Monday December 18, 2006
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead especially for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie at all. If you haven’t seen the movie, watch the DVD, which is a big improvement over the theatrical release, before reading.
The theatrical release of the Miami Vice movie sucked. But guess what? The DVD version is almost a completely different movie. Masterpiece? No. But the new cut (Don’t call it a “director’s cut” says Michael Mann, the original was a director’s cut too) fixes the biggest problems of the original movie — it’s tenuous connection to the city of Miami and the original series, and the weakness of the bond between Sonny and the Isabella.
Good news: the opening “port of Miami” sequence has been restored. Bad news: it doesn’t show more of the port then you’d see from the MacArththur Causeway. Nonetheless, the speadboat opening sequence begins by firmly grounding the movie in Miami, which makes a crucial difference for how the rest of the movie plays, at least for this lifelong Miami resident. Now when a scene takes place in an empty lot with a vague view of downtown at night in the background, I’m not straining to see if it’s authentic or not, and the backgrounding of the landmarks actually adds to the credibility. The original movie’s incomprehensible nightclub-scene opening was one of its major blunders.
The second key sequence that’s restored to the DVD is Sonny and Isabella’s romp in Havana. The original version included only a few seconds on the island, while the new version tells the story of the two characters taking a couple of days there together, falling in love. Since their bond drives the resolution of the movie, it makes more sense with these scenes in place, though they do slow down the action in the critical second act. Incidentally, the scenes in Havana are carefully handled: the city is presented simultaneously as an international tourist playground (for everyone but Americans) and as a once-great but now decaying place of deep and soulful beauty (the latter sense is dealt with only briefly, but it rings true).
Lots of other new shit is in the DVD version too; mostly stuff that give the movie a grand feeling balancing the gritty gunplay which overwhelmed the original version. Little exchanges between Sonny and Ricardo. A second shower sex scene mirroring the one in the original (still the best scene in the movie).
You wonder, then, how the original edit could have been so thoroughly botched. Probably the idea was to put in as many action sequences and as little dialog and exposition as possible. The problem with that is that it was impossible for a first-time viewer to fully understand what was going on, which in turn made the action sequences less meaningful. The new film does a much better job of balancing all the factors that go into making a thriller — the intrigue, the action, the romance . . . it’s hackneyed, but at least it’s done well.
It also plays more like an episode from the original TV series, in which shifts in mood were so critical. This movie feels like an episode that just had too much good stuff that couldn’t be edited down (and in fact Mann has said that he wanted to do Miami Vice as a movie before even doing the TV show). So what we get then, is a movie with the same basic set of key scenes, but where all the in-between bits seem to have been switched out and rearranged. A movie that’s actually pretty good, and more importantly, makes sense.
Wednesday December 6, 2006
Miami Vice was released yesterday on DVD. It’s an Unrated! Director’s Cut!! with Bonus Features!!! so we should all give it a second chance, even though it sucked the first time. I’m game; just moved it to the top of my Neftlix queue. I can’t tell from the marketing speak whether the Port of Miami intro sequence is on the DVD, but after seeing the second season of The Wire recently, I sure hope so.
Tuesday August 8, 2006
I’ve quoted it before, but it bears repeating: “The filmmakers sent an offer to Edward James Olmos to reprise his role as the never-not-brooding, pineapple-faced Lieutenant Martin Castillo. He declined and reportedly had his agent send a VHS [of] a 20-minute loop in which Olmos silently stared into the camera in absolute disgust.”
Thursday August 3, 2006
Whether you’re like me, and you’re recovering from the craptastic Miami Vice movie, or you loved the movie and are wondering what all the fuss of the TV show was about, the classic opening credits might come in handy.
Monday July 31, 2006
Oh boy! I can’t even begin to explain to you how badly this movie sucked. Let me begin by saying, though, that making a bad movie is excusable. Making a bad movie with anti-piracy bullshit planted in it is just plain wrong. But on to Miami Vice:
The plot was sort of like the plot of a sub-par episode of the original TV show, ended three-quarters of the way through. I’m not sure the concept of a “spoiler” even applies here: knowing it’s close to ending might be a relief. Sonny and Ricardo set up a big fancy drug deal, Sonny falls in love with a girl on the drug dealer’s team, Sonny and Ricardo mess with the drug dealers a little, there’s a big gunfight (what was supposed to pass for the climax scene) during which Sonny’s main concern is to save the girl, and a little epilogue wherein the girl gets sent off (to Cuba, where an earlier scene had been shot, except of course not really). Just when I was getting ready for a third act to sweep in and save the day, the whole thing ends. And it ends ugly: a glimpse of a sad little version of a reworked Miami Vice logo, followed by the credits rolling over some crappy band’s cover of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ (which was sort of a suspense-building time-filler in the first episode of the TV show, and a radio hit, and not so great then, and no better as a shitty remake filing-out-the-theater music).
The connection to Miami? Nope, sorry. Bad Boys II showed off Miami better then Miami Vice. One scene was nicely done on a highway overpass, but for the most part it could have been set anywhere. Almost the entire movie is shot at night and on super-fast, super-grainy digital with crappy lighting. It literally looks like shit.
Speaking of which, the chauvinistic aspect: The movie starts out with two strong-seeming female supporting cast members. One of them shares a shower-and-sex scene with Jamie Foxx (which was really well done, by the way; probably the best thing in the whole movie), and then proceeds to spend the rest of the movie in a coma. The other, played by Gong Li, starts out as a high-up in the drug cartel, and promptly gets sucked into an absurd, almost James-Bondian “romance” with her “nemesis,” Colin Farrell. As I said, towards the end the plot sort of revolves around her, yet she’s used more as a prop then a character. Irritating.
The leads? Well, Foxx is awlright, but he’s just not on the screen enough. Farrell is just plain sad. Who cast this schmuck? What the heck does Manola see in him? He acts like a sad little emo boy, and the movie becomes more laughable and absurd in direct proportion to the percentage area of the screen his face takes up. A lot of “bad acting” accusations got thrown at Don Johnson during the TV series, but one look at this guy will solidify Johnson’s reputation as the king of cool.
OK, so you’ve heard about how the pastel colors of the TV show are out, right? So they’re replaced by a “look” that consists of video-effect faux-grit, supplied by the high-definition digital cameras the movie was shot with. These are becoming more and more common, and allow directors to manipulate the look of a movie without having to go through the intermediary steps of scanning film. Here it’s mostly used to make things look crappy. Only slightly more successfully, a couple of the scenes employ what I believe is a frame-rate trick, giving them a weird home-video look.
I got home and talked to a friend of mine who’d just gone to see a 3D version of
The Ant Bully, [actually, it was Monster House] and raved about how weird, beautiful, and great it was. And apparently you can see it in 3D even at regular theaters. Maybe your money is better spent there. Blah.
Update: Miamians agree that the movie doesn’t really have much to do with the city.
Friday July 28, 2006
Hi Guys! Nice work on the movie; thanks for doing it. You probably don’t know, or much care, but there’s been a little bit of grumbling around town about how both of you decided to skip the premiere. We have Tom’s post, which I linked earlier. Mostly, though, it’s just people I’ve been talking to around town. There seems to be a certain feeling that when movie premieres take place in L.A. or N.Y., the big starts are automatically there, and that your absence from our big night was because ‘it’s just Miami,’ and a certain resentment of said feeling.
During these conversations, I usually point out that if I was cool like you guys, I’d certainly not want to go where I’d be the center of the attention of large throngs of decidedly less cool people. The response to this seems to be that you’re movie stars, and it’s your job to do shit like this. And there I disagree: you guys have contracts (right?) that spell out what your job is. Doing anything beyond that is at your discretion. At that point, the conversation returns to the “but if it was LA or NY” bit, and gets dropped without a satisfying conclusion.
I’m sure it’s no big deal. Your movie seems to be well received, and I’m sure Manola will continue to be so sufficiently obsessed with you to slip references to Colin’s penis into casual conversation. And I ain’t mad at ya. Just thought you’d like to know.
Thursday July 27, 2006
Tuesday July 25, 2006
I sure hope Vice isn’t as boring as Rene Rodrigues’ review. Salvaged a choice Mann quote: “There was an opening sequence in the film that will probably show up on the DVD in which we started off with an offshore powerboat race that brings you into a big-money, expensive marina. That’s kind of educational about what Miami is today.” But so wait for the DVD release? Probably not.
Monday July 24, 2006
Wednesday July 19, 2006
‘Miami Vice’ Film Reminds of Cocaine Past in the Washington Post. “The ‘Miami Vice’ TV series (1984-89) accurately reflected those crazy times, according to people who lived through them.” Fun article. (via, of all things, Miamist)
Monday July 3, 2006
ignore treats us to a pre-emptive dis of the Miami Vice movie. “The filmmakers sent an offer to Edward James Olmos to reprise his role as the never-not-brooding, pineapple-faced Lieutenant Martin Castillo. He declined and reportedly had his agent send a VHS [of] a 20-minute loop in which Olmos silently stared into the camera in absolute disgust.” Update: ignore gets hatemail.
Saturday May 6, 2006
Let’s have s’more stoopid Miami Vice nostalgia videos. Here’s Don Johnson getting all deep with it.
Thursday April 20, 2006