First Man review

The film First Man has been released in the UK, and elsewhere I imagine. It is directed by the man who did La La Land, Damien Chazelle and is based on a hefty and rather dull book published in 2005 about the life of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon. It takes us up to just after the Moon trip, so avoids all the fame Armstrong hated so much afterwards.

I saw it in IMAX at my local cinema. It is not 3D.

Armstrong hated the fame his Moon landing generated. People always wanted to know about his experience. They were pleased to meet him, honoured, but for him it must have been a chore. He did what he had to do, then went into academic life, He moved onto a farm, declined interviews and died in 2012.

So what of the film?

Well, the actors really don’t look like the characters they are representing. If you don’t know them, it probably won’t matter, but there were characters in the cast list I had no idea were in the film.

It’s not a Right Stuff movie. It doesn’t celebrate the adventure of going into space. It concentrates on Mr Armstrong. There is some stock footage, and sound, and some effects stuff, but the Gemini 8 problem, for example, where the spacecraft was spinning uncontrollably, is shown by wobbly close ups of rivets and distorted sound.

In fact, more than two hours of unnecessarily wobbly camera work on an IMAX screen is hard to take. People were walking out, perhaps because of that.

Armstrong is portrayed as a very cold fish. The story is told from his first wife’s point of view, and he comes over as an uncaring father. The film has a downbeat ending.

You may enjoy it. I was disappointed.

Alfie rules

Many, many years ago, the BBC realised there was an audience for the old comedy shows like Much Binding…, Hancock’s Half Hour, The Navy Lark, Take it from Here and so on. They were broadcast each night at 11pm, then later the station Radio 7 was set up (at the same time as BBC 6 Music).

Radio 7 did OK, but not as well as expected, nor did 6 Music. I always say it is because people are pretty thick and can’t get beyond counting on one hand, but that’s just cynical. Radio 7 because Radio 4 Extra and does better with the number change.

One of my favourite old comedies, when it was first on and even now, is The Clitheroe Kid. This starred Jimmy Clitheroe as schoolboy Jimmy Clitheroe (let’s call the actor “Clitheroe” and the character “Jimmy”).

Clitheroe made some films, many years of his radio programme and did several seasons of tv. He also did something that seems not to be done these days, summer season at places like Blackpool, Scarborough or Bournemouth.

It seems a bit odd now. Jimmy lives with his dysfunctional family in Lancashire, mother (no father is ever mentioned), grandfather (no other grandparents) and sister. Jimmy is always up to mischief, sometimes quite nasty, and is a bit of a liar. When he is in trouble, his grandfather spanks him. He is always in fights, and grandfather is often drunk. It all seems a bit grim and, well, Northern.

Jimmy is also mean to his sister. You’d like to think that, if she was in trouble, Jimmy would try to help, but you don’t get this from listening to the shows.   As the series went on, she appeared less. Jimmy is selfish, and that’s where the comedy comes from.

But, for me the real star of the show is sister’s boyfriend, Alfie Hall, played by Danny Ross.

He has a way of mixing things up that can be hilarious. I suppose he is Jimmy’s best friend, but also the victim of many schemes.

When Clitheroe moved to tv, Ross was a co-star in the series Just Jimmy. He sadly died at a very young age, barely 45, and I feel his work is under-appreciated these days.

I am wondering now why I enjoyed it so much.

Anyway, while all know episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour, The Navy Lark and others have been made available on cd, The Clitheroe Kid hsn’t.


Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett is on tour again. You can see the dates on his site, going up to the end of 2019.

If you like a certain kind of music, you will know Mr Hackett. He was the (sadly underused) guitarist in Genesis during their golden age.

He has releaed a number of solo albums and collaborations, been in other supergroups or worked with other famous musicians, had something of a quiet patch in recent years but came storming back a few years ago with fan-pleasing Genesis revisited albums and concerts. If you watch the Live in Hammersmith dvd you will see me (in the audience).

The latest tour is much the same, but this time with a substantial orchestra. Oddly, although Mr H did a concert in London at the Royal Festival Hall last Thursday, he is down for another at the Palladium this week. There are a very few tickets available.

There’s a mixture of old and new material, and I suspect it’s the old stuff the fans want. Supper’s ready with orchestra sounds great. The extra musicians really fill out the sounds.

From my seat upstairs at the RFH, the sound was ok but not great, rather boomy and lacking nuance. But the concert was very enjoyable, and being filmed, it appeared.