Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cooking Class

No Reservations
Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson
Released: July 27, 2007
Viewed in theaters: August 4, 2007


I haven't seen this movie since the theaters, so the only thing I really remembered was the rivalry between chefs Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Nick (Aaron Eckhart), although the rivalry seemed to be one-sided, and that they fall in love. (But even if I had never seen the movie, I could tell you that was going to happen). I had completely forgotten that Abigail Breslin was in this and plays Kate's niece, Zoe, who she takes in after Zoe's mom, Kate's sister, unexpectedly dies in a car accident. This is the second movie Abigail Breslin has been in where she plays a young kid who loses her parents in a car accident (her dad is out of the picture in this movie) and has to be raised by her aunt. She was also in Raising Helen where that happens and she and her two other siblings have to be raised by Kate Hudson. At least in this movie, she's an only child and CZJ is older and more mature and makes a steady income as a chef. (Although didn't Kate Hudson have some fabulous job working at a fashion magazine in NYC...God, that movie was so f**king stupid!) 

When we first meet Kate, she's been seeing a therapist. She tells him her boss makes her see him and hasn't the "faintest idea why" she needs to see a therapist, but it's soon clear to the viewer why she may need to see one. She is the head chef at a trendy Manhattan restaurant called Bleeker 22. Her job is her life and she takes it seriously.  She is very focused on her job and wants everything to be perfect, so she usually ends up doing everything herself, coordinating all the dishes so they're perfect. I have to say, watching this made me super hungry! There are some delicious looking dishes in this, especially that pasta dish that Nick makes for Zoe. The desserts look mouth-watering too, although they also look much too gorgeous to ruin! If I had to choose my favorite movie that revolves around food, it would be Chef

Kate hates leaving the kitchen, even to talk to customers who love her food and want to compliment her, but her boss, the owner of the restaurant, Paula (Patricia Clarkson) makes her go out to the dining room to talk to her admirers. However, she does not take well to any criticism and we see an example of this when a customer tells her that his foie gras isn't cooked properly. This is a dish that Kate has cooked probably well over a hundred times in her life and she knows it's properly cooked. She even tells him exactly how she cooked it. The guy tells her he's going to go somewhere else and she insults his intelligence by telling him there's a hot dog stand down the street. Her boss, who witnessed the whole thing, tells her that if she wasn't one of the best chefs in the city, she would have fired her a long time ago because apparently this wasn't the first time Kate had gotten into an argument with a customer. Paula tells her she needs to remember that "the customer is always right." Whoever came up with that motto needs to be bitch-slapped, because, you know what? The customer is NOT always right. Sometimes the customer needs a giant dose of reality like this guy did.

Kate is expecting her sister and her niece, Zoe, to arrive for a visit, but on the way, they get into a car accident and Kate's sister dies. Kate goes to visit Zoe in the hospital and tells her that her mother is dead, although Zoe already knew that. Kate goes back to work the next day, surprising everyone because they thought she was going to take a few days off. When Paula catches Kate crying in the cooler, she orders Kate to take a week off. It does make sense that Kate would want to go back to work after a tragic event because work is her life and it's something she can focus on and not think about her sister's death. I would imagine if you took a week off after someone close to you died, it's all you would think about and you would almost want something to distract you. However, Kate doesn't have much time to be distracted by her sister's death because she's now the sole guardian of Zoe (something she knew about since Zoe was born as we see in a letter she reads from her sister..unlike Kate Hudson in Raising Helen who had no idea she would be the guardian of her sister's kids). Although, I feel like if your dead sister's daughter was living with you and you were now raising her, then all you would think about was your dead sister. Everyday when you woke up and fed your niece breakfast, you would think, Oh, yeah, my niece lives with me because my sister is dead. Or when you take your niece to her first day of school, you would think, I have to take my niece to school because my sister is dead. Geeze, this got really depressing. Not to mention that Kate is reminded of her sister every time Zoe brings out a photo book of her and her mom.

I have no idea where Zoe and her mom were from; I'm guessing upstate. Or maybe New Jersey or Connecticut. It was in driving distance of Manhattan, at least. Zoe has to start at a new school and has to wake up Kate so they're not late. The school starts at, get this, nine o'clock. NINE O'CLOCK!!! Is this a real thing? Do schools actually start at 9:00 in Manhattan and if so why couldn't I have grown up in Manhattan and gone to a school that starts at nine, rather than eight? Surprisingly, even though their school doesn't even start super early (and anyone who says that nine am is early needs to STFU right now!) they are still late because Kate sleeps in. (I can't really blame her because most morning she wakes up super early to go to a fish market). Despite that, they probably would have made it on time, but Zoe insists she can't leave without her scarf, even though Kate tells her she can borrow one of hers and they'll look for it later. Zoe needs to have her scarf, not just any scarf, but a certain one. So while Kate is going through her boxes, Zoe is just sitting there, watching her. This kid is, what? Eight, nine, ten years old? She is old enough to help her aunt look for the damn scarf!

When Kate goes to the restaurant during her required week off to check on things, she discovers that Paula has hired a new chef, Nick, who is trained in Italian cooking. He is very different from the no-nonsense Kate who keeps order in her kitchen. He's joking around and singing Italian opera music, telling the other cooks to join in with him and everyone is smiling and having a good time. This infuriates Kate because she thinks Nick is trying to steal her place. Like I mentioned earlier, this rivalry is one-sided because Nick has no intention of doing that and just wants to work with a great chef like Kate. He even tells her that he'll leave unless she tells him to stay. Paula pleads with her to get along with Nick and Kate grudgingly tells Nick that he can stay.

Even though (probably moments before she died) Kate's sister told her that Zoe "eats anything, she's a vacuum cleaner", Kate finds that not to be true. Zoe doesn't seem to have much of an appetite. It probably doesn't help that she just recently lost her mother at such a young age, but it also probably doesn't help that Kate would do horribly if she were on Top Chef and the challenge was to feed a group of school children. She makes Zoe a fish dinner where the entire fish still intact, head and all. I'm not sure I would want to eat something that was staring back at me. Even though I like fish, that dish didn't look appealing to me, so I can't blame Zoe asking to be excused.

Kate brings Zoe to work with her where she just hangs around, out of the way, while the other chefs work. This is when Nick makes the aforementioned pasta dish which she gobbles up. Zoe is often brought to the restaurant where she ends up helping with peeling vegetables or whatnot. At one point, when Kate is away from the station, Zoe takes a whiff of one of the two truffles laying on the cutting board and throws them both away. Luckily, the garbage is only full of vegetable peels, so Kate is able to fish them out and use them since there weren't any used Kleenex or anything really disgusting in there. I've never had truffles in my life (it's possible I've had truffle oil, but I know it's nowhere near the same thing!), but I know they're super expensive. When Kate is dealing with the truffle seller (who is obviously selling them illegally because during the scene, another cook, who is pregnant, starts to go into labor and when Kate tells him to dial 911, he says, "No police!") he tells her the white truffles are $2200 a pound!

When Zoe is working in the kitchen, all I can think of is, there's got to be some child labor law that wouldn't allow that. Sure enough, in a later scene, Zoe's principal asks to speak to Kate and tells her that Zoe often falls asleep in class and has told her friends she's working late hours at the restaurant. The principal tells Kate that she's going to have to stop this, otherwise she's going to have to call Child Protective Services. Kate promises it won't happen again, but when she tells Zoe, Zoe gets angry and says she likes working in the kitchen, but we learn she's really upset because she misses her mother.

Zoe tries to play matchmaker and suggests that Kate invite Nick over for dinner on Sunday as neither of them work that day since the restaurant is closed. He and Zoe make pizza, telling Kate that they don't need her help and they'll let her know when dinner is served. Now I don't know about y'all, but when I make pizza, I just buy some Boboli pizza crust, put some sauce, cheese, black olives, and pepperoni on it, and throw that sucker in the oven. Not Nick, a true chef. He makes his dough from scratch. The three of them have a "safari" picnic where they've laid a blanket out on the floor and Zoe's stuffed animals surround them. It's a cute scene and we see a beginning of a spark between Kate and Nick. Shortly after, they start dating. When Kate asks him how they're going to work together now that they're in a relationship, Nick tells her, "We'll do what we always did: you tell me what to do, and I'll go behind your back and do whatever I want." When they kiss, Zoe moans about how it's "so embarrassing." Little girl, please, this is so what you wanted.

Things go south when Paula offers Nick Kate's job. Kate thinks this is what he wanted all along. Nick tells her he didn't accept the position, but it's too late and the damage is done. He has quit working at the restaurant and they have broken up. When Zoe goes missing and isn't at home or school or the restaurant, Kate asks for Nick's help to find her, which they do at her mother's grave. (I'm not even going to get into the logistics of how Zoe even got to the cemetery...I'm presuming her mother is buried in her hometown, wherever that is. Did Zoe steal money from her aunt and take a bus there? Did she hitchhike there?) Nick and Kate have a heart to heart and she apologizes to him, but he tells her he wants to thank her for going after what he wants and has gotten a job as an executive chef in San Francisco. Kate congratulates him, but you can tell she's not thrilled about this news.

After Kate quits her job (she quits before she can get fired because after sending out two steaks that aren't rare enough for a picky customer, she takes out an uncooked stead and slams it on his table, asking, "Rare enough?"), she goes to Nick's apartment and tells him she doesn't want him to go to San Francisco. In the end, they open up their own bistro that is brimming with customers. In an earlier scene, where they were all cooking together, they said they would have a restaurant named Kate and Nick and Zoe's. This is what they name the bistro. Terrible name. First of all, who wants to say, "Hey, let's go to Kate and Nick and Zoe's for lunch"? No one. Way too long. It's a ridiculous name for a restaurant. The logo of the restaurant is very confusing. It's an upside down triangle that says Bistro in the middle and on each of the three sides it has the three names. Zoe's the only one that is in possessive form. The triangle moves, so you can have any name at the top, while the other two names are on the sides. We see Zoe fix the triangle so it has her name on top and it says "Zoe's Bistro" and not "Kate Bistro" or "Nick Bistro" which just sounds weird. Why didn't they just name the damn bistro "Zoe's Bistro" and just be done with it? I bet you they dropped the "Kate and Nick" and just called it that. Their customers are able to see them from the kitchen and they all applaud when Kate and Nick kiss. Uh...I feel like in real life, most customers would not want the cooks doing that while they're preparing their food!

I like the clever double meaning of the title, even if they did take reservations at Bleeker 22, so the "No Reservations" doesn't work for that. Kate used to have reservations about dating/being in a relationship, but that changes once she meets and gets to know Nick. We know this because her therapist asks her how long it's been since her last relationship and she tells him it was three or four years ago. There's also a seemingly nice and decent-looking divorced man named Sean who lives in her building and has asked her out a few times, only to be turned down. She tells him she doesn't date people from her building, which is actually a good enough reason, but shouldn't that same rule apply to people she works with? I think dating people you work with is worse than dating people you live in the same building with because it would be harder to avoid them at work if the relationship didn't work out. I did feel a little bad for Sean when he sees Kate and Nick get back from a date.

Despite the tragic subplot, it's a cute movie with delicious-looking food and lots of popular Italian music. Sure, it's predictable because you know the main characters are going to end up together even after they have a fight and break up, but would you really want it any other way?

Since Bleeker 22 is a trendy restaurant in Manhattan, I thought I would tell you about the trendy restaurant I ate at the one time I visited Manhattan with my mom, my friend, and her mom. We usually ate at the hotel's restaurant or Seinfeld-esque diners, but on our last night we ate at a very nice Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit. The menu was very interesting and the meal was served in courses - some of them were only a bite, literally! The first thing was a little square of raw salmon arctic. Next we had barely cooked tuna with a little dot of beet sauce served on a glass tile. We were then served bread and I had Swedish dry bread. The next course was the first course aka the appetizer. I had the lobster roll with a yogurt base dotted with salmon roe eggs, which looked like orange tapioca. It came with a shot of ginger ale mixed with vodka. My next course, the main course, was the seafood stew. Its was covered in a dill sauce with a piece of lobster, tuna, salmon, scallion, and thin slices of cucumber and potato. Before we got dessert, we were served a tiny sorbet to cleanse our palate. It was butter cream and Japanese lemon with bits of chopped up citrus fruit. For dessert, I ordered the arctic circle which was goat cheese parfait with a lemon filling in the middle topped with a blueberry sauce and chocolate on the side. The very last thing we had were petite fours; there was coconut marshmallow, chocolate-covered fava beans, and a cranberry jelly square. I know some of these things sound questionable, but I promise, everything was absolutely delicious and it was the most sophisticated restaurant I've ever been to in my life! No idea how much the bill cost!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Perfect Heist

Inside Man
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Chiwetel Elijofor, Willem Dafoe
Released: March 24, 2006
Viewed in theaters: March 28, 2006


Spoilers ahoy!

I guess since after watching HeatI was still in the mood to watch a movie with a bank heist, so I chose this one when I saw that it was on Netflix. However, unlike Heat where the bank robbery is only one scene in the entire movie, the entire plot of Inside Man is about the heist. The movie opens with a bunch of people at a bank in New York City: we see the tellers, the security guards, and the patrons waiting in line. There's a man with his young son who's playing a game on his electric device, there's an obnoxious woman talking loudly on a phone and a security guard has to tell her to lower her voice, a woman listening to her iPod and singing along to it, a rabbi, and others. In a way, these people reminded me of the people on the bus in Speed: none of them are played by anyone you would recognize, but they're all characters who you learn about throughout the course of the movie as we will see more of them. Of course, with Speed, there's what, fifteen people on the bus who aren't Keanu Reeves or Sandra Bullock, so it's easier to get to know all of them. In Inside Man, there's about fifty extras who are in the bank during the heist so we only get to know a select few. During the film we see some of the people who were in the bank being interrogated by Detective Keith Frazier (that's Frazier with a Z!) played by Denzel Washington who dons a very stylish hat and his partner, Detective Bill Mitchell played by Chewetel Elijofor. All of those scenes are interwoven while what's happening in the bank is still going on. You know all these interviews are taking place after everyone is out of the bank and you know those people made it out alive.

While this is a heist movie, it's also a hostage movie. Clive Owen plays Dalton Russell who has set in motion the perfect bank robbery with his crew, which includes two other guys and one woman. They walk into the bank dressed as painters (including wearing masks and sunglasses) as though they're there to do some job. Nobody even blinks or notices them. Not until one of the higher ups at the bank realizes that they didn't hire anyone to do any paint jobs and when he questions Russell, that's when he screams at everyone to get down and the rest of his crew point guns at everyone until they're all laying on the ground.

They gather everyone and divide them up into two groups: employees and patrons and gather everyone's phones and keys. One bank worker tells Russell that he forgot his phone and Russell, not believing him, tells him he's going to ask him again, but the man insists he forgot it. I really thought he was being sincere since Russell tells him if he lies to him, he'll kill him and I'm sure the man would have produced his phone if he really had it with him. Russell starts going through all the other bank workers' phones, seeing if any of them have Peter Hammond, the name of the man who forgot his cell phone, on their speed dial. (And you can tell right away this movie came out before the iPhone was a thing, because there's not a one to be seen in this movie! We will later see a very early version of the iPod which looks very archaic in this day!) When he comes across a phone that does have Hammonds number, he dials it and hears a phone in a nearby office ring. He doesn't kill Peter, but he does take him into the office where he beats him.

They then make everyone take off their clothes and put on jumpsuits, similar to the ones the robbers are wearing. This is to confuse the police so they won't know who the hostages are from the bank robbers. This is why we see the two detectives interviewing everyone later on: to see if they were part of the robbery. The hostages will be divided randomly into three or four different rooms, sometimes changing people to another room and even inserting one of the robbers into one of the rooms to pretend they're one of them. Since they're all wearing the same uniforms, it's all very confusing, not just for the hostages, but for the viewing audience!

Can I just say that being taken hostage would be one of my worst nightmare sceanrios? (And I have about a million worst nightmare scenarios).  Obviously, it would be quite terrifying, especially if people were being killed and you didn't know if you were safe or not. But honestly? On a more selfish level? I think it would just be so boring. You wouldn't know how long you would be in this situation. What if you got hungry or had to pee? You probably wouldn't have your phone or anything to keep you occupied. You wouldn't be able to check Facebook or listen to a podcast or read a book or watch a movie on Netflix. You probably wouldn't be able to talk to anybody else, like these people were instructed. You would be too scared and worried to fall asleep...it would just be so boring! Heh, I just realized that it seems I would be much more worried about being bored than about the possibility of being murdered if I were ever taken hostage.

The two detectives are paired with Captain John Darius (Willem Dafoe) and his crew where they have a van with surveillance set outside the bank. During the course of the hostage crisis, a few civilians are set free, often with a message for the police. The first is an old man who was wheezing and claiming he was having a heart attack. Since he's wearing a jumpsuit and mask, he has to tell the police not to shoot and that if they go inside, the next two people who are brought out will be dead bodies. From this first released hostage, they know there are four perpetuators, including one woman, and they are also donning the same outfits.

When another hostage is released with a message telling them they need food for 50 people, they send in pizzas with listening devices attached to the boxes. They are told by one of the officers that pizza works better than sandwiches because then you can hear conversations of the people who have to huddle around the pizza box to eat instead of going their own separate ways with their individual sandwiches. But the criminals are too smart for them and put on an old propaganda tape of the Albanian president. The police don't realize this until much later. At first they think it's Russian, but when they get their Russian language expert to analyze it, he tells them he doesn't recognize it. When they play it over a loud speaker and ask the group of spectators if anyone recognizes the language, a guy comes forward, telling them it's Albanian and he knows this because his ex-wife is from Albania. Since they don't have any Albanian language speakers in the field, they ask the guy to call his ex. She tells them she will help as long as they make her parking tickets go away, then tells them it's a recording of a dead Albanian president.

You can tell the writer of this movie is a fan of Al Pacino, specifically '70s Al Pacino because there are references to three of his movies: The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon. When Frazier finally talks to Russell on the phone, Russell refers to him as "Serpico." He tells Frazier that he wants a plane fueled and ready and as long as he gets that, nobody will be killed.

Meanwhile, the founder of the bank and chairman of the board, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) has hired power broker Madeline White (Jodie Foster), a person who has "very special skills and complete discretion" to fix problems. Case tells her he has something of great value to him in one of the lockboxes at the bank and he wants to be sure that it doesn't get into the wrong hands. Madeline assures him she'll do what she can and is able to enter the bank to speak to Russell. After speaking to her on the phone, he invites her inside once he is satisfied she's neither a cop nor works for the bank. She tells him that he's not stupid, that he knows that he's not going to be able to escape from this and that she will be able to arrange for him to only have three or four years of jail time since he hasn't stolen anything or killed anyone...yet. (That may be true, but he sure has assaulted many people!) She also offers to have two million dollars waiting for him once he is out of prison. He tells her, "Thanks, but no thanks." During their conversation, we find out that when Case was a young man, he worked for a bank in Switzerland during World War II where he used money from the Nazis to start this bank. Russell has already retrieved what was inside the lockbox which included documents from Nazi Germany, proving that Case had ties to the Nazis. Yeah...no wonder he wanted to keep that hush hush! Russell uses this information to blackmail her and she tells him that he will be paid a good amount of money if he destroys the contents. She asks him how he even plans to get out and he simply replies, "I'm going to walk through the front doors."

Madeline tells Detective Frazier the deal she offered Russell, but Frazier doesn't believe that she would go in to tell him something that he already knew. She is convinced that he's not going to kill anyone because he doesn't seem like a murderer and Frazier tells her, "You never know what a person will do until you've pushed the in a corner" to which Madeline replies, "But it doesn't seem like you've pushed him into a corner." This statement will stay with him as we will later see in a few scenes.

The fact that Russell doesn't seem to be in any rush, despite making demands for a plane has Frazier wondering and he calls Russell with the news that his plane is ready, but before he can allow him on, he needs to inspect the bank first to make sure that nobody has been killed. He is let into the bank after he is patted down and shown the four rooms with all the hostages. He tells Russell he knows he's stalling and there's no way he plans to get on a plane with 50 hostages (I had no idea he was planning on taking the hostages with him!) and Frazier knows that Russell knows that won't work because he saw Dog Day Afternoon. (Thanks for spoiling that for me, Denzel!) I do have Dog Day Afternoon in my Netflix queue along with fifty other movies, not to mention the fifteen movies I have on my "to watch" list on Netflix Instant. So, eventually, I'll get around to watching and reviewing it! He wants to know what his real plan is, but Russell won't reveal anything to him, only that he'll walk out the door when he's good and ready. Before he leaves, Frazier attacks Russell, but immediately has a gun to his head by one of the other criminals. Since Russell had the chance to kill him, but didn't, this proves to Frazier that he's not the killing type. Hmmm, I feel like Frazier was a little too close to playing Russian roulette with that move on attacking Russell: if he doesn't get killed, Russell's not the murdering type. If he does get killed, well, he's dead! I don't think I'd want to take a chance like that! However, he seems to be wrong about Russell because Russell calls him and tells him to put the camera on the second floor window and they see a hostage with a bag over their head get executed. So much for the theory that Frazier had about Russell not being a violent person.

The next shot of the movie is Frazier walking back to the bank with a pissed-off look on his face. Except the way they shot it, he's not walking, he's more like gliding. You can tell that Denzel is standing on something with wheels and is being pulled. It looks really weird, but you know that Spike Lee loves this shot because he used it as Denzel's clip at the end of the movie when all the actors are being credited with their own scene from the movie. To me, it would look way more menacing if he were actually walking with a purposeful stride. It is a very artistic choice, but doesn't work in the context of the scene. I guess this is something Spike Lee does in a lot of his films.

Now that someone has been killed, it's time to get serious and end this thing before anything else catastrophic happens. Frazier realizes, after they've had a conversation about how they plan to infiltrate the bank, that the criminals have probably put a listening device on one of the items that have been brought out with the hostages. He is proven right, but is too late to stop them from entering the bank. It's chaotic, but all the hostages are released with no one being killed. The only problem is, since they're all dressed the same as the criminals, they can't decipher the hostages from the robbers and that is when they're all taken in for questioning. Everyone is treated as a suspect. The police look around the bank and find some very peculiar things which include fake weapons, a prop that was used to fake the execution with fake blood, and the fact that nothing was taken from the bank.

Since there's no way to determine who robbed the bank, Frazier is told by his superior to bury it. Nobody was killed and nothing was stolen, so no harm. Frazier knows there's got to be more to the story, because why else would this whole thing have happened. He keeps pursing the case and discovers that the only safety deposit box that doesn't have any records is number 392 which contains Mr. Cases's Nazi paraphernalia, a ring which used to belong to a Jewish friend whom Case betrayed to the Nazis, and diamonds. When Frazier and Mitchell get a warrant to search box number 392, they only find the ring is still there. Russell has taken the diamonds and the Nazi documents as an insurance policy. The two detectives confront Case about the mysterious lockbox with the ring, but he tells them nothing. When Frazier finds Madeline having lunch at a fancy restaurant with the Mayor, he implores her to contact the War Crime Issues Office in D.C. I did love when he enters the restaurant, a snooty maitre'd asks for his hat and he replies, "No, you may not have it. Get your own." Ha!

During the movie, the four perpetrators had been woking on building a fake wall in the supply room which Russell hid behind for a week (they also dug a hole for him to use as a toilet...not sure what he did about food, I imagine he brought enough. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure why he was in there for an entire week; that seems a little excessive). He is, in fact, able to walk right out the front doors just as he said he would. Although, you would think after spending a week without being able to shower, he would smell terribly (which is even brought up by his crew when they are there to pick him up), but nobody even seems to pay any attention or make any comments as he's exiting the bank. Maybe it's not unusual for people to smell in New York! Russell is not only carrying a heavy backpack on his back, but he's also holding a heavy duffel bag. You think that would be a bit suspicious, but no, nobody seems to notice this. He is able to leave the bank without anybody paying any mind to him at all.

If you like heist movies, you will like this one and if you like Denzel Washington, you will like this movie, I guarantee it! 

Friday, August 17, 2018

'Heat' of the Moment

Heat
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Time Sizemore, Jon Voight, Natalie Portman
Released: December 15, 1995


Anytime anyone does a Robert De Niro or Al Pacino impression, I am always amused. And the better the impression, the more amused I am. I found the funniest thing when I was doing research for this movie. (Well, actually I was doing research for De Niro and Pacino impressions...) I discovered a little podcast called "The Al Pacino and Robert De Niro Show" where they interview some up and coming actor or comedian. There's about four or five episodes and they're all only ten minutes long. "Al" will always shout "OH, BOY!" or call something "TREMENDOUS!" ("That was a TREMENDOUS show!") Of course, you'll have the occasional "HOO-WAH!" thrown in there as well. And then you have "Bobby" who will interrupt "Al" while he's interviewing the guest with some stupid question that has nothing to do with whatever they're talking about (like what's your  favorite cereal?) and "Al" will always respond with, "That's a good question, Bobby!" And sometimes "Al" will ask "Bobby" a question and he replies with, "Who, me?" There was one particularly funny podcast where De Niro blurts out of nowhere, "I won an Oscar for Raging Bull!" and Pacino responds, "That's right, Bobby! And I won an Oscar for Scent of a Woman!" (I'm surprised  De Niro didn't one-up him and say he has two Oscars...he must have "forgotten".) "Bobby" asks the guest if he's ever won an Oscar and he goes, "No, I've never been to the Oscars." And five minutes later "Al" will mention his Oscar again, haha! And, I swear, in every podcast "Bobby" brings up Rocky and Bullwinkle...I'm pretty sure the real De Niro wants to forget about that movie! They were talking about comedies the two actors have been in and he brought up that one. "Al" says he can't remember if that was him in Meet the Fockers ("Was that me in Meet the Fockers?") and "Bobby" tells him that he "thinks that was Dustin Hoffman." I love that neither of them can remember who was in that movie. Funny stuff. Do yourself a favor and go to Youtube and type "De Niro and Pacino go for ice cream". It's a MadTV skit where it takes them two hours to decide on what kind of ice cream they want at Baskin Robbins.

I came across this movie when I was doing research for The Godfather movies because while both Pacino and De Niro were in the second movie, they never share a scene together (if they did, there would be some weird time traveling stuff going on!) Nearly twenty years after that movie, Heat was going to be the first time they would share the screen together. In fact, the trailers were all about this being the first time they would finally be acting together. Now, if I were some moviegoer back in 1995 excited to see these two legendary actors in the same movie, sharing scenes together, I would be a bit miffed because (spoiler alert!) they're only in two scenes together! And in one of them there's barely any dialogue between them. And this is a three hour movie! They probably literally only share fifteen minutes of screen time together (if that!) However, I think it works and the motto "less is more" is true here.

SPOILERS WILL BE RAMPANT! 

Pacino plays Detective Vincent Hanna who is trying to capture De Niro's criminal Neil McCauley who is planning a bank heist with his crew. Pacino does a lot of screaming in this movie...he is a lot more unhinged than the calm, cool, and collected De Niro. "GIVE ME ALL YOU GOT! GIVE ME ALL YOU GOT!" "DON'T WASTE MY MOTHERF'ING TIME." And lots, lots more. Even though he doesn't yell it, my favorite line is when he's interrogating Hank Azaria's character about Ashley Judd's character and when Azaria says, "Who?", Pacino goes, "Who? Who? What are you, a f**king owl?" And speaking of animals, I also laughed when he's talking to Tone Loc's character and says, "You get killed walkin' your doggie!"

There are so many people in this movie; many of them you are probably familiar with. I only listed the actors who are more well-known/have the most screen time above. There are a ton of character actors. Let me tell you how many other people are in this...some of them weren't even listed in the beginning credits:
-Amy Brenneman, best known for shows like Judging Amy, Private Practice, and  NYPD Blue is in this.
-Hank Azaria, from The Simpsons and a million other things, is in this.
-Dennis Haysbert aka President Palmer from 24 is in this.
-Speaking of 24, Xander Berkeley, is also in this for one scene.
-Jeremy Piven has one scene in this movie.
-William Fichtner, also in a million things, but maybe you might remember him from The Dark Knight, which I will bring up later in this review, is in this. He's a total, "Hey, it's that guy!" character actor that you always recognize but you may not know his name.
-Danny Trejo, who has done so many things, but I know him best from Breaking Bad, is in this.
-Tone Loc, '90s rapper and the bad guy from Blank Check (heh!), is in this.
-Ted Levine, the guy who played Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, is in this.
-Mykelti Williamson, who played Bubba in Forrest Gump, is in this.
-Tom Noonan, who they made a big deal about in Last Action Hero, is in this, but honestly, I'm not that familiar with him. I didn't know any of his movies except for LAH.
And there's a million other people, but I wasn't familiar with them. I'm sure you know at least six people from the above list!

This is a long movie. It's three hours long. Oh, did I already mention that? Usually I space out these really long movies and watch them over a course of a couple days. I watched Heat on a day I didn't feel good so I was more than happy to sit on my couch in the dark for three hours watching it. There's so much going on and a lot of information to retain, that I did have to re-watch a couple scenes to write this. It's a really good movie. Beautifully shot...you really get the essence of Los Angeles, where it takes place. Every scene in this movie was filmed in an actual L.A. location, no studios are ever used and it definitely helps the film feel much more authentic. However, I almost think this movie would have benefited to be a ten-part series on Netflix or Hulu. Unfortunately, those didn't exist twenty years ago and if you were to make it as a series today, you wouldn't get the same cast and Pacino and De Niro would be too old for their roles, so you wouldn't get that awesome diner scene between the two of them. Even though this movie is three hours long, I still feel like so much is missing. For instance, Natalie Portman (a 12 or 13 year old Natalie Portman!) plays Pacino's stepdaughter. Her mom is his third wife. Portman's character's name is Lauren, and honestly, I had to look that up because I would have never remembered that as she is probably in the entire movie for less than five minutes. When we first meet her, she's being a bratty kid, whining about how she can't find her barrettes and she needs to be ready for when her dad picks her up. He never does and we learn that it's not uncommon for him to do that. We next see her sitting at a bus stop and I just assumed she was waiting there for her dad to pick her up, but then Vincent sees her and picks her up. (Really, what are the odds he would come across the same bus stop his stepdaughter is at in L.A.?) He asks her what she's doing and she replies she wanted to be alone. I thought for sure when we first met her she was going to be kidnapped by De Niro, or worse, murdered by one of the really bad guys from his crew. However, her final act towards the end of the movie comes out of nowhere and I wasn't expecting that at all. Vincent, who's been having problems with his wife, Justine, is staying at a hotel and when he goes back there one night, he notices the floor is all wet right outside the bathroom and when he goes in he sees Lauren unconscious in the bathtub with the water all red after she has cut herself. WTF? Where the f**k did this come from? I know she wasn't happy that her dad kept making excuses not to see her, but this seemed to come out of nowhere! Maybe she was also unhappy that her mom and stepdad were fighting? We never see her in any of those scenes, but that doesn't mean she doesn't know about it. Still....I feel like if this had been a ten-part miniseries we could get some more insight of this young girl being suicidal, because, to me, it totally comes out of nowhere. She is rushed to the hospital where she is helped and will survive her ordeal. Honestly, you could have just taken out Natalie Portman and you wouldn't even miss anything. Fun fact: this was her second movie, but that's not too surprising as she is really young in this!

Another scene where this movie would benefit from being a miniseries is when Neil meets Amy Brenneman's character, Eady, for the first time. The following happens, all within, like five minutes: first we see Neil in a bookstore, where Eady works. We see her walk past him while he's looking at a book and this is probably something you wouldn't even notice if you were watching it for the first time. The next scene he's sitting in a crowded diner with just an empty seat between him and Eady. Seriously, again, what are the odds of that? Was this diner connected to that bookstore or something, cuz then at least that would make a little more sense that they would both be there. Even if that were true, it is amazing that they are both sitting near each other because this is the biggest diner/restaurant I have ever seen in my life! Even bigger than the Cheesecake Factory, haha. After he asks her to pass the creamer, she asks him what he's reading (a book about metals) and what he does. He gets annoyed and asks her why she's so interested in what he reads or what he does. She apologizes for bothering him and tells him she works at the bookstore and has seen him from time to time. He feels bad for being rude (probably only because she's young and pretty and he likes her Southern accent!) and moves to the empty seat and tells her he's a salesman and asks questions about her. You know this movie came out before Project Runway because when Eady tells him she went to Parsons for graphic design, he asks her where that is. Please. Everyone knows where Parsons is because of that show! Tim Gunn put Parsons on the map. They end up at her place and I'm thinking, Um, is this a good idea to take some guy home with you that you just met? He could be a criminal (which he is!) Well, as long as she doesn't sleep with him...which she does! She obviously has a thing for older men because we know she's been "watching" him at the bookstore and he is easily twenty years older than her. She's lucky she didn't take home the really bad guy in Neil's crew because things wouldn't end so well for her! But he isn't even attractive. Maybe that whole scene was more than five minutes, but it seems very rushed and makes Eady look very naive, which I guess she is supposed to be, as we will see more prominently later in the film.

Neil's crew consists of Chris (Val Kilmer), Michael (Tom Sizemore),  and Trejo (Danny Trejo...yes, he plays a character that has his same surname...I wonder if that was the character's first or last name?) They have hired a guy named Waingro (who is the aforementioned really bad guy) to help them steal over a million dollars in bearer bonds. (Isn't that what Jared Leto and company were trying to get in Panic Room?) Their plan is to ambush an armored truck and have someone get the bonds while a couple others keep a lookout for the police and another one keep a gun on the guards who were in the truck so they don't try anything. Unfortunately they give that job to Waingro, the worst person to give that job to as he ends up killing one of them for no reason. One of the other guards reaches for his gun and this prompts Neil (or maybe it was Michael...it's hard to tell when they're all wearing masks...the only reason I knew it was Waingro who killed the first guard was because he has long hair) to kill him. They also kill the third guard to make sure there are no witnesses. This really pisses off Neil (who calls Waingro a "dumb motherf'er" twice...this is why he and Vincent should be BFFs...they love calling people that!) because their crime went from bad to REALLY F**KED! Later they're at a diner (a slightly smaller one, but still quite crowded) and he bashes Waingro's head into a table. There's some nice continuity where we will see a nasty scar where he hit his head throughout the rest of the movie. When they walk outside, Michael and Chris keep a lookout in the parking lot while Trejo opens the car trunk where we see a body bag ready to be used. Neil is about to shoot him after punching him in the gut, but Michael tells him to wait because he sees a police car. While Neil is watching the car, Waingro gets away. Why Neil or any of the other guys don't physically keep him in their control, don't ask me. But I guess the plot of the movie calls for his escape. Waingro will go on to commit a series of murders, killing young prostitutes by bashing their heads in. At one of the crime scenes Vincent arrives at, we see a bunch of people behind the yellow tape, and there are at least two small children...seriously, who are these parents who think it is appropriate to let children view a crime scene? Vincent is pulled away while he's on a date with his wife and this starts the downfall of their marriage...he is so busy with his work and always having to run away when he is needed. She has an affair with Xander Berkeley's character.

The LAPD reach the crime of the scene to scope things and very quickly Vincent realizes these are smart criminals because they were in a good spot with lots of escape routes and they knew to get away within three minutes, the time it would take for the police to reach them. Vincent gets some intel from an informant played by Tone Loc and they run Michael's name through the system and find all his felonies. They put him under constant surveillance.

Meanwhile, in a scene where there's a lot of math, Neil's boss/mentor (I don't know what you would call him!), Nate (Jon Voight) tells Neil that the bonds came from a money laundering man named  Roger Van Zant (William Fichtner) who "runs investment portfolios for offshore drug money." If Neil sells Van Zant his stolen bearer bonds, he'll make the money back, plus another 40% on top with the insurance. I don't know, I'm not good with math! This will also give Neil more money, so he agrees. Van Zant is a real piece of work. He's exactly the kind of shady client Saul Goodman would have (everything I learned about money laundering, I learned from Saul Goodman, true story!) He sends one of his men to ambush Neil when they're at the meeting place to make the exchange (big mistake!), but Neil is warned by Chris, who was keeping an eye on things, and makes it out without a scratch and still has the bonds. The two men Van Zant sent, however, end up dead. Despite all this, Neil is quite furious at just what went down (well, you can't blame the guy...he did just escape an assassination attempt!) and let's just say Van Zant better watch his back! Not only did Van Zant try to kill him, the package of money was just blank scraps of paper. Total scumbag, this Roger Van Zant.

By survieling Michael, Vincent and the rest of the LAPD learn about the other members of the crew and find out their next score is to break into a precious metals depository. (Aha! That's why Neil was reading a book about metals!) The police set up a stake out, ready to strike when they have their thieves. One of the officers accidentally hits his gun against the van and Neil, who is keeping watch outside near the van, hears it. Not wanting to take any chances, he tells Chris to stop drilling, despite Chris almost having it. They leave with nothing and Vincent tells the others to just let them go because they don't have anything to charge them with except breaking and entering which will only give them about six months of jail time before they're out. Vincent doesn't think it's even worth it. How much do you want to bet he chewed that guy's head off for screwing up their plan when they got back?


Neil and his crew turn the tables on Vincent and the LAPD and scope them out. I laughed when Vincent figures this out and starts posing for the camera and yelling, "Yeah!" Nate gives Neil the info on Vincent, saying that Vincent thinks he's pretty smart and almost has an admiration for him. However, he's on his tail and Nate advises Neil, who is planning on robbing 12.2 million dollars from a bank with his crew, to pass because he has too much heat from the LAPD, especially Hanna, on him.  Neil refuses to pass on the job which he already has all the schematics for, plus the plan has already been set up by Tom Noonan's character: the night before the big heist, they plan to trick the alarm system computer so it turns the video recorder off twenty minutes before they walk inside.

Right smack dab in the middle of the film is the scene everyone's been waiting for with bated breath; a scene everyone has been waiting to see for the last twenty years: the scene between Pacino and De Niro. Hanna goes to great lengths to find McCauley: he's in one of a handful of helicopters, all looking for his car. When they find him driving on the freeway, a car is waiting for Vince so he can catch up to Neil and when he does, he invites him for coffee. Can you imagine being an extra in this scene? You know they all tell people, "I was in a scene with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro and that's how I got my SAG card." (Okay, I don't know how SAG memberships work, but I feel like even if you act in a scene for a half second, then you're a member of SAG). That's what I would say if I were an extra in that scene! Now I probably would have been 13 when this movie was filmed, so I probably wouldn't care if I had been an extra in this scene because while I had certainly heard of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro at the time as they were big names, I probably wouldn't know that it was such a big deal they were in a scene together. I realize now, that as they're getting older (Pacino is 78 and today is De Niro's 75th birthday), that I've always taken them for granted. I don't want to sound morbid or anything, but you know all the news shows have their Pacino and De Niro (and all the other big names from their generation) video footage of all their big movies and accolades ready to roll in case, God forbid, anything should happen to one of them. But hopefully they still have a few good years left because I will feel horrible if something does happen to one of them right after I publish them, like I cursed them or something! I don't want to take the, ahem, heat for that. (That pun was very intentional!)


Anyway, let's get off this depressing subject and return to the scene they're in together. Even though they're both on the opposite sides of the law, there's a mutual respect and admiration between the two and in another life, they could quite possible be really good friends. There's a very interesting point in the conversation which will come up later in the movie and I'll get to that later. Both of them realize the other is not going to back down: McCauley is going to continue his life of robberies and Hanna is going to continue to chase the bad guys like McCauley that are out there. Hanna even tells him, "If it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down." Likewise, Neil tells him that "There's a flip side to that coin" and that he "won't hesitate" if he has to be the one to kill Vincent. He also adds, "Maybe we'll never see each other again." Ha! Yeah, right. You know these two are going to cross paths again.

McCauley recruits Dennis Hayberth's character, Donald to be their getaway driver the day of the bank heist. He sees him working behind a grill at a diner and recognizes him from his prison days. He does this after their original getaway driver, Trejo, calls him and tells him he has too many cops on his tail and he has to back out of the bank heist. The heist and the shootout that follows is probably the most memorable part of the movie (beside the Pacino/De Niro scene, obviously). Apparently, Christopher Nolan used it to inspire the opening bank heist scene in The Dark Knight, and yeah, I can see it. Neil, Chris, and Michael just walk into this huge bank in downtown L.A. and they all stand in separate places. While Neil and Chris are putting ski masks on, Chris distracts everyone by hitting a guard and soon all three of them have complete control of the bank, handcuffing guards and pointing their guns at people, telling them to stay down and to not move. Neil tells them they don't want to hurt anybody, they are just there for the bank's money, not the patrons' money which is insured by the federal government. While what happens at the bank is scary with three masked men with guns taking duffel bags of money, what happens next in the busy streets is much scarier. At least they didn't use their guns at the bank. (Well, not to SHOOT anyone...they did use their guns a couple of times to hit guards with them).

It becomes a bit difficult for the LAPD to follow McCauley and his crew as they have gotten rid of all the surveillance. But as the heist is going down, they get a tip from Van Zant's bodyguard, of all people, and are able to catch up to the thieves as they are leaving the bank. Hanna instructs his crew to wait until they are all in their car and to "take clean shots." Um, is it really a good idea to start shooting bank robbers in the middle of downtown L.A. where there are people EVERYWHERE? However, they are not the first ones to start shooting; it's Chris who takes the first shot at the police and they return fire with him and the others. This is said to be the most intense shootout in any movie and they aren't lying! What makes it really scary if just how realistic it is. This scene is insane...they are just shooting everywhere and at everyone. Both sides end with casualties...one of the detectives played by Ted Levine is killed by Chris and Donald and Michael are both killed. I'm not sure how many civilians were killed, but there was no way none were unscathed by all those flying bullets! They even continue the shooting in a parking lot of a grocery store. Michael is killed after he takes a random child hostage (she got separated from her mother through all the confusion) and Vincent takes a shot at him, luckily not hitting the little girl! Neil and Chris get away when they steal a station wagon from the grocery store parking lot. Chris got shot in the neck and he is taken to a doctor played by Jeremy Piven. Neil tells Chris they need to get out of the country because they're all over the news. He believes it was Trejo who betrayed them to the cops because he wasn't there. When he goes to Trejo's house to confront him, he finds Trejo's wife dead and Trejo near death, but just barely hanging on. When he asks him why he did it, Trejo tells him that it was Waingro working with Van Zant and he had to tell them or he would kill his wife (which they did anyway, apparently!)

In one of her earlier film roles, Ashley Judd plays Charlene, the wife of Chris. They have a young son and she has no problem with her husband's criminal activity as long as it brings the big bucks. She's having an affair with Hank Azaria's character and the cops use him to bring her in for a sting operation. They tell her if they don't cooperate with them, then she will be going to jail and her son will grow up in foster homes. Her job is to lure her husband home. When they think they have Chris approaching in a car, they tell her to go outside and see if it's him. Look, I understand why an officer didn't accompany her because they didn't want to scare him off, but nobody was keeping an eye on her at all? From the balcony, she gives  Chris a subtle hand signal and he knows what this means and gets back in his car and drives away. She tells the detective played by Mykelti Williamson that it wasn't him. Smartly, he radios another officer to stop the car and check it out just to be on the safe side. Chris has a fake ID, thanks to Nate, and has also cut his hair. They know what Chris looks like, and they should know that it's possible he would have a fake ID ready to go when he escapes, but they let him go! They let him go because they believe it's an entirely different man! WTF? Do they not realize it's still him, just with short hair? That seemed a bit...implausible. Charlene is lucky the cops were so dumb or her ass (and according to Vincent, "She's got a GREAT ass!") would have wound up in jail. While Chris is able to get away, you know he will never be able to return to his wife or son again as you know the LAPD are watching to see if he does just that.

Neil has plans to escape with Eady to New Zealand (which she seems all ready to do...seems a bit impulsive to move across the world with someone you just met!) When she sees the shootout on the news, she realizes that Neil did this, understanding why he wants to go to the other side of the world. When he comes to get her, she runs away from him and he follows her up a hill and I thought for sure he was going to kill her, but he doesn't. Neil may be a criminal, but he's not a cold-blooded killer. He only murders people who really deserve it. He even gives her the choice of staying or leaving and she chooses to stay. Again, she seems a bit naive.

There are two things Neil really wants: he wants to live his life with someone he's found who he really cares about and he wants to get revenge on the two people who f**ked him over: Van Zant and Waingro. He will not be able to have both. With Nate's help, he is able to find the former and kill him. Also with Nate's help, he has an escape plan waiting for him and he is almost home free. On his way with Eady to the plane, Nate calls him with the whereabouts of Waingro. Neil decides it's not even worth it since he's almost out of the country, but at the last minute he decides to make a pit stop at the hotel Waingro is staying at, telling Eady, "There's time." In a weird way you're kind of rooting for this criminal to make his getaway so when he decides to do this, you're screaming at your TV to leave well enough alone and just forget about Waingro and make his damn escape already! He does kill Waingro (and let's face it, the world is a better place without him in it), but also causes quite the commotion because he set the fire alarm off to distract everyone and now all the police cars and firetrucks are in the area. Poor Eady is waiting in the car, wondering what the hell is going on. Vincent knows that Neil is at the hotel and as Neil is walking back to his car, he sees his cop buddy approach him. Now, if you remember, I mentioned that there's an interesting part in the conversation that comes up between Hanna and McCauley that will become relevant late on: Neil tells Vincent that he was once given the advice, "Don't let yourself get attached to anything [or anyone!] you are not willing to walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." This is what exactly happens to the usually solidarity Neil who has found someone he loves and has gotten quite attached to Eady and now he has to leave her behind as he runs away from Vincent, who pursues him. Eady gets out of the car and is just looking at him in disbelief. Even though I thought she was totally naive throughout the movie, I did feel bad for her.

In the end, they're both playing a game of cat and mouse in the airfield, both with guns at the ready. It goes on for awhile, but when Neil tries to make his move, Vincent sees his shadow and quickly reacts, shooting him in the chest, not quite killing Neil, but wounding him profusely that he probably has only a few minutes to live. He is nice enough to hold Neil's hand while he dies. You can tell he didn't want this, but as he mentioned before, if it had to be between Neil and himself, Neil would be going down.

Despite my slight criticism of there being too many characters and subplots for even a three hour movie to follow, it does the best it can with it and I highly recommend it if you've never seen it. Don't let the three hour length intimidate you! This is filmmaking at its finest. If you put two good actors together with a great director and super talented character actors, you really can't go wrong.