Film Review: Heat (1995)

Release Date: December 6th, 1995 (Burbank premiere)
Directed by: Michael Mann
Written by: Michael Mann
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Jon Voight, Val Kilmer, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Ricky Harris, Jeremy Piven, Xander Berkeley, Martin Ferrero, Bud Cort (uncredited)

Forward Pass, New Regency Productions, Warner Bros., 170 Minutes

Review:

“You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we’ve been face to face, if I’m there and I gotta put you away, I won’t like it. But I tell you, if it’s between you and some poor bastard whose wife you’re gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down.” – Vincent Hanna, “There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down? Cause no matter what, you will not get in my way. We’ve been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate. Not for a second.” – Neil McCauley

I saw this movie in the theater on a date during my junior year of high school. I think that my then-girlfriend was really annoyed because she wanted something “long and boring” so that we could fool around in the back row. Unfortunately, for her… this movie grabbed my attention and I couldn’t look away from it from start-to-finish.

Heat just clutches onto you immediately with the armored truck heist and how shit in that heist goes sideways, even though the criminal gang does successfully pull it off. The whole sequence was just absolute perfection, though, and it set a really, really high bar for the rest of the picture. However, that high bar would be surpassed with the bank robbery that starts the third act of the movie.

Never has there been a better bank robbery sequence on-screen. At least, I’ve never seen one and I’ve seen many. It’s just cinematic perfection. I love the way it’s shot, the way everything played out, the lack of any music and the absolute intensity of the rapid gunfire, as the criminals and the cops turn downtown Los Angeles into a literal warzone for several minutes. The tension building of the robbery itself, just before the bad guys hit the streets, was incredible!

Apart from these stupendous heist sequences, the film is full of great scene after great scene. Credit really should go to everyone involved in the movie, though.

The cast is one of the most talented ever assembled in this movie’s era and the direction by Michael Mann was damn near perfect. Mann’s pacing, visual style and tone all closely matched what he did with the original Miami Vice television series and the film Manhunter. While this lacked the ’80s panache it was still very stylized and just felt like a more refined and updated version of what I see as the patented Michael Mann style.

For a film that’s just under three hours, there isn’t really a dull moment in this thing. Every scene matters and even the most minute shit ends up having some sort of impact on the story or the characters within.

As I’m getting older, my attention span is getting worse and sometimes, sitting down to watch a movie this long is a real turnoff. I’m also surrounded by distractions and it’s hard to give a lengthy picture like this my full attention. However, Heat is so damn solid, all the way through, that it’s damn near impossible not to get lost in it.

And when you get to that first scene between Pacino and De Niro, you will feel chills. I still do and I’ve probably seen this a half dozen times over the years.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: The Day of the Beast (1995)

Also known as: El día de la bestia (original Spanish title)
Release Date: September 4th, 1995 (Venice Film Festival – Italy)
Directed by: Álex de la Iglesia
Written by: Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Álex de la Iglesia
Music by: Battista Lena
Cast: Álex Angulo, Armando De Razza, Santiago Segura, Maria Grazia Cucinotta

Canal+ España, Iberoamericana Films Producción, M.G. S.R.L, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Well, it’s fundamental. lt inspired me to see the Apocalypse not as an allegory but as an equation. Each letter has its own number. So, for example… Daleth is worth four, and Synn is worth three hundred, so we can…” – Cura

El Día de la Bestia a.k.a. The Day of the Beast is a film that never popped up on my radar until Joe Bob Briggs featured it on a third season episode of The Last Drive-In. I’m glad he did show it, though, as it was a pretty cool occult horror picture from Spain.

Being that I worked in video stores in the ’90s, I’m surprised that I never came across this. If I did, I may have easily dismissed it due to it being foreign and having VHS box art that didn’t catch my eye.

This is a damn cool movie and it fits well with the rise of biblical and occult horror pictures of the mid-to-late ’90s, which I think was born out of people’s strange fear of approaching the new millennium.

The story is about a priest that believes that Satan is coming, so to take the Devil out, he decides to commit every sin imaginable to earn Satan’s trust and thus, kill him… I guess? The story is a bit nonsensical and deciding to become a sinner with about 24 hours on the clock probably isn’t a great plan.

However, the plan does work in that the priest and his overweight, heavy metal sidekick are able to attract some serious dark power into their lives. There’s a pretty cool scene where an occult ritual delivers a creepy presence but I don’t want to spoil the film.

While you do have to suspend a lot of disbelief due to the wonky story, the film still delivers and is entertaining as hell. Furthermore, all the core characters are really damn good and watching this all play out was a blast.

There isn’t a dull moment in the film and it flies by pretty quickly.

In the end, this has made me want to check out more from director Álex de la Iglesia.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other “raise the devil” or biblical horror movies of the ’90s, as well as the other films directed by Álex de la Iglesia.

Film Review: Angus (1995)

Release Date: September 15th, 1995
Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Written by: Jill Gordon
Music by: David E. Russo
Cast: George C. Scott, Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, James Van Der Beek, Charlie Talbert, Kathy Bates, Kevin Connolly, Irvin Kershner, Anna Thomson

Atlas Entertainment, BBC, New Line Cinema, 87 Minutes

Review:

“As for what anybody else thinks, always remember these words and live by them: screw ’em!” – Grandpa

Angus had a pretty big impact on me when I saw it back in the late ’90s. I thought it was one of the best movies of the teen coming-of-age genre. Something about it felt more pure and realistic than the dozens of other films like it and having now seen it, a quarter of a century later, I’m really pleased to discover that not only has it held up but it’s still relevant and even better than similar movies that came after it.

I think that this movie flourished in that it used a cast of mostly unknown teens. Sure, it had Academy Award winners George C. Scott (who refused his Oscar for Patton) and Kathy Bates but they just sort of added legitimacy to the film and probably helped get it in front of audiences that might have otherwise missed it. Plus, they’re both damn good in it and even if their roles are smaller than the teens in the movie, they really have a profound effect on the overall story and Angus’ character arc and personal growth.

The story is about a smart but awkward fat kid who is voted homecoming king as a joke. However, it gives him the opportunity to at least have a dance with the girl he is crushing on, as well as allowing him stand up against the bullies trying to break him down.

It’s a pretty fresh take on the awkward kid trying to win over the popular love interest trope and it’s done remarkably well, which I think has to do with superb writing but also the great performances of the young cast. Frankly, there isn’t a weak link among them and the film’s title character, played by Charlie Talbert, is just great in every scene.

Talbert was a newcomer and this was his first professional credit. Still, this kid held his own sharing scenes with George C. Scott and Kathy Bates and it’s pretty damned impressive.

I think another thing that adds a lot to the picture is the music. The film is full of great tunes from ’90s alternative rock bands and even if it dates the movie, it still sets the tone and allows the viewer to sort of sink into this kid’s world.

Angus is something I should probably revisit more often. It’s absolutely one of the best motion pictures of its type and it’s still good with a message that will always be relevant.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other teen coming-of-age movies of the ’80s and ’90s.

Documentary: Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995)

Also known as: The Lost Films of Orson Welles (UK TV title)
Release Date: October, 1995 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: Orson Welles, Vassili Silovic, Oja Kodar
Written by: Orson Welles, Vassili Silovic, Roland Zag
Music by: Simon Cloquet-Lafollye
Cast: Orson Welles, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Charles Gray, Jonathan Lynn, Oja Kodar

Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA), La Cinquieme Boa Filmproduction Ag Zurich, 88 Minutes

Review:

When Orson Welles died in the mid-’80s, he left behind some unfinished work.

None of it really saw the light of day until the ’90s when his creative and life partner Oja Kodar started compiling these works together and teamed up with other creatives in an effort to release them in some form. This is one of those releases.

This first debuted in 1995 and it’s really an anthology of unfinished films. Although, it feels more like of an anthology of shorts due to it being a varied mix of stuff, mostly little segments or scenes.

Overall, this isn’t all that cohesive and plays like a video mixtape of random Welles ideas that were put to film but never truly realized or massaged into what they could’ve been. That certainly doesn’t mean this is bad but it feels more like peering into his creative process and his experimentation. Honestly, I’m not sure what his plan was, if any.

I guess it’s hard to interpret what’s here but it’s still entertaining and the man was a fucking legend.

I can see people that are unfamiliar with Welles or who don’t already appreciate his work not digging this film at all. That’s fine. But for those who are intrigued by the man’s creativity and charm, it’s a fun look into what could’ve been.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Orson Welles documentaries and films, many of which have already been reviewed here.

Film Review: Tank Girl (1995)

Release Date: March 31st, 1995
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: Tedi Sarafian
Based on: Tank Girl by Alan Martin, Jamie Hewlett
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell, Jeff Kober, Reg E. Cathey, Scott Coffey, Iggy Pop, James Hong, Doug Jones, Frank Welker (voice)

Image Comics, Trilogy Entertainment, United Artists, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Look, it’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down.” – Tank Girl

While Lori Petty was a great choice to play Tank Girl, this is a pretty awful movie that I’ve never been a fan of.

The concept is cool but the execution of it was terrible in just about every way.

I will say that I like the general look and aesthetic of the movie but it’s the clunky and unfunny script that really drags this concept down into the mud and drowns it before it has a chance to save itself.

The jokes never land and that’s not Petty’s fault, as she’s working with the script they gave her. And honestly, I have to give her props for really giving this her all, as she brings her A-game but basically wastes it in what should have been a really cool flick that could’ve even spawned a franchise had it been handled much better.

I also think the direction is a big problem too. I’ve never been a big fan of Rachel Talalay’s film work and that started with the abysmally bad Freddy’s Dead, which truly derailed the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. By this point, nearly a half decade later, she still hadn’t found her footing as a director.

Now I do generally like most of the characters in this but you’ve got Malcolm McDowell and yet, he’s severely underutilized and it feels like he’s barely in the film other than about three key scenes.

Honestly, this is just disappointing and the source material could’ve been harvested much, much better.

Side note: this is the cutest Naomi Watts ever was. I think I watched this shit movie more times than I should’ve in my teens because I was crushing so hard on Jet Girl.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi B-movies of the early-to-mid ’90s. Especially, those based on comics or video games.

Film Review: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Also known as: JM (Japan)
Release Date: April 15th, 1995 (Japan)
Directed by: Robert Longo
Written by: William Gibson
Based on: Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson
Music by: Brad Fiedel, Mychael Danna (Japanese release)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Dina Meyer, Ice-T, Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi Kitano, Denis Akiyama, Henry Rollins, Udo Kier, Tracy Tweed, Don Francks

Alliance Communications Corporation, Cinévision, TriStar Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t shoot me.” – Johnny Mnemonic, “Not in the head.” – Takahashi

I saw this in 1995 and thought it was a cool movie, even if it was a bit wacky. Watching it in 2021, the year that the film’s story takes place, I can say that it hasn’t aged very well.

Also, they definitely didn’t come close to predicting an accurate 2021.

Still, this is a cool movie, even now, and the fact that it is outdated makes it somewhat endearing.

If I’m being honest, it’s hard not to like Keanu Reeves in anything. But then add in the always alluring Dina Meyer, the badass Dolph Lundgren, punk legend Henry Rollins, gangster rap legend Ice-T, Udo Kier, Takeshi Kitano and set it in a dystopian cyberpunk future and you have what should be a winning formula.

The problem (and for some, a benefit) of the movie is that it is the epitome of ’90s sci-fi action.

For someone like me, that’s a pretty good thing. But with that usually comes strange, experimental special effects, as CGI was really still in its infancy. Plus, there is a certain stylistic panache that makes this seem clunkily crafted with garish, fantastical tech and old tech retrofitted to seem futuristic.

Through modern eyes, films like this can be described “retro futuristic”. With that, it’s near impossible, once dated by a long passage of time, for these movies to not come across as hokey and kind of silly.

Regardless of all that, I still like the movie for the most part. The actors are all fine in their roles, even if a few of them hammed it up a bit too much. But I also don’t blame the actors for that, as the real issues from the movie seem to come from its direction.

It’s hard to really see what the director’s vision was, as the picture is kind of sloppy, confusing and poorly edited. While other people were involved in these aspects of making this film, it still falls on the director to take all these elements and make his vision come through. Johnny Mnemonic, from an artistic standpoint, just feels amateurish.

In the end, this is fairly entertaining if ’90s cyberpunk flicks are your thing. However, without Keanu Reeves, I think that this is a really forgettable movie that probably would’ve never gotten the cult following it obtained had Reeves never been in it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk movies of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

Also known as: Gamera daikaijû kuchu kessen (original Japanese title), Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Showdown (Japanese English title)
Release Date: March 11th, 1995 (Japan)
Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko
Written by: Kazunori Ito
Music by: Kow Otani
Cast: Shinobu Nakayama, Ayako Fujitani, Yukijiro Hotaru

Daiei Studios, Hakuhodo, NTV Network, Toho Co. Ltd., 96 Minutes

Review:

Gamera movies are a lot of fun for hardcore fans of kaiju and tokusatsu flicks that want to go deeper than just the regular Godzilla films.

However, they were always sort of shit. That is, until this movie came out in 1995 and gave the world a Gamera picture that was taken really seriously and may actually be as good as the ’90s Godzilla movies. Hell, I’d say this is even better than some of them.

This has a darker tone than the jovial kids movies of the original run of films. Also, this has a harder edge and the monsters are more played up for scares than slapstick comic relief.

I like that the studio stuck to using actors in monster suits, as well as great miniature sets for them to wreck while duking it out over the course of the story.

In fact, the special effects for the time and budget are exceptionally good. Quality-wise, this is one of the best looking kaiju movies of the Heisei era.

Plus, I like the cast in this a lot more than what’s typical in these sort of films. The core characters stand out, have purpose and make the human part of the story a worthwhile one, which can often times just get in the way of what audiences really want to see, which is giant monster mayhem. 

This also sets up future films, which for this era in the Gamera franchise led to a pretty impressive trilogy.

From memory, I feel like each sequel improved upon its predecessor but since it’s been so long since I’ve watched these, I’ll refrain from actually stating that until I revisit and review them in the coming weeks.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Gamera films of the Heisei era.

Film Review: Casino (1995)

Release Date: April 3rd, 1995 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese
Based on: Casino: Love and Honor In Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi
Music by: various
Cast: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Kevin Pollak, James Woods, Alan King, L. Q. Jones, Dick Smothers, Frank Vincent, John Bloom (Joe Bob Briggs), Richard Riehle, Frankie Avalon

Syalis DA, Legende Enterprises, Universal Pictures, 178 Minutes

Review:

“Listen to me very carefully. There are three ways of doing things around here: the right way, the wrong way, and the way that I do it. You understand?” – Ace Rothstein

Casino was the longest of Martin Scorsese’s films until The Wolf of Wall Street came out nearly two decades later. More recently, The Irishman came out and took the title. Truthfully, this picture could’ve actually been shorter by about a half hour but it’s still pretty damn good.

I do like this movie but my review may still come off as overly critical or as if I don’t like it. Reason being, it’s far from my favorite Scorsese flick and I feel like it’s trying to be too much like the far superior Goodfellas and because of that, it’s hard not to compare it to its superior, more interesting and energetic, predecessor.

To start, the acting in this is superb from top-to-bottom. I’d say that this also features Sharon Stone’s greatest performance even if her character was completely unlikable. By the end of the film, however, you actually feel for her character and her dark fate. That’s honestly got to be a testament to how great she was in this and how Scorsese really maximized her talent in a way that few directors have.

Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci were also fabulous but this is also really familiar territory for them and they already had tremendous chemistry, by this point, as they had starred alongside each other in several films before this one.

Other standouts were Frank Vincent and John Bloom, who is known by most people as the legendary and charismatic Joe Bob Briggs. Both these guys shined in this and in regards to Bloom, I had always wished he’d been in more films, as he proves in this that he can act pretty well in the right situation.

The narrative structure is almost too much like Goodfellas, though, and I find it kind of distracting, as it continually makes me think of that film and if Scorsese is just relying on what seems to be a trope that worked exceptionally well for him half a decade earlier. At the same time, I’ve never been a fan of multiple narrators, specifically when some of the characters are dead. That’s my problem, though, and I know that it doesn’t bother most people.

Back to one of my earlier points, this could’ve been better overall with about a half hour edited out. There are sometimes too many details and side plots, as this wedges in several characters that kind of don’t matter when you boil this story down to its core elements.

Also, the film does drag on in some parts and I feel like it would’ve been a much stiffer punch in less time with just the truly important parts left in. This also would’ve given the film more energy.

Casino is still a film Scorsese should definitely be proud of, as well as all the actors featured in it. I like the story, most of the characters and thought that it was a worthwhile way to spend three hours.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Martin Scorsese crime films, as well as those by Brian De Palma and Michael Mann’s Heat, also from 1995.

Film Review: Leprechaun 3 (1995)

Release Date: June 27th, 1995
Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written by: David DuBos
Based on: characters by Mark Jones
Music by: Dennis Michael Terry
Cast: Warwick Davis, John Gatins, Caroline Williams, Lee Armstrong, Marcelo Tubert, John DeMita, Michael Callan, Tom Dugan

Blue Rider Productions, VIDMark Entertainment, Trimark Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“There was an old man of Madras whose balls were made of fine brass. So in stormy weather they both clang together and sparks flew out of his ass.” – Leprechaun

I think that Leprechaun 2 and 3 are pretty close in quality and both films are a bit better than the Jennifer Aniston starring original. However, these movies are very far from great and they don’t hold a candle to other slasher-y franchises with iconic monsters at their center. And frankly, this is probably why when people want to have famous slashers fight one another in mashup movies, no one ever really throws the Leprechaun in the mix.

That’s not to say that Warwick Davis isn’t good, he’s as the British say, “brilliant!” He’s just unfortunately bogged down by a string of crappy productions that he singlehandedly keeps afloat just by being great in them.

One benefit that this one has though is Caroline Williams, who I have always liked since first seeing her in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and then several other horror films since then. She’s a pretty iconic scream queen and she plays an interesting character, here, who ends up having one of the best deaths in this franchise.

Additionally, I really liked the Vegas setting even if the casino in this film was obviously some warehouse in California that they simply rolled a few gaming tables into.

I also really liked the main female lead and thought that she was the best final girl in the film series. Plus, she’s absolutely stunning and I’m surprised that she never had much of a career.

The male lead on the other hand was pretty awful. But he would go on to have a pretty good writing career in the film business.

Overall, I guess this one is tied for first place with the second film. But I do like this one just a wee bit more because of the setting, the final girl and Caroline Williams’ inclusion.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.

Film Review: Se7en (1995)

Also known as: Seven (alternative spelling), The Seven Deadly Sins (working title)
Release Date: September 15th, 1995 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, John C. McGinley, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Roundtree, Richard Schiff, Mark Boone Junior, Michael Massee, Leland Orser, Hawthorne James, Reg E. Cathey, Charles S. Dutton (uncredited)

Cecchi Gori Pictures, Juno Pix, New Line Cinema, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Wanting people to listen, you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention.” – John Doe

I was blown away by this movie when I first saw it, back in the ’90s. I would watch it pretty regularly for about ten years. However, it’s been at least a decade since I’ve seen it and even though I knew I loved it, I somehow underestimated it and forgot how great it actually is.

Fincher made a solid trio of movies in a row in the mid-to-late ’90s between this, The Game and what I consider his magnum opus, Fight Club. Being that I still hadn’t reviewed these films, I figured I’d start with the first.

Fincher had a very distinct look with his movies and while it might not appear distinct and unique nowadays, that’s because a lot of less capable directors came in and stole his aesthetic. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as they say. I would also add that theft is the weakest form of creativity but if you’re going to steal, steal from the greats.

While I’m not a massive Fincher fan, his later ’90s work is pretty fucking exceptional.

Se7en is well acted, well directed, looks incredible and features a story so dark, fucked up and mesmerizing that it’s hard to turn away from the screen, even if you’ve seen the movie a dozen times.

This motion picture is the result of having all the right people from top-to-bottom, behind and in front of the camera. As far as the actors go, they all played their parts perfectly. They felt like real people in a real situation. The relationships between the characters come across as genuine. I loved that the new partners were at odds with one another but knew they had a job to do in spite of their personal issues and differences in their approach to police work and their philosophies on the universe and our place in it.

The score by Howard Shore is one of the composer’s best and when you really look at his body of work, this included, he’s such a versatile composer that it’s sometimes hard to tell that you’re listening to his music. It’s always good but it never takes over a film and just blends in with it, accenting it in a great way.

Additionally, the songs used throughout the film are great, especially the tracks that were used by David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails, as they both fit absolutely perfectly within this picture’s atmosphere.

There’s nothing bad I can really say about this film. My only really gripe is that I’m not a huge fan of the ending. But I’m a traditionalist that doesn’t want the bad guy to win. While he meets his demise, his plan is executed to perfection and while I knew that Brad Pitt’s character was flawed by his emotions and idealism, there’s still that part of me that wishes he would’ve been stronger. Granted, I’ve never had my wife’s head put into a box. Also, this came out in the edge lord ’90s.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: David Fincher’s other ’90s films not named Alien 3.