Episode 197: Midway (2019)

We celebrate Veterans Day this year with our second military film, Roland Emmerich’s newest blockbuster retelling of The Battle of Midway. Kevin Brackett from Reel Spoilers joins Aaron for a heartfelt conversation about the importance of historical accuracy, empathizing with the enemy, the power of immersive action sequences, and more. Thank you to all the Veterans who have served, are serving, and will serve one day. We appreciate your sacrifice!

Midway Review – 0:02:18

Connecting Point – 0:52:16

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MOVIE REVIEW: Midway (2019)

Fueled by a strong ensemble cast but told largely through the perspective of two Naval officers, SBD Dauntless dive bomber pilot Lieutenant Richard “Dick” Best (Ed Skrein) and the leader of the code-breaking efforts, key intelligence officer Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), Director Roland Emmerich’s “Midway” serves as a cinematic documentary, recounting with great historical accuracy the bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent United States military action leading up to the titular Battle of Midway in June 1942. Emmerich is best known for his disaster films, big-budget blockbusters that often feature effects-heavy destruction on a massive scale, and “Midway” presents ample opportunities for that. The attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle Raid, and the Battle of Midway itself portray air warfare and naval combat in World War II like no other film has. While the CGI can at times feel a bit overwhelming with burning ships and a sky full of heavy artillery tracer fire, the numerous sequences of dive-bombing runs are among the most exhilarating, jaw-dropping, and enlightening aerial combat ever put on screen.

The extremely well-executed battle sequences of the film are engaging and memorable, but what makes “Midway” special is Emmerich’s dedication to getting history right. Written by Navy veteran Wes Tooke and with advisement from historians of the Naval History and Heritage Command, “Midway” includes very little Hollywood embellishment. Many of the heroic events depicted may seem unlikely or even impossible, but the courageous actions and sacrifice on display are very real (go and read the actual award citations if you have doubts) and indicative of the extreme efforts required for the United States to emerge victoriously and prevent the Japanese invasion of Midway despite a fleet that was vastly outnumbered and expected to lose. Also, part of the focus on historical accuracy was the choice to look at what motivated Admiral Yamamoto and Japan’s entry into the war and remind audiences that the horrors of battle are not only inflicted on the side they support but those of the opposing one as well.

The film’s focus on the human stories of those who lived on both sides of this conflict is at times rousing and at others heartbreaking. There is some bumpy dialogue from its first-time screenwriter, but the character development provides enough depth to inspire, and thankfully “Midway” never gets distracted by romantic or inconsequential subplots. If there is one major fault it may be that Emmerich moves too quickly, resulting in frequently abrupt scene transitions. Another 30-40 minutes of time spent with these brave souls, further expounding on the brilliant strategy battles between the two superpowers, and allowing for a smoother progression of time between major events would have been a welcome addition.

It’s great news, though, that my biggest complaint about the film is that I wish there was more of it. “Midway” was everything I wanted it to be – a thorough and satisfying look at the events of this World War II conflict, a chance to get to know the heroic people involved, and an amazing cinematic depiction of naval and aerial combat of the time period. “Midway” is truly a war epic updated for a modern audience and sets a new standard for the marriage of U.S. Navy history and spectacle on the big screen.


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Beauty & the Beast (2017)

Piggybacking off the success of recent live action adaptations to its animated library, Disney unveiled its modern retelling of the tale as old as time to audiences this weekend. Based on the box office reports, a lot of audiences at that. And while the Twitter-verse and various blog sites continue to hem and haw over the necessity of another visual iteration of this story, I will simply tell you that you should ignore it at your own risk, because the experience is breathtakingly magical.

In the name of full disclosure, I’m a bit bias toward Beauty & the Beast. I was under the employ of the Mouse when the animated film came out, and the future Mrs. and I had our first date at a showing on Disney World property. I hold that film in very high regard, both as a masterpiece of animated filmmaking and for the sake of nostalgia. To that end, please accept this film on its own merit. Don’t muddy the waters trying to compare it to previous versions, animated or otherwise. I won’t belabor this post with words outlining a plot we are all familiar with. Suffice it that the core of the story remains, with a little bit of fluff in spots which only serve to enhance the story, not alter it. No childhoods are being ruined here.

Disney has turned the production value up to eleven. Previous animated to live-action adaptations have fared well- I look at Maleficent, Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon as good examples- but none of those fine films can touch the majesty on display with Beauty & the Beast. It would be criminal if the Academy were to ignore these set designs and costumes next February. If I must find a reason to criticize, I did find some of the visual effects and visual editing to be a touch blocky in spots, but never distractingly so. For the most part, the scenes that really mattered came off seamless.

As for that “other” big thing being bandied about on the Interwebs, I will not dignify it with debate here. I’ll just say, if THAT truly does hold you back from seeing this film, then I feel sorry for you that your life is so devoid of joy. It is much ado about nothing, and I implore you to take it as such. There is a line in the film, and I paraphrase it here…”People who are angry say a lot of things…it’s up to us whether or not to listen.”

The cast works on every level, but Emma Watson is a pure revelation, whether aided and abetted by Autotune or not. She is a voice the next generation of young girls needs to rally around. Knowing what she stands for and how she manages herself in a world that is built to obstruct her as a strong woman, makes her presence on screen all the more engaging and important. And she is enchanting at every turn.

Don’t let the cynics dissuade you. Beauty & the Beast is a magical, dazzling spectacle of pure enjoyment, even though you know how it all shakes out in the end. Each flicker of a candelabra or twirl of a ball gown is handled with the utmost of care. When I look back at my own time at Disney, I fondly recollect those moments when the real magic was being made. For every ignorant adult that couldn’t stop complaining about the long lines, or the prices, or whatever, there were dozens of children, young and old, laying eyes upon Cinderella’s castle for the first time, eyes wide and full of wonder, unsullied by the cynicisms that consume too many of us. And when a young girl in my theater, perhaps all of six years old, squealed “BELLE” when the character first pops on screen, I realize that Disney is still making magical moments. This is still the tale as old as time. And it is timeless.

phpxnctheamSTEVE CLIFTON has been writing moderately well on the Internet at this blog, Popcorn Confessional, for the better part of the last decade.  His love for movies can be traced back to the North Park Cinema in Buffalo, NY circa 1972, when his aunt took him to see Dumbo.  Now living in Maine, Steve routinely consumes as much film, television, and books as time will allow.  He also finds time to complain about winter and Buffalo sports teams.  He is a big fan of bad horror films and guacamole, and mildly amused by pandas.

Episode 050: Beauty and the Beast

In this landmark 50th episode, we discuss Disney’s newest live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast. Is it better than the original? Does it even matter? Is Emma Watson a good enough Belle? Are the new songs worthy of the classics? We answer these burning questions and more as we celebrate almost a year of podcasting with this magical new film.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:01
(Patrick – Uglies)
(Aaron – Dogtown & the Z-Boys, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Cinescope, The Zookeeper’s Wife Review)

Beauty and the Beast Review – 0:18:30

The Connecting Point – 1:07:08

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!