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Posts Tagged ‘Apollo 11’

We have spent a lot of the 21st century gazing at the stars, or at least CGI versions of them.  The century started with the second and third movies in the Star Wars prequels trilogy, Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005).  A series of films that are constantly being revaluated, I’m not sure if they are officially good or bad at the moment.  Star Trek ran out of steam, with the last movie from the Next Generation Crew Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) not being very good.  But then in J. J. Abrams came along and with the help of some wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff (if I may quote a TV series in an article about movies) created a new timeline to retell the story of the original crew of the enterprise.  The first film Star Trek (2009) was excellent, the second Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), then Abrams jumped ship and the third film Star Trek Beyond (2016) directed by Justin Lin was a partial return to form.  There may be a fourth film in the series eventually, it keeps getting pushed back or going into turnaround.  There may also be a further film in the universe that by Quentin Tarantino, that is looking less and less likely. Star Trek Wars

The reason J. J. Abrams jumped (space)ship, was to go and work for the enemy, Star Wars.  The director of the first and final movies in a new trilogy, a third and final trilogy to bring the Skywalker saga to an end.  The films came about after Disney’s acquisition of Lucas Film (for a staggering amount of money).  All three films have their fans and detractors in a hugely polarized and quite amusing social media battle among a certain type of fanboy.  For me, the middle film, The Last Jedi (2017) written and directed  by Rian Johnson is the best (and the most controversial).  The Force Awakens (2015) is the safest of the three, but good fun and it introduces some great characters, and brings back some old favourites.  The Rise of Skywalker (2019) is certainly the weakest but is still good fun and gets to a satisfying end (except for that certain group of fanboys).  Along the way, we also got two Star Wars Anthology films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) tells the story of the events leading up to the origonal 1977 film, and for me is the best film outside the original trilogy.  The flipside to that, Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) is totally unnecessary origin story of fan favourite Han Solo.  it isn’t terrible, just pointless.The end of the Skywalker sagaNot satisfied with just Star Wars, Disney went to space with their other big acquired property: Marvel.  They started in 2014 when they took a less well know Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy and had a smash hit with a more, fun and comic take on the superhero genre.  a sequel Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017) followed.  To be fair parts of The Avengers movies were also set in space, and Thor is from another planet.  It wasn’t until Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Taika Waititi’s brilliant but bonkers take on the character that you would call it a space adventure.  After a decade, and about 20 movies Disney finally gave a woman a leading role in a Marvel movie.  While a lot of the movie is based on earth, Captain Marvel (2019) is an intergalactic character, as is Marvels big bad Thanos.  All the characters of the MCU came together to fight an intergalactic battle with the big purple one in Avengers Infinity War (2018) and the biggest film of all time (if you don’t adjust for inflation) Avengers Endgame 2019.  That brings us nicely onto Avatar (2009), with an even higher boxoffice if you adjust for inflation.  James Cameron’s first movie since 1997 when he made a little film about a shipwreck.  As you would expect from Cameron, it made great advances in effects and technology, especially in 3D.  I am not a fan.  As yet he hasn’t made another film yet, but understand he is filming about 100 sequels back to back with the first due for release in about two years. Marvel goes to spaceDC’s ventures into space were less successful.  The Green Lantern (2011) about a group of intergalactic supper powered policemen was rubbish.  Man of Steel (2013) was a reboot of a 1970’s movie about a man called Kal-El who is sent to earth as a baby before his home planet is destroyed.  He ends up fighting against bodies from his home world.  It isn’t bad, but not as good as the 1978, and 1980 movies, and like those movies, all subsequent sequels are terrible. DC and AliensRidley Scott decided that we were all wrong, the most interesting thing about his Movie Alien (1979), and James Cameron’s sequel to it Aliens (1987), wasn’t the Xenomorph, or Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.  It wasn’t the brilliant world building of the story where corporations are more powerful than countries.  He decided the derelict alien ship, and how the Aliens got there was more important.  He then gave us two extremely average films, Prometheus (2012), and Alien Covenant (2017).  There are some excellent characters that aren’t used very well, and some who don’t know how to run to the side.  almost realLets not be too tough on Ridley Scott, he has given us an excellent movie in the genre, The Martian (2015).  The story of a man left behind on Mars.  This is part of a crop of Sci-Fi movies that feel more realistic and closer to where we are now than Star Wars or Star Trek.  The pick of these for me was Gravity (2013).  A film so spectacular in IMAX 3D (the only good 3D experience I have had) that I have not re-watched it again, it just won’t be the same on TV.  Other films in this sub genre could include Christopher Nolan’s excellent Interstellar (2014), Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine (2007), Claire Denis bleak but brilliant High Life (2018), and James Gray’s disappointing Ad Astra (2019).   A film doesn’t have to be fiction, or particularly outlandish to be compelling, providing it is told well, and there are two such examples from the last two years: Damien Chazelle’s telling of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong in the film First Man (2018), and the documentary on the same subject: Apollo 11 (2019).  The latter is breathtaking look at the mission using stunning NASA images, no talking heads, or voiceover. smerfs monkeys aliens and the sunI wouldn’t include Passengers (2016) in the list of realist sci-fi movies, as it is too glossy and Sci-Fi, it is however worth seeing for the interesting plot, that is more disturbing the more you think about it.  Part of the premise of the film is people in hypersleep on their way to a distant planet.  Obviously something always goes wrong in these movies.  Others worth watching are: Pandorum (2009) a film that takes these ideas, and gives them a horror and survival adventure spin.  Pitch Black (2000) is an even better take on the horror space adventure, possibly the best and most original since the first two Alien films.  It’s sequel The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), was terrible, but the third film Riddick (2013) isn’t bad, although its attempt to recreate the original are a little forced.  Life (2017) has the almost real world setting, a fictionalised version of The International Space Station, it rapidly turns into Alien when an alien life form gets loose.  It isn’t Alien, but it isn’t bad. Horror in spaceThe man who gave us The Fifth Element (1997) Luc Besson, was back this century, with another bold and bonkers tale: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017).  The film had mixed reviews, as Besson’s work often does, I liked it.  The title is a little misleading and under serves one of its characters, based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline; Laureline is the more interesting character and probably has a larger part in the story than Valérian.  That asside, it is bright and bold and like nothing else, except maybe The Fifth Element!a mix of fact and fantasy (1)Saving the best for last.  When I went to see Joss Whedon’s Serenity (2005), I had not seen (or even heard of) Firefly, I have since watched the whole (short) series more than once.  The movie is nothing short of a masterpiece.  It works whether you have seen the TV show or not.  It is all the more impressive, as it was Whedon’s feature debut as a director.  The budget was less than $40million or about a quarter of Revenge of the Sith that came out the same year.  This doesn’t show, as the film looks amazing, largely thanks to clever photography and practice sets/effects over CGI.  Ticking every box for a space adventure, and a western, the film is fun, and often very funny, but there is a far deeper message about society, about right and wrong, but it is far more nuanced than anything you will get from Disney or Star Wars, it isn’t black and white, or light and dark, The Alliance is not The Empire!SerenityI have probably missed lots, but these are the ones that spring to mind.  I pleased to say the genre is in good health at the movies, and on TV, but that will have to be an entire article in itself. 

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It’s that time of year again, my top ten movies of the year.  The criteria for selection: All films to have been released in the UK during 2019,  and seen by me in a cinema. 

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – The film I was most concerned about turned out to be my favourite of the year. I didn’t particularly enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s last film, The Hateful Eight, do we really need another movie about Charles Manson, and most significantly, is he capable of the sensitivity needed to tell the story of the horrendous murder of actress Sharon Tate?Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Irishman – Martin Scorsese’s epic tale of mob hitman Frank Sheeran based on the novel I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt.  This is not Goodfellas part 2, it is more thoughtful and sombre film than Scorsese’s previous entries into the gangster genre.  A masterpiece by a true master of cinema, the three and a half hour runtime is justified! The Irshman

Styx – Unbelievably this is just Wolfgang Fischer second feature, and more than a decade after his debut.  If All Is Lost is an existential crisis, Styx is a commentary on one of the biggest world issues today.  The title tells you all you need to know: In Greek mythology Styx is the river between the land of the living and the land of the dead.  Passengers must pay the ferryman, if they have no money they must remain on the river for 100 years.styx

Midsommar – I visited rural Sweden for midsummer a few years ago, while I’m pleased to report there was no murder or mutilation, it is a really big deal.  If you hated Hereditary, you will really hate Midsommar!  I was mixed on Hereditary but loved Midsommar.  The film looks amazing and is disturbing rather than scary, the near two and a half hour runtime flew by.  Once again Florence Pugh proves she is the most exciting and talented young actor working today.Midsommar

Apollo 11 – The rare inclusion of a documentary on my bets of year list.  Made up of NASA footage shot at the time of the moon landings.  Much of it on 65mm.  With no voiceover and no talking heads, it’s a wonder the film can hold the attention for its 93 minute runtime.  The key word here is wonder, because the film is filled with wonder, it is nothing short of stunning.Apollo 11

Burning – Its best to go into Chang-dong Lee’s Korean thriller with as little background information as possible.  Wonderfully ambiguous that keeps you guessing until the end and ultimately asks a lot more questions than it answers.Burning

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – True story of celebrity biographer Lee Israel based on her own memoir detailing her decent to rock bottom.  Written and directed by Marielle Heller with both flair, and humanity.  Melissa McCarthy’s gives her best performance to date, Richard E. Grant is as brilliant as ever.Can you ever forgivr me

If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel.  Brilliantly conveying a novels internal monologue in a way that last years On Chesil Beach failed to do. The acting is first rate throughout,  but the true triumph of the film comes in its direction and construction.If Beale Street Could Talk

The Nightingale – I have been waiting five years Jennifer Kent’s follow up to The Babadook, it was worth the wait.  What has been tagged as a revenge thriller, but it is so much more than that, a damning indictment of colonialism it is brutal but never gratuitous.The Nightingale

Under the Silver Lake – The downside to David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to It Follows is that it has a feel someone trying to emulate David Lynch or the Coen brothers.  The plus side, is that it looks amazing and has some great moments of flair.  It doesn’t always work but it so bold it deserves to be seen.Under the Silver Lake

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After three slightly lean months July is back to normal with eleven trips to the cinema.  Which will be movie of the month?

Apollo 11 – Documentary made up of NASA footage shot at the time of the moon landings.  Much of it shot on 65mm.  With no voiceover and no talking heads, it’s a wonder the film can hold the attention for its 93minute runtime.  The key word here is wonder, because the film is filled with wonder, it is nothing short of stunning. Apollo 11

Yesterday – What happens when Danny Boyle walks away from directing the new Bond movie?  He makes a rom-com with Richard Curtis, the results aren’t as bad as you would expect, or as some reports will have you believe.  The high concept of a world where only one man remembers The Beatles is a fun one, but the plot is full of holes.  The film is enjoyable fun, and Himesh Patel and Lily James make likeable leads but the film is too lightweight to be truly good. Film Title:  Yesterday

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Following the events of Endgame Peter Parker just wants to go on holiday with his class and hook-up with MJ, but the world needs Spider-Man more than ever.  A better Avengers film than a Spider-Man film keeps its head above water largely thanks to the allways excellent Tom Holland. Spider-Man Far From Home

Anna – The story of a reluctant female assassin is nothing new to Luc Besson.  While Anna has the odd breathtaking set piece it is shot with Besson’s usual flair, it can’t hold a candle to Nikita (1990). Anna

Midsommar – If you hated Hereditary, you will really hate Midsommar!  I was mixed on Hereditary but loved Midsommar.  The film looks amazing and is disturbing rather than scary, the near two and a half hour runtime flew by.  Once again Florence Pugh proves she is the most exciting and talented young actor working today. Midsommar

The Dead Don’t Die – Jim Jarmusch’s all star zombie film that doesn’t make much sense and nothing much happens.  Far from Jarmusch’s best work but good quirky fun. The Dead Don't Die

Animals – After ten years of hard living a inseparable friendship, two young woman find their relationship stretched as one when one of them meets a new man.  A powerful story about real people with real flaws, and lots of them.  Holliday Grainger is sensational. Animals

The Matrix – Both the 20th anniversary of a classic movie, and my first experience of 4DX.  The film was as great as ever, the 4DX was fun, but distracting at best. The Matrix

Toy Story 4 – Following a perfect trilogy with a forth movie was very risky.  This new film id very different to the earlier films, and sits comfortably aside from the trilogy, it’s also the best and cleverest existential movie of the year.  null

The Intruder – A young couple buy a Napa Valley home but soon find the former owner is having trouble letting go.  Dennis Quaid is effective but extremely hammy as the unhinged vendor, ultimately the film is both dull and derivative. The Intruder

Crawl – Show as a Secret Screening three weeks before general release.   A young woman goes to check on her farther during a hurricane, the pair soon find themselves trapped with incongruously large alligators. Director Alexandre Aja delivers the action ad tension we have come to expect from him.  Kaya Scodelario does well bringing some life to a two-dimensional character.  Ultimately it is dumb, but good fun.  Crawl

There are only two contenders, they are too good, and too different to choose between, therefore, we have joint movies of the month: Apollo 11 and Midsommar.

 

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These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all

Paul Simon

At 2:32 pm BST on 16 July 1969, exactly  50 Years ago, Apollo 11 launched.  Three days later Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first of just twelve people to walk on the moon. 

Earlier this month I watched Apollo 11, there is one word to describe it Wonder!  With no talking heads, no voiceover, and no explanation, just stunning visuals and a fantastic score, it is about the emotion and the wonder of an extraordinary event, the first men on the moon.  As well as the stunning images of the mission, there were a lot of images of people watching the from around the launch. apollo 11 movie

This made me think of two movies:  The Martian (2015), and The Dish (2000).  The Dish is about a satellite dish in the middle of nowhere in the Australian Outback integral to the satellite interface needed to receive and relay images from the moon, and how important those images were to the world.  The Martian (2015), is about a the efforts to save an astronaut stranded on Mars as the world watches.  Walking out of seeing it at the cinema, the friend I was with said the only problem he didn’t believe that all the people portrayed watching the around the world would be that interested in space exploration.  The Martian

This begs the question, have we lost the capacity for wonder?  With the MCU zooming around the galaxy, and Disney making photorealistic remakes of their animations, it is now possible to recreate anything.  To add to this, the world as we know it is out our fingertips, not just on home computers the way it was a generation ago, but on the phones we carry in our pockets, the phones that are rarely a few meters from their owners.

But it goes deeper than that, the world is in a pretty shity place at the moment.  The catalyst that accelerated the Space Race was President John F. Kennedy’s “Moon Speech” at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962:President John F Kennedy Moon Speech at Rice Stadium

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Today we seem to be taking the easy option.  We are destroying the natural world for our convenience.   Two great nations with proud history of immigration are becoming more insular and closing themselves off from the rest of the world.  Flying in the face of the words written on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” President Donald Trump has become obsessed with building a fence to keep out immigrants.  At the same time, Brittan is tearing itself apart over Brexit a misguided plan to leave the European Union.

But there is hope, shows like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet reminds us of the wonder of the natural world has opened many people’s eyes to the damage we are doing, such as the  legacy of single use plastic.  Ultimately,  Kennedy’s speech wasn’t about getting to the moon, and it wasn’t about winning the space race, it was about hope, and as long as we have wonder, we have hope!

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