Kill Bill Volume 2: The Thurminator Returns…

The second half of Tarantino’s 2 part revenge epic, about a samurai Bride exacting brutal retribution against her former assassin family, treads decidedly similar ground to its predecessor but also manages to develop and improve on it in nearly every way.

QT continues to reference and combine a variety of genres, displayed in the films narrative and his own style of direction; as crime thriller noir, samurai B movie and old school westerns are all blended together in a glorious celluloid smoothie. This is displayed in the black and white prologue, an inspired mash up of pan flute backed Mexican standoff style close ups and hipster foot fetishism. The violence, like a streaking midget at a football match, is equally shocking despite being on a smaller scale, as shots of various bodily mutilation aim to increase the movie’s wince factor.
The dialogue is back to it’s darkly hilarious best and even the character development has taken a serious step up. Despite much of the supporting cast having the collective life span of a snowman in the Sahara desert some almost border on becoming well rounded, that is, of course, before Thurman rocks up and turns them all into human hacky sacks. An insight is provided into Budd, Bill’s brother and a name on The Bride’s hit list, played by Michael Madsen, and his quite literally shitty post assassin life. Sporting a rattail mullet dirty enough to keep your average McDonalds stocked in chip grease for a month, Madsen is a whole lot of sardonic, alcohol soaked fun to watch while Darrly Hannah’s one eyed Mean Girl, Elle, is equally entertaining if slightly low on the dimensions.

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Carving the turkey had been a nightmare…

Even the origins of The Bride’s bad-assery (hyphens make anything a word, I promise) are explored, as she embarks on the mother of all training montages under the tutelage of her delightfully abusive, Japan-aphobe (remember what I said about the hyphens!) master Pai Mei.
It is David Carradine however who steals the show as the most engaging villain this side of Breaking Bad. With a voice that could melt an iceberg or make a wolverine skip the purring stage and go straight to fetal he is simultaneously charming and deadly, making you almost sympathize with him before reminding yourself that the title of the whole movie has already spelled out his fate. (Spoiler alert, I guess) A fate that came to pass, arguably, in almost anti-climatic fashion. After two movies and over 4 hours, of characters exploding like a flock of pigeons in a rice paddy if Thurman so much as breathed on them, the final film should’ve, by all accounts, culminated in a death resembling a nuke hitting a freshly stocked blood bank however Tarantino is decidedly reserved. And as a result this final kill holds far more emotional weight than the previous 266, 724 (rough figure) combined, making for an almost tear jerking end to the Kill Bill saga.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 was my first experience of Tarantino’s films, and despite my love for QT’s movies having diminished significantly since starting this collection of reviews, this lesser known and loved sequel (christ, I’m so indie!) has always held a special place in my heart and while I can appreciate it may not be his finest work it remains my personal favorite. 7/10 stars

Kill Bill Volume 1: Uma Thurman Kills Bill… and everyone else

The story of “Kill Bill” is one of ruthless, beautifully choreographed revenge where Uma Thurman’s enigmatic character, “The Bride”, takes centre stage as she travels the world inadvertently and singlehandedly ending global over-population, whilst all the time enacting brutal retribution against her former friends and fellow assassins for an incident several years before hand that left her entire family dead and a steel plate embedded in her skull. As we quickly come to realize, from an opening scene involving a ninja knife fight, equal parts frantic and vicious, as well as the decimation of a picturesque small town America home “The Bride” means business, as does Tarantino.
From the opening of this thrilling introductory chapter to the closing credits Tarantino’s trademark artistic flourishes and constant film references are comfortingly present throughout. The action is ludicrously OTT, or should I say QTT mwahah… sorry. This is especially true during the famed “Crazy 88” fight scene in which Thurman becomes a samurai sword wielding, florescent jumpsuit wearing human blender.
This flamboyant spectacle is one of the standout moments of Tarantino’s career with an FX budget larger than most countries GDP. Each cast member is rapidly reduced to nothing more than a ketchup filled sprinkler system as Tarantino ensures that any Jam manufacturers in the area will be getting new Ferraris for Christmas. This particular marathon fight scene along with several others throughout the film display the full extent of QT’s technical directing prowess as well as establishing him as a truly exceptional action coordinator, ranking amongst those whose work he is overtly paying tribute to. Uma Thurman gives a cooler than an ice cube with a penchant for madmen suits performance, whilst Lucy Lui is equally cold and intimidating as a mass murdering, racially sensitive Triad Boss decapitating her way to the top of the Hong Kong criminal underworld.
Image                                                                                           No one. Touched. The jumpsuit.
However the only enemy character development, beyond that of the superficial, comes in the form of a series of awkward anime flashbacks, conveying the sense that Tarantino is trying a little too hard to honour Japanese cinema, not only putting it on a pedestal but offering a back massage and a reach around. The major protagonists are for the most part forgettable, acting simply as an array of human obstacles for “The Bride” to make into racially diverse Sushi in gradually more violent and imaginative ways.
The subtle, quirky comedy is also missing, except for a mentally scarring yet darkly hilarious hospital scene. Whilst the action scenes are constant shots of hyper-stylised adrenaline no amount of lighting and visual trickery or Samurai movie homages can make up for the lack of Tarantino’s trademark quote it till it hurts dialogue or endearing characters that we’ve come to love and, perhaps unfairly, expect.
Once all the smoke has cleared and the tsunami of blood and prosthetic limbs has been cleaned away I was left, like many of Thurman’s less fortunate victims, feeling slightly hollow. 6 stars out of 10.
Written in March 2012

Jackie Brown: QT tries something new

Jackie Brown, the painfully stylish, third film from Quentin Tarantino follows the story of a failed flight hostess, a forlorn bail bondsman, a charismatic and fowl mouthed arms dealer along with a variety of other more forgettable characters in pursuit of half a million dollars.

Jackie Brown breaks the usual QT mould by doing a number of things differently to it’s two predecessors. It is an adaption of the novel “Rum Punch” by Elmore Leonard as apposed to being the normal 100% biological, brain baby of the director himself and it has a structured storyline as apposed to the usual sporadic collection of intersecting episodes associated with Tarantino’s movies. It also feels over stuffed, like a compulsive eater consuming not only the complimentary diner mint but also the tray and the waiter carrying it, doesn’t make a huge amount of sense – similar to my last metaphor, and most noticeably of all, as the ending credits roll up, doesn’t nearly approach the frenetic quality of his previous two movies.

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The anniversary had lost some of its romance

Tarantino evidently isn’t quite used to making conventional cinema. Watching him attempt to create an inherently normal film from source material that wasn’t born, kicking and screaming, from his own hyperactive “brain womb” is like watching Bambi trying to surf. And when he trys to incorporate character development and the complex, central narrative into the mix it’s similar to seeing a quadriplegic try to juggle. It’s an admirable sight but he doesn’t quite manage to succeed to the extent he and the audience would of liked.
Each of the characters feels as if they could have carried an entire film on there own and even in the lengthy running time of 2 and a half hours almost none get nearly enough screen time.
The shear amount of misused talent is staggering, I know Jackie Brown was primarily a comeback vehicle for Pam Grier, but you’d have thought Tarantino would have found a little more screen time for De Niro and Micheal Keaton and would have invested a fraction more of his time making them more developed than simple 2 dimensional ciphers. They really only seem to be there to fill out the steadily increasing list of amusing crime movie cliches.
Robert De Niro doesn’t seem to have an ounce of heart in the performance, looking uncannily like an alcoholic, post sleigh crash Santa, speaking in mono syllables and really only showing a flicker of emotion about 30 seconds before his onscreen demise. Micheal Keaton does his best with what little he’s given but permanently has the look of an over enthusiastic Labrador with bladder problems.
Bridget Fonda who’s fantastic as the oopa loopa coloured beach bunny bitch is also massively under used.
QT has opted instead for focusing all his twitchy attentions on the three central protagonists and does this well incorporating a degree of character development, some of his classic dialogue and trademark direction style into their scenes.

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Eye-spy wasn’t quite as fun as they’d remembered

And don’t get me wrong there were many aspects of it that I enjoyed. Samuel L Jackson played his smoother than a aggressively exfoliated baby’s arse, character word perfectly and I’m still shell shocked to discover that he didn’t even get an Oscar nom for it.
The scene inwhich Ordeal walks his recently bailed out, associate to his car is one of the most memorable and  classically Tarantino moments of the entire film.
And the tentative and brilliantly realised relationship between Robert Foster’s crushingly lonely bail bondsman and Pam Griers fiesty flight attendant is wonderful to watch, and both actors are equally brilliant.
The FUN-KAY, what have I become?!, 70’s soundtrack is absolutely great and I found myself re-watching the opening credits, a homage to the graduate, repeatedly purely to experience QT’s fantastic direction but also for the painfully catchy song “Across 110th street”.
Per usual in a Tarantino film it’s an entertaining experience yet sadly the entire movie comes across as a rather hollow missed opportunity, with the potential to be so much more.
I’m sorry to break the glorious string of 8’s but I feel it’s my duty
6 out of 10 stars

Written September 2010

Pulp Fiction: Royale with Cheese!

QT’s glorious second directorial outing is unashamedly similar to his ultra violent debut in a variety of ways.

The coffee shop, single shot opening has returned, the oh-so stylish direction has remained oh-so stylish, the dialogue is as fresh and inspired as ever while the copious bloodshed and profanity count are both still going strong with a constant barrage of bullets and f-bombs being fired at and by each and every protagonists… well thank f**k for that!
In between QT’s opening two feature lengths he’s lost none of his originality and spark, with his hilarious dialogue as sharp and fresh as ever, managing to draw yet more unbelievable performances out of the cast and giving me even more reason to start spouting phrases like “performance of a lifetime” all over the place, like a cliched water fountain gone mad.  The narrative is slightly less structured this time around and the plot isn’t quite as intricate as before, that is to say there isn’t a plot at all, simply a series of lovingly crafted, hilariously surreal chapters, similar, that’s right you guessed it, to a pulp fiction novel.
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                                                                         The crap in the coffee gag had not been well received
The pacing similar to that of reservoir dogs constantly changes tempo, randomly going up and down, like an Alzheimer’s patient on a stair lift. But again the lack of plot and pacing consistency doesn’t seem to matter in any way. The scenes seamlessly transition between an evangelical, bible quoting hit man to a 70’s dance montage, and then to a nail shreddingly tense adrenaline injection scene without even giving you cause or concern over how you got there.
Tarantino combines snappily edited, close up shot sequences with lengthy wide angle camera shots of the fronts of houses and derelict motels to great, varied effect.
The gloriously witty dialogue once again brings the characters and set pieces to life providing the viewer with actually sympathetic and vaguely likable protagonists as opposed to the group of psychotic bastards in Reservoir dogs who were a little harder to root for.
Another nice touch is the interconnecting story lines between each of the protagonists, with many of the characters stumbling into each others stories and either having little or huge effect on the various chapters.
Each of the “colourful” and well rounded characters are stereotypical caricatures, from the rapist, gimp keeping hillbilly to the menacing king pin, Marseillus, spouting lines like, “If Butch goes to Indo-China I wanna n###er hiding in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.” But it’s also this abandonment of realism which makes every chapter and character so fun to watch.
The two foremost, show stealing protagonists, Vincent and Jules are played gloriously by John Travolta and Samuel Jackson, each acting as the central performance in  every one of the films most iconic and memorable scenes.
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                                                                                     They had finally found their hairstylist
Lets just say Travolta assassinates all my doubts about his acting talent and Jackson kidnaps my heart and holds it to ransom with his fire and brimstone bible rants… I’ll show myself out.
But the bottom line is this is Reservoir Dogs with a bigger budget, bigger set pieces and a wider range of more famous actors and memorable characters. In short Pulp Fiction is an overwhelmingly entertaining if slightly empty, moral wise, hilarious and flawlessly acted movie  from one of the most iconic directors of the 90’s.
8/10 stars, one of the least thought provoking, most brutally violent and enjoyable films ever committed to celluloid. A classic.
Written September 2010

Reservoir Dogs: The Ground Breaking Heist Movie, Minus the Heist

Quentin Tarantino’s controversial, critically acclaimed  debut goes one step further than to simply breath new life into the arthritic old man that was the 90’s heist movie genre, it slips him a viagra and slaps him on the ass.

The movie opens with “the dog’s” sitting around a cramped table in a grimy coffee shop. QT introduces the film and the less than lovable characters with summa his classic organic feeling dialogue and stylistic direction, a single shot circling the table, we’ve all come to know and love. There’s probably some political subtext or popculture references hidden amongst the dialogue as the “adorable” group of pyschopaths discuss waitress salaries and the true naught-ey message in Madge’s “Like a Virgin” but I don’t really care, all I know is that the first 9 minutes made up one of the most hilarious, coarse, eye opening(in Madonna’s case) and enjoyable movie openings I have ever seen and set the tone for the remainder of the film.

Reservoir dogs, break neck changes of pace are so dramatic and sudden that they may just give you wiplash but surprisingly don’t nessecerily effect the overall experience. Now usually it would be seen as a bad thing for a film to go from the speed of a steroid addicted freight train to the pace of a diabetic slug with breathing problems but Tarantino masterfully makes this work to his advantage.
The fight over the TV remote had gotten out of hand

The fight over the TV remote had gotten out of hand

The scene transition between the slow and lengthy pre-heist planning, the incredibly fast paced mid-heist antics, and the tension building post botched job shinanigans is utterly seemless and brilliant only adding to the impact and enjoyment of each scene.
The acting is fantastic, each cast member delivering a *cliche alert* performance of a lifetime injecting each of their scenes with an incredible amount of energy and making every one of them unique despite the almost indistinguishable, low budget sets. This especially applys, in my opinion, to Michael Madsen as Mr Blonde who out of the leads gets the least screen time but with it lends his character instant cult status combining so cool it hurts with so pyschotic its painful, literally. He also gets to deliver the most quoteable line of the whole film and is the centre of the most memorable scene, lets just say it involves ear amputation, a banging 70’s soundtrack and a whole lot of gasoline… aaah christmas memories.
There was no denying, the strip club had gone down hill.

There was no denying, the strip club had gone down hill.

The violence is purposely over the top and ridiculous yet in most cases actually necessary, and if all pretentiousness and feeling over superiority are discarded at the door then it’s genuinely a very enjoyable ride as long as you haven’t eaten and aren’t apposed to seeing a police man used as a human pinata.
My love for Reservoir Dogs was established after the first 5 minutes and it only went up hill from there, the performances were great, the story was simple yet brilliant, made only better by the genre twist and the direction was stylish and classic Tarantino, I’m giving it 8 out of 10 stars.
Oh and to those that criticize it for its high degree of violence and profanity I ask you this, “Are you gonna bark all day little doggy or are you gonna bite?”… aaaah watch the film.
Written September 2010