Movie Review – First Man

 

Movie Review - First ManFirst Man is a thoughtfully crafted, well-made film that a lot of reviewers seemed to love. Ryan Gosling definitely dove into the part. The nostalgia of returning to the 1960s was neat, and the scenes in actual space were close to brilliant at times.  It felt like being there, as the Saturn V thundered out of our atmosphere. There was a sense of transcendence, viewing the Earthrise from orbit, and it was a sight that made even the  generally reticent Armstrong crack a big old smile (more on him, later). The space shots looked very real, albeit coupled with a slightly grainy film quality, making it feel more like the 60s.

The space images alone made seeing this in IMAX worth the extra price. I wish there were more scenes in space and on the moon, but you can’t have everything you want in a movie, now can you?

Some thoughts: a lot of the purposefully jiggly hand-held camera work was distracting, especially in the many long, quiet interpersonal scenes. It underscored the “documentary” feel, but I noticed it too much, taking me out of the moment.

I understand the story is supposed to be a deeply personal and intimate story of one man’s journey to overcome his emotional pain, and eventually do something extraordinary.

The “one man” in question is Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) –the first man to walk in the moon. It was an amazing moment for mankind, but make no mistake: this is not an exciting movie. It’s a slow burn of a tale, and takes a long time to get anywhere. We spend relatively little movie-time in space, and barely any on the moon. For a 2 hour and 20 minute film, there’s surprisingly little story to tell.

From the perspective of the film, it seems like the moon landing was incidental to the plot, instead focusing quite narrowly on Armstrong’s inability to move on emotionally from the death of his daughter (and his colleagues in the space program). It seemed to me that 1/3 of the movie was devoted to extreme closeups of Gosling’s face, who did a great job showing almost no emotion behind his cold, blue eyes. I saw these close eye shots of him so many times that I started tracking it in my Peetime notes. It happened so often I eventually gave up. But, as with the hand-held camera jiggling, noticing the trick pulled me out of the story.

So then, with all this attention lavished on Armstrong, why do I feel we never got to know him? It’s a long movie, but Armstrong is still a cipher by the end. I understand he wasn’t a demonstrative or friendly man in real life. That’s got to be hard to base a long movie around. The viewers never get past his eyes and into his head. A few expositional scenes from others were used to describe him, instead of letting us, the viewers, get to empathize with him ourselves.

So, yes, the critics loved this movie. You can see that on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score, however, seems a lot more evenly divided, with a middling overall grade. Basically, First Man was competently done, but not stirring or thrilling. I don’t know how Apollo 13 was such a fantastic film, and this one (taking place in an overlapping time frame with the same historical figures) fell short.

Here’s my conclusion. This film is, first and foremost, a biographical drama. The space program is merely a framework for telling Armstrong’s private story. In that sense, it’s a success. Nicely done within those parameters.

But if you’re looking for a rousing space epic, this isn’t your film. In my theater, people hopped up all over the place to hit the bathrooms — even during the climax of the moon landing scene. As the credits began, a few people started a halfhearted attempt to clap, but gave up quickly when no one else seemed to care.

The science and history seemed rigorously accurate (although the ‘bracelet’ thing might be a storytelling liberty). It’s just unfortunate  the first man walking on the moon was too distracted by personal demons to enjoy the experience. I mean, it’s THE MOON, MAN! You’re going where no man has gone before! Enjoy it a little.  🙂

Grade: B

One Last Note: There were some good ‘action’ moments here and there —  the flight of the Gemini, the tragedy of the Apollo 1 astronauts trapped by the door, the awe-inspiring Earthrise, the sequence with the Saturn V blasting off, and docking with the LEM. (Dan and I visited a real Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center, and walking under it was a total highlight. And it was sweet to see the VAB here, which really impressed me in person. It’s bigger than the brain wants to accept.) So, I’d say those were the standout moments. The moon scene was surprisingly underwhelming. I know why they filmed it this way — to focus exclusively on Armstrong’s experience — but I wish it had been an ensemble with the three men instead.

(Learn how closely the movie followed Neil Armstrong’s real life, and enjoy the photos showing the differences between the real historical figures, vs the actors’ faces.)

About The Peetimes: Here are 3 good Peetimes, nicely spaced out. You won’t miss any action, or even much dialog, during any of them. The middle one, at 1 hour and 7 minutes, gives you a whole 5 minutes to run and pee, so try to shoot for that. It’s a long film, so you should definitely use a Peetime to stay comfortable through the lunar landing climax. A lot of people got up and down at bad times during the opening showing. .

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of First Man. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

First Man Opinion — Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Apollo 11 Trivia

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Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Where’s the American Flag in First Man?

Much ado has been made about the omission of the moment when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on the moon in the movie First Man. So what’s the deal?

Here’s what the director had to say about this decision:

“It surprised me because there are so many things that we weren’t able to focus on not only during the lunar EVA but in the entirety of Apollo 11. Just by the nature of the story we were telling, we just couldn’t go into every detail. So our through-line became, especially at this part of the movie where it’s the final emotional journey for Neil, what were the private, unknown moments of Neil on the moon? The flag was not a private, unknown moment for Neil. It’s a very famous moment and it wasn’t Neil alone. We included the famous descent down the ladder because that’s him alone, literally first feeling what it’s like to be on the moon. But other than that, we only wanted to focus on the unfamous stuff on the moon. So we don’t go into the phone call with Nixon, we don’t go into the scientific experiments, we don’t go into reentry.”

Regardless of how you feel about the exclusion of this scene, there are numerous people who (at least pretend) to care deeply about it. So much so, they told blatant lies that would be clear to anyone who’s even seen the movie trailer. It’s been said the American flag is deliberately never shown — this is false.

Here are three images (below) showing the American flag in a 2 1/2 minute First Man trailer. The movie is 2 hours and 21 minutes long, so they’re on pace to show the flag 169.2 times! (I’m sure it will be much less because, as they say: sample size matters.)

First Man Flag

First Man Flag

First Man Flag

First Man‘s Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle is known for stories of intense personal sacrifice in the struggle to achieve, like La La Land and Whiplash. The title First Man really sums up what this movie is about: an individual struggling against his fears, technology, physical limitations, and most of all, gravity.

Chazelle added:

“In First Man I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is, “No.” My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon. Particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.”

Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Mark, wrote in a statement:

“This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement for all mankind, (emphasis added) as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible,”

Conclusion
There are those who think that everyone who disagrees with their perspective on patriotism has some agenda, or is behind some conspiracy to corrupt, what they feel, is the only true expression of patriotism. But, sometimes these decisions are based on artistic expression, or as is more often the case, didn’t notice that there was anything patriotic there in the first place.

Read Next: Where’s the Flag? Opinion, by polyGeek

Movie Review – First Man

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – Gotti

This movie was a muddled mess. This biographic piece couldn’t quite pick up steam or really even figure out what it wanted to be. I was waiting for the big moment but there was none. It was just two hours of a lot of names thrown at you, never fully explaining anything. On a positive note, John Travolta was great. He did an amazing job; his mannerisms and speech was spot on.

They also did a really good job of setting the ambiance of the time. I was a little disappointed that I pretty much knew all of what happened. I thought for sure there would be some new information given that the public didn’t already know. If you owned a television and watched the news at all during his reign, then you know exactly what is in this movie. You’re better off saving your money and waiting for the DVD.

Grade: C

Zero Percent Score – Gotti Gets a Goose Egg on Rotten Tomatoes

These are definitely better, if you want to know about Gotti:

 

Adrift Movie Trailers

I’m interested to see this take on yet another survival story – I always enjoy those. This time, the setting is somewhere at sea, with the added complication of the only experienced sailor incapacitated, and possibly dying.  The word is that this movie is based on a true story – I would guess loosely based, for dramatic reasons, or to compress a long accounting of perhaps endless days drifting lost the ocean. I would guess already that any ‘time passing’ at sea montages will make great Peetimes. We’re never actually sure until we see the movie and make our notes, so you’ll want to load up the RunPee app and keep it ready for when you see Adrift.

An early Adrift Trailer:

The final Adrift Trailer:

We think it looks good from this side of things. Shailene Woodley is turning into a versatile actress. I hope her performance is up to this one…it looks like she will have to carry the entire film, with probably very little dialog. I know someone experienced like Emily Blunt could do it (Blunt can do anything), but Woodley is still comparatively untested.

Other Movies Featuring Shailene Woodley:

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie review: Entebbe

Let me begin by saying that I’m a retired flight attendant. So when I watch movies dealing with aircraft or aircraft personnel in peril, it does influence how I feel about a movie. With that said, I feel confident in giving Entebbe an A.

We all know the outcome of this movie before we see it, so why see it? Because what I don’t know is how the passengers and flight crew responded to this crisis. And I would venture to guess that much of the audience came for the same reason.

Jose Padiha did an excellent job, making us feel as if we were on that plane. He pulled great performances out of not only the main characters, but also the supporting players. The flight crew and passengers showed real emotions like helplessness, hopelessness, and fright, rather than being directed to doing the over-the-top yelling and screaming that seems to please some directors.

I would suggest going to Wikipedia to read the article about this event. It gives a concise rundown on the politics involved in this rescue mission.

Grade: A

Movie Review – The Post

Tom Hanks is the man. Streep does her usual good job, but basically she’s playing a nicer version of her Miranda Priestly role from The Devil Wears Prada. Hanks is really the standout actor in this, and it’s not easy to upstage Streep! He’s settling nicely into his older roles, and in The Post he is so good at being this smart, genial, likeable, dedicated newsman that I lost myself in his part, instead of being constantly impressed with his work. If this sounds like a contradiction, remember that really good acting is about the story, not the actor. When someone subsumes their persona into the role given, you forget about star power and just enjoy the work. Many kudos to Hanks. He’s become really reliable and versatile over the years.

Bob Odenkirk also deserves a shout out — he had some of the best, most gripping scenes, and was a great choice in this altogether stellar cast.

One question I do have: did every man in this era have a growly voice like the actors affected here?

The film documents a brave, historic, and positive moment in time, showcasing the better side of human nature. It will make you feel happy to be a small part of it, even as just a passive movie viewer. Politics sometimes isn’t completely depressing! Good job, Spielberg; once again you haven’t let us down. The wonderful score by John Williams is resonant and uplifting as well. I don’t usually enjoy historical dramas, but this is easily an A experience.

Movie grade: A

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Review – I, Tonya

This movie surprised me: I teared up and cried a little for Tonya Harding. She’s been known as an Olympic villain for so long…and here we see that she may have been unfairly painted by history. If this story is an accurate representation, then I feel bad for believing the worst of this girl. I hated seeing her crummy life, the abuse, and how she couldn’t seem to get a break. But I also reveled in her Triple Axle Jump, and obvious adoration of the sport. It’s clear her first and real love is figure skating.

But how were the actors? Really, top notch. We got to see how well they inhabited their roles during the credit reels. Margot Robbie was absolutely believable, if much much taller than the real Harding – but who cares about that? She pulled off a difficult role, carrying 90% of the film. I look forward to seeing this actor mature.

Sabastian Stan was almost unrecognizable. This is the freaking WINTER SOLDIER, folks (he even gets a funny little line about superheroes), but in I, Tonya, he’s a detestable, bumbling, moronic boob.

The best work by far — no shock here — was by Allison Janney. I hated her character with the fire of a sun, but her iron gravitas and mean wit was undeniable. She’s awful. She’s great. Janney has been underrated since her work in The West Wing, and I’d love to see her garner some awards and bigger roles after this.

The conceit of the character interviews (it’s not “4th wall breaking” if the character is filmed within the film) added a deft and light touch to an otherwise sad, desperate plot. I did like the 80s/90s musical cues and outfits. The direction was pretty standard, as anything more stylish would have only called attention to itself.

I personally didn’t love I, Tonya, since it’s pretty bleak; not my idea of a fun time. I wouldn’t have seen it if I didn’t need to get Peetimes. But it does tell an interesting tale. I’m not sure it needed to be told after all this time, but it does have that nostalgia factor and really excellent acting. I expect there will be awards aplenty.

Movie Grade: A-

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Review — Titanic

Is there any movie more touching and exciting than Titanic? And the first time you watch it, it’s completely unexpected. I didn’t even want to see this in the theater, and resisted for months. Fool that I am, I figured, “Yeah, it sinks. I know what happens. Why see it?

I was never so glad to be so wrong. The hype was deserved. The small, interpersonal story is so damn good you even forget the ship is going down forever, that thousands of people will die in sub-freezing water for no other reason than White Star Lines’ vanity. Man, I sobbed for the entire final act at my first viewing. Some scenes — like seeing the old couple, terrified, holding each other in bed as the waters rise — still make the tears flow. And I hold my breath as Rose and Jack do on the far stern, when they are sucked into the ocean. (We’ll just call that my 4D interactive experience. I do this in The Abyss too.)

The heart of the story is Rose and Jack: actors DiCaprio and Winslet exhibit charming charisma, chemistry, and commitment to their forbidden inter-class love affair.

The sparkling James Horner soundtrack helps, as well as the indelible visuals of the gigantic, “unsinkable” ship. The big screen viewing’s sense of scale draws you right now. DVDs don’t do it justice.

Bill Paxton’s framing story adds the perfect storytelling device, bridging past and present in a poignant way, making the heroes, villains, and tragic deaths more meaningfully real. The old decayed ship on the sea floor morphs into the Ship of Dreams, where the “the china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. ” You just get chills. It’s a storytelling triumph: James Cameron went to extraordinary lengths (and expense) to film the actual submerged remains, bringing us to that forbidding, painful, fascinating setting.

This sh!t happened. A cascade of small mistakes, human hubris, and major design oversights led to over 1500 people dying horribly, unnecessarily, in the far North Pacific on April 15, 1912.

Through the fabulous medium of movies, at their best, you get to feel and care for real history, even if the two main characters here are fictional. I love this movie so much that I now devour any books, movies, or museum exhibits on the Titanic. Yes, I do.

Does this movie need RunPee? Um, do sharks swim? YES. It’s really really really long. Loooooong. So long that it needs two DVDs to play on a home theater. If Titanic came out now, we’d probably have to have four or more Peetimes…a human bladder can only go so long. (But my heart will go on…)

Movie Grade – A+

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Review – Hidden Figures

 

Movie Review - Hidden FiguresHidden Figures is an exciting, feel-good film about lady scientists from the Cold War Era – three brilliant NASA women, who happen to be black. In the Mercury capsule orbital time period, segregation was alive and well…but the movie, based on actual people and events, showcases how much good can be achieved when people work together for an important cause.

While I found Jim Parsons a bit underused (does he just not know how to act, except as  Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory?), Kevin Costner shone as the color-blind leader of the Space Task Force Group. His character, Al, didn’t care if you were female, or had dark skin…he wanted his space flight program to be successful. Full stop.

She blinded me with science!

And you couldn’t help but love the John Glenn character, willing to fly only if his favorite female ‘computer’ said so. Awwww. Go, team! I’m proud of them, and that this bit of history even happened.

Is the film exciting? Not really. This isn’t Apollo 13, and the only gripping section occurs during Glenn’s orbital re-entry. But it IS a good character study, and the three women headlining the film perform their roles brilliantly. There are some truly stand-out moments from each of them. There’s also some good humor here. One unnecessary romantic plot-line detracts from the story, but otherwise Hidden Figures is quietly brilliant.

And who hasn’t secretly done their homework in the bathroom, at least once?

Grade: A-

About The Peetimes: These are all good Peetimes. It was easy to find them, since it just isn’t an action film, even though it is a true story about a tense time in the space race. 

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Hidden Figures. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.