Sunday, December 17, 2017
Movies

African-American pilots earn wings — and respect — in World World II epic 'Red Tails'

The legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is energetically revived in Red Tails, which would be a good war movie even without the historical importance. Armed with the most impressive World War II aerial effects ever filmed, director Anthony Hemingway makes a crowd-pleasing feature debut.

The Tuskegee Airmen was a nickname for the 332nd Fighter Group, a U.S. Army Air Corps squadron comprised of African-American pilots as an experiment to learn if "Negroes" were fit for combat. They ace that test, protecting bomber missions against Nazi warplanes, and altering bigoted perceptions.

Red Tails begins with the 332nd segregated by location and opportunity to fight. Far away from the action, they fly unexciting coastal patrols, livened by an occasional strafing of enemy transports. Nothing at the front lines, where success would force the all-white brass in Washington D.C. to admit the prejudice had been wrong. Only the persistence of Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) gets them a chance to prove their mettle.

The problem with Red Tails is that screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGruder reach the point when the 332nd is respected midway through the movie. The inspiring parts get replaced by subplots that may or may not have basis in fact, or at least seem forced by being condensed. Rather than foxhole stereotypes we get cockpit cliches. It's strangely supportive of the 332nd's lesson: Black war movies can be just as old-school corny as John Ford's white ones.

The central pilot is Lt. Joe Little (David Oyelowo), a brash sort who'll defy orders if he has a clear killshot on an enemy plane. Joe is also a ladies man who falls in love with Sofia (Daniela Ruah) when she waves from a rooftop as he flies by. Neither speaks the other's language but romance blooms. Joe is also the film's mouthpiece for resentment at the way black soldiers are treated, starting an officer's club brawl when someone uses the n-word.

Joe's best friend is Capt. Marty Julian (Nate Parker), a flight commander with daddy issues and a drinking problem that will cost at least one pilot his life. It could be Deke (Marcus T. Paulk), the resident Bible reader, or perhaps Ray Gun (Tristan Wilds), a new recruit whose idealism is a fast clue of doom. It certainly won't be Bullard or Maj. Emmanuelle Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who remain on the ground pondering their next inspirational speeches.

Thankfully, much of Red Tails is spent in the skies, where fighter planes swoop and zoom in thrilling dogfights with incendiary direct hits. Executive producer George Lucas apparently gave Hemingway the keys to his CGI kingdom, creating marvelously designed in-flight action and a sappy, snappy salute to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

Comments
Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4 billion deal

Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4 billion deal

NEW YORK — Disney is buying a large part of the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox for about $52.4 billion in stock, including film and television studios and cable and international TV businesses, as it tries to meet competition from technology compa...
Published: 12/14/17
Now isn’t a good time for Woody Allen to make a bad movie but ‘Wonder Wheel’ is awful

Now isn’t a good time for Woody Allen to make a bad movie but ‘Wonder Wheel’ is awful

Now isn’t a good time for Woody Allen to make a bad movie, while broken silence resurrects whispers of his own alleged sexual misconduct.Wonder Wheel (PG-13) is exactly what the 82-year-old Oscar winner doesn’t need, a reason beyond social outrage fo...
Published: 12/13/17
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has everything The Force Awakens was missing

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has everything The Force Awakens was missing

When The Force Awakens landed two years ago, it was everything Star Wars fans wanted yet not entirely what we needed. It was a rousing tribute missing its own vision, introducing new characters and crises hinting at old ones. Star Wars: The Last Jed...
Published: 12/12/17
13 new movies you have to see over the holiday season

13 new movies you have to see over the holiday season

Hollywood has enough movies left to get everyone through the holidays plus any New Year’s hangover. Many are aiming for awards glory, a few are just here for the party. The really serious contenders won’t open nationwide until early 2018...
Published: 12/12/17
Six places to see a movie and eat dinner at the same time

Six places to see a movie and eat dinner at the same time

Back in my day ...Go on. Say the words. Apply it to the cost of movies. Once a casual weekend outing, seeing a flick can be an enormously expensive experience in streaming-happy 2017. Tickets can climb upwards of $15 these days, depending on the thea...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Guillermo Del Toro’s romantic creature feature The Shape of Water soaked up seven Golden Globes nominations Monday, kicking off another marathon awards season. The Shape of Water is nominated for best dramatic motion picture alongside Christop...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/12/17
‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes

‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes

Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War-era fairytale "The Shape of Water" swam away with a leading seven nominations from the Golden Globes, while the HBO drama "Big Little Lies" led television nominees with six nods. In what’s being viewed as a wide-open Osc...
Published: 12/11/17
Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Hollywood is backloading December, waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to bring moviegoers back to multiplexes. After no major releases last week, only James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is making any new impression at box offices this weekend. (Cli...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/12/17
Olaf is being let go: Olaf short is being dropped from Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Olaf is being let go: Olaf short is being dropped from Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Winter is still weeks away but everyone’s favorite snowman is already melting from view.In a cruel twist on Frozen’s showstopper, Olaf is being let go.Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the 21-minute animated "short" preceding Disney-Pixar’s Coco in theaters w...
Published: 12/05/17
‘The Disaster Artist’ takes us inside ‘The Room’ as it notoriously happened

‘The Disaster Artist’ takes us inside ‘The Room’ as it notoriously happened

James Franco found a kooky, kindred spirit in Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist whose 2003 cine-trocity The Room is hailed as one of the worst movies ever.Like Wiseau, Franco can be accused of stretching his talent way too far. Unlike Wiseau, Franco ...
Updated one month ago