Dog’s Movie House: “First Man” Leads The Way Of What To See This Week!

Howdy Folks!  It’s The Kendog here with looks at a couple of this weeks films including Damien Chazelle’s latest, “First Man.” 

Ryan Gosling is Neil Armstrong in “First Man”



Biopics are tricky things.   Do them right and you get a riveting cinematic incarnation of some of histories most important events.  Do it wrong and the audience is falling asleep just like they did during high school history class.  Fortunately, “First Man” is solidly in the former category although it does have a few flaws.   Plus we take a look at “Bad Times At The El Royale” and last week’s champion, “Venom.”

“First Man” is a mostly riveting look at the life of Neil Armstrong and his journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon.   It also tells the tale of his family, including wife Janet (Claire Foy) and their two sons and how they each deal with the fact that Neil is in a profession that is not known for its safety.

This film is meticulously put together by director Chazelle (“La La Land”) importing a grainy, lived-in look that makes you feel like your were experiencing the 60’s rather than just watching a recreation.   Gosling does stellar work here as the steadfast Armstrong, even showing a few insecurities and flaws that manage to round out this version of Neil Armstrong, making him more sympathetic and more human.   Foy matches him as his strong and supportive wife.  Her best moment in the film is when she forces Neil to wake up the kids to talk to them about all the bad possibilities before undertaking the moon mission (Neil would rather just slip out in the middle of the night.)   The two are helped out by an outstanding supporting cast that includes Ciaran Hinds, Ethan Embrey, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Corey Stoll.  These talented actors fill out the positions at NASA as technicians and astronauts and the script by Josh Singer (from James R Hansen’s novel) does a good job of giving dimensions to the large cast.

So it’s obviously an Oscar contender and it’s wonderfully mad and the performances are outstanding. . .so why didn’t I love it more?  There is a small problem for me with pacing as the film drags at times during its two hour plus run-time.  Also as good as Gosling is as Armstrong, the character feels a little one note in his resoluteness.  There’s a subdued nature to the big events, including the moon landing, that saps some of the thrill of the incredibly detailed recreation of these historic events.  Put simply, the film needed a little more energy at times.  However, that’s a small complaint as this film deserves to be seen on the big screen.  4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!


Next up we have “Bad Times At The El Royale” an exercise in film noir from talented filmmaker Drew Goddard.  He both writes and directs this tale set at a seedy hotel in 1969 where a cast of duplicitous characters show up for reasons that twist and turn like a rattlesnake on hot asphalt.  Among the cast of decidedly shady individuals include a priest who’s fond of whiskey (Jeff Bridges), a former cult member (Dakota Johnson) trying to break said cult’s hold on her younger sister(Cailee Spaeny), a vacuum salesman who isn’t really a vacuum salesman (John Hamm) and a young lady who’s just trying to get to Reno for a singing gig (Cynthia Erivo).

The films is very entertaining for the most part as Goddard does a terrific job of creating mood and atmosphere.  The actors are in fine form, with Chris Hemsworth in top form as the leader of the cult I mentioned earlier.   He’s after his prize and when he shows up everything goes to hell in a hurry.  The hotel itself is a character, with its dungeon-like hallways where bellhop Miles (Lewis Pullman) can spy on the guests for his employers.

The only problem is that we’ve seen this kind of story before, specifically in Quinten Tarentino’s earlier works.  The non-linear storytelling, the improvised dialogue, and the crazy cast of nefarious people makes this movie feel more like a noir homage than an actual noir film.   Thankfully Goddard is talented enough to pull it off (although an editor could have trimmed down the two hour plus running time).  The actors are in fine form and the story in interesting enough to keep you engaged.  It just felt like Tarentino-lite to me.  3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!  


Finally we have “Venom,”  Reuben Fleischer’s adaptation of the Marvel anti-hero.  Here you get a gonzo performance by Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a reporter who asks the wrong questions of a San Francisco billionaire (Riz Ahmed).  Brock, his career in ruins, finds out said billionaire has capture alien “symbiotes” from space and is intending on using them to bond with humans to create a whole new species.   One of them bonds with Eddie on an ill-fated trip to the lab and soon Mr. Brock can do all sorts of thing like take on an entire room of armed commandoes as well as healing almost any injury.

As a story, “Venom” is a basic origin film that is fairly mediocre in terms of camera work, set pieces, and a couple of scenes of shoddy CGI.  What elevates this film is the relation ship between Brock and the symbiote (both voiced by Hardy)  They bicker like an old married couple and are truly an unique blending of alien and human.  Referring to themselves as “we” Venom is a combination of the Hulk and the xenomorph from the Alien films.  Now that the origin is out of the way, I’m actually excited to see where they take this character next.  3 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!  So Sayeth The Kendog! 

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