First Man Review

First Man is a film based on Neil Armstrong and that was a pretty big event so I suppose it’s about time we got the really big budget film adaption. It’s a solid movie although they make Neil Armstrong look incredibly unlikable here. I have to assume he was like this in real life or there would have been a ton of buzz from family and friends about how they did him a disservice. Either way the film makes it very hard to root for him at any point in the movie.

The movie starts with Neil crashing yet again so his superiors think that he just isn’t in a good headspace to be a pilot for a while. He’s temporarily grounded and unfortunately his daughter ends up dying so now he’s quite depressed. He ends up taking a job with NASA for project Gemini where they will be using some cutting edge tech to try and get to the Moon. It’ll be a difficult journey though with a lot of setbacks and deaths to get in the way. Can Neil pull through?

Of course since you know the events you know how the film has to end. It’s pretty straight forward in that respect but it’s fair to say that you won’t know all of the events here unless you really studied his life in the past. The effects are definitely really solid so you should appreciate seeing the space view from the ship and even the inner workings of the machine. At times it can try being a little too life like so the screen goes totally dark or totally light which makes it hard to see but otherwise it all tends to look very fancy.

During the film we also see how a lot of people are skeptical about Nasa’s mission and think they shouldn’t be wasting money to go on these space trips. How will going to the Moon enhance life on Earth? Well, Neil’s answer is that in space you can see the bigger picture and it’s something people should see. I thought this was a bit on the weak side. Personally while this may be a hot take, I do think exploring space is a waste of time at the moment. It is extremely expensive as the film shows and all that money could absolutely be spent on better things. Building more and more space ships like this just isn’t helping out much. It’s not like in a sci-fi film where we find some super metals in space that can help us out here. None of that tends to happen.

Sure, we learn about planets and space, but it’s hard to say how much of a tangible effect that has on quality of life. I would certainly say it has less effect than if you put that into some good Earth projects straight up. You don’t see many people talking about space nowadays so it’s hard to say what the general sentiments there are, but I still hold the same position. I know we’re getting close to trips to Mars and other places but it all just seems like a waste of time. Now if private companies want to do it, no problem. When it comes from the government’s funds though then that’s a different issue.

As an aside, there was a whole lot of discussion when the film was coming out about the U.S. flag scene not appearing here. I’m not sure how much I would have noticed it otherwise though. While it was an iconic moment in all Neil Armstrong stories, the ending all goes by rather quickly. Knowing this in advance though, I do think it should have been included. That’s just a staple of the event and even titles like Justice League and many other popular culture moments always make sure to keep that in. It’s impressive to see the flag up there on the Moon and a good proof that the U.S. made it first after Russia had the edge for most of the film.

So the drama is solid and the film has good writing. There’s always a lot happening here with other pilots being knocked down in droves. It shows how much sacrifice went into this and how Neil grew tired of the funerals. He had a difficult time adjusting to loss and it gradually made him drift more and more from his family. The movie never portrays him in a sympathetic light there which is good but it also made it difficult to have him as a main character. I just didn’t like the guy at all and nearly all of his scenes make him feel like a bad character.

He could have done the bare minimum to make his family happy and didn’t even do that. His wife Janet did the best that she could in the meantime. It was still a pretty tough journey for her though since she would have to make excuses for him and raise the kids on her own. By the end she does put her foot down and force him to talk to the kids which wasn’t easy. Neil’s friends also do their best to try and talk to him but it never really works.

Overall, First Man is a good adaption of the events. All in all, I probably could have done without a lot of the human drama though. Cut that stuff out and just focus on the actual flying and building of the ships. If this made the film too short then I feel like you could extend that by showing more scenes of Congress debating if this was actually worth pursuing after the first ship blew up and burned those 3 people alive. You could certainly have quite a few scenes about that and it would easily help pad out the runtime by the end while still feeling natural. I’d certainly be very interested to see how that goes at least. Either way, if you want a film about Neil Armstrong’s life, you’ll be hard pressed to find one more detailed than this film.


When the concussions became a big issue in the NFL I definitely remember it being a big deal. To an extent of course you expect a lot of injuries in the game, but it wasn’t yet known just how deadly this was. In recent years we’ve seen several gameplay additions come in to try and mitigate this like moving the kickoff so there are less returns. The helmets are also better but of course there will always still be concussions in the game so the NFL just does what it can to reduce the amount of hits. This film delves more into the discovery of this.

The main character is Dr. Omalu and he was a pathologist who would find out how people died. Omalu could be a little on the quirky side as he would talk to the dead bodies and wasn’t very well liked by his colleagues here. He did put up results each time though. One day he is puzzled at why a very healthy ex NFL player died. It didn’t seem to make sense but the office didn’t want to foot the bill for this. Omalu pays out of pocket and discovers the concussion but he has just opened up a bigger can of worms than he ever could have guessed.

Naturally when you discover something that’s really groundbreaking there is going to be a lot of fall out. There is always two questions that you have to ask yourself as well. Are you really the one who discovered this? Did nobody else ever piece this together or did something happen to everyone else who tried to go public? The second is, how do you tell the world? As several characters point out, the NFL is a huge organization with almost unlimited power. This discovery will certainly cost them a lot both in terms of cost and reputation so they will have to try and bury it.

The NFL are the main villains of the film in that sense. They’re out to protect their own interests and try to threaten and discredit Omalu the whole time. It’s not particularly surprising since if they acknowledge that he is correct then all the families of the people who died will definitely sue them. Additionally they will have to come out with new equipment and then have liability for not noticing earlier. Meanwhile if they can bury this they can buy time to come out with new protocols naturally so if someone else notices in 10 years they can say that the game has already been safe.

Not ethical but it is to be expected. The only part that felt like a bit of a stretch was the FBI randomly showing up to threaten everyone. Guess the NFL wasn’t playing around here. I thought Omalu seemed a little too surprised the whole time. I get that he’s optimistic but he seemed shocked that the NFL would be upset at his discovery and I dare say that even a kid would have come to that conclusion pretty quickly. Omalu’s discovery completely shows that the NFL is effectively murdering people. Why would they be glad to know about this? I liked to think Omalu was just messing with everyone but he did seem to really think that this was going to go over well.

Still, he’s a nice guy though and a good main character. He put in the work to learn a whole lot of different subjects in science to the point where his accolades took several minutes to read through. He took the entire case very seriously and made sure that he had enough awards where he couldn’t be silenced so easily. Omalu also took in a lady named Prema when she really needed a place to stay. So he was a class act all around.

Then you have Prema who is the main heroine of the story. She helps to cheer Omalu up when things aren’t going well. You do immediately feel like this will turn into a bit of a romance plot which is too bad since I think it would have been a good, rare example of a nice friendship blooming there. Having even just one person to stick up for you is major though so she really helped out quite a lot. On his own Omalu may not have been able to stick it out for so long.

Finally there is Bailes who also helped out. He used to be the team doctor for the Steelers and is the only professional to side with Omalu. Even then Omalu doesn’t seem to fully trust him until the end and blows up at the guy at one point. Bailes does his best to earn trust though and sees this through to the end. This will certainly impact his career and reputation as well so he’s also taking a risk.

Beyond that, everyone else here is either an antagonist or a victim. You see the ex players as they start to suffer the side effects and take their own lives. The film certainly gets quite serious in these moments as you can see how the concussions just proved to be too much. Then with the NFL players, everyone’s always really angry and yelling about Omalu’s discoveries. They seem to have no regard for the players and so the film never lets you forget that they are the enemy.

Honestly I would have liked to have seen them do a bit more here. The NFL’s like the boogeyman here as they’re mentioned a lot but rarely appear. I suppose if in real life they never met with Omalu it would be difficult to change that but I was really hoping for some more interactions between the two sides. Those tend to be the most interesting moments in a film like this where both sides size each other up a bit. The film builds up a good amount of drama either way but that would have been the clinching moment.

Overall, Concussion is a decent film to show someone if they’re interested in the whole concussions discovery. That said, I don’t think it’s quite as interesting as it could have been to the point where you’re probably better off watching a documentary about it. It’s rare to recommend a documentary over a movie but I think you will probably get more out of it that way because you just really miss the NFL angle the whole time. With a documentary you’d likely be able to see their responses in real time and it would better help to juggle the two plots there. I’m always up for a Football film though so I’m glad this came out.

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Who doesn’t remember good ole Mr. Rogers from back in the day right? The show was always fun and while I don’t think I saw a ton of episodes, it was certainly around. Having a film based on both the show and Rogers himself was a fun idea. The movie can certainly get dramatic and all but it seems to have been a rather accurate/realistic portrayal here so I imagine everyone would be satisfied at this point. Since the film is based on a real story there won’t be a review or score but I will still have my thoughts below.

The main character here is a guy named Lloyd. He has been dealing with issues with his father. Lloyd blames him for their mother’s notably unpeaceful death. The guy was cheating a lot back then and now Lloyd finds it hard to forgive him even if the guy seems to have changed. Mr. Rogers wants to help Lloyd let go of this grudge in the show and eventually meets him in the real world. Lloyd is a reporter and his boss wants him to write about Mr. Rogers. Lloyd looks forward to finding faults with Rogers but is unable to find any. Could it be possible that Mr. Rogers is just a nice person? Lloyd has never thought that this could even be possible.

The writing is solid and so even if you know more or less exactly how this will play out, the adventure is good. I would say the film’s only weakness is that it can go a little too far in being dramatic at times. For example, it takes Rogers an eternity to finish his sentences at times because he’ll take very long breaks to look at the camera. We have moments of silence that go on for a while and in general the film’s pacing is like that of a glacier. This is a movie that will absolutely feel long as every scene is stretched for maximum effect. I think it can be a bit much at times but I understand why the effect is used. That’s just how this is supposed to be played out.

As for Lloyd, well he’s definitely not a nice character for most of the film. He holds onto his grudges and just does not move forward. Ultimately he does manage to learn his lesson though and we see how Mr. Rogers has changed him. Rogers does a tremendous job of being a good role model at all times. He is very conscious of how much kids look up to him and doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s not perfect of course and he knows this but he goes out of his way to make sure that people see the good side of him. He even leaves mistakes in the episodes after editing so that kids can see that sometimes things don’t work out. It’s a good lesson to be learned and also shows that he was really good at being an editor. He knew what scenes to keep and what scenes to cut.

It’s very unlikely that you will walk away from the film not liking Mr. Rogers. He’s just a very good guy and I would have liked seeing him as the main character of the adventure even over Lloyd. I suppose Lloyd gives us the more dramatic parts of the story but you could absolutely do a lot with more Rogers scenes. Seeing him take the train or eat out at a restaurant are fun because you get to see him outside of the routine. At the same time, he always has to be with Lloyd in these moments since that guy’s the main character and it seems like he holds Rogers back there. I know the point is that Lloyd’s not a great guy but so until he changes, his scenes can be more on the brutal side.

More scenes showing Rogers hanging out with the kids and being patient with everyone would be enjoyable. We see that he drives his producers crazy since he has a hard time sticking to the script but it also shows that he is very serious about his show and persona. He never breaks character and is always helping out. More scenes could show him at various news shows and programs where he could talk to people directly.

I did enjoy the dream Lloyd has where he joins the show though and that was a moment where the movie used his character really well. It was fun seeing him shrink and have to accept his new situation. it was certainly very trippy but it worked out well. It’s also cool to see the old sets and the music since it’s exactly how I remembered it. It’s been many years since I’ve heard the theme song but there are just some tunes that you never forget. The intro song to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood is definitely one such example. It could probably be another 30 years before I hear it again and I would still recognize it.

Overall, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood does a great job of really capturing the spirit of the show while also having a story where you get to see how Rogers’ changes someone’s life personally. I do think that the adventure would be even better without Lloyd but having him around was a good way to see how Rogers would deal with this situation. It was important to see him take on Lloyd’s bad attitude with a good attitude of his own. Nobody could really knock Mr. Rogers off of his game. He was really committed to helping out everyone as best he could and ultimately he succeeded. If you’re feeling nostalgic about the series or just want an emotional story then this is certainly a good pick.

I Still Believe

I Still Believe is one of those films where you probably already know about the true story. Due to that you know you’re going to be in for quite the emotional experience. I’m definitely more a fan of happy films from the jump so that puts this one at a disadvantage. Still, it seems to be faithful enough to the actual events which is good, at least as far as I know the real ones. There’s a lot of good music and solid writing here so you should be good, but again if you’re not up for a sad movie then you’ll want to skip this one.

The movie starts with Jeremy heading out to College to begin a new chapter in his life. He’s very interested in music and is quickly able to get backstage at a concert. He meets the lead singer Jean-Luc who quickly becomes Jeremy’s mentor. Jeremy also meets a girl named Melissa and immediately likes her. The issue is that Jean-Luc does as well. Jeremy is determined to win this round though and he’s in luck as Melissa likes him back but doesn’t want Jean-Luc to know about this since it would crush him. They have to try and keep the relationship secret but is this possible at such a small town? Additionally, Melissa may not be as healthy as she appears. Will she really be okay with all of this stress going on?

The romance comes in pretty fast and it’s rare to see a love triangle in a film based on true events. It adds an extra layer of tragedy from the start since you assume Jean-Luc is doomed from the start. I have to say that I didn’t like Jeremy and Melissa really beginning this relationship right in the sound testing room when they knew Jean-Luc was right there. There have to be hundreds of better places to have started that. I blame Jeremy for calling her over but Melissa takes some blame as well for not shutting him down there.

It is a little hard to root for the romance all things considered since someone has to lose out here. Now it’s not like Melissa was actually together with Jean-Luc so I don’t have an issue with Jeremy going after her. It’s all fair game at that point when both are available. The keeping is a secret part was a bad idea on Melissa’s part from the jump though. She never liked him either so it isn’t a rebound but they definitely should have just told him everything right away instead of just dragging this out.

The movie gets a lot darker in the second half as we find out more about Melissa’s condition and what’s going on. There aren’t a lot of points where things are ever happy in this film. Every brief happy moment is immediately met with a setback or something else happening which negatively effects the characters. I would usually pile on the movie by this point for doing this but it all happened os I can’t say the film should have changed events. That said, I would have absolutely cut out the ending. It involves a rebound and because of how quickly the ending has to move, it just feels like its in bad taste. Now that’s a romance that’s really impossible for me to root for at least based on how it appears in the movie.

Jeremy’s a good lead. He can be a bit awkward when interacting and has to deal with a lot here but ultimately he does a good job. Jean-Luc is a good rival and really did try to help Jeremy out a whole lot. He took the betrayal of trust really hard but it’s easy to see why he would. It’s not easy to get over the fact that your best friend just took your love away. Then Melissa rounds out the main cast as a good heroine. There was certainly a lot of trials that she had to go through as well.

The cast is good here and the writing is on point. The film is able to get across that this is going to be a tough challenge for everyone. I would have liked to have had some happy scenes to grab onto for the second half but I guess it wasn’t in the cards. We do get some solid music during the film though. The famous “I Still Believe” song is here of course and a few other really good Christian worship songs. The film shows that you can’t always have everything your way and not every prayer will be answered the way that you want it too. Many have become shaken in their path when their prayers aren’t answered but it’s why prayer isn’t a simple wish list to Santa. The answer won’t always appear the way that you want it.

After all, you have billions of people praying and so naturally there are countless instances of two people praying for the exact opposite things. Naturally that means one person will get their wish and one won’t. You have to accept that everything happens for a reason and everything has a good purpose. Even if it is negative for you, the outcome may help a bunch of others in some way. Just keep up the faith and the ultimate reward of Heaven is worth any measure of strife.

Overall, I Still Believe reminds you that adversity will always appear no matter how calm your life may appear to be. In those times you need to pray and seek God’s help so that you aren’t crushed beneath all of your issues. This is certainly not a feel good movie so don’t expect to have a good time here but if you need a film to help teach someone about always getting up after a tough moment and never losing faith, then this will at least help you to show an example of true loss. It’s a good way to prepare someone for the future.

Deepwater Horizon

This is a film I saw the trailer for many times. It definitely got promoted heavily and even BP was a company name I knew for a while. They definitely have a ton of issues and controversies around them at all times so it’s no surprise that they would have a big tragedy like this one. Unless they had another big oil spill before then I think I even wrote a paper on this one. I just remember BP was responsible for the accident I was writing about. Well, the movie does a good job of walking through and events and makes for an engaging watch from start to finish.

The movie opens with Mike and Jimmy’s team heading to the oil rig to finish the job and get everything set. Unfortunately things are looking a little shady right from the jump as the previous team was chased out of there before they could even run any tests. That definitely doesn’t sound like a good system right? What does this place have to hide? Well, the two BP representatives do not want to pay extra money and figure they could squeeze out a nice profit without actually increasing expenses. There isn’t a whole lot Mike and Jimmy can do beyond just proceed as normal. The system wasn’t ready for this kind of action though and the whole thing blows up. Can anyone escape this catastrophe?

With a film like this where you know the story and the basic plot, there aren’t a lot of twists and turns. Of course the first act takes a while for the explosion to actually happen but you do know that it is happening so that can be a mixed bag. After all, then maybe the film should jump right into it. It’s always an interesting predicament, like Superman or Batman film where you know they will become superheroes so you want them to jump ahead. At least I would say that the leadup is solid here and you do get to have some fun dialogue with the characters.

Mike is a good main character. He’s serious about his job and knows what he is doing. From all of the characters in the film he is probably the most prepared. He has a good working relationship with everyone and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Even if he has to talk tough to the big execs, that is just what Mike will do. He really has no faults here and that’s always a good thing since it means this is a main character you can get behind. While we do have the explosion coming for the climax, I would say the film is largely character driven so you want a good cast.

His boss Jimmy is also solid. He’s clearly been around the block quite a few times in his career and has a ton of experience. He doesn’t let himself get pushed around by BP too easily even if they do overpower him by the end. He also does his best to keep the rig afloat and tries everything possible. It’s why he has to be written out of the action for a while since he may have been able to salvage the situation a bit.

As for the two heads of BP, those guys were a lot of fun. In particular Donald is the guy who stole the show here. The guy is really confident and you want that in your main villain. It’s not like he’s intentionally trying to destroy the place either. The guy wants to make money and he needs the place operational for that but he did some research and figured he could pull this off. At the end of the day he has likely succeeded in many similar situations, the whole thing just caught up to him. Any scene with him in it is always entertaining though, that’s for sure.

The effects are on point here and the explosion certainly looks realistic. Seeing the entire oil rig go down makes for quite the spectacle. we get intense scenes of having to run through the place while it’s burning and it makes for an effective climax. You definitely wouldn’t call the sequence boring or anything like that. It all just happens quickly and everyone has to find a way out. I was glad that nobody on the crew was being super unreasonable…until we get to one random guy.

So even with explosions coming through and all, there’s one character who refuses to send out an SOS and doesn’t even let his colleague try to press some buttons to make things better. He keeps yelling that they don’t have enough clearance for this and it felt like such a bad hill to die on. This guy is really going to get in everyone’s way because he doesn’t have the proper rank? Now that’s a way to mix up your priorities when it really counts. He’s got to be the worst character in the film due to how exaggerated the whole thing was.

There’s also a heroine near the end who starts to break down quite a bit when it’s time to escape the ship. Mike basically has to trick her to pull this off which makes her look really bad. Cmon now, jumping into the water is really a great plan. You still might die, but at least it’s not guaranteed. At least Mike was ready for even this situation and showed some really quick thinking.

The only thing I would say about the the film as not being super positive is I do think the ending can be a little overdramatic at times. When the characters arrive home you immediately have someone attacking Mike and nobody steps in to help for the longest time. I would hope there would be a little better security here trained for tragedies like this. The breakdown and all helps to throw a somber note on the film but I do think parts of that could have been skipped. The film just tries a little too hard to be super emotional by the end when the whole film was quick paced and energetic so it just didn’t transition very well.

Overall, Deepwater Horizon is a fun film. You may know what is going to happen but it doesn’t change the fact that the first half is really written well. They did a good job with it and you get to know the characters before things turn sideways. I enjoy seeing corporate duke it out with the small well meaning companies in all of these films. There’s just something about having confident villains that always makes for a lot of back and forth. With good banter at the ready, this is a film you would enjoy checking out.

American Made Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film below. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version may be more negative

American Made is an interesting film about trying to play all of the sides for as long as you can. Ultimately this will pretty much always lead to ruin so the movie’s really about seeing how far he can go with this. The film is based on a true story but loose enough where I figure I’ll still do a review here. It would have definitely been something if all of this had really happened.

The movie starts off by showing us that Barry is already in the illegal business of smuggling cigars to people while on his flights. This catches the CIA’s attention and they remind him that stealing and smuggling is okay as long as it’s for the good guys. They will pay him poorly to smuggle a lot of things for them. Barry accepts although it’s not like he has much of a choice. When he arrives at the gang hideout with the items, they convince him to start smuggling for them. Why not right? Then the DEA wants a piece of the action and before you know it Barry is working for all of the good guys and bad guys. It’s going to be rather difficult to get out of this predicament.

Barry’s a charismatic guy and that’s really how he has lasted so long in this rough business. as always it is a matter of time before someone catches you when you’re cutting corners and committing crimes but he would have been caught sooner if he wasn’t so smooth. At the end of the day he just really wants to be rich and doesn’t even hide the money all that well. When he starts raking in the cash there is so much money that it’s flooding the house, the family gets a super big house, a pool, etc. Barry likes to live large and in charge that’s for sure.

He’s a fun lead even if he isn’t heroic. That’s good since a film like this really needs a good lead as otherwise you would run the risk of this guy not being sympathetic at all or just rooting for him to get taken down already. As it stands, you’re invested in what is going on here. The cast is rather small though. I mean there are quite a lot of side characters but for the main ones it is relatively self contained. You’ve for Barry’s wife Lucy who isn’t really thrilled at all the secrecy initially. It’s not like Barry told her about his new job at the CIA so when he just vanishes like that it isn’t easy on her.

In one scene she even throws away all the food he brought home. It’s an emotional moment of course but I always feel bad when that much food is tossed aside. It had to be a lot of work to get that and you can’t let good food go to waste like that right? I dunno, I thought the food could have at least been saved. Otherwise Lucy takes it all in stride once Barry actually explains things. She cracks a bit near the end with the jewelry but lasted well for most of the journey.

Her brother JB is one of the most annoying characters in the film though. He’s just here to complain and get a free lunch. He doesn’t contribute at all and makes the worst decisions possible. You definitely know he’s doomed by the end as he starts creating a lot of scenes and even attempts some blackmail. Game over JB, that’s the match.

Barry’s boss Schafer was fun though. He may seem rather slippery and untrustworthy but from the start you get the feeling that he will act as if he has no knowledge of Barry if things go sideways. I would say it’s one of those things that is just understood. Naturally he also gets to take the credit so Schafer really has it easy here. At the end of the day he never has to go into the field or take any of the risks. All he has to do is claim the spoils at the end. It’s a really good setup.

As for the two main weapon/drug dealers who worked with Barry, they seemed nice enough. Of course you never quite forget that they are villains. It’s one of those things where they don’t act overtly evil but just knowing what they are doing shows that they aren’t exactly the good guys here. That pretty much wraps up the cast, it’s a fun group of characters I’d say. Definitely couldn’t consider any of them to be weak ones.

Another good aspect of the film is that the movie balances the humor and serious moments rather well. There are quite a few scenes that should at least have you crack a smile. Barry coming prepared with the Baseball bat after being robbed the first time was definitely a solid scene. Even when things aren’t going well for Barry there’s always a humorous undertone surrounding the movie. It was executed quite well and the movie already had good pacing as it was. Throw in the solid writing and a film that could have easily been more on the dull side ended up being a lot more interesting.

Overall, American Made was better than I expected it to be. I wouldn’t say it had any serious weak points to it. It’s not like I would say the movie is great or anything but there wasn’t a point during the experience when I was bored. It just passes on by rather quickly and you should be satisfied at the end of it. I think in some ways the movie could have gone a little more all out with how crazy it could be if it wasn’t trying to be based off of a true story though. The ending was rather intense though and it does seem like the gang has a whole lot of influence. Even the whole thing with the courts felt like it was rigged for Barry to fail.

Overall 7/10

Fire in the Sky Review

All right, it’s time to look at a true story about someone who was abducted by aliens and lived to tell the tale…..? Hold up, wait a minute…something ain’t right! Aliens are already around and kidnapping people? Now, I will grant you that I don’t 100% believe that there is no chance of aliens appearing but if you ask me, we’ll all know when they show up. In this day and age I don’t think it’s a secret that could be contained and I highly doubt they will be going around and abducting people without causing a scene. It just doesn’t seem likely. Also if they’re advanced enough to reach us from some unexplored solar system while we still struggle to get more than a few people to the Moon at a time…we’d be pretty much doomed.

So, we start the movie off with a group of loggers heading to the mountains for work. It’s made clear from the start that none of them get along all that well except for Mike and Travis who are best friends…or so we’re supposed to believe. I have my doubts personally. Anyway, they are heading home when a spaceship appears. It zaps Travis with one of their mega lasers and he hits the ground hard. Mike and the gang immediately assume he’s dead and despite being “Best Friends” Mike decides to hightail it out of there. After driving for a while Mike’s conscience finally catches up to him and he turns back. Unfortunately, Travis is no longer there.

Now these guys are considered the primary suspects in a murder case. After all, with no body and a lot of bad blood in the group, many people think that Mike and the gang murdered Travis. Now since this is based on a book Travis wrote, you know he eventually returns and at least that helps stop the murder charges but their social reputations have all been hurt quite a bit. The film hurt itself in quite a few ways too. Granted, it is better than the Communion but I would still give this film a thumbs down.

Lets start on the iffy parts because that’s the most fun. Right off the bat the film tries to really hit you with a sledgehammer of how aliens are so real that someone randomly mistakes a street light for a UFO. Yes, the sheriff is driving in his car when he suddenly sees UFO lights approaching. He semi panics but then looks up and it’s just the lights that flash when a train is approaching. Presumably as he takes this route all the time he would have encountered this a lot so…why so scared now?

Now this next one was a doozy for me but you can technically rationalize it. So Travis calls Mike up after he escapes the alien ship and explains that he is by a gas station and needs someone to save him. The gang show up but now Travis can’t talk at all and is so traumatized that he can’t be touched either. After a lot of rehab and work in the hospital he is able to say a few words at least and blames Mike for all of this. How was he able to make the call though?

The defense you can give to this is that the trauma hadn’t sunk in yet and he was able to make the call before it all set in. The adrenaline stepped up and all that. It’s a defense and you can make it work but it still seems like a stretch. I feel like it would have been better for a grand light to be in the sky or something that let the characters know where he was. I think that would have worked a lot better.

As for his adventure in alien world, I think they probably shouldn’t have even included it. The film’s close to 2 hours and I want to say that this scene doesn’t happen until the final 20 minutes of the film. By that point you are so far to the end and the whole thing had been played out in a pretty realistic way that you might as well have kept it that way. If all we knew about the alien abduction was Travis’ word on it then this would really feel like a pretty accurate description of what went down. We would have what Travis claimed happened here and the interesting visuals at the beginning.

By showing us the inside of the alien ship it definitely steps more into full sci-fi town. The aliens seem rather weak individually so I have to say Travis missed his chance to win this one. At one point he knocks one of their helmets off and the alien looks ancient. I’m talking Yoda levels of old. The room was an anti-grav zone so Travis needed to use his momentum by kicking off of the wall and landing a direct punch. Presumably that would knock out the alien and then he could take his time trying to escape. Unfortunately he handled it in the worst ways possible as he just panicked the whole time before seemingly being knocked out.

The experiments that were ran on him were certainly pretty gross that’s for sure. Aliens seem to love torturing humans in pretty much every medium, no wonder why people are so scared of them. Between this movie, Alien, and Predator, it seems like they’re all out to get the humans once and for all. So yeah I’d cut out the alien scene and keep this as a very grounded tale of something weird happening to Travis and the rest of the characters having to wonder if they really saw what they saw or if they were mistaken. Perhaps it was an experimental plane from another country or something.

In the actual town is where you get the more interesting dynamics. I liked the cop that was brought in from another state who is supposed to be an expert on these things. He did a good job of taking control of the narrative right away and trying to get to the bottom of things. He doesn’t buy into the alien angle at all and is very confident the whole time. I liked this confidence, he didn’t suddenly start believing in aliens or panicking. He just treated it like another case to be solved.

I wasn’t a big fan of any of the main characters though. For Mike, ditching Travis was a huge mistake. That just shouldn’t have happened. In the heat of the moment you either fight or flee and now the rest of them will know what his gut reaction is. Dallas was the worst of the guys as he picks fights for no real reason the entire time. He really makes himself out to be an even bigger suspect than necessary. There’s also just nothing to like about the guy and I don’t see why they kept him on the crew.

The other members of the crew were less memorable and mainly here to fill in the numbers. Mainly the most important member of the crew is Mike as we see various characters begin to doubt him. Even his wife and daughter both keep asking him what really happened as if he was lying about the whole thing. It definitely doesn’t do wonders for his self esteem and as the film goes on he seems to have quite a lot of survivor’s guilt.

The writing is pretty solid for the most part here. It’s not a very eventful movie for most of its run but at least on a technical standpoint I thought the movie did a decent job. It didn’t take a lot of risks and the way it handled the town’s reactions seemed to be on point. It was nice to see the lie detector machine as well. I feel like we should hopefully have better machines by now but even recently I remember seeing a video of some billionaires trying one out and you’re still limited to responding with a Yes or No to each question or it doesn’t work well. That’s really limiting and it also seems like it’s hard to get an accurate response out of it. It’s nice but I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock into the results based on this.

Overall, Fire in the Sky hardly seems like an event that would have really happened but I suppose you never know. I’d like to see one of these films where the guy being abducted fights back a little more though or maybe at least one film where the aliens aren’t gross about everything. Maybe one where they actually have some noticeable cultures and seem civilized instead of pretty mindless the whole time. Give us some cooler alien designs too. Instead of the usual stuff, have them look like Vasto Lordes from Bleach or maybe Insects from Hunter X Hunter. That would be a nice change.

Overall 4/10

Only The Brave

It’s time to look at a film based on a true story. As with any film in this style you will probably get the maximum effect if you don’t know about the event it’s based on. I’m not familiar with it myself so I get to be along for the ride as we get twists and turns. I assume it should be pretty accurate to what happened, maybe just some extra drama at most. It’s definitely a complete story either way.

The movie starts by introducing us to Eric who has been trying for years to get his group certified. Right now they can advise the fire fighters on how to handle a fire but they have no actual power and just get ignored all the time. Well, they finally have a chance to do this but they will have to handle the fires really well and impress the top brass. Eric is going to have to do this with a team that has quite a lot of new members on board as well. Hope these guys are ready because it’s time for the Hot Shots to do their thing.

In part the film can also work as an educational one since the movie discusses the different type of fire fighters. The Hot Shots for example are the guys who are allowed to fight fire with fire and actually get on the ground to do the job. You’ve got the planners who stay from afar and do directing as well as many other functions. Considering that these kind of wild fires are so dangerous and move with tremendous speed, it’s easy to see why there has to be so many rules and protocols here.

Even now people will die if they’re not prepared for a fire. Nature is one of those things that never fully gets conquered. Eric’s main challenge to get through is that he is currently having a lot of arguments with his wife. Originally when they married they agreed that they wouldn’t have kids and she didn’t mind being home alone while he would be out all day. Amanda has since changed her mind though and wants kids now but Eric doesn’t want to sacrifice his firefighting career.

There’s a lot of drama here to be sure. Eric doesn’t handle it very well at times to be sure. He tries to avoid the issue most of the time. Still, I do think he’s right when he says that they had an agreement. They both decided not to have any kids so it’s a bit late to be changing your mind on such a huge topic. It’s one of those things you always want to discuss before marriage for this precise reason and why you shouldn’t do so in the hopes that you’ll change the other person’s mind eventually. It just gets risky without a doubt and there’s constant tension in this plot between the two characters.

Then you have Brendan who is the other main character. He’s had a very checkered past involving a lot of drugs and affairs. He finds out that one girl he would hang out with named Natalie is pregnant and about to have a kid. Now he has to try to finally be responsible and help her out but she isn’t particularly interested in being with him. Brendan’s family is also ashamed and have kicked him out. Being a Hot Shot member is all that’s left to him now but perhaps it will be the stability he needs.

Brendan is doing his best to turn over a new leaf and that’s the bulk of his plot. He doesn’t have nearly the same kind of preparation and years of training that the others have but he has determination and a drive to succeed. He is trying his best the whole time so you can certainly root for him. Natalie also did well to survive on her own for so long and she gives Brendan a second chance. This subplot definitely appears as a much more positive note than the first one.

There are other members of the Hot Shot crew but the focus is certainly on the main two. The rest seem like reasonable members. Of course you have the one guy who’s a jerk to Brendan at first but he eventually mellows out and never gets too petty about it. Not everyone on the crew is necessarily a nice guy and a lot of threats are thrown around but they usually come through when it counts.

The visuals for the fire are definitely intense. Some of this would work rather well in an end of the world kind of film. The soundtrack is also good. There’s one theme in particular that even sounds like it could have come out of Tron. It’s got a bit of an electronic vibe to it which is nice to see.

For the most part, Only The Brave is a pretty light hearted film. It tends to touch on a lot of serious themes and gets grim at times but by and large I would call it light hearted. As for the ending, well if you know how the story ends then you’ll know if it’s happy or sad. It’s certainly not a cliffhanger type ending so no sequel here.

Overall, Only the Brave is a drama film with quite a lot of fire going on. It can be happy at times and it can be sad at others. Films based on true events certainly vary a lot depending on what the story is. You’ll know right away if it’s your kind of film or not. The characters tend to make a lot of mistakes here and go at each other but you don’t really know if this is for extra drama or presumably we knew this about them. Knowing that the film is based on a true story always adds another layer to the experience. It’s a lot to take in but you should know more about how to deal with fires by the end of watching this. So if this sounds like a story you want to watch then check it out and if not, then you can always read a news article about it instead.

Open Water

Usually when you have a film based on true events you try to make the characters look pretty good but that’s not the case here. This film makes at least one of them look really suspect the whole time but it starts to make sense when you make it to the end of the story.

Daniel and Susan lead very busy lives so they have had a really difficult time trying to schedule any time to take a vacation with each other. Finally they are able to squeeze in a bit of time and decide to go scuba diving. They take a boat trip to the middle of the ocean since this is apparently something people like to do. I don’t get why all of these really dangerous activities became such big hobbies. Just look at mountain climbing, so many people die a year trying this but perhaps it’s the adrenaline that makes it seem worth it. Personally I’ll skip all of that and stick to my video games….

But they’re having a good time so it all seems good. Unfortunately when they come up for air the boat is gone. Unfortunately the main teacher miscounted so the boat ended up going back and there was no backup counter. Additionally when everyone disembarked nobody really paid any attention to the fact that there was still one box of supplies left. In fact, nobody even checked until the next day. There are no maintenance crews or anything since this whole set up isn’t the safest. Looks like the heroes are on their own.

It’s always tough to try and have a whole film in a really small space with no real movement. It’s incredibly tough to pull off and this film was not able to execute it. To do that you have to have top notch dialogue and incredible writing since otherwise it will get old fast. I would say this one probably got old halfway in. My main issue was really with Susan though.

She starts to panic almost immediately. From there on every single one of her lines is yelling about something or constantly being sharp with her responses to Daniel. At least he tries to think positively about what’s going on or take things in stride but she won’t have it. She just keeps on complaining for the entire length of the movie. The one time Daniel gets upset at their situation she immediately turns it on him. He put up with her antics the whole film so it felt rather petty. Then the blame game starts.

As I said, the film isn’t exactly trying to make these guys likable. Daniel was decent, at least he was taking things in stride which is a big thing for me in these thriller type films. The characters who panic just get annoying pretty fast. That’s really the extent of the film though. Not a whole lot happens as they just chat for a while as the film goes through its paces. I think you could have shortened this to around 40 minutes or so and still had the same impact.

For the debate between the characters on what to do, I do think they should have at least tried swimming in a direction. Logically I would argue your odds are slightly better than staying in place because hopefully you could at least reach some kind of object to grab onto. Whereas your odds of being spotted by a ship are the same whether you move or not. It’ll also give you something to do which can help you stay warm as opposed to being frozen in place.

Not doing anything just never seems like a good idea to me. Scientifically the odds may be close to the same but I’ll still take my chances moving. If anything they’re lucky that it wasn’t raining super hard the whole time or something. That would have definitely hurt their odds even more.

The beginning is rather slow before they get to the ocean and the actual ocean part doesn’t move the plot much so I wouldn’t give the pacing a thumbs up. In terms of action we don’t get any real shark action until near the end. That part can be a bit violent but for the most part the rest of the film is super tame. Once the sharks come up then you know you’re near the end of the film. In case you don’t know the story behind it I won’t say what the ending is.

Overall, Open Water isn’t really my kind of film. I think the only way you pull off a dialogue film like this with two characters talking to each other the whole time without moving is if it’s about some kind of very interesting topic or in an action setting with the characters strategizing. Look, I watch 10-15 hour streams of people debating One Piece power levels which is equivalent to some guys in a small room just chatting but it’s all very engaging because there’s a lot of energy in the room and everyone shouting over each other. For obvious reasons the characters don’t have that kind of energy here and aren’t even in a good mood like that either. For that reason I would say the very premise is doomed from the start. There is no way to make a film like this stay interesting for the duration of its run without some kind of extra hook. Not if you want to keep the serious tone. As a comedy…perhaps you have something here. I would say to read up on the events this film is based on instead.

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale

It’s time to look at a film based on a true story from a long time ago. I’m sure you’ve heard the tale of Hachi/Hachiko from back in the day. Well, this is a modern re-imagining of it. With films based on true stories you already know the ending so it’s all about the execution. Is the film still able to sell you on the characters when you know how their stories conclude or will you be left wanting for more. I’d say the film seems like a pretty good adaption of the event. The characters are nice enough and the film doesn’t try to get too over dramatic.

The film starts off with Parker’s grandson talking about his hero. He picks Parker’s dog Hachi as his hero. We then cut to a flashback where we learn about this. Once upon a time, Parker was leaving his train when he saw a lost puppy all alone. He picked up the dog and took him home. He couldn’t find the owner for the puppy even after posting flyers everywhere so he ended up keeping him. The dog’s name appeared to be Hachi based on the symbol on his collar so that became his name. Parker’s wife Cate was not a fan of the dog for a while but eventually relented. The two of them shared a good time until the end of Parker’s days. Hachi never forgot him and ultimately a statue was built in Hachi’s honor.

It’s a pretty good emotional film. I’m glad Hachi ultimately had a good run and the film didn’t go for a tragic twist like him dying of anything other than natural causes. The film portrays Hachi as a very intelligent dog who really knew what was going on and even memorized Parker’s trains. He was a nice dog who always brightened up everyone’s day. Hachi was also resourceful with how he would find ways out of the house and paths to Parker. Even the family moving out of the neighborhood wasn’t enough to stop him.

Meanwhile Parker did a pretty good job of looking after Hachi. While he did his best not to get attached he always treated Hachi very well. If anything he would have spoiled him further if not for Cate slowing things down initially. My only real complaint is Hachi having to stay outdoors the whole time. I’ve never agreed with having the dog outside. The dog should always be in the apartment/house at all times free to do what he wants. A dog should be given complete freedom to have fun. A dog house is really excluding the dog from the full experience the film shows that Hachi was always sad to be out there.

Cate was the worst character for a majority of the film, but fortunately she got better by the end. Deciding not to look after Hachi even by the end was pretty sketchy though. Hachi needed at least one of the owners to stay with him even if they never developed a bond the way he did with Parker. It just makes sense that they wouldn’t be super close since we never got to see her play with him. Cate was definitely a much tougher owner than the rest of the family.

Then you’ve got the daughter Andy and her husband Michael. They do their best to look after Hachi a bit too, but give up way too fast. They definitely should have kept Hachi with them instead of letting him freeze out in the cold for so long. Things worked out well for Hachi but it was still quite the gamble. They had to depend on the fact that it was a nice community for Hachi to have a good time. One of the best characters in the film was definitely the hot dog vendor Jasjeet. Jasjeet provided for Hachi in the end and liked the dog from the start. He was always glad to have some company and it did both characters good.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film like this where every character is fundamentally nice. It’s not the kind of movie that really needs an antagonist because real life doesn’t always have a villain like that. It’s hard to picture a community being so nice and welcoming to Hachi nowadays though. These were just different times and it’s nice to see how peaceful and wholesome the adventure was. The film isn’t particularly long so it’s over with pretty quick.

Overall, Hachi is a solid film. It’s definitely on the emotional side especially since you know how it’s going to end. It’s easier for a person to be alone than for an animal because they don’t really understand why they are now alone. It’s as if the person just vanished out of the blue. They won’t be able to meet up again until Heaven and that’s even assuming that the owner was Christian. If you’re up for a story like this then Hachi is as good an adaption as any. It’s not really my kind of film but you should more or less know what you’re getting into right away unless you’re unfamiliar with the legend. If you don’t know how it ends then I suppose the film will be more unexpected which could work out well.