I saw RED TAILS in a fairly miserable way. I held off reviewing it, because the setting & exhibition of the film was so half-assed and unprofessional - that it did actually interfere with my ability to become fully absorbed into the film.
A few days ago, a regional rep at one of the PR companies that represents Fox in TEXAS contacted me to see if I would like to host and introduce their screening of RED TAILS. I'd received a press invite for the film - and had decided I wasn't going to go, because it was going to be at AMC BARTON CREEK in Austin, Texas. I've had nothing but miserable film experiences at that theater. Sound bleed from other theaters, low light projection... and this time, the folks up in projection had left their 3D lens on, slightly askew, causing distant double images and focus issues that rendered most text illegible. But if you wound up on medium shots to closeups of characters - it seemed fine. Then... the worst part... The center channel speaker was completely out for the duration of the film. Meaning that the film sounded like crap... the score always being muted, the explosions missing their BOOM... the machine guns sounding flat. Yeah... George Lucas spends 20 years of his life working to get this story on the screen - and it gets put in one of the cheapest, low-rent, give a shit theaters in town. WAY TO GO!
I accepted the invite, because I have been reading about RED TAILS for 20 years. I'm a Lucas obsessive. I don't only look at his films, but read his interviews... I read accounts of people that have had conversations with the guy. I've read most of his admitted influences and am a fan of much of the artwork and pop-culture that he draws upon. Not so much because GEORGE LUCAS likes it, but because my father is of the exact same generation as him - and shares much of Lucas' passions. So I grew up with Maxfield Parrish prints, Norman Rockwell art at my Grandparents, but because my Dad ran that comic shop - he shared with me his passion for Golden Age and Atomic Age comics - so I grew up reading Fictionhouse's WINGS comics, ACES HIGH and the other E.C. combat books. People tend to focus on the science fiction and horror titles - but books like Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales were spectacular as well.
If you're familiar with those books - your enjoyment of RED TAILS will only be heightened, because the aerial combat in this film is truly spectacular. That the Nazis and the brief looks we get at the non-Tuskegee Airmen that we get - they're drawn in the broadest of India Inks. They're pure comic book - but then, we know this about George. He doesn't get terribly detailed in his depth on his films. He's more about capturing the breathless sense of motion, the visceral thrill of being in the midst of combat - and you get that in this film more than in any aerial combat movie I've seen.
This isn't the best film in that genre. Not by a long shot, but it does offer some amazing visual bang for your buck. The main group of characters we stay focused on are likable enough for me. My favorite characters being LIGHTNING & RAYGUN... With EASY being close on in there. The best dramatic telling of this story is the film with Fishburne. And this is the best ACTION version of the tale. The audience I saw it with, which was just average film goers - not super geeks recruited by AICN, they seemed to love the film - with gasps and a good deal of applause when the film was over.
Me, when I left the theater... still bracing from the headache that the AMC BARTON CREEK gave me... the rep asked me what I thought and I said... "It's alright." Then complained about the miserable exhibition of the lowrent shithole this all went down in.
RED TAILS, I'll revisit on BluRay when it hits. Yoko didn't care for it, but then she had no desire to see the film at all - and stayed only due to my giddiness at actually getting to see this film. Which admittedly probably put me in a good state to like the movie.
I'm the sort of guy that loves WWII stories. I love watching blu rays like WWII IN HD. And I find that war hard to even imagine - as nearly everyone that fought it, grew up in a period where the tools they were using were being invented as they fought it. When the Nazis start fighting with JET power in this film. It is scary - because you're dealing with planes of two completely different classes flying at radically different speeds and the combat skills for the Tuskegee Airmen that actually downed in combat Nazi Jet Planes... amazing. Just amazing.
Reading about these men is one thing. Getting a visual sense for what they actually did - that's why I went to see this. It's why I was excited by it. NOW - would I have preferred for George to get an A-talent director - who would bring a polish to the dialogue and a depth to the emotional performances than a Television Director - who has done strong work, but just has never really elicited a brilliant performance out of any of the actors in the film. It is disappointing. The story and the history deserves acting and dialogue at the quality of the Visual effects sequences... which are exhilarating.
Capone's announcement about this being one of the worst films of the year... well, let us hope. I mean if this is the worst film of the year, we're in for a helluva good year. Cuz even though I saw this film in the worst shitty presentation that I've seen a film in a couple of years... I enjoyed it - and so did most of the audience.
This film played, despite the shitty presentation and technical stupidity of the theater. Even when people left to complain - they did NOT A SINGLE THING to right the wrong that we suffered through. It's experiences like the one I had at AMC BARTON CREEK that drives people into the welcoming arms of Home Video. When will the big chains understand that you have to HIRE people that give a shit, that are trained to know how to use the equipment and pay to have the best bulbs - the best sound and MAINTAIN IT daily.