Thursday, April 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Ratatouille

The disappearing ink on this movie ticket makes Prince William's hairline look like a thicket from Bambi.
Every Throwback Thursday, I randomly pull out from my desk cabinet--with my eyes closed--a movie ticket I saved. Then I discuss the movie on the ticket and maybe a little bit of its score, which might be now streaming on AFOS.

What I wrote about Ratatouille here on the AFOS blog back in 2007:

Ratatouille is a love story, but it's not your usual one. The main romance of the film is not the Linguini/Colette relationship--it's Remy the rat's love of cooking and fine dining. Giacchino's lush and playful score beautifully captures Remy's optimism and enthusiasm for the art of cooking without getting all overly gooey on us, which is why I'm adding to "Assorted Fistful" rotation four cues from the Walt Disney Records release of Giacchino's Ratatouille soundtrack.

Other things I dug about Ratatouille: the clever casting of Ian Holm, who played a similar "sellout" restaurateur character in the Deep Throat of food porn flicks, Big Night; Bird's jabs at the merchandising tactics of a certain parent company with a name that rhymes with "piznee" (during the scenes in which Holm's villainous Skinner plans to launch an inane line of frozen dinners exploiting the image of his deceased former boss, celebrity chef Gusteau); and the refreshing absence of corny and unsubtle pop culture reference gags that have been abundant in sub-Pixar animated flicks.

This is how they should repackage and recolor Pringles potato chips, uh, I mean, crisps.

What I think about Ratatouille in 2015:

An unlikely box-office hit with one of the weirdest plots ever to be found in a summer blockbuster (an unusually intelligent rat's determination to become a gourmet chef), Ratatouille still holds up, and the 2008 Best Animated Feature Oscar winner will hold up forever. The DVD and Blu-ray releases of Ratatouille don't contain an audio commentary, but Baron Vaughn and Leonard Maltin's interesting Maltin on Movies discussion of why Ratatouille is such a sublime Brad Bird movie would suffice as a short commentrak for the movie ("If I see Brad Bird ever, I am going to kiss him on his mouth," jokes Vaughn), even though their 15-minute discussion, which takes place at the start of Maltin on Movies' recent "Food Movies" episode, isn't exactly scene-specific.



Bird's animated ode to culinary artistry isn't just an outstanding food movie. It's also a great Bay Area movie--even though it takes place in Paris. "The Bay Area is so obsessed with food that just finding the latest cheese, the tangiest sourdough or the richest coffee is enough to spark passionate debates," said the San Francisco Chronicle in its 2007 interview with celebrity chef Thomas Keller, Ratatouille's primary food consultant, and producer Brad Lewis about their movie. Like all other Disney/Pixar movies, Ratatouille was animated in the Bay Area, but it's the most Bay Area-esque out of all of them, because of how much Northern California's epicurean approach to food and wine suffuses Ratatouille. Pixar's location deep in the heart of the Bay Area culinary scene made the animators' culinary research really easy to access, and man, that research, which entailed cooking classes and visits to kitchens in both the Bay Area and Paris, really pays off in the movie.

Ratatouille is the quintessential family film for people like me who hate most family films. It's so enjoyably un-Disney-like--and adult--for a Disney film. Nobody bursts into a grating musical number; the film bites the hand that feeds it through its criticisms of Disney-style mass-merchandising; there's lots of dialogue about wine (in fact, Disney wanted to introduce a line of Ratatouille wines and sell it at Costco, but the studio nixed it after the California Wine Institute argued that it would encourage underage drinking); and one of the film's heroes was born out of wedlock, usually a no-no in animated Disney fare.

It builds up Anton Ego, the late Peter O'Toole's intimidating restaurant critic character, as this typical Disney villain (note how his office is shaped like a coffin, and the back of his typewriter resembles a skull face), but then it takes O'Toole's antagonist in an unexpected, completely different and believable direction. And it moves you not by killing off some child character's parent (although both of Linguini's parents are long-dead) or through some other form of misery porn. It moves you through an understated climactic voiceover, eloquently and magnificently delivered by O'Toole and nicely scored by Michael Giacchino, about the power of art and the need for critics--whether in the haute cuisine community, the film community or any other artistic community--to not be set in old ways.



O'Toole steals Ratatouille from Patton Oswalt--whose brilliant stand-up routine about overly aggressive Black Angus steakhouse ads interestingly landed him the role of Remy--whenever Ego's on screen. I especially love how O'Toole pronounces "popular" as if it's a dirty word. I wish Ego had more screen time. But then again, that's part of what makes O'Toole's performance such a highlight of Ratatouille. To borrow Ego's own words, his performance leaves you hungry for more.

Selections from Giacchino's Ratatouille score can be heard during the AFOS blocks "AFOS Prime" and "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marvel one-shot: Netflix's Daredevil contains the greatest fight scene in MCU history

If Francis Dolarhyde from Manhunter were a Goth
Over the weekend, I marathoned all 13 episodes of Netflix's Daredevil after the streaming service unveiled all 13 on Friday. I don't call it "binge-watching." It makes watching TV sound like an eating disorder, and I don't believe in "binging" shows. TV should be savored gradually, in one- or two-episode viewings, with breaks for a meal or living life in between, instead of some extremely weird 780-minute, all-in-one-sitting session where the couch potato never showers or changes his underwear. I prefer the term "marathoning" over "binge-watching" because it sounds more proactive and productive, and it makes you feel like you've accomplished something special, like sitting through three days and two hours of Ted Mosby's obnoxiousness without ever trying to stick your head in the oven.

Daredevil follows the spy shows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter as the third Marvel Studios TV show that takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the first in a bunch of interconnected Netflix original shows that will culminate in Marvel Studios' introduction of a superteam called the Defenders to the MCU. I've never read the Daredevil comics, even though I'm a lapsed Catholic like blind lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock, whose issues with his faith fuel much of the drama of the comics and have turned Daredevil into the most intriguing crime show about Catholic guilt since Wiseguy. I never watched either of 20th Century Fox's two pre-MCU movies featuring the Daredevil characters because the negative reviews drove me away from wasting my time with them (but I did see as a kid the not-so-good 1989 TV-movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, starring Rex Smith as Matt and John Rhys-Davies as Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin). One of those negative reviews included one of my favorite putdowns from Bay Area film critic Richard von Busack, a fan of the Frank Miller-era Daredevil comics. He wrote, "Playing blind was perfect for [Ben] Affleck, as it allowed for his customary inability to express feeling through his eyes."

Despite never seeing a single minute of Affleck's version of Daredevil, I knew early on that British actor Charlie Cox is far more nuanced and expressive than previous portrayers of Matt in this MCU version of Daredevil. There's a scene in one of the earlier Daredevil episodes where Matt, his business partner Foggy (Elden Henson) and their secretary Karen (Deborah Ann Woll, who, together with Henson, helps keep this dark show from becoming a relentlessly humorless slog) have a meeting at their struggling law firm with mob consigliere Wesley Owen Welch (Toby Leonard Moore). Cox remarkably expresses Matt's distrust of Wesley, even though his eyes are shrouded in Matt's trademark red-tinted glasses, he doesn't have any dialogue and the conversation doesn't contain any of the elaborate sound FX the show frequently relies on the rest of the time to depict Matt's heightened senses. He conveys Matt's distrust in just the way he breathes, a great early example of how genuinely mature--as opposed to Zack Snyder's idea of mature--and nuanced Daredevil is as a street-level and more grounded MCU show, as well as how surprisingly compelling Daredevil is as a legal drama, in addition to being a solid introduction to a comic book character I've never warmed up to.

Netflix has Daredevil and the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows, while Overstock.com will be streaming episodes of the Super Fuzz reboot.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has often suffered from being generic-looking-as-fuck, but that's been starting to change in its second and current season, due to the increasing involvement of Kevin Tancharoen, showrunner of the not-so-generic-looking webseries Mortal Kombat: Legacy and younger brother of S.H.I.E.L.D. co-showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen, as episode director. He directed the standout S.H.I.E.L.D. episode where Agent May and an imposter posing as May fight each other. That May-vs.-May fight remains the show's best fight scene. But even the May-vs.-May showdown and the surprisingly impressive Batroc-vs.-Steve fight in Captain America: The Winter Soldier are conventional in comparison to what Cabin in the Woods director/co-writer Drew Goddard (Daredevil's showrunner for just the first couple of episodes, before Spartacus veteran Steven S. DeKnight took over), director Phil Abraham, a Sopranos cinematographer who's directed several Mad Men episodes, and stunt coordinator Philip J. Silvera pulled off for three minutes at the end of Daredevil's second episode, "Cut Man."

The single-take fight scene has been done before, but the novelty value of the single-take fight scene at the end of "Cut Man" stems from seeing it within the context of a superhero genre piece. The strengths of the MCU movies have never really been the action sequences or the fight choreography. Their strengths have always been the character writing, the snappy dialogue and the charismatic, "this is why I'm a movie star" performances from the likes of Robert Downey Jr. However, Marvel Studios seems to be starting to respond to criticisms that MCU action filmmaking is too generic and assembly-line, as exemplified by the creative freedom they gave to Shane Black for Iron Man Three (before they Britta'd things up with Edgar Wright)--Black's involvement in the MCU resulted in my favorite MCU action sequence that doesn't involve any combat, the Air Force One passenger rescue sequence--and the aforementioned Kevin Tancharoen episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D. And now along comes Daredevil, which proves in the one-shot fight scene--a moment I don't think will be up on YouTube in its entirety for too long--that it won't be another superhero genre piece where the filmmakers purposely avoid clarity during the fight scenes and let the editors and CGI FX technicians do all the work. That's the same exact complaint DVD Savant author Glenn Erickson had about the fights in The Bourne Ultimatum, which he said are "the equivalent of the dances in Chicago (2002), where every musical number is splintered into so many shots, we can't really tell if the performers can dance."

Daredevil shows this Russian thug how he do-si-dos.

Matt Murdock: the most badass Child Protective Services agent ever.

By opting for the single-take approach, Daredevil wants to show that the performers can dance, which makes the hallway fight scene so riveting to watch. "It was always scripted that this scene was going to be a one-shot," said Silvera in a New York Observer Q&A about his fight choreography for Matt and the Russian crew of child traffickers he takes down all by himself (and with the help of an unplugged microwave at one amusing point). The scene isn't just style for style's sake. The single-take approach also advances character and perfectly reflects the intensity and single-mindedness of Matt in his mission to clean up his home turf of Hell's Kitchen, as well as the difficulty of his mission (the TV-MA-rated Daredevil--which allows its characters to curse but won't allow them to say "fuck," so it'd be perfect for FX's prime-time schedule--is the first MCU project to not shy away from showing in graphic detail the wounds and battle scars its primary hero experiences). The single-take "Cut Man" fight is the show's most clever way of establishing a mission statement, and it's far better as a mission statement than any of the standard-issue "this is my city" dialogue the writers give Matt to say in later episodes.

It's great to see an MCU project taking some cues from Asian action cinema of the past 15 years. The Daredevil hallway fight is like the love child of the single-take hallway fight from another equally dark and ultraviolent comic book adaptation, director Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, and The Protector's single-take restaurant sequence, and it might remind premium-cable drama fans of the crazy six-minute tracking shot Cary Fukunaga orchestrated for True Detective last season. Fight scenes where characters are never seen getting tired and winded often bug me. That's why almost all my favorite fight scenes--whether it's the Oldboy hallway fight, the showdown in the streets between Dan Dority and the Captain on Deadwood, the brutal brawl between Lucas Hood and an MMA rapist on Banshee or the unprecedented 1970 Darker Than Amber fight where the blood all over Rod Taylor was reportedly real--are ones that emphasize the physical exhaustion of the combatants. The Daredevil hallway fight automatically shoots itself to the top of the pantheon of MCU action sequences by showing how tired Matt, who hasn't fully recovered from the injuries he sustained earlier in "Cut Man," gets while he fights his way to rescue a kidnapped boy.







Daredevil isn't a perfect show. Some feminist Marvel geeks have found most of the show's female roles to be underwhelming, even when Rosario Dawson is portraying a modernized version of Night Nurse in an intriguing nod to that non-superhero Marvel comic, and later episodes (spoilers) aren't going to impress viewers of color who complain about how the MCU shows have a tendency to opt for the POC equivalent of "women being fridged" to increase the heroes' angst. But you can't deny how Daredevil, like Arrow and The Flash's enjoyable-so-far Eobard Thawne arc before it, proves that serialized TV, when it's done right, is a better fit than a 103- or 152-minute movie for the kind of ambitious and sophisticated storytelling Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas admires about superhero comics but has found to be lacking in superhero movies ("The movies are ultimately an oversimplification of those comic books," notes Assayas), and you can't deny the power and effectiveness of Daredevil's single-take fight. That riveting scene is an encouraging early sign of how more shades of gray are finally being introduced into the previously family-friendly and brightly lit MCU, first with the arrival of Daredevil last Friday and then with the premiere of A.K.A. Jessica Jones, the forthcoming Marvel/Netflix adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis' for-mature-readers private eye comic Alias. Now if only Daredevil had an opening title theme that's as cool and batshit--or rather, devil-may-care--as CHiPs season 1 theme composer John Parker's opening title theme for Darker Than Amber.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Fight Club

The 'B' is for 'Bitch Tits.'
Every Throwback Thursday, I randomly pull out from my desk cabinet--with my eyes closed--a movie ticket I saved. Then I discuss the movie on the ticket and maybe a little bit of its score, which might be now streaming on AFOS.

Cell phones have ruined movies forever. They've made it more difficult for screenwriters to come up with suspenseful situations. You couldn't write either Rear Window or North by Northwest today because every moment of suspense would become impossible for the nitpickers in the audience to take seriously due to "Hmm, you know he or she could use his or her smartphone to save his or her own ass in this situation." The constant advances in cell phone technology have even affected movies that have aged pretty well--when they don't involve phone scenes, that is. The appearance of any kind of phone in a largely timeless movie that's not a present-day cell phone immediately makes that otherwise timeless movie dated.

Thanks to the cutting-edge work of cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and director David Fincher, whose visuals have always been cutting-edge and distinctive (whether in Fincher-directed music videos like Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" video or more recent Fincher films like the Cronenweth-lensed Gone Girl), the 1999 anti-consumerism cult favorite Fight Club looks like it could have been filmed yesterday, and it stands the test of time--for several minutes. But then Edward Norton is seen standing in a pay phone booth to dial up his new soap salesman friend Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and Fight Club instantly becomes dated.

I had not watched Fight Club in 16 years, before rewatching it as prep for today's edition of Throwback Thursday. In addition to containing the only film score by the Dust Brothers of Paul's Boutique fame (who really ought to compose more scores, due to their outstanding work on the 1999 film, which can be heard during either "AFOS Prime" or the first 33 seconds of the trailer below), Fight Club remains my favorite Fincher film. It's still my favorite even when the appearance of a pay phone wrecks the timelessness and anonymity both Fincher and the various adapters of Chuck Palahniuk's thought-to-have-been-unfilmable 1996 novel of the same name, including credited screenwriter Jim Uhls and uncredited Andrew Kevin Walker from Seven, tried to aim for in their portrayal of modern-day malaise (the city Fight Club takes place in is unspecified, despite the frequent use of L.A. locations, as is the name of Norton's narrator character, although the shooting script referred to him as Jack--we'll call him Jack from this point on).



Much of the appeal of Fight Club stems from the fact that we've all experienced Jack's feelings of malaise (he's nameless for a reason: so that male audience members can name the narrator after themselves). Okay, so you may not be a privileged white male yuppie like Jack, but you can definitely relate to his dissatisfaction with his job as an auto recall specialist and the feeling of emptiness that triggers his insomnia and has him doing anything to feel alive, whether it's going through an IKEA shopping phase, faking diseases and crashing support group meetings with his frenemy Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) or forming with Tyler an underground fight club to blow off steam, for men only (no Marlas allowed).

A good example of the film's ability to connect with viewers long after it tanked at the box office (Palahniuk's material isn't unfilmable--it's unmarketable, as 20th Century Fox realized while inanely trying to sell Fight Club as a TBS Movie for Guys Who Like Movies back in 1999) was when former RogerEbert.com editor Jim Emerson interestingly called Fight Club one of the most accurate depictions of clinical depression ever made and praised how it captures the way that depression is all-consuming. "It helped shake me out of the grips of a depression that was sucking me down at the time," wrote Emerson.

Funny how the most dated thing in this shot is not Brad Pitt's Soul Train outfit. Instead, it's that fucking pay phone.
(Photo source: DVD Beaver)

(Spoiler time. Weirdos who have never seen Fight Club can leave now.)

Monday, April 6, 2015

I hate reunions, while I love how a little application called Adobe Premiere changed AFOS forever in 1999

Jack's is as awesome as One-Eyed Jacks from Twin Peaks, except nobody there looks as hot as early '90s Sherilyn Fenn and nobody talks like David Lynch characters.
(Photo source: A Burger a Day)

I don't like looking back at the past. I'd rather think about the present and the future, which is why a recent subject in this blog's Throwback Thursday series, The World's End--a cautionary film about the dangers of nostalgia and remaining in the past--resonates so much with me. Edgar Wright's film agrees a lot with me about staying focused on the future and never looking back. If I look at the blog archive at the bottom of my blog and the last few posts I wrote are all about subjects that took place before the '00s, I get really worried. "Uh-oh, I better not spend too much time in the past. Stay in the now," I think to myself. That's why I did for a couple of years a weekly series of posts about new TV (but focused on animation). Newer TV is always more fascinating to me than older TV. I don't even like film or TV blogs where the authors write only about old films or old TV, a.k.a. what Arthur Chu would call the pre-Selfie, pre-Fresh Off the Boat world. It's like those authors are basically saying, "Film and TV were better when it was all white folks." Uh, no, it wasn't, Teabagger.

This year, UC Santa Cruz--the university whose alums include Maya Rudolph, Cary Fukunaga and more recently, DJ Dahi--is celebrating its 50th anniversary. As part of the festivities, UCSC's campus radio station is inviting all former DJs, from Bullseye host Jesse Thorn to a classmate who occasionally keeps in touch with me, Yukiya Jerry Waki, to return to the station later this month and reminisce about their time there. I hate reunions and prefer to avoid them like the plague. So on some mornings in the past few weeks, I'll wake up thinking to myself, "Nah, I'll skip this Santa Cruz one." But then on other mornings, I'll wake up thinking, "Okay, maybe I'll drop by, probably tell someone a wacky story about that terrible time I did my radio show immediately after a sweaty, all-white drum circle performed live at the studio--so the studio smelled like the inside of an outhouse at a summer music festival for the rest of that afternoon--and after only a couple of hours of reminiscing, I bounce, and then it's straight to grabbing both a burger at Jack's and the next bus back north."

I'll always be grateful for what the station taught me about radio, broadcasting, chart reporting, interacting with the labels and so on--it was where AFOS began, as a two-hour show where I got the chance to interview on the phone Mark Hamill, '60s Star Trek composer Gerald Fried and my personal favorite interviewee on the phone during those UCSC years, a now-retired TV critic named Joyce Millman--but my time at the station also consisted of a few things I'm not proud of or that were just plain stupid. A reunion will just make me relive those cringeworthy moments I'd rather not revisit.

For example, out of the 200-something episodes I hosted on KZSC and the 100 hour-long episodes I did strictly for Internet radio, only 10 of those episodes are ones I'm satisfied with today, and most of those 10 were recorded at Studio Paradiso inside the Mosser Hotel in San Francisco. The original one-or-two-hour incarnation of AFOS, before it morphed into a 24-hour Internet radio station, didn't really gel and become a different kind of film music radio show--very modern-sounding, as well as not too dry or boring regarding the subject of film and TV score music and extremely silly and goofy during Halloween and Christmastime--until a high school classmate named Necip, who re-encountered my voice while driving around the Central Coast with the stereo on one day, gave me video editing software and taught me how to use it for producing my radio show.

Oh, so that's where Kanye got his idea for all that corny-ass slow-motion horse footage in the 'Bound 2' video.

The Windows version of Adobe Premiere improved the sound quality and pacing of the AFOS show and made it possible to both do a bunch of things that couldn't be done on live radio--I never liked doing AFOS live anyway--and keep archives of episodes that, thanks to digital advances and the addition of a CD burner to my PC at the time in the year 2000, will never shrivel up or break like cassette tapes of old radio material likely would. I wish I had learned how to use Premiere sooner (another KZSC DJ previously introduced me to editing software, but I never took the time to sit down and learn how to master using that software). Premiere made me say goodbye to cassette tapes, which was how I would piece together the show before 2000, and never look back.

Had I used Premiere before 1999, I wouldn't have been as embarrassed as I am about how AFOS sounded during the first half of its five-year run on KZSC, and I would have been able to digitally create radio edits--like DJ Hyphen would do when he hosted Sunday Night Sound Session on KUBE, before his recent move from Seattle to England--of profane hip-hop or stand-up comedy tracks I wanted to play while hosting other KZSC shows, but I was unable to because I didn't have the software for editing them or I just didn't want to bother with censoring them live on the air. As a show of gratitude for introducing me to Premiere, I often gave Necip the funniest lines to say during the sketches I wrote for the AFOS Halloween and Christmas specials on KZSC ("Bea Arthur, get down!"). Most of my favorite memories of pre-2010 AFOS actually have little to do with Santa Cruz and involved either recording at Studio Paradiso or Necip's skills with both finding sound FX to slip into Premiere and doing celebrity impressions (I learned how to imitate Schwarzenegger's voice by listening to Necip's Schwarzenegger impression and then reciting Kindergarten Cop lines rather than Terminator lines, simply because Kindergarten Cop has Schwarzenegger saying, "Who ees your daddy?").



I don't use Premiere as much anymore--I currently prefer Audacity for Mac for whenever I take audio clips from movie trailers or TV promos and edit them into intros to the film and TV score tracks I put into rotation on the AFOS channel--but the software forever changed AFOS. Sure, I'm satisfied with only 10 of the episodes I pieced together on Premiere, but a shitload of enjoyable one-to-six-minute audio memories resulted from Premiere, and as I vacillate between deciding to visit and deciding not to visit the station reunion, I present the most enjoyable of those memories, via my SoundCloud page, to you now.











Does Bad Boys hold up 20 years after its release?

It's Madam Secretary, After Earth guy and Black Knight, together in one movie, yo.
What I said about Bad Boys as an "eye Teen Reviewer" for the San Jose Mercury News back in 1995 (April 14, a week after Bad Boys' April 7 opening, to be exact), word for word and with every single Merc style guide preference preserved, straight off a clipping I still have of my own article:

'Bad Boys' is fun — for a formula movie

EYE TEEN REVIEWER
Jim Aquino

THE cop-buddy comedy "Bad Boys" (not to be confused with the 1983 Sean Penn prison pic of the same name) is the latest flashy action movie from the Simpson-Bruckheimer assembly line, which has churned out such blockbuster hits as "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Top Gun."

Directed by Michael Bay, the genius behind the popular, Clio-winning "Aaron Burr?" milk commercial, "Bad Boys" sticks to the tried-and-true formula that made Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer big-name producers back in the '80s: gaudy visuals, extravagant action sequences, a big-time soundtrack and a script that's high on concept and low on subtlety.

After producing a low-profile film such as the dark, dialogue-driven comedy "The Ref," it appears that Simpson and Bruckheimer want to go back to making big, dumb movies again. "The Ref" worked because it fit star Denis Leary's edgy, verbose persona, and never tried to soften Leary's cynical humor. "Bad Boys" could have been as satisfying as "The Ref," if its script were as clever overall as the snappy, entertaining interplay between its two leads, sitcom stars Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.

Lawrence and Smith, playing mismatched Miami police detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowery, rise above the formulaic cops-vs.-heroin thieves plot to deliver top-notch performances. "Bad Boys" runs too long at more than two hours, but it remains watchable because of these charismatic, energetic stars and their fast, funny and often improvised delivery.

"Bad Boys," originally written for Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, is strong on visuals, thanks to first-time director Bay, who must have watched a lot of Tony Scott movies. The Miami setting is wonderful to look at, and the set pieces are well-staged.

But "Bad Boys" suffers from uninteresting bad guys and a story line that offers few surprises, aside from the amusing subplot in which neurotic family man Burnett and smooth ladies' man Lowery switch identities. Tea Leoni, who was so memorable as the sexy bohemian girlfriend on the short-lived sitcom "Flying Blind," plays a key witness.

"Bad Boys" isn't original or groundbreaking, but it's fun and entertaining, thanks to Lawrence and Smith.

Typical Michael Bay subtlety

What I think about Bad Boys in 2015, on the day before the date of the 20th anniversary of its release:

Of all the movie reviews I wrote for the Mercury News while in high school and then college, the mixed review of Bad Boys--at that point in his filmography, the Fresh Prince had just won over critics because of his big-screen debut in the film version of Six Degrees of Separation, but he hadn't made Independence Day yet--is one of the only two or three reviews where I still stand by every word. For instance, Michael Bay was at his best as a director of commercials like that classic "Got milk?" ad (although putting the words "Michael Bay" and "genius" in the same sentence back then makes me cringe); The Ref remains a terrific antidote to Yuletide mawkishness; and I still can't remember the name of Burnett and Lowery's boring nemesis. Like Dana Gould did when he couldn't remember the name of the villain Ben Gazzara played in Road House, I'm just going to call their boring nemesis Drago.

All the other reviews I wrote back then can go in the shredder. That was the biggest problem with being a film critic for print media. If some part of your opinion about a film would change (and my opinions sometimes do), you couldn't go back and change what you said in print like you can now easily do on a blog or in digital media.

Aside from a clunky and racist bit of attempted comedy where Shaun Toub--a.k.a. Dr. Yinsen from the first Iron Man flick--shows up as a stereotypical Middle Eastern convenience store clerk (an ominous sign of comedic things to come in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) who racially profiles Lawrence and Smith because of the visible guns in their holsters, Bad Boys remains one of Michael Bay's few tolerable movies. That's mainly due to the dialogue between Martin and Will ("Don't be alarmed, we're Negroes"), the most enduring part of the first Bad Boys, which cost only $17 million to make. I prefer smaller-scale Michael Bay over larger-scale, giant-robot-testicles-flashing Michael Bay, which is why I never bothered to watch 2003's much bigger-budgeted and longer-in-running-time Bad Boys II, even though Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were seen worshiping Bad Boys II in Hot Fuzz, an Edgar Wright film that trounces Bad Boys in all sorts of ways, simply because it's an Edgar Wright film (I hear 2013's Pain & Gain is supposed to be a return to Bay's smaller-budgeted roots, but I haven't seen that one yet either).

The Bad Boys original score by Mark Mancina still holds up too and hasn't aged poorly at all. During "AFOS Prime" and "Beat Box" on AFOS, you can hear a previously unreleased version of the film's dancehall-influenced main title theme, Mancina's "Prologue - The Car Jacking," taken from La-La Land Records' out-of-print Bad Boys score album and featured below. (The Bad Boys song album's not too shabby either. I remember practicing to get my driver's license to the sounds of Diana King's dancehall-style "Shy Guy.")



If you still find Bad Boys--or Drago--to be too generic for your tastes, perhaps reading Shield creator Shawn Ryan's mostly sardonic live-tweets of Bay's Bad Boys DVD commentary while he watched Bad Boys for the first time ever in 2012 will make the film go down easier. "Michael goes silent on commentary for a few minutes," tweeted Ryan, who actually likes the movie, during a lull in Bay's pontifi-bating. "Perhaps he took a break to write nasty email to Megan Fox."