November 18th, 2019

I had mentioned on Remembrance Day that I would go out and see the re-make Midway.   This latest version is directed by Independence Day (1996) and Godzilla (1998) Roland Emmerich.   The most notable stars are Woody Harrelson as Admiral Nimitz, Dennis Quaid as Admiral Halsey.  Other real people are played by less known actors but they acquit themselves pretty well.   Deadpool baddie, Ed Skrein, plays Dick Best very well.   This story has been told many times before, and in my opinion more realistically by others.   My underlining challenge is the expansive use of CGI in virtually all of the sequences.   This, in many ways, is a requirement because the ships, the planes, the people and locations are all vastly changed since 1941.  In 1976, that version had Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda and James Coburn as leads.    It was more melo-dramatic, with Heston and his son having a strained relationship.   But they had some Japanese Zeros, which were used in-the-day TV shows like Blacksheep Squadron, with Robert “I dare you to knock off this battery” Conrad.    This version for the battle sequences, and we get into them quickly, looks like a video game.   Planes are dive bombing and making surprising moves.   Bullets and tracers are all over the place and seemed out of a Star Wars movie.   The story begins with Pearl Harbor, and then to the bombing of Tokyo, which was addressed in the film Pearl Harbor (2001) which leveraged Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett in a Titanic like struggle post-Pearl.   Then the battle of Coral Sea, unseen while the Americans show how their intelligence, who faltered so badly on December 7th, rallied to prove their value for the anticipated next move on Midway island.   There are scenes of John Ford making his film on location at Midway during the battle.   That was new.    Finally we end up with the battle at Midway.  The Americans who are outmanned and have a decidedly weaker position in ships need to catch a break and have anticipated the Japanese next move well.   Well fate would have them making the right choices.  The sea battles against the Japanese aircraft carriers are more CGI extravaganzas; more arcade game that reality.   I liked the fact that real people who actually fought (Dick Best as an aviator) and Bruno Gaido amongst others were used.    In the end, I was glad to have seen it but I can’t recommend it

For much of the enjoyable and fun Ford v Ferrari, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the more appropriate title would be Ford v Ford.  Damon plays American Carroll Shelby, the automaking and racing legend and Bale the English driver and mechanic Ken Miles.   Henry Ford II, played by Tracy Letts, the son of the legend American car-maker himself, is looking to turn around failing sales in the late 1950s, and wants to invigorate sales with younger people.   He is advised that he should turn to racing to find the solution.   A new generation with Second World War veteran parents are looking to have fun and not drive their parents cars.   Ford is a large corporation, with many layers of management and plenty of ideas on how to move forward.   These ideas don’t necessarily coincide with giving some unpredictable and headstrong racers the fate of the future sales of the Corporation.   I wonder how those named executives would feel about how their fathers are portrayed?    It is not flattering.   Bale and Damon do their best on the track all the while fending off the forces who work against them both.   Chances are taken, gambles are made.   Ultimately it takes them to Le Mans 24 hour race.   I did not know about the racing history in the mid 1960s.   Ferrari was the team to beat with multiple wins.   Ford has manufactured a new race car, the GT 40 MK II.  For the race car enthusiast there is a feast for the eyes and ears with the sights and sounds of these race cars.   I saw the film in IMAX, and it was seat rumbling fun.  From the close ups in the car while driving, to test drives to squeeze more speed out of this car you can almost smell the fumes and feel the oil and dirt on your face.    There are some great race sequences from preliminary races to the final race in Le Mans.   Ford v Ferrari opened at TIFF, to some good reviews.   I would echo those reviews and recommend some time to see this on the big screen.  Incidentally, this movie shows the value in learning to drive a manual transmission, as crucial moves in the races are made through effective gear shifts.   Tally ho!  Incidentally, Shelby was married seven times.   Seven!   Lee Iacocca plays a prominent role and was witness to a great many of the events which occurred.   He fairs better than Leo Beebe in the eyes of the storytelling.

Finally, Disney + has been announced and they are seducing new subscribers to their new service.   Part of the enticement is the introduction of a new eight episode Star Wars side story The Mandalorian.  Jon Favreau of Jungle Book and live Lion King direction has penned and produced this story.   The first two episodes are on Disney +.   Disney + offers a free 7 day trial.   Given these first two episodes, I can’t say that I am seeing the need to subscribe longer than the free trial.   The time is right after the fall of the Empire from Return of the Jedi, but before the rise of the First Order.  Order hasn’t been restored to the galaxy.  These shows look amazing.   The sets, the locations, the costumes are all first rate.   The lead character is a bounty hunter, and looking very much like Boba Fett and Jango Fett (certainly the mask is very similar).  This Mandalorian is a man of few words and we do not see his face.   In episode 1 at the beginning, he has gathered a few bounties and gone to collect.  Carl Weathers, the head of the Bounty Hunters Guild, offers him less than what was initially offered for those brought in and then sends him on a secret mission to find an asset.   This asset at the end of episode is shown and I have to admit to being surprised and dumbfounded.

There is part of me that thinks the new Star Wars Rise of Skywalker film will have some of its premise justified through this series.  The part that is a mystery for me is the whole aspect of the Emperor in the new Episode IX returning to play an important role.   Ugh.   For me, the Emperor died at the hands of Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.  Full stop.   However much Obi Wan, Yoda and even Anakin can return as apparitions, I have no sense that the Sith can do the same.   But then again, all new abilities of Jedi and Sith alike I suppose can be introduced at any time, notwithstanding what the previous films have shown.   So without disclosing much more about the end of episode 1, I am torn watching this and seeing some of the scenes proposed.  You will know when you see them, should you choose to watch.   Other things that can be questioned, would be (as in Star Wars The Force Awakens), the abilities of characters to know how to make and repair older spacecraft.   Rey knew how to repair the Millennium Falcon, and pilot it.   In this series, the Mandalorian can not only fly and older space craft, but he can fully put it back together piece by piece in short order.   Can’t say I would fly into space, and go into hyperspace with a machine I was also the mechanic on.   But clearly these new characters are multi-talented!  But there are more circular stories, that seemingly all have to intertwine into tight and neat little packages.

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