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: Candyman (1992)

Also known as: Clive Barker’s Candyman (complete title)
Release Date: September 11th, 1992 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Bernard Rose
Written by: Bernard Rose
Based on: The Forbidden by Clive Barker
Music by: Philip Glass
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Ted Raimi, Vanessa Estelle Williams

Candyman Films, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Propaganda Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“They will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for if not for shedding? With my hook for a hand, I’ll split you from your groin to your gullet. I came for you.” – Candyman

This movie is adored by some within the horror community but it’s just never really resonated with me. The weird thing, is that I love Tony Todd in just about everything he does and this certainly is his most iconic role. However, the film just kind of falls flat and it’s hard to care about much within it but I’ll explain.

To start, the film does lure you into a dreamlike state, almost immediately, by the enchanting, interesting and unique score by Philip Glass. However, even though I like the score, I don’t specifically like it for this film, as it gives it a weird tone and for me, at least, it doesn’t quite fit.

That’s also not to say that it’s not somewhat effective, as it does put your brain in a strange place. But that strange place sort of wrecks the film. Just because something is effective doesn’t mean that its effect is a good creative choice.

I have several issues with the film beyond this.

Firstly, the score doesn’t really help the pacing of the film, which moves slower than a drunk snail crossing over a maple syrup spill. In fact, it makes the film seem slower, as it tries to constantly enchant you and put you to sleep.

Secondly, it never really clearly defines who or what the monster is. You also don’t really understand what his powers are. Almost every time you see him, he appears to have the ability to teleport. Yet, at the end of the film, when he’s stuck in a giant pile of burning trash, he doesn’t teleport out, he just burns to death.

Thirdly, the ending is bizarre and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Does Virginia Madsen actually take the Candyman’s place as the monster? The ending implies such but this isn’t anything that’s ever revisited in the sequels. Granted, I haven’t seen the third one but I’m pretty sure it’s left unanswered and continuity doesn’t mean jack shit with these movies.

Fourthly, the film is just full of a lot of random, baffling shit. Like why was there a giant mountain of garbage in the first place? How did days go by and no one heard the missing baby in the next door apartment? What baby doesn’t cry every fifteen minutes? When Virginia Madsen calls for Candyman, she just gets drunk and goes to bed, why didn’t he appear instantaneously to butcher her and her friend like he did the girl in the beginning? This movie has more holes in its plot than a hobo has in his underwear.

However, there are some positives in this movie, like the performances from Madsen and Todd. They’re really good despite the picture feeling like a house of cards waiting to collapse in on itself.

Additionally, this flick does a superb job of making duality a theme throughout the picture. There’s the duality between white and black people in Chicago, the duality of there being a supernatural Candyman and a real world drug dealer who adopted the Candyman persona, there’s also the duality of the dream world and reality, as you’re never quite sure what’s actually happening at certain points.

There are a lot of layers to the movie but the problem is that none of them are as clearly stated as they need to be and they sort of get lost in the overall production being lackluster, the pace being too relaxed and the general dreamlike presentation.

The point is, this film should be more effective in regards to its social and political commentary. I don’t know if the director just didn’t want to hit people over the head with it but sometimes a story can benefit from that. The biggest issue with it is that Candyman, as a character, needed to be more defined and clearly tied to the themes of the film. At least the first sequel gives you his origin and clues you in to who he is, why he is and how this is all supposed to make sense in a clearer way.

Overall, this is a movie I’ve always wanted to like but I’m just kind of meh about it. From memory, I like the second one better but I’m going to re-watch it soon and then do a proper review of it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the series, as well as Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs.

Film Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Also known as: T2 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 1st, 1991 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, William Wisher
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Nikki Cox, Michael Biehn (cameo – Special Edition and Ultimate Cut)

Carolco Pictures, Pacific Western, Lightstorm Entertainment, Le Studsio Canal+ S.A., TriStar Pictures, 137 Minutes, 153 Minutes (Special Edition), 156 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“[narrating] The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” – Sarah Connor

When I was middle school aged, this film hit theaters. At the time, I thought it was just about the best movie ever made. At that age, it appealed to me more than the superior original but I think that’s because I was roughly the same age as John Connor and I was living vicariously through his experience in the film.

The thing is, this is still an utterly stupendous motion picture and one of the best that James Cameron has ever done. But, as an adult, I can’t put this over the masterpiece that is the original film.

Still, it is an incredible film and a great thing to experience, even for the 38th time watching it. Honestly, I may have seen it more than that as my VHS copy broke years ago.

It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited this classic, though. But this was the first time I watched the Special Edition, which added in new scenes and longer cuts. The most important of those is a scene where Michael Biehn returns as Kyle Reese in a dream Sarah Connor has while still locked up in the mental hospital.

There is also a cool scene that shows John defy his mother in order to spare the Terminator that is protecting them. It’s actually a good character building scene that probably should have been left in, as it shows John’s natural leader personality come through and it also amplifies Sarah’s paranoia about working with a Terminator.

The only other notable addition is a scene that shows Miles Dyson and his family. This probably should have been cut but it is nice to see him trying to balance his personal life and work life.

Everything in this movie still holds up today. While the special effects might not be as impressive in 2019, they don’t look bad and for the time, they were lightyears ahead of what anyone else was doing. And it was those great digital effects that made the villainous T-1000 exist and frankly, he is still one of the most terrifying villains in movie history. But I have to give credit to Robert Patrick for that, even if its the effects that allowed him to come into being.

All the practical effects are top notch too, from the opening sequence of the war from the future and all the makeup, prosthetic and animatronic work they had to do for Schwarzenegger’s Terminator in the second half of the film.

But getting back to the acting, it’s a mixed bag, really.

Linda Hamilton has never been better. Also, Schwarzenegger is pretty perfect but this version of the Terminator character is written in a way that doesn’t require much from him other than what is naturally present in his real personality. That’s not a knock against Arnold, as much as it is a nod of respect to James Cameron for giving us a more human cyborg that is trying to become something more than just a killing machine. The script and the dialogue written for Arnold enhance his strengths and don’t force him to have to deal with his weaknesses. Frankly, it enhances the overall experience.

Now Edward Furlong did okay, being that this is his first film but I felt like his performance could’ve been fine tuned more. When I was a kid, I didn’t give a shit, I thought he was cool. As an adult, I see some of the problems with his acting but at the same time, he’s far from terrible. Where it sometimes doesn’t work really isn’t his fault either. James Cameron should’ve just stepped in more and helped the kid. But then, I also don’t know how many takes were shot and its possible that these were just the best they could get and had to move on.

I mentioned that I like the first movie the best but this one does a much better job of world building and in that, this feels like the most complete and overall satisfying film in the franchise. Where the first film feels more like a sci-fi slasher movie with guns instead of knives, this feels more like something akin to the epic world building of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.

This film certainly has the most to offer in regards to the franchise as a whole. And since nothing after has really come close to its greatness, there isn’t much reason to watch the films that follow. Besides, they all start contradicting each other and this franchise has been rebooted three different times because it became a giant mess.

Eventually, I will get around to the other films just to review them. I already reviewed Terminator: Genisys when it came out back in 2015 but I haven’t revisited Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or Terminator: Salvation since they were in theaters. Plus, I’ve still got to watch the TV show but I’ve heard that it’s actually pretty good.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Terminator film. Ignore the sequels after this one.