Film Retrospective: Planet of the Apes (1968)


Film Retrospective: Planet of the Apes (1968)

Predator Movie Review: Schwarzenegger Smackdown

Director: John McTiernan

Writer: Jim & John Thomas

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke

Release date: June 12th, 1987

Distributor: 20th Century Fox 

Country: USA

Running time: 107 minutes



Review: Predator


Hollywood Retro Film Festival – Sunset Boulevard Review: Who Killed Joe Gillis?!

Director: Billy Wilder

Writers: BIlly Wilder, Charles Brackett, D. M. Marshman, Jr.

Stars: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson


Release date: August 10, 1950

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 110 minutes



Review: Sunset Boulevard

Boiler Room (2000) Retrospective Review: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems, Mo’ Respect

Director: Ben Younger

Writer: Ben Younger

Stars: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Affleck


Release date: February 18th, 2000

Distributor: New Line Cinema

Country: USA

Running time: 120 minutes

2000 crime-drama Boiler Room is one of the most underappreciated and surprising features of the past century. Between its time of release and today, this crime-drama has become an instruction manual for crime, corruption, and excess on screen. There is now an extensive, and somewhat questionable, laundry list of features and TV shows discussing the same topics and banging the same drums. If you are afraid of reality’s slimey infrastructure, look away now! Though broken in parts, Boiler Room is a fearless, imposing monster convinced the strength of power will always outmatch the power of strength.

This game-changing crime-drama focuses on the confusing life of 19-year-old Queens College dropout Seth Davis in 1999. Seth runs an illegal, unlicensed casino in his cheap, rundown residence. Despite his financial success, he continually faces the bitter disappointment of his New York City Federal Judge father, Marty (Ron Rifkin). One day, as his narration describes as a “What if” moment, his cousin Adam (Jamie Kennedy) and his wealthy, charismatic work associate Greg (Nicky Katt) come over to try their luck. Greg’s work pitch to Seth pays off, with the youngster hurriedly joining Greg and Adam at brokerage firm J.T. Marlin. Based off the Long Island Expressway, the firm is the ultimate place for Seth to get rich or, at the very least, die trying. boilerroom

Boiler Room, directed and written by newcomer (at the time) Ben Younger, is a cool, calm, and charming ode to cinema and society of future past. The narrative, though splintering off into several key traits, sticks alongside Seth throughout tumultuous highs and lows. By all means, Seth is a despicable individual. From the get-go, he would rather keep his illegal casino running rather than shutting it down to prevent his father’s immediate termination. In addition, his treatment of friends and family leaves much to be desired. From his point of view, his brother and mother barely register whilst his friends are reduced to co-workers/employees forced to bow down (figuratively, of course) after each shift.

However, Seth’s rise of prominence at J.T. Martin is handled with care and flair. The second third delivers some of 2000s crime-drama’s most thrilling and light-hearted sequences. Chris Varick (Vin Diesel), taking the phone from Seth mid-trade, sells one customer on the sale of his life. Varick, the wolf amongst sheepish employees, shows off his fanciful, albeit questionable, skills to the tune of thunderous applause. Seth’s story runs through a gauntlet of exposition before the better days kick in. Stock jargon, particularly describing the importance of the Series 7 exam, might fly over most people’s heads. Younger and co. never drown in stockbroker gobbledegook or any movie like Margin Call would offer up. Even the twist – Seth discovering the firm creates fake demand for the sale of speculative penny stocks from expired or fake companies – is a bit of a bummer. The ride is seemingly too fun to leave behind.

Younger’s focus on story and character follows a familiar, albeit lively, beat through its speedy 2-hour run-time. On paper, these protagonists are supervillains sucking people dry. On screen, they are simply overcompensating for a lack of depth for ambition. They are little more than get-rich-quick schmucks. Younger’s film, against all odds given our post-Global Financial Crisis perspective, allows you to care for everyone involved. Seth, entering a relationship with receptionist/Greg’s ex Abbie (Nia Long), puts his new-found confidence to good use. Of course, in true Ribisi fashion, looking and sounding like an easy target will put you directly in the firing line.

NVMuDeSThe fall – Abbie turning Seth in to protect her sick mother, his father’s involvement, Seth losing one client’s life savings – hits with brutal intensity. Ultimately, Boiler Room‘s final quarter draws multiple surprises out of its otherwise stock-standard characters. Its life-lesson schpiel takes swift turns away from what many crime-dramas would typically accelerate towards. The film, if anything, provides a look at the Ghosts of Hollywood Past, Present, and Future. Ribisi, stuck in conventional villain roles today, showcases his immense tenacity. Diesel, having taken on several meaty roles well before his Fast & Furious/Riddick successes, proves he is more than just a bald head and deep voice. Affleck, shows glimpses of the charismatic professional he is today. Meanwhile, Tom Everett Scott and Scott Caan have since risen and fallen similarly to Boiler Room‘s plot.

Boiler Room, though a small-scale corporate-espionage thriller, paved the way for everything from Knockaround Guys to The Wolf of Wall Street. Stuck between Leo’s Oscar-worthy black comedy and David Mamet’s esteemed creation Glengarry Glen Ross, Younger’s breakout feature, like many of its actors, is filled with potential and chutzpah but fails to connect with the masses.

Heat (1995) Retrospective Review: Mann-made Masterstroke

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom SizemorE


Release date: December 15th, 1995

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 170 minutes

1995 cops-and-robbers heist-thriller Heat, along with a handful of other mid-1990s releases including Se7en and Braveheart, helped construct mainstream cinema as we see it today. Nowadays, we roll our eyes whenever a typical heist-thriller graces the big-screen. The 21st Century’s over-saturation of cinema, TV, and contemporary art – from the past and present – has given us an undying sense of fatigue and frustration. Thanks to Heat‘s groundbreaking production, anyone can look at any heist-thriller’s poster, take a deep breath, and predict the entire plot.

Of course, most current action-thriller filmmakers owe Heat an enormous debt of gratitude. From top to bottom, Heat is an invigorating tale of broken promises and senseless desire. Based on former Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson and his pursuit of career criminal named McCauley, Mann goes hell-for-leather adapting this haunting and ballsy narrative. Here, LAPD robbery-homicide detective Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is positioned as the City of Angels’ gun-and-ego-toting sheriff. Struggling through his third marriage, with frustrated wife Justine (Diane Venora), Hanna places his work above anything or anyone else. Meanwhile, uber-successful thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and his crew – Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), Trejo (Danny Trejo), and new guy Waingro (Kevin Cage) – set up a dangerous armoured truck heist to steal $1.6 million in bearer bonds belonging to money launderer Roger Van Zant (William Fichtner).

heat1Mann, having developed 1980s TV series’ Miami Vice and Crime Story, made his name in on-screen crime and corruption. Heat, based on his 1989 NBC TV movie LA Takedown, was the Chicagoan filmmaker’s pet project. He, learning from the hits and misses, wanted to create the essential ode to LA, genre, Hollywood, and mainstream entertainment. rollicking through the 80s and 90s, Mann has given such timeless, effervescent classics including The Last of the Mohicans, Manhunter and Thief. The latter, showcasing blue-collar criminals tearing into safes, kicked off Mann’s affection for anti-heroes and vicious bastards.

So, how does this particular filmmaker make us side with safe-crackers, bank-robbers, assassins, and goons? Heat lives up to its namesake – cranked up to 11 throughout its breezy 170-minute running time. This crime-thriller never drags or strays, sticking with its core ingredients up until its confounding final frame. The duel between good and evil, solidified by Pacino’s tough, ‘true’ detective and De Niro smooth criminal, draws a blurred, intricate line. Hanna and McCauley, despite little interaction, make one another fall back in love with their respective endeavours. Hanna, committed unhealthily to the gun and badge, is pushed to the brink by McCauley’s horrifying antics. Unlike his compatriots, Hanna’s gunning-for-blood style provides the balance between brains, brawn, and balls.

De Niro, after discovering Hanna’s reputation, steps up his game to ensure on going success. He, taking out the trash after each mission, becomes a lean, mean brute becoming as much of a perfectionist as Mann himself. Pacino and De Niro, despite sharing only 10 minutes of screen time, click together as two sides of the same coin. The notorious diner sequence, bringing the Godfather Part II actors together for the first time, provides a weighty, poetic exchange between two veterans prepped for the future. The supporting cast – including Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, and Jeremy Piven – elevate this crime-thriller above similar 90s shoot-em-ups (Bad Boys, The Rock).

heatwideMann, having spent 7 months joining ride-alongs with the LAPD’s robbery and homicide department, pushes himself, his performers, and crew into the blood, sweat and, tears approach to big-budget filmmaking. His immaculate attention to detail, noticeable in each frame throughout his multi-pronged career, is an extraordinary force of nature unafraid of studio expectations. Mann hurled his actors into bizarre situations – having De Niro and co. case a real bank without warning. In fact, Sizemore – to distract some of the staff – began fake negotiations for a loan throughout the experiment. Beyond this, Mann made sure his actors became intimately involved with their characters’ livelihoods – having them converse with actual criminals in Folsom State Prison.

Here, Mann makes a point of fusing masculinity and stakes with LA’s harsh, salty atmosphere. His penchant for sharp, eye-popping visuals shines from the opening frame. His focus on gritty, urban vistas adds to the movie’s nightmarish allure. His affection for street lights, bold colours, and concrete-laden cityscapes defines his auteur-level persistence. Mann utilises diners, nightclubs, and apartment blocks to accentuate the banality of day-to-day existence. For cop and criminal, LA is a disgusting, labyrinthian maze in which only a small handful have a chance of escaping. Hanna and McCauley’s immense knowledge of LA keep them on their toes and ahead of everyone else.

To this day, Heat‘s action sequences are still seen as some of the best in contemporary crime-thriller entertainment. Mann, having developed a style sitting comfortable between Depression-era shootouts and John Woo-inspired chaos, effectively fuses his attention to detail, thrilling pace, and claustrophobic atmosphere. The opening heist sequence broke the mould, testing each actor’s limits and the possibilities of big-budget action cinema. This set-piece was pulled without CGI, flipping a top-heavy truck whilst shooting on location downtown. The banks heist, one of the loudest in recent memory, was similarly overblown and impeccably constructed. Putting the actors through three months of firearm training, this sprawling sequence unleashes its director’s range of well-constructed ticks and tropes.

500fullHeat set Mann on a hit-and-miss path between its muted release and today. In 1999, The Insider roared into cinemas. Earning a collection of Oscar nominations, its arresting political-thriller twang launched Russell Crowe’s name into the A-list. 2001 saw Will Smith earn and Oscar nomination for his searing, rhythmic portrayal of Muhammed Ali. Collateral, released in 2004, paired Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise in a run-all-night action-thriller with several over worldly twists and turns. However, as his affection for digital photography took hold, he delivered several problematic crime-thrillers. Miami Vice, Public Enemies, and Blackhat – receiving middling critical and commercial returns – put dents in the 70+ filmmaker’s reputation.

Heat, having influenced everything from The Town to The Dark Knight, is a cracking, crafty crime-thriller with one eye on the score. Mann’s signature visuals, attentiveness, and saucy action direction help pull off the incomprehensible – make us root equally for cops and criminals.

Article: Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours: Style & (Sedimentary) Substance

Article: Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours: Style & (Sedimentary) Substance


Article: Drive: Anti-hero in Antagonist’s Universe

Article: Drive: Anti-hero in Antagonist’s Universe

Article: Fight Club: Masculinity Within Millenial Transition

Article: Fight Club: Masculinity Within Millennial Transition

Reel Life – Domino (2005)

Director: Tony Scott

Writer: Richard Kelly

Stars: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Jacqueline Bisset

Release date: October 14th, 2005

Distributor: New Line Cinema, Metropolitan Filmexport

Countries: US, France

Running time: 127 minutes




Best part: A gravely Rourke.

Worst part: The Hyper-hyper-hyper-kinetic style.

Acclaimed director Tony Scott defined the era of the loud, artistic action set piece with his smash hit Top Gun. Since then however his style has overpowered several of his productions. This still might have been acceptable if it didn’t reach the point of being completely overbearing. Domino is however the last straw, with every frame a clear call for better editing and cinematography needed from the once great action filmmaker.

Following the supposedly true story of bounty hunter Domino Harvey, she never becomes interesting, mostly due to her brash nature. The tough chick persona is OTT in many regards, down to flashy tattoos, blond emo-fringe, male clothing and piercings draping her near skeleton-like frame. The story is told through her current drug trip, during an interrogation with a sassy interrogator (Lucy Liu). Sure, being on an actual drug trip might be enjoyable, but we are subjected to a non-stop flood of quick cuts, shaking cameras, lens flares and overlapping images.

She is joined by a convoy of followers, including two fellow bounty hunters (Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez) involved in all counts of murder, extortion and pot smoking. For bounty hunters, they sure do live an unsubtle life. For some reason they agree to be followed around by a camera crew filming a strange new reality show, tracking the whereabouts of America’s most dangerous offenders. This ridiculous subplot, featuring a phony near-cameo performance from Christopher Walken, is one of many ideas trying to bring pathos to this ultra-dumb super trooper story.

If you were one of the biggest criminals in America, why would you want to be so blatantly identified anyway? If these characters had any common sense they might have thought ahead. Scott does however manage to pull of gunfights with stylish choreography and chilling sound effects with technical precision. Every bullet is fired with a loud ring, particularly effective during a horrifyingly violent scene of operation in the back of a bus.

Verdict: A messy and irritating crime-thriller.