Operation Avalanche

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This movie is like Capricorn One meets the Blair Witch Project. Unfortunately, 90% of the people reading this review will only understand one of those references.

Capricorn One was a movie done in the ‘70s that dealt with the moon landing. NASA had to stage it, and they decided that it would be risky if any of the astronauts told anybody so they had them murdered. The film was made so long ago that OJ Simpson wasn’t in jail, but was one of the best running backs in football. Elliott Gould was still an A-lister, and James Brolin was the star of the movie — where these days, it’s his son Josh that’s the A-lister.

This is the second film (The Dirties was his first) Matt Johnson has done. He wrote, directed, and starred in it.

This a fake documentary about the making of a documentary, about an operation NASA was involved in to film the moon landing in order to beat Russia in the space race.

There were so many things to like about this. It had the perfect ‘60s vibe. It’s paced nicely, and has a bit of paranoia, humor, and is a nice love letter to Stanley Kubrick.

The guys start off working for the CIA as filmmakers trying to figure out if Kubrick is a spy. Then they are assigned to “Operation Zipper,” which has them pretending to be a documentary film crew working with NASA, when they’re really trying to find a Russian mole.

When that project comes to a quick end, one of the guys decides that maybe they can stage a moon landing, since he overhears a conversation that states they might not be able to land somebody on the moon until 1971. That means the Ruskies will beat them to the punch, and they figure they can film a great recreation that everyone will believe. And it’s a blast to watch them put it together. Especially when they go to the set of Kubrick’s next film — 2001: A Space Odyssey. They can get ideas from the set (and autographs).

The movie starts out brilliantly, but quickly gets predictable. I also kept thinking…this all should’ve been done a bit better. There’s also a scene another movie did last year that was a “mockumentary” type vehicle. It’s when characters start shooting and you’re running away…somebody needs to explain to me how the cameraman keeps filming. I’d surely set down the camera and get out of Dodge. It was at that point that I thought how great this would’ve been if it were just done in a more conventional style. Especially since nobody is going to watch this and think that it actually happened (well, aside from those nutty conspiracy theorists).

The movie gets extra credit for a great soundtrack that included The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” J.J. Jackson’s “But It’s Alright,” and three Creedence tunes. It was the best use of “Bad Moon Rising” since I saw An American Werewolf in London in 8th grade. And always nice to hear “Keep on Chooglin’,” but seriously, filmmakers need to stop using “Fortunate Son.” It’s so overused.

It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5. I’m certainly looking forward to the third film from Matt Johnson. He’s somebody to watch.