Our Greatest Living Film Critic, VII

Volume VII, April 2019

Sleuth (1972)

Watched Sleuth (1972), with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. Caine is a jumped-up pantry boy Cockney hair dresser who’s run away with blue-blooded Olivier’s wife, and Olivier invites him to his manor, ostensibly to offer his blessing. This movie has more 180-degree twists than Tony Hawk Pro Skater (1999). It’s the first role I’ve seen Olivier in that still stood up. Caine goes toe-to-toe with him, which must have been a nice trick to pull off at the time. Alec Cawthorne is serviceable as Inspector Doppler. Amazing dialog. Great direction by Joseph L. Mankiewicz: never got lost with all the movement from room to room. But, how did he know the song ‘Anything Goes’ would be playing, hmm? I give it 4.5 hedge mazes out of a possible 5 hedge mazes.

Emperor of the North (1973)

Watched Emperor of the North (1973), a movie set in the Depression, with Ernest Borgnine as a sadistic train conductor, and Lee Marvin as the alpha hobo who’s determined non-euphemistically hop his train. This is basically a horror movie, with Borgnine playing a surprisingly intimidating villain, Ahab-esque, chasing Marvin around with a hammer and chain. There is a climactic fight scene that took 35 days to shoot. This movie has a lot of hobo lore and slang in it. There is a scene where a railyard bull chases Lee Marvin through the woods while Marvin is carrying a live turkey. In the universe of this film, to hop a train is to achieve absolute victory for the hobo, and absolute shame for the conductor. I give it 3.5 cigar stubs out of a possible 5 cigar stubs.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

Watched They Shall Not Grow Old (2018), a WWI documentary by Peter Jackson and the cast of WWI. The restoration job is as good as advertised, maybe better. Makes me wonder whether the techniques he used to make the movie are fair. It’s not about a specific person or event, it’s a made-up story cut together from real interviews and footage. The people in it didn’t know each other, weren’t fighting in the same battles, though it looks like they were. It’s the question of whether a lie can be used to illuminate the truth, which is something you usually ask about fictional stories, not documentaries. An image is now burned into my brain: a soldier is so past the point of caring that he sits down on a rotting horse carcass like it was a love seat. I give it 3.75 tins of plum & apple jam out of a possible 5 tins of plumb & apple jam.

Gambit (1966)

Watched Gambit (1966), a caper movie with cat burglar Michael Caine recruiting showgirl Shirley MacLaine, who looks strikingly similar to the deceased wife of the reclusive Arab billionaire he wants to rob. The first part of the movie shows the perfectly planned heist going off without a hitch, but then it turns out that was just Caine’s sales pitch, and when the real heist goes off it has a _lot_ of hitches. Interesting reminder of the jet-setting, pre-apocalyptic Persian Gulf region. For example, there is an opulent bedroom that acts an elevator to a private helipad. MacLaine and Herbert Lom are fun to watch, Caine coasts by on charm, and in general there is less actual chemistry between the main cast than there was in John Dee’s notebooks. I give it 2.5 orange peels out of a possible 5 orange peels.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Watched Kung Fu Hustle (2004), a live action cartoon about martial artists fighting over, well, I guess they’re just fighting over who is the best martial artist. Stephen Chow directed the visually interesting sequences, but left my favorite fight scenes to other directors. It kept seeming like this movie should end, because they’d kind of resolved all of the threats, but then they’d introduce a new threat out of nowhere, which was fine because it was a lot of fun. I would not say this is a funny movie, for my taste, but it is very entertaining. Lots of references to movies I’ve seen, and probably lots to movies I haven’t. I give it 4 red underwear out of a possible 5 red underwear.