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Review: “First Moon” is an Emotional and Exciting Race to Space

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Damien Chazelle’s take on Neil Armstrong’s tough road to making it to the moon may not be the most accurate but it is certainly entertaining. Similar to how he directed intense jazz players in Whiplash, he lets us feel everything in Neil’s missions, from the rickety and nightmarish howling of straining spacecraft to the deepest fears of death always one error away. While the accuracy and motivation are debatable, there’s no denying that Chazelle locks us in as tight as Armstrong was to that rocket and never lets us go.

Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong as a pilot of few words, so focused on the next mission he pushes aside the death of his young daughter to get back to work. He doesn’t let it affect him but Chazelle’s direction suggests it does in a pocket of his mind. To keep his mind off such a traumatic event for his family, he pursues and is accepted into the Gemini program for the ambitious mission of traveling to the moon. His tone doesn’t sit well with his wife Janet (Claire Foy). She’s willing to stick with him, raise his son, and have another child, but she can’t stand the toll. Her husband is so distant and plainspoken, hiding all emotion that it drives her nuts to see his comrades bite the dust in the dangerous testing leading up to the ultimate launch. There’s a good man in there but he’s committed when it comes to the business of reaching the stars.

Armstrong’s journey always keeps us in the cockpit where he is, witnessing with his limited scope of what the glass and gauges allow. It’s intense to listen to the alarms go off, the metal straining, and the static-laced radio voices calmly state firm instructions and warnings. Few times do we cut away from the chaos when things spin wildly out of control, sometimes literally when a test of docking procedures sends his craft hurtling through the darkness of space as the grinding speed never seems to stop. He faces many fearful challenges, including a test of the lunar lander that goes up in flames. Yet he shakes off the dirt and keeps going. One person heading the team asks if all this will be worth the cost. “It’s a little late to ask that question,” Armstrong responds.

The few times we do cut away from Armstrong focuses on his wife trying to keep it together, expertly played by Claire Foy. Janet strains and stresses, sure, but she realizes that if she doesn’t try to snap Neil out of his tunnel vision that she’ll lose him before she knows it. One of her best scenes features her finally confronting Neil before heading off to the grand launch, shouting at him to say something to his children instead of treating it like one long business trip. But as they sit the kids down and Neil tries to explain where he’s going, he treats it more like a press conference than a family meeting and Janet coldly realizes this is her husband.

Where the film unfortunately plateaus is in its finale of when Neil Armstrong and the cocky Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) finally make the landing on the moon surface. Chazelle keeps this section quiet and contemplative, letting the original transmission audio fill in some of the gaps. It’s perhaps too contemplative the way the imagery and soft soundtrack tries to bring Neil’s grips with death to a realization. It’s a scene that perhaps comes off melodramatic but Chazelle’s direction keeps us more in the moment than rolling our eyes at the emotional bells and whistles of a realized character. The exceptional cinematography becomes astounding to be lost within, from the great use of lighting and shadows everywhere from the cramped quarters of the capsule to the hallway of the Armstrong household.

First Man is definitely an intriguing and gorgeous film, one that should certainly be seen in IMAX for the full effect of its well-shot sequences, but it still feels lacking as Chazelle’s lesser film. This fault mostly lies in how Armstrong’s aim shuts out most of the other elements of the film, including his co-pilots who have arcs that peter out as the mission takes on greater importance. While the film succeeds at making us stare directly into Armstrong’s psyche, there are too many distractions that I sometimes wish the story veered off course from its obvious target.

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Have you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. 😉

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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