Our Greatest Living Film Critic, II

Vol. II, October, 2018

The Day of the Jackal (1973)

I rewatched The Day of the Jackal (1973). The good one, not the bad one with Bruce Willis and Jack Black. The gendarmes have to hunt down an assassin before he kills Charles de Gaulle (!). It’s great ‘procedure porn’ because it shows you every step from both the police side, tracking down the Jackal, and from the assassin’s point of view as he prepares. Edward Fox is good at being creepy and charming by turns. I might have to read a Frederik Forsyth book now. I give it 3.75 dropped lobsters out of a possible 5 dropped lobsters.

Withnail and I (1987)

Last night I rewatched Withnail and I (1987). The biggest change from when I watched it 15 years ago is that it definitely reads as having a lot of (literal) homophobia today, due to the pervasive running paranoia that everyone they meet is out to sodomize them. BUT the writing is still great, and Richard E. Grant’s performance is still amazing. There aren’t too many movies like it — Absolutely Fabulous meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas meets Evelyn Waugh. Maybe a little slow by today’s standards as well. I give it 3 Camberwell Carrots out of a possible 5 Camberwell Carrots.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Watched Atomic Blonde (2017), a cold war spy film set in Berlin. I also recently read a book called Declare, a cold war spy novel set in Berlin, except it has genies in it. In that book. there is a scene at the Brandenburg Gate, where the Soviets are anchoring a djinn to the newly-constructed Berlin Wall, and even during that scene, where the elemental spirit makes a face out of paving stones and talks, it is 1000000000x times more realistic and believable than Atomic Blonde is. This movie effing sucks. It does have a 10 minute single-take fight scene that is very good (good job Ms. Theron, and good job camera operator). I give Atomic Blonde (2017) 1 luftballon out of a possible 99 luftballons. (edited)

I do give the fight sequence between approx. 1:10:40 and 1:20:00 a special score of 4 hot plates out of a possible 5 hot plates.

Further Discussion:

“You sent me into a nest of hornets. They knew who I was the second my feet hit the ground.”

No shit Charlize Theron, you’re a supermodel with white hair who is 6’1 in stiletto heels walking through the Berlin airport in designer clothes. “Hmm, comrade, I think something is different about this one.”

And she was told part of her mission was to identify a double agent, so yeah, good chance they’re going to know who she is when she gets there.

“7.62 Tokarev round. Soviet.”

You’re sitting with the head of MI-6 and a highly-placed CIA operative. They both know who makes the Tokarev. The audience JUST saw a scene where a KGB agent fired the gun. For whose benefit are you identifying the nationality?

To some extent it was nice to be treated like a dummy, because it meant I didn’t have to pay too much attention.

They definitely did something I haven’t seen before, which was show historical footage at the beginning of the movie to establish the context, but then (basically) do a record scratch and then say “But this isn’t that timeline!”

Which would be fine if it established it as an alternate history, which it seems to be trying to do. Like, maybe this is set in 2017 East Berlin, with a robot gestapo. That could be cool. But then, throughout the entire movie, historical events unfold exactly as they did in the real world. The only difference is that the characters are unrealistic, and the dialog is stuff nobody would ever say.

It’s like they claimed to be in an alternate timeline to excuse any mistakes due to their incompetence. It’s the movie equivalent of a driver who stops in the middle of the street, then runs into a drug store, but they put on their hazard lights because they think “well, I can’t get a ticket if my hazard lights are on.”

“The key fight sequence that unfolds in a real Berlin building lasts for almost 10 minutes in what appears to be an unbroken take when, in fact, the sequence comprises almost 40 separate shots seamlessly stitched together. ”

IMDB trivia page for Atomic Blonde

Fight scene still looks cool, but not a single take, so not nearly as impressive.

Mean Streets (1973)

Watched Mean Streets (1973), Scorsese’s autobiographical small stakes crime movie. Tons of texture and details. Boy the 70s was sleazy. Hey Harvey Keitel, you can’t be nice and be a gangster, don’t you know that? That’s why they call them mean streets: you gotta be mean! I give it 3.5 red lightbulbs out of a possible 5 red lightbulbs.

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Watched Isle of Dogs (2018), thus S-Ranking the movies of Wes Anderson. Like The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), using stop motion allows Anderson to finally have the complete directorial control he wants. Plot was a little scattered: too many plot jumparounds, and things kinda fell in place too easily (no reason for Chief to change his position so fast). Visually really cool. I like stop motion animation, and I love dogs! I give it 3.75 Hacker’s Corners out of a possible 5 Hacker’s Corners.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016). Making this part of the Cloverfield universe undermined it. John Goodman is now essentially right in everything we see him do. Most of the things that make him look crazy are shown to be the work of an imperfect but basically good person, and you have to just assume that the last bit of incriminating evidence will not also have a similar explanation. The last ten minutes sucked and were tacked on from another, worse movie. The parts that seemed like the original story were great. Cool bunker! I give it 3 Molotov cocktails out of a possible 5 Molotov cocktails.

Addendum:

Another issue with 10 Cloverfield Lane is that he is shown to have a good stock of Mountain Home brand freeze-dried meals. I happen to know that your more opinionated preppers do not care for Mountain Home, as the quality and shelf-stability are lower than some other competitors.

I feel that Howard Stambler, who had taken great pains to do everything the ‘right’ way, would not have cheaped out on his food supply.

Upon consideration of this, I lower my score to 2.75 Molotov cocktails out of a possible 5 Molotov cocktails.

Misery (1990)

I watched Misery (1990) with James Caan and Kathy Bates. Kathy Bates is the monster in the monster movie. Her performance was uneven. It’s funny that James Caan’s character basically writes historical romance novels, and everybody celebrates him as a literary genius. I don’t think that actually ever happens! It’s also a good example of when movies contain the text of fictional novels in them that are supposedly brilliant, they can’t be written any better than the talent of the movie screenwriter, which means they’re usually pretty bad. Richard Farnsworth as Buster. Kathy Bates’ pet pig gets introduced but never really paid off. I give it 3 porcelain penguins out of a possible 5 porcelain penguins.

Paper Moon (1973)

Watched Paper Moon (1973). Starring Ryan O’Neal as a dead-eyed small-time conman traveling across the midwest with his daughter, Tatum O’Neal, who is was both the youngest person ever to win an Oscar, and a better actor than her dad, whose acting is wooden and whose eyes are like a doll’s eyes. The script to this movie is really great: every scene has something special. The dialog (unlike Ryan O’Neal) is charming and memorable. Johnathan Hillerman (Higgins from Magnum, P.I.) is in this movie! No British accent! I give it 4 Nehis out of a possible 5 Nehis.

Spider Man: Homecoming (2017)

Watched Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). I’m probably the last person to see this movie. It was great! Kept it street-level, struck a good balance of being quippy but not stepping on the important scenes (like other Marvel movies often do). Great cameos from Captain America. I give it 4 Lego Death Stars out of a possible 5 Lego Death Stars.

High and Low (1963)

Watched High & Low (1963). What a great movie! Kurosawa channels a mannered Hitchcock thriller at the beginning, but by the end it’s like a tough, gritty William Friedkin police procedural. The transition is perfect. Original title was Heaven and Hell, but High and Low is so much more fitting, in English anyway. Very odd choice to include exactly one colored image in a black and white movie, but now I know where Spielberg got the idea. The obligatory night club scene was actually so visually interesting that, like the cops, I lost track of the guy they were tailing. A cannonball-shaped inspector nicknamed Bos’n was the best character. I give it 5 Caloric Punch out of a possible 5 Caloric Punch.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

I watched Murder on the Orient Express (2017). Someone on this train murdered Johnny Depp: was it you? Compared to the 1974 adaptation of the same novel, this version is prettier, but somehow even cheesier. The mustache is crazier, the Belgian accent is terrible. The cinematography (photography?) is gorgeous, even seeing it on my monitor rather than in 70mm. They pretty much used every conceivable way to shoot inside a train car without it getting repetitive. However, the CG was unnecessary, as were the pointless action sequences (Poirot chases someone on a train bridge? Poirot is in a gun battle?). Daisy Ridley is probably the best actor in the bunch, to my surprise (since she was not especially good in Star Wars, though come to think of it none of the good actors in that movie were any good in that movie, hmm must be because the movie sucked). Pretty sure the worst parts of this movie were added in by Branagh to make it more appealing to modern palettes, but it didn’t really work for me. I give it 3 red kimonos out of a possible 5 red kimonos.

Speed Racer (2008)

Watched Speed Racer (2008), a hallucination with a theme: keeping your integrity in the film racing industry. Reminded me of Dick Tracy (1990) for some reason, and even more so of Tim Burton. I was not surprised to see Joel Silver’s name come up in the credits either. Visually it is incredible and worth watching. I just kept thinking how could they film so many scenes with the chimpanzee and that little kid when everybody knows chimps attack little kids on sight. Was that all green-screened? The story was odd: how many acts did it have? They really liked to tease you with the Speed Racer (1967) theme, just playing a few notes of it here and there. Hey, gimme that whole theme song! I give it 3 Bernoulli Convergenators out of a possible 5 Bernoulli Convergenators