Michael Mann‘s films are sexy, cool, gritty, slick, angry and sometimes neon. He’s a filmmaker who is often eager to teach us the true meaning of heartache, and plenty of 80s and 90s kids owe professional directing careers to his stylistic pathfinding. Not to mention everyone who loved Drive. He’s also a frustrating director because his output is relatively infrequent (11 movies in 34 years), yet he’s greatly consistent in the kinds of stories that he reaches for. Men, usually desperate, always driven, reaching for something far beyond themselves. Exploring that ground has yielded some truly excellent cinematic experiences and killer moments over the past three decades. So here’s a bit of free film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from a man who likes playing with shadows.


Thief Movie

Continuing through our exploration of the first feature films of prominent directors, Cargill and I arrive at the debut outing of one of my absolute favorite filmmakers: Michael Mann. In 1981, Mann brought us a gritty, savvy techno noir that starred James Caan as cinema’s coolest Thief. From the growling single-mindedness of its protagonist to the sights and sounds of, respectively, stunning cinematography and a pulsing Tangerine Dream score, Thief is that rare first film that never misses a beat and solidifies a director’s style in an instant. Don’t rob yourself of the fun of listening to Junkfood Cinema this week. You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #39 Directly


Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

January is basically the movie industry’s dumping ground. We all know it. It’s the month where the weather is icy, people are locked up in their hobbit holes and studios put the movies they have the least faith in—the ones they’re already expecting to take a bath on—into theaters. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing though, because all of those facts combined make it the perfect month to stay inside and watch Netflix. To assist you with this noble task, here are a list of good movies that have recently been added to streaming. As always, click on their titles to be taken to their Netflix pages. Pick of the Month: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) When The Wolf of Wall Street first came out, there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the issue of whether or not it glamorized the life of traders who work the financial system in order to get rich while the pocketbooks of common people suffer. Now that all of that talk has died down, it’s time to revisit this one with fresh eyes because anyone who thought Martin Scorsese was detailing the lives of these contemptible creeps and asking us to cheer along with all of their self-congratulation is a crazy person, and the amazing performances that people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill give in this movie deserve to be appreciated without us simultaneously clicking our tongues in derision. Sure, TWOWS is entertaining to watch, and a lot […]



Michael Mann‘s Thief  is like a ticking-clock thriller without an actual ticking clock. Frank (James Caan) is in a rush to make up for lost time, to achieve the life he wants, and is represented by his photo. A part of the film’s conflict is that Frank’s life of crime will lead to an inevitable blowup. As Mann would say, he’s a rat in a maze. That idea has sneaked its way into Mann’s later work, from Collateral to Public Enemies to Heat, as his characters are inexorably drawn towards an inevitable outcome for their actions. But it all started with Thief, which has now been released on Blu-ray by Criterion. From the hypnotic sounds of Tangerine Dream‘s score to the sumptuous beauty of Donald E. Thorin‘s cinematography, this 4K restoration of this landmark crime film has made Mann’s “rat in a maze” seem even more immersive. Despite his busy work on an untitled thriller (aka Cyber) Mann spoke with us about his classic directorial debut, offering his thoughts on its style, the virtues of editing as “the ultimate kind of writing” and the unparalleled intimacy of digital cinematography in a post-celluloid age.


Iron Man 3 Air Force One

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Quick, name the best film directed by Michael Mann about career criminals. Yeah, you probably just blurted out Heat without giving it a second thought, and you’d be about 58,396 miles from being alone. However, you’d be wrong. Before you start going off about “matter of opinion” and “how can he say these words” repeat these after me. “Heat is NOT, I repeat, NOT, Michael Mann’s best film.” There, now doesn’t that feel loads better? Oh, what’s that? you want to know what is Michael Mann’s best film? Let’s go back to 1981 where Mann offered up his second feature film, Thief, a film about a career criminal trying for his one last score – you can forgive this particular film for that cliche. It was the catalyst for all these other heist films using it that runs over the surface of rainy, Chicago streets. It’s cool. It’s energetic. It features one of James Caan‘s best performances. So, here, in honor of all the inspiration the film brings to Refn’s Drive, we offer up what Mann and Caan had to say about this milestone-of-cool film in their respective careers. You can even go watch Heat afterwards. I’ll forgive, but remember those words.

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published: 01.26.2015
B-, C-
published: 01.26.2015
published: 01.26.2015

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