Documentary Movie Review: Earthrise (2018) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “E” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous “E” documentaries I’ve reviewed include The Endless Summer and Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Title: Earthrise
Release Date: April 20, 2018
Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee
Production Company: American Documentaries Inc.
Summary/Review:

This short documentary focuses on the Apollo 8 mission of December 1968. The goal of this mission was to successfully orbit the moon and return to Earth in preparation for the moon landings that would begin the following year.  With NASA’s plan and rigid schedule for getting the spacecraft into lunar orbit and documenting the moon up close, there was no intention of looking back at Earth.

And yet as the astronauts – Bill Anders, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell – became the first people to ever leave low Earth orbit, they began to notice the beauty of the Earth visible in full.  While circling the moon and documenting the surface with photographs, Anders noticed the Earth rising over the moon.  The photograph he took became the most famous part of the mission.

The movie features archival footage of the mission and contemporary news events with the only narration coming from present-day interviews with Anders, Borman, and Lovell. They talk about the significance to them of seeing the Earth from afar.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: Electric Dreams (1984) #AtoZChallenge


I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!

Title: Electric Dreams
Release Date: July 20, 1984
Director: Steve Barron
Production Company: Virgin Films
Synopsis:

In a world where humans are distracted by electronic devices, a talented but disorganized young architect Miles Harding (Lenny Von Dohlen) is convinced to buy a personal computer to help keep on track. When he tries to download data from his company’s mainframe, his PC starts to smoke and the only thing nearby he has to try to put the fire out is champagne.  The combination of the too results in the computer gaining sentience and the voice of Bud Cort of Harold and Maude fame.

A concert cellist, Madeline (Virginia Madsen), moves in upstairs from Miles and they form an attraction. One day while Madeline is rehearsing Bach’s Minuet in G major, Miles’ computer hears her through the air vents and begins playing a duet with her in 8-bit electronic beeps.  Madeline believes that Miles is a talented, but shy, musician as is drawn to him more, while Miles tries to hide his computer from Madeline. The computer, trying to understand love, becomes jealous that he spend time with Madeline since he is impressing her with his music.

And thus begins a bizarre love triangle among man, women, and computer. The movie director, Steve Barron, primarily directed music videos including notable classics like “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, and “Take On Me” by a-ha. The music video style of editing and camera angles is used to great effect in this movie as well as a soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder and songs by several New Wave synthpop acts.

When Did I First See This Movie?:

In spring of 1984, we moved a new house, and as a treat, my mom subscribed us to cable tv for the first time. And thus came that opportunity to watch movies, lots of movies, and without commercial interruptions.  Soon, the realization dawned that I’d end up watching the same movies over and over again, and Electric Dreams became one of those movies I loved to watch again and again.

What Did I Remember?:

It’s a testament to the elasticity of the young, developing brain that so much of this movie I haven’t watched since the 1980s remained in memory, even specific dialogue and tones of voice.

What Did I Forget?:

I did forget the part where Edgar has a party with projections from an old movie, though.

What Makes This Movie Great?:

It’s a simple idea, a love triangle with a bit of Cyrano de Bergerac, but it’s told well.  Lenny Von Dohlen is a great likable nerd character in what I believe may be the only leading role in his career in a movie. Madsen is also great, and their fumbling romantic chemistry is believable. Cort’s voice is the right balance of innocent curiosity of a new being trying to learn as well as evil menace when Edgar the computer turns against Miles. Of all the movies I rewatched for this A to Z project, this is one that I thought would age poorly, but I’m pleasantly surprised that it remains a solid, little rom-com.

What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

This is a movie about computing technology of 1984, and I suspect anyone too young to remember 1984 will find it laughable.  On the other hand, Miles’ computer (even before it became sentient) was remarkable sophisticated for its time.  Nobody had a personal computer system operating their apartment in the 1980s so the movie has a weird retro-future vibe to it.  The finale of the movie has Edgar taking over the radio airwaves to dedicate a new song to Miles and Madeline and there is a sequence of people around San Francisco dancing to it that is INCREDIBLY CHEEZY, even by the standard of the 1980s.  The song, “Together in Electric Dreams” by Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder, is really good though.

Is It a Classic?:

Maybe not a classic, but definitely an underrated gem of the 1980s.

Rating: ***1/2

5 more all-time favorite movies starting with E:

  1. Eight Men Out (1988)
  2. Eighth Grade (2018)
  3. Election (1999)
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  5. The Exorcist (1973)

What is your favorite movie starting with E? What’s your guess for my movie starting with F?  Let me know in the comments!