Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Silence” from director Martin Scorsese, Hidden Figures” starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe and “A Monster Calls” with Liam Neeson.
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, “Silence” from director Martin Scorsese, Hidden Figures” starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe and “A Monster Calls” with Liam Neeson.
The title “Hidden Figures” has a double meaning, On one hand it refers to the mathematical calculations that went in to making John Glenn the first American man into space in 1962. On the other hand it describes Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three African-American NASA mathematicians who did many of those calculations. “They let women do things at NASA,” says Johnson, “and it’s not because we wear skirts, it’s because we wear glasses.”
Taraji P. Henson is Katherine Johnson, a math prodigy who can, “look beyond the numbers.” At the beginning of 1961 she, and her two car pool pals, mathematician Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and aerospace engineer Jackson (Janelle Monáe), were working in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center.
With just weeks before the launch each are singled out. Johnson’s genius with analytic geometry lands her a spot with the Space Task Group to calculate launches and landings. Vaughn takes over the programming of the new IMB computer and Jackson works with on the Mercury capsule prototype.
Each face hurdles do to their race. When Johnson first walks into her new, shared workspace, one of the men hands her an overflowing garbage can. “This wasn’t emptied last night.” Personnel supervisor Mrs. Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) thinks Vaughan is too aggressive in her requests for a supervisor’s position and Jackson, despite her degree, is told she can only become a NASA qualified engineer if she attends classes at a local, segregated high school. “Every time we have a chance to get ahead,” Jackson says, “ they move the finish line.”
The film focuses on Johnson but by the time the end credits roll all three have risen above the societal challenges placed on them to make invaluable contributions to the NASA space program.
“Hidden Figures” is a feel good, crowd pleaser of a movie. Based on true events, it portrays an upbeat version of the past. It’s set in the same time frame as “Loving,” Jeff Nichols’ recent look at the legalization of interracial marriage, but values broad moments over Nichols’ more nuanced approach. A blend of history and uplift it is occasionally a bit too on the money—“We are living the impossible,” says Jackson’s boss Karl Zielinski (Olek Krupa)—but engages with its subject and characters in an entertaining and heartfelt way.
Henson is the movie’s center and soul. Even when she slips into slapstick while doing extended runs to the “Coloured Bathroom” in a building located blocks away from her office. Those scenes are played for comedy but make an important point about the treatment of African American people in a less enlightened time.
Monáe is a feisty presence and Spencer brings a hard-earned dignity to Vaughan. In the supporting category Kevin Costner does nice, effortless work as Al Harrison, head of the Space Task Group.
“Hidden Figures” details a little known but vitally important part of American history. It’s a good-hearted look at a time of great change both in the macro—American cultural shifts in the space race and in terms of race—and in the micro universe of how African American women made their mark at NASA.
“Home,” is an alien invasion movie for kids. Imagine a cute “War of the Worlds” with messages about courage and the meaning of family and you get the idea.
Oh (voice of Jim Parsons) is a Boov, an alien from a skittish race of ETs who flee at the slightest sign of trouble. Constantly on the run from their mortal enemies, this time their fearful leader Captain Smek (voice of Steve Martin) has found them refuge on Earth, moving the planet’s inhabitants to an interment camp called Happy Human Town to make room for the Boov. Oh isn’t aware of the camp. “Boov do not steal and abduct,” he says naively, “we liberate and befriend.”
Tip” Tucci (voice of Rihanna) is a teenager who managed to avoid the Boov, but is now in search of her mother (voice of Jennifer Lopez). When Oh accidentally invites the entire universe—including the Boov’s enemies—to his housewarming, he flees the angry aliens, running into Tip. The odd couple become friends and soon Oh is helping Tip find her mother while Tip teaches Oh about bravery and the importance of family.
You’d have to be particularly grim faced to deny “Home’s” cute factor. The audience I saw it with seemed to have their collective fingers permanently poised on the “Ahhhh” button but cute doesn’t mean it’s a great film. It makes the most of its modest charms, seeming content to pitch the movie at an audience young enough to not be aware of many of the clichés on display. I won’t list them all here, but suffice to say that five minutes in you know this is the kind of kid’s flick that will end with some kind of dance number.
On the plus side there is action mild enough for the young ones—although they do mostly destroy Paris, which might upset Parisian tots—with low jeopardy and nothing that should inspire nightmares.
Parsons probably has the most cartoon friendly voice on television today and he uses it to good effect as the gullible extra-terrestrial. He speaks in alien doubletalk, a kind of Yoda speak mixed with the “I Can Has Cheezburger?” meme. “I do not fit in,” he says, “I fit out.”
“Home” contains good moral lessons wrapped up in a shiny package with giggles for the kids and even a laugh or two for parents who will have top accompany the little ones.