This TV movie, that is available on Netflix, is a truth based story on the investigation of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger that blew up very shortly after launch.
William Hurt plays Richard Feynman, an independent scientist who is assigned to the investigation committee. Feynman is no ordinary scientist. He has a Nobel Peace Prize for his quantum physics work and was one of the original scientists on the Manhattan project (involved with the atom bomb).
The public, the Government and NASA all wanted a quick resolution on this. They wanted to get public trust and faith back in the Shuttle missions. There was no cover-up or anything particularly under hand, just things were going a little quicker than they should have been.
Feynman dug into areas he wasn’t technically suppose to, and with the help of a NASA whistle blower he discovers a whole area that needs further investigation and discovery.
Thoroughly enjoyable TV movie that presented its case without too much fuss or overstating of the facts. No car chasers, no gun shoot outs, no fighting. Just good clean drama.
This was the tale of the time back in the 40′s and 50′s where America was gripped and paranoid about communistic influences in its cultures. It went as far as public witch hunts to out those that were a detriment to the American dream. This movie focuses on the Hollywood writers and actors who were outed and forced to leave their jobs and in some cases their homes and country because there accused of being Russian sympathizers.
This movie comes at an interesting time for me. In August, I read the Kirk Douglas, I am Spartacus : Breaking the blacklist, book about his career and the efforts it took to make that iconic movie. In the book he devotes a huge amount of time to Dalton Trumbo who wrote the screenplay for the book. Trumbo was at the time on the blacklist which meant studios were not allowed to use them. There was a huge controversy around the launch of Spartacus with many demonstrations.
The movie takes us through the story of the Hollywood 10, the blacklisted writers. We see it largely from Dalton Trumbo, his motives, his drives and his passion for his work.
The movie comes at a good time for the country, as Donald Trump, Presidential hopeful, is whipping up his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Trump is using all the same phrases and sound bites as the likes of McCarthy and his supporters used 50 years ago. Trumbo highlights the absurdity and division this caused in the country.
Dalton Trumbo stood for the American core value of freedom, the freedom to think his mind without fear or prejudice from his Government. They fought their case the whole way to the Supreme Court.
A fascinating time in history and the movie goes along at a wonderful pace, even at 2 hrs, it doesn’t feel lengthy or drawn out.
The cast is outstanding, with Bryan Cranston taking the lead with an excellent supporting cast of top notch players.
Well worth the watch, though I wouldn’t necessarily make a trip to the cinema to see it, there is nothing that is big-screen worthy.
#105 in the series
Viewing Date Tuesday, 1st December 2015 (Movieland, Richmond)
This is the true story of the daring robbery by 4 Scottish students, in 1950, to return the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in London, to Scotland. The Stone of Destiny is a big hunk of stone that was used for hundreds of years in the ceremonies when kings were anointed in Scotland. It was stolen by the English in 1296 and built into a chair that has been used ever since in coronations of English Queens and Kings, with the last time it was used for the current Queen of Britain, Queen Mary in 1953.
The Stone has been long held as a symbolic token of the hold the English have had over the Scottish. So when nationalist pride raises its head, the Stone is often cited as unfinished business. In the late 1940′s early 1950′s Scotland was going through an anti-English period (these happen frequently) and after a raising speech by John MacCormick (Robert Carlyle) a student,
Ian Hamilton, decides enough is enough and he can go down to London and steal the Stone from the English and return it to Scottish soil.
Along the way he persuades 3 other students, including Kay Matheson (played by
Kate Mara from the Martian) to help him out. There is a number of smaller incidents that happen along the way but let us not spoil the story here.
The movie is well written, but done in a more humorous way than serious drama. Due to that, you get the feeling that the story isn’t true. Such an iconic symbol of Scottish history wouldn’t be boosted by 4 students surely?
But it is true, with the odd artistic license here and there granted, the story stands largely to the truth.
The movie is filmed around Paisley and Glasgow, including a few streets where yours truly had his flat during university. It was fun to see those streets transformed to the 1950′s look.
The movie is fun and interesting enough to hold your interest for the time, but fails to really detail the significance of the Stone to the viewer. There are also some sub-plots that don’t make a lot of sense and get in the way.
Overall, not too bad.
#92 in the series
Viewing Date Wednesday, 18th November 2015 (Richmond)
James Cameron takes on the infamous Titanic story, the greatest maritime disaster of its time and one that still holds a fascination for the public, even though, by today’s standards, we’ve had bigger ships. Part of the mystic around this particular sinking, is the hubris of man, and the claim that the ship was unsinkable.
The story starts off with a treasure hunting salvage crew attempting to locate a highly valuable jewel that is believed to have gone down with the Titanic – the heart of the ocean. They find what they believe is the safe with it inside, but instead find a drawing of a beautiful topless lady with the jewel around her neck. The make an appeal on television and a 101 year old woman claims it is her.
She is then flown out to the salvage ship, at the position of where the Titanic went down and she then tells the story of that night. The rest of the movie is the retelling of that story.
Kate Winslet plays Rose, the young 101 year old, who is due to marry into a very wealthy family to a man that she isn’t really in love with.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jack, a young man who won his Titanic ticket in a card game and represents the steerage, or lower classes of the ship.
Through these two characters we see the disparity in how different the classes are treated even though they are all in one ship in the middle of the ocean. A micro sphere of society represented in a single lump of iron.
Jack and Rose through a series of events, are soon attracted to one another, and after a very heavy love making scene in a car in the hold of the ship, they believe they have found their true love. Except, a big dirty ice berg is about to put a dent in their plans.
The graphics and special effects of this tale is stunning, and while the movie is nearly 20 years old, they are still holding up. Though if you look carefully, in high definition you can see some chinks in the special effects especially around the long sweeping shots of the ship and the people walking on the deck.
Maybe its aged differently, but for me the story line while interesting didn’t hold up as well I remember. The lines at times seem strained and the love story has so many blatant holes in it I can no longer gloss over them. The telling of the ship going down though is fantastic with many real true tales weaved into some the auxiliary characters. But the main Jack/Rose vehicle that is suppose to let us see all the gory details, doesn’t work for me.
The soundtrack is amazing and Celine Dion’s My Heart will go will always make me pause for a smile. Overall a good retelling of the classic story.
ps for the record, there was plenty of room on that old piece of wood that Rose managed to climb on to. There was no need for Jack to be still in the water. Sure they nearly tipped over getting on to it the first time, but when you are stuck in the middle of the Atlantic in the freezing cold, you can afford a number of tries
#88 in the series
Viewing Date Saturday, 14th November 2015 (Richmond)
This movie is about the famous failed World War One military operation to attack Gallipoli as told from the prospective of the Australian army. The movie started off life as a 2 part mini-series that was later edited into a feature length.
The first half of the movie is the back story of all the characters who find themselves signing up to the war effort. It is by’n’large seen as a noble effort to go and fight for their country, even though the distance here is literally half way around the world. Of course not everyone is so keen to go and be killed, with a very young Mel Gibson, Frank, as competitive runner who has plans to open his own bike shop and not get killed.
He falls in with Archy (Mark Lee), another competitive runner, who is the polar opposite in terms of his views to go and fight. They become good friends and Mel helps him get to the next recruitment station that will turn a blind eye to the fact he isn’t 18 yet.
Archy gets his dreams and is accepted into the Light Brigade, after Frank failed due to not able to ride a horse. They part ways and Frank attempts to go after his dream, but he’s broke. He bumps into his old train worker mates who are all wanting to sign up and he eventually throws his luck in with them and they all go together.
The second half of the movie see’s the boys in Gallipoli and them coping with life on the front line.
The story does have a huge slant towards the Australian view of the war, making it look like the British were the bad guys here. The director,
Peter Weir, has since regretted this bias given it was an Australian officer that demanded the boys go over the top to their assured death.
Other than that huge historical blunder, there is a distinct made-for-TV feel about it, but doesn’t detract too much away from an excellent story.
Based on the true story of the Everest disaster in 1996, when two expedition parties got into major trouble when a storm suddenly came in and 12 people in total from each group, including their leaders, were lost to the mountain.
Jason Clarke plays Rob Hall, the much loved, leader of the New Zealand group, who takes up quite the varied personalities. We have the only female of the group, a Japanese lady (Naoko Mori from Torchwood) who is hoping to complete Everest to make it 7 out of 7 of the worlds peaks. We have a Texan, Beck Weathers, (Josh Brolin) who is fighting depression and has discovered he loves to pour his heart and soul into climbing. Then we have Doug Hansen John Hawkes) who is a US Postal worker, who is climbing to show his children that an ordinary man can do the extraordinary, hoping to achieve the summit after failing twice.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Scott Fischer, the hippy leader of the other group who has a complete different climbing style and ethic from Rob, but ultimately they both respect one another.
The first half of the movie is spent setting up the characters, sprinkling of back stories, and generally setting the scene for why Everest is so hard and complicated – you are climbing the same height that a 747 flies when the human body is literally dying from the lack of oxygen. The movie does a wonderful job at setting this scene and you have a new found respect and background for this huge lump of rock sticking out between Nepal and China.
Then we move to the second half of the story where the groups being their ascent. Now at this point in, while the scenery and sweeping landscapes are beautiful, you no longer have any real clue who is who, as they are wrapped up completely. Small tip – keep track of each characters colour.
I am not going to spoil the story too much but even when you know most of them lose their lives it is still exciting and emotional to hold you to your seat. Bit like watching the Titanic, you know the boat is going down, but you still manage to cry and hope they may make it.
Even though Keira Knightley (who plays Rob’s wife) filmed her scenes in only 4 days as she doesn’t physically interact with any of the characters except over a phone, the phone calls between her and Rob really pull at your heart strings.
For all the technology in the world, we still can’t make the worlds largest mountain anywhere near remotely safe. I find that comforting as it illustrates the world has many a challenge for the human to figure out.
If you are interested in the real people behind this story, then take some time and watch the PBS Storm Over Everest on YouTube. It illustrates just how close this movie was to the action and the facts that were known from those that survived. I found this added a whole new depth to the movie and to be frank, quite keen to go back to see it again to see how some of the events dramatized knowing what I know now.
This was a griping tale that opened my eyes up to not only this horrific tale, but the challenges and rigors of Everest. If the movie grips you like it did me, you will find yourself reading and watching as much as you can after you get out.