Catalog titles FTW. I am one of those rare people who enjoy being “double dipped.” I like upgrading to Blu-ray if I love a film, because you only get to watch a movie for the first time once, and so a different and better transfer is a reason (at least for me) to get excited about a film you’ve seen a number of times. When I would go see something in the theater on multiple occasions, I’d often go to different theaters (or failing that, different seats). My reviews of the Blu-rays of Heat and Logan’s Run after the jump.
Heat is one of the great American films. It took me a while to come to that, and I still think that Michael Mann’s finest film is The Insider, but there’s no denying Heat. Robert De Niro stars as Neal McCauley, a high line criminal who knows how to rob. He works with a good crew (Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo), but with the score that starts the film, he takes on Waingro (Kevin Gage) who turns a robbery beef into murder one by killing people. His crew wants to wack him, but Waingro escapes. On the other side of the law is Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and his crew (Wes Studi, Mykelti Williamson, Ted Levine) who come on to the McCauley’s crew, and it becomes about how Neal must square off against Vincent once Hanna’s on his scent.
Neal has very little home life, but meets a girl (Amy Brenneman) and begins to fall in love, while Vincent’s third wife (Diane Venora) is on the verge of leaving him, and her teenage daughter (Natalie Portman) is an emotional wreck. Kilmer’s character Chris Shiheris is married, loves his wife, but Charlene Shiheris (Ashley Judd) has been cheating on him, and is ready to leave because Chris is a degenerate gambler.
Heat is an epic, and Mann began drawing it in 1987, with his TV show/movie LA Takedown. The characters are there, but over the course of a decade, Mann fleshed the story out to this grand scale. And yet for a three hour movie, it never slows down, nor feels long. It’s perfectly paced because it’s about professionals doing their jobs, and few things are as engaging in cinema as watching people who know how to do their jobs do their jobs. All the performances are lived in, and with a cast that also includes performers like Bud Court, Tom Noonan, John Voight, William Fichtner, Hank Azaria, Tone Loc, and the list goes on – you’re dealing with a murderer’s row of talent. You mix that with Mann’s immaculate eye, and one of the single greatest set pieces in the history of cinema (the midtown bank heist and shoot-out), there’s no denying that this is a masterpiece. If I had any hesitations, it’s that the ending is very much of the cowboy world with two men trying to get the drop on each other, but in watching it again, it could end no other way, and Mann stages it beautifully.
The Blu-ray features everything from the previous two disc set, and the only reason to get this disc is for the 1080p picture upgrade for the widescreen film (2.35:1), and the 5.1 TrueHD surround. But as this is a demo disc to begin with, it’s a small price to pay. The transfer is breathtaking, and Mann always has a great eye, so I think it’s definitely worth the upgrade. The film comes with a thoughtful commentary by Michael Mann where he talks about the real life influences on the film, as most of the characters were culled from people he knew in Chicago. There’s a making of (59 min.) that talks to much of the cast – including Pacino but not De Niro – and gets advisor Eddie Bunker and Michael Mann to talk about the film. “Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation” (10 min.) talks to the film’s centerpiece scene, and some of the controversy around it while Mann talks about the specific take used, and how the actors bounce off each other. There’s no wide shot, but I’ve always felt this is Mann understanding cinema: if both actors are in frame, there is no focus point. They’re too strong. “Return to the Scene of the Crime” (12 min.) is a location tour with the production designer. There are also eleven deleted scenes/snippets (10 min.) Three trailers round out the disc.
Logan’s Run is amusing junk. Michael York stars as Logan, a Sandman in the 23rd century, where in this society you’re not allowed to age above 30. Instead you go to the carnival to die, or you become a runner, and the Sandman hunt you down and kill you. Logan is asked by the powers that be to become a runner and find sanctuary, so he teams up with ankh wearing Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) to leave their hood and see what’s outside. But there’s numerous obstacle, including Logan’s best friend/fellow Sandman Francis (Richard Jordan), and an evil robot who likes to freeze people.
The view of the future in Logan’s Run could not be anything but from 1976. It’s right before Star Wars and you can feel it in the film’s bones. And the film is great for the weird retro-futurism that doesn’t seem as mechanical as Star Wars would make such visions. But they’re obviously running through a mall at many points, and the model work is very noticeable. It’s a more crystal-based world of the future, and looking at it for that is why the film still holds some fascination. Well, that and the gratuitous nudity, to which the film features more skin than you would ever expect from a PG film. There’s also Farrah Fawcett adding to the camp appeal.
Warner Brothers presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD. It’s a solid track, and the transfer is so good you can see the seams at times. Extras include a commentary with Michael York, director Michael Anderson, and costume designer Bill Thomas. There’s a featurette called “A Look into the 23rd Century” and the film’s theatrical trailer. These supplements were produced and included with both the laserdisc and DVD, so there hasn’t been much upgrading in the interim.