Amazon Prime Movie Review: Goodnight Oppy

On July 7, 2003, two Mars Rover robots were launched into space. Their destination was millions of miles away – to the surface of Mars. After a flight that took over 6 months, both robots landed on Mars with flawless perfection, using a parachute and airbags that had to deploy and then release the robots at precisely the right times – using automated procedures. Right at the start of this impressive documentary, the genius of the scientists and engineers that invented this amazing mission showed their impressive abilities to invent and create. Originally both of these robots were supposed to last only 90 days. In the end Spirit lasted over 6 years and Opportunity lasted and incredible 15 years, yet another tribute to the brilliance of so many smart people who worked for NASA.

This documentary is about the science, the pictures and the hardships these two robots endured that included solar flares and huge dust storms that at times would clog the machinery and then at other times would clean off the solar panels providing needed energy for each robot rover. Throughout all of these many problems for so many years, the inventive brilliance of some of the most intelligent people in the world came through time after time. Just to get a simple message to the robots so far away – could take over 20 minutes. The crew on earth had to keep up with the time on Mars and over a period of weeks and months, their schedules included being at work after midnight to constantly monitor the progress of the mission. When the Opportunity robot finally stopped working on February 13, 2019 after over 15 years, understandably the entire project crew became very emotional, almost as if they were losing a child. This show of real emotion over 2 robots is one of the best parts of the great documentary.

“Goodnight Oppy” is the best documentary I have seen about space travel in many years and receives my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Bones and All

Far too often, based on high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes I have been tricked into seeing a very bad movie. The latest is a horrendous waste of 2 hours called “Bones and All”. For reasons completely unknown this film – about people known as “Eaters”, who are a breed of near-homeless people living in extremely depressing and dark squalor and eat people – is getting an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Why this mess is getting any positive reviews – I have no idea. This movie is a giant mess of depressing garbage and one of the few movies I just had to leave early after suffering through 75% of this disaster. Why would anyone want to see another human being (and not a zombie) eat another human being and find this entertaining is a mystery.

For some reason, an actor as relevant as Timothée Chalamet agreed to be in this extremely bad movie. Other actors are less well known, Taylor Russell and Mark Rylance are also in this 2 hours of depressing waste.

There is not much to write about this one other than the 61% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes makes much more sense, with my rating 2% and a huge thumbs down for one of the worse films I have ever seen.

Movie Review: The Fabelmans

It is a rare experience when I realize that the best part of any movie is at the very end. A young Steven Speilberg – known in this story as Sammy Fabelman, played by Gabriel LaBelle is in the office of the famous actor John Ford before his iconic directing career even started. Predictably John Ford is very rude to the 20-year-old Sammy within a scene that we all know did happen in real life. Ford had Sammy look at 2 pictures in his office. Ford rudely asked Sammy – “so where is the horizon in that picture?”. When Sammy went on to analyze the picture Ford rudely yelled, “No, No! Where is the horizon?” Sammy said, it’s at the top of the picture. In the second picture, Sammy recognized that the horizon was at the bottom. Ford then screamed at Sammy – “When the horizon is at the top or the bottom – that is interesting – in the middle – that is very BORING!” It is this simplicity and abrupt rudeness over two pictures hanging on a wall in the office of John Ford, arguably one of the greatest movie directors of all time, that for me was the very best part of this film.

The movie “The Fabelmans” is entirely about the early childhood years of Steven Speilberg and how he had no choice in life but to become one of the greatest movie directors of all time. For Sammy Fabelman, there was never any plan B. Once he was fascinated at an early age when his parents took him to see his first movie – Sammy was hooked for life. There was nothing else Sammy ever wanted to do. It started with making small movies where he would crash his train set into cars. Then he would make small horror and war movies with his friends. The most famous story I have ever heard is that Steven Speilberg broke into an abandoned Paramount Studios office and acted like he was an employed director and, was never arrested or prosecuted.

One flaw in this story is that too much time is spent on the affair that his mother Mitzi Fabelman, played very well by Michelle Willams with her husband’s best friend Bennie Loewy, played by Seth Rogan – and not enough time on Steven Speilberg’s early growth as a genius movie director. This is the main reason for the second flaw in this movie – because it is once again, too long. The Fabelmans clocked in at 2 hours and 31 minutes for a story that could have been told in 2 hours. Removing unnecessary details about Speilberg’s mother’s affair would have resulted in a better movie that was long enough and not too long. The majority of fans of Steven Speilberg will obviously go to this film to learn more about how he became a great director, not about his mother’s affair with her husband’s best friend.

The Fabelman family, included along with Sammy, 3 younger sisters who moved from New Jersey to Phoenix Arizona, eventually winding up in Los Angeles. Sammy Fabelman’s father, Burt Fabelman, played well by Paul Dano, is promoted and moves to company locations required by GE and eventually IBM, understandably causing stress on the family. This constant moving had a profound effect on Sammy’s childhood, especially when the family moved to Los Angeles where he would encounter extreme bullying and antisemitism. When it was time for Sammy to attend college, amazingly it was his extreme dislike of school that led Sammy to his huge success as a movie director, because he realized he had no other choice but to succeed in the movie industry. So often talent or ability is not enough, for something like breaking into the movie business, requires insane levels of perseverance.

Once again, I was very impressed with actress Michelle Williams who is outstanding with her portrayal of Steven Speilberg’s late mother Mitzi. Her acting in this movie just might give her another best actress nomination. Paul Dano is also very good as Speilberg’s father and Seth Rogan has one of his best acting roles playing Speilberg’s father’s best friend, Bennie Loewy. Judd Hirsh also has a small but very effective role, playing the brother of Mitzi’s mother in a performance that probably ranks as strong as his role in “Ordinary People”, 1980, and “Running on Empty”, released in 1988.

In his entire career, Steven Speilberg has made only one bad movie – 1941, released in 1979. The Fabelmans is up to the expected levels of a well-made Speilberg movie, despite the “too long” issue and too much focus on Mitzi’s affair. I mostly agree with the very high 93% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, with my rating a solid 90% and a very strong recommendation.