A highly entertaining summer romantic comedy that has a serious side to it, FLY ME TO THE MOON stars Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum. In 1969, the United States managed to beat out the Russians by securing the first manned mission to the moon, featuring the unbelievable Apollo 11 landing and subsequent walking on the moon by the astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.


Johansson plays Kelly Jones, a marketing and advertising genius competing --- and winning --- against men in the Mad Men era in New York City. She’ll stop at nothing, including pretending to be pregnant, to succeed. She is recruited by Moe Burkus (Woody Harrelson) to create enthusiasm amongst the American people for the space program.


At Cape Kennedy in Florida, where the Apollo missions begin, she encounters Cole Davis (Tatum), the launch director for NASA. He’s not at all thrilled to have Kelly around, especially when he finds out what her real assignment is. Burkus is worried that the moon landing won’t be successful, so he tasks Kelly with filming an alternate

reality --- lunar dust, et al.


Kelly turns to her favorite commercial director from New York, Lance Vespertine (Jim Rash), a Tab guzzling crazy person, who also happens to be very talented at what he does. As the countdown to the actual touchdown on the moon begins, Kelly and Lance are ready with their subterfuge --- that is until a little black cat named Mischief (played by Hickory, Eclipse and Wilbur), whose presence has plagued Cole, intervenes.


Director Greg Berlanti has assembled an outstanding cast to parlay the well-written screenplay by Rose Gilroy into a summer blockbuster. Johansson is at her best. She produced FLY ME TO THE MOON through her company These Pictures and had not intended to star until she read the script --- and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Kelly.


She and Tatum exude believable chemistry --- at first antagonistic, which then turns romantic. It’s a great part for  him and he gives a terrific performance. He’s always been great at comedy, but as Cole, he must also contend with the more serious aspects of Gilroy’s screenplay.


Harrelson and Rash are exemplary, especially Rash who is an absolute hoot as the put-upon director who gets no respect. Other standouts include Ray Romano as Henry Smalls, Cole’s mentor at NASA, Anna Garcia, who plays Ruby, Kelly’s assistant, and two NASA engineers, Stu (Donald Elise Watkins) and Don (Noah Robbins). And lastly, the three black kitties who steal the movie. It’s not easy to get felines to act accordingly, but Hickory, Eclipse and Wilbur each do their part.


To make FLY ME TO THE MOON as realistic as possible, the cast and crew had the full support of NASA and the ability to collaborate with several technical advisors who were at the agency during the time of the Apollo missions. And it’s important to state that there was never a top- secret plan to broadcast a fake landing on the moon.


What is so startling about FLY ME TO THE MOON is the emotions it stirs up --- even after all these years --- when Apollo 11 is shown taking off from Cape Kennedy --- and then the real footage of the moon landing. It still gives one chills of anticipation and excitement --- what a truly unbelievable accomplishment!


Opinion: See It Now!





For moviegoers of a certain age --- let’s say 65 and over --- the new movie FLY ME TO THE MOON will be a sentimental reminder of just how wondrous and exciting it was to watch on TV the actual moon landing of July 20, 1969. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum, the film may even provide goosebumps to a couple of later



Opening in theaters just a few days shy of Apollo 11’s 55th anniversary, FLY ME TO THE MOON is billed as a romantic comedy, or comedy/drama. Indeed, the billboards promoting the film with the tag line “Will they make it or fake it?” suggests a broad comedy, as does the presence of its two leads.


But Tatum offers a career-best performance providing viewers with just the right doses of flirtatious fun and the serious rigor that is required of a NASA launch director. Tatum plays Cole Davis in that capacity, and while it’s a fictional character --- created by story writers Keenan Flynn and Bill Kirstein with a screenplay by Rose Gilroy ---

we believe Davis really was the foremost figure in the launch of Apollo 11, as well as Apollo 1, going back two years, when three astronauts were killed. When TV interviewer Chuck Meadows (Peter Jacobson) steps way over the line in suggesting Davis was at fault for the tragedy, Tatum’s reaction is gripping.


As for Johansson, her portrayal of marketing sage Kelly Jones is what we’ve come to expect --- she makes it look so easy. Her collection of previous films now makes her the highest grossing actress of all time. As Jones, she is a thorn in Davis’ side, but the mutual attraction between the two cannot be denied. Director Greg Berlanti is credited with a film that is a stark reminder of the romantic comedies of yore starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. But make no mistake --- FLY ME TO THE MOON is as much a dramatic piece of work that is completely engrossing.


Then there is Woody Harrelson as Moe Burkus, a shady government figure in the Nixon administration. It is Moe’s contention that the president has approved a potential fake moon landing on a massive set to be built indoors --- just in case the real moon landing proves to be another NASA failure. Kelly goes along with it unbeknownst to idealist Davis because, well, she’s used to lying, particularly if her untruths result in attaining a goal, to erase her unsavory past. To head up the casting of fake astronauts and the like, Berlanti turned to well-known TV personality Jim Rash to play Lance Vespertine, a role more annoying than anything else. For clarification to any doubters, there never was a plot to film a fake landing --- pure fiction for this movie.


The rest of the main cast includes Ray Romano as Henry Smalls, a NASA engineer nearing the end of his career. Romano renders a heartfelt portrayal grateful to have been part of man’s greatest achievement. Kelly Jones’ assistant Ruby is played by Anna Garcia who does a very good job as Kelly’s sidekick. Two nerdy young engineers Stu and Don (played respectively by Donald Elise Watkins and Noah Robbins) almost steal the show. And there is a brief --- very brief and quite funny --- cameo that will not be revealed here.


Composer and Oscar nominee Daniel Pemberton provides a stirring score for the film, while another Oscar nominee, Dariusz Wolski, handles the amazing cinematography. And one cast member not yet mentioned is Mischief the cat, played by three different felines named Hickory, Eclipse and Wilbur. You may ask what is a cat doing in FLY ME TO THE MOON? It’s a hilarious turn and most unexpected.


If you’re currently of retirement age or older, FLY ME TO THE MOON will bring you all the way back to that incredible time when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface, uttering his enduring line “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. And archival footage of legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite only adds to the experience.


Opinion:  Strong See It Now!