Posts Tagged ‘On Golden Pond’

Failsafe” — movie review
Today’s movie review is for the 1964 military / political thriller “Failsafe“.  The plot revolves around a falsely identified aircraft entering U.S. airspace and the nuclear destruction which follows.  The premise is that both men and machines can fail when humanity trains specifically for world-wide destruction.
Henry Fonda stars as the (un-named) President of the U.S., a young Larry Hagman of “Dallas” and “I Dream of Jeannie” fame is the translator working for the President, Ed (Edward) Binns is the flight commander attacking Moscow, Frank Overton plays General Bogan (in command of the Strategic Air Command (SAC)), Fritz Weaver plays Colonel Cascio who believes the Soviets are actually attacking and tries to mutiny against Bogan and the President, Walter Matthau plays Dr. Groeteschele, an academic / Pentagon consultant who wants to use the “mistake” to initiate an all-out attack / war against “the Communists”, and Dan O’Herlihy plays General Black (“Blackie”) a college friend of the President who is called upon to bomb New York City to compensate for Moscow and to prevent a full-scale nuclear exchange.
To “understand” the movie, a little historical perspective is required…  In the previous year (1963), the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. faced off in what would come to be known as the “Cuban Missile Crisis”.  As far as we know, this is the closest humanity has ever come to nuclear annihilation. Earlier in the year (1964), another movie of a similar vein (“Dr. Strangelove“), but more of a political / military satire was also released.  Both involved a rogue aircraft destroying a Soviet city.  However, in the first movie, the Soviets have a world destroyer which is activated.  In this movie, the President acts to placate the Soviets and save humanity from destruction.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it realistic?  Is it entertaining?  Yes!  Yes!  And, yes!  The film is an interesting throw-back to the days of the black and white drama.  This role and Fonda’s role in “12 Angry Men” are the two signature roles which I remember Fonda for.  “The Grapes of Wrath” and “On Golden Pond” are both equally memorable, but the former was before my time / interest and the latter was at the very end of his long career (he appeared in over 60 films).  And, of course, in my day, EVERYONE was compelled to view “The Ox-Bow Incident” in high school.  For me, the title is more memorable than the film – of which I have almost no recollection.  (Just sayin’.)
Is “Failsafe” realistic?  Yes, particularly compared to “Strangelove“.  Aside from the B&W filming, the technology was “advanced” for its time and quite well done.  The acting was tense and there were a lot of close, sweaty shots which brought the tenseness which real participants would have felt if we were approaching nuclear war.  An interesting side note:  the Air Force did not want to promote the idea such an event (“mistake”) was possible and therefore refused to participate in production.  The film uses stock footage of planes to depict a fictional bomber and a mixture of other aircraft to represent U.S. and Soviet fighters.
Entertaining?  Yes!  I haven’t seen this film in over 40 years and I could still feel the “moment” of the film.  The number of times you see actors with shaky hands and sweaty forearms really high-lights the nervous energy which the movie conveys with virtually no music score to “artificially” build emotional impact.
Final recommendation:  Very Highly Recommended!  This is a movie which should be viewed widely in America.  In 2020, the world is racing to a different type of annihilation (climate change), but it is important to remember there are multiple nuclear powers in the world and any one of them could initiate the end of humanity through either human or technical failure.  The moral of the story is one of personal responsibility and taking action to ensure nothing like this film portrays ever happens in real life.
On This Day In:
2019 Is #45 Warning Alabama Again?
Day 11: 49ers Win
2018 Worry (x2)
2017 Still Working
Gold In The Morning Sun
2016 Power Inside
2015 Sometimes I Feel Small
2014 It Slipped Away
2013 Corollary
2012 Working Retired
2011 The Web Is Not Authoritative! (Really?)

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Today’s movie(s) review is for each / both the “Midway” movies – the first from 1976 and the second from last year (2019).  Both movies are “epic” war movies with ensemble casts.  Both try to give a “feel” for each combatant (Japanese and American).  And, both are – at best – mediocre in terms of popular and professional reviews.  Anyway, here goes…
Midway (1976) — movie review
This film is almost entirely a male cast.  The only significant female role is Christina Kokubo playing the fiance of a (fictional) naval pilot.  The movie hosts a number of (for that time) big name movie stars on both sides of the battle lines, including: American side: Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Ed Nelson, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, and Robert Wagner; and, Japanese side: Toshiro Mifune, James Shigeta, Pat Morita, John Fujioka, and Robert Ito.  With the possible exception of Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” movie series, most of these actors will (probably) be unknown to anyone under 30 years of age as most have been dead or retired for over 20 years.
This movie has two basic story lines.  The main one, of course, is the naval battle.  The second, which I guess is meant to create character sympathy, is a fictional story about a father and son who are naval pilots and their “family issues”.  Other than the overly-strict father (Heston) trope common to military movie / stories, there is also the introduction of an inter-racial love story between a Japanese-American young lady (Kokubo) who is about to be incarcerated (internment for the war) with her family, who is also not allowed to marry the son / naval pilot (played by Edward Albert).
The movie incorporates a lot of stock footage from World War II, most of which is not from the actual battle.  Anyway, the “Battle of Midway” is widely considered the turning point of the naval battles in the Pacific theater.  It marked a decisive victory for the Allied forces from which the Japanese forces never recovered.
As a small point here…  In my humble opinion, the Battle of the Coral Sea (which is mentioned in both movies) was actually the turning point, but it was not a “decisive” U.S. victory, so history almost unanimously ranks Midway as the more significant battle.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining (even if not entirely accurate)?  Why is it considered “blah” by viewers and reviewers?  I have distinct memories of first seeing this movie at a theater, so I viewed it while I was in the Army (1974-1978).  I mention this to answer the third question first.  In the 1970’s, the U.S. was just getting out of Vietnam and there was a significant amount of backlash against our participation there and a corresponding backlash against the glorification of past wars.  Both of these trends would culminate in the “Rambo” genre movies which began emerging in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
So, is this movie any good?  Yes.  Is it accurate?  Well, it had the correct combatants, the correct time line and the correct result.  Most everything else I put down to artistic license and limited special effects.  Entertaining?  Yes, but I like action movies and war epics, so I’m a biased audience.
Final recommendation: moderate to good.  Come for the “old Hollywood” and stay for the so-so history lesson.  One caution to younger viewers: many of you will come away thinking either these guys can’t act or they are mailing it in.  My vote is the latter, but mostly because I like(ed) most of the geezers in this version when they were in other (mostly younger) roles.
Midway (2019) — movie review
This second review is for last year’s remake.  As mentioned above, another ensemble cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, and Woody Harrelson.  I’m not sure why, but while watching this version my initial reaction was: “they picked a lot younger cast.”
As with the earlier version, this movie chose to run parallel story lines to create character interest (drama).  This movie chose three lines, though, instead of two.  Again, a pilot love story, blah, blah, blah, “those who sit and wait”.  The second is about an Intel Officer who figures out what’s going to happen (Edwin Layton – who was “kind of” the basis for the composite fictional character played by Heston in the earlier version).  And, then of course, the battle / result.  This movie also provides a view of leadership on both sides of the conflict as we lead up to and then throughout the battle.
Is this movie any good?  Yes!  Is it accurate?  Again, so-so.  Like the first, it gets most of the main stuff correct.  Is it entertaining?  Yes!  Much more so than the 1976 version.  To begin with, the special effects are FAR superior.  Gosh, what a surprise…  Seriously, though, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the battle scenes almost appeared to me to be in 3D.  Of course, I’m watching this movie on a 48-inch screen from 2.5 feet away and not at a big screen theater, but still…  I thought most of the photography was excellent and I don’t remember ever thinking: “CGI this.  Or, CGI that.”  It looked like I was watching the action through a window.  So, how was the acting?  Again, FAR superior to the earlier version.  Some of the acting may not have been very good, but I didn’t think it was because they were mailing in the performance.  I would add – in particular – I have never been a fan of Woody Harrelson, but he played a much better Admiral Nimitz in this version than Henry Fonda did in the original.  (Just my opinion…)
Final recommendation: Good to strong.  The camera / photography was very good.  The acting was pretty good.  I find “epic” war movies very difficult to get right (as a viewer / fan of the genre).  The action scenes (independent of the effects) were good.  And, I think they got most of the main history points correct, too.  I don’t usually prefer remakes, but this is the much better of the two versions.
Final thought:  I’ve owned the DVD of the 1976 version for over a decade and watch it every three or four years.  I bought it when I went through a Henry Fonda kick after re-watching “On Golden Pond“.  I will pick up a copy of the 2019 version when the price point drops to my range ($5 – $6).  Heck, I may even pick up a streaming version of the original if it ever makes it’s way to my preferred supplier.  Then I can binge them both like I did this time!
On This Day In:
2019 Speaking Of #45
2018 A Higher Loyalty
RIP – Our Silver Lady
2017 Slowly Cutting Their Own Throats
2016 Man’s Advantage Over God
2015 Deeply
2014 Hi-Yo Silver, Away!
2013 Warning:
2012 Thinking About Beauty
2011 A Founding Father’s Argument Against Public Funding Of Religious Education
Weekend Update
So Far, So Good

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