –
When Ed Wood snaps on set.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The Orson Wells scene because the dubbing was bad.

Final ThoughtsThis is a wonderful look the movie making process behind one of the most infamously bad movies in the history of the business, we have two performances that are simply brilliant and is easily one of the best moving making movies ever made.

 

Overall: Wonderful movie making movie.

Rating

 

 

Mad to Be Normal (2017)

Director: Robert Mullan

Writer: Robert Mullan, Tracy Moreton (Screenplay)

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, David Tennant, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Gambon, David Bamber, Olivia Poulet, Trevor White

 

Plot: During the 1960s, a renegade Scottish psychiatrist courts controversy within his profession for his approach to the field, and for the unique community he creates for his patients to inhabit.

 

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Average History Lesson

 

Story: Mad to Be Normal starts in the 1960’s R.D. Laing (Tennant) fills out lecture halls with his methods of battling the mentally impaired patients, with his methods refusing to give medication which strikes up an interest of fresh out of education Angie Wood (Moss).

R.D. offers a community home where the patients can be themselves asking for help when they require it, with his team of doctors ready to listen whether they need to be around, though when people start questioning his behaviour and methods he must prove with his results.

 

Thoughts on Mad to Be Normal

 

Characters – R.D. Laing was a psychologist in the 1960’s he tackles dealing patients problems in a different way compared to the electro therapy, he has them in an open house environment where he can support them as they are given a normal life. Angie Wood seems to be the one we follow as she enters his life at the start of this story and we follow their romance and respect. Jim is one of the patients that seems to be calmer than the rest even though he can be the closest to being a danger.

PerformancesDavid Tennant is easily the star attraction in this film, we get to see how he plays the laidback, while serious doctor searching for solutions to the problems people have. Elisabeth Moss does go toe to toe with Tennant for the most part with the supporting cast giving us good performances too.

StoryThe story here follows the experimental treatment that R.D. Laing in the mid-60’s. It showed how his vision was different to the rest of the people in his field which helped changed the ideas of treatment once it was complete. We do follow his personal life with his relationship with Angie Wood and get to see how his own tragedies in life may have affected his decision makings. While this is a history lesson on this man, we just don’t get sucked into everything that we go through as it does feel like we needed one big moment to happen.

Biopic/HistoryThe man R.D. Laing was a leading man in his field, we see his experiment which changed how treatment could be receiving, though this is a great moment from history we don’t get a chance to see just where everything could have been, how he got to this stage of his career and miss big parts of his career.

SettingsThe film shows us where the experiment took place which tries to give the patients everyday life over being locked away from the world.


Scene of the Movie –
The night it goes wrong.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We don’t learn enough about how he got to the position he is in.

Final ThoughtsThis is a solid biopic that doesn’t hit the high points it should have.

 

Overall: Biopic that does enough of a job.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – Q – Queen of Katwe (2016)

Director: Mira Nair

Writer: William Wheeler (Screenplay) Tim Crothers (Article)

Starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Kabanza, Taryn Kyaze, Ivan Jacobo

 

Plot: A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Great Sports Drama

 

Story: Queen of Katwe starts as we meet Phiona (Nalwanga) a Ugandan girl from a family that struggles to put food on the table each day as she comes from a big family. On the other side of the town Robert Katende (Oyelowo) has been working on introducing sports to the kids and with his latest choice chess, he finds himself getting Phiona joining his class.

When Robert sees the potential in his students he must overcome discrimination in class to give them a chance against the students who can afford an education in a tournament for the school district, as well as overcoming problems that come from living in the slums.

 

Thoughts on Queen of Katwe

 

Characters – Phiona is from the slums of Uganda where she sells corn just to help support her family but when she learns she is chess prodigy she must learn how to balance the slum life and the success she might achieve from chess. Robert Katende is placed in the position of helping sports minister help the children of the slums learn a sport to give them a positive moment in life. He fights for the children to have a chance at competition. Nakku is the mother of Phiona that has struggled through keeping a roof over the head of the children and food on their table but it upsets her seeing how her children that could have a future they can’t afford.

PerformanceMadina Nalwanga comes from nowhere to give a powerful performance of the young woman that must learn to overcome her problems to achieve greatness, David Oyelowo is fast becoming one actor you know can always give us fantastic performances and this is no different, Lupita Nyong’o is once again great in her performance showing how she is one of the must underused actresses in Hollywood.

StoryThe story of one girl from a place no one would consider being one of the biggest prospects in chess is a success story we all like to hear about. We get to experience the ups and downs Phiona must face to become respected in field and the people that support her along her way. This might well be a film about chess

Biography/SportsThis might only be looking at a small part of Phiona’s life but it is the most important part, the part where we get to follow her learning curve of the sport that she loves.

SettingsSeeing the different backgrounds the children involved comes from is great to see, it shows that sport can bring people together regardless of their backgrounds.

Scene of the Movie – The first tournament.

That Moment That Annoyed Me There wasn’t anything.

Final ThoughtsSport that brings people together that is the point of this film which is what is great to enjoy, coming from a country you wouldn’t see as a chess champion also helps us enjoy the ride.

 

Overall: Hugely entertaining sports drama.

Rating

 

 

Brain on Fire (2016)

Director: Gerard Barrett

Writer: Gerard Barrett (Screenplay) Susannah Cahalan (Memoir)

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Thomas Mann, Richard Armitage, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jenny Slate, Tyler Perry

 

Plot: A young, capable professional cannot explain her newly erratic behavior.

 

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Standard Drama

 

Story: Brain on Fire starts as we meet 21-year-old Susannah Cahalan (Moretz) she has her dream job working for the New York Times and has a steady relationship with musician Stephen (Mann), but her life starts to turn upside when her mind starts getting out of control, filled with blanks spells and erratic behaviour.

When Susannah starts suffering seizures the doctors don’t seem to be able to find anything wrong with her and as the decline increases so does her behaviour. Her parents Tom (Armitage) and Rhona (Moss) do their best to get her the best help and the doctors can clearly see there is something wrong, but the answers remain even more difficult to find.

 

Thoughts on Brain on Fire

 

Characters – Susannah Cahalan is a 21-year-old with her whole life ahead of her with her dream career at such a young age. Her life however takes a dramatic turn when she starts suffering from paranoia episodes which puts the strain on her personal and professional life with the doctors running out of options, this is her true story. Stephen is her boyfriend that uses his music to try and help ease her pain. Tom and Rhona fill the parental roles that both have different ways of handling their helplessness through the illness, as well as the friends that support her.

PerformancesChloe Grace Moretz is a great and talent young actress, but for this role you can see she is too young to truly understand the subject in question, remember this was film when she was 18/19 and the story is being told from perspective of someone in their early 20s, so you did need someone who would understand that age. The rest of the cast are fine without getting anything overly different to deal with.

StoryThe story is an important message about understand an illness which can be difficult to diagnose, and one people have been suffering with, this is her story about how she survived. One of the big problems is that we have scenes without her, so this can’t be from her memory, but second-hand account. For the subject involved we kind of understand how these stories will go and this doesn’t offer too much new to the genre. If this is something you enjoy watching you won’t be complaining, but it won’t make any of the top lists.

BiopicThis is Susannah’s story, you really can’t say a bad thing about her story, it just doesn’t truly feel film worthy.

SettingsThe film is set in New York and in hospitals, it shows the everyday life Susannah would have been living in at the time.


Scene of the Movie –
Margo visits Susannah.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It felt like an episode of House.

Final ThoughtsThis is a solid enough biopic that doesn’t offer too much new, it is watchable but not one that will be talked about for years to come.

 

Overall: Standard biopic without the impact.

Rating