Mini Movie Reviews: FIRST MAN and WIDOWS

Fall has so many things to love: weather that doesn’t make me feel roasted alive, Halloween decorations going up 9 weeks early, soup…and industry movie screenings of award contenders! Even when the movies aren’t great, we get free popcorn and drinks so who’s complaining?

Following are mini reviews of two I’ve seen.

First Man (Oct. 12)

Daniel McFadden/Universal Pictures

Ryan Gosling reunites with his Oscar-winning La La Land director Damien Chazelle for this Neil Armstrong biopic, culminating in Armstrong’s landing on the moon.

The visuals are awe-inspiring and the acting is beautifully subtle—from Gosling and Claire Foy as Armstrong’s first wife, Janet—but perhaps Chazelle stayed too close to Armstrong’s stoic spirit.

While I admire the movie and respect the craftsmanship, I can’t say I was deeply moved by it. But see it in IMAX and you can almost cross off a trip to the moon from your bucket list, because Chazelle makes you feel like you’ve already been there.

Widows (Nov. 16)

20th Century Fox

“Hoo-weee, this movie’s intense.” That was the first thing I said to Mr. PCN when Widows ended.

Based on the novel by Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect), this heist thriller was adapted for the screen by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen, with the latter also directing.

Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizaeth Debicki give gritty, riveting performances as women whose men left them in a bad way. Their lives are threatened when shady characters want the women to repay their former lovers’ debts. The women give payback, all right.

The characters are strong but messily and realistically so. They’re not wonder women but regular folk tired of being messed with. Tony winner Cynthia Erivo joins the trio later in the heist’s planning stages, but they find she’s a quick learner.

Remember how Daniel Kaluuya’s character was unnerved by all the creepy white people in Get Out? His performance in Widows made me feel like that. He is a nasty piece of work here.

Flynn does what she does best—give us portraits of complicated women capable of whatever men do, with all the good and ugly and in between. McQueen ratchets up the tension so much, I was often holding my breath.

Heist movies aren’t my favorite subgenre, but this one is less about the score than people in desperate situations finding their mettle. It’s a character study—on steroids.

Which fall movies are you excited to see? Stay tuned for more reviews as the screenings ramp up!



  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 10:13 am

    While I’m curious about ‘First Man’, especially in an IMAX setting, but I’m really looking forward to ‘Widows’. Thanks for the heads up, Elyse. 🙂

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 12, 2018 at 11:56 am

      Would love to hear your thoughts on it, le0!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Great reviews!

    I’m looking forward to The Old Man with the Gun and the A Star is Born remake. Oh, and Bohemian Rhapsody!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 12, 2018 at 11:57 am

      BR not so much, but I definitely want to see the other two!

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