Michael Scott

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First Man


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Movie: :4.5stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:



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Movie

Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and the rest of the infamous seven pilots who were the basis for the Apollo 11 launch back in the 60s are things of legends. We all know the infamous “One small step” line, and countless films have been made about the superstars, including the amazing The Right Stuff back in 1983. However, First Man promised to be really really good, as the director of La La Land and Whiplash was basing his take on Neil Armstrong off of the authorized autobiography of the man, which took a much different view on it than the lionized book that Tom Wolfe wrote back in 1979. However, the film’s production was surrounded by controversy as some sources stated that director Damien Chazelle was cutting out the flag being planted on the moon, as well as back and forth conspiracies about taking down the legend that was these brave men. After a year of these controversies it came out to thunderous applause, and people realizing that it was not the travesty they were expecting, but rather a fascinating character drama that enthralls and pulls you into the pain, sacrifice and grit that it took to make this happen.

Back in the 1960s we were playing catch up to the Soviets in the space race. Every time we got something done, the Soviets got there a bit earlier. With the Russians releasing Sputnik recently NASA decided to make a go at something that even the Russians hadn’t thought of. They were going to bypass putting up more satellites and instead go straight for the impossibility of putting a human being on the moon itself. The task was daunting for sure, as this had never been attempted before. Even worse, this was 50 years prior to today’s technology and getting a rocket up without incident was still a shaky prospect. Pilot Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) has just lost his 2 year old daughter to brain cancer and is looking for a new start, and that new start just so happens to be an open casting call for pilots to come and work for NASA on a special project. The grieving father takes the long risk after getting grounded for a wonky mission and suddenly lands the role of a lifetime. The opportunity to be one of 7 men chosen for the space walk pool.

While an experienced pilot, Neil is not prepared for the sheer brutality of the training. Gut wrenching zero g gravity spins, long hours, and tons of time away from his family. While Neil is not exactly the loving and emotional person type after his daughter’s death, his constant time away certainly puts a strain on his and wife Janet’s (Claire Foy) relationship. The man is putting his heart and soul into a job that could certainly kill him, and all he can do to give comfort is say “well, we’re going to try and come back”. It doesn’t help matters any when the project suffers a series of devastating setbacks, with shuttles blowing up, a botched docking procedure, and a fire taking the lives of 3 of the 7 pilots. However, American ingenuity and the bravery of hundreds of brilliant scientists can keep the mission at bay, and history unfolds in one of the most inspiring tales of human perseverance known to us today.
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First Man is not a flashy movie, and Damien doesn’t spend a while amount of time lionizing and pumping up the mission itself. Instead it focuses on Armstrong himself, and the rest of the men on the mission as they are faced with insurmountable odds in their race to space. Gosling restrains himself incredibly here, playing Armstrong as a cool and emotionally distant person which mirrors the painful withdrawal that Armstrong himself suffered after his daughter’s death. In fact, while I recognize the young actor’s quirks, he absorbs himself into the role of the stoic astronaut with so deeply that he’s barely recognizable at times. Claire Foy is painfully raw as his wife Janet, while Jason Clarke is the perfect emotional foil to Armstrong’s stoicism (along with Corey Stoll as the savagely blunt Buzz Aldrin).

It’s not a wild adventure, but First Man is hypnotically addicting from the get go. The movie follows a slow and steady pace (sometimes a bit TOO slow, the one fault that I had with the movie that made me knock it down from a 5/5 to a 4.5/5 film), but it is completely enthralling. Gosling makes the role his own and the sheer intensity of the movie is so subversive that you don’t realize just HOW intense it is until the final moments of the movie where you realize that you’ve been holding your breath and didn’t even realize it. I myself was worried that this was going to be a politically correct and scrubbed movie like the rumors were saying it would be, but I was thankful to see that those rumors were pretty much faulty (and I’m the right wing guy who can bitterly detect political correctness and PC culture a mile away!), and that the end result was a fantastic drama.




Rating:

Rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language




4K Video: :4.5stars: Video: :5stars:
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First Man was shot with mainly 16mm film (and some 35mm) and then transferred to a 2K master where it was used for the Blu-ray release (which is nothing short of 5/5 perfect) and upscaled for the 4K UHD release here. Comparing the two discs side by side you can definitely seen the improvement in the 4K imagery. It’s not a night and day jaw dropping difference, but the jump up in resolution shows some tangible benefits that more accurately give it a more “organic” look compared to the Blu-ray. The grain structure is tighter and cleaner, and the colors show more richness and depth thanks to the HDR and Dolby Vision, especially in the low light areas which allow for more visible shapes and textures even in the darkness. The colors look rather drab in some senses of the word, as the film is graded to look like the 1960s in our minds eye, with plenty of earth tones (especially in those low light shots) contrasted with pale hues of blue and gold that make up the 60s “look”. The opening shots with Armstrong blasting through the atmosphere is nothing short of jaw dropping, and the close up facial textures are amazing. If I had to boil it down to an overview, the Blu-ray is jaw dropping, and the 4K UHD disc pushes it just that much better to be a more natural and filmic presentation.







Audio: :5stars:
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I’ve always wondered what makes a studio use both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos for there releases. I mean, I just reviewed Johnny English Strikes Back this morning and it sports a DTS:X track, while First Man is home to the more common Dolby Atmos. It’s nothing that makes me give an edge to one encoding method over the other as both are stunning. It’s just me pondering on what the decision making process is for making one with one format and the other with the competing format. Ah well, I digress as the real treat is listening to this Dolby Atmos track (that is present on both the Blu-ray and the 4K UHD disc). The opening scene with the rocket going off lets the listener in that they are in for a TREAT today, with deep throbbing base and a wide sound stage that just encompasses you. The film is a bit dialog heavy at times, but those vocals are clean and clear, and luckily interspersed with lots of NASA testing, which means more room for the surrounds and low end to flex their muscles. The nuances of the track are staggering, especially when the crew gets into space and you can hear the creaking and groaning of the Gemini station as the shuttle tries to dock. Then there’s the complete ABSENCE of sound when Neil and the lunar landing ship is just as impactful than the impressive shockwave of LFE and surround usage.





Extras: :3.5stars:
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Deleted Scenes
• Shooting for the Moon – Take an intimate look at the production of First Man and the collaborative relationship between Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling.
• Preparing to Launch – It's difficult to believe that First Man is the first major feature film to tell the journey of Apollo 11. Hear from Director Damien Chazelle and his cast why now is the time to tell the story of this historic event.
• Giant Leap in One Small Step – A heroic character study, First Man sheds light on all the hard working individuals that got us to the moon and back.
• Mission Gone Wrong – Watch as Ryan Gosling reenacts a test piloting sequence gone terribly wrong. Go behind the scenes to see how he trained to nail the landing, performing the majority of his own stunts.
• Putting You In the Seat – Through the use of innovative technology, most of First Man was shot in-camera. Take an in-depth look behind the lens of this epic film.
• Recreating the Moon Landing – Filmed in IMAX to show the vastness of the moon, find out all that it took to recreate the most famous moment in NASA history.
• Shooting at NASA – Hear from Ryan Gosling and Director Damien Chazelle on how shooting at NASA brought unparalleled authenticity to First Man.
• Astronaut Training – Go behind the scenes of the three day boot camp each of the actors underwent prior to filming First Man.
• Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross







Final Score: :4.5stars:

First Man is a fantastic character drama that is much more intent on telling the story of the man BEHIND the mission rather than focus on the famous mission itself. It’s compelling, long, and ultimately very satisfying as it culminates in the legendary “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” moment that we’ve all been waiting for. There’s not a lot of flash and style to the movie, but it director Damien Chazelle keeps you glued to the screen for the near 2 ½ hour run time. The video and audio are incredible on the 4K and Blu-ray discs, and along with some meaty extras makes for a must watch experience.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, Cirian Hinds, Pablo Schreiber
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Written by: Josh Singer (Screenplay), James R. Hansen (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 / 1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 141 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 22nd, 2019






Recommendation: Must Watch

 
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tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Will check it out. :)
 

JBrax

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I can’t wait for this one. I’ll be adding to the collection one way or another! :sneaky:
 

jdubs75

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Great review Michael. The details of your audio review has now placed this one to the front of my watch list!!!!! :)
 

Jon Liu

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Thanks for the review! This was one of my favorite movies from last year. Simply captivating. Gosling is not my favorite actor out there, but he certainly did a fantastic job in this film.
 

Jack

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Michael, I could not agree more. This is a wonderful movie that takes on an incredible period of time in the space race. I could not believe how fully I fell into this movie as time flew by providing the belief that it was nowhere near 2.5 hours. The detail of this motion picture in way of story both visually and historically cannot be thought of as anything less than brilliant. The research that went into this must have been immense.
I also agree with you about a small amount of drag at times but it was short lived and did not really bother too much. I agree this is a must watch.
 

Tony V.

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I avoided this movie as I thought it was just another space movie about the moon landing (more of an 40min Imax film than a movie) but after your review I will be checking this out.
 

Todd Anderson

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The Right Stuff is one of my top 5 favorite films of all time... I first saw it in the theater with the mindset of a fighter-jet crazed elementary school kid living on Clark Air Force Base (Philippines), and eventually taped it off HBO onto two BetaMax tapes. I think there's a good chance I've seen the flick 80+ times.

I totally missed First Man in the theaters... but I've ordered a copy! Can't wait to watch it.
 
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Asere

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Thanks for the review. I almost forgot about this one. I will definitely rent it.
 

JBrax

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