Hacksaw Ridge

Crazy, brilliant, destructive, genius, passionate…all words that could well describe the amazing Mel Gibson. From his Mad Max and Lethal Weapon days to Hacksaw Ridge, you never quite know what to expect.

I have to admit I waited for Hacksaw Ridge to come out on DVD to watch it.  Did I want to watch it?  Not really, but once again I was drawn to a film that I believed I needed to see. Movies are like traveling, sometimes you go to just soak up the sun, drink a Pina Colada or two and unwind. Other times, you go to explore, learn and see things you’ve never seen before; things that will teach you about the big wonderful world in which we live. 

Hacksaw Ridge was based on the true story of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, a humble boy from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Growing up with a violent father and a religious mother taught Desmond a few things—faith in God and a strong belief in “due no harm.” 

When WWII came around all the boys in town were volunteering for service, Desmond volunteered as well.  He was told he could be a Medic and not fight or carry a gun.  With patriotism running high, the military didn’t honor that promise at first. Des fought for the right to go to war, but as a Conscientious Objector he just didn’t want to carry a weapon. 

Having gotten married to the love of his life during his first leave, he was off to war—Okinawa to be exact. The 1945 battle was bloody.  I’m kind of a “wuss” when it comes to movies so now you know why I waited for it to come out on DVD.  This movie is bloody, gory and tense, but then again, like Passion of the Christ or Braveheart, that’s what Director Mel Gibson does best.  I only paused Hacksaw Ridge twice. I was very proud of myself!

There is no other way to tell this story. The real event had to be even more bloody and gory. They don’t make commemorative statues out of less. The taking of Okinawa was a turning point in WWII. Long after the others had pulled off the ridge, surrounded by Japanese, Private Desmond (Des) Doss stayed, saving the lives of 75 wounded soldiers.

Exhausted, hurting but determined, Des prayed. His cry to God, “What is it you want me to do?  I don’t understand. I can’t hear you.” A quiet moment; then he returns to save more lives with his mantra of, “One more. Help me get one more.”

Hacksaw Ridge, the movie, is a slice of history; a moment in time that should never be forgotten.  Mel Gibson has honored our valiant soldiers of one of the bloodiest battles of the bloodiest war in history with this movie.

Young actor, Andrew Garfield plays Doss brilliantly. He actually looks like him. Des was the only Conscientious Objector to ever be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Doss lived with his lovely wife to a ripe old age; humbleness was still a vital part of his character.

Gibson’s directing was genius. His film was awarded Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Directing and Best Sound Editing and that’s just the Academy Awards.

While it’s R rated and may not be appropriate for the whole family, I highly recommend Hacksaw Ridge.  Thank you, again, Mel Gibson.  Send your comments to chastings@rockcliff.com.

One Night with the King

In case you think I’m getting prematurely dotty, I willingly admit that I reviewed One Night with the King in early 2008.  For Judaism it is time for the Festival of Purim and for Christians, it is Easter.  It’s time to dust off my review, add to it and bring it to you again.

I am not Jewish but as a Christian, I have an admiration of the ancient religion and culture. It is simply, yet magnificently beautiful.

There is always turmoil in the Middle East and Israel seems to be a lightning rod.  To even begin to understand that turmoil you have to look back thousands of years; be a student of history.  Megilah of Esther, is an ancient scroll that recounts the heroics of Queen Esther in ancient Persia. If you don’t know who Esther was or about her pivotal role in history, you need to watch this movie.

You take one young orphan girl and one hunky king and you have the making of a luscious tale. This one is a true tale, chronicled by history. The life of Esther is one of the most inspiring Biblical accounts found in the Old Testament.  Much beloved by Jews, Christians and Persians alike, Esther is the story of deliverance for the Jewish people. 

One Night with the King has lavish costumes, giggling harems, a vast, ancient city, huge armies, black riders, and blood feuds. Yet, it is truly the story of a young woman, a Jew, living in exile in Susa, Persia, with her cousin in about 485 BC.

There is a back-story of a 400 year old feud between the Jews and the Agagites that intertwines throughout the movie. This is a part of the story I had never heard that helped me have a better understanding of this period in history. This is an intricately-woven story with intrigues, treachery and comeuppance a plenty, but you need to pay attention to the first few minutes because it sets the stage for the story.   

Esther, played by, Tiffany Dupont is fresh and beautiful and offsets King Xerxes (did I mention that he is hunky?) played by Luke Goss. There are stunning performances by screen legends, Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif and John Rhys-Davies that rounds out the cast nicely. 

Based on the best-selling novel “Hadassah: One Night with the King” by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen, this dramatic big-screen adaptation chronicles Esther’s (Hadassah) rise from peasant to queen, her courageous role in the redemption of her people from destruction and death, and her winning of the love of the most powerful man in the kingdom—by seeking his heart rather than the riches of his kingdom.

One Night with the King was shot entirely on location in Rajasthan—India’s very own land of kings. Digital vistas were added to this Indian castle to recreate the ancient capital, Persepolis. One Night with the King exudes exotic splendor.  I have yet to figure out what catches the attention of the “Academy” but in my humble opinion this movie should have at least been nominated for an Oscar for costume and set design.  The costumes alone are worth your time and money to rent this movie. Hope you have a big screen—this movie is majestic!  As always, I welcome your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com.

Dirty Dancing: A Movie Review

Has it truly been 30 years?  Was I only…oops I almost did it!  Did I really see it 13 times, in the theater?  At least thirty years ago it didn’t cost what it does today to go to a movie! 

As I was thinking about doing this review, it took me down a lot of rabbit trails.  Why do some movies affect us when we see them and others don’t?  Down the road a few years and the same movie may affect us totally differently. 

Dirty Dancing was set in 1963, at Kellerman’s in the Catskills.  If you’re a native Californian like me you probably don’t understand the mentality of leaving the city and spending three weeks, or maybe all summer just a drive away from home. It’s an East coast thing. Family cabins scattered about, taking meals together in the dining room and nightly entertainment possibly by your daytime waiter or the couple at the next table reminds me of a cruise ship. 

Johnny Castle, ahhhh, Johnny Castle.  Dirty Dancing was Patrick Swayze’s big break.  The movie that everyone thought would last a week in the theaters, had what could only be explained as an immediate cult following. I’m not sure anyone could ever put Swayze in the best actor category but the guy sure could dance and after all, it was Dirty Dancing. 

It was the 60s and freedom was front and center.  I will today, unapologetically admit to a pro-life belief system and quite frankly, 30 years after this movie, I didn’t even remember that being a central theme. I guess during that 30 years I moved on from “Women’s Rights” to what, in my personal opinion, comes down to, what is right. I wondered what I would say but when I watched the film again for this review, I realized that what the writer felt was the heart of her story was again from a 30 year vantage point.

The eighties had an obsession with the 60s and Dirty Dancing is representative of that era.  The dancing was amazing; controlled sensuality when compared to Miley Cyrus and some of her cronies. It’s about the entertainers, mostly young people from the wrong side of the tracks, and the guests; upper class kids from wealthy families tempted to fraternize. Dirty Dancing is one of the best movies about the love of dance and music ever made, and while it’s definitely associated with the chick flick genre, it’s a movie that just about anyone can enjoy. 

While it was the first film to ever sell over one million videos the soundtrack was worth the price of admission and still is. Even Swayze wrote and sang She’s Like the Wind for the soundtrack.  Be My Baby and (I Had) The Time of My Life were just part of why this soundtrack sold over 32 million copies and was #1 for 18 weeks.

Dirty Dancing has a lightening-in-a-bottle timelessness that works as a time capsule of the decade, and a very entertaining and beautifully composed film that packs in drama, comedy, and an iconic finale that’s still quite riveting. It will make time fly on a rainy night!  It is PG-13 but it doesn’t really cross the line.  Watch it, you’ll be singing the songs for weeks. Let me know what you think at chastings@rockcliff.com .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sully

Most of you know that Chesley Burnett Sullenberger is a bonified hero. You probably also know that he’s a local (Danville) hero. Because of that, you may have ventured out to the big screen (not your new 70 incher that hardly fits in your living room) to check him out, bigger than life!

Well, no matter the size of the viewing screen, Sully is a hero. Like everyone else, I saw all the hoopla on the news when it happened back on January 15, 2009.  There is not much more to say about those few minutes but WOW…and then we go back to doing what we do every day waiting for the next big news story. 

I am so glad that Clint Eastwood and Malpaso Productions chose to bring this movie to the viewing audience, because it truly took far more than a few minutes on TV to tell the story of our hero, the passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 and the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Let’s start with Sully the man. He seems like a quiet man who truly knows who he is, even before his fame. He received his Bachelor’s Degree at the United States Air Force Academy.  He also later earned two Masters Degrees. What you may not know is that by the time he was twelve years old he was in the 99th percentile and qualified for Mensa (genius IQ) not in one subject but in all academic categories.

I don’t mention this to glorify, or embarrass him. I mention it so you can truly appreciate what brilliance it took to make the decisions he made that day in the time he had, mere seconds. What it took to evaluate, create a plan and execute that plan in time to save those 155 people on that flight was nothing short of amazing. That is what Sully, the movie revealed to us. 

Little did he know that he would later have to defend his evaluation, plan and perfect execution of that plan? I love the quote from the movie, “It’s been a long time since New York had news this good, especially with an airplane in it!” He managed to miss flying into the buildings and even missed the George Washington Bridge by a mere 900 feet as he wrestled the Airbus A320, whose engines failed when they ran into a flock of Canadian Geese shortly after take-off.

He and his First Officer, Jeff Skiles, successfully landed their plane in the Hudson River in the heart of New York City within three minutes of the incident.  I’m not a big city girl, but you just have to stand in awe of the residents of this city. While the plane was still on its short trajectory, ferry boat pilots saw and headed into the midst of the fray.  They surely didn’t know what the situation would be when they got there, but they were on their way. The evacuation was sheer beauty. There were people helping people, clearing the plane, caring for each other, standing strong on the wings of that plane or sliding down into rafts in freezing cold water. And then there was Sully going back twice into a water filled cabin to check that every passenger and crew member had been evacuated while stopping to grab blankets from the overhead bins for those waiting to be rescued.

Sully has a long history of advocacy for airline safety and continues this today. 

While the real star of the story is Sully, I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud the brilliance of Tom Hanks. I believe the casting choice was impeccable.

Don’t miss this slice of history. Watch it.  Buy it!  Let me know what you think at chastings@rockcliff.com

 

 

 

A “Rocky” Road

I had this idea. I was going to write a review about Sylvester Stallone; a little about the man and a little more about his movies. The reason I was going to write about Stallone was because he had been approached by Donald Trump to be Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Low and behold, before I could get the article written and published he had declined the position.

When I think of Sylvester Stallone I think Rocky, or maybe Rambo. While most of his most acclaimed films have been action hero genre, Stallone has done a variety (some successful, some not so much) of films from hard core, edge-of-your-seat action films to animation.

Stallone’s father was born in Italy and was a hairdresser and beautician, his mother was (you can’t make this stuff up) an astrologer, former dancer and promoter of women’s wrestling. When he was born, the delivery went awry with the misuse of forceps severing a nerve and leaving his face partially paralyzed. His signature snarl and distinctive voice were the result and have come to be the persona of many of his characters.

Two tremendously successful movie franchises is quite a legacy. Both the Rocky and Rambo Franchises have put Stallone in an elite group. These two are considered his best and brightest. My count shows him at 54 movies—all the way from Rambo to Rhinestone Cowboy with Dolly Parton. He was also in the Spy Kids series. His early career included Lords of Flatbush with Henry Winkler. He even starred in Tango and Cash with Kurt Russell. Stallone’s movies have entertained audiences for five decades.

The first Rocky movie received ten Oscar nominations and won Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Film Editing. Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. His more recent 2015 Rocky movie, Creed, added an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe win for the same category.

In the majority of his movies, he wrote about and performed tough guys. This is where I have to admit that I did not see ALL of his many action movies. What I do like about his films is that his characters are usually heroes in their own right. They are the “walk softly and carry a big stick” kind of guys, much like John Wayne characters in earlier films. 

Stallone has defied the mainstream. He’s held strong to owning his own scripts and often didn’t take the easy road, instead opting for the “rocky road.”

Having said that, let’s go back to his job offer of a different kind—Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.  While he decided he would pass on that opportunity, he highly praised our new President and respectfully submitted that he would like to have a position working with our military veterans. Laudable. So, for now we’ll wait to see what this next chapter brings for such a talented man.

While his movies might energize a dark, dreary winter night, I would also like to caution you to check the ratings. Some may not be appropriate for children because of the violent nature of the subject matter. As always, I welcome your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com

 

 

 

Holiday Inn

Bing Crosby, a roaring fire, snow outside, a Piano, and a Pretty Lady: A sure fire recipe for a cuddle and a kiss.

The magic of Christmas is alive and well and ready to explode at my house.  My now-grown daughter’s favorite line used to be, “Mom, I think the Christmas Fairy just threw up!” I truly don’t believe my ten ton Christmas Stash is unreasonable.alive-media-magazine-december-2016-poster-holiday-inn_01

Having established how much I love Christmas, I must confess that I want to write about every movie, every year.  I suppose I can’t, so this year’s offering will be Holiday Inn, released in 1942.

If you are anything like me, when you watch this film it will take you back to a kinder, gentler era. A time when ladies wore elegant gowns and the gentlemen wore coats and ties to lounge around. Now that is rather hypocritical of me since I was just having a conversation yesterday about the wonder of the comfortable fabrics used for most clothes today. They stretch, they move with you and yes, we can even leave them untucked and still be fashionable. Having said that, the clothes in this movie are just down right dreamy.

Holiday Inn is literally #1 on most lists of Christmas movies. It has the singing of Bing Crosby, the dancing of Fred Astaire and two incredibly talented leading ladies: Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale. Probably the absolute best though is the music of the ingenious Irving Berlin. Contrary to what some believe, the famous song, White Christmas was introduced in this film not the later movie named for the song. White Christmas the movie truly is my favorite but I think that’s because of the song, “Sisters” that is dear to my family.

There are ten Bing Crosby songs and six dances by Fred Astaire taking us through every holiday on the calendar, including the hallmark dance Astaire performs to Let’s Say It with a Firecracker.  

Holiday Inn is toe twinkling and ivory tickling. Crosby and Astaire have an easy casual banter that is charming and funny. This film is worthy of a rainy day indulgence.

Christmas is definitely a time for family, friends, gatherings and movies.  All your old favorites and a plethora of new, soon to be favorites have been airing on Hallmark and other channels for weeks now. If I didn’t love them so much, I’d be upset by how early they started this year! There are new ones every week on different channels including your family friendly subscription channels like the new offering by Hallmark called Feeln.  And, no, it isn’t a spelling error.  Others like Pureflix and Christian Cinema are great for message movies. The Nativity Story is great to work into your schedule as well. Having said that, cable TV has enough movie channels to keep you busy until next July! 

Have a wonderful holiday time with your family and friends and make your favorite old movies and your soon-to-be-favorite new movies, part of your celebration.

As always, I love hearing from you at chastings@rockcliff.com.

 

 

Joy

I recently moved, not far, just a couple of towns up the road. While in the midst of my move, my granddaughter picked up a baggie and asked, “Grandma, what are these?”  What she was holding in her hand was a plastic bag chocked full of film negatives. For a moment I didn’t understand the question and then I realized, “the times, they are a changing”.  Dark rooms are a thing of the past as even professional photographers are sitting down at their computers.

Joy is an interesting character study but it is also about a changing world.  As bricks and mortar building costs are going higher and higher, business is moving to a different model. alive-media-magazine-joy-a-movie-review-carolyn-hastings

Joy is an American biographical comedy-drama film, written and directed by David O. Russell and starring Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire who created her own business empire. In 1989, Joy Mangano is a divorced mother of two, working behind a desk for Eastern Airlines. (I think that’s about the time I got stranded in Haiti when Eastern went on strike!)  Joy lives with her young children, her mother Terri, and her grandmother Mimi. Oh yes, her ex-husband Tony is living in the basement. 

Her parents are divorced and can’t be in the same room without broken stuff flying through the air and Tony usually comes back between wives.  In a few words, Joy’s life is full of not enough money or time to take care of the all the people depending on her.  Her Mom spends her life in bed watching soap operas and avoiding the world. 

The always entertaining Robert De Niro plays Rudy Mangano, Joy’s father who owns a truck and bus shop. After divorcing his third wife, Rudy starts dating Trudy, a wealthy Italian widow with a little business experience who becomes her investor. While on her yacht someone drops a glass of red wine on the precious deck and everyone calls for Joy to “fix it” like she does with everything in their lives. She cuts her hands and voila, she has an idea for a revolutionary mop which spurs her on to QVC glory.

QVC was a fledgling company offering a different business model.  Just turn on your TV and you can buy virtually anything you want if you sit in your Lazy Boy long enough.  Overpriced?  Probably, but you never have to go out in the snow in the winter or heat in the summer ever again. You can mop that floor with your very clever mop in your diamond necklace and fancy robe.

Bradley Cooper plays Neil Walker, a seasoned merchandising guy in charge of the amazing new venture where celebrities sell entrepreneur’s products through a telethon system.  The first try, the host doesn’t understand her mop and the segment bombs.  Joy begs for another opportunity and insists on doing the selling herself.  She sells 50,000 Miracle Mops in just a few minutes and she’s on her way!

Joy has some tough times learning to become a businesswoman with manufacturers cheating her and trying to steal her patents. She survives. She thrives. As I hang my blouse on a weird hanger that actually holds tight and get my jewelry out of the box hanging on my closet door, I say, “Thank you, Joy.”

Joy is not the most brilliant film I’ve watched but is definitely interesting enough for a Thursday evening as what they’re selling on the many shopping channels you purchased last Thursday night.  As always, I welcome your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com.

 

 

Weiner

So, I guess you could say we’re going to have our own little Octoberfest; except this isn’t about sausages (pun definitely intended) and beer but about the life and times of Anthony Weiner.

I watched this movie and as I settled down at my computer, former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner was once again in the news. This time he was allegedly sexting with a 15 year old girl. My thought was: has he no shame?  Obviously, not so much.  I have to admit, I’m baffled. When I first heard about this documentary of his “big come back,” I was marginally intrigued. Firstly, he went down in flames in his bid for Mayor of New York City so there was no re-entry into politics.  Secondly, I suppose I was wondering why he even released the film since he failed.weiner

I spent the first part of the movie trying to figure out why. Then I decided to just sit back and relax. The film gives unusual insight into people who feel they are destined for leadership in the political arena. I’m not comparing Weiner to some of the great men who have served but I believe they probably have to have some of that sense of destiny in them.

Winner in the category of Best Documentary of 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival, Weiner is funny, witty, and confusing; I’m still wondering why he would expose his family to this degree.

Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top aide for many years, is Mr. Weiner’s wife. A woman who has spent many years behind, beside and around Hillary yet she chooses to rarely be in the limelight. Huma is said to be highly qualified and Mrs. Clinton has said that she is like a daughter to her. They certainly have some similar life experiences.

To insure Weiner’s Mayoral win, Huma was front and center. She appeared with him, stood with him and even spoke for him. That had to be hard, yet she agreed to another indulgence of this man when they invited the public into their home, offices and vehicles to film Weiner. During this campaign there was yet another scandal involving a 22 year old woman who actually attempted to sabotage his campaign, appearing on TV and literally chasing him around NYC.

Anthony Weiner was born and raised in Brooklyn.  I truly believe he loves New York City. He served as a Member of the NYC Council from 1992-1998. He served 12 years in Congress from 1999-2011 resigning because of a sexting scandal. Huma stayed with him and in 2013 there was another scandal. It makes you wonder whether the behavior ever stopped or ever will. Does he realize what he is doing wrong? As I watched him in the film, I realized none of it was about the sexually explicit texts to many women (now girls), it was about how to spin whatever was happening to the media. I know this has to happen in every campaign to some degree but I am just sick and tired of the information I receive being altered, manipulated and managed by people who create a life of doing just that. How do they sleep at night?

Weiner makes you ponder. Politics is definitely a “glass house” kind of job. Many men and women of integrity have survived the transparency of the profession. As the media continues to take on a different role in campaigns, will voters become more critical or just jaded and desensitized. This film is educational and entertaining. Its R rated for language so not so much for the kids!  Let me know what you think at chastings@rockcliff.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Night Lights

Why would anyone want their kid to play football?  I have a son and he opted for other sports, but I have a grandson. He’s built like a linebacker and loves the game. This is going to be a movie review but even deeper we’re going to talk a little about the “love of the game.”

Alive Media Magazine September 2017 friday night lights show posterThis is his fourth year. He works hard at the game. Even before the practice season started, I’d look out the window and he would be doing conditioning exercises in the heat. When I asked him if he wanted a cookie or something equally as enticing to an eleven year old, he would respectfully decline, hmm, “for the love of the game.”

Friday Night Lights profiles the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, The Permian High Panthers. I’ve known a few people who like, even love football, but high school football takes on a whole new meaning in Texas. I’m talking about full stadiums that hold 20,000 fans. Somehow I can picture Al Bundy, one hand in his pants the other wrapped around a beer telling the story of his glory days.

For most of the boys, it wasn’t just a game, winning the Texas State Football Championship was scholarships for education and even the dream of playing pro football. It was the hope of a way out when they honestly believed there was no other way.

Director, Peter Berg captured Texas football:  the guts and the grit and every bump, bruise and broken bone in between. Billy Bob Thornton (who else would be right for the part) plays Coach Gary Gaines. Others doing a noteworthy job in this true story are Garrett Hedlund, Amber Heard, Lucas Black and Tim McGraw.

Back to my Grandson.  I decided to ask him why he loves football so much. He plays for the Thunderbirds, lovingly known as the T-Birds. He actually articulated his reasons quite well. He said that it has helped him to become a better person; more disciplined physically, mentally and scholastically. He loves that the coach and the team have expectations of him that he strives to achieve. Knowing that his team needs him to do what is right, doing his part, teaches him to serve others. He tells me it is anything but easy but that his confidence is growing with each year as well as his physical and mental strength. Yes, and his passion as well!

As I watched Friday Night Lights I had all kinds of emotions. I talked to the screen a little and I wondered: Who are these people? After talking to my grandson I realized I knew these people—thirty years later and a few states away—but I knew these people.  They are the ones who fill the bleachers in your hometown and mine. Family and friends bursting with pride even when the scoreboard doesn’t reflect the real outcome… building men.

You can see the floodlights of the neighborhood high school from my grandson’s home.  If you listen closely, you can even hear the band. Grab a bleacher blanket and follow the lights, Friday Night Lights, for a night of fun; but look closely at the young men on the field.  Blink and you’ll miss it because before you know it they will be defending your country, tending you when you’re sick or carrying your neighbor out of a burning building.

As always, I welcome your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Man on the Moon

“Hotshots, Flyboys, Egotists, Dreamers.”  That just about sums up Gene Cernan and the boys of the Apollo Program.

The Last Man on the Moon is a look at the Apollo Space Program. Yes, it’s a documentary but this film is anything but boring. Eugene Cernan was very literally the last man to set foot on the moon. As you look up at the moon tonight, ponder that. We almost deify those who climb Mount Everest yet there are men who still walk amongst us, who walked on the moon…over 40 years ago!Alive media magazine august 2016 A Movie Review The Last Man on the Moon carolyn hastings

I believe we’ve lost our sense of wonder, of being part of something bigger.  We now have the technology to do so much, but we don’t seem to have the imagination or the will.

The Apollo astronauts were mostly hotshot fighter pilots. They knew there was a program being put together. They had heard President John F. Kennedy’s speech, just like the rest of the world—a speech of wonderment and hope.  Eugene Cernan didn’t even know he was being considered until he got “the call.”

This film is a perfect blend of the today and yesteryear. Rich in rare, archival material, compelling visual effects, and amazing access to a real super hero finally willing to present an iconic historical account, this film is nothing short of awe inspiring.

I lived through the early days of computers but when the footage of the Houston Control Room came on the screen, my jar dropped. While I’m watching movies, talking on the phone and looking up someone in my 3000+ contacts on a device that fits in my hand, I’m wondering what kind of man would volunteer to go to the moon on a spaceship controlled by a room full of computers, each the size of a walk-in closet! The “reception” was fuzzy and blurry and just plain undependable. When Gene Cernan did his information gathering flight around the moon just before Neil Armstrong’s epic “first step” flight, he re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 26,000 miles per hour.

These astronauts knew that some of the fellow travelers would not make it, yet they volunteered anyway. The group became very close. They lived in the same neighborhood, played cards together and trained together. Their wives shopped together and grieved together. Cernan’s wife was quoted as saying, “You think going to the moon is hard, you ought to try staying home.”

The divorce rate among the group was 67% –a steep price to pay until you know that when Cernan left the last human footprints on the moon, he also left his daughter’s initials written in the lunar dust.

This largely unexplored chapter in the history of American space exploration and the lives that are rarely considered is now ours to view.  Director Mark Craig is brilliant.  This is a great family movie (probably best 11+ years). In fact, for you grandparents, it’s a movie to watch and talk about with your grandchildren. It’s a film about flaws and failures, guts and glory; a true story of American exceptionalism.

I look forward to your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com.