Our Greatest Living Film Critic, V

Volume V, Jan. – Feb. 2019

The Dam Busters (1955)

Watched The Dam Busters (1955), about the real but hard to believe Operation Chastise, where the RAF used 6-ton bombs to blow up German dams by skipping them over the surface of the water. Surprisingly good movie, despite primitive VFX and an unfortunately named dog. The story followed both the engineer who came up with the plan (Barnes Wallis: any relation?) and the pilots who delivered them. Evidently a riot in the RAF is roughly as intense as a tickle fight anywhere else. As in real life, the best leader is also the handsomest. I give it 3.75 engraved cricket bats out of a possible 5 engraved cricket bats.

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Watched Kelly’s Heroes (1970), in which Clint Eastwood and Telly Savalas lead a small army deep into Nazi territory to steal $16 million in gold bars for themselves. An anti-Vietnam movie set in WWII. Because Donald Sutherland is in it, it has a greasy hippy vibe, but because Clint Eastwood is in it, it doesn’t quite go full Laugh-In. Telly Savalas is cool as hell in this movie. Don Rickles stops just short of calling people hockey pucks, and is great as always. From scene to scene, people hold the guns wrong or not. Lots of very good explosions. Apparently the studio cut out the scenes that would have made it great. I give it 3.75 gold bars out of a possible 5 gold bars.

Giant (1956)

Watched Giant (1956), starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and pre-LSD Dennis Hopper as a little twerp. Sprawling epic about wealthy Texans and the 20th century. James Dean was a squinty-eyed, fidgety lowlife from the first scene, and I was afraid he was supposed to be the good guy. I’m glad I was wrong: Bick Benedict isn’t perfect, but at least he’s got an arc. It starts slow, then accelerates in time and pace. I guess uncle Bawley can fly a plane? Good performance by Liz Taylor. Texas looks like Mars in this movie. Some great shots, and great set direction throughout. The black horse became the black car, and that’s the changing west, get it? Never forget Pedro the turkey. This movie is almost 3.5 hours long, but in the end it was worth watching. I give it 4.5 bedside coffee pots out of a possible 5 bedside coffee pots. (edited)

Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018)

Watched Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018). The plot is a labyrinth, at its center there’s a cavity; empty space. Along the way there’s awesome car fishtailing, a cool tactical sequence, a ridiculous bathroom fight where someone tears a pipe in half, and a foot chase sequence whose stakes depend on how fast an old man can run. This is a world in which the government is totally incompetent, if not adversarial, and only Randian supermen can save the day. Henry Cavill makes a great cartoon villain. Heads up, Hollywood: if you shoot a nuclear bomb, it doesn’t detonate. The movie sets up a moral dilemma (exposited by Alex Baldwin 10 minutes into the movie) and then totally abandons it in the climax. The presence of such honest, straightforward practical stunts in this movie make the CGI stunts in this movie look even worse. Maybe the best Mission: Impossible movie, tied with GhostPro. I give it 4 iphone apps out of a possible 5 iphone apps, or whatever I gave GhostPro.

Ed Wood (1994)

Watched Ed Wood (1994), which I’d never seen before. Johnny Depp’s performance does not work for me: he is never believable as a real person. The main cast all feel like cartoons, and then the bit players all feel like real people. In general, the movie wasn’t consistent about whether it was trying to mimick a B movie or not. It felt like a collection of anecdotes rather than a story. The black and white photography was unsettling in a good way, for the most part. Martin Landau was incredible as Bela Lugosi: I’d heard he was, but still surprised me how good his performance was. I give it 3 double-jointed Hungarians out of a possible 5 double-jointed Hungarians.