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Posts Tagged ‘Rambo’

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!
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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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Batman v Superman (2016) –  movie review
Last Saturday I took my daughter Sarah to see the latest comic book movie: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“.  The movie stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman is really only in a small role (screen time wise), but it is significant to the movie as the start of the Justice League.  Affleck is new to the role of Wayne/Batman, but was surprisingly much better than I anticipated given all of the negative reviews.  Cavill is reprising his role as Kent/Superman, and is still great in the role.
Is this a “good” movie?  Yes.  It is.  It’s not going to win anyone a best actor trophy and there are large parts of the movie which don’t make any sense, but it’s a movie about comic-book superheroes, so give me a break!  I enjoyed it.  It’s not a great “film”, but most (almost all) comic-book adaptations are not great films.  Who cares?  We don’t go to them for great acting or great dialog or great plot.  We buy our tickets for action, adventure, fantasy and special effects to match our imagination.  By this standard, BvS is entertaining and that is enough.
So, what is the movie about?  Basically, the movie is a marketing attempt to throw three super-heroes together to create a “team” so the industry can have a competing franchise to the Marvel Comic Universe.  The “team”, in this case, the Justice League, will then be able to spin out both League and individual heroes sequels.  If the medium proves as artistically deep as the comic book medium, movie studios will have created a money making machine which can span decades without ever having to come up with a “new” idea.  They just follow the bread crumb trail of the comics.
There is only one problem: actors age and comic book characters don’t.  Well, they do, but on a factor of about one year for every 8 to 10 years (“real” years) of the reader’s life.  In the movies, this is handled by substituting a new (younger) actor in the next sequel or re-booting the movie series (again with a new – younger – actor) usually about ten years after the latest origin story.
The other way to deal with the age issue is to age the hero along with the actor.  This can work (see the “Die Hard“, “Rambo” and “Rocky” films), but more often, not really (see Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight Rises“).  The point I’m getting at is that Affleck’s older Batman, and more specifically Bruce Wayne, is better portrayed than Bale’s.  And, one step farther, I think this will bode well for future League sequels.
Now, some of you might ask: what does any of this “really” have to do with this movie.  Probably nothing.  Just the meandering thoughts of an old comic-book reader…
So, final recommendation: strong.  Standing on its own, it is entertaining.  And, if you don’t go see it, you won’t know what’s going on in the sequel.
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On This Day In:
2015 Remarkable Creations
2014 Measured Faith
2013 April Fool, n.
2012 Faith, Ego And Patriotism
As It Happens
2011 What Counts

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Thomas Robert “Tom” Laughlin (August 10, 1931 – December 12, 2013)
Before Steven Seagal (all three word title movies), before John Rambo (“Rambo” series), before John McClane (“Die Hard” series), before Paul Kersey (“Death Wish” series), before Kwai Chang Caine (“Kung Fu” TV series) – there was Billy Jack in “Born Losers” (1967).  Tom Laughlin brought to the big screen the start of the modern vigilante movie genre with the character of Billy Jack.  It seems strange how a little martial arts on the big screen, mixed with some social awareness and righteous indignation can affect people’s lives.
As a twelve year old kid I remember thinking, “Wow, I’ve got to learn how to do that!”  What I was looking at was Hapkido – a Korean form of Karate (open hand fighting).  Ten years later, I found a Hapkido dojo in Germany and studied it for almost a year during my off hours (I was in the Army).  That was set aside once I returned to civilian life…  Until I found Judo, while I was in college.  I took that for a semester, too.  When I moved to England in the ’90’s, a friend from work (who was a black belt in judo) said he’d love to get me on a mat and asked if I was interested in going to a dojo to learn Aikido.  My friend (Dave) and I found a local dojo and began our lessons.  We continued on with that for about two years.  It was great having someone who was a lifelong martial artist as a co-student because he could explain things in much greater detail than I could ever have gotten (except in one-on-one personal lessons).  For his side, he got someone who was bigger and heavier who he could throw around for a couple of hours twice a week.  We both moved on and I stumbled on to a Philippine “combat” style of Aikido while I was in Saudi Arabia which I tried for another year.  And then finally, once back home in America, I was back to traditional Aikido at a local dojo for several years (until I developed AFib and went on blood thinners).
Practicing martial arts, of course, lead me to read about martial arts, which in turn lead to me reading about martial philosophy and then philosophy in general.
Did I ever “become” a martial artist?  No.  Did I ever learn how to do that?  Not hardly.  I never took it seriously enough to be more than what I was – a novice and a bit of a dojo sampler.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes, very much.  Did it affect me?  Yes!  And for at least some small part of that, I have to thank Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin).
Beyond the enjoyment of playing Aikido itself, I learned timing, balance, grace, philosophy, and I gained a certain amount of inner peace.  For all of which, I will always be extremely grateful.
R.I.P.  Tom
Signed,
KMAB (A Fan)
[Please also go check out the song lyrics to “One Tin Soldier – (The Legend of Billy Jack)” on my poems page.   —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 All Aboard
2011 Sail On, Sailor

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