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HBO's 'From the Earth to the Moon' (E2M) is everything a good
docu-drama mini-series should be. Tom Hanks has brought to life the
true story of man's greatest adventure to 'land a man on the Moon and
return him safely to Earth'. For those of us who were alive, E2M allows
us to relive those incredible days. And for those who were born
afterwards, it gives them a chance to understand exactly what it was
they missed. If you have even the slightest interest in the space
program, obtaining a copy of this DVD set is a must.
Coincidently, Apollo 11 landed exactly 35 years ago today. I was 13 years old at the time and living in Nova Scotia, Canada. The 'Eagle' touched down at 5:17 pm, much to the consternation of my mother who was busy trying to prepare supper. Just like Tom Hanks would later relate, I had my models of the Command Service Module, Lunar Module and Saturn V rocket close at hand while I had claimed the living room armchair for the occasion. My family gathered around our old B&W television which was tuned to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), one of only two stations which were available to us back then. Much of the CBC's coverage consisted of a feed from CBS, so we got to watch Walter Cronkite's famous 'Oh Boy!' commentary. My prized 3" reel-to-reel tape recorder (you could get all of 1 hour on a single reel) was busy taping a local radio station carrying NBC's coverage with Jay Barbree.
The entire family congregated again a few hours later for the moonwalk, just before midnight, and watched Neil & Buzz's first steps. I stayed up for the entire 30 hour televised stretch, from lunar landing to liftoff, stealing a moment every now and then to go outside and gaze up in wonder at the moon, filled with awe that two human beings were actually there, living and working on its surface. In this day of CNN and other all-news networks, it should be remembered that the coverage of this event was in itself history in-the-making - TV's longest continuous coverage of a planned event.
My interest in space began with the flight of Apollo 8. When I heard that this was the first manned launch of the world's biggest rocket, the Saturn V, I was sure that one of its million parts would go wrong with disastrous results. Thank God it didn't. I watched and I was forever hooked. A real space junkie, religiously watching each mission after that, coaxing my Mom to let me stay home from school (recurrent cases of 'moon sickness', no doubt), clipping out every newspaper, Life, Time or Newsweek article I could find (now faded yellow with age) and trying to tape as much of the audio coverage as I could (few private individuals could afford a video recorder back then). By Apollo 14, I had earned enough money working at a grocery store to buy a 4-track 7" reel-to-reel recorder (which allowed one to put up to 12 hours on a single tape!) and had built a 15" Heathkit color TV. For Apollo 16, I had added a new-generation 'cassette' recorder to my arsenal (don't forget that the venerable 8-track was still popular at the time). And, of course, I had acquired a VCR by the time the first Space Shuttle flew in 1981. It has always annoyed me that the more recording resources I could afford, the less TV & radio coverage there was available to tape.
But the effect of the Apollo program on me was profound. Because of it, I entered into a career in radio astronomy, enjoying the technical challenge of building instruments to investigate deep space from the Earth, perhaps recognizing the likelihood that I would never have to opportunity to leave its surface (although I did make the first cut for the Canadian Astronaut Program nearly 20 years ago). In tribute to Project Apollo, we named our son (now 16) after astronaut David Scott who commanded Apollo 15, my favorite of all the lunar flights.
In many ways, I feel sorry for the children of today - they will never experience the monumental awe and global celebration that we were privileged to witness back in 1969. Strange, isn't it, that although Apollo - the pinnacle of mankind's technical achievement - which occurred only 35 years ago is now looked on as though it was something out of our deep past rather than a part of our future. It's almost treated like it was a chapter out of ancient history, similar to other great accomplishments like the building of the Pyramids or the Great Wall. Although it might not seem so today, 500 years from now the moon landings will undoubtedly be remembered as the most significant event to have occurred in the 20th century.
It's hard to choose my favorite E2M episode since they were all so good. As an engineer, 'Spider' resonated well with me, portraying the passion and dedication which many of us put into our work, albeit for projects with a much lower profile. 'That's All There Is' brought back fond memories of the Apollo 12 mission. I distinctly remember there was talk at the time that astronauts Conrad and Bean may have been on an accidental oxygen high. It's good to know that there effervescent behavior on the surface was just a manifestation of their normal high spirits and comradely. I was delighted at how 'Galileo Was Right' was able to present the training of the astronauts to be field-geologists in such an entertaining and informative manner. And finally, the bittersweet "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" brought a tear to my eye, just as happened back in 1972 when I watched Apollo 17 and the last lunar module lift-off from the moon. It's even sadder still, that we have not returned, nor will we for perhaps another 20 years.
When I first heard of this series when HBO previewed it long before it
aired, I was immediately hooked. When it finally aired, it lived up to more
than what I expected. When it finally came out in video as a boxed set, it
was natural for me to get it. Occasionally, some of the scenes still bring
me very close to tears.
This mini-series details the history of the Apollo program from how manned spaceflight got started to the last man on the moon. It very accurately details how we achieved humankind's greatest feat ever: the voyage to, exploration of, and return from, the moon, while adding a very reasonable dramatic twist to it. There are moments where you might laugh, and there are moments where you might feel like crying. There will also be moments where you might feel something else.
Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and the rest of the production staff did an absolutely amazing job in putting this together, everything from the visual effects to the cast and crew. The casting was done so great that this is the first time you cannot pin leading roles in any of the episodes let alone the whole series, even with big names (Hanks, Tony Goldwyn, Mark Harmon, Adam Baldwin, Tim Daly, Cary Elwes, Jay Mohr, Stephen Root, and Lane Smith, not to mention several other big names). Even the writer of the book it's based on, Andrew Chaikin, gets a cameo as the host for "Meet the Press." The soundtrack to this day continues to give me goosebumps highlighting the emotional nature of this series.
Each episode (except episode 12) starts with Hanks as the "host" telling a short anecdote which ties into the episode. The series starts off with featuring the start of the U.S. Manned Space Program versus the Soviet program, highlighting the "firsts" in space by the Soviets and then the Americans, from Mercury to Gemini to the development of Apollo. Episode 2 centers on Apollo 1 fire and the resulting investigation. Episode 3 involves the resumption of the program and highlights the crew before they lift off.
Other Highlightable episodes include the fourth episode, called "1968," which despite how devastating the events of that year were, the Apollo 8 mission helped the year close on a more positive note. The sixth episode highlights the famous Apollo 11 landing on the moon and the first man to step on the moon. Episode 8 is notable for Apollo 13 after its explosion and how the media was trying to find almost anything to feed a hungry audience with tabloid journalism instead of just the facts. Episode 11 is very notable since it focuses on how the wives of Apollo astronauts were affected by their husband's celebrity status and how they coped through the tense, exciting and devastating times. Episode 12, probably one of the most emotional episodes in the series, is about Apollo 17 (the last mission on the moon) and how this mission relates to the a dream from 70 years before by a man called George Melies when he created the moving picture "Le Voyage Dans La Lune." The performances of Hanks (his only appearance as an actor in the series), Daniel Hugh Kelley, Tom Amandes, Tchéky Karyo, Lane Smith, and Stephen Root, with the voice-over of Blythe Danner, make this episode very emotional, especially with everyone except for Karyo in interviews as their older selves.
As much factual information is used while keeping any fictionalized material to a minimum, such as the TV network featuring Emmitt Seaborn (Lane Smith)anchoring the missions for the nation.
This mini-series reminds me what we have worked for in our society and how we are letting that deteriorate now. Back then, it was a man landing on the moon that united the world. It makes you think whether we need something at that caliber to reunite our world today, and how we need to forget our petty differences and better our society as a whole. When you watch this, should think about that, because this is a series you will absolutely never forget.
Until the movie Apollo 13 came to the screen, many were unaware, or had
forgotten of that event, or of the many facets, the visions, the energies
that made up the American Space program in the 1960s. A program with a
dictate set forth by President Kennedy: to get men to the moon, and return,
safely, before the end of the decade.
This 12-hour (12 x one-hour segments) tribute is the personal mission of two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, a man with a childhood love for the astronauts and the space program, and a man with enough clout to get this big-budget extravaganza made.
Each segment is in and of itself a story, each with a different point-of-view on the major aspects of the program. Certainly the main events-the first manned flight, the Apollo 1 fire, the lunar landing, the Apollo 13 emergency, are all there. But quite differently than what we've seen previously, here we have an opportunity to relive much of the day-to-day, aspects-the politics, the personalities, the emotions, of many, many of the key individuals. The astronauts, the engineers, the administrators, the news people, the wives-they all get wonderfully recognized.
Since I'm about the same age as Mr. Hanks, I admit to being a space freak myself as a youngster-at the time these events actually happened. At that time I waited every week, for Time, Newsweek and Life magazine to give me the pictures, and accounts of the activity at NASA.
It's oh so appropriate to have this wonderful tribute to this important piece of American history.
From the Earth to the Moon is a stunning masterpiece that captures
triumph of a defining moment in the history of the world: Humankind's
arrival to, short exploration of, and return from, it's planetary neighbor
Tom Hanks brought together actors, writers, directors, producers, and composers of the highest caliber to deliver an accurate, outstanding, hard hitting film.
From the Earth to the Moon is a 12 hour movie spanning the United States involvement in the space race from the first man in space in 1961 to the last lunar landing in 1972. The movie teaches, gives insights, paints portraits of real people, and is simply fascinating.
The stories told in From the Earth to the Moon are inspiring, captivating, funny, thrilling, and heartbreaking. The true stories are absolutely unforgettable, stories of the men, women, and machines of the Apollo era.
All the stories presented in the film are special, and one that touched me was the story of Apollo 7. With the tragedy of Apollo 1, the movie reveals how Apollo 7 and its crew were America's last chance to make it happen. The movie beautifully presents the pressure Wally Shirra, his crew, and NASA were under before the lift-off of Apollo 7. Had Apollo 7 failed, the space program certainly would have stopped and the world would have never experienced Apollo 11's lunar landing.
The live footage shown from the Apollo 7 lift-off is awesome and spectacular. Generations from now will watch Apollo 7's lift-off to be amazed that humans could achieve such an engineering and technical marvel and scholars will debate in awe how the political, social, and economic environments of the time made such an event possible.
After viewing the entire movie, I was struck with sense of sadness. The Apollo program seemed to allow people's ideas to flourish and pull together around one common goal. That goal, of landing a man on the moon, was noble and exciting. It drew on man's positive strengths to explore, learn, move forward, and better the human condition. Someday, mankind must again reach for the stars.
From the Earth to the Moon will stay with you for a long, long time.
I'll be brief because this series speaks well for itself--especially on
To the jaded it may feel guilty of many things: romanticism, idealism,
patriotism (or jingoism, if you insist), but even if that were true it
presents a series of stories that have never been told before. Perhaps in
hundred years the quaintness and primitiveness of what had to be done to
visit our nearest neighbor, the moon, might be seen as amusing instead of
inspiring--but I don't think so. See if you don't walk away feeling a
little better after watching an episode or two, or all twelve. I dare
And don't think if you've seen Apollo 13 that you've seen it all. This series even makes the stories of the guys who built the lunar lander, the geologists who studied the moon rocks, and the wives of the astronauts as appealing and fulfilling as the triumphs and tragedies that are better known.
The best thing about this series is the fact that it will either teach or
remind a great many people about the accomplishments of the race to the
moon. Sadly I feel that this is one of the most misunderstood and under
appreciated events in human history, thought of by many today as some sort
of great patriotic publicity stunt by an insecure America. I feel I can
almost read Tom Hank's mind and feel his desire to make people understand
the difficulty and significance of the achievement. The series does a
wonderful job of placing the entire series of events in context with the
political and social climate of the day.
We now live in a world where most of us simply take it for granted that we will probably someday travel to, explore and perhaps even colonize other worlds in our solar system and even beyond. This is the only true because hundreds of thousands of people contributed to proving beyond doubt that it can be done. The race to the moon changed us, even if we don't quite realize it, and this series is a reminder of that.
This miniseries is fantastic. As a self titled space geek, I enjoyed every minute. Not only does it tell the story of how we got to the Moon, it tells about the individual astronauts and many who helped get them there. After Alan Shepard had his 15 minutes as the first American in space, JFK made it clear that we needed to get to the Moon by 1970. The mini series details every step of the way, touching on the Apollo 1 disaster, all the steps to getting to the Moon (staying in orbit, space walks, docking, etc), the development of the Lunar Modules, and the inevitable voyage of Apollo 11 that landed on the Moon. I especially enjoyed Dave Foley as Al Bean, an astronaut on Apollo 12 (the funny episode). From the Earth to the Moon also details the NASA/press relationship, astronaut training, the astronaut wives, etc. It's such details and perspective that make this stand out as an amazing miniseries. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about the Apollo program. Truly an amazing story of arguably the greatest technological achievement of man to date.
This is one hell of a production!
It starts out with the Mercury missions, but not just the glossy scenes we know and have seen already, it goes beyond the norm. This 12 part series explains the absolute minutia of the space effort and the lives of the people behind it. It progresses through the Gemini and finally the Apollo missions all the way to the last Apollo 17 lunar landing.
I learned quite a few things about the space race that I never knew before, such as: The surly nature of Alan Shepard, the fate of the astronauts wives, the fun nature of the Apollo 12 crew and the internal politics within the ranks of the astronauts themselves. I was also surprised on how much a bastard that Walter Mondale was in his attempts on derailing the space program. (I'm glad his bid for the White House was a failed one... Ignorance favors all political parties.)
A lot of familiar faces starred in this production, the one that knocked me for a loop was Malcolm in the Middle's father as Buzz Aldrin. The acting is great and shows the versatility of the actors in both comedic and serious roles. I knew that Pete Conrad was cocky, but it shows more of his personality here. Armstrong has been known to be rather sullen and quiet, and is clearly demonstrated here as well. To this day, he doesn't talk much about his adventure. The decision determining who will be the first man on the moon is blunt and anti-climatic, but it tells it as it is. It tells of the astronauts secret activities and agendas, as well as particular small moments that they experienced.
In the Apollo 13 segment, the production did not go into the details of the incident like we all seen before, but rather focused on the reporters angle on the event. And I rather enjoyed the insight sweat details on the building of the L.E.M. I wish they did a segment on the rover. I thought that they labored too long over the Apollo 16 mission - training much...learning geology with a trained eye, but I appreciate the effort that they went through. The Apollo 1 tragedy was produced well, with the political aftermath fallout.
I hope that all what was filmed is true, and I do understand creative license, but I would feel better if I knew they kept it faithful to actual events. I need to view this again to catch more, but I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the space program.
For those who look for a well produced, faithful, moving telling of
the Apollo program, this series is a masterpiece. Michael Kamen's
poignant music, Tom Hanks' exacting production standards,
outstanding performances from a range of excellent actors and
special effects that leave one wondering what it would have looked
like on a movie screen ---- all make this series a must-see. And for
those concerned that this series might have gross overlap with
other films made about this time period (The Right Stuff, Apollo
13), you will be pleased to see that the series carefully and
deliberately tells the tales not already well told in these two films.
Again, this is a subtle example of Hanks' production values.
But let's say you don't care about all that. Then, get ready to learn.
Get ready to see the complex conundrum that was the Apollo
program unfold in much the way the principal players probably
saw it. Get ready for a balance between humour and intelligence.
Get ready for exposition that does not drag like exposition tends to
do. Get ready to cry at times, and if you're lucky enough to
remember those days, get ready for a wave of nostalgia.
People who rave about this series usually do so not because they
are blinded by their own interest in the subject and are glad
someone did the tale justice. Usually, they marvel at how
someone managed to capture so much and keep the quality so
high. And I believe you will, too.
This series is simply amazing. It is well acted, well written, and you can't beat the subject matter. I have never seen a better show. Everyone in this series is wonderful and the dialog is so crisp. It is a great tribute to an important era in American history. I recommend it for everyone.
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