Tuskegee Airmen have a lengthy history that stretches back to a small program at the Tuskegee Institute, “Red Tails” focuses on the exploits of the 332nd Fighter Group based at the Ramitelli air base in Italy. It follows the pilots as they escort bombers on vital missions in enemy territory, shoot down German aircraft and strafe targets such as trains and ships whenever possible.
The movie’s title comes from the distinctive red tails of their P-51 Mustangs. The movie has a mostly African-American cast: Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and a number of rising young actors play fictional versions of the pilots, mechanics and commanding officers of the 332nd.
It’s directed by Anthony Hemingway, whose credits include acclaimed TV series “Treme” and “The Wire,” and is co-written by John Ridley (“Three Kings,” “Undercover Brother”) and “Boondocks” creator Aaron McGruder. Unlike HBO’s groundbreaking 1995 movie “The Tuskegee Airmen” starring Laurence Fishburne, which was more of an overall history, “Red Tails” offers the thrills of an old-fashioned action movie and the state-of-the- art special effects of 2012. “Yes, it’s a war movie, but this is like ‘Avatar,’ ” said Gooding, who appeared in “The Tuskegee Airmen” and plays a pipe-smoking major in “Red Tails.” “Visually, you really feel you’re in these cockpits.
Some of the dog fights in this movie really feel like the same thing that we had in ‘Star Wars.’ I think the only difference is that all of the actors in the cockpits are black, except for the Nazis, the Germans trying to shoot them out of the sky.” Anthony Hemingway (“True Blood,” “CSI: NY”) directs. (PG-13, 125 minutes)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A bright, socially awkward boy tries to make sense of 9/11 and find some closure with the father he lost on what he calls “the worst day” in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” The film, based on a Jonathan Safran Foer novel, is a sometimes tearful remembrance of that day and the lives it ended or forever disrupted. And while it flirts with the preciousness that comes with Foer novels (“Everything is Illuminated”), it is engrossing and emotional in ways no other 9/11 drama has managed. Oskar (Thomas Horn), our hero and narrator, is a tween who was once tested for Asperger’s Syndrome, but those tests were “inconclusive.” He’s a loner who thinks and thinks and thinks; his sympathetic dad (Tom Hanks) had figured out a way to bring him out of his shell.
Dad’s fanciful quests, “reconnaissance expeditions,” send the kid into Central Park in search of New York’s lost “sixth borough,” and the like. Oskar must meet and chat with all sorts of strangers to complete his mission.
But those missions might have come to an end the day his mom (Sandra Bullock) buried “an empty box.” Oskar’s morbid visions of his father tumbling through the air threaten to overwhelm his memories of Dad. Then, he stumbles across a key in an envelope, which he takes as his last expedition, a years-long quest (he can do the math of the search), trying to find that one New Yorker named “Black” who has the lock that key might fit. Touchingly, every New Yorker he visits has that post-9/ 11 empathy. All Oskar has to do is say “He was in the building . . . on 9/11,” and they take him in — talk to him, hug him or at the very least, cut this pushy know-it-all child some slack. “Every day is a miracle,” one kind lady tells him. He charts their addresses, photographs them and creates intricate scrapbooks out of the quest. One (Viola Davis) he meets on the day her husband (Jeffrey Wright) is moving out. Others are old, infirm, rich, poor, part of big families, or testy and alone. His indulgent grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) assists. And her silent renter (Max Von Sydow) pitches in. They’re helping a child who doesn’t even know it cope with the all-consuming fear that 9/11brought him. “You can get blown to pieces by people who don’t even know you,” is his excuse for never using public transport, for wincing when he sees a plane pass overhead. Director Stephen Daldry (“The Hours”) is over-reliant on the boy’s narration, something necessitated by his loner status and the nature of the book. Daldry got an insufferable performance out of young Mr.
Horn — a onetime “Jeopardy!” champ — and fine work out of Davis, Von Sydow and especially Bullock, who makes us feel the loss, 10 years later.
And Hanks, whose performance is sympathetic in the flashbacks, is even better in scenes that only use his voice — a man, trapped in a doomed tower, leaving voicemail messages so that his family won’t worry. The mysteries aren’t that mysterious and some may have a hard time embracing its abrasive hero. But “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” doesn’t just use 9/11 as a backdrop and emotional ploy. The event is a protagonist in the film. And there is just enough distance from the event, and just enough heart to this story, to help us all with something a decade hasn’t brought us any closer to understanding. (PG-13, 129 minutes)
From light-hearted heist (“Ocean’s Eleven”) to political biography (“Che”), apocalyptic thriller (“Contagion”) to a remake of Russian sciencefiction (“Solaris”), Steven Soderbergh switches cinematic moods faster than Lady Gaga changes wardrobes. Now, he offers his take on “The Bourne Identity” action flick with “Haywire,” a sporadically entertaining, if surprisingly inert, spy vs. spy headbanger. When we meet Mallory (Gina Carano), she’s on the lam, taking refuge in an upstate New York cafe. Aaron (Channing Tatum) has been assigned to bring her in — and she’s not going quietly, leading to the film’s most propulsive fight scene. As it turns out, Mallory’s no criminal but an agent on the run and targeted for elimination.
But who’s behind it? Is it her supervisor and former boyfriend (Ewan McGregor)? Is it someone higher up the food chain in the government (Michael Douglas)? Or is it the mysterious Spaniard (Antonio Banderas)? And how does the suave British agent (Michael Fassbender) fit in? It doesn’t really matter, as it’s all just an excuse for Mallory to lay the beatdown on all those who cross her path. But if that’s going to be the point of the movie, then the action scenes need to be both as hard-hitting as a swift kick to the head and as smoothly choreographed as “Swan Lake.” Except for that initial takedown, though, the action here comes off as stiff and stilted, lacking the sense of kineticism that makes the “Bourne” films such a blast. Former mixedmartial arts fighter Carano is believable as someone who can more than hold her own going mano-amano, but she doesn’t show much range as an actress. Meanwhile, the rest of the star-saturated cast walks through on auto pilot. (R, 93 minutes)
After skipping the previous film, Kate Beckinsale returns to the werewolfversus- vampire franchise she helped make famous, this time joining forces with her lycanthrope pals to bag the most dangerous game of all: humans. In 3-D. (R, 89 minutes)