First Man Review

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

A quote from one of the United States’ most iconic figures in history, and depicted in the latest Hollywood biopic First Man.

The film documents the major life events of American hero Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling); all leading up to his Apollo 11 mission that made him the first person in history to step foot on the moon. We see his trials and tribulations, and how the loss of his infant daughter (and several close friends) impacted his psyche, as well as his drive to complete his mission to the moon. Also depicted is the strain on Neil’s family life, and how his wife Janet Armstrong (Claire Foy) coped with his emotional reclusion from her and the kids. An added level of storytelling that was almost as fascinating as the main plot.

The space flight sequences here are shot with this cinematic, visceral intensity that I imagine was quite difficult to capture. I felt myself getting physically anxious for Aldrin and Armstrong, and the excitement was a roller coaster ride. Without knowing a single thing about space flight, I was left feeling hopeless when random knobs were frantically being pulled as Armstrong and friends soared through space in their claustrophobic shuttle. Effective, nerve-racking filmmaking at its finest.

I highly enjoyed Gosling’s portrayal of Armstrong, as he gives him this distant, almost reclusive personality you wouldn’t expect here. And even though Armstrong felt emotionally distant, deep down the audience could empathize with him and his personal struggles. Through Gosling’s performance it’s clear he never came to terms with the traumatic grief of his daughter’s death. This theme of grief is present throughout the entirety of the flick and is perfectly (and most likely fictionally) all resolved in the dramatic, heartwarming climax.

Towards the end of First Man I really started to feel the runtime weighing down the film. It seems to be that way for a lot of dramas (and biopics), where they become less impactful as they progress simply because they’ve been drawn out for way too long. In reality, this just isn’t the kind of movie that necessitates a two plus hour runtime to share its message, no matter how wonderful or touching that message may be. A solid fifteen minutes could’ve been shaved off First Man to condense it into an even stronger, more emotional film.

First Man is a kindly Hollywood tribute to a cherished American hero. Whether the real Neil Armstrong wanted or felt he deserved all the showing praise, it doesn’t matter. He gets it here.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Blade Runner 2049 Review

As a lifelong follower of the science fiction genre, Blade Runner has always been revered as a classic. Pioneering many awe-inspiring visuals that films today look to for guidance. While I respect Blade Runner for its visual achievements, emotionally the film has done very little for me. I find it a bit mundane and heavy-handed, with little going for it other than the artistic style.

In many aspects, Blade Runner 2049 is very similar.

The film takes place about thirty years after the events of the original Blade Runner. Since then, the world has fallen into somewhat of a dystopian mess. With a new era of blade runners (hitmen, essentially) hunting down replicants (a term for bioengineered humans) of the past.

Blade Runner 2049 follows Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a particularly skilled blade runner on a mission with enough significance to throw what’s left of the world into complete chaos.

Beautifully crafted sets, enticing visuals, and monumental sound design all blend together to make Blade Runner 2049 artistically stand out. Concepts and knowledge only briefly mentioned in the previous film are expanded here tenfold. Scenes are shot and crafted with such delicate precision that viewers like myself will be left completely spellbound. The level of imagination in its design is on par with the Star Wars trilogy, and the perfectionism in the lighting and set pieces is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

However, it is here where I’d argue the film does too much expanding, to the point where it exhausts itself. Dramatic scenes that, overall, carry very little weight last for ten to fifteen minutes, when they could be summed up with two simple lines of dialogue. Instead, the film goes for this melodramatic, philosophical dialogue so that it may beat its themes and messages into the viewers head.

And unfortunately, the themes are all recycled from the first Blade Runner. “What does it mean to be human?” Boiled down, that’s the question Blade Runner 2049 poses to the audience. Only it takes them three hours and way too many dialogue pauses to say it.

With so many needlessly lengthy scenes, the conclusion of Blade Runner 2049 felt all too rushed by comparison. Plot lines that needed more depth and discussion get no such thing, which leaves the audience with just as many questions as answers.

So, while most of Blade Runner 2049 was still entertaining to watch (mostly due to the visuals and Goslings straight-faced performance), I think the story and themes have very little to offer viewers.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

La La Land Review

One film that has alluded me for a few weeks now is the new critically acclaimed musical La La Land. I had heard many great things about it, so it was only natural that I check the film out and see how good it was. The result being a very enjoyable experience.

La La Land tells a love story between Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) as they follow their dreams in the city of Los Angeles. Mia is an aspiring actress who continually exhausts her resources auditioning for every role in films she can. Sebastian is an aspiring jazz musician who wants to one day own a jazz club. Through a series of events I can only describe as fate, Mia and Sebastian form a relationship while they attempt to juggle following their dreams.

Overall I think that La La Land is a great movie, fantastic even. Musicals usually aren’t my thing, but this one was especially compelling. The singing and dancing in La La Land was a lot of fun to watch and I was very engaged in the story and characters.

The biggest aspect of any musical is of course the music, and in this aspect La La Land really delivers. The staple song ‘City of Stars’ has been stuck in my head since I left the theater, but in a good way. Just about all the songs in La La Land had their unique lyrics, locations, and tone.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were both great and had some amazing on screen chemistry. At times it was hard for me to look at them as two characters in a movie and not as Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, but that’s just natural. This does not detract away from their great performances, as they are very successful at captivating the audience with their interesting personalities.

I could tell that La La Land was crafted very precisely and meticulously by the filmmakers. The choreography of the many, many dance scenes was very exact. Which is particularly impressive, because the choreography often seemed to be very rigorous and demanding.

The very first scene of the film involving a big traffic jam along an LA highway showcases this perfectly. Everyone involved in the jam gets out of their cars and starts singing and dancing in unison. The scene lasts for maybe five to ten minutes and is all one long tracking shot, meaning the actors had to get it all exactly right in a single go. I was pretty astonished at how they managed to shoot this grand scene so well.

For those who like good camera work and lighting, look no further. La La Land uses a variety of camera angles and lighting styles to keep from being monotonous. Both of these aspects really stuck out to me as being impressive, and I feel it will for others as well.

The end of La La Land is one that I definitely did not see coming. I won’t spoil anything, but I think the last fifteen minutes or so is what really elevates this to being a fantastic film. It accurately displays the true talent behind the writers and the director in just how well this scene is crafted. The emotion and passion we see from our two protagonists in this scene actually got an audible reaction from many audience members at my viewing. We are given insight into all the deep thoughts and feelings the characters have within a span of a few minutes.

La La Land is everything a fan of musicals could want, and more. The performances by Stone and Gosling are fantastic, the songs catchy and enjoyable, and the story is one we can all relate to. I can see myself going back to La La Land years later and still enjoying it all the same. I think the story here is timeless and nostalgic, one that will last for many years to come.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

The Nice Guys Review


Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are the Nice Guys, however their behavior onscreen would have me arguing otherwise. They are rude, crude, and have very little decency, yet both their characters still come off as likable. Crowe and Gosling are a great on screen duo and naturally work well off of each other.

The Nice Guys is a mystery neo-noir that takes place in the late seventies. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling both play private investigators named Jackson and Holland respectively. They first meet while both working on a similar case, Holland searching for a missing porno actress named Amelia (Margaret Qually). Crowe and Gosling work together to solve a mysterious plot that has many people wrapped up in it, with multiple innocent people already killed. Crowe and Gosling must race to find Amelia and solve the case before it is too late.

Filmmakers worked with this buddy comedy/ film noir genre to their advantage. The script is well written and the characters are sharp and interesting. The story and setting reminds me a lot of the 1997 film L. A. Confidential, just with more humor. The mystery to the story is solved about two thirds into the film, with the last third being a climax that will satisfy plenty of viewers.

They fire off jokes often throughout the film, with many getting big laughs. The bickering that goes on between Gosling and Crowes’ characters is great. It’s nothing new for a buddy comedy duo to argue, but the expressions and tone of voice they give in their performance while arguing is a marvel.

The best jokes in The Nice Guys come from the most unexpected moments. When something you could’ve never imagined happening in the film, happens. One character splashes hot coffee onto the villain, only the coffee is actually cold. Viewers will get a laugh out of this, but get an even bigger laugh a few seconds later when the villain slips on the cold coffee and is knocked unconscious. I found this very funny and an unexpected turn of events.

Gosling’s character is by far the funniest part of the film. The shtick that he pulls at times feels like an Abbott and Costello sequence, with Gosling as Costello. At one point in the film Gosling comes across a dead body while very drunk, and his reactions to this discovery are something that would make Lou Costello proud. Full of frantically pointing his finger and breathlessly murmuring incoherently.

I feel like some of the conflict and problems that the writers tried to build with Crowe is over done in films and was unnecessary to the story. This is more of a small gripe if anything though.

I don’t believe I fell in love with this film as much as other critics did. Seeing that it currently has a very high Rotten Tomatoes score of 90 percent. Not to say it wasn’t a good movie, with a well-developed story and respectable actors. I just feel it was a standard neo-noir film with some good action and funny characters. It is nothing anybody has not seen before in any other neo-noir or buddy comedy.

I recommend The Nice Guys to anybody who has a respect for film noir, or anyone who would like a good laugh from a comedic duo.

Zachary Flint