Thursday, April 26, 2018
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
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

What does Thanos want?That question lies at the heart of Avengers: Infinity War, the at-once dark, maddeningly open-ended yet fiercely entertaining new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which pits the titular global do-gooders — still s...
Published: 04/25/18
Who’s going to die in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’? Here are the candidates

Who’s going to die in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’? Here are the candidates

On Monday night’s episode of Disney-owned "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," the late-night host asked his five guests promoting "Avengers: Infinity War" who might die in the new film, officially opens Thursday. After all, Kimmel noted, someone has to perish in a...
Published: 04/25/18
Documentary ‘The Human Race,’ which has Tampa Bay ties, celebrates running in 50s and well beyond

Documentary ‘The Human Race,’ which has Tampa Bay ties, celebrates running in 50s and well beyond

An 80-year-old woman runs half marathons to stay one step ahead of Alzheimer’s. A man in his 50s runs his first 5K. A cancer survivor celebrates her 60s by running the U.S. perimeter.Welcome to The Human Race, an upcoming documentary celebrating seni...
Published: 04/24/18
Persall: Upon retirement, a look back at a star-quality career

Persall: Upon retirement, a look back at a star-quality career

Do you see what I did there? The comma and extra "E" in my byline? One last pun, just for fun. It’s the end, fin in French, and something unfortunately ruder in Swedish. Time to retire, nearly 25 years to the day after starting work as the T...
Published: 04/19/18
This is a week to spring clean instead of hitting a movie theater.

This is a week to spring clean instead of hitting a movie theater.

It’s a spring cleaning weekend at multiplexes, with studios vacuuming every dollar from current releases before the Avengers and Amy Schumer drop in next week. If you’ve seen A Quiet Place, Ready Player One and Black Panther, this is probably a good ...
Published: 04/18/18
R. Lee Ermey, drill sergeant in ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ dies at 74

R. Lee Ermey, drill sergeant in ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ dies at 74

.LOS ANGELES — R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine who made a career in Hollywood playing hard-nosed military men like Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s "Full Metal Jacket," has died. Ermey’s longtime manager Bill Rogin says he died Sunday morning ...
Published: 04/15/18
Rays stadium backers sponsor free screening of ‘Field of Dreams’ at Tampa Theatre

Rays stadium backers sponsor free screening of ‘Field of Dreams’ at Tampa Theatre

TAMPA — It would take hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, and more than a few dreams, too.So a business group advocating for a stadium in Ybor City is joining with the Tampa Theatre for a free screening of t...
Published: 04/13/18
What’s in theaters: ‘Beirut,’ ‘Rampage,’ ‘Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare’

What’s in theaters: ‘Beirut,’ ‘Rampage,’ ‘Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare’

INDIE FLICKS:BEIRUTJon Hamm has no trouble looking like a movie star. Dapper or bedraggled, it doesn’t matter what kind of role. He’ll make it believable. What he doesn’t have yet is a starring role worthy of his talent, although Beirut (R) comes pre...
Published: 04/12/18
Helen Hunt plays my high school gym teacher in ‘The Miracle Season’

Helen Hunt plays my high school gym teacher in ‘The Miracle Season’

I never had school spirit. I didn’t go to many football games, and I never owned a West High shirt. (Green doesn’t look good on me.) Then I moved away, and tragedy struck my high school.The Miracle Season, now in theaters, is the tear-jerking true st...
Updated one month ago
Why it’d be even scarier to watch John Krasinski’s ‘A Quiet Place’ at home instead of in theater

Why it’d be even scarier to watch John Krasinski’s ‘A Quiet Place’ at home instead of in theater

A Quiet Place is where John Krasinski’s hushed experiment in terror should be watched, not at multiplexes where silence is easily broken.Krasinski’s movie wrings fright from silence so well that he accidentally makes a case for waiting until home vid...
Updated one month ago