Film Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Release Date: April 8th, 2004 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: RZA, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, James Parks, Bo Svenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry Bishop, Sid Haig, Sonny Chiba

Super Cool ManChu, A Band Apart, Miramax, 137 Minutes

Review:

“Bitch, you don’t have a future.” – The Bride

I dropped my review of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 a week ago but I watched them back-to-back and reviewed them that way, as well. But I like to save my last review on Fridays for bigger, well-known films, so that’s why this one dropped out of sequence.

I wanted to watch these back-to-back primarily to get the full effect of the story. I’ve done that before but it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched these and I wanted to really make a day out of it due to how much I loved them when they were still fairly current films.

As I said at the end of my review for the previous film, it was a near masterpiece but it was also outdone by this movie.

I think the main reason for that, is that this one switches to more of a spaghetti western style than the Yakuza revenge flick the previous movie was. Martial arts are still alive and well in this picture, though, and it gives this a really unique feel. Also, despite the tonal differences in the films, the martial arts aspects still tie them together well and in some regards, this reminds me of the Kung-Fu television series, which oddly enough, also featured David Carradine, this film series’ primary antagonist.

I liked the spaghetti western feel because, well, I’m a big fan of that style. This was also Tarantino’s first attempt at delving into a western aesthetic and he did a tremendous job with it. Sure, this is more of a neo-western, as it is set in modern times but it kind of laid a solid foundation for him to build his skills off of in the genre. Without this, he may not have done Django Unchained or The Hateful Eight. Granted, in my opinion, this film is still superior to both of those.

Another thing that makes this the better half of the series, is that it is the culmination of everything that The Bride has set out to achieve. It’s the finale, the big final fight. But this also doesn’t give you a grand final battle. Instead, it subverts expectations in a beautiful and much more meaningful way. Unlike most modern filmmakers who like to take giant shits on well-established franchises like that never-been-laid fucknut Rian Johnson and that fart sommelier J. J. Abrams.

Anyway, the climax of the film is incredible and it has probably the best acting I’ve ever seen from David Carradine, as well as Uma Thurman. You believe that they have a lot of love between them, as well as a lot of anger and it’s fucking heartbreaking to watch, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. Adding in the fact that there’s a young child placed between them makes the final showdown emotionally tragic but more complex and serious than it otherwise would’ve been. At this point, this moves beyond just being a simple revenge story, as the hope for a real life emerges at the end of The Bride’s violent journey.

Apart from the finale, the film also subverts expectations well in how Bud dies. He’s someone else on The Bride’s hitlist but he gets the best of The Bride and actually defeats her, quite easily. He underestimates her drive, though, and she goes right back on the hunt while he feels he’s safe from her wrath. However, by the time The Bride reaches him again, there’s a pretty big twist, which pits her against Elle, the second to last name on her list.

The fight between The Bride and Elle in Bud’s mobile home is damn good and it utilizes the cramped environment exceptionally well.

In the end, this is just a great fucking motion picture and one of Tarantino’s best, hands down. It’s my favorite and even though it’s not as talked about, these days, as his other movies, it’s still the best of the lot from where I stand.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Kill Bill films, as well as other movies by Quentin Tarantino, as well as the many films this homages.

Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Also known as: M:I-6, Mission: Impossible VI (alternative titles) 
Release Date: July 12th, 2018 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Vanessa Kirby, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Ross O’Hennessy, Wolf Blitzer (cameo)

TC Productions, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, 147 Minutes

Review:

“There cannot be peace without first a great suffering. The greater the suffering, the greater the peace. The end you’ve always feared… is coming. It’s coming, and the blood will be on your hands.” – Solomon Lane

These movies are so damn good! Well, at least from the third one forward. I’m still sour about my initial experience with M:I-2 from twenty years ago.

Anyway, this one is a hair below the previous chapter but it’s still a near perfect, spy thriller masterpiece.

There is really only one negative with this film and that’s the exclusion of Jeremy Renner. However, Renner had become too busy with his work as Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so his absence is understandable. Also, adding Henry Cavill to the cast was a massive plus, even if he doesn’t survive beyond this chapter… or so, one would assume.

Other than Renner, this brings back everyone from the previous film, as well as bringing back Michelle Monaghan in a role that was thankfully bigger than just an uncredited cameo like in the fourth movie.

This one also adds in Angela Bassett as the CIA director, who is a secondary antagonist until she sees the light and learns to trust America’s greatest hero, Ethan Hunt. We’re also introduced to a new character, played by Vanessa Kirby, who I sincerely hope returns in future films. Not just because she’s f’n gorgeous but because her character is really damn interesting, badass and I’d just like to see her get to develop more, as they keep pumping out these movies because Tom Cruise is ageless.

The plot feels a little heavy and overloaded but thankfully, by the end, everything kind of falls into place in a good way. I also felt like this didn’t just build off of its direct predecessor by featuring the same villain and key characters but it also sets up the future, as the main villain is still alive and one would assume that he will come back into play again, almost becoming Mission: Impossible‘s equivalent to James Bond‘s Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Plus, Sean Harris is f’n chilling as hell in this role and despite him being a monster, I want to see more of him. Although, I do eventually want to see him catch a bullet or an even more over-the-top death.

I think that my favorite thing about this film, though, was the rivalry and personal war that developed between Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Henry Cavill’s August Walker. While Cavill dies, their final battle was so damn enjoyable that I wish he hadn’t. And no, I don’t think they’ll bring him back because that’d be stupid, based off of how he gets taken out, but killing him was a mistake due to how well he and Cruise worked together.

Additionally, the action in this chapter is top notch and nothing short of what you would expect.

I also feel like I need to give props to the film’s score by Lorne Balfe, who successfully experimented with the classic Mission: Impossible theme in multiple parts of the picture. I liked his fresh take on the score, as it felt like it belonged and didn’t come off as a composer trying too hard to stand out and make his own mark. It meshed well with what we’ve become used to over the last few films and just built off of that.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is impressive. But most importantly it was entertaining as hell and a shit ton of fun.

I’m also just going to come out and say that this series, after the disastrous second chapter, is my favorite film series post-2000. They’re consistently great, always leave me impressed and make me yearn for more.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Also known as: Mission: Impossible 5 (working title), MI5 (informal title)
Release Date: July 23rd, 2015 (Vienna premiere)
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Drew Pearce
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Joe Kraemer
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris

TC Productions, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, 131 Minutes

Review:

“I can’t protect you, that’s why I need you to leave.” – Ethan Hunt, “That’s not your decision to make, Ethan! I am a field agent, I know the risks! More than that, I am your friend, no matter what I tell the polygraph every week! Now you called me because you needed my help! And you still do! So I am staying! And that is all we are gonna say about that!” – Benji Dunn

Man, I was a fool for quitting this series after the pretty terrible second film. Each movie since then has gotten better and better and frankly, I’m incredibly impressed by these stupendous movies! I shouldn’t have ignored the hype, I should’ve bought in and just enjoyed these on the big screen. Well, thankfully there are two more installments currently being filmed.

Getting into this particular chapter of the franchise, all my favorite surviving members of the series are back and it’s great seeing them pick up where the fourth film left off while also adding in Alec Baldwin and Rebecca Ferguson, who I absolutely fucking loved in this. I’m glad they chose to let her stick around for more films after this one, as she hit it out of the park and became the best female in this series almost immediately. Although, I was curious about Paula Patton’s absence and hope that her character appears at some point again, in the future.

This chapter also establishes a great villain and villain group that our heroes have to face. It’s sort of like Ethan Hunt having to face his own version of James Bond‘s SPECTRE but a lot less hammy and a bit more scary, as these film’s tend to veer more towards realism than the classic SPECTRE stories in the earliest Bond movies.

And while this might easily be brushed off as a rehash of that idea or other similar stories with villainous, secret terrorist groups like Hydra or Cobra, this group feels more plausible in the real world.

As is customary with these awesome flicks, the movie is full of incredible stunts and action sequences. While I think the previous film edges out this one in that regard, this is a slightly better movie, overall. That has a lot to do with the story but also in how this expands the mythos in a cool new way while building up from the franchise’s very strong foundation (excluding M:I-2 of course).

In the end, this was near-fucking-perfect for what it is. It gives me hope for the sixth film, which I still haven’t seen, as well as the two sequels yet to come. If the series maintains its quality beyond this chapter, it may become my favorite franchise of the modern era, post-2000.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Film Review: Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Also known as: Heyday (fake working title), M:i:III (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: April 24th, 2006 (Rome premiere)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, J. J. Abrams
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Eddie Marsan, Greg Grunberg, Aaron Paul

MI 3 Film, Cruise/Wagner Productions, Paramount Pictures, 126 Minutes, 124 Minutes (cut)

Review:

“You can look at me with those judgmental eyes all you want, but I bullshit you not, I will bleed on the American flag to make sure those stripes stay red.” – Brassel

Mission: Impossible II was such a disappointment when I saw it in the theaters, that I never saw another Mission: Impossible film after it. However, I’ve heard great things about the more recent sequels and I’ve been motivated to go back and give the franchise another shot.

Having already revisited the first two films for review purposes, I have now reached the third one, which is the first one I’ve never seen. Granted, I knew about the gist of the story as a former roommate used to talk about the movie a lot. He was also a J. J. Abrams mark until 2009’s Star Trek kicked his hard-on into the sun.

Speaking of which, this is directed by J. J. Abrams. I actually have to say that this is one of the best films he’s directed, if not the best from the ones I’ve seen.

This actually doesn’t get wrecked by relying on too many of the tropes that have made some of Abrams’ other films and television shows, predictable and tiresome. Sure, there’s the whole MacGuffin thing and the big swerve and he also borrows heavily and obviously from other films, even ones in this picture’s own franchise, but the final product was entertaining and palatable.

The film is also helped by the performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Cruise and most of the other key players. Hoffman really stands out in this and I might even say that his talent far exceeded what was needed for this movie.

The action sequences were good, even if some of them felt familiar. The bridge battle, for instance, was very True Lies. However, at least sequences like that didn’t just outright copy their influences and tried to do something unique. Now had we had Cruise reaching for his wife to save her from her car going into the ocean, I probably would’ve called shenanigans much louder.

One thing I did like about this film is that it seemed more serious than the two before it. With that, it kind of reinvents the series and wipes away the gigantic misstep that was the second film. Because of that, this is the best film out of the first three.

In the end, this was a solid, fun movie with good action, good characters and a few performances that were much better than they had to be. Although, the twist ending about the bad guys having someone on the inside was just a rehash of the ending from the first movie and it was kind of lame. But I guess Abrams couldn’t help himself.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Film Review: Daredevil – Director’s Cut (2003)

Also known as: Daredevil: A Daring New Vision (Director’s Cut title)
Release Date: February 9th, 2003 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on: Daredevil by Stan Lee, Bill Everett
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Joe Pantoliano, Jon Favreau, David Keith, Leland Orser, Erick Avari, Ellen Pompeo, Paul Ben-Victor, Robert Iler, Coolio (Director’s Cut only), Mark Margolis (uncredited), Kane Hodder (uncredited), Frank Miller (cameo), Kevin Smith (cameo)

Marvel Enterprises, Horseshoe Bay Productions, New Regency Pictures, 103 Minutes, 133 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“[Director’s Cut version/Narrating] Violence doesn’t discriminate. It hits all of us… the rich, the poor, the healthy, the sick. It comes as cold and bracing as a winter breeze off the Hudson. Until it sinks into your bones… leaving you with a chill you can’t shake. They say there’s no rest for the wicked. But what about the good? The battle of Good vs. Evil is never-ending… because evil always survives… with the help of evil men. As for Daredevil, well… soon the world will know the truth. That this is a city born of heroes, that one man can make a difference.” – Matt Murdock

My review of this film is specifically for the Director’s Cut. It’s a far superior version of the movie and frankly, it’s the version that should have been released in theaters.

The theatrical version was kind of shit and a major disappointment. The Director’s Cut, however, showed that the director had made a much better film that was unfortunately butchered by the studio, probably due to its running time. In fact, the theatrical version chopped off thirty minutes from director Mark Steven Johnson’s preferred body of work.

If I’m being honest, though, Johnson is not a great director and this film, even in its superior Director’s Cut presentation, still has a lot of flaws and feels kind of dated, even for its year of release. Although, comic book movies hadn’t really found their proper groove yet, as Nolan’s first Batman movie was still two years away and the first MCU movie was still half of a decade out.

Daredevil also didn’t have the budget that other comic book movies would get just a few years later, as it was made by a smaller studio that had to offset the licensing fees they paid to acquire the character and his pocket of the Marvel Comics universe.

Still, the performances mostly make up for the weaker things in this film. I really liked Ben Affleck as Daredevil and Jennifer Garner did well as Elektra. Most importantly, the two had tremendous chemistry, which I guess was pretty natural and genuine, as they got married a few years later and stayed together for thirteen, which is a lifetime in Hollywood.

I also really liked Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk and Jon Favreau was a great Foggy Nelson.

My only real issue with the cast for the larger roles was Bullseye. Colin Farrell is a good actor but this version of the character was baffling and if I’m being honest, stupid. Bullseye should have been a bit nutty but he also should’ve been in his proper costume and not looked like a guy selling codeine at a rap-metal concert. But I guess Marvel editor Joe Quesada suggested to the director that Bullseye shouldn’t wear his traditional outfit. I guess that’s just another reason to dislike Quesada on top of his large part in destroying his own industry because of politics, hiring unproven talent for diversity reasons and lashing out at customers on social media. But I digress.

The film has a decent enough story, even if it feels pretty bare bones and paint by numbers. The Director’s Cut actually expands on the story, adding in more context and nuance, as well as a side plot that makes the overall experience a much better one than the theatrical version.

I especially liked the origin stuff about Daredevil as a kid. The scenes between the kid actor and his dad, played by the always underappreciated David Keith, are damn good.

Another thing I don’t like, though, is the style of the fighting in the film. It’s fine when everything feels grounded and real but it gets ruined by relying too heavily on the Hong Kong style of martial arts filmmaking. There are too many moments where it is obvious that the characters are on wires and you see them move in ways that don’t make sense in regards to actual physics. That shit doesn’t work for this sort of film. But I get it, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a massive hit a few years earlier and Hollywood tried to emulate the Hong Kong style but kept failing miserably outside of The Matrix movies.

Daredevil – Director’s Cut is still pretty enjoyable, though. Age didn’t really improve it or ruin it. It’s mistakes are pretty clear but they were also clear in 2003.

However, I still really like the cast, for the most part, and it would’ve been interesting seeing how this could’ve continued had sequels bee made. Instead, the studio stupidly opted out of that and went with an abominable Elektra spinoff, a film that I still haven’t been able to stomach in its entirety. But I guess I should review it soon, as I work my way through all of the Marvel movies ever made.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel comics films before the Marvel Cinematic Universe started in 2008.

Film Review: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Also known as: Untitled #9, #9 (working titles)
Release Date: May 21st, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: various
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Julia Butters, Mike Moh, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Samantha Robinson, Rafal Zawierucha, Damon Herriman, Lena Dunham, Maya Hawke, Harley Quinn Smith, Danielle Harris, Scoot McNairy, Clifton Collins Jr., Dreama Walker, Clu Gulager, Martin Kove, Rebecca Gayheart, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Michael Madsen, James Remar, Toni Basil, Quentin Tarantino (voice), Vincent Laresca, Lew Temple, James Marsden (extended release), Walton Goggins (voice, extended release)

Visiona Romantica, Heyday Films, Bona Fide Group, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, 161 Minutes

Review:

“When you come to the end of the line, with a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say farewell.” – Narrator

It’s probably no secret that I really loved Quentin Tarantino’s earlier films.

However, his more recent stuff hasn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way. I think a lot of that has to do with his reliance on his dialogue and his films coming across as a handful (or less) of long conversations with a bit of cool shit sprinkled in and an overabundance of ultraviolence that isn’t as effective as it once was and often times feels out of place and jarring.

That being said, I really fucking dug Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.

It’s not a picture without its flaws but it’s well constructed, well written and perfectly paced, which isn’t something I can say for the rest of Tarantino’s more modern pictures.

I haven’t liked a Tarantino movie this much since the Kill Bill films.

I’m not sure what changed in the way that he paces and constructs his movies but this plays much more like Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown and that’s a very, very good thing.

A lot of credit has to go to the massive cast, all of whom felt perfect in their roles. It was really cool to see Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play best buds and sort of go on this adventure together. Their characters were an homage to Burt Reynolds and his stuntman, Hal Needham, who were really close and had a tight bond for years.

DiCaprio’s character was also based off of all the television western actors who were once big stars but never seemed to be able to move on to bigger projects and sort of got typecast and brushed aside.

The third main character in the film is Margot Robbie, who plays a fictionalized version of Sharon Tate, the most famous victim in the Charles Manson murders.

However, like Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, this film doesn’t follow history’s path and it carves out its own unique story. But I’ve always really loved alternative history takes in fiction. Hell, The Man In the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is one of my all-time favorite novels. I still haven’t watched the television show, though.

Anyway, the film does run long but it’s not as exhausting as The Hateful Eight. We’re not trapped in one room for three hours, here. Instead, we get to explore old-timey Hollywood in an era where it was leaving its glamorous age behind and moving into the darker, grittier, post-Code era.

There are some scenes, while pretty cool, that probably didn’t need to be in the film and don’t serve much purpose other than amusing the director.

One such scene is the fight between Bruce Lee and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it but it didn’t serve the story other than to show how cool and tough Booth was but by this point in the movie, we already knew that. It was also a way for Tarantino to wedge in a few more cameos, in this case: Zoe Bell and Kurt Russell, two of his faves.

The sequence that really cemented this film as being pretty solid was the one that took place at the ranch. Here, Brad Pitt’s Booth discovers that an old friend’s ranch has become infested with cultish hippies, who the audience comes to learn are associated with Charles Manson. It’s an absolutely chilling sequence that builds up suspense in a way that I haven’t seen Tarantino do since the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, a decade prior.

The climax of the film is also well constructed and pretty fucking intense. This is the part of the film where history is altered and we get to see some epic Tarantino-styled justice befall the force of evil that has been brooding over the story for over two hours.

I probably should have seen this in the theater and I believe that it’s the only Tarantino picture that I haven’t seen on the big screen. However, his two previous films exhausted me and I assumed that this would do the same. But I’m glad to say that this seems like a return to form and I hope this momentum carries over into his future projects.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other more modern Tarantino films.