Our Greatest Living Film Critic, IX

July, 2019

Ice Station Zebra (1968)

Watched Ice Station Zebra (1968), a cold war technothriller in which Rock Hudson plays the Commander of a submarine taking an assortment of spies, traitors, and marines to a remote arctic research station where something went wrong. This is the movie that Howard Hughes got obsessed by, and forced TV stations in LA to play over and over so he could watch it. I don’t see why, it’s just okay. They didn’t even use real snow for closeups, and nobody’s breath froze. Good underwater photography, good submarine interiors (I assume). It seems like John Carpenter got inspired by this movie to make The Thing: a paranoid action movie set in an arctic base, where people aren’t what they seem. Actually, the traitor is exactly who I thought it was: Ernest Borgnine! I give it 3 oxyacetylene torches out of a possible 5 oxyacetylene torches.

Miami Vice (2006)

Rewatched Miami Vice (2006), Michael Mann’s update to the TV series he produced in the 80s. I saw this movie when it came out, and remember nothing about about it except that I didn’t like it. It’s still an extremely sweaty and incoherent tone poem, but I liked it more this time. The score is like Jan Hammer and Soundgarden worked together. It has a Nu Metal cover of In The Air Tonight. Ciaran Hinds does an Al Pacino impression, then disappears forever. The low light graininess is awful, and even daylight feels too dark. Jaime Foxx forced Mann to rewrite the entire ending when he demanded it be shot in the U.S. instead of Uruguay. Whatever it was supposed to be, the ending is now Ricardo Tubbs doing a somersault and shooting a grenade through someone’s chest. This movie is the artifact a flawed but sacred process sometimes produces. I give it 3.5 L-shaped ambushes out of a possible 5 L-shaped ambushes.

Seven Men From Now (1956)

Watched 7 Men From Now (1956), a Budd Boetticher western starring Randolph Scott. My man Lee Marvin plays the bad guy, and is the most interesting performance in the film. Scott is on the path of the 7 thieves who shot his wife by accident during a robbery, and Marvin is the evil guardian angel who will keep him alive long enough to betray him for the gold. A brisk 78 minutes, including credits. Randolph Scott looks like a handsome PE teacher, and was pretty robotic in this movie. He was almost 60 when he filmed this movie, which relaunched his career. I give it 3 men from now out of a possible 5 men from now.

Blackhat (2015)

Watched Blackhat (2015), a Michael Mann technothriller where handsome gray hat hacker Chris Hemsworth has just got to track down a malicious cyberterrorist before he strikes again. For all his movies involving criminals, Mann hires real criminals to be advisors or actors, so a lot of the hacking stuff is probably very realistic. But even when it makes sense, it looks dumb, because hacking in movies always looks dumb. Plus, Mann doesn’t care about computers, so he shouldn’t make a computer movie, he should stick to opening bank vaults with a thermal lance. The best parts of Blackhat are the things that are always good in Michael Mann movies: handheld photography, supporting actors with great faces, crazy lighting, very loud guns, and lots of tactical movement. You can see him using wildly different digital cameras throughout the movie, and it’s jarring. The movie starts out poorly, but gets better in the second half, when they mostly dispense with the computer shit. Why do you need to hack a water pump when you can apparently just let yourself into the unmanned facility any time you want? I give it 3.25 homemade shanks out of a possible 5 homemade shanks.