Film Review: True Romance (1993)

Release Date: September 8th, 1993 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini, Bronson Pinchot, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, Conchata Ferrell, Chris Penn, Anna Thomson, Victor Argo, Tom Sizemore, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Beach, Ed Lauter (uncredited)

August Entertainment, Davis-Films, Morgan Creek Entertainment, 119 Minutes (theatrical), 121 minutes (unrated Director’s Cut)

Review:

“If there’s one thing this last week has taught me, it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” – Clarence Worley

Since I just revisited Natural Born Killers, a film written by but not directed by Quentin Tarantino, I figured that I’d also checkout the other one.

True Romance was directed by Tony Scott using a script that Tarantino sold in an effort to get enough money to make Reservoir Dogs. That being said, out of the two scripts he sold, this is the one that was translated to screen the best. Also, Tarantino doesn’t disown this film, as he does Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

I think that Scott’s directorial style mixed with Tarantino’s writing was a pretty good match. Granted, this also benefits from having an incredibly talented ensemble cast and one of Hans Zimmer’s most unique but incredibly effective musical scores.

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are f’n dynamite in this and despite the insanity of the circumstances they created, they were pretty believable, had superb chemistry and you really wanted these two kids, who had just found true love in each other, to make it though and have that “happily ever after” ending. They luckily succeed. Although, maybe they don’t but I’ll get into that towards the end of the review.

Beyond the two leads you’ve got so many notable people, many of which are in small roles or in the case of Val Kilmer, completely obscured to the point that you don’t even know that it’s him. The real standout scene in the film doesn’t even star the leads, though, it stars Dennis Hopper, who is only in a handful of scenes and Christopher Walken, who is only in this one iconic scene. And man, it’s one of the greatest scenes of Walken’s career. It happens midway through the film and it leaves you with a legitimate sense of dread, making you understand just how much trouble the young lovers are actually in.

The second most iconic scene in this is where Patricia Arquette enters her motel room alone to find James Gandolfini sitting in a chair clutching a shotgun. It’s an unnerving and extremely f’d up scene, as Gandolfini brutalizes Arquette. It’s a scene that Hollywood wouldn’t have the balls to do today due to how brutal it is. However, Arquette does get the upper hand in this ultraviolent fracas and makes Gandolfini pay in an even more brutal way.

That being said, this is an exceptionally violent film but those who have experienced Tarantino’s work, should know what they are getting into, even if the material is brought to life by another director.

So watching this film for the first time in a long time, I was left wondering about the ending. We see the young lovers leave behind the craziness that became their life for a bit. The closing moments show them on a beach with a child. All seems well and good.

However, I doubt that Christopher Walken’s very driven and cold mobster character isn’t just going to stop looking for them, especially after the crew he sent to catch and kill them were all taken out in a blaze of violence in the film’s finale. So there’s that bit of worry in the back of my head and it does leave the movie open for a sequel. However, I’d leave this alone and never attempt that. By this point, that ship has most definitely sailed, anyway.

True Romance is a great film, top-to-bottom. It’s built up a legitimate cult following over the years and being that Arquette’s Alabama is directly tied to Harvey Keitel’s Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs sets it in the same universe as that film and Pulp Fiction and just adds to the picture’s mystique and coolness.

Rating: 9/10

Documentary Review: Val (2021)

Release Date: July 7th, 2021 (Cannes)
Directed by: Ting Poo, Leo Scott
Written by: Val Kilmer
Music by: Garth Stevenson
Cast: Val Kilmer, Jack Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Mercedes Kilmer, various

Cartel Film Production, Boardwalk Pictures, IAC Films, A24, Amazon Studios, 109 Minutes

Review:

I have always liked Val Kilmer. As a kid, he was the cool, smart guy I wanted to be in Real Genius. Then he was the cool badass in Top Gun. After that, he was the coolest of all his characters in Willow. Beyond that, I loved him in just about everything.

Over the years, his roles have been fewer and fewer and not too long ago, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, which he beat, but chemotherapy and two tracheotomies had a very adverse effect on his speaking voice.

Kilmer had a reputation of being difficult to work with and a perfectionist. While I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that and Kilmer has admitted to being difficult, at times, these things are usually overblown in the media and people tend to believe the narrative creating something more akin to legend than reality.

Unbeknownst to most, Kilmer has filmed his life since before he started acting. He has thousands of hours of footage and over the last decade, he started having everything backed up digitally, to preserve it, as best he could. During that process, it was decided that maybe he should put it all together in a way that would allow him to tell his own story.

Since Val has a hard time speaking, he wrote the narration for the film but had his son Jack read it. I thought that this worked quite well and it allowed Val’s words to flow from the mouth of someone close to his heart and his legacy.

Overall, this was a damn good story and I’m glad that Kilmer was able to work on something in spite of his condition and his physical limitations. This was a really personal and emotional story that allowed Kilmer to address his critics, shed light on things from his past and showcase his life from his point-of-view.

With that, there’s obviously going to be a bit of bias in the film but I think that Kilmer is pretty open about his feelings, his thoughts, his motivations and revealing the lessons he’s learned throughout his pretty interesting life.

Most importantly, this was engaging and entertaining. Beyond that, it was a very human story and while some may see Kilmer now and feel like his best days are behind him, I think the man has a pretty bright future ahead of him due to how he’s adapted well to his adversity and because of the love of those around him.

Rating: 8/10

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: Tombstone (1993)

Release Date: December 25th, 1993
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Written by: Kevin Jarre
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Robert John Burke, Dana Delany, Sam Elliott, Stephen Lang, Joanna Pacula, Bill Paxton, Jason Priestley, Michael Rooker, Jon Tenney, Billy Zane, Charlton Heston, Thomas Haden Church, Paula Malcomson, Lisa Collins, John Philbin, Harry Carey Jr., Billy Bob Thornton, Terry O’Quinn, Frank Stallone, Christopher Mitchum, Robert Mitchum (narrator)

Alphaville Films, Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures, 130 Minutes, 134 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Take a good look at him, Ike… ’cause that’s how you’re gonna end up! The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin’ it! So run, you cur… run! Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’! You tell ’em I’m coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?… Hell’s coming with me!” – Wyatt Earp

I feel like an asshole because I haven’t seen this since it was first on VHS where I then watched it a half dozen times but then haven’t seen it since.

I knew that this was packed full of a lot of great manly men actors. However, I had forgotten how many were actually in this and some of them I wouldn’t have recognized back in the mid-’90s as they hadn’t fully blossomed by that point.

What’s really interesting about this pretty over-the-top, high octane western flick is that it is pretty accurate. Granted, some things were adapted from stories and legends that made the rounds after the events of the film but that’s due to there not being a whole lot of recorded history on the lives and extra context of some of these historical figures and frankly, that’s not too dissimilar from most historical pictures trying to be as factual as possible. Sometimes, there are only so many facts and you have to turn to the folklore to fill in the blanks.

This film was directed by George P. Cosmatos, a guy I will always appreciate because he helmed Rambo: First Blood, Part II and one of my favorite and grossly underrated action films, Cobra. He also directed Leviathan, which is an underwater Alien knockoff but it’s got a solid cast and is pretty entertaining, regardless.

Apparently, Kurt Russell was also pretty instrumental in the direction of this movie, as well. From what I’ve read, he was pretty much an uncredited co-director, as he felt really passionate about this movie and his role as the legendary Old West hero, Wyatt Earp. So it’s hard to fully give director credit to either Cosmatos or Russell but their combined effort turned out one of the greatest westerns ever made.

Beyond the direction, this film is also great because of its immense and uber talented cast.

Top-to-bottom, this film is full of stars but they all fit their roles to a friggin’ tee. They blend into this world and while you very much know who they all are, you don’t get lost in the sea of familiar faces because they’re all so good and so is the script.

I’ve got to say that the real standout for me was Michael Biehn, though. Man, he’s already one of my favorite actors of his era but he shines in this movie like he never has before. This truly elevated him and he showed up for work, ready to make Johnny Ringo one of the most iconic western movie villains of all-time. He succeeded at that, greatly. Re-watching this now also kind of pisses me off, as he never really reached the superstardom he probably deserved and he should’ve really moved on to bigger things after this.

I also loved the hell out of Powers Boothe in this and I’d say it’s one of his best performances too.

All in all, this is action packed, fast paced and has the right level of testosterone flowing through every scene. Well, except for maybe the romantic horse riding bit, which feels a tad out of place. But other than that, this is a pretty close to perfect masterpiece.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s westerns and films with just a bunch of badass dudes kicking the shit out of assholes.

Film Review: Top Gun (1986)

Release Date: May 12th, 1986 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Based on: Top Guns by Ehud Yonay
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, John Stockwell, Barry Tubb, Rick Rossovich, Tim Robbins, Clarence Gilyard, Whip Hubley, James Tolkan, Meg Ryan, Adrian Pasdar

Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“That was some of the best flying I’ve seen yet. Right up to the part where you got killed. You never, never leave your wing man.” – Jester

If you weren’t around when this movie originally came out, it might be hard to understand how much of an impact it had on pop culture. As a kid and a big fan of G.I. Joe and movies like Iron Eagle and Red Dawn, I thought it was cool as hell. The coolness was also maximized through the casting of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, as well as the Kenny Loggins hit song “Danger Zone”.

Also, to my little mind, Maverick was about the coolest f’n name ever!

Anyway, I used to watch this a lot. It’s been years since I’ve seen it though but I wanted to get a fresh take on it before its long-awaited sequel comes out later this year, assuming it’s not delayed again.

While I actually don’t see this as a great film or have the crazy amount of love for it as many from my generation do, it’s still entertaining as hell and it’s really cool simply for the insane visuals of all the fighter jets just doing their thing. The aerial stunt work is f’n phenomenal! That being said, there just wasn’t anything like this when it came out and many have tried to replicate it with less success. Nowadays, they just opt out and go the CGI route but everything you see in this movie is real.

Apart from that, the story is just decent. It doesn’t really grab you or pull you in and it feels like its all just to set up the aerial parts of the movie. While I do like the characters, they also feel grossly underdeveloped. You spend all this time with them but it’s hard to connect to them. Sure, it’s tragic when Goose dies and you understand Maverick’s heartbreak but it doesn’t have as much impact and meaning had we seen these characters fleshed out more.

I think that the movie actually suffers from having a little too much of its best part: the aerial stunts. If that was trimmed down a bit or the film was a wee bit longer and just spent more time developing the core characters, it could’ve been something much better.

Still, it is a cool and energetic movie that’s well acted and superbly executed. And despite what I feel is a lack of character development, it does hit me in the feels when Iceman finally accepts Maverick at the end.

Also, I f’n love James Tolkan in everything.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Tom Cruise movies of the ’80s.

Vids I Dig 419: The Critical Drinker: ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ – The Most Disastrous Movie Ever Made

From The Critical Drinker’s YouTube description: In a change of pace today, I thought it would be a laugh to take a look at one of the most infamously troubled productions in Hollywood history – the disaster that is The Island of Dr Moreau.

Film Review: Willow (1988)

Release Date: May, 1988 (Cannes)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Bob Dolman, George Lucas
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Warwick Davis, Billy Barty, Jean Marsh, Patricia Hayes, Pat Roach, Gavan O’Herlihy, Phil Fondacaro, Tony Cox, Kenny Baker (uncredited)

Imagine Entertainment, Lucasfilm Ltd., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 126 Minutes

Review:

“Magic is the bloodstream of the universe. Forget all you know, or think you know. All that you require is your intuition.” – High Aldwin

I wish that Willow was more beloved than it is. It definitely has its fans but for whatever reason, it never quite reached the levels of popularity that Lucasfilms’ other big properties reached: Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

To be fair, I’d say that this isn’t as good as those other two properties but it is still in the ballpark and not far off.

Willow is an imaginative and fun adventure that was one in a string of special effects milestones in the early days of Lucasfilms’ digital effects mastery. This film had a major breakthrough in its use of visual morphing technology.

But apart from the special effects wizardry in the film, it also came to life with its spectacular sets, wardrobe and art direction.

What makes this click on a level much higher than just being a standard blockbuster is the ensemble cast. Everyone in this film is good and fun to watch, as they all felt like they were giving the movie their all, they had good chemistry and they were believable in their roles. I especially like the chemistry between Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer, as well as Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley, who became my third or fourth childhood crush because of this film. Apparently, she became Kilmer’s crush too, as they met on this film’s set and married shortly thereafter. And they stayed together for almost a decade, which is in eternity in Hollywood time.

The casting of Jean Marsh as the film’s main villain, an evil sorceress named Bavmorda, was a stroke of genius. One, because she is a damn good actress but can really be terrifying. Two, because her appearance in a similar role from Return to Oz was still fresh in my childhood mind when this came out. And I’m sure it was fresh in a lot of kid’s minds, who were scarred for life by the witch with the interchangeable heads.

I’ve really got to tip my hat to Warwick Davis, though. I don’t think that most people realize that he was just seventeen when this movie was filmed. He carries himself like a true veteran and even though he’s not the top billed star, he is the main character of the film, which is also why the movie’s name is his character’s name. Willow is his journey.

I wish that this had led to more leading roles for Davis but I think that was also the intent had this film done as well as the other Lucasfilm tentpole movies. It underperformed, even though it did make a profit, and that’s probably why this didn’t get the trilogy treatment. Granted, there are still talks of bringing the world of Willow back to the screen and there was also a sequel novel trilogy written by Chris Claremont with the plot outlines done by George Lucas.

Willow is one of the best fantasy epics of its time. I think that revisiting it is long overdue and I assume that it’s going to happen, especially with Disney now owning Lucasfilms and needing content for their Disney+ streaming service. And with that being said, I think a sequel television series would actually work better for this property than a theatrical movie.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Lucasfilm movies from the ’70s and ’80s, as well as The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Vids I Dig 142: Filmento: ‘Heat’: Creating The Ultimate Bank-Heist Shootout

 

From Filmento’s YouTube description: The bank robbery shootout sequence in Heat is arguably the greatest movie gunfight ever filmed. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the sequence in order to determine why that is. What is it that makes the bank heist shootout in Heat so great? Why does it top most Top 10 movie shootouts of all time?

If you haven’t seen Heat, you might’ve heard about it as one of the greatest crime movies ever made, inspiring later known crime thrillers like Ben Affleck’s The Town, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Martin Scorcese’s The Departed, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and so on. What’s the secret? Should we take lessons from the screenplay of the film? Or is it just overall nerdwriter knowledge? To be honest, we can only see.

Film Review: Real Genius (1985)

Release Date: August 7th, 1985
Directed by: Martha Coolidge
Written by: Neal Israel, Pat Proft, Peter Torokvei
Music by: Thomas Newman, The Textones
Cast: Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, William Atherton, Robert Prescott, Jon Gries, Ed Lauter, Patti D’Arbanville

Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“This? This is ice. This is what happens to water when it gets too cold. This? This is Kent. This is what happens to people when they get too sexually frustrated.” – Chris Knight

Real Genius is one of those comfort movies from my youth. I loved this film when I was a kid but I was always really into tech stuff and my love for G.I. Joe and sci-fi had me really interested in military weapons science. Although, the kids in this film didn’t know that they are building a superweapon until it was too late.

Val Kilmer, who was the “king of cool” for quite some time between the ’80s and ’90s, felt authentic in his role as Chris Knight, a super genius that was a bit burnt out and just wanted to party and enjoy life. Gabe Jarret was also really good as Mitch, the younger super genius that came to the college at fifteen and roomed with Chris. The rest of the kids also felt real and all of them played their roles to perfection.

William Atherton, quintessential ’80s adult super villain, was up to his old tricks as the authoritative and vindictive heel to the heroes. He was a celebrity scientist with a hit show who was using the university as a means to get super smart kids to create a killer laser for the U.S. military. Atherton’s Professor Hathaway was the Joker to Kilmer’s Batman. Wait… Kilmer would eventually be Batman. Whoa! Imagine an Atherton Joker. And hell, what if Mitch became the Riddler? Okay, I’m distracted… sorry. But now I can’t get the thought of Michelle Meyrink as Catwoman out of my head. Or the Asian kid being Mr. Freeze because he freezes stuff. And Lazlo could be Two-Face… mainly because he’s tall. And well, Kent could be Scarecrow because he’s a jerk and a total pussy. Damn it! Get back on topic!

Anyway, Real Genius is a film that’s a hell of a lot of fun and has a good solid message.

It’s about kids fighting authority and a system they really don’t want to be a part of. A system that exploits them for their talents. And it is a cool movie because the kids fight back and outwit the adults that think they’re smarter than the geniuses they tried to dupe. Ultimately, this is a coming of age movie that deals with the youth’s inability to trust a scary adult world that existed before them and corrupted their parents.

Real Genius is much more than a standard ’80s teen comedy. It is well written with lots of talented young actors that play their parts convincingly. Val Kilmer has done a lot in his long career but this is still my favorite role that he’s ever played.

Can we maybe get a sequel featuring an old, even more burnt out Chris Knight living in Mitch’s basement where Mitch has to deal with “cool uncle” Chris teaching his kids how to have fun because Mitch grew up to be even lamer and more uptight? And Kent could be the district manager over a dozen Radio Barns that are closing down because we live in an Amazon world. And Lazlo could be like a hybrid of Mark Cuban and Bill Gates. I should really just write pointless sequels for a living, I’ve got a lot of unrefined and ambitious ideas, y’all.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: WarGamesD.A.R.Y.L.Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science.