FlixChatter Review – MIDWAY (2019)

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Wes Tooke

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 has inspired many films over the years, most of which center around fictional characters and cheesy love stories. The 1976 Midway is no exception so it was with guarded anticipation I awaited the release of Roland Emmerich’s Midway. I was concerned it would get caught up trying to emulate other popular war films like Pearl Harbor or Dunkirk. However, I think having a German director and Chinese production team offered an interesting perspective.

The film gives a relatively straightforward account of the key naval battles. Beginning with Pearl Harbor and ending with the battle of Midway, it also recounts Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo (April 1942) and the Battle of Coral Sea (May 1942) which to my recollection were not well (if at all) examined in the 1976 version of Midway.

Although the film relies on a famous cast to get people in the theater, it does a much better job than its predecessor at accurately the battles, ships and planes used. The actors (Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, among others) played their roles with respect toward the heroic figures they were portraying. Focusing in on people of lesser rank allowed for deeper interpersonal development, although I didn’t think the film delved into relationships as deeply as it could have.

Many Hollywood based war films have a way of making the US service people look like helpless victims. This film makes sure to express the strength and capability of our country’s military personnel. Although it makes clear we were attacked and left at a great disadvantage it showcases the dedication and skill set of each service member while also expressing Japanese naval superiority.

The production value of the battle scenes are impressive. The bomber scenes concerning Dick Best are no exception. Well placed shots help to create the scale of an expansive world which draws the viewer further into highly realistic battle scenes. Unfortunately, the dialogue was uneven and the weak bits really drew me out of the film.

I felt this film gave equal respect to both US and Japanese service personnel, something that is not very common in war films. The screening I went to was mostly booked for a movie watching organization for veterans, one of whom served in the pacific during this time. It was a very unique and powerful experience watching this film alongside a person who experienced military action during the period portrayed in the film as well as other people currently serving in our armed forces. A timely film to watch, not just during Veteran’s Day. I already greatly respect and appreciate the sacrifices of people in uniform. I know that as a citizen of the US, I greatly benefit, even in ways I am not aware of. I really appreciated this film because it helped me refocus my gratitude.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen MIDWAY? Well, what did you think? 

New Releases Double Reviews: World War Z & White House Down

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WORLD WAR Z

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Based on a popular novel by Max Brooks, this big budgeted film was plagued with troubled production and ran well over its original budget, reportedly somewhere around $170-200 mil (the original budget was set around $150 mil). The film was scheduled to open last December but because of rewrites and reshoots of the film’s third act, it got delayed for six months. Now it’s ready for audiences all over the world to see. I want to mention that the film doesn’t have anything to do with the book, besides the title and premise the film has nothing to do with its original source. Just thought I mention that for fans of the novel.

The film opens with Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family going to some family trip. While stuck in traffic on the streets of Philadelphia, suddenly chaos broke out. If you’ve seen the countless trailers and clips, you already know what happened. The scene was pretty intense and exciting to watch. Gerry and his family was able to escape and drove all the way to New Jersey.

Later on Gerry got a call from his former colleague, Theirry Umuntoni (Fana Mokoena), he explained what has been happening all over the world and needs Gerry’s help. Gerry agreed and Theirry told him to wait somewhere overnight and in the morning he’ll send over a helicopter to pick him up. Gerry and his family found a refuge with a family who still lives in an apartment building in New Jersey. After Gerry and his family were rescued, they were flown to a ship outside of the States where the US Navy set up their command post. He found out that US President was killed and most of the government officials have either died or missing. Since Gerry has experience in working all over the world, he’s been asked by the US Navy Captain to help them find out what cause the outbreak. First he was hesitant because he didn’t want to leave his family but after the Captain told him that the only reason he and his family are on the ship was because he’s useful to them, if he doesn’t want to help, he and his family have to leave. I don’t like to give out too much plot points on my reviews so I’ll just say that for the rest of the film, Gerry went on an adventure trying to find out what cause people to turn into zombies.

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As I mentioned earlier, the film doesn’t have anything to do with the book, but they did include sequences that were similar to some section from the book, some fans might appreciate that, I know that I did. I’m not the biggest fan of Marc Forster but I thought he did a really good job of staging some really cool action set pieces and even made me jump a few times. I thought the first half of the film was pretty great, I was involved in the story and thought it could one of the best films of the summer. Unfortunately the film’s second half was a letdown.

There were five screenwriters who were credited on this film and I blame all of them for the lackluster second half. Apparently studio folks weren’t too thrilled with the first cut that Forster had delivered to them and hired Damon Lindelof to rewrite the ending and order re-shoots. Unfortunately what he came up with was pretty lame in my opinion, of course I won’t spoil it but it’s clear they want sequels. In fact, Brad Pitt said in an interview that he wants to turn this film into a trilogy. I think had they stuck with the original ending, the film might work out better. I hope they include that original ending on Blu-ray/DVD or better yet, integrate it into the eventual director’s cut release. If you want to find out what the original was like, go and read this excellent article that chronicled the film’s troubled production.

Performance-wise, Pitt was pretty decent in the lead role. Make no mistake, this is his film. He appeared on the screen pretty much 99% of the time. Mireille Enos who played his wife had some good scenes in the first 30 minutes or so but unfortunately her role was reduced to just being the worried wife while her husband was out saving the world. The only other major character in the film was an Israeli soldier played by Daniella Kertesz, she sort of became Pitt’s sidekick throughout most of the film.

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I was a bit disappointed that they decided to make it a PG-13 zombie movie. I’m not a gore freak but I expected to see blood and some gore when it comes to film about zombies. I know that when they agreed to turn the book into a movie, it was under contract that it couldn’t be R-rated, that’s one of the reasons why they had to change the original ending. Apparently it’s too violent and the film would’ve gotten an R-rating. I understand it’s done for financial reasons but seriously, there was a scene in the film where Pitt’s character chopped another character’s hand off but we didn’t see anything because they had to cut away. Also, if you cut someone’s hand off, there would be blood everywhere! The film couldn’t show that of course. Just a minor complaint though, there were many intense scenes that worked despite its PG-13 kid friendly rating.

Even with the lackluster second half and lack of blood and gore, I still recommend it. I think some of the big spectacle sequences should be seen on the big screen and the 3D effects were pretty good. This coming from a guy who doesn’t care about 3D. Also, I thought the soundtrack was pretty great, especially the theme song by Muse.


3 out of 5 reels

WHITE HOUSE DOWN

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The second film about the White House under attack this year is now ready for audiences everywhere, the first being Olympus Has Fallen which opened back March. This one stars Channing Tatum as the reluctant hero who has to save the day and Jamie Foxx as the POTUS. The premise is pretty much the same with exception that the villains in this film were domestic terrorists while the bad guys in Olympus were foreigners. I would say White House Down really reminded me of Michael Bay’s The Rock, which was basically Die Hard at Alcatraz.

The setup for these kind of films are pretty similar, we were introduced to the main characters who will be involve in the story. There’s the hero John Cale (Channing Tatum), he’s basically a bodyguard to The Speaker of House, Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). Then there’s the President (Jamie Foxx), head of the security in the White House Martin Walker (James Woods), secret service agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Vice President Alvin Hammond (Michael Murphy) and Cale’s daughter Emily (Joey King). The story begins as Cale is taking his daughter to the tour of the White House, we learn that he and his daughter aren’t that close and she’s sort of hate his guts. So in order to impress her, he told her that he’s being interview for a position as secret service agent. You see his daughter is somehow crazy about politics and she even has her own political blog and she also loves the President.

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Once they got to the White House, Cale got call in for the interview and found out Carol will be the one who’s interviewing him for the job. Apparently the two of them had some of history back in college and she thinks of him as a loser. Of course he didn’t get the job but he lied to his daughter that he might get it. By now we get to see some of the potential bad guys have also arrived at the White House and gearing up for their attack. The group’s leader is Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke). Later on, the bomb went off at the Capitol Building and Emil’s group started killing all the security people at the White House. During this attack, Cale was able to rescue the President and the film became sort of buddy action. There were lots of shoot outs, hand to hand combats and of course big explosions. If you’ve read my reviews on this site then you know I don’t like to give out plot points and you know what, the plot for these kind of films aren’t that important. You’ve seen them many times before and you just have to go along with the ride and I can tell you it’s a fun ride.

The film was directed by Roland Emmerich who seems to love to blow up Washington DC buildings in many of his films and well he did the same thing here. But unlike his other disaster spectacle films, this one was his first shoot’em up action flick since Universal Soldiers. I thought he did a great job of building up the tension and staged some really cool and fun action set pieces. There’s a big car chase that took place in front of the White House’s lawn, it’s the most ridiculous action scenes I’ve seen in a while but it’s fun nonetheless. He also understands that he’s making an action movie so he kept the tone light and not make it overly serious.

As for the actors, I thought everyone did a good job, although Foxx tried a bit too hard to imitate our real President Obama. Tatum was good as the not-so-smooth action hero, he’s more goofy than most action heroes. I was surprised Cale’s daughter played a big role in the movie and the young Joey King did a pretty good job as the know-it-all kid. I give the casting director big props for finding a young actress who actually looks like Channing Tatum. The rest of the cast did pretty well too, again thanks to Emmerich’s direction, none of them took their part too seriously.

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So how does it compare to Olympus Has Fallen? Well in my opinion this one was a much better film because it didn’t try to be more than an action summer flick. I thought Olympus took itself way too seriously, it tried too hard to be dark, edgy and violent as opposed to just being an action movie. Also, the effects in this film were much better than Olympus’, well to be fair White House Down has a bigger budget. But still Olympus’s budget was around $80mil and yet the effects in the film looked like something from the late 90s.

Of course there were some flaws in this film, I was expecting some new motivations from the villains, not the same old thing we’ve seen in the past. Even though I enjoyed the action scenes, I thought the hand to hand combats were badly-staged and the always bloodless violence sort of bug me a bit. When people get shot or blown up, there should be blood everywhere. Also, there’s a scene during the climax of the film that involved Cale’s daughter and a flag that was kind of odd and I wish they’d rewrite that sequence. I think people will either laugh out loud or just go WTF!? I think you might agree with me when you see it.

Overall I thought the film was a lot of fun and it’s one of the best action films I’ve seen in a while. If you’re a fan of Die Hard, The Rock or Olympus Has Fallen then you’ll enjoy this one.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


– Reviews by Ted S.


Have you seen either one of these? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

The Flix List: 80s & 90s action flicks that are so bad they’re good

Well, just yesterday SONY announced the Roland Emmerich’s version of the White House action flick, currently titled White House Down, from November 2 to June 28, 2013. Now, instead of the Snow White movie battles we saw this year, it’s battles on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course you already know I’d rather watch Olympus Has Fallen in a million years, I mean Channing Tatum vs. Gerry Butler?? I think the choice is clear.

Well, in ‘honor’ of Emmerich, the godfather of ‘action flicks that are so bad they’re good,’ my pal Ted comes up with his favorite list from that very special genre 😀

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If you’ve read some of my articles on this site then you know that I love action films. I’ve been watching this genre since a very young age and I still can’t get enough of 90sthem. Sure action films are easy target for critics and audiences alike to trash and yes most of them are pretty mediocre; but I enjoyed them anyway. Since we’re well into the second half of the Summer movie season, Hollywood have unloaded many of the big action films into multiplexes. While some are great (The Dark Knight Rises), some turned out to be a dud (I’m looking at you, Total Recall remake).

For this article I want to list some of the action films that I thought were sooo bad yet I can’t resist watching them when they’re on TV. Heck I even own some of them on DVD/BD. Of course I could just list films of Arnold, Stallone, Van Damme, Norris and Seagal and this list would be complete. But I’m not taking the easy route, instead I’ll list the very bad ones that I somehow love to watch again and again; now some of these films are well known while some aren’t. Again I want to reiterate that these films are bad, so don’t blame me for wasting your time if you decide to watch any of them. So here they are:

1. Blind Fury (1989)

This western modern day take on the Zatoichi film series from Japan starred Rutger Hauer as the blind swordsman who’s also a Vietnam War veteran named Nick Parker. The film starts out with Parker getting wounded and losing his sight during a battle in the war and is rescued by the local villagers in the jungle. The film didn’t specify where he was but I assume it was somewhere in the deep jungle of Vietnam. Then we see a montage of the villagers teaching him how to use the sword and live as blind man; it’s a silly sequence but it sets up the story.

Then fast forward a few years later we see Parker now living in the States and looking for his friend from the war. Unfortunately this friend is in a big trouble with the mob. While visiting his friend’s house, the mob henchmen were also there to kidnap his friend’s wife and son. Parker intervened and for the rest of the film, he’s trying to keep his friend’s son safe from the mobster’s henchmen. The film was directed by Phillip Noyce, who was still new in Hollywood but made a name for himself by directing two of the Jack Ryan films, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger a few years later. I like his direction but he didn’t have much to work with because the script was so badly-written.

The reason why I enjoyed this film was mostly because of Hauer’s performance, he apparently trained for a month with a real blind swordsman to prepare for this role and some of the action sequences were well-staged. I especially love the climax sword battle between Hauer and Sho Kosugi; if you don’t know who Kosugi is, look him up on IMDb, he’s one bad ass dude.

2. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

This was one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen and yet I truly enjoyed it. Believe it or not, the producers thought the film would be a big hit and they even prepped a sequel for it. Unfortunately the film was so badly-directed and written that it didn’t make a lick of sense, so it tanked at the box office and the production company who financed it went bankrupt.

The film does have a cult following and in early 2000s, there were talks of turning it into a TV series but it never materializes. I actually would love to see a remake of this film; someone like Tim Burton can make it into a fun sci-fi action/adventure. [related article: Five franchise hopefuls that fail to catch on]

3. Terminal Velocity (1994)

This was one of the two films that have a professional skydiver as a main character, the other was Drop Zone, which was also a bad film but didn’t make my list. The film starred Charlie Sheen as a professional skydiver who gets mixed up with Russian spies and ended up saving the world from another big war, yeah I know it sounds very silly and it was. Apparently the script was written for Tom Cruise but he was apparently smart enough to pass on the project. Everything in this film was bad, from directing, acting, editing and writing. Even though the film has a budget of $50mil — pretty big for its time — it looked like it cost $5mil or less. Seriously, the cinematography of this movie was so bad you’d think it was shot by some amateur filmmakers.

What so surprising to me was that the cinematographer was Oliver Wood, who a couple of years earlier shot Die Hard 2, which looked great and later in his career he shot some really great looking films such as Face/Off, The Bourne Trilogy and Switchback. I think the blame is solely on the film’s director, Deran Sarafian, who after this film’s failure at the box office, has been directing made-for-TV movies or TV shows ever since.

With all that said, I still enjoyed the heck out of this movie. It has some good action set pieces, such as the sequence where a sports car’s falling out of a plane and our hero has to save the pretty girl from falling to her death. This was one of the rare PG-13 action films of the 90s, it’s weird saying it now since 95% of today’s action films are PG-13; so there was only one shootout sequence in the entire film. Also, James Gandolfini looked like he had a lot of fun playing his role and I thought he was great in it. The film is finally available on Blu-ray and you can get one for a cheap low price of $5 at Best Buy or Amazon. Just a warning though, the HD transfer is awful, it looks like an up-converted DVD picture; but the loss-less surround sound is pretty good.

4. Ricochet (1991)

This was one of the early action films for Denzel Washington, it seems now all he does are action films. It has a pretty good setup, a rookie cop named Nick Styles (Washington) who has huge ambitions of climbing up the latter in the legal world, busted a criminal named Earl Blake (John Lithgow),  who’s also wants to climb up the latter in his field, which is crime. Blake got sent to prison for life and while sitting in jail, he’s also planning a revenge on Styles. We fast forward a few years where Styles is now a family man and an Assistant DA. One night Blake broke out of prison and for the rest of the movie he basically made Styles life a living hell. The performances by Washington and Lithgow were great, they took their respective roles quite seriously, but the plot was so ridiculous and over the top, you can’t help but laugh at it.

Even though it was produced by Joel Silver, who was on top of his game when it comes to big action films at the time, he’d just produced Die Hard 1 & 2, Lethal Weapon 1 & 2 and Predator; this film looked like it was made for TV. The production value looked so cheap that I thought maybe it was made by some no-name producers and director but nope, it was a Joel Silver production and the director was Russell Mulcahy, who directed the first two Highlander films. But for all its awfulness, this movie was entertaining as hell. I love some of the over-the-top action sequences. Just be warned if you ever decide to watch it, the film includes some graphic violence and sex. It’s an early 90s action film so you shouldn’t be surprised by it.

5. Let’s Get Harry (1986)

This film about an American engineer named Harry Burck (Mark Harmon) who went down to Columbia to help open a new water pipeline but got kidnapped by Columbian rebels. The rebels turned out be a group of men who works for a drug lord and they demand a ransom or they’ll kill Harry. News reached his brother and friends back in his home town somewhere in Illinois. His brother and friends learned that the US government will not negotiate with the drug and refuses to help in getting Harry back. So his brother and friends decided to go down to Columbia and try to rescue Harry themselves. Sounds silly isn’t it? And believe me it was, these men who has no experience in weapons training decided they wanted to take on a drug lord in a foreign country.

The film was of course a box office failure when it came out in 1986 and was more notable for its director using the alias Alan Smithee instead of his real name which was Stuart Rosenberg. Apparently Rosenberg was upset that the studio re-edit the film without his permission so he asked his name be removed from the film. I think he might’ve realized he made a bad film and decided he want his name attached to it.

Also, they even somehow got Robert Duvall to appear in it, I wonder if he owed the producers or studio money or something because he looked like he’d rather be somewhere else than star in this movie.

With all the silliness in this movie, I thought it was entertaining just to see these characters go through such hardship to rescue someone who they care about tremendously. I mean I’d do the same too if someone I care about was kidnapped and no one wants to help me.

6. Moon 44 (1990)

Before Roland Emmerich started blowing up American landmarks with his expensive and famous films such as Independence Day and 2012, he actually made this very low budget action/sci-fi film. The film’s pretty much a rip-off of Blade Runner, Outland, Dune and Aliens. It’s littered with bad acting, the script was awful and of course the special effects were cheesy. But I thought Emmerich did a good job of staging some of the more complex action sequences in the movie, I mean he didn’t have much to work with but some of the action scenes were quite exciting to watch.

After this film came out, Emmerich got the attention of several Hollywood producers, including Joel Silver who hired him to direct the unproduced Stallone’s sci-fi action picture, can’t remember the name of it. When that project never took off, he made another cheesy sci-fi/action film, Universal Soldier. Of all his films, I somehow prefer watching Moon 44 over his more expensive and popular ones. Well I thought The Day After Tomorrow was entertaining but haven’t seen it in a long time, I’ve watched Moon 44 maybe ten times already.

Honorable mentions:

Even though I didn’t want to list films of Arnold, Sly and other action stars, I have to at least mention them.

Raw Deal (1986)
Arnold played a cop who went undercover as a mobster and he kill many mobsters by the end of the film. Pure cheese and very entertaining.

Cobra (1986)
After turning down the role of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, Stallone decided to star in this film, rumors has it that he wanted this movie to be a dark action thriller but Paramount wanted a more light comedy action film. So Stallone decided to incorporate the script of his version of Beverly Hills Cop into this movie. What else there is to say, he killed a bunch of bad guys and gets the girl. The end.

The Punisher (1990)
Ah the forgotten comic book film based on the popular Marvel character. This one starred Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle who later became known as the Punisher. The film was actually produced by a company in Australia and it never got released theatrically here in the States. I first saw this film when I was in grade school and loved every second of it. Again our hero killed a bunch of bad guys and blow a lot of shit up, lots of fun!

Code of Silence (1985)
Chuck Norris played a Chicago cop who killed a bunch of bad guys with the aid of a robot, ‘nuf said. Check it out if you’ve never seen it.

Double Impact (1991)
‘Double the Vam Dammage’ was the tagline for this movie and I love it. The mussel from Brussels played twins who took on the bad guys who killed their parents. Big shootouts and big fight scenes, what else do you need?

Hard to Kill (1990) 
Steven Seagal woke up from a coma and decides to take revenge on the corrupt cops who killed his wife and framed him for the murder. Lots of shootouts and Seagal running around flapping his arms like a little girl. Can’t beat that.

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So there you have it, my list of bad action films but so entertaining to watch. Feel free to include your own list, not just action films. Any film you think it’s bad but yet sooo good.