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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, Oct 21 2018 08:28AM


First Man (2018) Dir. Damien Chazelle


For a man who is probably one of the most famous who ever lived, Neil Armstrong was sure a modest guy. Shunning the spotlight after his infamous trip to the moon and back, the human who took one small step decided to take a step back from the limelight after his legendary voyage. And it is that low-key confidence that director Damien Chazelle (of La La Land and Whiplash fame) tries to tap into in his new film First Man.


We are thrown into the cockpit in Chazelle’s opening scene as Armstrong’s pilot comes unstuck during a test flight of an experimental X-15 rocket which he struggles to gain control of during a re-entry. Chazelle’s tone throughout combines two recurring themes – the cool-as-a-cucumber Armstrong and the technical feats of NASA during the 60s. The opening is a claustrophobic and exciting action sequence where buzzing alarms, broken throttles and life-threatening science all go hand in hand.


After successfully getting back to earth, although Armstrong is not entirely seen as successful, the film begins to expose how Armstrong however was viewed as extremelt dependable in times of crisis. Ryan Gosling’s slightly one-trick “moody wanderer” shtick (see also Blade Runner 2049 and Only God Forgives) works here to show Armstrong as a contemplative and serious man whose one goal is the success of any challenge placed in front of him.


Attempting to get more emotion from him is Armstrong’s wife played by an excellent Claire Foy. After the loss of their young daughter, Armstrong adds a metaphorical distance in their relationship. Burying his emotions deep, the film follows Armstrong in times of solace – again, reiterating his lonesome and contemplative nature. Foy brings depth to what could be a “caring wife” cliché – giving her some real toughness which was also seen in Unsane and no doubt in the future Dragon Tattoo spin off.


As their family stresses adds to Neil’s woes, Chazelle uses the “space” between words to explore the difficulties they are both facing. As the Apollo missions gain pace, more and more fellow Astronauts are killed during tests and flights which constantly plays on the couple’s fragile minds.


Whilst Chazelle uses the quiet moments to say so much the film really has two sound modes: Bombastic noise with a symphonic score (excellently composed by Justin Hurwitz) but in contrast stark silence. The audience is reminded of the omission of sound in space but space is both the empty void between the stars AND the gap between husband and wife.


Chazelle’s involvement in such “sound films” like Grand Piano, La La Land and Whiplash has given him huge dexterity in using sound as another character – one that comes to the forefront when it is there and also when it isn’t. Alongside this, the acting of the support cast is great and the whole film is shot very naturally, and at times with an improvisational style especially with the child actors.Filmed on both very grainy and authentic 16mm and 35mm film stock., further authenticity is added the inclusion of real footage from the era in 3:4 ratio which alongside the subtle but well used wardrobe, further adds to its time period credentials.


As the film edges closes to the infamous Apollo 11 launch, the constant presence of death – loss of young child, loss of colleagues, loss of friends – continues to permeate throughout. In many ways, as this occurs, Armstrong experiences an increased loss of emotion. With Chazelle’s almost point-of-view shots from the astronaut’s positions in their spacecraft, their confined position is an apt coffin itself.


The film returns to his daughter’s death as Armstrong avoids people at a colleague's funeral and he tracks his daughter’s illness in a log book and is as meticulous about his work as his family – sometimes to both their detriment.


As we enter the final third, Chazelle’s great film even raises the stakes despite us all knowing the expected outcome. The noise of creaking metal and shots of shaking rivets show how these men are simply in a controlled but very dangerous explosion. The risk to life is very real and the long pauses throughout the movie create a tension that sticks during its moon landing ending – spectacularly filmed in IMAX sequences. And as the eagle lands on the surface, one of the most well-known parts of our shared history is given new life and we rediscovers its importance – to us all and to this one humble man.


First Man therefore is a fantastic voyage of both a mythical yet somewhat conventional man. Ever the reluctant hero and considering he completed one of the most, if not the most, infamous achievements in human history, his commitment to science, family and getting the job done comes across in Chazelle’s portrayal. A uniquely earnest and simple man, Armstrong may have sought a low profile later in life, but I hope First Man reignites interest in this hugely exciting period.


And Chazelle has no need to bow down to the audience to ensure everything is a projection of their experience. This is Neil’s experience. And First Man is a first-rate biography mixing an amazing directorial confidence in cinematic techniques to explore what drives us all to unimaginable personal and public feats of endeavour.


9/10


Mike Sales



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