Monday, January 23

Double Feature

I saw two movies on Friday at my local cineplex.  I had only intended to see one but when it was over, I noticed the other one was starting in just 20 minutes, so what the hell?  There are so few perks to getting older but one of them, I dare say, is being retired and going to matinees.  Actually, I need a new word there because I think matinee gives a bit of an edge to afternoons and I was there at 10:10 a.m. or as I call it, too early for popcorn.  The theaters are never crowded (not all that long ago I was the only person sitting there) and I don't have to share an armrest with a stranger.  Icky.  Yuck.  Spray.

Neither film really rocked my foundation so since it seemed like a double feature to me, I'm doubling up on these reviews.  Think of it as two for the price of one.  

Red Tails 
21/2 stars
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
From 20th Century Fox
2 hours

Nate Parker
David Oyelowo
Elijah Kelley
Tristan Wilds
Daniela Ruah
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Terrence Howard

I expected more of a thoughtful film about the Tuskegee Airmen.  George Lucas was involved as producer; he wanted to get this made for some time and has gone public in the last few weeks about a concern over it doing well.

These were black men who fought over Italian skies in WWII and did a magnificent job for the entire war effort but were treated shabbily by white soldiers and for many years their accomplishments were disregarded by history.  I sank into my plush seat, excited about seeing the humanizing of their story, watching the history unfold, revelling in some backstory, hoping that we may see some as old men, using some flashbacks to allow the story to unfold.  It was not to be and essentially what this is is little more than an action movie, short on characterization and long on dogfights.  It would have touched my heart to have a critically acclaimed film featuring all black leads.  Sadly this is not it.

Once said, I did enjoy it and I was entertained (the primary job of the movies).  The aerial sequences are excellently photographed and exciting to watch.  The acting is uniformly believable.  I loved the look of the little Italian village.  And oh, alright, I'll go ahead and fess up that I got a little misty-eyed twice... once over some patriotism and once over a death.  But if you tell anyone...

2 stars
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
1 hour 33 minutes

Gina Carano
Ewan McGregor
Michael Fassbender
Channing Tatum
Bill Paxton
Antonio Banderas
Michael Douglas

Again I can't say that I wasn't entertained but as a Neanderthal might have been.  I knew nothing about this film except that two of my favorite actors were in it... the newbie Michael Fassbender and the little-longer-in-the-toothie, Ewan McGregor.  And all the other male actors are favorites at one level or another, too.  But none of them were top-billed.  That honor goes to Gina Carano.  Who?  I know Gina Gershon and I know Gina Lollobrigida.  Whointhehell is Gina Carano?  Hanging my head in semi-shame, I admit I actually had to look her up!  She is a retired mixed martial arts fighter, thank you very much.  A mighty capable one, I might add, and not so bad on the eyes either.  So does she karate chop and kickbox (I'm venturing into very foreign territory here) her way through the film?  Uh-huh, she sure does, all 93 minutes.  Heee-aw... ohhhhhh... naaaaaah.

Rumor has it that it's about a covert operative who's been betrayed after a European mission and she's none too happy.  Beyond that I couldn't tell you much (and I did not nod off) and let's be perfectly frank... it doesn't matter.  Honest.

My question is what induced all these fine generally well-respected actors to sign on for a movie that will be gobbled up by the big-bellied, beer-swilling, pretzel-strewn, Velveeta-snorting, strato-lounger crowd who slobbers over a woman handily kicking some male ass?  I'm guessing it was for the chance to work with the well-respected Soderbergh.  Douglas worked with him previously in Traffic (and will again soon in a Liberace bio!) and the others surely just wanted the director's name on their resumes.  Soderbergh, who helmed Erin Brockovich, sex lies and videotape, Ocean's 11, 34 and 118 and more, missed the boat on this one.  I will credit it for being well-named.

NEXT POST:  A Dangerous Method

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