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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Damien Chazelle
Cast:
Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke
Writing Credits:
Josh Singer

Synopsis:
A look at the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon.

Box Office:
Budget:
$59 million.
Opening Weekend:
$16,006,065 on 3640 Screens.
Domestic Gross:
$44,936,545.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English Dolby Atmos
Spanish Dolby 7.1
French Dolby 7.1
English DVS
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 141 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 1/22/2019

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross
• Deleted Scenes
• “Shooting For the Moon” Featurette
• “Preparing to Launch” Featurette
• “Giant Leap in One Small Step” Featurette
• “Mission Gone Wrong” Featurette
• "Putting You In the Seat” Featurette
• “Recreating the Moon Landing” Featurette
• “Shooting At NASA” Featurette
• “Astronaut Training” Featurette
• Previews
• DVD Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

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RELATED REVIEWS


First Man [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 9, 2019)

Both the director and star of 2016’s La La Land reunite for a very different kind of project: 2018’s biographical drama First Man. Director Damien Chazelle’s first effort since La La Land, this one tells the story of legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling).

We meet Armstrong circa 1961 as a test pilot in the California desert, where he lives with his wife Janet (Claire Foy) and kids. At a very young age, daughter Karen (Lucy Brooke Stafford) dies from a brain disorder, and this sends emotional ripples through the family.

As an attempt at a “fresh start”, Neil pursues a job as an astronaut. We trace Neil’s career as he moves toward his eventual role as the first man to walk on the Moon.

Spoiler alert? One would hope not, as I certainly assume everyone who sees the film knows how it ends. If not, you need to get out more.

Despite the inevitability of the film’s conclusion, First Man boasts much room for audience intrigue, as I suspect most viewers know little to nothing of Armstrong’s life. We’re aware of his famous arrival on the Moon but otherwise the famously secretive astronaut remains an enigma to the general public.

First Man rectifies that – sort of. While it does involve us in Armstrong’s life, it lacks a ton of introspection and tends to keep the man at arm’s length.

That’s because the film mainly concentrates on Armstrong’s career, with only halting nods toward his private life. Oh, we get occasional insights into his family and emotional side, mainly via the manner in which Karen’s death haunts him, but the majority of the flick shows Neil at work.

As such, First Man often plays like an expansion of 1983’s The Right Stuff, albeit done in a more low-key manner. The Philip Kaufman classic embraced a more freewheeling style, whereas First Man tends to reflect its subject’s subdued demeanor and lacks the flash of the 1983 flick.

First Man also nods in the direction of another successful astronaut movie, 1995’s Apollo 13. Both the Ron Howard hit and First Man concentrate on one subject, whereas Right Stuff cast a broader net.

Apollo 13 tended toward a more emotional side, though, as First Man really does feel repressed at times. This makes sense in that it reflects Armstrong’s demeanor, but it can make matters more than a little frustrating, as it keeps the viewer somewhat detached from events.

Though I think First Man reflects the two movies I mentioned, it also shows another prominent influence: the stylistic choices of director Terrence Malick. While First Man offers a more straightforward tale than the often meandering works put out by Malick, it nonetheless shows a similar sense of visual preoccupation over concise narrative exploration.

And that can cause some audience frustration as well. At its core, First Man tells a pretty simple A-to-B story: Neil joins the astronaut program and works his way toward Apollo 11’s Moon landing.

However, Chazelle chooses to tell this narrative in a way that keeps it from the basic progression that would seem logical. On one hand, I appreciate the director’s attempts to spice up the film, but on the other, his choices don't always seem especially effective.

These various factors limit the movie’s ability to turn into anything more than a semi-engaging overview of Armstrong’s NASA life. In truth, it probably would’ve worked better if it’d gone the Apollo 13 route and stayed with a more limited time period.

Not that First Man spans a broad range of years, but something that focused seriously on Apollo 11 may’ve allowed for more depth. As it stands, First Man spreads a little too thin to really give us much substance about its characters and events.

Despite these drawbacks, First Man still manages to maintain viewer interest, and it stages the various space-related scenes well. It simply fails to become a particularly insightful affair.


The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

First Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc – mostly. Nine minutes, 40 seconds of footage from the Moon landing expands to 1.78:1 to account for IMAX shots, but the vast majority of the film remains 2.39:1.

First Man used a mix of formats, as it went from 16mm all the way to IMAX 65mm, so unsurprisingly, picture quality varied dependent on the material at work. As expected, the 16mm shots fared the worst, as they displayed fairly iffy delineation and accuracy.

Also as expected, the other formats looked much better – especially the IMAX material, as that footage showed excellent clarity and definition. The 35mm shots lacked the same impact, but they still mainly demonstrated nice accuracy and sharpness, with limitations that arose solely due to the faux documentary style the filmmakers favored.

Whatever the format, the film suffered from no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Of course, no print flaws marred the proceedings either.

In terms of colors, First Man favored a decided teal orientation, with some orange/amber thrown in as well. I’d have preferred a more traditional palette for a story like this, but given the “modern” approach to photography on display, the hues came as no surprise. The Blu-ray rendered them in an appropriate manner.

Blacks came across as dark and deep, while shadows appeared smooth and well-depicted. Despite inconsistencies related to the source photography, this became a largely satisfying image.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack offered unequivocal pleasures, as it filled the various speakers well. As anticipated, the scenes related to the space program fared best.

Those created a terrific sense of the action and the settings. Various components formed a fine package to add drama and impact to the proceedings.

Quieter scenes worked fine as well, with music that used the channels in a broad, engaging manner. Various effects contributed dimensionality to the proceedings and allowed the character elements to emerge.

Audio quality impressed, with effects that packed a wallop. When allowed to prosper – via those space scenes I mentioned – the mix showed effects with excellent clarity and accuracy. They threw in deep, tight low-end as well.

Music sounded lush and full, while speech remained concise and distinctive. I felt wholly pleased with this very strong soundtrack.

The Blu-ray comes with a bunch of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director Damien Chazelle, screenwriter Josh Singer and editor Tom Cross. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, research and realism, cast and performances, sets and locations, editing and music, photography, and effects.

After a slow start, this becomes a pretty informative commentary. While its focus on historical accuracy makes it feel a little self-congratulatory at times, we still get a nice view of production choices and learn a fair amount about the movie’s creation.

Two Deleted Scenes follow, as we find “House Fire” (3:36) and “Apollo 8 Launch” (0:41). The former shows a blaze at the Armstrong home, while the latter depicts Neil as he views the blast off. Both seem pretty forgettable and they would’ve added little to the film, though “Fire” does offer a brief glimpse of a more emotional Neil.

Eight featurettes ensue, and these launch with Shooting for the Moon. In this three-minute, 40-second reel, we hear from Chazelle, Singer, and actors Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy.

We find out how various participants came to the project as well as characters, story and stylistic choices. It becomes a fairly superficial overview.

With Preparing to Launch, we discover a three-minute, 39-second reel that features Chazelle, Gosling, Singer, Foy, author James R. Hansen, producer Wyck Godfrey, and actors Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler.

“Launch” offers a few more character/story notes. Like “Shooting”, it doesn’t give us much substance.

Next comes Giant Leap In One Small Step, a four-minute, 31-second piece that includes Chazelle, Gosling, and Neil Armstrong’s sons Mark and Rick. “Step” examines basic notes about Neil Armstrong. I like the glimpses of archival footage and it’s good to get some notes from Neil’s kids, but overall, this becomes another fairly ordinary piece.

For Mission Gone Wrong, we get a two-minute, 42-second program with Gosling and stunt coordinator Jim Churchman. “Wrong” looks at the stunts and other elements related to one of the movie’s action sequences. While brief, “Wrong” manages a decent look at the subject matter.

After this we move to Putting You In the Seat, a seven-minute, nine-second show that offers notes from Gosling, Chazelle, production designer Nathan Crowley, special effects supervisor JD Schwalm, and actors Christopher Abbott and Lukas Haas. “Seat” discusses design, effects and photographic choices, with an emphasis on the space flight shots. It becomes a fairly satisfying program.

Recreating the Moon Landing lasts six minutes, one second and brings info from Chazelle, Gosling, Crowley, director of photography Linus Sandgren and actor Corey Stoll. As expected, this show covers the movie’s attempts to show the iconic moments. It seems a bit more self-congratulatory than I’d like, but it still delivers decent information.

Up next we get the three-minute, 11-second Shooting At NASA, a reel that delivers material with Chazelle, Gosling, Stoll, and Haas. Here we get some thoughts about locations. Don’t expect much substance, as the program mostly tells us how great it was to film at NASA.

Finally, Astronaut Training fills four minutes, two seconds and details from Chazelle, Gosling, Haas, Chandler, Stoll, Clarke and actors Pablo Schreiber, Patrick Fugit, Cory Michael Smith, Shea Whigham and Ethan Embry. This one views some of the actors’ prep, but it doesn’t provide more than fluffy basics.

The disc opens with ads for Operation Finale, Green Book, Colette and Universal Parks. No trailer for First Man appears here.

A second disc offers a DVD copy of First Man. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

A sporadically effective biopic, First Man works best when it focuses on its impactful space photography. However, the movie lacks much depth and seems more superficial and derivative than I’d like. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture along with excellent audio and supplements highlighted by a fairly informative commentary. First Man becomes a mostly enjoyable but erratic drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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