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
“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.
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
“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.
Also known as: Bad Around the World (working title) Release Date: July 9th, 2003 (Westwood premiere) Directed by: MIchael Bay Written by: Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley Based on: characters by George Gallo Music by: Trevor Rabin Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, John Salley, Otto Sanchez, Jon Seda, Oleg Taktarov, Michael Shannon, Henry Rollins, Dan Marino (cameo)
Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Columbia Pictures, 147 Minutes
“I’ve got so much brass up my ass that I can play the Star Spangled Banner.” – Captain Howard
This may be the most quintessential Michael Bay movie that I like. Honestly, it’s as good as a Bay film can be and it’s two leading stars just make every moment an enjoyable one.
I’m glad that I watched this again, after so many years, because it really builds off of the first film and ups the ante in a great way.
My only real complaint about it is that it’s a bit too long. I feel like some things could’ve been left out but Bay likes long movies with long action sequences and not too much plot getting in the way of the spectacle.
Still, this isn’t boring or slow, it just feels like it’s a half hour longer than it needs to be.
It’s well shot, competently edited and it displays the Bay style better than just about any other Bay movie. It’s certainly not a visual clusterfuck like his special effects heavy movies tend to be.
I also don’t think that this would’ve been anywhere near as good of a movie if it didn’t star Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Those guys, especially in this era, were just gold and they have incredible chemistry, as their bond in the film comes across as genuine and real.
The film’s plot is a cookie cutter drug crime tale. There’s not much about it that sets it apart from similar films and the criminal activity isn’t all that impressive or creative. But, honestly, it doesn’t need to be. This is a movie that’s just supposed to be a fun, mostly mindless, popcorn flick and it succeeds at that, immensely.
I enjoyed the additions to the cast and thought that Gabrielle Union was solid, which is probably why her character, all these years later, got her own spin off television series. I may have to watch and review it after I check out the third Bad Boys movie.
In the end, this is just pure, unadulterated, unfiltered fun. It stars two guys everyone should love, doesn’t have a dull moment, is equally badass and hilarious and has some incredibly great action sequences that have not only stood the test of time but are still some of the best ever filmed.
I don’t say this often but hats off to Michael Bay.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Bad Boys films, as well as the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop movies.
Also known as: Forever Sam Crow (working title) Original Run: September 3rd, 2008-December 9th, 2014 Directed by: various Written by: various Music by: Bob Thiele, Dave Kushner, Curtis Stigers Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera, Glenn Plummer, Taryn Manning, Emilio Rivera, Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Kenneth Choi, Kurt Sutter, Titus Welliver, Walton Goggins, Henry Rollins, Hal Holbrook, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Marilyn Manson, Kim Dickens, Chuck Zito, Ray McKinnon, Jeff Kober
Linson The Company, Sutter Ink, Fox 21, FX, 92 Episodes, 41-81 Minutes (per episode)
*Written in 2015.
This is one of those reviews that will probably turn a lot of my friends against me. I care not. I must tell it like it is from my point-of-view.
Sons of Anarchy is a show that I have developed a like/hate relationship with. I don’t say “love” because I’m not that enthralled with the positive aspects of it. It does however, have some positives amidst a sea of negatives. And I guess that makes me go against the popular opinion, as nearly everyone that I have talked to, has loved this show.
But I guess this isn’t a show for me. Where I expected something more like The Sopranos on motorcycles, this was more like a mindless action flick full of an overabundance of violence, bad CGI, bad acting, bad writing, bad music and really stupid and unlikable characters. Sons of Anarchy is geared more towards the male millennial crowd than it is for people who want good and groundbreaking television or at the very least, some sort of coherent plot.
This show is a mess. It is a moderately enjoyable mess at times but it is a show that constantly tries too hard and falls short. Yes, there are shocking and intense moments but they lose their meaning and significance almost immediately. For one, it is hard to care about any of these horrible characters. Also, with the show trying to constantly outdo itself and escalating further and further from episode to episode, things eventually get so over the top that it becomes unintentionally ludicrous.
The premise of the show also changes as it goes on and it loses sight of itself just a few seasons in. Maybe this is intentional but it really just feels like the weight of this ratings beast forced the showrunners to make quick, big decisions, which may have increased ratings further but sacrificed whatever integrity and soul the show may have had early on.
For instance, the show’s main drive in the beginning is the main character Jax’s obsession with his dead father’s writings. The writings talked about what the motorcycle club was supposed to be, how it got away from itself and how butt hurt Jax’s dad was about it. Jax then makes it his mission to right the wrongs and make the motorcycle club respectable. Maybe he would’ve been more inspired and followed through had he actually read more than two paragraphs of his father’s writings at a time. Maybe Jax has a bad attention span. Maybe that is why he couldn’t follow through because he got distracted by doing really stupid shit every episode.
In any event, the show evolves away from the club’s redemption through Jax’s leadership and instead shows the club fall on hard times and then even harder times. It just gets worse and worse, Jax stops reading his dad’s journals and pretty much turns into the asshole his stepfather Clay is. He actually turns out worse than Clay by the end of it all.
I could write a book about how much of an idiot Jax is but I’m not going to waste my time. I could also write a book about how much of an idiot his mother Gemma is.
All the characters really suck and all of them, for the most part, are stupid morons. They are the dumbest criminals I’ve ever seen. Darkwing Duck had smarter bad guys than the members of the Sons of Anarchy.
As far as likable characters, there are really only five. There is Wayne, who is on a tragic journey that ultimately ends up sucking really bad for him. Also, he had terminal cancer “eating away” at him in season one but somehow survived seven seasons. There is Jax’s ex-heroin addict wife who goes on to redeem herself and she’s about the only character you are happy for in the end. Then we have Nero, the pimp and tragic lover of Gemma. I really liked Nero but Jimmy Smits is awesome in every role. There’s Piney, who saw the bullshit for what it was and tried to hold everyone accountable. Since he was the voice of reason in a sea of shitty people, he was killed off. This brings me to my favorite character: Juice.
Juice is most likely the most tragic character in television history. Juice was a positive on this show even though his end was horrible. You couldn’t not like Juice and feel for him every step of the way. He truly cared about the club and doing the right thing but continually got fucked (literally) and lost his life and stature because the people he invested his love and loyalty in were pieces of garbage. Juice’s journey is one of the redeeming factors of this show. I don’t like how it ended but this show is one big tragedy.
In regards to the show’s music, it is terrible. The main theme is awful but somehow was nominated for an Emmy by some tone deaf Hollywood types. The songs throughout the show are even worse. More often than not, we are treated to some poor slowed down roots rock cover song of a known pop hit. It always feels bizarre, out of place and makes the show come off as generic and cheesy. At least once per season, we get some crappy song sung by Katey Sagal, who probably shouldn’t sing but is most likely encouraged by her husband, who is the show’s creator. That’s probably also why she was cast as Gemma. Lastly, the music selections are almost racist. When the biker gang fights another biker gang there is rock music. When they fight Mexicans: Spanish language gangsta rap. When they fight blacks: generic crappy English language gangsta rap. Asians: make sure to add in some Asian stringed instruments and gongs in over the soundtrack. Irish: Celtic shit. Persians: grab the sitar – hey wait, that’s Hindi you racist bastards! It’s sad and predictable and becomes a distraction.
This show was not The Sopranos on motorcycles, it was a Shakespearean tragedy on motorcycles. Which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the execution was shit and it tried to convince the viewer that it was clever while beating you over the head with its Shakespeareanism. After the tragic, pointless and retarded ending of the show, it even gives the viewer a Shakespeare quote before rolling its final credits. I’m sure dumb ass college students for years to come will write papers about how fantastic this modern Shakespearean saga is after just skimming over the Cliff Notes of Shakespeare’s work to make them feel the connection.
I don’t hate this show, even though it probably comes across like that. I had a hard time getting through segments of it but I enjoyed it enough to finish it. Granted, the ending was one of the worst in television history but really crappy endings to long-running shows is the trend lately. And maybe that ending just enhanced whatever bitterness I’m feeling.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with:The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Fear the Walking Dead and Justified but these are all better shows. Well, maybe not Justified, I’ll post my review for that soon.
Release Date: December 19th, 2014 Directed by: Scott Crawford Music by: Michael Hampton, various artists featured in the film
MVD Entertainment Group, 103 Minutes
Salad Days is a documentary I found on Amazon Video. If you’re a fan of the DC hardcore punk scene from the early 80s, you should find this pretty interesting.
The film interviews countless people who were either in the scene or who were effected by it in one way or another. You hear from Henry Rollins of Black Flag, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana and even some commentary from Fred Armisen. There are actually so many people involved in this picture, it is hard to recollect them all.
Lots of bands and artists talk about the scene and the culture born from the scene. The documentary also covers what it was like for the DC punk kids who frequented the Georgetown area of town and what hardships they faced from those who hated them.
Salad Days features a ton of music and shows some of the most memorable performances of the day. You get an intimate looks at Bad Brains, Black Flag and so many others. You also get to see how the genre evolved as new bands came in to shake things up throughout the 80s.
One cool thing about the film is that it allows for contradictory points-of-view and doesn’t try to push forth its own predetermined agenda. This is most apparent when they get to talking about the history of the scene as well as the birth of straight edge and emo.
There are a lot of rock documentaries out there but from a quality and storytelling standpoint, this is one of the best in recent years.