Midway: It’s A Hard Movie to Make

Roland Emmerich takes a shot at telling the story of one of the most important battles in the history of the world, but it’s a tough story to tell.

SUMMARY

The movie tries to narrate the story of the Battle of Midway. It starts shortly before WWII with the US Naval attache Edwin T. Layton (Patrick Wilson) discussing the possibility of war with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa). The Admiral warns Layton that if the US tried to stop their oil supply, Japan would have to start a war. On December 7, 1941, this becomes prescient, with Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, something Layton tried to warn the White House about. The US enters WWII and Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) takes over command of the US Pacific Fleet, which is now greatly reduced by the Japanese attack. 

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Also Dennis Quaid as Bull Halsey until he gets shingles and leaves. Really.

In April 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) leads a bombing raid on Tokyo that convinces the Japanese to try to solidify their position in the Coral Sea. Layton has cryptographers working around the clock under Commander Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown) to try and crack the Japanese code as to a crucial target known as AF, which they determine to be Midway. In preparation to ambush the Japanese, the US concentrates all of its aircraft carriers and battleships, expecting the Japanese to launch an attack on ground troops on June 4, 1942, which will leave them vulnerable to reprisal from the sea. 

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Yeah, it does resemble a certain movie about Pearl Harbor… called Pearl Harbor

On the morning of June 4, 1942, the Japanese launch the attack. After the US fails to successfully hit any aircraft carriers from the ground, a US submarine, the USS Enterprise, locates the Japanese fleet, including all of its carriers, and attempts to torpedo them. They’re unsuccessful, and the Japanese command the battleship Arashi to stay behind and keep the sub pinned down so the fleet can escape. However, Commander C. Wade McClusky (Luke Evans), spots the Arashi and, on a hunch, follows it to the fleet. While the Japanese try to re-arm to fight the US Naval fleet, McClusky and Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) manage to bomb the fleet, taking down two of the carriers, while other squadrons take down a third. Best manages to rearm and take another run and hits the last of Japan’s four carriers. With the Japanese fleet now in ruins, the US has essentially shifted the tide of the war in the Pacific.

END SUMMARY

The Battle of Midway was one of the most influential days in the history of the modern world. While the Japanese still had 8 aircraft carriers left after the battle, four more than the US Pacific Fleet, they lost almost half of the skilled maintenance workers in their navy. As the Japanese Navy focused more heavily on fewer, highly-trained individuals compared to the American Navy, this was a major loss that slowed the progress of the Japanese long enough for the US to finally start producing larger carriers in 1943. At that point, US Manufacturing and training just flat-out outpaced the numbers that the Japanese could produce. Moreover, it proved that the Japanese were not the unstoppable Naval force that they were viewed as at the time. 

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More ships means more explosions. More explosions means more wins.

The problem is that this battle requires a LOT of explanation in order to drive home the significance and, well, that eats up time. It requires a lot of characters, which eats up storytelling. It doesn’t end the war, and the Japanese devastate the Americans after at Savo Island, so even though it seems happy, it doesn’t resolve a ton. That’s probably why the movie just never really finds its feet. It has to show so much and so many people and still make the actual battle look reasonable that it just can’t spend the time and energy to get us fully emotionally invested in anyone. Hell, it’s hard to say who exactly the movie is following because many of the people that we follow die during the film. I think it’s McClusky’s, Best’s, and Layton’s film, but that’s still at least 3 protagonists, one of whom barely sees the others, and there are at least a half-dozen deuteragonists and, of course, the antagonist Yamamoto. There are just too many moving parts in this movie, because it’s trying to tell the whole story of a major event. 

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Hell, I can’t even remember which guy this is and he’s like 5th in the film.

There’s also the random subplot of the Doolittle Raid which eats up about 20 minutes and mostly seems to be there so that the ending can include a mention of how much the Japanese massacred the Chinese, probably because this movie was largely funded by a Chinese company. While the US mostly remembers all the stuff the Germans did, the Chinese remember how many people were massacred during Japan’s occupation of the country, and this movie is a less-than-subtle reminder for the audience.

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I mean, this would be an interesting film on its own, we don’t need it as a subplot.

Despite the fact that this is the most expensive independent film ever made, the effects aren’t always at their best. Roland Emmerich knows explosions, but it bothered me a lot that all the ships at Pearl Harbor were mostly empty during the initial bombing run. Not that I wanted to see a lot of people die, but it still made the scene ring false. When the actual battle happens, it looks good, but it’s also noticeable that most of the attack scenes tend to be very isolated and focused only on one attacker and a target for the purpose of budget. 

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Yeah, this doesn’t look very good and this was already in another movie.

The acting ranges from great (Wilson) to “clearly there for the money” (Harrelson) to bad (Skrein), and all of that is pretty standard for Roland Emmerich’s direction. Like I said, the plot’s super light on emotion and that meant that the acting needed to lift more weight and it doesn’t. There are also a few weird changes that I don’t quite get. For example, the movie accurately shows Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas) getting captured, but he’s killed by the Japanese tying him to an anchor and throwing him overboard. In real life, he was killed… by tying him to a water-filled kerosene can and throwing him overboard. That’s just a weird change that I honestly was annoyed by, even though I’m probably the only one. There are a ton of little inaccuracies like that and they build up, because… Jesus, guys, just read a few books.

Overall, not a bad movie, but it’s trying to capture a really complicated moment in time and it makes it feel unfocused. The fact that the director doesn’t exactly pull out the best performances doesn’t help. I think more people need to know about Midway, but this is not the film for it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Halloween Reviews/Netflix Review – In the Tall Grass: A Solid Adaptation of a Complicated Idea

A mind-bending horror story by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill gets adapted by Netflix. 

SUMMARY

Becky Demuth (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) are driving across the country. Becky is six months pregnant and trying to find a way to get rid of the baby. They stop by a cornfield near an old church in what I think was Kansas in the book and hear a small boy named Tobin (Will Buie, Jr.) calling out for help. The two go into a field of tall grass and get separated quickly. They discover that the cornfield warps time and space, keeping them from finding each other or a way out. They discover that Tobin’s mom (Rachel Wilson) and dad (Patrick Wilson) are also in the grass field, as is Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), the father of Becky’s child. As madness and confusion start to set in, the group has to find a way out of the field. 

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Also, there is naturally weird stuff IN the grass.

END SUMMARY

So, the story this is based on is ironically much more simple and straightforward than the movie, the opposite of what usually happens with adaptations. This ends up making the movie more in line with the themes of the story involving confusion and uncertainty, with Becky’s uncertainty about her pregnancy mirrored with the uncertainty of the people in the grass. The book attempts to throw off the reader by having characters take actions they know to be logical only to get impossible results. The film has the advantage of being able to show an objective viewpoint of the unimaginable physics of the grass, with some of the shots being extremely unnerving. While the fact that we aren’t as close to the feelings of the characters as we are in the book, the acting and the cinematography still get the point across. 

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The church goes from hopeful to horrifying in mostly the same shots.

Most of the film isn’t traditionally scary. You’re not dealing with monsters or zombies or whatever. Instead, it’s the fact that the world that our characters are in does not follow any laws that we base our reality on. Events don’t happen in order. Time doesn’t flow at constant rates. Directions mean nothing. Standing still doesn’t mean you aren’t moving. Everything is broken and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s extremely off-putting and eerie, leaving you feel uncomfortable the entire time. The one thing that is certain in the film is death, revealing that the only thing that is beyond the reach of the grass are dead things. 

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*Insert Ominous Music*

The acting in the movie is solid, though I admit that it’s the atmosphere that makes it scary. Patrick Wilson remains a treasure and his ability to play batsh*t crazy makes for a lot of entertainment. The thing that he ends up finding inside of the grass isn’t exactly explained, but that’s part of the horror. The movie ends significantly differently from the book, although it does contain one of the most disturbing elements in the book’s ending. If you read the story, this is still worth seeing.

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Seriously, kudos to his crazy.

If you like psychological horror or, to a lesser extent, cosmic horror, give this one a watch.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Aquaman – A Review in Rime

By The Grouch on the Couch

Well, the Grouch and I saw the film. While I was going to write a review, he felt particularly inspired and decided to go ahead and do the entire thing in a parody of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

My rebuttal shall be in the form of short limericks. I don’t promise that they’ll work.

 

There was an aquatic superhero

Long mocked for powers and logo.

Producers they decided,

To make him badass through Khal Drogo.

aquaman - 1arthur
Which… yeah, kinda works.

 

But fortune favors not the brave but wise,

And wisdom doth DC lack

For though his hot body might carry a film

This dialogue breaks his back.

 

I start with a story summary

As clear as a winter morning.

And so you assholes don’t complain,

HERE’S YOUR SPOILER WARNING.

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Aquaman, or Arthur Curry,

was born from the strange love

Between a queen from Atlantis below,

And a lighthouse keeper from the world above.

aquaman - 3kidman
Batman Forever was the better superhero film for her. Think about that.

But happiness is forbidden,

When you tell a hero’s genesis,

So soon she was forced to return,

And bear Prince Orm, Arthur’s Nemesis

aquaman - 4orm
They have very different opinions on facial hair.

Following the Justice League’s

Victory in their movie,

Aquaman’s a public hero

That makes the fangirls, and guys, woozy.

 

The opening action sequence

Is actually quite glorious

A bulletproof man fighting normal people

And emerging, smiling and victorious.

aquaman - 5mana
The normal men who try to fight a demigod.

Arthur saves a submarine, the target which

Sea pirates would acquire.

He meets the leader, called Black Manta,

And earns his eternal ire.

 

When Arthur returns to the surface,

He finds Mera, Atlantean Queen

Who tells him his half-brother

Has grown up to be quite mean.

aquaman - 6amberheard

Orm wishes to destroy the surface,

Because the movie needs a plot,

And he needs the support of other sea-kings,

For reasons I forgot.

 

Arthur tries to beat him in a fight

Using their aquatic power

But Orm is slightly stronger

Cuz it’s only been an hour

aquaman - dolph
Dolph Lundgren is one of the other kings. As it should be.

So Mera stops Orm’s fratricide

And says Arthur needs to Quest

For the First Trident of Atlantis

While each ogles the other’s chest.

 

What follows is a fetch quest

That takes a f*cking hour,

And of course the twist is “talks to fish”

Ends up being the greatest power.

Aquaman - 7Atlan.jpg
He basically gets to summon Cthulhu.

He goes through the Sahara,

Defeats Manta in Sicily

Swims below the Marianas Trench

And into an underground sea.

 

Arthur finds the trident

And kicks his brother’s ass

While wearing the green and gold outfit

Cuz royalty means class

aquaman - 8outfit

Here the film is ended,

But now let’s talk about

What things the editor should have left in

And what should have been cut out

 

The acting is pretty solid,

The cast all pretty, too,

From Jason Momoa to Amber Heard

And Patrick Wilson’s Orm, all woo

 

The effects are indeed special,

And, no, that’s not sarcasm

The glowing effects that define the sea,

From building to sargassum

 

The film creates an immersive world

And yes, that is a pun,

But the camera effects that seem like waves

Did make some scenes more fun

 

The direction isn’t terrible,

With some scenes even stirring

The cinematography was oft on point

While fight scenes were occurring.

 

But alas the dialogue is bad

Too bad for me to mention.

It repeated so often and was so dull

It was hard to pay attention.

 

You’d think that’s not enough

To drag a movie down

But really the lines were so damned bad I hoped

That everyone would drown.

 

The plot is so generic

That I swear they say “fetch quest.”

And these two awful elements

Wildly overshadow the rest.

 

So while there were some great scenes

Within this aquamovie

I could not recommend a watch

Even for Mamoa’s booty.

 

I hated this film, not just because

It had so much potential

But also because I fear the profit

Might make it influential.

 

And thus DC has let me down

For five out of six times

So here I end this film review

Cuz I’m now out of rhymes

 

JOKER’S RHYME-BUTTAL

I wish there was a scene in Nantucket
So it’d be easier to tell this film s*ck it.
The plot was mundane
The dialogue insane
And I wish I’d just left and said “f*ck it”

If you say that this doesn’t rebut
Well, I’d try but it’s open and shut
This movie was lousy
I spent half the time drowsy
And wishing someone had yelled “cut”

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.