First Man

When I first heard about First Man, I didn’t realize it was a biopic on Neil Armstrong. I thought it was just a space movie with cool visuals, and would be about the first man on Mars or something like that.

The poster is just really sexy like that.

Despite not knowing the real topic, I knew I was really excited. Damien Chazelle has yet to disappoint, with his first two big breaks being, well, big breaks. Whiplash was breath of fresh abuse, and La La Land is goddamn La La Land, my favorite movie of that year.

So yeah, let’s try a real person story about a space man!

Group
A bunch of men that totally want to break out into dance, but can’t in this movie.

In the 1960’s, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) became an Astronaut for the NASA program. He was already a test pilot for other companies as an engineer, not a military man, and he needed to get a new start. His daughter, Karen, had died when she was two, of some cancer. That sucks. That sucks a lot. He needed to get away.

Not just from the fact that his daughter died. But other friends as well. When doing science in the sky, and reaching the upper parts of the atmosphere, things can go wrong. They HAVE gone wrong for Armstrong, but he generally keeps a clear head on these sorts of things and lucks his way into not dying.

Is he afraid of dying? Is he ready to die? Is he afraid if he gets too close to people, he will become a wreck should they die in an accident? His wife (Claire Foy) loves him, and is helping raise their family, and is fully aware of the many risks of space travel. But she supports him, even when he is hard to reach. Physically, and emotionally.

And of course, eventually, Armstrong does some pretty impressive historical stuff.

Also starring a whole lot of white people. Most of them playing real white people too, I assume! Played by Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbot, Ethan Embry, CiarĂ¡n Hinds, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Shea Whigham, Olivia Hamilton, and Corey Stoll playing the Buzz Aldrin.

Love
I assume this dance is not my tempo.

Chazelle started us out on his film trajectory by giving us people who wanted to achieve stardom at all costs. The next film also involved achieving stardom, but in a city full of stars, people who already made their life successful. And now, in this film, we still have that achievement desire behind the scenes, but instead of reaching a city of stars, it is a whole sky full of stars. An interesting path and one that is keeping Chazelle fresh by clearly trying very different things.

The most interesting aspect of this movie, to me, is that it isn’t really about the moon landing. It is called First Man. Why? Because it is about the First Man on the moon, not the successful events, just the person himself. Neil. Armstrong.

That might sound like a normal biographic movie, but I assure you, this one feels different. We see things from his point of view and mindset, without having to actually go into first person point of view. It is easy to feel the claustrophobic nature of the capsules. Of viewing the edge of space for the first time. To walking on the moon, to losing a child or friend, to having to make life saving decisions despite not knowing the right answer.

It is so damn personal and at the same time it is hard to connect to him. Armstrong comes across a very distant person, dealing with a lot on the inside and less likely to talk about his feelings or actually deal with the reality his job is creating. He is a humble person and a quiet person, not looking for fame, but looking for something else hard to pinpoint.

First Man is a great film, with terrific acting, and is likely to be a lock for several nominations, especially in the sound mixing areas this upcoming Oscars.

3 out of 4.

Bad Times At The El Royale

I have never had a bad time at a place called an El Royale. Just saying, for some sort of context. I haven’t been to any El Royales as far as I know. So neither good nor bad times have been had at any El Royales. I am an El Royale virgin. Or at least, I was before I saw this movie, Bad Times At the El Royale.

Alright, now that the nonsensical first paragraph, overall this felt like a movie that would be really enjoyable. I didn’t know what to expect, but I liked the cast of characters and thought it could have some really fun and interesting scenes.

After seeing so many duds lately, and great films, I needed something that would just be entertaining. I really wanted this to fill that genre gap in my movie watching schedule.

Dancing
It did fill a Hemsworth sized whole in my heart. And that is a very large whole.

At the El Royale? Well, it used to be a happening spot. Lively nights, plenty of guests, and a lot of raunchy shenanigans. This hotel is on the border of Nevada and California. So it has a more expensive and classy side and a gambling side. A side for all the types who may want to visit. Now the hotel is almost in rambles. The front desk is basically just one person (Lewis Pullman), who also is the cleaning man, the bartender, and everything. A one man show.

And tonight? There will be some guests. We have Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a potential singing star who has a secret. We have Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who seems to be losing his mind, and a man with a secret. There is (Jon Hamm), someone who really wants the Honeymoon suite, because he has a secret. There is the vulgar and unfriendly (Dakota Johnson), who clearly has a secret.

A lot of secrets, and a lot of bad stuff coming together. How are Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, and Nick Offerman involved in the plot? Well, that’s a secret.

Raining
I’M SORRY. DID YOU THINK THIS PICTURE SPACE WOULD BE GIVEN TO SOMETHING THAT IS NOT SHIRTLESS?

Did you know that Bad Times at the El Royale is over 140 minutes long? Shit, this might as well be a Marvel movie at this point. Now of course if a movie is engaging and fantastic, the time doesn’t matter. BT at the ER is in fact entertaining with some cool scenes. It has nice songs/soundtracks to encompass the scenes. It is told out of order from multiple perspectives to help unravel the mysteries and keep things fresh. It is really impossible to guess where it is going and how it will end. And yet, it also feels way too long.

Sure, different perspectives is fun, but that does mean we have to see some scenes multiple times. And there is a lot of backstory at times that are cool for building characters, and at the same time, not always necessary.

I really enjoyed Hamm in this film. He was a combination of some of his previous roles and it was definitely a good fit for him. Potentially it can be used as an audition for an eventual super hero! Johnson was acting like someone completely different in this film and it was refreshing. Erivo knocked it out of the park for me in the film, she was the real star, in so many talented ways. And hey, Pullman was interesting as the, well, lobby boy. I actually thought it was maybe Tom Holland pushing some boundaries for most of the movie.

BT at the ER is a fun film, a different film, a Quentin Tarantino lite film, and one that will please a lot of fans. Especially those of Hemsworth. It just needed a lot more editing and maybe a more focused outcome by the end.

2 out of 4.