Take Me To The Movies: First Man, Bad Times at the El Royale

posted by Shelli Sonstein - 

“First Man”

From Damien Chazelle, the director of the Oscar winning movies “La La Land” & “Whiplash,” and starring  Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong who was the first man to ever walk on the moon.  We don’t know much about Armstrong and after this movie, I am filled with questions about the man because I don’t know if there’s artistic license or whether it’s truth-based. I’m talking about his wife’s frustrations (wonderfully played by “The Queen’s” Claire Foy) along with what transpired in the moments just before the iconic moonwalk and   then what we see Armstrong doing on the moon.  Though too long at 2:20, “First Man” is a solid movie, telling the story behind the story. A word of warning- you may want to pass on the popcorn. There’s a NASA training sequence that positively left me nauseous. Maybe more so because I saw it on IMAX, which is the way to see a movie with space shots.

3 ♥

“Bad Times at the El Royale”

A retro (set in the 60’s) film noir that’s uberly violent and just as entertaining both in its looks, PHENOMENAL soundtrack, great storytelling and crushing performances by Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth (as a Charlie Manson type) and especially newcomer Cynthia Erivo, who we will see later this Oscar season in “Widows.” John Hamm and Dakota Johnson also star, along with Nick Offerman. Set in a rundown hotel with its own dark secret, a group of strangers check in. All have their own secrets unveiled. It’s a thriller and mystery and would have been a masterpiece with some editing. As it is, this is one of the most entertaining movies of the year. I LOVED it!!!

4 ♥

“Beautiful Boy”

Yes, as in the John Lennon song for his son Sean. Based on two bestsellers by father/son David & Nic Sheff, this is the love story of a journalist dad and his drug-addicted son. It’s the story of a close family dealing with years of addiction, treatment and relapses.  Because addiction isn’t cured through rehab, it’s a lifelong struggle that’s often filled with many relapses. This movie highlights how it’s a FAMILY story- not just the addict’s story. Steve Carrell is the standout, though Timothy Chalamet’s performance is a strong one. Maura Tierney plays his step-mother with Amy Ryan in a smaller role as the biological mom.  It’s a bit frustrating at times because it’s nonlinear and there were some emotionally manipulative scenes. Props for the soundtrack, which includes Radiohead & Neil Young.

3 ♥

“The Oath”

This political satire is an over-the-top shattered mirror inspired by our politically fractured country. It’s produced by and starring Tiffany Haddish who, with the recent release of “Night School” and “Girls Trip” seems to have a movie a week these days. This is the total creation of Ike Barinholtz (“Mad TV” & “Blockers”). He wrote, directed and co-stars as her husband. It’s basically the story of a family torn apart by politics- playing out over Thanksgiving. Why on earth wasn’t this movie released closer to the holiday??!! I loved the premise but it veers off into extremes. The ending falls flat. Still, it gets my thumbs up!

3 ♥

Featured on “Sonstein Sunday” and the podcast “Sonstein Sessions” on the iHeartradio app, “Stella’s Last Weekend” is an all-in-the-family comedy set in Queens written, directed and starring “Thirty Something’s” Polly Draper and her real life sons Nat (“The Fault in Our Stars”) & Alex Wolff (“Hereditary”), with music by her husband, Michael.  Even the family’s dog stars and gets her name in the title. It’s art mostly imitating life. Sweet film. Polly guests on “Sonstein Sunday” at 6:55 this Sunday morning.

2 ½ ♥

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