Thursday, November 28, 2019

Midway review

Director Roland Emmerich has made a bunch of films. So he knows the importance of keeping focus on a dramatic narrative. In 1994, he wrote and directed Stargate (1994) , a science fiction movie that was about meeting the fictional aliens that colonized the earth in ancient Egypt. Now Emmerich didn't go into the enslavement of the ancient Egyptians. That would have taken away from the narrative, the purpose of the Stargate and where it would lead us. Unfortunately, his instincts for narrative get lost in the historical drama Midway. In fact, the movie starts with a scroll that it is about events leading to the battle of Midway. Really?

Yep. This 2019 version of the Battle of Midway starts with events leading up to it. We meet Lt. Commander Layton (Patrick Wilson) whose in Japan years before World War 2, getting to know the Japanese. Then years later the film Midway moves to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is depicted in frightening fashion but hey I thought this movie was about the Battle of Midway. We meet some of the main characters, hot shot pilot Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) and the responsible air group commander aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Lt. Commander Wade McCluskey (Luke Evans). Throw in Woody Harrelson as the legendary U.S. admiral Chester Nimitz. But before we actually see the planning of the Battle of Midway, the movie decides to take some time to show the raid on Tokyo by Army Air Force Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart)

It's good to see Ed Skrein playing a good guy. And everybody in the cast is good. But they're only as good as the screenplay and writer Wes Tooke loads it up with plenty of corn. And he makes a big mistake when he tackled the historic Battle of Midway. He's telling two other battles before Midway. Pearl Harbor. The Doolittle Raid. And I'm very suspicious of American movies made with Chinese money. (Shanghai Ruyi) In the movie, Doolittle crashes in China. He's helped by local Chinese resistance fighters. And they are strafed by Japanese fighters. Doolittle asks who the Japanese are attacking. And the Chinese say it's the civilians. Okay, it's true that the Japanese killed Chinese civilians. But I can't help but wonder if this scene was in here to please the Chinese producers.

Director Emmerich knows action, special effects and big explosions. And Midway does those things well. But he also has made films that stayed on narrative course. By the time we get to the Battle of Midway, he's wasted too much time. I'm not giving anything away when I say the Americans won but how? Three Japanese carriers are sunk but we really don't see how. It's so badly depicted that you're confused as to which ship was sunk. It's basically delivered in a line of dialogue. We really don't get a feel for the battle. You're scratching your head at what happened. The battle was close because it was two fleets looking for each other. So much so, that the dramatic impact of the sinking of the last Japanese carrier lacks the emotional weight it should have been given. The Americans suffered great losses. The 1976 film of this battle, Midway did a better job of setting up the conflict because it didn't waste time with extensive depictions of the battle of Pearl Harbor or the Doolittle Raid.

Some day there's going to be a better dramatic retelling of the Battle of Midway. Maybe it will be done in a television mini-series. This 2019 version is worth seeing on cable. But if you want a better feel for the real battle, read a good book on it. The grade for Midway is B Minus.

Terminator: Dark Fate review

About a third of the way during the movie, Terminator: Dark Fate, (T:DF) I got an idea to contact Twentieth Century Fox regarding the Alien franchise. You see in T:DF, the film ignores Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terminator: Genisys (2015) without any explanation. Oh yeah, you can forget about Terminator: Salvation (2009) too. So can we ignore the events in Alien 3 (1992) which terminates the cute Newt and feminist hero Ripley from Aliens (1986)? Please James Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox? You know you can do it guys.

Speaking of James Cameron, the director of the first two Terminator films, he's partly responsible for the story of T:DF. And there's a bunch of writers on this movie which might lead me to think they were writing a comedy but alas, that's not the case. And if I went over all of them, you would get bored and skip this review. Anyway, this movie takes place after the first two movies in the present. An old Sarah Connor {Linda Hamilton) is running around North America terminating Terminators who are warping from the future. Meanwhile, an advanced Terminator (Gabriel Luna) has interest in killing a young Mexican woman, Daniella (Natalia Reyes) while another person with enhanced abilities from the future named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) has an interest in protecting her. Oh yeah, Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the movie as Carl, who's a Skynet robot from the future with the mission to get humans to eat more vegetables. Okay, I'm kidding about the robot part here to get us to eat more vegetables but Arnold does want us to do that.

The cast is all good. Great to see Linda Hamilton, as the older Sarah. Her voice is deep, raspy and reminds one of beaten leather. Sarah has been through a lot and Hamilton portrays it well. If you were alive when the first two movies came out, it's like seeing an old friend. Natalia Reyes plays the confused and then true believer of Terminators, Daniella, well. And Mackenzie Davis is up to the task as the duty driven Grace. Of course, Schwarzenegger was made to play a robot. It's like rolling off a log for him.

Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) is a fine director. He handles the action here well with little confusion. In this film he has one big problem when he was handed this screenplay from all those writers. They couldn't come up with something really original. It's the same plot from the first one. Terminators come from the future to the past to destroy the future. If you've seen the first two movies, you've seen it all before, At least Terminator: Salvation had a great premise but was mangled by that film's director McG and the writers. Maybe if they combined the two next time, it might be interesting. Why don't they have Sarah travel to the future?

As I write this review, Terminator: Dark Fate is already out of my multiplex. Shame. It's not that bad a movie. It's just not original. Rent this one and hope something interesting happens down the timeline. The grade is B.