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Movie Review: First man full of first rate drama

Movie Review: First man full of first rate drama

“First Man” (Drama/Biography: 2 hours, 21 minutes)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Lukas Haas and Corey Stoll

Director: Damien Chazelle

Rated: PG-13 (Thematic content and strong language)

Movie Review: “First Man” is a dramatized biopic about American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon.

The movie engagingly chronicles his life from 1961-69. Based on the James R. Hansen book, the journey to the moon is a lengthy one but appealing, yet, after anticipation, the moon landing is mediocre compared to the rest of the movie.

Neil Armstrong (Gosling) is an engineer and pilot, training to be an astronaut. While in training, Armstrong faces challenges, including the death of his daughter and several colleagues. Still, Armstrong and his wife, Janet (Foy), continue to care for their family and friends. Armstrong completes his mission to become the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Damien Chazelle is an able director. His resume includes the exceptional “Whiplash” (2014) and “La La Land” (2016), both Academy Award-winning screenplays. Chazelle has a strong manner of getting intense moments from his cast.

“First Man” presents its intensity differently. Armstrong is portrayed as a quiet, determined gentleman. His emotions are always just below the surface. He is emotionless often, yet Ryan Gosling's performanc e is superior enough to show emotion when Armstrong's face and actions remain muted.

Gosling delivers one of his best performances. He plays Armstrong with a certain subtlety that works well. His scenes with a talented Clair Foy, who steals scenes, are dynamic.

The performances are good, but Josh Singer's screenplay diverts from a major part of Armstrong’s public life â€" his steps on the lunar surface. This narrative focuses too much on Neil Armstrong’s personal life and that of his wife so that his becoming the first person to walk on Moon takes a back seat.

When, Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (Corey Stoll) and Michael Collins (Lukas Haas) travel to the moon, especially when Armstrong and Aldrin arrive at the surface of Earth’s major satellite, the moment appears to be just another day at work.

Besides good performances, the better parts of the movie are grand moments of good cinematography. The scenes of Earth from above and si tes on the ground. The movie allows one to experience space travel from an astronaut’s perspective from the visual and psychological aspects. These moments are sound moments of moviemaking and hypnotic entertainment.

Grade: B (First-rate drama.)

“Bad Times at The El Royale” (Suspense/Mystery: 2 hours, 21 minutes)

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth

Director: Drew Goddard

Rated: R (Violence, profanity, brief nudity, drug contents and thematic elements)

Movie Review: Noir films that are not watered-down screenplays are rare. “Bad Times at the El Royale” is good noir photoplay.

It has characters who all have dark motives. They are not good citizens of moral standing, yet some have motives that make them unusual protagonists. Good or bad, brilliant actors superbly play their roles.

Seven strangers arrive at Lake Tahoe's El Royale. Father Daniel Flynn (Bridges), singer Darlene Sweet (Erivo), sisters Emily and Ruth Summerspring (Johnson and Cailee Spaeny), traveling salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Hamm), the chic hotel’s young concierge/manager Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) and the enigmatic and charismatic cult leader Billy Lee (Hemsworth).

These people are the hotel's only occupants. Their pasts all lead them to the El Royale, leading to unpredictable futures for all.

The narrative works because of creative execution and the keen performances of the cast. Drew Goddard (“The Cabin in the Woods,” 2012; “The Martian,” 2015) directs and writes the screenplay that keeps one guessing.

For a large cast, his characters are richly developed personas through a series of flashbacks. Each flashback provides a unique part of a greater plot executed by an apt cast.

Bridges is always swell in roles. He is here also. He plays his part with a certain secret kindness. One knows he is not an ethical person, yet his grandfatherly presence makes him endearing.

Erivo is a treat as singer and actress; she plays both. Johnson and Spaeny’s characters are the most mysterious, and the actresses play them well. Hamm nicely plays the attention-getting, impeccably dressed character at the start. Pullman is excellent as an anxious concierge, whose much of the mystery regarding this hotel revolves.

Last, a handsome Hemsworth is seductively enticing as a cult leader, who is as charming as he is sadistic. Hemsworth plays a psychopath well, the antithesis of his superhero persona, Thor. His appearance and acting talents are perfect for this role.

The movie is about characterizations. Each player is a unique part of a puzzle. They are key for this movie.

However, plenty of questions arise. Goddard never answers some of the mysteries his screenplay offers. Some inquiries, especially those about a unique part of the El Royale, are plentiful but remain unresolved. Several references mention some char acters continually, yet no clues exist as to who they are.

These unanswered mysteries keep a sense of unexpectedness, but they also create a movie where one feels not totally connected.

Grade: B (Good times at the cinema.)

“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” (Adventure/Comedy: 1 hour, 30 minutes)

Starring: Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Madison Iseman and Mick Wingert

Director: Ari Sandel

Rated: PG (Violence, thematic elements, crude humor and language)

Movie Review: “Haunted Halloween” is a loose sequel to “Goosebumps” (Director Rob Letterman, 2015). It is an adventure aimed at younger audiences, but it has enough energy to entertain older viewers. It is farfetched material, but it offers enough to distract from its deficiencies.

Sonny (Taylor) and Sam (Harris) are friends who find a magical book by R.L. Stine (Jack Black). The teens speak some words that bring to life a ventriloquist's dummy, named Slappy (Winge rt).

Slappy immediately begins tormenting those around him while implementing his ultimate plan. Sonny, Sam and and Sonny’s sister, Sarah (Iseman), a writer like R. L. Stine, must stop Slappy from implementing his diabolical plan.

Like the 2015 movie, “Haunted Halloween” is about story monsters coming to life. Additionally, Jack Black shows up at the end, but the style he brought to the first is lacking. His presence is too brief.

However, the movies differ; this one is more about kids stopping an evil force rather than Jack Black’s R. L. Stine aiding people to stop his creations. In this sense, it is enough to entertain, even if it offers nothing particularly longstanding.

Grade: C+ (It does not provide goosebumps, but it amuses.)

“Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer” (Crime/Drama: 1 hour, 34 minutes)

Starring: Dean Cain, Sarah Jane Morris, and Earl Billings

Director: Nick Searcy

Ra ted: PG-13 (Mature thematic content including disturbing images and descriptions and language)

Movie Review: Philadelphia obstetrics and gynecology Dr. Kermit Gosnell, aptly played by Earl Billings, is the basis for this movie about true events as detailed in the book "Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer."

The movie is eerie and reveals uncanny aspects of an abortion doctor and facets of his operations and procedures. The acting, minus that of Billings, is uninspiring, but the movie raises interesting questions about abortions.

Led by Detective James Wood (Dean Cain) and Assistant District Attorney Lexy McGuire (Morris), an investigation into the practices of Dr. Kermit’s abortion clinic leads to a shocking discovery.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell (Billings) was birthing babies and then killing them. A jury convicted Kermit for four counts of murder in May 2013 for the death of a woman and three infants.

Supposed ly, Dr. Kermit Gosnell killed babies for approximately 30 years. The movie renders gory details of Kermit’s office and his home. This part of the movie plays like a horror. Here, Billings is superb as an actor. He makes Kermit tangible and easily dislikable yet interesting simultaneously.

The rest of the movie appears a low-budget piece that could use better performances from its cast. However, the movie had a difficult time finding producers and distributors. Why? Many people do not want to recognize gruesomeness that can be associated with abortions.

One must give the movie points for being brave enough to tackle one of the United States’ most divisive aspects. That alone makes it interesting enough to warrant consideration.

Grade: B- (Gosnell is well acted by Billings, even if subpar parts of this movie needed aborting.)

“Kinky” (Drama/Romance: 1 hour, 31 minutes)

Starring: Dawn Richard, Robert Ri'chards and Vivica A. Fox

Director : Jean-Claude La Marre

Rated: R (Sexual content, nudity and strong language)

Movie Review: “Kinky” is definitely one of those movies that appears a readymade script for television.

The acting is laughable, and the plot is a cheaper variation of “50 Shades of Grey.”

Despite its title, the movie is kinky enough. It is a movie about a sexual relationship, but the intimate scenes are enough to put one to sleep.

Dr. Joyce Carmichael (Richard) is a talented surgeon in Buckhead, Atlanta. She is a single, secluded woman who loves kinky sex. She is a nymphomaniac. After establishing a relationship with wealthy businessman Darrin Wethington (Ri'chards), Carmichael has a chance to explore her aggressive sexual desires involving sadomasochism.

“Color of the Cross,” 2006, was a thought-provoking movie by Jean-Claude La Marre, a native of Brooklyn, New York. “Kinky” is neither mentally engaging nor good quality wise. The acting is far fr om sound performances. The story is clichéd material comparable to a nighttime soap opera. Last, the movie concludes with an abrupt scene that apparently indicates a sequel â€" dread the thought.

Grade: F+ (La Marre needed to iron out the kinks in his script.)

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