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By midlandsmovies, Jun 29 2019 03:43PM



Apollo 11 (2019) Dir. Todd Douglas Miller


Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the famous 1969 moon landings, Apollo 11 is a new documentary that revisits the familiar space-race story but with some very unfamiliar footage. Made up entirely of archive film, the documentary includes high quality 70mm sequences that have never been released publicly, which is a huge shame given their significance.


But thankfully, here they are now. With no narration and minimal dialogue dubbed over the NASA images, the film reminded me of the documentary 3 Shots The Changed America about JFK’s assassination. There, as with here, historical home-movie style sequences from the era gave an eerie realism little seen in more formally structured docs.


And coming from the President who promised the US public a man on the moon in the first place, both films use 60s film stock and snippets of conversational sounds to create a natural feel that thrusts you straight into their respective periods.


The amazing footage isn’t just used for the inevitable launch and landing however. Much of the joy comes from the mundane. If you feel overfamiliar with the subject then the exclusive backroom admin work, telephone calls and crowds waiting in anticipation give the audience an experience that they would not have seen before – short of being at Cape Kennedy on the day itself.


Swathes of thrilled Americans are edited alongside rare CCTV of a van transporting the astronauts to the launch site. This grainy intimate black and white footage is as fascinating as the glorious 70mm film as we get to view many little-seen aspects from the day that all lead to the countdown. The huge tracks of the Missile Crawler Transporter slowly moving the Saturn V rockets to the pad are shot in such high quality you’ll swear they were filmed last week.


The Southern accents certainly make it an all-American affair, whilst a leaking valve shows the reality of the situation and its risky difficulties. The sensational images continue with the launch itself and the excitement of that day comes across in every frame. But again, the matter-of-fact procedures show how “normal” much of this seems. And these also remind us of the hundreds of humans behind the momentous occasion.


And as I type this on a laptop that has 1,500 times more processing power than the lunar module, the reality is that this was a dangerous mission as Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are strapped into a claustrophobic metal box stuck to the world’s biggest firework.


Covering both the scientific detail and the strong patriotic emotions, Apollo 11 is a must-see for space enthusiasts and for the rest, you can bask in the jaw-dropping and immaculate footage which brings the electrifying lunar landing to life.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Apr 7 2019 11:32AM



Midlands Review - Capcom Go at the National Space Centre


On April 6th 2019, Midlands Movies Editor Mike Sales headed to the National Space Centre in Leicester who were screening the world premiere of a brand-new show in the UK’s largest planetarium. Read his thoughts below of this spectacular new space-based event...


CAPCOM GO! The Apollo Story celebrates the achievements of the Apollo missions and highlights what it took to put the first humans on the Moon and with our enjoyment of last year's First Man, we couldn't be more excited.


Capcom, if you didn’t know, is short for ‘capsule communicator’ - a NASA position who is the liaison between an in-space crew and mission control.


And with a packed crowd for the first screening, the planetarium show opens on a tv of the original ‘first step’, and soon the old-style tv fades away into the distance. But then your breath is taken away when space suddenly comes into view and takes up your entire field of vision in an amazing 360 degree experience.


Colourful diagrams and archive footage fills in the backstory of the cold-war space race. From the first dog to the first man we get computer graphics zooming us across the world showing how global the event became.


A section devoted to the unsung human “computers” whose solutions to complex mathematics made JFK’s dream possible showcased the men, and especially women, of the back-room staff. Do check out Hidden Figures – a fantastic film that explores this important but sometimes overlooked portion of the Apollo plan.


The film continues as elliptical orbits and slingshot journeys fill the planetarium’s ceiling and – word of warning – the constant moving of the stars can give younger viewers serious motion sickness, so do beware!


As well as the historical and fun, the film doesn’t skip over the dangerous testing that was done and the lives lost in the process. Halfway through, a serene and respectful moment gives time for the audience to reflect on the real cost for the pioneers aiming for the stars.


However, we are soon at the Saturn 5 launch pad in what was to be one of the highlights of the show. The swinging camera shows the rocket on its pad and an overhead crane shot will give you a sense of vertigo not seen since Spider-Man: Homecoming 3-D!


As the boosters ignite, the room shakes and the film is a pleasure for both the eyes and the ears. Following the Apollo journey, the film mixes cinematic flourishes with more educational information about the lunar modules and we are soon skipping across the moon’s service in another fantastic sequence showing the dangerous landing. And yes, we get the obligatory, but still hugely powerful “eagle has landed” and “one small step” speeches too.


As the film concludes we get one more rampant scene of fun as the lunar rover jumps and bounds across the surface in a segment that seems a little overblown - but with music pumping and the rover jumping, younger viewers will hopefully leave the auditorium fulfilled by the entertainment and the easily digestible “factoids”.


The full 30 minutes are not just a well-crafted and well-rendered CGI treat by the award-winning NSC Creative, it contains full and understandable information for all ages with lashings of spectacular space sequences. And as Apollo inspired a new generation of engineers and enthusiasts, the final positive message of hope in Capcom Go aims to do the same with today’s astronaut admirers.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Mar 21 2019 09:55AM



Take a trip to the moon in new film at the National Space Centre Leicester


On 06 April the National Space Centre in Leicester is launching a brand-new planetarium show and you could be one of the first people on the planet to take a seat in the UK’s largest planetarium to see it.


CAPCOM GO! The Apollo Story, celebrates the achievements of the Apollo missions, highlighting what it took to put the first humans on the Moon.


The show tells the amazing story of the Apollo space missions, which are just as important today, as humankind looks to return to the Moon and on to other planets.


CAPCOM GO! has been produced by the award winning NSC Creative, one of the world’s leading planetarium-specialist production companies, with shows screening in over 600 venues in 60 countries.


On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 10 mission, the National Space Centre is inviting visitors to take a seat in the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium, the UK’s largest planetarium, to discover how NASA not only landed man on the Moon, but also saw humankind take one giant scientific and technological leap.


Apollo inspired a generation of engineers, mathematicians, human computers and scientists. Paul Mowbray, Director of NSC Creative, said; “What better way to celebrate 50 years since one of the greatest achievements in human history than by introducing a new generation to the immense challenges the team overcame with the aims of inspiring our visitors to become the explorers, designers, engineers, thinkers and dreamers of the future.”


The new show kicks off a full programme of celebrations in the Easter school holiday period. Apollo Easter will see visitors witness explosive presentations, build and land their own Lunar Module and construct a Moon orbiter, as well as take a seat in the Planetarium for this brand-new show.


Book now and upgrade your ticket for a free Annual Pass upgrade. Tickets cost £15 per adult and £12 per child with the cost of your planetarium show included in your ticket.


https://spacecentre.co.uk/event/apollo-easter


By midlandsmovies, Sep 11 2017 05:43PM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 4




Unlocked (2017) Dir. Michael Apted

After the awful ‘Rupture’ and the fantastic ‘What Happened To Monday’, Noomi Rapace is one of my favourite actresses but boy does she need a decent film (and some consistency) for her to attach her multiple talents to. Sadly, this action thriller falls way short of quality entertainment as Rapace’s ex-CIA interrogator is tricked into getting involved in a suspected terrorist chemical attack in London. The film is not short of talent with support coming from a sleazy Michael Douglas, a phone-in/hammy performance from John Malkovich (which this film needed much more of) and Toni Collette’s MI5 head who has more in common with Annie Lennox with her blonde buzz cut, than James Bond’s M. “Hey, that large nameless goon looks like Orlando Bloom” I screech before realising it is Orlando Bloom yet whose ‘acting’ and accent is so bad I almost stopped watching. Rapace’s thoughtful dark performance in ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' shows she can bring depth to characters, whilst her turn in ‘What Happened to Monday’ shows she can handle the lead in an action flick. So her involvement in two of the worst films of 2017 is much like this film – a huge HUGE disappointment. Avoid this dull, stilted and ponderous thriller like the biological plague. 4/10



Risk (2017) Dir. Laura Poitras

Laura Poitras new documentary is a solid if slightly amateur looking exposé on Wikileak’s founder Julian Assange. What is interesting is how it reveals the inherent conflicts of Assange’s work (and more fascinatingly his character) as the film flips from a behind the scenes look at the machinations of the organisation to the complexities of his impending extradition. The film contrasts the support for making public potential war crimes and surveillance with a critique of Assange and the shady sexual abuse claims. Sadly the brief-ish 91 minutes drags owing to a mix of constant shaky cam (which is less “intentional choice” than simply the only option and bad camerawork) in addition to the constant presence of Assange whose arrogance is unpalatable to say the least. Director Poitras wisely changes tack when she claims Assange sent her a message calling certain scenes a "threat to his freedom", with Assange missing the irony completely with this censorship request. Although his real-life escape to the Peruvian Embassy has a certain excitement to it, the film is unable to construct itself to create a meaningful narrative that’s more engaging. Difficult questions are approached, multi-sides of the story are presented and the work of Wikileaks analysed from various perspectives which is testament to Poitras’ investigations. Yet all the people involved are so inherently unpleasant that the interesting political and moral ramifications of these revelations are lost amongst the obnoxious posturing from insufferable people. 5/10



Hidden Figures (2017) Dir. Theodore Melfi

“If we keep labelling something 'a black film,' or 'a white film'— basically it's modern day segregation. We're all humans. Any human can tell any human’s story”. Theodore Melfi, Director.


Based on the real life 1960s story of African American female mathematicians working at NASA, Hidden Figures is a powerful drama about an important part in not just the history of the USA but for the work which helped build towards that “giant leap for Mankind”. With Soviet space supremacy on the horizon the internal pressure rises and genius mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is headhunted to assist the lead space team during a time of demeaning segregation.


From resolving issues about heat shields to solving equations about trajectories, Katherine fights objections, prejudices and her own anonymity in the reports she creates and it’s this conflict which gives the film its engaging power. Henson’s stoic performance channels a humble woman attempting to fulfil her role against a tide of narrow-mindedness. And there is also great support from Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan who is being denied a supervisor role and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson who has to go to court to attend a white-only night school to train as an engineer. Kevin Costner plays the director of the Space Task Group and he brings back his 60s ‘JFK’ Jim Garrison with similarly framed glasses and a focus on the injustices of the world, whilst Jim Parsons is simply his ‘Bing Bang Theory’ Sheldon Cooper with an added ignorance.


The trio of put-upon lead women are outstanding and portray a proud magnificence – and some warm light-heartedness in their car journeys together – as they all attempt to become first-rate workers in a world full of social barriers. It reminded me somewhat of Race (our 2016 review here) which I enjoyed immensely but here the narrative momentum replaces a track race with the space race. The film takes some liberties with facts from the era but a 2 hour run time is going to need to use composite characters, conflated timelines and a more simplistic explanation of NASA management structures but the importance of these ladies – both in their small steps and giant leaps – should not be underestimated. Well photographed and with enough cinematic flourishes, Hidden Figures utilises the multiple talents of its terrific cast to portray the efforts and toil that moved the world towards a more “human”-kind. 8/10



Bloodrunners (2017) Dir. Dan Lantz

A 1930s b-movie prohibition flick with Ice-T as a gangster vampire has to be a lot of fun, right? Er, sadly no as this schlock horror fails to love up to its ridiculous description. Clearly low budget, my low expectations were not even fulfilled as we follow a corrupt middle-aged cop trying to make sense of the visitors and owners of a whore house and speakeasy in his town. The film takes a vampire’s life-time to get going as the film promises blood and guns (it’s a vampire gangster flick after all) but it takes nearly 2/3rds of the film to get any real action. The high concept-low budget set up cries out for silly action yet takes itself far too seriously with nods to spousal abuse, class conflict and a soppy story of love between two youngsters from opposite sides. Some cool swing music cannot hide the TV-show style sets, awful stock characters (the “crazy” priest who isn’t believed) and hackneyed writing. Again, the concept isn’t the worse idea in the world and with (a lot of) tinkering, there is an enjoyable thrill-ride in here somewhere but unfortunately Bloodrunners will make your blood run cold with its amateur delivery. Absolutely toothless. 4/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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