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!

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.

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.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Benghazi. What a political buzz word. A city that no one had any idea even existed before the events in 2012, but it became quite a big deal.

And I couldn’t care less. I am mostly annoyed that it has become such a buzz word without a lot of meaning behind it that shitty internet and news people are referring to controversies as “word”-ghazi, depending on the situation. It is just as ludicrous as adding gate to the end of it, if not more so. And both things need to stop.

Yes, these indeed are my thoughts going into the movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. I don’t know shit about it, outside of the fact that controversy exists. I know it is supposed to be a real story, but Michael Bay is directing it so who knows. I know that this movie is based on a book written by someone who was there, so who knows the actual accuracy of the book.

After all, who cares about truth when the outcome is income.

I expect a plethora of pew pew pews on both sides.

Apparently, Benghazi, Libya was named one of the most dangerous places in the world. Despite that, the US still kept a “diplomatic compound” in the city and nearby is a “secret” CIA compound staffed by private military contractors. And the movie begins with Jack Silva (John Krasinski) flying in to join their team. “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale) an old friend picks them up, tells him to not mess with the locals and you know, helps fill in the new guy so that we can as an audience can learn things.

Despite tension, the US Ambassador to Libya (Matt Letscher) is still there, with a small rental cop security team. He gets worried when he sees people taking pictures of the compound. And worried he should be! Because on September 11, yes that day, some people attack the compound.

Now, our private military CIA people are the only friendlies in the area and they go against orders to try and save the ambassador. They have no support incoming and they are basically going to war with a tiny army, but it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do, right?

Also starring David Giuntoli, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, Dominic Fumusa, David Denman, David Costabile, and Alexia Barlier.

Shit, there are explosions too. Instead of pews, we get boom boom booms.

I know what I am about to say is terrible criticism for a film and I know it is a word I should try to avoid while writing a review, but after pounding my head, I have no idea how to talk about the movie with any other vernacular. 13 Hours was boring. It dragged. It is almost two and a half hours long and it felt like four. It took a whole hour before the assault on any compound began, which is a shit ton of time to spend to try and make us care for the characters (which doesn’t work).

Sometimes when your goal is ultra realistic combat situations (which this is arguable, clearly many liberties would have been taken), it no longer entertaining. I hated Act of Valor, because they wanted realism at the expense of acting and story and it showed. In this case, Bay wanted to drive home an opinion, honor some people, and explode some shit.

I think forcing someone to watch this movie twice in a row would actually be considered torture and so technically it fits the theme of area the movie is set in. Go figure.

It wasn’t completely terrible, it was just boring. It failed to ever grasp my attention and felt like it would never end. Thankfully, this is the final major movie from January of 2016 that I had to watch. Hooray, I caught up only six months into the year! Too bad the months after it also were filled with bad films.

Bay, stick to Robots and Turtles. At least they are occasionally interesting.

1 out of 4.