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Posts Tagged ‘Woody Harrelson’

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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First off, Happy Easter to all.  Christ is risen!!
I’ve been off work a few days this week with a viral infection in my throat which has made it very difficult to swallow (and sometimes breathe).  The result is that I’ve had some time (between sleeping) to watch a few movies.  Normally when I’m off work, I like to read, but I’ve found when I’m ill I can’t really concentrate enough to make reading enjoyable.  Anyway, the three movies I’ve watched are: “2012” (a disaster epic from 2010), “The Departed” (an undercover cop movie from 2006), and “Star Knight” (a science fiction / history – “They’ve visited us” – movie from 1985).
The first movie, “2012” was a very enjoyable disaster epic with fairly spectacular special effects (and some banal ones as well).  The acting is so-so, but the effects make the movie.  The best acting in the movie is done by Woody Harrelson – who I normally don’t care for mainly for his choice of roles.  In this movie, he is the predictor of the disaster, comes across as believably paranoid / crazy and is genuinely great in the role.  I guess I like him as crazy but not dark.  This was the third time I’ve seen this movie.  The first was at the theater, where the big screen made the SFX look fantastic (particularly Los Angeles sliding into the Pacific and the destruction of Yellowstone).  The second time I watched it was after the DVD came out and I watched it on my TV at home.  To be honest, the movie did not carry over well from the big screen to the home viewing.  I have a 48 inch hi-def screen, but a lot of the smaller SFX details did not come across when viewed from 8 to 10 feet away.  In contrast, this third viewing was on my 32 inch flat-panel connected to my PC and viewed from about 2 to 3 feet away, and it was terrific.  It didn’t make the movie better, but it made the viewing better.  I’ve noticed a similar viewing effect when I’ve watched some other films – most notably, “Avatar“.  So my recommendation is this is a very entertaining SFX disaster movie, but see it on as big a screen as you can and sit as close as you can.  Recommended.
The second movie, “The Departed” is a police / mob undercover movie with a number of major young(-ish) movie stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg and some oldie but goodies Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin.  The movie is set in Boston and the main conflict is between good mole (DiCaprio) in the mob and bad mole (Damon) in the police.  The movie is very well done as characters, plot and pace go.  I had some minor problems with the poor use of technology, but all in all it was a terrific movie.  I can’t honestly say it’s appropriate for everyone to view as there is a considerable amount of foul language, so there are age and sensitivity issues for the viewing audience.  Other than that, highly recommended!  Oh, and a shout out to my daughter Rebecca for recommending this to me.
The third movie, “Star Knight” is an alien visits earth in the middle-ages movie.  It was done in the mid 1980’s so there has to be some allowance for the SFX – which for that period are actually pretty good.  The movie, however is terrible!!  The best thing about this movie is it is only 91 minutes long, so you’re not wasting 92 minutes of your life.  There are a few movies I will see just because the actors in the films are known quantities and are predictors of quality.  The movie they are in may not be great, but almost without exception, their role is outstanding.  Among these are actors like: Bogie, Hepburn, Tracy (from the oldies) and Nicholson, Streep and (my personal favorite) Duvall.  There are some younger actors emerging though who I think will one day be in a similar category.  I like Damon, Wahlberg and DiCaprio.  Of these three, I must admit, Wahlberg seems to have the most limited range of characters.  DiCaprio is the most recent addition to my list.  I have seen very little of his work and did not enjoy him or the movies I saw him in early: “Titanic” and “The Quick and the Dead“.  Anyway, last year I thoroughly enjoyed him in “Inception” and I think he was also exceptional in the movie just above (“The Departed“).  Well, (that’s a long way to get to here), one of my other all-time favorite actors has been Harvey Keitel.  Again, I have not always liked the movies he was in, but I always liked him.  This movie is definitely the exception.  He is bad and the movie is terrible.  In fairness to Harvey, the movie, a Spanish film originally called: “El caballero del dragon (The Knight of the Dragon)“, was on sale for $4 and it had a pretty good DVD jacket and blurb on the back, but I bought it on the strength of his name.  As stated previously, this was both a waste of time and money.  I am hoping Keitel did this as bad camp, because it is almost – but not quite – so bad it is funny.  There is a vague nod to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (I hope that is what it is) in one scene, but even as camp, the movie fails.  I guess even the best actors will take any role just to stay active.  Sorry Harvey…  This is among the worst movies I have EVER seen.  Frankly, I don’t even have another movie to compare it to because I’ve blotted them out of my memory, too.
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