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

TV Review: Spider-Man (1994-1998)

Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998
Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee
Directed by: Bob Richardson
Written by: John Semper, various
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz
Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen

New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.

While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.

The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.

Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.

The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.

I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.

TV Review: Ray Donovan (2013-2020)

Original Run: June 30th, 2013 – January 19th, 2020
Created by: Ann Biderman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Marcelo Zarvos
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Pooch Hall, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon, Graham Rogers, Susan Sarandon, Elliott Gould, Peter Jacobson, Denise Crosby, Frank Whaley, Hank Azaria, James Woods, Rosanna Arquette, Sherilyn Fenn, Wendell Pierce, Ian McShane, Katie Holmes, Leland Orser, Aaron Staton, Fairuza Balk, Embeth Davidtz, Richard Brake, Lisa Bonet, Stacy Keach, Tara Buck, Ted Levine, C. Thomas Howell, Donald Faison, Lili Simmons, James Keach, Adina Porter, Jake Busey, Sandy Martin, Zach Grenier, Alan Alda, Lola Glaudini, Kerry Condon, Kevin Corrigan

David Hollander Productions, The Mark Gordon Company, Ann Biderman Co., Bider Sweet Productions, CBS, Showtime, 82 Episodes, 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Lots of people talked this show up for years like it was the second coming of The Sopranos. I wanted to wait for it to end, as I typically binge things in their entirety. With this show, that was probably the best way to view it, as so many things happen with so many characters, that it would’ve been hard remembering all the details over seven years.

I wouldn’t say that this is anywhere near as good as The Sopranos and I also don’t have as high of an opinion of that show as most people do. Granted, I did still like it quite a bit when it was current.

Ray Donovan follows Ray Donovan, a badass uber masculine guy that works as a Hollywood fixer. However, his entire family is complex and interesting and this isn’t so much about Ray being a fixer, as it is about his family’s criminal behavior and their turbulent personal lives.

The show does a remarkable job of pushing its characters to the point of you hating them but then finds a way to make you realize you love them. It’s a show that actually has a lot of mini redemption arcs but it also shows, within that, that people tend to surrender to their nature even if they want to work on themselves.

Ray is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen on television but that can also be said about several other core characters, here

I think in the end, my favorite character ended up being Eddie Marsan’s Terry, the eldest Donovan brother, as he was always trying to do the right thing by his family, even if they often times found themselves doing really shitty things.

I also liked Bunchy a lot but by the end, his constant bad luck and terrible decisions became exhausting.

The first five seasons are really solid, even if the fourth was a bit weak. The show kind of lost me in season six, where it moved from Los Angeles to New York City and didn’t feel like it had much of a point. Plus, there are things that happened in season six that made the show jump the shark for me.

The only thing that really saved the last two seasons was how damn good Sandy Martin was once she entered the show.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this and if anything, it showcased incredible performances by stellar actors playing really fucked up but endearing characters.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Sopranos, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Justified.

Film Review: Godzilla (1998)

Release Date: May 18th, 1998 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: Godzilla by Toho
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant, Vicki Lewis, Richard Gant, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker (voice)

Centropolis Film Productions, Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Toho Co. Ltd., 139 Minutes

Review:

“What the hell’s the matter with you people? You’ve caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!” – Mayor Ebert

Yes, Mayor Ebert… you’ve got a fucking point, as most of the actual destruction in this movie is committed by the moronic military and not the giant monster.

I’m not sure if that’s because Roland Emmerich wanted to paint the military and the government as incompetent assholes or because he’s just a shitty director that didn’t have the talent to replicate the success of Independence Day. But his first big mistake was making this story’s heroes the absolute antithesis of those from that much better movie.

Whatever the reason though, this movie is so fucking stupid that it’s painful to watch, which is why I have never actually sat down and watched this in its entirety in one sitting. Sure, I’ve seen the whole film in increments thanks to cable television but as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I had no urge to see this in the theater when it came out and all the footage and sequences I’ve seen over the years has only solidified my disdain for this big budget kaiju-sized abortion.

Many people have claimed that this isn’t a true Godzilla film and that it is the worst one ever made. Those people aren’t wrong, as I’d rather be stuck in a room for 24 hours being forced to watch Godzilla’s Revenge, over and over, than have to watch this film ever again.

It’s completely incompetent from top-to-bottom with brainless characters, impressively bad dialogue and a story that feels like it was freestyled from the mind of a child playing with kaiju toys in the bathtub.

There is no traditional three act structure and this is just a string of sequences where some of them feel like they don’t even fit within the same movie. It also gets so far away from the core of what Godzilla is that it truly isn’tGodzilla movie, it’s some sort of generic kaiju flick trying to borrow more from Jurassic Park than its own namesake.

Had this not been given the Godzilla name and branding, it may have been more palatable but there is nothing about this that can win over the fans they assumed they’d lure in just by using the name of the world’s most famous giant monster. While that may have been a run-on sentence, 1998’s Godzilla was a run-on movie.

About two-thirds of the way into the film they “kill” Godzilla, after destroying half of Manhattan. Then suddenly we’re sucked into a different movie where baby Godzillas are chasing the heroes idiots through Madison Square Garden like an army of velociraptors in a cheap attempt at trying to one-up the far superior Jurassic Park movies. Once the babies are killed, Godzilla miraculously rises from the ashes like, “Fuck you, hoes! Ain’t dead!” It’s a clusterfuck that shows that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have time for any sort of traditional narrative structure. And no, that’s not an artistic choice it’s just the incompetence of a moron that cares more about mass destruction than actually making cinematic art.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects yet, which are a mixed bag but mostly shit. Where practical effects are used, things actually look quite good but where the film employs CGI, it looks terrible even for 1998. Hell, this movie came out two years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day and it looks significantly cheaper than that film. This is really where big studios started to rely on CGI too much and it killed the immersion into the cinematic world onscreen. I never feel that way when watching Independence Day or Jurassic Park but here, it’s fucking distracting.

The action sequences with dozens of Apache helicopters flying through the canyon-like streets of New York City like swarms of insects just look cartoonish and buffonish. In fact, all these big action sequences between the military and Godzilla look more like a video game than a motion picture. Maybe modern HD makes it look worse than it did in 1998 but the digital flaws are really apparent and it looks like the studio cut corners in post-production or just rushed this out too soon.

Based off of the final product, Roland Emmerich could’ve just invented his own kaiju creature. But I guess less people would’ve gone to see that, so bastardizing something beloved was the easiest route to go when you can’t actually rely on talent.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Roland Emmerich schlock that cost way too much to make.

TV Review: Brockmire (2017- )

Original Run: April 5th, 2017 – current
Created by: Joel Church-Cooper, Hank Azaria
Directed by: Tim Kirkby
Written by: various
Based on: character created by Hank Azaria
Music by: Adam Blau
Cast: Hank Azaria, Amanda Peet, Tyrel Jackson Williams, Toby Huss, Carrie Preston, Martha Plimpton

Funny Or Die, How 2 Pictures, IFC, 16 Episodes (so far), 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is one of those shows I wanted to watch from the get go but I rarely use cable anymore and kept forgetting about it. But I saw that it was on Hulu, at least the first two seasons, so I finally gave it a watch.

For starters, I’ve always enjoyed Hank Azaria in just about everything and his pairing with Amanda Peet, here, is really enjoyable. They have good chemistry and I was kind of caught off guard by how well they work together.

Additionally, I have been a big baseball fan my entire life and there just aren’t enough baseball television shows. This really fills that void and while it has a similar comedic and dramatic style as another IFC show, Maron, it also calls back to the film Bull Durham a bit. Also, a lot of the baseball team shenanigans reminds me a lot of Eastbound & Down, the Major League movies and the hockey comedy Goon.

Brockmire goes deeper than the laughs on its surface. It is a real character study of the title character and how complicated his life is and how he is trying to overcome the pain of his past. Azaria really hits the ball out of the park with his performance. There are times where the character can be a real dick but there is a very damaged man beneath the surface that is easy to relate to in just how human Azaria makes him.

Peet is both fiery and adorable and her character is just as strong as Azaria’s and she is a good balance to him. Man, I really love her in this and while I’ve liked a lot of her roles in the past, this may be the best she’s been. She owns it, completely.

In the end, this is a show about a wrecked human being trying to pick up the pieces. It’s certainly not a new concept and it’s a narrative style that comes with its own tropes but Azaria keeps things fresh and even at Brockmire’s worst, it’s hard not to root for him.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: MaronEastbound & Down, GLOW, the Major League films, Bull Durham and Goon.

TV Review: Maniac (2018)

Original Run: September 21st, 2018 – current
Created by: Patrick Somerville
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written by: Patrick Somerville, various
Based on: Maniac by Espen PA Lervaag, Håakon Bast Mossige, Kjetil Indregard, Ole Marius Araldsen
Music by: Dan Romer
Cast: Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux, Sonoya Mizuno, Gabriel Byrne, Sally Field, Julia Garner, Hank Azaria, Selenis Leyva

Parliament of Owls, Rubicon TV, Anonymous Content, Paramount Television, Netflix, 10 Episodes (so far), 26-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I had no idea what this show was and I hadn’t heard anything about it before it dropped. That being said, I was glad that I went into this blindly. All I knew is that it was sci-fi, had Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and was directed by a guy who did True Detective, a show I still haven’t seen but have heard nothing but great things about.

Also, this is a miniseries. So I’m not sure if it’s a one-off or if it will return for new seasons with a whole new cast similar to Fukunaga’s True Detective or a lot of other recent television shows on various premium and cable networks.

The story is hard to summarize but in a nutshell this is about two people who undergo some controversial and dangerous drug trial. The pills and the almost otherworldly tech sends them into a strong dream state where they play out the lives of other people. The first story seems grounded in reality, even if it’s a bit nuts, and then each tale gets more and more fantastical. Ultimately, it all serves to help cure them of their personal and emotional demons. The two main characters, played by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, develop a strong connection as they become directly involved in each other’s road to emotional recovery.

The show started out really strong, it lost me a bit going into the second half but then it recovered nicely in the last two episodes where everything came together in a great way.

This was a really cool experiment and this was exceptionally well crafted but I don’t know if it’s something I would want to revisit in a second season. I guess that depends on the cast and what the premise would be.

I loved the hybrid of retro and futuristic styles. In a lot of ways, this resembles an ’80s cinematic representation of the future.

I guess the high point for me was Sally Field. I liked seeing her play two very contrasting roles and she nailed both exceptionally well but at the same time, it’s Sally f’n Field.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Netflix shows: Black MirrorAltered Carbon and The OA.