I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Blackhat

tn_blackhatI didn’t think it would happen in this generation, but they’ve produced a manly movie star. They had to borrow him from Australia, of course, but so what? Arnold and Van Damme and Mel Gibson and a bunch of those guys were imports too.

Chris Hemsworth has the kind of rugged persona and charisma that makes a man feel inadequate – he’s 2014’s People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive, and last week’s Man Who Makes Me Feel Like I Better Do More Push-ups – but you respect him for it, you don’t resent him. I don’t know if he’ll maintain all the muscles when he stops being an Avenger, but I bet he’ll stay pleasantly macho. He’ll slick back his hair and look good in an undershirt and sunglasses and he’ll put his protective arms around tiny women but also respect their intelligence.

It’s nice that one of the few manly marquee names of the modern age has now had the chance to become Mannly. In Michael Mann’s BLACKHAT Hemsworth plays Mann’s idea of a being more godly than Thor. He’s a convict who splits his time between reading Focault paperbacks and doing handstand pushups. He’s done time both for assault and for hacking. He knows how to use guns and build makeshift armor and beat up multiple attackers using restaurant furniture, but also how to write computer programs. He’s hypersmart enough to glance at a screen full of code and instantly identify clues to its purpose and author, but also worldly enough to travel through multiple Asian countries and break into places looking for a mystery man. He can be counted on to sit with a laptop or phone and breach a highly secure database, but also can wing a plan to explode a truck on the roof of a building as a distraction to sneak in and physically steal a hard drive.

Hell, this guy puts on a radiation suit and goes into a melted nuclear power plant control room. One of the professionals collapses while he takes a fire ax to the wall and locates the drive they need. He is the SuperMann.

(By the way, that scene has a really cool piece of machinery: a portable metal vault with the correct port built into it so he just plugs the radioactive machinery into the bottom and closes it, they clean off the outside and he can plug into it through a USB plug. I wonder how much a product like that goes for? I’m figuring they don’t sell that many of them.)

mp_blackhatI wouldn’t mind a more absurd version of this movie, but I think Mann strikes a great balance of the quasi-realistic and the pulpy. The use of computers seems (and reportedly is) much more based in reality than we usually get in movies, but it also uses classic action and thriller tropes. An anonymous malicious hacker (or “blackhat” apparently) causes a Chinese nuclear reactor to overheat and explode. That’s one thing, but then he starts messing with the stock market! So China and the U.S. are both trying to figure out who this asshole is, and there’s only one man who might be able to track him: the author of the malware he rewrote for the attack.

That’s Nicholas Hathaway (Hemsworth) of course, who’s in prison, and who takes the mission reluctantly, with demands, and with no claims of loyalty, like Snake Plissken. This is a guy who’s introduced politely cooperating with guards, who respond by slamming him against a wall, dragging him out of the cell, spraying pepper spray right into his face and then slamming him chest first against the floor. He never complains or acts like a victim, and that helps make it seem like he’s always in control.

He’s in captivity though, and he has to work with a team. There are two FBI agents, Barrett (Viola Davis of the Jesse Stone series) and Jessup (Holt McCallany, HIJACKED, BULLET TO THE HEAD), there to keep him ankle-braceleted and computer-chaperoned. On behalf of the Chinese government there’s military officer Dawai (Wang Leehom, LITTLE BIG SOLDIER, LUST, CAUTION), the old roommate and fellow hacker who convinced them to use Hathaway, and his sister Lien (Tang Wei, LUST, CAUTION), a private sector computer security expert.

So they examine the code and the security systems that were breached, consider suspects, search emails, try to contact the culprit. Their investigation takes them to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Jakarta, facing fists, machine guns and bombs.

Mann of course is fascinated by the complex inter-team, inter-agency and international dilemmas they have to surmount while following this difficult trail. The two FBI agents sometimes disagree with each other or their bosses. They have to get permission for things, they don’t always get what they want from the NSA or the SEC, they can’t do certain things in front of a Chinese agent or a convicted computer criminal. The Chinese government has their own motives. Some team members have to sit out certain activities so as not to get blamed. Hathaway has to catch this guy in order to get his freedom, but of course there’s also a sense of honor and competition in it that keeps him motivated instead of trying to escape. So he ends up having to elude government agencies while still trying to complete the assignment they gave him.

Ultimately it’s about this group of could-be enemies trying to learn to trust and respect each other and be a team.

The target of their investigation stays in the shadows most of the time, which is smart. You don’t know much about him until Hathaway figures it out. At first it seems like it’s just some mean computer genius on his own like a serial killer, so it’s kinda scary when you realize there’s enough money involved that he has mercenaries working for him.

I swear I’m not just saying this because they’re Chinese, but there’s a nice hint of Hong Kong cinema melodrama in the relationships between Hathaway and the brother and sister. When Hathaway first sees Dawai they hug so long I had to consider if they were actually supposed to be lovers. When he inevitably starts sleeping with Lien he discusses it with Dawai, acknowledging that logically he should disapprove of the relationship because of the chance of Hathaway breaking her heart by going back to prison, but Dawai supports it because he has never seen his sister so happy. It’s actually a tossup which one of these two Dawai loves more. He just has alot of love I guess. Brotherhood and sisterhood both going on in this movie.

Though Lien is herself an expert she’s the only one they can stick with the job that involves playing dumb and using her sex appeal, like Gisele in FAST FIVE. She’s good at it, but it’s kinda unfair. Later the two men in her life get protective of her and try to push her out of the mission, against her wishes. But an intense turn of events (if you’ve seen the movie, that was a great scene, right?) prevents them from sending her home.

Apparently BLACKHAT is a huge financial flop, hated by critics and audiences alike, and already down to two shows a day in its third week of release. I honestly have no idea why. Admittedly it does seem too slow and heady to be a big crowdpleaser, but it’s not as moody or arty as MIAMI VICE (which I also liked) and in my opinion is as exciting as any of the BOURNE movies. That’s actually the type of movie it reminds me of the most with its hyper-intelligent yet asskicking and highly skilled hero, complex international terrorist scheme and detailed agency procedural.

I guess there’s less action than in a BOURNE, but I think it’s more successful with the “realistic” action approach. The shootouts, like the ones in MIAMI VICE, capture a believably intense chaos. The footchases are technically shakycam, but they seem to be using some kind of rig that only bounces up and down, not side to side, and stays right with the actor, so it’s easy to see what’s going on despite the messiness.

Mann still has his knack for visuals. He knows the beauty of a big city at night, whether it’s up above looking down at the lights and shiny surfaces, or down inside it, in crowded streets during a celebration, or at the alley door of a busy kitchen. This time he also gets to explore the digital simulation of information travelling Tron-like through computer networks and chips. It’s like his version of the x-ray camera moves through walls in PANIC ROOM or through engines in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. And he shoots from underneath the keyboard, from inside the monitor. Some good gimmicks without doing it too much. Not hyperactive.

The script is credited solely to Morgan Davis Foehl (additional editor, I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK & LARRY), but there is some undeniable Mannliness in there. I’ve made fun of Mann before for his belief that the best way to get to the heart of a character is have them talk about what their dad did or liked. So Hathaway has a post-coital talk about his dad being a Detroit steel worker. Some more impressively Mannly backstory is the explanation for Hathaway’s fighting skills: he describes his first prison bid for a bar fight gone bad as “leaving academia for gladiator school.” Also he philosophizes about “I do the time, the time doesn’t do me” because he keeps his mind and body exercised. The kind of thing that maybe should’ve been left to discussions with the actors and not put into the dialogue. But maybe not, because I like it.

Since he was a convict before he was a hacker he’s sure to end this thing by prison rules. He doesn’t get the guy arrested or shoot him or anything. He escapes custody, gets a forged passport, flies to Jakarta and steals millions of dollars from him just to lure him out to where he can shank him.

Hathaway holds his own against such iconic cinematic computer experts as the Hackers, Theo from DIE HARD, Justin Long or Timothy Olyphant from LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD and the little girl from JURASSIC PARK. He’s a cool underworld version of a globe-trotting superspy. I’m totally down for more BLACKHAT adventures. Kickstarter that shit.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2015 at 4:26 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

108 Responses to “Blackhat”

  1. Nice to read a positive review of Blackhat, one that doesn’t immediately dismiss the entire film because of the supposed (based on what, exactly?) “unrealistic” casting of Hemsworth.

  2. This is beyond great. Thank you, Vern, for reporting, eloquently & succinctishly, on much of the greatness of BLACKHAT, but there are a lot of layers yet to be peeled for the discerning viewer interested in this beautiful thing.

    BLACKHAT will be my most rewatched movie of the decade. I draw weird inspiration from the collection of matinee ticket stubs fattening my wallet.

    I’d call BLACKHAT an instant classic, but it’s obviously ahead of its time and way ahead of idiotic contemporary box office taste.

    We witness the precise moment, almost the exact instant, Lien and Hathaway fall in love.
    (It’s when she puts her tongue in her cheek, and then when he ogles her neck in the cab.)

    Michael Mann deserves a better environment & audience unto which to display his vision.

    Anyway, here’s a silly meme-mashup-pic I made with my phone:

  3. Michael Mann is really into the psychology of prisoners. It’s also a theme / motif in Thief. James Caan is constantly talking about how much of a crucible his prison stay was, and he even has a long speech about how he survived by not giving a fuck whether he lived or died.

    Then in Heat, the title drop comes from a lesson Robert de Niro learned in prison, from “Jimmy McIlwaine in the yard.” If you read the script, every time one of the criminal characters is introduced, Mann mentions how much time they spent in prison, and what prisons they went to. And the commentary track has a pretty fascinating talk about why that’s important, about how each character was shaped by their specific prison, whether it’s McNeil or San Quentin or Attica, Joliet or Marion.

    And of course, Public Enemies featured a couple old-timey jailbreaks. So it’s definitely one of Mann’s things.

    Vern, how come you’ve never reviewed Mann’s back catalog? He seems to be right up your alley.

  4. Vern: He’s uncredited, but Mann came up with the original story idea and cowrote BLACKHAT’s shooting script.

    And please, yes, review Micheal Mann’s entire filmography.

  5. I third the notion for Mann to do a series dedicated to Mann’s filmography. Especially as how this has tanked at the box office (just read it’s not even being released theatrically in Australia, just straight to VOD), Mann might find it harder now to get his films made. Honestly, I’d like to see him give television another try. LUCK was anything but obviously, but I think with tighter reins he could inevitably come up with the next BREAKING BAD or SOPRANOS if he wanted to.

    I really enjoyed this one. It is definitely a continuation of what he developed with MIAMI VICE, this kind of hyper cinematic reality set in the exact world we live in. Not really having seen his acting before Hemsworth impressed me. Easy to dismiss him as a pretty face but with the right people he brings it. The surrounding cast is good with what they’re given. The action is top-notch for me, the major shootout in the middle by the water is as good as anything Mann has done since COLLATERAL.

  6. I don’t care one bit about Chris Hemsworth. Haven’t cared about Michael Mann movies in about a decade. However this review was so eloquent I may just give this a shot despite previously having 0 interest in it. Mind you it will be on video or cable and not at the flicks but nevertheless.

  7. Yeah Vern, Australia sure knows how to breed em. And thanks for clearing that up, onthewall. This had been advertised for cinema release up to a few weeks ago, then went off the grid. Baffling, considering the quality behind and in front of the camera. A new Mann joint is something I get excited about Asost of his films do the rounds in my bluray player.

  8. **most** of his films do the rounds in my bluray player. I gotta go wrestle a crocodile, so bye for now.

  9. Broddie summarizes the paradoxical not-buying-tickets national consensus. I don’t understand people.

    BLACKHAT is easily one of the 10 best mainstream American feature films released since 2010.

    RottenTomatoes’ contributors should be ashamed of themselves for how they’ve quantified BLACKHAT.

    This is a challenging movie.

    If you’re a Manniac, a lot of the themes & images & soundbites and other motif-elements will be apparent and you’ll either enjoy plugging them into your Mann-Bingo array or you’ll be annoyed by their overusage (dating back to the late 1970s early 1980s).

    If you aren’t on the Mann wavelength, then the BLACKHAT narrative is going to feel like it takes a lot of brainwork to comprehend for not a lot of reward. This is a screenplay that tracks a computer virus that distorts the Programmable Logic Controllers (and temp control fans) of a distant nuclear plant and then messes with the stock price of soy futures so that ill-gained money can be transferred to a secret buyer of property of tin ore-fertile acreage so that he can then again overload some PLCs and flood that property so that tin prices go up before Thor stabs him several times at a parade in Jakarta. (spoilers)

    In my opinion, this plot makes more sense than, say, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but it ain’t for everyone.

  10. Ugh, I mean Vern doing a series dedicated to Mann’s filmography. Obviously. Still hate that we can’t edit here. Grr. Carry on.

  11. I finally saw WHIPLASH last Thursday night and there were more people in attendance than when I saw BLACKHAT on the Saturday afternoon the weekend before. That’s just sad. I wonder how many chances Mann is going to have. But I really enjoyed it and it’s stayed in my mind a lot longer than AMERICAN SNIPER, which I saw the same weekend. Plus, it was kinda cool to see action star Andy On in a supporting role.

  12. Haven’t seen the movie, it’s a wait for video release for me(Mann has never really blown me away, sorry, and my experience with Hemsworth consists of the Marvel stuff and the Red Dawn remake). That said, Hemsworth’s cool factor jumped up several levels with me when he responded to a reporter’s question about who he would most like to work with in an upcoming Marvel movie and he replied that he would like a chance to do an action scene with Jean-Claude Van Damme.

  13. Mann will always be a hero to me. The Insider is a next-level masterpiece. Then you have the loose Thief/Heat/Collateral trilogy. And people forget how we basically owe the entire modern golden era of serialized TV to Mann for what he did with Miami Vice and Crime Story.

  14. It’s weird that this was such a big flop, I mean I could understand it not setting the world on fire but it seems unfair for it to flop as hard as it is.

    It has a possible future cult classic vibe though.

  15. damn now i gotta see this, i should have known i couldnt trust mcweeny when he said THE KEEP was mann’s worst movie when its my favorite mann movie!

  16. I’m surprised so many people on here are into this movie. I was bored to tears with this one. I’m a big Mannfan, so I was wondering while watching if having previous experience with actual hacking might deepen my understanding/enjoyment of this movie, but I don’t know how to crack a safe either, you know?

  17. This slipped out of theaters before I could get around to seeing it, so as a consolation prize, I watched Thief, which was pretty awesome. A lot of Mann’s stylistic and thematic interests were already present in that film, and it has a hell of a performance by James Caan. And just like Blackhat is supposed to include a more realistic look at hacking, apparently Mann interviewed actual safe crackers for Thief. (They use high powered machinery to get into the safe and not one of those stethoscopes).

    I understand that it’s difficult to get moviegoers to see an original story, but I was surprised by the critical backlash against this film, which was accompanied by a backlash against Mann’s entire filmography. Sure, he returns to the same themes for his films, but he’s also a brilliant stylist that has made some of the best genre films of that last forty years. I’m really completely baffled why critics have decided to turn on his work so suddenly.

  18. I understand where the backlash comes from; the first hour is kind of a nonstarter, the script is weak in places, and the poor actress playing the love interest simply could not handle the English dialogue.

    But despite those obvious weaknesses (which reviewers predictably hammered), Blackhat has innumerable other, subtler, pleasures. Vern hit nearly all of them. Hemsworth is your classic Mannly Man who doesn’t have to act all self-conscious about being a bad ass. The action is top notch, particularly when the team is ambushed by the mercenaries and most of them get shot. The plotting is tight as a drum, neither incomprehensible nor hand-holdingly obvious. And Hemsworth gets some of the best kills of the year.

    I’m bummed this tanked so hard, since I don’t want studios to back off of Mann. His filmmaking aesthetic is something we need in a cinema landscape overrun by mediocre super hero movies (as a tangent, this movie shows how much of a bummer it is that three quarters of our talented actors that are currently locked up in super hero movies could be doing interesting projects like this).

  19. Ya it’s fascinating how much film critics and movie bloggers give almost every superhero movie a pass, with even the worst movies tending to get mediocre reviews at worst, while an original genre action movie like this gets completely thrown under the bus and all the knives come out.

    I suppose you get the movies your film culture deserves

  20. It’s actually quite surprising how this tanked, since we’re just coming away from a major international company getting hacked and it being big news. Then again, the interest likely dimmed because the story got so much coverage people got sick of hearing about it, so why go see a movie about it? I honestly think what happened is that the studio underestimated what business AMERICAN SNIPER could do. Clint’s movies have not exactly set the BO on fire like this lately, and a company like Universal ignoring what big business it could do in the red states is pretty typical.

    So who knows how much of this will land on Michael Mann and any kind of future he has in Hollywood. He’d probably have to get a huge name cast and a script up to his standards to get a hit again. But I’ll reiterate that his best move would probably be to return to television, or even a platform like Netflix or Amazon. I read someone describe HEAT recently as a top-notch show like THE WIRE reduced from it’s 4 seasons down to nearly three hours.

  21. Ya, a netflix series by Mann at this point would make a lot of sense. 10 years ago it’d have bummed me out to have his stuff on a smaller screen, but with his obsession with a realistic docu-style HD aesthetic, it would actually fit very well on TV right now.

  22. I would go crazy for a Michael Mann Netflix show. He’s getting up there age-wise, though, and there are usually a couple year (or more) gaps between his directing or writing projects. He’s not as prolific as Scorsese. I do worry if we have much more of his stuff to look forward to.

    “(as a tangent, this movie shows how much of a bummer it is that three quarters of our talented actors that are currently locked up in super hero movies could be doing interesting projects like this).”

    Does it show that? Chris Hemsworth has a career as a leading man because of Thor, so he was allowed to headline this movie. In the hypothetical world where he didn’t book Thor, does he get that opportunity?

  23. Hathaway holds his own against such iconic cinematic computer experts as the Hackers, Theo from DIE HARD, Justin Long or Timothy Olyphant from LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD and the little girl from JURASSIC PARK.

    Could they make a movie that had all these people in it? Like the Avengers.

  24. Mann movies I haven’t seen yet –

    THE KEEP – A nazi horror film no less, years ahead of the OUTPOSTS, the DEAD SNOW’s. I remember my dad bringing this home on VHS back in the day, but I was too young to be allowed to watch it. I eventually learned how to sneak out of my bedroom after lights out, position myself on the floor in the hallway without being seen, and watch glorious R rated movies like SCARFACE, through the crack in the door.

    L.A. TAKEDOWN – This one is hard to find on VHS or DVD. I hear it’s a tele-movie, low budget dry run for Mann’s own HEAT, with a similar storyline.

    TEXAS KILLING FIELDS – Okay, it’s from Mann’s daughter Amy, but I’m still curious to see if she’s carrying the macho torch through a woman’s filter. Auteur offspring are at least interesting (Jennifer Lynch’s CHAINED and SURVEILLANCE were pretty good, with a little bit of her fathers weirdness mixed in.)

  25. Mucho gracio, amigo.

  26. Watch the coffee-shop scene in LA Takedown and Heat to see how much great actors can bring to the exact same dialogue.

  27. Somehow, that LA TAKEDOWN coffee scene is oddly affecting. The Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike who plays Mcauley is the better actor, I think. Can’t wait to watch the whole thing later on. I noticed Michael Henry Rooker in there also.

  28. “THE KEEP – A nazi horror film no less, years ahead of the OUTPOSTS, the DEAD SNOW’s”

    Keep in mind, it’s based on a book, so Mann doesn’t get credit for that concept. And even as far as movies go, Shock Waves did it earlier.

  29. The Original Paul

    February 3rd, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    Darren – glad to hear someone else has seen CHAINED. A film that would honestly have been in the running for my personal favorite film of 2012 if it hadn’t been for the last ten minutes or so. (You know what I mean.) Argh, I have no idea why they decided to take it in that direction. Until that point, though, it’s just great, and the two central performances are so damn good.

    And I will probably forever love LOST IN TRANSLATION more than anything that Sofia Coppola’s father has done. (Yeah, I still can’t watch mafia films. I just can’t. Sorry.)

  30. APOCALYPSE NOW blows both GODFATHER I & II away.

  31. Yeah, that ending, the father, it was definitely a wtf? add on. I didn’t hate it, but it was unnecessary considering the films main focus on the abducted boy and his relationship with the serial killer. Lynch jnr had a similar twisty ending in her SURVEILLANCE, one of those reveals that make you rethink the events of the whole movie. At least she’s going for her own trademark, not copying dad’s signature of dreams and delusions.

  32. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvkFi72cAbY
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibbR63igrXA

    Going back to L.A. TAKEDOWN, those videos show the differences and Mann talks about how it essentially was a sketch of what eventually wound up in HEAT. Interesting that he talked to Walter Hill about directing and getting turned down, though I suspect some of what Hill saw in the script crept a little into EXTREME PREJUDICE.

  33. I haven’t seen SHOCK WAVES yet, thanks for reminding me of that one DKS. But I’m betting they don’t have a score by Tangerine Dream. Or neon.

  34. I really want to see this now. I remember people saying that the most realistic computer hack ever put on film was when Trinity hacked the power station in Matrix Reloaded. I have been watching lots of Miami Vice on the El Rey channel recently and it is interesting to see Mann creating and expanding on his visual style with what I can only speculate was not much money and time. It is surreal seeing all the guest stars; Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Captain Lou Albano, Helena Bonham Carter, Vanity, Liam Neeson, Willie Nelson, Steve Buscemi, Bob Balaban, G. Gordon Liddy, John Leguizamo, Melanie Griffith.

  35. I love THE KEEP. Great cast. Good story. Amazing cinematography. Creepy and weird. A little disjointed and abrupt. I’d compare it to PROMETHEUS.

    Vern: trust us, review THE KEEP. It will be worth your while.

    Someone uploaded the trailer from a BARBARELLA laserdisc, no spoilers:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7t0B2URcT8

  36. Funny enough, the laserdisc for THE KEEP includes the trailer for BARBARELLA. I guess Paramount was trying to do some cross-promotion. Tomorrow, the 5th, is Mann’s birthday. I’ll either watch THE KEEP again or catch BLACKHAT a second time before it disappears from the last first-run theaters in my area.

  37. Okay, I’ve been planning to watch all the Mann movies for years. I’m going to go ahead and start now, but not all in one chunk. I’ll start at the beginning and do them periodically until I’ve gotten them all. Maybe I’ll do the same with Spike Lee since I’ve been meaning to watch all his again too.

  38. That’s great to hear. HEAT is my favorite movie of all time and I’d love to see your take on it. A MANHUNTER review might be quite timely since the upcoming season of HANNIBAL is going to have strong elements of RED DRAGON in it.

  39. Re: Mann on TV, have any of you seen Robbery Homicide from 2002? Only 13 episodes. Shot run-and-gun on video (I think), not sure if HD or not (if that was even possible then). Very Mann. I loved it. Needs an official release. A taste of what was to come, in Collateral and Miami Vice and even Public Enemies.

  40. onthewall2983 – “A MANHUNTER review might be quite timely since the upcoming season of HANNIBAL is going to have strong elements of RED DRAGON in it.”

    It’s not actually. Maybe next season but if there is one book in the series the upcoming season is going to crib a lot from it’s HANNIBAL. The season 2 finale insinuated it with Hannibal going on the run and flying out to Italy with a woman he’s got under his spell. The preview for the season pretty much confirmed it.

  41. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 5th, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Broddie – I think they’re gonna put some Red Dragon in there for sure. They got Richard Armitage cast as Tooth Fairy (great choice imho). Also Michael Pitt is off the show (yay!) and recast with some other dude (who I don’t know, but there is no way but up from Pitt, so yay!)

  42. I didn’t know that the Tooth Fairy was cast. But yeah we’re getting a new Mason Verger this season. Which isn’t too jarring being that he’s all deformed and all.

  43. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 5th, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    True. Only too bad we have to wait til summer before the damn thing airs.

  44. Re: Hannibal the TV show (and spoilers ahead, but spoilers that the Undefeated Gaul already dropped) — casting news has tipped that we’re pretty much gonna see the whole Red Dragon arc this coming season. My bet is that they capture Hannibal in Europe about midway through the season, and then there’ll be a time jump around episode 7 or 8. If it gets renewed, then I’m guessing they’ll move on to Silence of the Lambs territory.

    Re: Vern’s Mann rewatch — Woo! Heat is my all time favorite movie too, and I’m always eager to read and talk about it more. I also have lots of affection for Thief, Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, and The Insider, so I’m anxious to see Vern’s take on those too.

  45. (I also love Collateral and Miami Vice, but Vern has reviewed those.)

  46. I tried watching HANNIBAL. I thought the first couple episodes had promise but then after the next few it just became too pretentious to live. The plots are your standard network TV serial killer hokum but the dialogue and music swears it’s some real heavy shit. All that played-out “to catch him i must become him” crap got pretty insufferable pretty quick. And I truly hate that little ponce they got playing Graham. The guy spends every episode looking like he’s trying to get excused from his own TV show because he has to tinkle. How am I supposed to root for this guy? Put your big boy pants on and do your job or go home and let somebody else do it.

    Here’s where everybody tells me that it gets better if I just stick with it. I believe you. It probably does, but I don’t have time for that. I’m the guy who gave up on GAME OF THRONES after eight episodes. I have no mercy or pity for TV shows that do not instantly entertain me.

  47. I think you could just jump right into season 2 and fill in the blanks because season 2 completely changed the format of what season 1 was presenting. For the better. This is coming from someone who really enjoyed season 1 once it really got going in the second half too.

  48. That’s okay. I only interested in shows I love. If I can live without watching every episode of a show, I don’t watch it at all.

  49. That’s a bummer Majestyk, because Hannibal is straight up the most stylish thing on TV right now by a landslide, way more cinematic than even anything on HBO.

    I had the same struggle you did, and it’s really unfortunate that the first half of Season 1 wildly mis-represents the show. It abandons the shitty CSI killer of the week thing as it goes on and becomes an ultra-violent De Palma throwback. I mean just buckets of blood, crazy suspense sequences and hallucinations.

    The end of Season 2 might be the most beautifully violent thing that’s ever been aired

  50. I don’t really care about the look or the violence. I got movies for that. Do you ever give a shit about anybody? That’s what matters most to me. If I’m gonna spend a hundred hours with a cast, I better fuckin’ love them.

  51. You’re not wrong about any of your criticisms, anyway (well, we disagree about Will being a ponce, but that’s fine). The show definitely treats its nonsense criminal psychology very seriously, and if that’s not something you’re entertained by, you’re never gonna like the show.

    I’m a bit curious about you giving up on shows that don’t instantly entertain you, though. To use maybe the most cliche / obvious example, did you ever get into The Wire? That’s gotta be one of my favorite shows of all time, and I found the first three episodes were pretty boring the first time I watched them.

  52. I watched the first season years and years ago and liked it. I don’t remember a goddamn thing that happened but I remember liking the characters right away. I always meant to finish the series but I had to rely on getting the discs from Netflix at the time and it was just a lot of effort. That’s how I feel about most dramatic television, really. Drama is just not what I need the medium for. It feels like work. TV should be the opposite of work.

  53. You do end up giving a shit about the personalities on the show. I find the characters to be the most endearing part of the show. The dynamics between Will and the girl he saves; Hannibal and Jack Crawford; Will & Hannibal and Alana Bloom, Hannibal and his therapist Agent Scully or Margot Vedder and both Hannibal and Will in the last season is what really engages me. Though admittedly I guess that will be a difficult thing to get if you find Will to be a tool. It also helps that I’ve gotten a lot of great recipes from that show too though that’s definitely another thing it has going for it outside of the characters and overall production values and style.

    I seldom get into TV shows to be honest. Even here people are praising THE WIRE and I had a very hard time ever getting into that. Couldn’t even get into JUSTIFIED (I know) and I’d consider myself a casual Leonard fan. THE WALKING DEAD could kiss my ass for all I care. Never saw THE SOPRANOS and like Majestyk I found the first few episodes of GAME OF THRONES to be a chore to sit through for the most part and just turned it off.

    Truth be told if it’s not IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA or SOUTH PARK it’s generally difficult for me to ever get into TV shows. BREAKING BAD and AMERICAN HORROR STORY were both flukes in that respect. So is THE FLASH but I think my love of the source material made that one even easier to really get hooked on.

  54. Oh and of course SEINFELD; because even though it’s no longer ongoing even in reruns it’s still the GOAT.

  55. It is kind of sad if people instantly give up on shows that are really great once you get into them. GAME OF THRONES is the perfect example. It is probably the show that has the highest amount of bad assery I´ve witnessed in years..Yes, it is a slow burner of a show. The first season is almost in its entirety focused on establishing the world and characters but I like it like that. What is wrong with slowly building up conflicts and characters? They used to to that in movies, before they became rubbish. GoT also looks better than most movies and the fight/action sequences are actually coherent and good-to-great.

    Trust me, this comes from a guy who thought he would hate GoT but ended up loving the living shit out of it. Like most cable shows ,ten episodes per season also makes the show flow better than your usual network television bullshit and its 22 episodes of “how can we come up with filler bullshit?” The unpredictability of the show also makes it stand out in my opinion.

  56. It’s just too much investment of time. Why force myself to sit through hours and hours of table-setting to get to the good stuff (which there’s no guarantee I’ll like) when I got all these hundreds of movies I want to watch right now? Sure, it might pay off in the end. Or I could just watch FAST FIVE again. It’s an easy choice.

    Also, in the case of GOT, it took me a few episodes to realize that not only was there no one on the show I remotely enjoyed spending time with (I even fuckin’ hate Peter Dinklage), but I also actively disliked the world of the show. I don’t care who rules that gray, rapey toilet of a universe in the end, so that kind of takes the fun out of watching a show about the struggle for power.

    Plus the Internet has destroyed every twist years ahead of time. There’s just nothing for me there.

  57. And a movie is supposed to build up its conflict and characters to the point where the audience is hooked within a half hour or 45 minutes. If a show can’t do that to me in six hours, that’s not my fault.

  58. Yes, I guess there is definitely an investment and commitment you need to make with the show and the world in order to get the most out of it. First time I watched the show was on blu-ray, and the discs have a comprehensive interactive guide to lore and the histories between the different house. I actually went through it all and at the time I was wondering if this will ever matter, I dont´usually connect with fantasy, like at all. But I think it does matter, it certainly influences in the way you perceive the characters. But it can also be a turn off to the series if you are not willing to invest in it that way, because there is an insane amount of stuff to keep track off and a lot of it is really depressing; patricides, rape, murder and incest and what-have you. I like it , though. It is a grim no-bullshit world with plenty of hard cynical characters. It´s not Legend of Zelda that is for damn sure.

    It also has flaming swords and those I like. Nothing like decapitating a motherfucker while setting him on fire.

  59. The irony is if it was THE LEGEND OF ZELDA I’d probably have an easier time getting into it.

    For me what turned me off from GAME OF THRONES from what I saw was very poor writing and directing. A lot of the staging was lackluster and the performances were mostly distractingly awful. The dialogue however was the biggest turn off of them all. Made it seem like a parody of what people expect an HBO series to be. I don’t know it was kinda tough to go from something as meticulous and thoroughly executed as BREAKING BAD to what I saw in GOT. So I just spent the rest of the time catching up with the new TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES cartoon On Demand. At least that particular show has no pretenses about what it actually is.

  60. There is an upside to GOT though. People are finally appreciating the immense talent of Mr. Charles Dance.

  61. If you love the world, then I’m sure it’s a grand adventure. I get that. People like to crap on Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT movies these days, but I like them (despite their many flaws) because I enjoy spending time on Middle Earth. It feels like a place worth fighting for. It’s full of derring-do and magical creatures and interesting cultures. All that will be destroyed if our heroes lose, so the story holds my interest even through some fairly epic wheel-spinning. Westworld or whatever is just dirty white people stabbing other dirty white people for the right to sit on a chair like seven years from now. I don’t really believe that anything of value is on the line. That world is gonna suck balls no matter which entitled asshole runs it, so what’s my stake in any of this? If it’s supposed to make me think about the pointlessness of power, mission accomplished.

    I don’t know why I’m always harping on this. I guess shows like GOT are such a big part of the cultural conversation these days that I need to convince myself that it’s okay that I don’t give a shit about them. Most people probably think I’m missing something special, but I think they’re missing something special by spending a hundred hours watching one TV show when they could have used that time to watch like 60 amazing old exploitation movies. How can people justify watching that boney-nosed prick fuck his sister again when they still haven’t seen NINJA III: THE DOMINATION even once? But they don’t care about those movies and they probably wouldn’t get anything out of them anyway, so they don’t feel like they’re missing anything. And neither do I.

    In conclusion, go watch FAST FIVE again.

  62. “In conclusion, go watch FAST FIVE again.”

    Or INVADERS FROM MARS.

  63. Crushinator Jones

    February 6th, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Mr. Majestyk, as a guy who likes Game of Thrones, you have my sympathy. I myself have had the same experience you describe: I absolutely loathe something that the general population loves, and it’s hard to convince myself that I’m not just being contrarian for the sake of it or that there’s something wrong with me. Ultimately, you have to be true to yourself and realistic about the media you watch. You’ve laid out why you don’t like GoT and you seem to have reasonable reasons for disliking it: it is a slow show in a miserable world. That’s not really arguable. It’s not like you’re saying Superman didn’t save anyone or something crazy like that.

  64. I’m glad we’re having this little therapy session because for the record, I’m the same way about this whole golden age of TV thing we’re apparently having. I just can’t get into it at all. I mean, there are a few shows Ive watched all of: THE SIMPSONS, FUTURAMA, X-FILES, TWIN PEAKS, STAR TREK: TNG, THE WIRE. But these long-form shows are just too much of a commitment for me. I’m sure they’re great and all, but man, to watch the whole thing is such a huge commitment of time. I mean, to watch all of the SOPRANOS is something like 80 hours. I have a hard time feeling like the long-term familiarity of the characters is worth the huge imput of time on my part, even though I know it sometimes it. A couple of these series, like WALKING DEAD, SOPRANOS, I actually watched the first few seasons, got distracted momentarily and just never came back, couldn’t be bothered, it sounded like more work than reward. And you know, I totally enjoyed everything I watched, I just didn’t feel the need to spend dozens more hours with those same characters as they had other adventures. I felt like I’d gotten about as much as I was gonna get from that, and never had any desire to return.

    And it’s a shame, because now everyone in the world is telling me how great all these series are, you know, HANNIBAL, ORPHAN BLACK, TRUE DETECTIVE, BREAKING BAD, and I’m sure they’re great and all but I just can’t muster enough excitement to take the plunge. And I’m the kind of guy who is excited enough by the prospect of a new Nicholas Cage movie that I’ll watch it sight unseen a lot of times.

    I think I’m just wrong for the medium. I don’t know if I was born that way (I didn’t have even network TV until I was an adult, that might explain something) or if I just shaped my brain through hours and hours of brutal clockwork-orange style conditioning, but I’m a movie guy through and through. That’s my medium, that’s what gets me going.

  65. Loved SOPRANOS and THE WIRE to their open ended ends, attempted GOT but lost interest midway through season 1. I’m a movie man too, but if a show tickles my fancy, I’ll give it half a season to hook me. So far BANSHEE season 1 is doing it for me. Apart from some reaching for the sick bucket shaky cam in a few action scenes, I’m loving it’s pulpy sweaty crime noir premise.

  66. The way I look at it, these shows are more or less like books for me. I don’t read a whole lot of fiction anymore, but it hasn’t taken me much for me to get into several of the shows mentioned here. I like that now we’re getting shows like TRUE DETECTIVE, or to a lesser degree AMERICAN HORROR STORY, shows where each season is it’s own separate story, but with the same flavor to each one more or less. Recently I really got into BLACK MIRROR, and am sort of looking forward to the American version that’s just been announced.

  67. Well, to celebrate Vern’s promise to attend to Mann’s back catalogue (which is really what this thread is all about), I’m gonna revisit MIAMI VICE, the series. Haven’t seen it since the 80’s. The golden age of TV is gonna have to sit at my sockless feet until I’m done.

  68. Watched MIAMI VICE awhile back. the best part for me now is Edward James Olmos zenlike calm as-fuck, cool zenlike motherfucker of a captain. He doesn´t yell at his subordinates unlike most action movie captains but can also open up a can of whop ass if required.

    Broddie- you must have been watching the bizarro version of GoT cause I don´t recognize your complaints like..at all. But that´s great since it proves that you can definetely have different experiences with something that is widly regarded as “da shit”. I think GoT like any cultural phenomenon needs to be questioned. I mean, what makes people go apeshit over s show for. For me, I know why I like it, it is the antithesis to commercial cinema these days. Most movies I see nowadays are just terrible from a plot perspective. I like how the show slowly builds and characters you at first dislike from a moral standpoint end up being more complex. Jamie Lannisters sisterfuckin, child-crippling antics from the first season seem almost irredeemable, but the show actually bothers not reducing him to a sleazy one dimensional villain by the end of season three. There are quite a lot of characters that i find myself invested in and therefore the journey is worth it. But it is not a show for everyone. it is dark, horrible, misogynistic and incredibly cruel at times. And I love it for that. But it might also be a turn off for others. It´s not a simple good versus evil and it is told in such an overly elliptic way with so many characters to keep track of that it can be a sluggish watch. I found myself in that seat first time I tried to watch teh show the first time.

    The problem is that people are going like “Bst Show 4eva!”, which is counterproductive to any show. That is why it took a long time for me to actually bother with the show, but then it ended up catering to my tastes much more than most movies made today once I got into it. The format is perfect for characterization and world-building and less on moving the plot along as fast as we can. Sometimes I just like to get caught up in a world that doesn´t look like a complete CGI-shitfest like the Hobbits-films. To be honest, I have yet to sit through one of them from start to finish. I started to watch the first Hobbit and it just bored me with lame exposition and shitty effects with little incentive for me to keep watching. It looked like something I wouldn´t like very much, but that is fine. We all have different tastes. As long as people like them that is fine.

  69. The thing that most annoys me about GoT (and I’ve watched all of it so far) is the fact that, ultimately, none of the political plotting everybody loves so much will greatly matter. At all. Who cares what mischief Cersei and Littlefinger and all those unwashed nobles are up to? That whole fucking world is facing an ice-zombie apocalypse that none of them can realistically impede. In the end, it’ll probably boil down to Daenerys’ dragons versus the ice-zombies, with perhaps a smidgeon of additional magic thrown in from Bran’s direction. And that’s it. The rest is just killing time. (I also think the show suffers fatally from that video-gamey “we’re throwing in lots of sex and violence to show we’re properly grown-up” syndrome. “Let’s say fuck and cunt a few more times, for luck!”)

    Coming back to Mann, I’d really like to see him adapt something by William Gibson. Perhaps not even the cyberpunk stuff, since he’s already dealt with hackers in BLACKHAT, but the present day BLUE ANT material. SPOOK COUNTRY and/or ZERO HISTORY would work beautifully with Mann’s aesthetic approach and his vague overall attitude to narrative.

  70. I too would like to call bullshit on the supposed golden age of television. I haven’t seen a new TV show that was creatively audacious in a long time. For me, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Treme, The Sopranos, Enlightened, and Mad Men were all unique shows in television that accomplished something surprisingly different. But I honestly think that Enlightened is the last television show that truly surprised me. That’s not to say that there aren’t some enjoyable shows out there (I’ve liked The Americans), but, for me anyway, there aren’t that many new TV shows that are truly great. But when it comes to film, there are upwards of a dozen or so movies that come out every year that are taking some unique creative chances.

    When I watch an hour of television, at most I just want to be entertained at the end of a long day (and hope that the show will lull me off to sleep). But when I watch a film, I want to be engaged with the visual choices and dig into what the director is trying to accomplish. And this is true of even modern blockbusters. It’s interesting to see what the filmmakers are trying to accomplish, because a film, despite studio control, often has some sort of point of view. One problem I have with TV is that every goddamn episode looks like the last. Take House of Cards (a truly stupid TV show): it has a great visual look thanks to David Fincher directing the first episode, but each subsequent episode looks exactly like the last.

  71. Shoot what’s there not to get?

    The Dragon lady for example is legit one of the worst actresses I’ve ever seen on TV. That crappy performance is a product of both the amateur directing and incompetent writing.

    It comes across as a parody of what an HBO show should be because they go “it has ethically questionable characters in a grim and gritty unapologetic world” but without any of the subtlety or competence of something like BOARDWALK EMPIRE or CARNIVALE. The overall execution of the production is just laughable but as they say…different strokes for different folks.

  72. Just watched THIEF for the first time in about 14 years. Holy shit it’s actually a better movie to me now than it was back then.

  73. I’ve talked about this before, but I’m out of the loop as well when it comes to all these big TV shows people go on and on about, I’ve never been a big TV guy, there’s only about 3 live action shows which I’m familiar with at all and only one of those I’ve seen every episode of (which is DEXTER, which I regret watching after season 4), other than that I’ve only seen some, but not all episodes of X FILES and THE SOPRANOS (including the infamous finale).

    The problem for me is as big of a gamer as I am I simply don’t have the time to devote to all these different TV shows, but I hate feeling so left out in the cold these days because TV is just about the only thing left in our culture that really gets people excited anymore, every big movie, no matter how good it is, will have countless people shitting on it, every big video game, no matter how good it is, will have countless people shitting on it, but these same people will give a pass to WALKING DEAD or GAME OF THRONES irregardless of any flaws they may have.

    I think another aspect is we live in such a rapid fire culture that only something that can go on for years like TV shows can last in the cultural memory for very long, quick, name a movie from 2011 that many people still frequently talk about, there’s not a one and yet it doesn’t get any more relevant than GAME OF THRONES, which started in 2011, but that’s because a movie only lasts around 2 hours, whereas GAME OF THRONES is dozens of hours long, see the difference?

  74. Oh yeah, I do have season 1 of TRUE DETECTIVE though which I plan on watching, but that’s because not only is the subject matter interesting, but it’s also a self contained story.

  75. Griff, you’re right, I think people need to have something to talk about when they come to work, and a lot of people tune in to these shows every day. I find with movies, if I come to work and say hey, I just saw RAID 2 last night, it was fucking awesome, I get a blank look, followed by “never heard of it…but last nights episode of REVENGE was sensational.” Film, and particularly the world of DTV, horror, asian, and action has been segregated to cult circles like ours. You could point to the mainstream box office as an indicator of the general public’s limit to what they’ll pay to see, but it’s rather depressing. But, there will always be the curious ones who see STAR WARS 7 and think shit, that Yayan Ruhian and Iko Kuwais kicked arse, I wonder what else they’ve done, and…HOLY FUCK, these RAID movies are pretty fuckin good.

  76. Have you guys noticed that when a norm finds out that you’re a movie guy, they’ll ask you what’s good you’ve seen lately, and then when you tell them, they’ll just glaze over and look disappointed? They want you to say “Yes, that Oscar-nominated film about racism in the South based on that book your mom read was great,” not “There’s a movie called THE GUEST–no, nobody famous is in it–and I don’t want to spoil it for you so just see it, you’ll like it.” They don’t actually want you to introduce them to anything new. They just want an “expert” to reaffirm their own tastes. I guess this is what Griff is saying about TV. Everybody watches the same shit, so nobody ever has to feel left behind.

  77. I have not kept up with most of the acclaimed shows beginning with The Sopranos, so I can’t really confirm or deny the golden age of television. But I have to interject that if season 1 of Fargo was a movie it would probly be my favorite movie of last year. It’s one writer (a novelist I hadn’t heard of) for the entire season and done as one complete story, so it really does feel like one really long movie that you happen to be watching in installments. It doesn’t have that normal problem of having to bring in all the characters for each episode even though they’re not necessary, or of having to keep most of the status quo for a second season. To me, every episode was great and I never had any idea where it was gonna go in the next one. I would recommend it to all outlawverdotcommers who enjoy uncomfortable crime stories and Billy Bob Thornton running amuck being an asshole. Also he’s not the biggest asshole in the show, you root for him over one of the other assholes.

    If you’re not familiar it is not a remake of the movie. There is a minor and clever connection but mainly the movie is just used to set you up to expect the same thing again and then have the rug pulled out from under you.

  78. It’s more amusing to me when a norm thinks they’ve got my tastes pegged, and get all excited about recommending something they think I’ll like, like “hey man, have you seen ANNABELLE? Scary as shit.” My inner snob is saying “yeah, and it sucked balls”, so I say “well, if you liked that, you might find THE PACT up your alley.”

    I’ve actually got a new co-worker (the woman I talked about a few months ago who name-dropped TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in the job interview – she got the job! Seriously, no bias was operating in the final decision, it wasn’t just mine to make…and it turned out she was talking about the remake, I discovered later on…an arrow to my heart), but she’s really open to all these classics, so whenever we talk about movies, she often writes down titles I mention and seeks them out. I love this girl’s curiosity.

    Another guy cornered me recently and said “Dude, you need to see AMERICAN SNIPER BEST FUCKIN MOVIE EVER.” “Uh yeah, I’ve seen it, it was pretty good.” Bless their hearts, every one of them.

  79. New DRAGON BLADE Trailer with Jackie Chan and John Cusack.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZL_gB8ewzKI

  80. Vern: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35c8ttEJ6fk While we’re on FARGO, this CUT BANK looks like it is perfect for fans of both the show and the movie. It even features Billy Bob Thornton and Oliver Platt. And to keep it somewhat on topic, Liam Hemsworth.

  81. Honestly, I think most high profile cable TV shows are very overrated. Great production values, great actors (often even real movie stars, wow!), but scripts that often drag itself slowly from exciting episode ending cliffhanger to episode ending cliffhanger, with nothing happening inbetween.
    FARGO was seriously excellent, although it didn’t stick the landing 100%. (Even for a show that has the human stupidity as main theme, some characters acted VERY stupid in the last two episodes.) But it was one of the best series I’ve seen in years.
    I kinda dropped out of TRUE DETECTIVE, because when the first few episodes were mostly a bunch of old cop show cliches, only told and acted much better than normally, I decided to watch something else first. Then it got removed from my VoD site of choice and now I have to wait till it comes back on or for a TV re-run, to see if there is anything more to it.
    HOUSE OF CARDS is one of the rare occasions when I decided to just give up after the 1st episode, when I realized that I don’t give a shit about its premise. (Sore loser takes revenge. Why should I care?)
    I really like ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, but it took 10 episodes (almost all of season 1) to go from “It’s entertaining enough to make me watch the next episode” to “Holy shit, I MUST find out what’s gonna happen next!” And season 2 was even better, which was mostly because they turned it from a fish-out-of-water show into a quirky ensemble dramedy, with a great villain and one of the best and most pay-off filled season finales I have ever seen!
    THE WALKING DEAD remains super frustrating to me. While not as headache inducing as it was in its earlier seasons, it’s still the best worst show on TV.
    And GAME OF THRONES…well…this one is even more frustrating to me, with its millions of characters and subplots that only move forward for a scene or two per episode. But every time I wanna get out, they pull me back in with some seriously good stuff! (Compared to season 3, season 4 had for example almost zero boring filler episodes!)
    HOMELAND…sheesh, don’t get me started. I didn’t finish the 1st season, but read reviews of the later seasons, where critics complained about dumb plot twists and slow scripts and I was like: “That’ how the show was since episode 1 and you start complaining about it NOW?!”
    DOWNTON ABBEY is just an average soap opera with brillant actor and I think we can all agree that BREAKING BAD was one of the best things that ever happened to television in years and will now forever be the posterboy for High Quality Serialized Cable Dramas. Can’t wait for BETTER CALL SAUL.

    Honestly, most of my favourite shows right now belong to the kind that people point at when they say that Network TV is dumb. NCIS, CASTLE, THE BLACKLIST and such. All shows, that try to do nothing more than being entertaining for 1 hour per week, but they totally succeed with it! And some of them, like PERSON OF INTEREST, suddenly turned into well told high concept serials, that put most Emmy winning cable dramas starring and produced by Oscar winners and nominees to shame!

  82. If anyone’s on a Mann bender like I am now, I would recommend, if you can afford it, getting your hands on the Criterion bluray/DVD. It’s the best transfer I’ve seen, a touch grainy in parts, but the colors are spectacular – dark, dense blacks against a mostly rainy Chicago night sky, light and dark neon blues. The movie has aged really well, and it’s Caan’s best performance. There’s also more similarities to HEAT than I remembered – the criminal lingo, the negotiating terms of relationship with the women in their lives, the awareness that time is short.

    I’m gonna shut the fuck up now, and wait patiently for a Vern review, like a master thief sits on a big score.

    Seriously, buy this baby, but don’t forget to order it through Verns Amazon link up the top. You know you want to.

  83. Oh , I forgot to mention, I was talking about THIEF. As if y’all didn’t know…

  84. Arrow Video from the UK, just put out a Blu of it as well. It includes the original theatrical cut which hasn’t seen the light of day on home video for a long time. So if you have a multi-region player, pick that one up.

  85. The Original Paul

    February 8th, 2015 at 7:30 am

    I don’t know… I don’t seem to be able to “get” into the latest big-budget shows the same way as I was able to get into, say, THE WEST WING (seasons one and two of which are still basically the last serious drama that I’ve watched). Or something like ER or FIREFLY. I just couldn’t care for anything or anybody in THE WALKING DEAD or GAME OF THRONES or HOMELAND. (Yeah, even the presence of Morena Baccarin couldn’t quite keep me watching that last one.) I’m not even sure why. I guess I look for a more instant caffeinated flavour from my TV, when I even watch it (which is rare nowadays). Or to put it another way – if it’s going to really grip me, it has to come from the same level of talent as a Sorkin or a Whedon. And it absolutely cannot be fifty minutes of waiting for something to happen followed by five minutes of cliffhanger. And unfortunately that’s applied to film too – so-called “serious dramas” I’ve found to be not-so-serious, or satisfying.

    Darren – I agree with you in principle about niche genres finding an audience. But here’s the thing… I used to think that something good that wasn’t popular could become popular and not have to change in the process. Looking at a certain studio’s output recently (come on, I’ve bitched about this studio enough recently, you know who I mean), as well as various other things… I no longer think that. When a genre or series that was “niche” suddenly becomes popular, a whole lot of new expectations are added to it. There’s a whole lot more people to please, and all of a sudden, the people with the creative “vision” have a heck of a lot of new concerns. And you can say to them “Just continue doing what you were doing, it’s what people like” but how can they really?

    Majestyk – I’m not so much a “film guy” but I know what you mean. I constantly have to stop myself from dismissing stuff outright because of my own preconceptions about genre and so forth (something that’s become harder and harder recently, since whenever I’ve done it, the result seems to be a film that bores me to tears.) I don’t want to be the guy who gets so set-in-his-ways that he loses out on the good stuff ’cause it’s not something “familiar”.

  86. “HOMELAND…sheesh, don’t get me started. I didn’t finish the 1st season, but read reviews of the later seasons, where critics complained about dumb plot twists and slow scripts and I was like: “That’ how the show was since episode 1 and you start complaining about it NOW?!””

    This times a thousand. I struggled to get through Homeland after a bunch of accolades were thrown at it. I can be a bit of a completist, so if I start to watch a show, I often stick with it through the end, for better or worse. But I bailed on this show after its first season, which was supposed to be the good one, was terrible. It pretty much made me swear off anything from Showtime. I think TV critics sometimes confuse production values for quality and nudity and violence for adult themes.

    I’m not sure exactly why television has taken the place of film as a topic of conversation. It might also just be because of ease of access. You can DVR shows or watch them online. It’s also easier to fit an hour long show into peoples’ busy schedules. Still, I think there are many more thought-provoking and engaging films that come out every year than there are new TV shows or even single episodes of television.

  87. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 8th, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    For me over the past few years tv has delivered more fulfilling entertainment than movies have. Movies, or at least the types of movies I like to watch – which is action, thrillers, fantasy – seem to have mostly become PG 13 territory, always watered down, often directed by untalented idiots. TV however, seems to have become the safe haven where adults can go to enjoy proper well-written entertainment that is entirely uncensored and delivers damn good drama on top of that. Sure, tv shows require a bit of investment of your time, but in practice I’ve found tv shows much easier to keep up with. With the limited time I have every day it’s much easier to watch one episode of something than a 2 hour movie and still be in bed at a reasonable hour. And once you’ve put in that time and are invested in a show, the rewards you get feel so much greater than anything the average movie can throw at you.

  88. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 8th, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Also Mr. M, if we’re talking exploitation, I do not believe there are old movies out there that can deliver the same perverse exploitational thrills of something like the tv show Spartacus. The Vengeance season is pretty much the best trashy B-revenge exploitation story that exists in any type of format.

  89. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 8th, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Still I could never do without my Raid 2’s, my John Wicks or even my Marvel blockbusters. Can’t do stuff like that on a tv show. It’s just that at the end of every year I usually have trouble finding enough good films to fill out a top 10 list, while this seems much easier for tv shows. Seems like there is simply more good stuff there (at least of the type that I enjoy, I kbow there’s plenty of good dramas, biopics etc out there that are simply not for me).

  90. The Original Paul

    February 8th, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Ok. This is completely not the place for this, so sorry Vern. There’s about 370 pages of pure spambot in the forums since my last post and I want to vent for a bit.

    So I’ve been looking in the local supermarkets and DVD chain stores for a copy of “Edge of Tomorrow”. I thought, this has gotta be on the charts sections, right? Nope. Not that. I know the film wasn’t popular when it came out, but to be below a freakin’ David Beckham biography… this seems unlikely to me.

    Anyway, I was randomly surfing videos on the Internet, as you do, when I came across a little nugget of information regarding the marketing of this particular title in the UK. Armed with that information, I went out and actually found a copy of the DVD I was looking for. Let me describe what I have on my lap right now.

    It’s a standard-sized DVD case. Two-thirds of the front cover is taken up by the words “LIVE. DIE. REPEAT” in gold lettering on a dark grey background. On the right of each word is a picture. Beside “REPEAT” is a picture of Tom Cruise’s face, which at least shows who’s in it, although it’s pretty much scrunched up enough in a shocked expression that if you told me it was John Goodman instead, I wouldn’t be able to prove you wrong. You can’t see his hair or his profile is what I’m saying.

    Beside “DIE” is a picture of what I can just about make out to be two people in robot suits. I have no idea who they are, and I can barely make out the suits themselves without holding the thing about four inches from my eyeballs.

    And beside “LIVE” is actually a picture of two recognisable stars – Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt – looking at each other! Yay! Except that it’s completely covered by a giant square red sticker proclaiming “£7”. Also, SEVEN FUCKING POUNDS??!!! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that I get this awesome movie on DVD for such a comparatively low price, but what the unholy fuck? Did it go from “New Releases” to “Special Offers” that quickly?

    At first I thought the actual movie title wasn’t written anywhere on the DVD cover. Close examination proves me wrong, however, because in dark red text on a darker grey background at the very bottom where it’s easily missed is written the striking missive (with slashes and without spaces), using a military stencil font that doesn’t match anything else on the DVD cover: “CRUISE/BLUNT/EDGEOFTOMORROW”.

    So if you happen to be in the UK and you want to get a copy of the best mainstream action movie of 2014, well, look for LIVE DIE REPEAT. ‘Cause you sure as heck aren’t going to find EDGE OF TOMORROW anywhere.

    I don’t understand the marketing people sometimes. This film was just made to be a cult hit on DVD. Why you do this to it?

    Ok, vent over. Feel free to go back to the equally irrelevant conversation about modern TV serials.

  91. You’re not alone, the re-branding of EDGE OF TOMORROW to LIVE.DIE.REPEAT is a worldwide strategy. I can sort of understand, it has a certain straight-to-the-point appeal that the somewhat more generic original title. Still, ALL YOU NEED IS KILL might have been better than all of them though one could argue that feels somehow awkward too, something like a bad translation. It’s been out on home media for the past 6 months so the price drop is not unexpected, it’s $9.99 here on Amazon US. Anyway, all this might be better served in Vern’s review here: http://www.outlawvern.com/2014/06/09/edge-of-tomorrow/

    To get it back closer to the original topic: Tom Cruise was great in Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL.

  92. Also, regarding THIEF: I too noticed that Arrow Video included the theatrical cut in their release. That’s nice from an academic standpoint to compare the color schemes but otherwise Mann seems to have undone most of the other editorial changes in his 1995 director’s cut. The odd cuts and speed changes, especially in the final shootout in front of Leo’s house, are gone. The only change I can tell is the additional scene with James Caan and Willie Dixon watching the sunrise on the lake.

  93. Paul, about the price of the DVD: I can’t speak for the UK, but it’s been a while since I saw any expensive DVD new release over here. Blu-Ray? Sure! Those fuckers are always full priced, but a brand new DVD costs rarely more than 15€ (around 11 Pound) anymore, even if it’s the double DVD* of a huge box office success. But even then you can be sure that the price will shrink to at least 6,99€ within three months.

    *But those don’t really exist anymore. They now put all special features on the Blu-Ray and release barebone DVDs.

  94. In the VHS days, MGM released a version of THIEF under the alternate title VIOLENT STREETS. No idea why, maybe they were trying to sell it like Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS, but the two are entirely different stylistically and thematically. It didn’t make much sense then, cause at the time I thought Caan was not such a great actor, and it steered me away from seeing the movie, and it makes even less sense now, because I was wrong. He fucking owns this movie as THIEF.

  95. Re: Thief, there’s some controversy (if you want to call it that) among A/V freaks, in that many feel the Criterion is blue/teal overload and in that, erm, criterion alone welcome the cinema cut in the Arrow. However, I feel the cinema cut is very pink and TV-show looking in some shots compared to the Mann-approved Criterion.
    I think it looks amazing to me and the inclusion of the Willie Dixon scene seals the deal.

  96. I don’t have the Criterion Edition myself but I have heard that it tries way too hard to be blended in with the likes of HEAT and COLLATERAL from a visual standpoint. I feel that could be distracting. I personally really like the amount of color variety the theatrical cut already has. I don’t think I’d enjoy something so monochrome.

  97. EDGE OF TOMORROW sounds like a film noir movie/detective novel. Sometimes going for a generic title can backfire. I mean at least ALL YOU NEED IS KILL stands out.

  98. I just got this one on Blu, and just thoroughly enjoyed my second viewing. Mann movies tend to grow on me, so I’m already looking forward to having viewing 3 soon. Mann’s aesthetic is still developing in my view; he’s not slowing down in old age, as some reviewers have suggested.

    The title on the box over here in Holland is ‘Blackhat Hacker’ by the way. I guess they wanted to repackage it EDGE OF TOMORROW-style, as it is concerns another former marquee name underperforming at the box office. Of course, the onscreen title was not changed.

    I was fascinated by Ritchie Coster, the actor playing Kassar, who was interviewed in the bonus features. I’ve gotten to know him as playing over the top (Chechen in THE DARK KNIGHT) or quietly menacing tough guy villains (BLACKHAT), but he turns out to be a studious-looking Englishman in real life.

    Speaking of THE DARK KNIGHT, it seems to me that Mann is engaging in a cinematic conversation with his ‘sincere flatterer’ Christopher Nolan. The storm drain shootout involving a SWAT team in the storm drain reminded me strongly of RISES, while the building that (are you guys still into that) jumps off of in DARK KNIGHT features in quite a few shots of Hong Kong (and in one POV that is pregnant with meaning).

  99. I’m wondering if Viola Davis is going to have deja vu acting in Suicide Squad, since that looks like the exact same setup as Blackhat and she seems to be playing a variation on the same character. But that’s a good thing because she’s excellent here – she has that quiet intensity and almost Tommy Lee Jones-style screen presence that just conveys authority and annoyance with a dash of menace.

    But anyways, this was alot better than I thought it would be – despite some headscratchers (would a hacker really be the guy they would put in a radiation suit to personally investigate for clues in a nuked power plant?), the mixture of gritty procedural and James Bond-style globetrotting adventure works pretty well. The script kind of seems like it was dug up from the 90s, but the 2000’s execution surprisingly works really well with it. The action (of which there’s alot more than I expected) is well-done and absolutely brutal. (The face-slashing was actually kind of traumatizing to watch).

    I do kind of wish Mann would go back to shooting on film though – alot of scenes, especially those at night with the torches, simply look terrible. If it wasn’t Michael Mann, nobody would stand for this. And his other trope (having the two leads sleep with each other early and out of nowhere) is still here but I’m so used to it I kind of just had to laugh. This definitely isn’t a perfect movie but it’s surprisingly pop-corny while also being challenging, a combination we need more of.

  100. Briefly touched on here, but I thought I’d chime in and say that the new Blu-ray of MANHUNTER from Shout! Factory is remarkable. The theatrical cut looks brilliant, and the new interviews from what I’ve seen are very good.

  101. Seconded, onthewall. Coincidentally enough, I purchased and watched it last weekend. It looks fantastic.

    (Relatedly, it also shed some light on how annoying Hannibal got in the last season by telling the same story much better with a far-superior version of Will Graham)

    (Relatedly x2, I think it might be time to start [very gently] haranguing Vern about reviewing the next Mann movie.)

  102. Not that it would be a deal-breaker, on the Manhunter Blu is the theatrical cut the real theatrical cut or the Anchor Bay theatrical cut?

  103. I actually watched more of the director’s cut because it had Mann’s commentary track on it. Not that I’m an expert on which cut is which btw.

    I loved HANNIBAL but I am not as crazy about the third season as I am the first two. I think with the brilliant way S2 ended, it felt hard to top.

  104. Whoa a ‘Blackhat Director’s Cut’ is airing on FX right now? And it’s almost over?? DAMN IT…

    Looks like it’s re-airing on Sunday night.

  105. Are there action sequences in this movie? Are they good? I guess I should read the review.

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