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T.A. Moreland

T.A. Moreland

The First Man, It Doesn’t Really Take Off. [MOVIE REVIEW]

Based on the bestselling account of Neil Armstrong’s journey to becoming the first person on the moon,First Man stars Ryan Gosling as the first man on the moon. The film focuses upon the 1961 – 1969 time period when Armstrong goes from a decorated but unknown pilot to one of the most famous men in the world. The story doesn’t just focus on the NASA side of his life but also upon his painful recovery from a loss of close loved one.

First Man is an often dry, necessarily predictable but informationally important film. The problem with movies based upon well-known historical events is that the outcomes are by in large already known. When senior government officials discussed whether the U.S. would move forward with plans to land a man on the moon, viewers knew that answer was yes. When Armstrong applied for the astronaut’s program we all knew he’d be selected.

The movie also tells the story of Armstrong’s home and family life – which is actually pretty boring. Younger viewers expecting to see Star Wars type of adventures will be disappointed.

But the film's value is its references to historical issues. Like how the U.S. space exploration was driven by competition with the Russians and that eight men died in NASA related accidents during the 1960s.

Ryan Gosling is bland in First Man’s leading role. I am not sure if that was his acting or a reflection of Armstrong’s true personality. On the other hand, Claire Foy was outstanding as Armstrong’s wife Janet. She dominated every scene she was in.

As to cast diversity, First Man gets a “C”. To many in this country, this time period from 1961-1969 represents the “good ole days” when women and people of color held few positions of power or authority. However, black men are shown at the launch site and in the command center scenes. And there were no references to the black women featured in Hidden Figures, who played essential roles the space program during that very same time period.

The verdict on the First Man is to wait and Rent It. It’s an interesting film but not compelling enough to rush out and see it now.

It’s Rated PG-13 (for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language). And it is an extremely long 138 minutes.

The Oath is pretty good; I promise [MOVIE REVIEW]

In The Oath, the White House announces it is requesting that all Americans take an “optional” loyalty pledge to the president. This request outrages Chris (Ike Barinholtz), a diehard liberal and only fuels his existing anger over the direction the country is heading. He shares his disgust with his wife, Kai (Tiffany Haddish) who appears to be just as offended. As they prepare to host his family for Thanksgiving, he hears stories of people who vocally oppose the pledge being taken from their homes by federal agents. Chris’ family comprised of his parents, sister and her husband, and brother and his girlfriend arrive and as Chris expects, there are contentious exchanges among them about the pledge and politics in general. Kai does her best to keep the peace but things only get worse when some unexpected guests arrive.

Writer, director, and star Ike Barinholtz makes a strong statement about America’s current political climate in this provocative production. He hits both the government and those who remain quiet and are even supportive of the erosion of U.S. constitutional principles. The characters are authentic and credible, except for the fact that they ALL curse like the proverbial sailor which makes all of their dialogue sound very similar.

Chris’ interracial marriage fits his persona perfectly but is not really a major issue in the storyline. Tiffany Haddish continues her tendency, we first saw in Girls Trip, to play the stereotypical, horny black woman. When Chris first hears of the pledge and goes on a rant, her focus quickly becomes getting his pants off.
While the performances are stellar across the board, Ike Barinholtz is exceptional; just as you might expect of someone who writes, directs, and stars in a film.

As to our cast diversity rating, The Oath gets an A-. The cast is relatively small and Haddish, an African American woman and Asian American John Cho have major roles.

Ultimately, The Oath works because it’s thought-provoking and takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster. It gets our highest rating, See It!

It’s rated R (for language throughout, violence and some drug use) and is a fast-paced, 93 minutes in length.

 

The First Purge Should be the Last. [MOVIE REVIEW]

It’s sometime in the future. The First Purge, the fourth in the series, shows how the idea began of having 12 hours in which it is legal to commit all crimes, including murder. A new right-wing party called the New Founding Fathers (NFF) initiates the concept supposedly to allow people to release frustrations building up from everyday life. Staten Island is chosen as the test site for the first purge. Ultimately, NFF’s true motive comes to light.

The First Purge is sickening. And, similar to Book Club, The First Purge is Dead on Arrival. The problems are many. First, it assumes that viewers don’t know much about Staten Island, including that its population is almost 80% percent white, mainly Irish and Italian Catholics. This film focuses on a low-income housing development and the surrounding communities which are black, who comprise about 10% of the Island’s population. There are more Hispanics in Staten Island than there are blacks. If this community did exist it would include whites and Hispanics.

Next, white screenwriter, James DeMonaco, who’s from Brooklyn, obviously did little research, as he creates scenes and dialogue based upon how he believes black people act. The film opens with a conversation between a blue-eyed, intellectual, medical male staff person and a dark-skinned, scared face, inarticulate black man with badly stained teeth.

It’s loaded with stereotypes. There’s a lot of the N-word, black street gangs (which is NOT a huge issue in Staten Island), heavy drug dealing, and hoochie mamas. And during the purge, again when all crimes are legal, rather than finding safe havens, they show black people dancing in the streets and partying. Since sex is the only thing black people ever think about, the film features a couple in plain sight, getting busy on the top of a car.

Further, in DeMonaco’s black world, even the most decent, peace-loving African American woman, is familiar with and knows how to use a gun!

Even though the film ultimately shows this community is the victim of malevolent forces, the way it is displayed, it justifies the disdain and fear of low-income urban residents that some people harbor.

The First Purge gets a “C” for cast diversity. It’s a largely African American troupe. Marisa Tomei is one of the few white actors in the film. She plays the sociologist who originally comes up with the purge idea. The film’s grade reflects its misrepresentation of the demographics of story’s location.

There are two characteristics of bad films. Both occurred at the screening of The First Purge: viewers laugh at serious dialogue not all intended to be funny. And people leave before it’s over.

The First Purge is rated “R” for strong disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use. And is 99 minutes in length.

This 4th of July week, purge your mind of any notions of seeing The First Purge.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom- It stumbles but eventually gets up!

The Jurassic World Theme Park has been closed for four years to the public but the dinosaurs thrive on Isla Nublar without paying onlookers. Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to the island when a volcano threatens to end all life there. Owen is especially concerned about Blue, the raptor he bonded within the last Jurassic edition.

While saving the prehistoric creatures from a threat from nature, Owen and Claire learn of manmade threats to destroy the animals completely and another which would exploit them for financial gain.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom struggles to develop underlying plotlines when the entire purpose of these films is to showcase the dinosaurs. The stories are weak, predictable and plagued by a number of “coming out of nowhere rescues” by both humans and creatures.

Returning stars, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, add stability and familiarity to the film. But among the human cast, the real star is young Isabella Sermon, who plays Maisie Lockwood, whose grandfather, Benjamin helped create the dinosaur-cloning technology. Isabella is amazing!
For cast diversity, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gets a B+. One of the featured stars, in addition to Pratt and Howard, is a young black actor, Justice Smith playing Franklin, a nerdy, easily frightened, computer tech. There are also other people of color in supporting and minor roles.

Ultimately, the Jurassic Park Series is about the special effects and the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom doesn’t disappoint. And that’s enough to garner a “See It!” rating.

The film is PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril and is 129 minutes in length.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom also hints at the next film in the series.

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