Review: Midway

I wasn’t sure what to expect when walking in to see Midway. On the one hand the critics haven’t been too kind to it, it currently sits at 44% on the Tomatometer over at Rotten Tomatoes, but on the other hand it’s a sprawling World War II epic in an era where those aren’t in fashion done by Roland Emmerich who isn’t exactly a critical darling.

I figured I’d give it a chance. As with Pearl Harbor back in 2001, I figured even if it was a turkey there’d be some nice visuals that brought the battle to life. After leaving the theater I can confidently state that Midway is a confused and messy spectacle that gets in its own way too much for that spectacle to pay off.

Let’s start with the good. I enjoyed the performances all around. Ed Skrein as Dick Best and Patrick Wilson as Edwin Layton were standouts, which is a good thing since the movie spends most of its runtime cutting back to them. Woody Harrelson was interesting as Nimitz, and Mandy Moore had me asking myself if that was actually her until the credits rolled.

Okay, so that’s out of the way. Onto the mess and the spectacle.

The biggest problem with the movie was that it was trying to tell too many stories in one film, and even the two and a half hour runtime wasn’t enough to cover everything. Characters are introduced in quick vignettes or frantic action sequences that switch so often that by the end of the movie I had trouble following who was who and why I was supposed to care about what they were doing.

Some of that overstuffing is justifiable. It’s a big story and one of those days that history turns on. There was a lot to cover. The unforgivable sin that Midway commits is that it spends too much time on things that really could’ve been dropped and the narrative would’ve been fine.

Everyone watching in the states knows what happened at Pearl Harbor. There are entire movies dedicated to that day alone. Did we really need it rehashed so people knew why America was at war with Japan?

The bits with Aaron Eckhart playing Jimmy Doolittle on his infamous raid were also interesting and pretty to look at, but it adds nothing to the overall plot. I get the feeling that the scenes of Doolittle landing in the Chinese countryside and witnessing Imperial Japan’s war crimes against the local population was shoehorned in because it was financed in large part by Chinese investors. It’s nice to see a major motion picture touching on Japanese war crimes, something that tends to get lost in the pop culture narrative of World War II, but it only adds to the bloat.

Of course we’re not coming to an Emmerich movie for well thought out characterization. His movies are all about the spectacle. Midway is a war movie with a healthy dose of action. If those action scenes were done well then it might’ve gone a long way towards saving the movie and, at the very least, making it a staple of high school history classes.

Unfortunately even the action is downright confusing. I enjoy reading nonfiction accounts of the war in the Pacific for fun. I’m familiar with what happened at Midway and how it went down. Even I had trouble following exactly what was going on once things really started going, and I imagine that’s only going to be worse for people coming in without much knowledge of what went on in the Pacific between Pearl Harbor getting bombed and the atomic bombs being dropped.

Finally there was a bit at the end that didn’t sit well for me. The movie ends with a dedication to the American and Japanese sailors who fought at Midway. I love modern Japan. I took three years of the language in school. I’ve been steeped in their pop culture just like every other millennial. To quote Marty McFly, all the best stuff comes from Japan.

Having said that, I take issue with the movie being dedicated to soldiers and sailors who were fighting on behalf of an authoritarian regime who did terrible things in China, on the islands they occupied, and to any soldier unlucky enough to be captured as a POW. It reads like Ryan’s tone deaf toast to the troops, all of them, in The Office, only in this case the cringe is real and I doubt anyone is laughing.

I went into Midway hoping it would be one of those movies that wasn’t really for the general public. The kind of war movie that adorns the shelves of dads and history buffs around the world that can only be appreciated by someone who is into seeing the dry nonfiction histories on their bookshelves being brought to life.

It wasn’t. There are some engaging performances and the usual amazing visual, but Midway is one of those movements where the sum total of its parts winds up a huge mess rather than an engaging viewing experience.

Ghostbusters Afterlife trailer

I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan. Like really huge. We’re talking I have a complete screen accurate Ghostbusters costume. I’ve been participating in fan groups since 2005 and building packs and going out in costume since 2001.

The last time I saw a Ghostbusters movie that I truly loved was back in 1989. I have nothing against the 2016 reboot. It was a fun comedy that got more hate than it deserved because fans were upset it wasn’t the direct sequel they’d always wanted.

I still remember going to see Ghostbusters II in the theater. I’d only been born a few months before the original Ghostbusters, so it’s not like I could see that one in the theaters unless my parents were being very irresponsible.

I love both of those movies. My wife and I quote both of them at each other almost daily. We’re so simpatico that when I started telling her what the opening of the Eurythmics Walking in a Winter Wonderland, she stopped me and said it’d always creeped her out because it sounded like the music that plays when Janosz in ghost form kidnaps a baby in Ghostbusters II.

Needless to say, Ghostbusters has always been a big part of my life. I’ve been quietly optimistic about the new movie coming out in 2020, that we now know is being titled Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Now that the first trailer is out, I can say that I’m totally stoked and can’t wait!

The movie seriously looks like it’s shaping up to be something special. Jason Reitman clearly has a love for the franchise and wants to do right by it. Finn Wolfhard was great in Stranger Things and one of the best parts of IT. I’ll watch anything that Paul Rudd shows up in.

Watch the trailer up above. It looks like this is shaping up to be something special for a fandom that had a lot of years in the wilderness.

Ready Player One is amazing

I went to see Ready Player One on Wednesday when the early bird release came out. I went to see it again last night with my wife because I loved it so much.

It’s been years of waiting and anticipation. I’ve been following the movie ever since I read the book back in 2015. I thought the book was a hilarious, rousing, sometimes poignant cyberpunk masterpiece at the time and I still listen to the audiobook version every six months or so.

And yes I realize that the book has some problems. There are a lot of information dumps and from a pure writing point of view there’s a lot of telling rather than showing, but I don’t care. I’m also not as willing to lay the sins of GamerGate at Ernest Cline’s feet the way a lot of publications seem to have done in recent years.

The book is a fun fast-paced piece of entertainment that invites you to turn off your brain for a little while, but at the same time there are some deeper social commentaries buried in there for anyone who cares to look. I think if a lot of the critics who write the book and the movie off as nothing more than supercharged nostalgia actually took the time to look at that subtext they’d see a piece of pop culture that is subtly thumbing its nose at the very critics who hate it, but that’s neither here nor there.

We’re talking about the movie. And how awesome it is. Seriously. If you were a fan of the book go see this movie. Don’t go in with expectations either. Don’t go in hoping to see your favorite scenes from the book rendered in loving CGI glory, because that’s not what you’re getting with Ready Player One the movie.

They’ve said from the beginning that the movie is inspired by the book, and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve seen a lot of diehard fans moaning and groaning that they’re not getting the point by point adaptation of the geeky deep cuts they’ve always been hoping for, but that was never going to make a great movie. The general public and the average moviegoer has probably never heard of Zork or The Tomb of Horrors or any of the other stuff that forms the backbone of the book’s plot.

What the movie does give us is a fun ride that resembles the hunt presented in the book. Sure there are still pop culture references, but they’re the sort of thing that a wider audience is going to pick up on. It’s the sort of fun that allows that wider audience to be in on the fun rather than walking out of the theater confused and wondering why the hell they just paid $30 per ticket to see a geek standing at an arcade cabinet playing an ancient video game with a creepy skeleton.

The great thing is those deep cuts are still there, but they’re hanging out in the background where people familiar with the novel can pick up on them. Rush 2112 shows up in the background a few times. There are games and ancient computer systems that appear faster than you can see. I spotted a “Re-Elect Wil Wheaton” poster next to a “Re-Elect Mayor Goldie Wilson” poster from Back to the Future which is a fleeting nod to one of the funnier throwaway lines in the book.

All that stuff is still there for anyone who wants to go looking for it.

The point is Ready Player One is a movie. it’s been adapted for the screen. Go in with that expectation and you’re going to love it.

Because the movie is amazing. It’s a visual treat. There are so many references that fly by so fast that even watching the movie twice I was still picking up on things I didn’t see the first time around. This movie is going to be a joy for the kind of people who love picking apart pop culture.

If that’s all the movie was then yeah, it would be the very thing that a lot of critics accuse it of being. A pop culture greatest hits list flashing by at a reference a second overloading people on a nostalgiagasm to the point that they don’t realize what they’r watching is empty fluff.

That’s not the case though. There’s plenty going on to elevate it above the mere fluff that so many people seem deadset on making it out to be. The Spielberg touch makes the relationships between the characters feel far more substantial than they did in the book. I actually prefer the way they come together in the movie to the way they did in the novelization, and there are a lot of rough edges that are sanded away in this version.

The plight of the average Internet user pitted against the evil corporation that wants to use a wonderful resource that’s freed humanity to turn around and sell stuff has also never been more relevant than now when we’re increasingly facing a world where corporate interests are using the levers of government to push an anticompetitive agenda as they monetize away everything that made the Internet great.

Ready Player One is a story that still has a lot to say, and the movie delivers it in a tight fun visually stunning package that feels like it goes by way too fast despite clocking in at nearly two and a half hours. Seriously, if ever there was a movie that might’ve benefitted from the otherwise egregious Hollywood practice of splitting books into multiple movies it’s this one. The one complaint I had about the movie was that the plot felt a little rushed and hurried along at times when they could’ve done more to show the passage of time.

Some of my favorite spoilery moments, you’ve been warned, below:

  • Mark Rylance’s portrayal of James Halliday stole the show. Seriously. It was a revelation that tugged at the heartstrings. I was nearly in tears at the end when he said “Thanks for playing my game.”
  • “It’s fucking Chucky!” has to be the best use of a PG-13 f-bomb since Wolverine’s cameo in X-Men: First Class.
  • I really enjoyed the changes they made to Samantha/Art3mis. She took a more active role, was warmer and less standoffish, and having them meet halfway through the movie rather than at the end made their whole relationship arc seem more plausible. She always took an active role even in the book, she was never the hero’s prize that some critics who obviously never read the book claim, but having her work with Wade earlier felt better and made the romance more believable than the standoffish romance they had in the novel.
  • It was nice that they didn’t off Daito. The Daisho character development was about as thin as in the novel, but there were plenty of ways of proving how evil IOI was within the context of the film without offing one of the High Five.
  • It seemed like the movie world was a little less dystopian than the book world. That might be that there wasn’t enough room to show it considering everything they had to pack into the runtime, but everything felt a little less bleak.
  • Mechagodzilla. Holy. Fucking. Shit. I was worried that Toho might not play ball considering how protective they are of their biggest international star (the 1998 movie notwithstanding), and it was a pleasure to see Mechagodzilla. And what an appearance! The design was beautiful, and the fight was one of the greatest kaiju battles ever put to film.

Go see this movie if you’re a fan of the book. Go see it even if you’ve never read the book. It’s seriously awesome, and well worth the ticket price.

Horatio from CSI: Miami is basically a reverse Jason Voorhees

My wife is home with our brand new daughter right now and so she’s been watching a lot of CSI: Miami to pass the time. Which means I’ve been absorbing a lot of CSI: Miami in the background.

Miami was always my favorite of the CSIs, and a lot of that has to do with David Caruso’s leading man Horatio Caine. Caruso brought a level of smartass badassery to the show that was missing from the more heavily science focused CSI.

Only now that I’ve been rewatching CSI: Miami, at least in the background when I stop by for diaper duty, I’ve noticed something about Horatio. Especially in later seasons.

Horatio is a reverse Jason Voorhees.

Basically the same person.

Seriously. Stop for a minute and consider the similarities:

Badass facial accessorization

Jason has his iconic hockey mask. Horatio has his iconic sunglasses. And when either one of them takes off their signature item you know shit’s about to get real and there’s a good chance someone’s about to die. The only difference is that someone is some poor teenager who’s probably still basking in the afterglow of getting laid if we’re talking Jason and it’s some murderer who thought they got away with it in Horatio’s case.


Jason doesn’t play fair when he’s chasing someone through the woods. One of his victims could hop onto the Concorde (which was still running for most of his career) and fly halfway around the world and the dude would still be waiting for them at Heathrow near the baggage claim. He has the sort of teleportation abilities that would make James Doohan jealous.

But Horatio does too. Look at any episode of CSI. The closer you get to the end the more powerful his abilities get. A bad guy is in the middle of a wide open space like a parking lot or a field in one shot. Then we move to a close in shot as the bad guy smiles thinking he got away with it all and then there’s David Caruso showing up in the background with his gun out and his sunglasses in the business position.

How did he get there? It defies all rational explanation. Episode after episode he appears in places he just shouldn’t be without being some sort of wizard who travels the world dealing out justice with one liners and gratuitous application of sunglasses to his face, but every episode he pulls it off and gets the bad guy.

They both have an impressive bodycount

Jason is Jason. That should be pretty self explanatory. Killing teenagers for doing things that were considered no-nos in Reagan’s America like doing drugs and having sex is his schtick even though we’re well past those bad old days. Horatio is a little more surprising. The thing is, if you watch CSI: Miami long enough you’ll realize that Horatio is a dude with an impressive bodycount to his name.

There was the time he shot three guys who stopped an ambulance he was riding in with his stricken wife. There was the time he traveled to South America to execute the dude responsible for killing his wife. What about the time he was extradited back to South America for killing the guy who ordered the hit on his wife, and he straight up goes full Terminator on a bunch of South American gangbangers who tried to kill him?

That’s not even counting all the one off episodes where he’s forced to kill some criminal who’s gunning for him and then David Caruso gets to look soulfully into the camera before he puts his sunglasses on and delivers another trademark Horatio one liner about how no one should fuck with Horatio because they tend to die.

Sure Horatio kills bad guys. Jason kills people who may or may not deserve it depending on what era we’re talking about. Both think they’re killing to exact justice on the world even if Jason’s idea of justice is a little screwed up.

Forget Jason vs Freddy vs Ash, we need Jason vs Horatio

Imagine how awesome it would be. Two characters with all the same superpowers. One uses his powers for murdering people, the other uses his powers to apprehend people who murder people. It’s the perfect setup, and whoever owns the rights to these characters needs to get on that asap. Of course it would turn into a never ending ouroboros where Jason teleports in to get the killing blow on some poor hapless camp counselor, Horatio teleports behind him with his gun out ready to make the arrest, and they rinse and repeat for all of eternity.

Still, that’d be pretty awesome. Someone needs to get David Caruso and Kane Hodder on the horn and make this happen.