MIDWAY – Profiles of Bravery

MV5BMTI3YTFmYWYtNzNiYy00ZDdhLThkZDAtYThhNzY2MWI5Y2MyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_The Second World War is one of my favorite historical eras, and I will always give most films set in that time period a look – even if I know there’s a huge possibility that they are going to be bad.

When I heard that director Roland Emmerich was making his own film about the Battle of Midway, the turning point in the Pacific Theater, I was filled with trepidation, to say the least. While I do have a soft spot for Independence Day and The Patriot, Emmerich has been very sketchy with his last few films. They have gone into overwhelming schlock territory (Independence Day: Resurgence) and insulting, one-dimensional cartoon action (White House Down).

Much to my surprise, I enjoyed Midway a lot. It was Emmerich back to form—creating an exciting spectacle without any schlock or political pandering. It was an engaging film that made history come alive. And the history buff in me also appreciated how true to the actual events the film stayed.

Midway and similar films set in the WWII era bring with them depictions of varying degrees of heroism, valor, and bravery. It was a reminder just what real brave men looked like and just how much our current culture has corrupted the meaning of the word.


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JOKER – Giving in to Sin

MV5BNGVjNWI4ZGUtNzE0MS00YTJmLWE0ZDctN2ZiYTk2YmI3NTYyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_It has been said that a hero is nothing without a good villain. Lacking a proper antagonist to stand in the way of the hero’s journey, the hero’s eventual triumph isn’t as satisfying. Modern myth has produced many gripping hero/villain conflicts, but few match the intensity and poeticism of the ongoing battle between the iconic DC Comics hero Batman and his arch-nemesis, the Joker.

The Batman/Joker conflict has been explored, remade, revamped, and picked apart for years – and is still entertaining and compelling today (read more about it here in an article I wrote back in 2015 for the Joker’s 75th anniversary).

Director Todd Phillips adds another interesting facet to this decades-old conflict with his newest film, Joker – an intense character study that delves into the dark origins of the Clown Prince of Crime. Intended as a stand-alone film created outside of the current DC Extended Universe continuity, the film is an emotional tour-de-force that sucks the audience in almost immediately and never lets go until the very last frame.

Well-crafted and acted, Joker also has a lot to say spiritually. Gotham City is a terrible place and a reminder of our own individual relationship with sin.


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HOBBS & SHAW – The Human Factor

HS PosterI enjoy the Fast & Furious franchise, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Oh sure, some highbrow film fans may look down their noses at this series, but these movies are fun and seldom disappoint when it comes to well-shot action sequences and a charismatic cast that is wonderful to watch work together.

After eight (yes, eight) films, the Fast & Furious franchise has produced its very first spin-off, starring two of the series’ most interesting side characters: the one-liner machine Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the villain-turned-antihero Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

Based on the action pedigree of the two leads alone, Hobbs & Shaw should be an entertaining romp. And it is…for the most part. The cast is impeccable and fun to watch interact with one another. The action is outstanding and ridiculous (in a good way). And the themes that the series is known for are being carried on – albeit on some serious steroids.


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THE LION KING – All Roar, No Heart

LK Poster

My relationship with the 1994 Disney animated classic The Lion King has been rather tumultuous over the years. I knew it was a great film, but that fact was often overshadowed by its overplay in the public consciousness to the point where there didn’t seem to be anywhere in the cultural sphere that the film didn’t permeate.

That my sister, who was seven years old at the time, played The Lion King on a seemingly endless loop in our house also contributed to my ambivalence toward the film.

In preparation for this review, I rewatched the original film the day before seeing the new “live-action” remake. I found myself rediscovering why The Lion King has the staying power it does and why the film is truly timeless. The 1994 film is an animation masterpiece on par with what was done by Walt Disney himself and his original set of genius master animators. The Lion King has a wonderful mix of drama, comedy, music, charm, and a story that is both epic in scope and intimate enough to be relatable.

The same cannot be said for this “new” version of The Lion King. Oh sure, it goes through the beats of the story, and the animation is impressive enough, but this film had no heart and no soul. The charm was gone, and it left me asking the question, “Why does this film exist at all when the 1994 original is vastly superior?” Then I saw the box office news and it all made sense.

Disney’s recent string of live-action remakes of its classic animated features has been hit-and-miss. I’ve enjoyed a few of them (Cinderella in particular) and really disdained others (Beauty and the Beast). My feelings for the latter category stem from a frustration with the Disney talent pool’s refusing to do something new or interesting with these properties while still maintaining the spirit of the original. And The Lion King (2019) was probably the worst of these.


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APOLLO 11 – Miracle on the Moon

Apollo 11 PosterFew events defined the modern age quite like when Neil Armstrong set foot upon the moon and declared his one small step “one giant leap for mankind.” At that moment, the world was unified and celebrated a truly amazing human achievement. Americans, in particular, were extremely proud of their country and what the nation’s best and brightest minds were able to accomplish.

50 years later, the Apollo 11 mission still fascinates historians, scientists, and regular folks alike – be it the aforementioned brainpower that dreamed and designed the larger-than-life rockets and spaceships or the spirit of the American people and will of the nation’s leadership to shoot for the stars – literally. This spirit and fascination are perfectly captured in the new documentary, Apollo 11.

This film was outstanding in almost every measure. Partially created from newfound 70 mm footage of the titular mission, Apollo 11 soared with amazing visuals that captivated the viewer and filled them with a sense of excitement and emotion that probably mimics what all of America and the world felt during those few days in July of 1969.

Apollo 11 also reminded me of an axiom of human nature, and how our own perceptions affect our belief in the occurrence of real historical events.

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