Vice, Vice, Baby...

Last night I was flipping around the channels and happened upon an episode of Entertainment Tonight. It used to be once upon a time that I loved that show. When I was a lad I think it was on every night right before primetime and I never missed an episode.

Something changed between then and now. Either the show is different or I am, either way, these days I equate watching an episode with getting a shard of glass jammed into my eye.

The thing that made me stop last night on ET was they were doing a fluff piece on the upcoming Miami Vice movie. They showed Colin Ferrell and Jamie Foxx learning how to shoot, duck, roll, and then shoot again, just like real cops NEVER do. Anyway, I like Colin Ferrell a lot (even though he has yet to be in a movie that harnesses his somber yet feral qualities) so I watched for a few minutes.

I’m very curious how the movie is going to fare at the box office. The camera loves Ferrell and Foxx, but neither of them has been strong enough to open an action movie.

I liked Miami Vice when it premiered on television back in the early 80s. I stopped watching after a few episodes because I never bought into the brand of smarminess Don Johnson was selling, Phillip Michael Thomas was such a un-actor to me that it was like there was an empty void on screen where his character was supposed to be, and Edward James Olmos mumbled all the time (he seems to make an effort to speak more clearly these days on Battlestar Galactica). But the show did have a kick ass pilot episode full of enough visual style to choke a grown man, and had opening credits to die for.

I haven’t seen an episode in over twenty years, but I remember the opening credits featured scenes of zoomy cigarette boats skipping over the water, helicopter shots of Miami’s interesting architecture, panoramic scenes of Miami’s nightlife shot from the left rear wheel well of a car, some jai li players in action, a naturally busty bikini girl walking past the camera with her assets in motion, some shots of Rico and Tubbs in action, and I believe the sequence ended with a pair of bathing beauties walking away for the camera. All this was set to a syntho-rock chunk of music with a thundering drum line.

The creator of the show and the director of the movie really blows hot and cold for me. Collateral had its moments and Tom Cruise was fun, but the yoke of the movie was on Jamie Foxx’s shoulders and I don’t think he was up for the task. 2001’s Ali left me sort of cold and The Insider was entertaining enough but I don’t think I’d sit through it again. 1995’s Heat had all kinds of potential, but the script was too long by half (although the bank robbery sequence is worth watching all by itself). I am an outspoken fan of two of Mann’s earlier films, 1981’s Thief (with a wild choice of Tangerine Dream for the soundtrack) and 1986’s Manhunter. I love Anthony Hopkins to death, but Brian Cox will always be Hannibal Lecktor. The supporting cast rocks the house as well. Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde aka The Red Dragon, Joan Allen as the blind Reba McClane, and the always sturdy Dennis Farina as Jack Crawford. Manhunter doesn’t hold us especially well twenty years later, but it remains my favorite Thomas Harris adaptation (I never bought Jodie Foster as Clarice for even half a second.)

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