Michael Scott

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8mm


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Movie: :2.5stars:
Video: :3stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :3stars:



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Movie

I’m honestly shocked that 8mm was actually put out on Blu-ray. Not because it’s a horrible irredeemable films, or because it doesn’t deserve it (I’m a big proponent of every film deserves a next gen media release), but because it’s the kind of mediocrity that just falls through the cracks and is forgotten about. 8mm was made during the peak of Nicolas Cage’s acting career, right after he had done massive hits such as The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off, and his name was on every producer’s lips. The man was raking in tens of millions of dollars per film, and he was a legendary action star at that point. Then came City of Angels (a mediocre movie, but one that did decently well) and 8mm. 8mm was going to have Nic Cage take on snuff film makers, but in the process, it became a film so mired down with production issues and horrible scrip writing that it ended up shocking everyone by being a greasy, sleazy mess of a film that couldn’t decided whether it wanted to be a thriller, or a revenge film at the end of the day. Barely making back it’s budget (maybe even losing a bit from hints within Columbia Tri-Star), the film faded into the background of cinematic history, with a lousy VHS release and an even lousier DVD release that has been over 13 years since it was even touched by a studio on home video.

Nic Cage is Thomas Welles, a private investigator who is desperately looking for a big break with his clientele. He seemingly gets that break when a wealthy widow of a high ranking official hires him for a matter of the utmost discretion. It seems that when going through a hidden safe of her late husband’s possessions she stumbled upon a snuff film of a young girl seemingly being murdered on tape. Knowing that snuff films are mostly an urban legend, the old lady hires Tom Welles to put her mind at ease by going and investigating the tape to verify it’s veracity. Thinking that this is going to be a dead end, as the tape is over 6 years old, Welles goes on a hunt for the girl in the photo only to uncover a world of debauchery and evil that he could only imagine in his worst nightmares.

What starts out as a missing persons case sends Tom to the city of sin itself, Los Angeles, where he runs across an adult video store worker named Max (Joaquin Phoenix), whom he uses to track down every smut, and filth dealer in the city in hopes of finding a source for the mythical snuff films. Every lead is nothing but a fake and masquerade, until the duo stumble across a sleazy film producer by the name of Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini), who seems to know a little bit more about his victim than he should. Sensing a victory, Tom goes in as deep as he can go, only to find that when you stare the devil in the face, you sometimes have to become him in order to defeat him.
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If you had said that Joel Schumacher was the director of 8mm I would have laughed at your face if I had not known that from the get go. The film feels more like a David Fincher film in tone and texture, but one that was done with the insanity of Nicolas Cage and a script that falls apart in focus later on in the film. Going back I can kind of see it if you understand that this is the same man who made The Lost Boys. You can kind of see similar tonal elements, but the David Fincher comparison still stands (I often wonder whether he took cues from Fincher in the creation of this undertaking). The movie starts out as a sleazy, greasy look into the underbelly of society, but really more of how we THOUGHT that underbelly of society really was back in the 90s. The cliches and over the top hamminess of it all feels a bit chuckle worthy today with what we know, but back then this was “scary” warning tales about the evils of snuff films and their kind (which is mostly an urban legend as they hint at in the beginning of the film). It doesn’t help that Nic Cage pulls his typical over acting trick and goes completely nuts in the third act of the film when he finds who murdered the girl in the tape. It’s not Wicker Man level of crazy, but it’s still him going nuts on camera on cue.

The one thing that really stood out to me was how good Joaquin Phoenix was as Max, the kid Tom Welles hires to show him the underbelly of Los Angeles. He feels like a real character, and he emotes such a sense of honest sincerity and disturbed twistedness that you actually feel for him when he meets his demise. He meshes really well with Nic Cage, and the duo are the highlight of the movie. That is until Peter Stormare shows up as the evil film producer, and chews up the scenery in ways only Peter Stormare can do (I adore the man’s ability to just chew scenery like it’s chocolate cake). The last act of the film is where it kind of goes off the rails though. Not because it’s a bad third act (it’s actually the best part of the movie), but because it feels so tonally different then the first hour and 20 minutes. The first 2 acts are very surreal and twisted, with Nic Cage going deeper and deeper into the sleazy underworld of illicit videos, and the shift to a more typical revenge thriller for the final act just feels “off”. The David Fincher elements go completely out the window and it feels like a much more mainstream Hollywood affair. Something Schumacher is much more comfortable doing, and one of the reasons why it feels like the more polished section of the movie over the rough and gritty experimental feel of the first 2/3rds.




Rating:

Rated R for strong perverse sexuality and violence, and for strong language




Video: :3stars:
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8mm is a dark and murky film to begin with, and while I understand that there are certain hands tied with how sharp and shiny the film can look, this is a mediocre transfer at best. Scream Factory hasn’t announced a new master, and by the looks of the film it appears to be an older master (most likely the same one the DVD was taken from almost 14 years ago), just with the added benefit of a higher resolution. The movie is set in darkness, with a sallow look that is desaturated except for a sickly yellow hue when in Los Angeles. There are moments of clarity and sharpness (usually brightly lit outdoor shots), but the film is bathed in darkness with a yellow and green color grading that makes everything look sickly and bleak. Details are barely better than the old DVD (at least from my memory), with a very very soft look that features tons of black crush and smeared blacks. As I said, there are moments of greatness, and even a few good scenes here and there, but the film isn’t much better on Blu-ray than it was on DVD, even though it was filmed with 35mm film stock.





Audio: :3.5stars:
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The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix fares only a little bit better the video does. The track is a front heavy affair that deal mainly with the three mains and little else. The creepy 90s music sometimes fills out the back end of the room and adds a teensy bit of punch to the low end, but 90% of the audio is dialog in the center channel, and ambiance in the mains. The dialog is mostly solid, with a few lower and raisings of volume for some reason, but other than that rather clean. The mains utilize the underground clubs and grotto ambiance that Tom Welles gets himself into, and those surrounds do get a few flurries of activity (the rain when Tom confronts the Machine is quite impressive), but this is a fairly bland mix that just gets the job done without going above and beyond the call of duty.







Extras: :3stars:
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• NEW 8MM in 35MM – an interview with producer/director Joel Schumacher
• Audio Commentary with producer/director Joel Schumacher
• Vintage Behind the Scene featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery






Final Score: :3stars:


8mm is not a horrible horrible film. It just falls into that middle of the road mediocrity that garners it the role of “ignored and forgotten” in cinema history. Nicolas Cage was king of the world in 1999, but this movie nearly derailed his career for a few years. Bizarre, twisted, disjointed, and rather bland, 8mm was an experiment that nearly cost him and the studios a good deal of money. Scream Factory has given us an OK release, with mediocre sound and even weaker video, but at least the extras are pretty decent. However, 8mm is a niche film, for a niche audience and with the weak audio/video specs I would just skip this unless you’re a die hard fan of the movie itself.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald, Chris Bauer, Catherine Keener, Myra Carter, Amy Morton
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 123 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 8th, 2019







Recommendation: Skip It.

 
Last edited:

Asere

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Thanks for the review. I caught this movie at the theater when my wife and I were dating and I don't think I can watch it again especially now after having kids.
 
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thrillcat

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I always felt this was meant to be Nic Cage's "Se7en". I haven't seen it since its initial release, but I remember liking it more than you appear to. ;)
 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Will skip it.
 
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