Here’s The Trailer For Midway


Earlier today, the first trailer for Midway was released.  Based on the famous World War II battle, Midway will be in theaters on November 8th.  Judging from the trailer, it would appear that this adaptation has more in common with Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor than Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

Of course, we shouldn’t be too surprised by that.  Midway is the latest film from Roland Emmerich and that’ll probably mean a lot of action, not a lot of character development, and maybe a half-assed debate about whether or not Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.  (I have to admit that I have never forgiven Emmerich for Anonymous, a film that not only promoted a silly conspiracy theory but which also accused Shakespeare of murdering Christopher Marlowe.)  Of course, Midway could still be a good film, even if it is a typical Emmerich production.  Sometimes, you just want to spend a few hours watching stuff blow up.

Midway does have a big cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Darren Criss and Woody Harrelson.  I don’t know if I’d say that was an intriguing cast, if just because Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid appear to be legally required to appear in ensemble war films like this.  Still, it’ll be interesting to see if Midway can do for Nick Jonas what Dunkirk did for Harry Styles.

Here’s the trailer:

Spring Breakdown #5: 47 Meters Down (dir by Johannes Roberts)


One of the surprise box office hits of 2017, 47 Meters Down tells the story of two sisters.

Kate (Claire Holt) is free-spirited, glamorous, and always up for a new adventure.  Her older sister, Lisa (Mandy Moore) is more serious and responsible.  If Kate craves constant stimulation, Lisa seeks stability.  When we first meet them, they’re on vacation in Mexico.  Lisa has just admitted to Kate that her boyfriend has dumped her because he feels that she’s too safe and that she doesn’t take enough risks.  What is Kate’s solution to all of Lisa’s problems?  How about going on a cage dive and seeing the sharks!?

Now, I should stop right here to point out the main strengths of 47 Meters Down.  The main character is named Lisa.  For me, this made her instantly sympathetic and I was able to relate to her, even though I’ve always been more like Kate.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many movies could have been improved by renaming their main character Lisa.

Anyway, Lisa and Kate find a group of slightly seedy sailors who own a boat and a cage and soon, they’re off to see the sharks.  Before getting into the water, both Lisa and Kate are warned about all the bad things that can happen during a dive.  You can run out of oxygen.  You can get eaten by a shark.  You can resurface too quickly and get “the bends.”  We here a lot about “the bends” over the course of the film.  That’s when you get nitrogen bubbles in your brain and it can cause you to get delirious and hallucinate.  It’s a pretty serious thing but I have to admit that I kept giggling whenever anyone said, “Be careful, you’ll get the bends!” because ….. listen, it just sounds silly, okay?  I get that the bends are a real thing and that they’re really dangerous and that they should be taken seriously but “the bends’ just sounds like a punchline to a vulgar joke.  Whenever I heard anyone in the film use the term, I was just like, “Wasn’t that Beto O’Rourke’s college band?”

Lisa is nervous about going in the water.  Kate isn’t.  It turns out that maybe Lisa had the right idea because, almost immediately after Lisa and Kate are submerged, the cables holding the cage snap and suddenly, the two sisters find themselves trapped 47 meters down.  If they leave the cage and attempt to swim back up to the surface, they might very well get eaten by a shark.  And if the sharks don’t get them, there’s always …. the bends!  The men on the boat swear that they’re going to rescue the two sisters but who knows if they can be trusted.  Meanwhile, the oxygen tanks will soon be empty….

47 Meters Down may have been a surprise box office success when it was released in 2017 but the critics absolutely hated it.  Watching the film, it’s easy to see why.  The critics who complained that the film was predictable had a point.  However, the audiences who didn’t care what the critics thought had a point as well.  Silly as the film may occasionally be, it works.  When that cage sinks down into the murky darkness of the ocean, the film captures some very primal fears.  When Lisa and Kate argue about what to do next, it’s a scene to which anyone who has a sibling should be able to relate.  The relationship between Lisa and Kate felt authentic, which made the film’s final twist far more powerful than it had any right to be.

47 Meters Down is somewhat silly but it’s still an effectively entertaining look at sisters, divers, and the sharks that like to eat them.

Shattered Politics #78: American Dreamz (dir by Paul Weitz)


Americandreamz

Nothing ages worse than heavy-handed satire and, if you need proof of that, just try watching the 2006 film American Dreamz.  American Dreamz is a satire of two things that are no longer exactly relevant, the presidential administration of George W. Bush and Simon Cowell-era American Idol.

Dennis Quaid plays President George W. Bush Joseph Stanton.  Stanton has just been reelected to a second term.  One morning, he impulsively decides to read a newspaper for the first time in his life and he ends up having a nervous breakdown.  “The world isn’t black-and-white,” he declares, “Instead, it’s gray.”  Sinking into a deep depression, Stanton isolates himself from the American people and his approval rating starts to plunge.  His evil Chief of Staff (William DaFoe, made up to look like Joe Biden but, I’m assuming, meant to be Dick Cheney) comes up with a plan to restore Stanton’s popularity.  President Stanton will serve as a guest judge on his favorite television show, American Idol American Dreamz!

(To be honest, I think Obama would be more likely to show up as a guest judge than Bush.)

The host of American Dreamz is a self-loathing Englishman named Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant).  Tweed hates both the show and himself.  Early on in the film, he’s literally seeing begging for American Dreamz to be canceled.  However, American Dreamz is the number one show in the country and the show must go on.

Along with President Stanton, the latest season of American Dreamz features a group of contestants who all have dramatically compelling backstories.  Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) emerges as a favorite, largely do to her ability to manipulate the camera and the fact that her well-meaning but simple-minded boyfriend (Chris Klein) was wounded in Iraq.

Oh wow — reality shows manipulate reality and contestants are rarely as innocent as they seem!?

Tell me more, American Dreamz!

Also competing on American Dreamz is Omer (Sam Golzari), a former jihadist who proved to be too clumsy to take part in the various propaganda videos being shot by his terrorist cell.  Omer was sent to America, where his love for show tunes eventually landed him on American Dreamz.  With the finale rapidly approaching, Omer has been instructed to blow both himself and the President up on national TV.

The satire of American Dreamz really wasn’t all that sharp when the film was first released and now, 9 years later, it feels even weaker.  Quaid and Grant both give good performances but the film’s attempts at humor largely fall flat because they’re all so predictable.  It’s not exactly mind-blowing to say that reality TV is fake or that politics has a lot in common with show business.  The film attempts to add some bite to its message by ending with a surprisingly dark twist but it’s just not enough.  Even a dark ending has to be earned.