Film Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Release Date: September 29th, 2003 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: RZA
Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Michael Bowen, Jun Kunimura, Kenji Ohba, James Parks, The 5.6.7.8’s

Super Cool ManChu, A Band Apart, Miramax, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Do you find me sadistic? You know, I bet I could fry an egg on your head right now, if I wanted to. You know, Kiddo, I’d like to believe that you’re aware enough even now to know that there’s nothing sadistic in my actions. Well, maybe towards those other… jokers, but not you. No Kiddo, at this moment, this is me at my most… [cocks pistol] masochistic.” – Bill

The Kill Bill films are my favorite movies from Quentin Tarantino, which makes me happy that there are two of them. I felt that reviewing them was long overdue, so I had myself a little marathon with these two movies and some of the classic Pai Mei flicks I’ve already reviewed on this site.

The two films work really well together even though the first one plays more like a martial arts/Yakuza flick while the second is more akin to a spaghetti western. I think this is probably why they were split into two parts, as opposed to giving us one big epic film. Granted, I’m still waiting for the combined version that Tarantino promised years ago. Hell, I think it’s also about time for the third film, which he also promised years ago.

Anyway, this is a review of the first movie, so let me get to it.

The film is just great from top-to-bottom from the opening scene to the big, action-packed, blood-soaked finale.

My only reservations with it, seeing it for the first time in quite a damn while, is that some of the dialogue came out fairly cringe. The scene with Uma Thurman and Vivica Fox exchanging pleasantries seemed a lot less cool and a lot more forced and unnatural for me. It never really bothered me before but it set them film up poorly and because of that, I thought I was going to be disappointed and discover that this just wasn’t as good as I thought it was when I was a lot younger.

I’m glad to say that even though there is more dialogue cringe, it doesn’t really wreck the film or its dramatic effect. Quentin Tarantino is always getting props for the dialogue in his movies but I’ve never been as big of a mark for it. It’s almost always compelling but it tends to be an example of something that sounds great on paper but doesn’t work as well onscreen. And honestly, I think that’s what happened in some of these scenes and I don’t blame the actresses for it.

That gripe aside, everything else is pretty much perfect and the film moves at an incredibly brisk pace, leading to the big showdown with one woman against an army of Yakuza’s wielding samurai swords.

While Tarantino’s films always look fantastic and cinematically impressive, this one really takes the cake for me. Especially, during that final fight, as the film goes from color, to black and white, to just silhouette. The changes work really damn well and the visual tone helps to set the narrative tone, as it shifts during the battle. It also helps break it out into segments, keeping it fresh, as it does run on for a really long time.

Also, I love how after the fight, it switches back to regular color, where it reveals a giant hall full of downed Yakuza, blood absolutely everywhere and limbs just randomly dropped throughout the set. This whole sequence gives you pure, ultraviolence but you don’t actually see the sum of all its (body)parts until that final moment and its kind of breathtaking.

Additionally, the one-on-one final fight between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii is a beautiful, artful and calculated confrontation that works in contrast to the massive fight before it while also being a stunning exclamation point on the film.

The movie is also full of stupendous dramatic scenes and places where the dialogue is so damn good that it sort of washes away the cringe from earlier in the film. The scenes between The Bride and Sonny Chiba’s Hattori Hanzō are fucking beautiful, sweet and intense.

The closing moments of the movie, where The Bride explains her plan to Sofie is ominous as hell and spectacularly effective, as is the big reveal and twist, delivered by Bill, as the final line of the movie.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is pretty close to being Tarantino’s greatest masterpiece. But then, it is slightly edged out by its sequel, which I will review in about a week.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Kill Bill films, as well as other movies by Quentin Tarantino, as well as the many films this homages.

TV Review: Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (2019)

Original Run: May 10th, 2019 – May 31st, 2019
Created by: Sacha Jenkins
Directed by: Sacha Jenkins
Written by: Paul Greenhouse, Sacha Jenkins, Peter J. Scalettar
Music by: J. Ralph, Wu-Tang Clan
Cast: Wu-Tang Clan, various

Showtime, 4 Episodes, 58-59 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I don’t know why I didn’t know about this documentary series until a few weeks ago. I’m a lifelong fan of Wu-Tang Clan and if I’m being honest, they’re one of the few music groups that actually had an effect on my life. They forever changed hip-hop music and culture and since that was something I was a part of in my younger years, it changed the way I was doing things and my creative approach to making my own music.

This was actually quite great and I enjoyed this immensely. It really goes through the history of Wu-Tang before they were even formed up until now.

With this, you get to have an intimate view into their lives, past and present, you meet their families and you get to hear their personal stories about their struggles and triumphs.

You also learn a lot about the group behind the scenes and how even with their differences over the years, they always find a way back home to each other.

For fans of the group, there are some sad, disheartening moments in this. However, by the time you get to the end, you really understand their bond and it’s actually really inspirational to see how they still come together and unify as a family. This sort of unity is unheard of in the music industry, especially when this group has now existed for three decades.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Hulu drama series about Wu-Tang Clan’s lives, as well as other music documentaries.

Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Release Date: May 14th, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: SQÜRL
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits

Animal Kingdom, Film i Väst, Kill the Head, Focus Features, 104 Minutes

Review:

“That girl is half Mexican. I know because I love Mexicans.” – Officer Ronnie Peterson

Jim Jarmusch is really hit or miss for me.

Overall, I’d say this was a miss but it did keep my interest because one thing I usually like about Jarmsuch’s films are the characters and their conversations. However, while that is good and engaging the first time around, it doesn’t necessarily make a film worth revisiting.

The Dead Don’t Die is pretty much what one would expect from a Jarmusch film about zombies.

It’s weird, it’s quirky and there’s not much else there. In fact, the only real glue that holds this flimsy house of cards together is the cast and their interactions.

While Jarmusch can be labeled as weird, this film seems to embrace its weirdness a little too much. In this film, shit is weird just to be weird.

For instance, you have Tilda Swinton’s character who is a female Scottish samurai that you later find out is an alien when a UFO randomly appears to take her home in the middle of a zombie fight. Why? What’s the point? Why was she there? Jarmusch doesn’t care, so why should we?

You also have a moment at the end where the characters break the fourth wall for no reason other than creating a nonsensical plot twist in an effort to maximize on the weird. It actually broke the film for me and made it irreparable where, up to that point, I kind of accepted it in spite of its goofy faults.

Additionally, characters are introduced, relationships are established and not a whole lot comes out of any of it. There isn’t a satisfactory payoff and you’re just left scratching your head for a lot of it. I mean, you want to like characters and you kind of do but none of it matters because we’re all fucked and no one really has a plan, including the cops.

Is this supposed to be a critique on authority or society? I mean, haven’t we gotten that with just about every zombie movie ever made? From Jarmusch, a guy that has made some solid, critically acclaimed films, I guess I expected more than this. For the zombie subgenre of horror, I definitely wanted more than this, as zombies have been done to death, pun intended, and just being weird shouldn’t fly and shouldn’t get you a free pass.

I also feel like this awkward style of comedy dialogue is well past its expiration date.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Jim Jarmusch films, as well as other zombie comedies.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Also known as: G.I. Joe 2 (working title)
Release Date: March 11th, 2013 (Seoul premiere)
Directed by: John M. Chu
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, D. J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Arnold Vosloo, Walton Goggins, Elodie Yung, Rza, Matt Gerald, James Lew, James Carville (cameo)

Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Skydance Media, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“I came here when I was fourteen, with a life expectancy of thirteen. I was bounced around from home to home until this… became my home. Guys would line up outside that door to fight me. They whooped my skinny ass so much I started to enjoy it. Until one winter, I grew eight inches, gained sixty pounds, punched a guy so hard he couldn’t move his arm to tap out. Then when the Joes came recruiting to the hood, I’d already beaten down half of it. I became a Joe to serve. In the field. So if we’re fighting uphill, we take the hill.” – Roadblock

I really wish this movie would have done much better at the box office because it course corrected in a great way and fixed the mess that was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

On one hand, this is a sequel but on the other hand, it is also a soft reboot. It doesn’t necessarily ignore that the terrible first film exists, it just buries it and moves on. But as awesome as this turned out, for the most part, the damage from the first picture was so severe that this Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis action extravaganza couldn’t save the G.I. Joe franchise on the big screen.

That being said, it still isn’t a perfect G.I. Joe film but it felt like a good bridge between the shit this crawled out of and the great movie that could have followed, based off of what this picture set up for a future story.

To start, Dwayne Johnson was genius casting and this should have been the perfect franchise for him to lead. While he isn’t exactly who I would’ve envisioned for Roadblock, he definitely filled the shoes of leadership after Duke presumably died and General Hawk also presumably died or went on vacation somewhere.

Other than Duke and Snake Eyes, there aren’t any other G.I. Joe members from the first movie present. I’d like to think that maybe some of them would’ve been back in a third film, as none of the actors were necessarily bad, it was just the first movie that was a massive pile of shit.

The film does bring back Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow and Zartan on the Cobra side of the equation and we do get a brief glimpse of Destro but he’s essentially left out of the main plot, in what I would presume means that he would’ve been back in a third film with his Iron Grenadiers in an effort to start a Cobra Civil War, which was a great event in two different G.I. Joe comic book series.

While I could speculate on what the future of this franchise could have been for quite awhile, this is a review of this film and not a wish list for a movie that will never happen.

So getting back to the film, it flows nicely and I like that it was kept pretty grounded and didn’t try to overdo things like its predecessor that tried to be more like Iron Man and Transformers than G.I. Joe.

My only real complaints about the film are the same that I have with most modern big budget blockbusters of recent years. The musical scores are dull and not memorable or iconic, the fight scenes are hard to follow due to super fast edits and shaky cams, and the film’s visual look is boring, sterile and generic. These are all things that could’ve been easily tweaked and would have made this a much better picture.

Now I mostly like the story, other than I’m tired of killer satellites as weapons of mass destruction. This is a trope that has been done to death more times than a beaver has built a dam. Although, I will give the writers props on coming up with a fairly original version of a killer satellite.

Unlike the first movie, I loved the look of the characters, especially Cobra Commander. I don’t know what the fuck he was supposed to be in the first film but he looked like Doctor Satan from House of 1000 Corpses trying to cosplay as Glacier from World Championship Wrestling in the ’90s. Now Cobra Commander looks right. In fact, by the end of the film, he looked fucking perfect.

They also refined the look of Snake Eyes and got rid of his weird rubber lips while making Storm Shadow look more badass. Plus, the introduction of Firefly was great, he looked great and he was played by Ray Stevenson, who is pretty damn great in everything. I was kind of pissed that he got killed but this is a comic book movie and they could easily bring him back if they made a third picture.

For an old school G.I. Joe fan, this is a movie that just felt right. Especially, after the first one was a massive misfire that insulted the fans and confused the normies. It gave me hope because it showed that Hasbro and the studio listened to the fans’ criticisms of the first movie. Less than ten years later, studios just blame fans as being “toxic” while dismissing their criticisms because apparently fans are idiots and studios are run by geniuses that think that failure somehow means success.

In the end, I wish that this would’ve done better and that it would’ve kept the G.I. Joe franchise on the big screen for years to come. Granted, this could’ve easily just gone the route of Transformers and gone right back to being an embarrassing piece of shit.

I guess we’ll never know.

But I also guess we’ll see how Hasbro and the studio handles the material once it is rebooted. Rumor has it that G.I. Joe will be part of a larger connected universe with Transformers, M.A.S.K. and other toy franchises but fuck all that. I just want them to make a good, consistent G.I. Joe movie series before they try to go too big and ruin the whole thing for another generation.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the early days of the original Marvel Comics run, as well as the first two seasons of the ’80s G.I. Joe cartoon.

Film Review: Blade: Trinity (2004)

Also known as: Blade III (working title)
Release Date: December 7th, 2004 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: David S. Goyer
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Ramin Djawadi, Rza
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey, Dominic Purcell, Triple H, Natasha Lyonne, John Michael Higgins, James Remar, Patton Oswalt, Christopher Heyerdahl

Marvel Enterprises, Shawn Danielle Productions Ltd., Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[licking one of Hannibal’s wounds] You’re tasting a little bland, lover. Are you getting enough fatty acids in your diet? Have you tried lake trout? Mackerel?” – Danica Talos, “How about you take a sugar-frosted fuck off the end of my dick?” – Hannibal King, “And how about everyone here not saying the word “dick” anymore? It provokes my envy.” – Danica Talos

Well, revisiting Blade II wasn’t fun but at least this one was a bit better, in my opinion, even if the consensus doesn’t agree with me.

But let’s be honest, this is also pretty much a total turkey unworthy of being a sequel to the first film.

What’s kind of baffling is that this installment has the best cast out of all three films. I mean, there is a lot of talent on the roster but what we got was a movie that has given most of these actors something to scrub off of their resume.

For instance, Parker Posey is a dynamite actress. In fact, she may be mostly known as an indie darling but she’s one of the best actresses of the past twenty-five years. She has range, she delivers and it’s hard to think of anything else that sees her performance be anywhere near as cringe as it is here. But I don’t blame Posey, I blame the atrocious script and poor direction of David S. Goyer.

So speaking on that, I have to point out how bad the dialogue is in this picture. It’s heinously bad. So bad, in fact, that it almost makes the dialogue in the first Blade come off as Shakespearean. It’s worse than the dialogue in Blade II, which was also shit. But I guess it’s kind of surprising, considering that Goyer wrote all three films. But maybe it’s worse here because he took over the directing duties and thus, didn’t have a more talented director that was able to work around terribly written lines and find a way to salvage them. Maybe Goyer kept a tighter leash on his actors than Guillermo del Toro or Stephen Norrington.

I mean, even Ryan Reynolds who is one of the most charming and funny actors of his generation, stumbled through his clunky and unfunny lines, trying to make them work but failing at delivering anything other than unfunny edgy boi humor that sounds like it was written by a middle schooler trying so hard to impress his older brother’s high school friends.

Don’t even get me started on Triple H’s performance but regardless of how convincing he is as a wrestler, his heel game is weak as hell here and I actually had to subtract some cool points from him when I saw this in 2004.

This chapter also lacks a real story and it isn’t even sure which character it wants to make the big bad of the movie. Dominic Purcell plays Drake, who is really just Dracula, but he comes off as the lamest Dracula in the last twenty years of film history. But Purcell is another guy that’s cool and pretty capable of putting in a good performance if given the right direction.

Ultimately, this is a film entirely bogged down by poor performances, bad writing and sloppy direction.

However, the story is better and more clever than the previous film. This had elements that could have saved it and turned this into something great. The opening in the desert and then the first action sequence were all well done and set the stage for what could have been a really solid picture but everything becomes a mess after that.

I also liked the idea of Blade finding a team to work with but the film fucks all that up by having Limp Bizkit Dracula killing just about all of them off except for Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel.

Now I really liked Biel in this, even if fighting vampires while jiving to your iPod seems incredibly careless. She gives a better performance than this weak script should have allowed and maybe Goyer was more lenient on letting her alter her performance, as she’s pretty hot and this was only the second time he directed.

Other great performers were all pretty much wasted and were forgettable. In fact, I forgot that James Remar, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Heyerdahl, Patton Oswalt and Natasha Lyonne were even in this.

In the end, this had the ability to be something much better but it suffered for all the reasons I’ve already bitched about. I liked that this wasn’t over stylized like del Toro’s Blade II and that it had a more interesting story that put Blade up against Dracula but the film’s execution snuffed out the possibility of something solid.

And while it seems as if I’m bashing Goyer, he would improve. But his best work has always come when he’s worked under a much more talented director than himself. Christopher Nolan, for instance. But he’s still put out some shitty scripts and unfortunately, the shit outweighs the gold.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.

TV Review: Californication (2007-2014)

Original Run: August 13th, 2007 – June 29th, 2014
Created by: Tom Kapinos
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Tree Adams, Tyler Bates
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Madeline Zima, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jason Beghe, Bill Lewis, Judy Greer, Tim Minchin, Mädchen Amick, Ezra Miller, Justine Bateman, Peter Gallagher, Kathleen Turner, James Frain, Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Zoë Kravitz, Meagan Good, Rza, Maggie Grace, Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham

Totally Commercial Films, Aggressive Mediocrity, Twilight Time Films, And Then…, Showtime, 84 Episodes, 29 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard a lot of good things while Californication was on the air. I held off on checking it out until it was over, recently binge watching it on Netflix.

The story follows novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as he tries to win back his long time baby mama Karen (Natascha McElhone) and balance a life of sex addiction, drugs, booze and his daughter (Madeleine Martin). Also, early in the series, he gets caught up in having sex with the underage daughter (Madeline Zima) of his baby mama’s new fiance. The show is accented by Hank’s manager and best friend, Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The show starts out really strong and each season is actually pretty good before it runs off the rails in the final season of its seven season run.

Duchovny is lovable as the childish and womanizing novelist but ultimately, he constantly does questionable things and always finds himself in trouble or making situations much worse. Sometimes, it is just the result of unforeseen circumstances but typically it is the result of a myriad of bad or careless decisions.

The constant back and forth between Hank and Karen is enjoyable for the first few seasons but it eventually grows tiresome about midway through the series’ run. Maybe that is because I binge watched it and didn’t see their relationship grow, evolve and fall apart over the course of several years time.

Hank’s daughter started out as a decent enough character but after a season or two, she becomes completely unlikable and doesn’t recognize that her father isn’t really all that bad and that despite his pitfalls has genuinely tried to put her first.

The best overall story during the run of the show was the up and down relationship of secondary characters Charlie and Marcy. They go through more real world problems and drama than Hank and Karen do and in the end, they reconnect and find each other, ending off better than they ever were throughout their tumultuous relationship. And Stu, who becomes Marcy’s husband over a season or two, was hysterical. The love triangle between Charlie, Marcy and Stu was the highlight of this entire show. And honestly, this relationship makes Hank and Karen’s look like bullshit high school level drama.

By the time I got to the end, I really didn’t care about where Hank and Karen ended up because based off of their track record, I knew it had the possibility to go in the opposite direction five minutes after the final credits rolled.

The show was pretty solid for most of its run but the final goodbye was long overdue by the time I got to the end.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Shameless, Weeds, Entourage and Aquarius.