First Man *****

I have been waiting for this film since it was first announced because the subject, Neil Armstrong, was one of my boyhood heroes.  I booked for the first day, but an unforeseeable circumstance prevented my getting to see it.  On the second occasion, the gridlocked town centre delayed the bus service so much that I gave up and returned home.

Third time lucky then. Made it!

Was it worth the effort?

Heaving a great sigh of relief, I can report it most certainly was.

This film is a biography of Neil and his family from the birth of his first child to his return from the Moon.

The story is skilfully crafted and gives a good insight into the stress of family life when one member is involved in a dangerous occupation.

A lot of the focus is therefore on the lives of Neil’s wife, Janet, and their three children.  There is also focus on Neil’s second family, the cadre of astronauts on the Gemini and Apollo missions.

We see an interesting movement in Neil’s priorities between these families over time and the effects this has on the other people involved.

The training for the eventual Moon mission is created with stunning effects and skilful tension building.

I was quite familiar with his story, especially the major steps on his journey to the Moon, but the director still managed to raise my heartbeat and relief over and over again.

By the end of the film, I felt choked up, exhausted and exhilarated, all at the same time.

I think this film is fully deserving of the 5 stars I am giving it.

I hope you agree.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri *****

Three Billboards is an intriguing tale about a mother unable to come to terms with the murder of her daughter and the failure of the local police to solve the crime.

We are given a brief history of the offence and the events surrounding it but, the true story is about a mothers drive for justice and what that costs her and her remaining family.  The title refers to the method she chooses to put a firework under the local sheriff after 7 months of apparent inaction.

Casual violence and abuse of authority punctuates the various intertwined family histories to give a grim picture of modern day life in the southern United States.  Life in rural Missouri is dominated by casual extreme violence, racial and gender hatred, abuse of power and ignorance.

The performances throughout this film are very belieable.  The three lead actors, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, will be recognised from their previous films and television roles but their combined performances are so good you totally see them as the characters.

By the end of the film there is redemption for some and sadness for others.  Nobody leaves this tale unscarred by the events.

A remarkable and enjoyable film worth 5 out of five stars.

The Man Who Invented Christmas *****

This is a beautiful little film about how and why our most cherished author, Charles Dickens, came to write A Christmas Carol.

The cast consists of a large ensemble of top British acting talents. The script is sharp, humorous without descending into farce and very entertaining.

It does not take a straight biographical narrative but turns the story into an allegory, in the style of Dickens himself.

The fearful side of early 19th century London life is well represented, while at the same time; the viewers’ sympathetic and nostalgic emotions are gently stirred to a crescendo at the climax of the story.

I predict this film will become a staple television entertainment of Christmases yet to come, just as the Christmas Carol itself has.

First class family entertainment so 5 stars out of five for this seasonal treat.

Goodbye Christopher Robin *****

This is the dramatized biography of Christopher Robin Milne, son of the author Alan Milne and inspiration for the Winnie The Poo books.

A total of five actors are employed to portray Christopher, from baby to adult. The casting director did a good job in selecting actors with sufficient resemblance to convince the audience of the continuity.

These boys, in turn, produce incredible performances, giving a vivid insight into a dysfunctional family from the child’s viewpoint.

The film also provides a terrifying insight into middle class family life during the inter-war period.

But the heart of the story is how fame and fortune, being forced on a young person, when all they want is the love of their parents, can produce very unhappy adults.

I was struck by the thought as I watched that this film was an allegory for the many young stars of today who ‘go bad’ as adolescents.

This film carries a PG certificate but I would say it is certainly not a film for young children.

It may even leave adults reading Winnie the Poo in a different light.

The full 5 out of five for this emotional rollercoaster.