A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 452 – Muppet Classic Theater

Muppet Classic Theater – May 26th, 2011

The other night when we watched The Princess and the Frog Andy realized that we didn’t have the Muppet version of the story on our list. And he knew we owned it. I was sure we did too. On VHS. We’d bought a bunch of Muppet movies and specials on VHS early on in our relationship and we knew we hadn’t gotten rid of them so why weren’t they on the list? The answer is that they’d been stashed with a pile of other VHS cassettes in the shelves under the television in the living room and then other things got stashed in front of them and well, we forgot to inventory that stuff when we made our big list. Oops. So we dug through the tapes, added a bunch of things and aren’t we glad we did?

We’ve both got an early morning tomorrow and I’ve got to go to the dentist again and it’s hot and sticky here and I had a headache and I needed something short and familiar and easy and fun. And here this was! Just waiting for a night like this. We hadn’t seen it in a long while (as evidenced by its hiding place under the television) and it wasn’t rewound! Horrors! And then the unthinkable happened: Our VCR tried to eat the tape. That horrible, terrible, hideous noise of a tape being eaten is so painfully familiar and yet we hear it so infrequently these days. Fortunately both Andy and myself have plenty of experience fixing videocassettes. In fact, I still do it at work on a fairly regular basis, babying my dwindling VHS collection for the last few people who come looking for them. So we cracked it open, untwisted the poor magnetic tape and off we went to a land of fairytales and Muppets.

I’ve always enjoyed the Muppet version of parody. The Muppets take on stories we all know all the time. Familiar styles, familiar songs, familiar stories, all told with the Muppet twist. Which means plenty of singing and flailing and horrible puns and Muppet weirdness. The Muppets have done classic stories before. They did the Frog Prince and Cinderella, of course, and they do great jobs with short pieces, as evidenced by The Muppet Show, which is essentially sketch comedy. So this is a collection of stories, quick and fun, each with a song, each familiar enough that the send-up of it isn’t going to throw anyone off. And I’ve got to say, which overall I really do like this? A couple of them stand out as a lot better than the rest.

Rizzo and Gonzo take up the job of hosting a theatrical event. The conceit is that the Muppets are putting on a show of six short stories in the theater with Rizzo and Gonzo both introducing and participating. The stories are the Three Little Pigs, King Midas, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Rumplestiltskin, The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Elves and the Shoemakers. I’d have to say Three Little Pigs, Rumplestiltskin and The Elves and the Shoemakers are the standouts for me.

It’s not that I dislike the other three stories. It’s just that they don’t catch my interest and make me remember them as well. King Midas’ only real twist is introducing Miss Piggy and her love of wealth to the story. I do love Gonzo and his herd of sheep in The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and I admit I get the song “Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?” stuck in my head for no reason every so often. But I find the ending fairly weak and I’ve seen better twists on the base story. Though really, I want one of those sheep. I would snuggle it and pet it and use it as a pillow. And that leaves The Emperor’s New Clothes, which is a story I’m not terribly fond of anyhow. The song is slow and I expect more from the Muppet rats, so while Fozzie makes a great Emperor, I’m just not too into it.

The other three, on the other hand, are a ton of fun. Miss Piggy is an architectural genius in the Three Little Pigs and I absolutely adore her confidence and competence, which is so often ignored in favor of her love of clothes and money and fame. Maybe that’s one reason why King Midas doesn’t wow me when it follows a segment where she’s far more focused on building a secure house and making her foolish brothers admit that their sexist assumptions about her were horribly wrong and she’s super awesome. Anyhow, let’s move onto The Elves and the Shoemakers, which is out of order but I’m saving Rumplestiltskin. The Elves and the Shoemakers I enjoy simply for the horrible Elvis joke and the blue suede shoes. I know it’s silly and juvenile and obvious and I don’t care. I love the three Elvis elf Muppets.

And then there’s Rumplestiltskin. Obviously Gonzo plays the title role, with Piggy as the poor young maiden who promises him whatever he asks for in exchange for spinning straw into gold. There’s not much of a spin here. It’s the basic story except that Piggy admits the whole thing to her husband, the king, and the whole palace helps her try and come up with the name she needs. Which leads to the best number in the whole thing: Gotta Get That Name. It’s fast-paced, it’s catchy and it has the flaily ferret. I cannot not flail along with the ferret (who is center stage and goes wild during the chorus every time) whenever we watch this. He is exactly the sort of Muppet I love to see. Unnamed, only a bit line, yet stealing the scene. I believe Jim Henson would approve of him.

Overall I find this a lot of fun. Even if a few of the shorts don’t entertain me as much as the others, I do like them all. It’s just a matter of degree. There’s nothing revolutionary happening here, but there doesn’t need to be. Some of the moments seem to be a little slower than they should be, but others make up for it. It’s just a fun little bit of Muppet goodness that serves up some classic Muppets, some good villains and some well known stories so it’s easy to watch and easy to enjoy so long as you’re expecting just that. Oh, and Gonzo with goat legs. You should expect that too.

May 26, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Muppet Classic Theater

May 26, 2011

Muppet Classic Theater

Boy does this bring back memories. Not memories of the Muppets, thought it’s always fun to see Muppets in action, but of the olden days of VHS. We put this into our VCR this evening and a horrifying crinkling sound came from within. The tape did not play, and the machine was rather stubborn about returning it to us. When the cassette came out at last it was not in very good condition. Oh, I’ve seen worse, but the tape was dangling out of the gate and all twisted up inside the cassette. We had to get out some screwdrivers and Amanda used her AV skillz to open the case up and un-twist the tape. Then, because the tape had not been rewound the last time we watched it, we stuck it in our dedicated VHS rewinder. When I first started working at Blockbuster we still had VHS tapes for rent and every morning we’d have an entire bank of these little machines running at once rewinding all the movies our customers had not bothered to rewind before returning them. Fond memories of a bygone day when a person could accidentally erase part of their movie collection by running a magnet over it or melt it by leaving it in a hot car. Nowadays you only really need to worry about scratching your DVDs – or having the hard drive your films are stored on become corrupted.

Anyhow, that’s all just the medium. I should spend some time reviewing this as a movie. We discovered this in a small cache of tapes that we had never added to our movie a day project and I had to debate for a bit about adding this to the list because it is so very short. This was a direct to video release from the early nineties, and it feels kind of light weight and inconsequential, but that’s part of the charm. This was one of the first Muppet productions after Jim Henson’s passing, and it’s still just fun to see the Muppet performers doing something light hearted and very much in the Muppet mode.

Like some of the more concept oriented Muppet Show episodes or the very earliest Muppet videos in our collection this is a distinctly Muppet take on some classic fairy tales. There are six short stories here: The Three Little Pigs, King Midas, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Rumpelstiltskin, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Elves and the Shoemaker. They’re all familiar stories, which makes them perfect territory for the kind of Muppet weirdness that I love best. The Three Little Pigs becomes a story about not underestimating somebody because she happens to be a girl (which you’d think people would already know about Miss Piggy.) Kermit is King Midas who only wants peace on earth, but his wife (Piggy again) wants gold, so it becomes a story about what is really important. The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Rumpelstiltskin are Gonzo stories full of silliness. Fozzie stars as the Emperor with the non existent new clothes. For the grand finale there’s the Shoemaker and the Elves, who are all Elvis, which makes for some fun impersonations and faux Elvis songs.

I have only seen this a couple times in the way distant past. I bought this when it first came out on VHS in 1992, and I have probably only watched it all the way through once or twice since then. So what startled me most as I watched this again tonight was how these catchy songs were so instantly familiar to me. As I put the tape in I was singing the “Gotta Get That Name” song already, and every single song in the movie has that kind of staying power. Each short has its own little song, and they are all fantastic. Gotta Get That Name in particular has an unshakable hook and Brian Henson completely steals the choreography as the spastic and unnamed ferret. I’d watch this entire tape any day just for that bit.

I’m so glad we own this and that we decided to watch it for our project. So what if it almost feels like skits from the old Muppet Show? That is exactly what I need sometimes. When Fozzie is parading around in his boxer shorts during the Emperor’s New Clothes bit I couldn’t help having an exchange that he and Kermit had early on in the Muppet Show running through my head “My god! The comedian is a bear!” “No he’s-a-not! He’s-a-wearing a neck tie!” Rimshot. Classic Muppets. And it’s always a delight.

May 26, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 451 – The Spirit (2008)

The Spirit (2008) – May 25th, 2011

Tonight Andy said he needed something that wouldn’t make him think. And we do have a multitude of non-thinky movies left on our list. Movies that won’t tax the brain when trying to understand the plot or the purpose or anything like that. No serious themes that we’d want to spend pages pondering. No deep backstory for our personal connection to the movie. Nothing like that. Just something ridiculous and silly. So I looked through the list and dismissed a few things right off the bat. Dismissed a few others after looking them up. And then saw this and suggested it. I hadn’t seen it. Andy had. I knew it had been panned. And yet we owned it. So it seemed pretty much tailor made for tonight.

And I was right! Except I did end up having to think a bit when it came to trying to explain to myself how the movie could be as bad as it is. Really, I find it baffling. I can see so many things that were attempted and could have been done well and just weren’t. I’ve seen a couple of reviews describe this movie as “fun” and I have to wonder what their basis for comparison is. A root canal? The 1040 long form? Watching paint dry? Punch Drunk Love? I mean, this movie kept attempting humor but I don’t think it ever reached more than a moment or two of funny, let alone movie-long stretches of fun. What makes it so frustrating is the attempts that were made. Attempts in so many directions I honestly don’t know if the movie knew where it was going.

That right there is, I think, a large chunk of the problem. This is a comic book movie based on a serial I’m not familiar with. So I did a little reading and as far as I can tell it was a noirish detective serial that had a good dose of humor mixed into its regular plots and storylines. So I would expect there to be some humorous lines. But there aren’t just humorous lines dropped into an otherwise serious story. It’s this bizarre mix of parody and homage that never quite works, largely because the parody aspect needs firmer ground than it’s got. What, exactly, is it parodying? Sin City? I wouldn’t say Frank Miller can’t parody his own stuff, but it’s not like the movie is a genre unto itself. If it’s parodying noir in general it misses the mark completely because the bits that read as parody aren’t the femme fatale or the tough detective or the faithful lover or the gritty and dark city streets. The bits that read as parody are the comic book parts, with the clone henchmen and the out-of-nowhere Nazi villains and the hero himself.

On top of the problem with the uncertain tone is a distinct lack of focus on the part of the actors. Now, this is a more than decent cast. Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendez and Scarlett Johansson alone should have been able to breathe some life and vitality into this movie. But they don’t. Okay, Jackson does every so often, but he’s saddled with the most ridiculous part I think he’s ever played. And this is the man known for Snakes on a Plane. He’s playing the villain here, and he gets some great scenery chewing moments. Moments where I can see what Miller was going for. His obsession over a bizarre little failed clone that’s just a tiny head on a foot and his dislike of free range chickens? It’s so out of place and laughable but then he doesn’t get to really go anywhere with any of it. Each strange quirk gets carried for a line or two and then it’s played out. The Octopus (his character) has eight of everything? Great! Except we only hear that in the climactic fight scene. If you’re going to go whole hog and be that ridiculous then damn well do it! Don’t half-ass it and leave us hanging there, wondering if he was supposed to have eight henchmen and eight cats and eight labs or whatever. And to top it all off, remember I mentioned that the villain is an out-of-nowhere Nazi? Yeah. Complete with lightning bolt tattoo on the back of his head. What the everloving fuck? That’s not parody. That’s not canon as far as I can tell. It’s just tossed in there for no discernible reason aside from making him more of a villain? I don’t even. So all of Jackson’s hamming it up comes to naught because he’s got what is probably one of the worst roles I’ve ever witnessed on film and he can chew chew chew and it’s never going to make the role palatable.

Not that the rest of the characters are a whole lot better, but at least only one of them is an unnecessary Nazi (seriously, the Spirit himself has a cell phone so we’re not set in the 1940s). Sadly, she’s also the most lacklustre character of the bunch, and that’s saying something. My theory is that Scarlett Johansson signed on, then read the script and hoped she was missing something and by the time she realized she wasn’t it was too late to back out. It’s the only way I can explain her performance. I usually quite like her, but from her first lines it was pretty clear to me she was done with this movie. I’ve seen more interested reads done in high school English classes. She gets a couple of lines near the end that hint at the parody her character might have been trying to portray, but if a movie has to have a character flat out say that she’s a parody? The parody has failed.

The rest of the movie is just plain messy. It’s got this plot with the Spirit’s backstory and the Octopus being his nemesis and neither of them can die. But it’s also got some backstory from when the Spirit was a kid and not the Spirit yet and he had this girlfriend, Sand Saref, who ended up turning to crime. And now she’s stolen a crate with a vase full of blood in it instead of a crate full of some sort of treasure we never really find out too much about. The Octopus wants the vase full of blood and while one would think they’d arrange a trade right quick one would be wrong. Instead they faff about for an hour or so. The Octopus makes his hideous foot clone and Sand kills some people for kicks and the Spirit tries to track them down and his faithful doctor girlfriend waits for him to get carted into the hospital. And her father’s the police commissioner and he works with the Spirit, who used to be a cop before he died, but he doesn’t like his lone wolf techniques. And there’s a rookie who wishes she was Paget Brewster and a siren who’s actually death, I think, who tries to seduce the Spirit into dying whenever he gets close to death.

It’s not that it’s hard to follow! This is not a complicated movie. It’s just messily put together. Oh, visually it’s quite pretty, with the not quite black and white visuals with little hints and pops of color. Unfortunately it’s not handled as well as the other two black/white/bit-of-color movies I can think of, namely Sin City and Pleasantville. The former was stark, keeping the color to splashes and highlights. Red sneakers here, blue eyes there, yellow bastard in the corner. The latter used some more subtle and realistic shades, washing them in over skin and the pages of books and the leaves of trees. This movie hits somewhere in the middle. The Spirit’s tie is bright red, but the Octopus’ gloves have dark burgundy accents that barely read. It diminishes the whole effect and while the movie is pretty, it could have been so much more visually arresting.

I honestly don’t know what else I can say about this movie. I don’t know what else there is to say. It’s a movie that doesn’t quite know what it is. It’s got a great cast that’s wasted on clumsy lines and a messy plot. It’s got a director who has gone on record as having been so distracted by an actress in a skimpy outfit that he yelled cut instead of action (and if I was an actress in a movie where the director did that I’d be pretty pissed – just saying). It’s got flat humor and pointless Nazi villains and it is about as much fun as doing a sink full of dishes.

May 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit

May 25, 2011

The Spirit

I had an awful day at work today, so I asked Amanda to pick out an escapist movie that wouldn’t require much thought. “I wouldn’t mind if it was cheesy and awful,” I said. Somehow Amanda knew, even though she had never seen this movie before, that this was just the kind of awful that I needed.

I bought this because I fell for the marketing. Samuel L. Jackson? Scarlett Johansson? Eva Mendes? In a film directed by Frank Miller that uses the visual style of Sin City? How could it fail? The answer is, of course, spectacularly.

What I should have remembered was that notwithstanding the success of the 300 and Sin City Frank Miller has a fairly uneven record with regards to movies. This film here is more of one from the author of Robocop 2 than from the co-director of Sin City. It’s pretty clear to me that what happened was that after working on the set with Robert Rodruiges Miller said to himself, “hey, I can do that!” and set out to make another movie using the same techniques, camera tricks, and look, but with a slightly different feel.

The biggest problem this movie has is that it is too similar to Sin City I think. You could mistake it for a knock off or a sequel were it not so hammy and silly throughout. It has the same monotone voice-overs and hard boiled noir feel. It has the same bold use of light and shadow. It has the same use of strategic color to evoke the feel of a comic book brought to life. The look and feel of Sin City is so distinctive that this movie ends up feeling derivative and because this film is so farcical in tone it feels lessened by the natural comparison.

I should state that I have never read the original Spirit comic books by Will Eisner. I have no idea if this adaptation is faithful or how much of what we see is Miller’s interpretation of Eisner’s work. I can only really speak to what works in the movie and what doesn’t. And there’s so much that simply doesn’t work.

The plot revolves around a super hero calling himself the Spirit who is gifted with amazing recuperative powers. He runs across the rooftops of Center City USA in a style familiar to anybody who has ready Miller’s Daredevil books, leaping over water towers and dashing along power lines. His nemesis is the similarly gifted Octopus, a crime lord who takes great pleasure in working out his frustrations by going toe to toe with the Spirit because neither of them, apparently, can die.

That’s pretty much the movie right there. There’s a whole lot of stuff about a girl from the Spirit’s past named Sand Serif who is a glamorous thief in pursuit of a mysterious treasure from antiquity. There’s the mystery of how the Spirit and the Octopus got their recuperative powers and who the Spirit was before he first died. There’s a level headed doctor who is romantically hung up on the Spirit and has some kind of past with him. (This character is actually one of the more puzzling things in the movie for me. She’s an intelligent woman who used to be romantically involved with the Spirit in his earlier life before he first died but doesn’t seem to recognise him any more. I was never able to figure out if this was a deliberate joke or if she was meant to be in tragic denial or what.) There’s the Octopus’ large collection of rather dim cloned henchmen who are meant to act as comic relief but mostly just make me wince. But when you boil the whole movie down there’s mostly just the Spirit and the Octopus beating each other up.

Part of what makes this movie so difficult to enjoy is that it tries so very hard to be farcical and funny. The whole tone of the film is slightly off-kilter and strange. The character names, like Sand Serif and the evil seductress Plaster of Paris are simply odd. The acting is outrageous and extreme (but not always.) There are moments of surreal oddity such as when the Octopus is dressed as a samurai with big shaggy side burns for no reason, or when he menaces the Spirit dressed as a Nazi SS officer with monocle. The whole film is filled with strange “What were they thinking” moments that leave me feeling befuddled and confused.

I have to wonder what kind of movie the actors in this film thought they were making. I mean, they were on a stage with no sets and minimal props, acting in front of a green screen. Samuel L. Jackson as the Octopus delivers one of the most outrageous over-the-top performances of his career. Scarlett Johansson as his sidekick Silken Floss looks as though she really doesn’t want to be there and is trying to get out of her contract. The actor portraying the commissioner of police, Dan Lauria plays his role almost completely straight as though he’s in a perfectly normal noir crime movie, but in the same scenes there’s Stana Katic as the eager rookie Morgenstern acting like a complete ham with big exaggerated gestures and body language. I have to assume that most of it is a result of Frank Miller’s directorial style, and I’m sure he was more intent on shot composition and achieving a particular look than on managing his actors’ performances.

This movie is a mess. It’s not as funny as it seems to think that it is, has an unlikable womanising lead character, is filled with odd performances, and feels very much as though it’s trying to be something more than it actually is. It’s not quite as bad as I remembered it being from the first time I watched it (I think my assessment that first time was tinged by my profound disappointment that it wasn’t at all what I had been expecting.) It is, however, pretty darned bad. I was in the mood for a bad movie today though, and this one nicely fits the bill. I wonder if there’s a riff-track.

May 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 450 – The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog – May 24th, 2011

How had I not realized that the basis for the story of this movie was a book? A book I have on my shelves at work right now! Except not right now because one of my regular patrons has been wiping me out of all my fairytale-based children’s novels lately and I’m pretty sure she took everything by E.D. Baker today. My point being that the whole concept of adapted fairytales has been done quite a bit in children’s literature and it’s a very popular genre. So I’m wide open to turning the Frog Prince around a bit and setting it somewhere and somewhen that the original story wasn’t. I also enjoy jazz and zydeco, so going into this I was prepped to enjoy it, at least on a superficial level.

I’ve got to say, even had this movie been a complete and utter failure on every other level, I would have enjoyed it for one single reason and that would be the line “No, that is not slime! You are secreting mucus!” This is a Disney princess movie. Or rather, I should say it’s a Disney Princess movie. It was made to be marketed to little girls. It was meant to tap into that rich vein of princess mania I see on a regular basis. The sort that leads to little girls wearing their frilly princess Halloween costume dresses on a daily basis. And this movie has mucus as a key plot point. Several years back I had a fifth grade girl come up to me at work and ask for help in determining what the use of slime was. It was part of a research project that was more intended to teach kids how to do research than to actually have them learn about a useful subject from said research. But we had a great conversation about how what we normally call slime is technically mucus. And then we talked about snot and why we have it. And I showed her articles on slime eels and a video of a slime eel turning a bucket of water into a bucket of slime. And that girl? Thought that was the most awesome thing ever. So a movie for girls that talks about mucus? I am all over that.

Really, that’s kind of subversive for what many people think of as a franchise that encourages girls to be, well, traditionally girly. I mean, Mulan notwithstanding, the gender roles in Disney movies tend to be on the traditional side. But here we’ve got a movie about frogs. Our main character, Tiana, spends a huge chunk of the movie as a frog. The movie even shows that she’s totally grossed out by frogs, as girls are supposed to be. And then? Frogs galore. Well, two frogs. Two frogs, an alligator, a bug and a whole lot of swamp, to be precise. And while I quite liked Louis the alligator and Ray the lightning bug and thought that the swamp was beautifully illustrated (and this is me we’re talking about – my snake issues mean swamps are a huge no go), you can’t get away from the fact that it is a swamp.

Now, on one hand, I can see there being some objections there. After all, the lily white Cinderella gets cute furry woodland creatures and lovely birds to come help her but African American Tiana gets reptiles and bugs? But at the same time it’s a wonderfully realized world and beautiful in its own way and I quite like that New Orleans and its surroundings were used for a movie aimed at little girls. After all, why not? It’s not like there aren’t little girls growing up in New Orleans or places with similar wildlife right now. So I can run with it. I do wish it had been a little less obviously targeted at a “missing” demographic in the Disney lineup, but then too, keeping the status quo would suck too. It’s a fine line to walk, trying to work on diversifying while not pandering. I honestly can’t say if they managed one way or another, because it’s just plain not my call and I’m not about to make proclamations that aren’t mine to make. I’ll just say that I’m sure Disney made this movie very deliberately. They make everything they make with an eye towards their franchise, but this movie is deliberate in a way that many of their prior films weren’t.

All that being said, I did enjoy it. It’s a twist on the Frog Prince story, which I’m sure you know but let’s go over it just in case. Prince gets turned into a frog. Frog meets a princess who’s lost something (usually a ball) in a pond or a well or some body of water. Frog retrieves the item on the condition that the princess kisses him. Princess reneges on the promise but eventually they end up kissing and surprise surprise, he turns back into a prince and they live happily ever after. Now, I have seen this story done in a bunch of ways. I’ve seen frog princesses and frog principals. I’ve seen the story that comes after when the prince longs for the quiet of his pond and sneaks flies after dinner. What this movie does is combine a few concepts there and mix them in with far more backstory for the princess, an Important Life Lesson for both lead characters and set it all in the 1920s in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Tiana, our not-yet-a-princess, is a waitress who’s saving up to buy an old mill and build her own restaurant to fulfill a dream her father had for himself and for her until he died. She’s well-known and well-liked. She’s great at her job. She works hard. So hard, in fact, that she never seems to have any time to herself for fun. But she’s got a dream and a goal and she’s almost reached it. On the other hand we have prince Naveen, whose family has cut him off because he’s a leech and a layabout and has no concept of what it means to have to work. He shows up in New Orleans looking for a young woman to marry. One with money, so he won’t have to resort of getting a job. And thanks to some convenient plotting with a witch doctor who wants to gain control of the city (and allow some evil spirits to claim the souls of its inhabitants) prince Naveen ends up turned into a frog. Through a misunderstanding he turns Tiana into a frog and off they go to try and undo the curse and become human again.

I think it goes without saying that along the way they both learn about themselves and about life and the world and end up enriched by the experience. This is Disney we’re talking about. Subtlety is not the strong suit in these more recent princess flicks. Tiana learns to look for love and happiness, not just success. Naveen learns the value of work and truly caring for someone else and not just their money. They make friends with some quirky talking animals, sing some songs, escape some minor threats and of course true love prevails in the end.

No, this movie is not revolutionary when it comes to the plot. But that’s okay. I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary to happen. It’s not intended to be revolutionary. It’s intended to tell a story that’s at the same time familiar to kids but also different enough to hold some new interest. It’s bulked up the characters and story and setting to give it a feature film length and I think it’s been done fairly well. I would have to say that the villain just doesn’t get enough time. Holding him up to my golden standard of Disney villainy – Ursula – he just doesn’t compare, even if he does get some good music. But the movie does its job and it does it fairly well. I enjoyed it quite a bit, to be honest. I liked Tiana and I liked the message and Naveen was eerily reminiscent of Pepe the King Prawn but I love Pepe so that’s cool. The music was well done and fun. The animation was flawless and gorgeous (and putting the animation and music together, I’d have to say my favorite scene was Mama Odie’s number in the swamp) and had some moments that put me in mind of the classic Disney movies. Will I be humming the tunes tomorrow? Probably not. Will this become a staple for us? Probably not. Am I glad we watched it and did I enjoy it? Yes on both counts. And am I glad that Disney made it and that it consistently leaves my shelves at work not two minutes after I put it back out? Hell yes. Every little girl needs to see a movie where the heroine saves the day with mucus.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

May 24, 2011

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

It’s nice to see a hand-drawn Disney animated movie in the old tradition. (Well in the old tradition but with the newer digital technology available to animators today.) I bought this movie near the end of my time with Blockbuster on the theory that as an animation fan it would be a betrayal not to have it in my collection. I need to vote with my wallet as the phrase goes and show my support for hand drawn animation by spending some of my money on it.

I have to admit to being somewhat unsure of how to go about reviewing this movie. From an aesthetic standpoint it is beyond reproach. The animation is stunning and quite impressive. No character ever stays still, they’re always moving and dancing and bouncing – I spotted a very small bit of recycled animation in one of the New Orleans crowd scenes near the beginning, but for the most part this movie is absolutely packed with awesome fluid and constant animation. The movie also features a fun and catchy Randy Newman soundtrack full of songs inspired by the jazzy music of the Big Easy. I am, however, about as far from the target audience as it is possible to get.

This is a “Disney Princess” movie. This is a genre I wasn’t aware even existed until movies with the “Disney Princess” moniker started to appear on the shelves of my store. Basically Disney has taken every human female character from their movies and built a brand around them, which I suppose is the commercial thing to do. It takes a potential shortcoming of the Disney line-up (the fact that female characters are almost universally shoehorned into a demure princess mold) and makes it an asset. In some cases perhaps the “princess” part is not completely applicable (I’m fairly certain for example that I’ve seen Mulan in amongst the princess ranks for example) but it seems clear that there’s a big market for princess merchandise.

This raises my first objection to the movie. It seems so blatantly pandering and commercial. I can picture executives at Disney (and I hope that John Lasseter, the executive producer of this film was not among them) saying “We’re missing a key demographic here! We have an Indian princess and an Ameican Indian princess and a French princess and even a kind of Chinese princess but there’s no African American princess!” Much was made of the fact that this was the first Disney animated movie to have an African American lead. I appreciate the attempt to diversify the very pasty ranks of the princesses, but to me it feels too calculated and methodical a move. I speak from the perspective of one of the whitest people in white-town, but I can’t help feeling that if I were the intended target of this movie I would be vaguely insulted.

The movie also seems uncomfortably thick with stereotypes. The inbred two-fingered hunter in the bijou? The gap-toothed Cajun bumpkin firefly? The poor but happy black servant class? Again I am not a part of any of the groups being lampooned, but it makes me vaguely uncomfortable to watch parts of the movie. I find that sad, because there were parts of this movie I really enjoyed, once it got away from New Orleans and became a more standard adventure of two frogs looking for a way to escape an evil curse.

The plot of this movie is pretty simple (as with the best Disney films.) The hard working young woman Tiana has been scrimping and saving and working two jobs her entire life so she can start up her own restaurant. The lazy good for nothing visiting prince Naveen is cursed by a voodoo witch doctor who wants to supplant the prince with a pawn under his own control so he can take over New Orleans (think of him as a thin male Ursula from Little Mermaid.) Tiana kisses the frog prince but he is not restored, instead she too becomes a frog and the two of them escape into the swamps where they befriend a jazz trumpet playing gator and a hick firefly. The four of them have until midnight in the eve of mardi gras to have Tiana’s frighteningly hyper kinetic friend Charlotte, who is princess of the festival, kiss Naveen so that everybody can get their happily ever after.

There’s a strong theme that stresses the importance of hard work to achieve your dreams, which is nice to see. Tiana is a character with a goal in mind and will not allow anything to stop her from achieving it. Not the nay-sayers or her peers who want her to relax and party with them or the mean spirited bankers or even a nasty voodoo spell. It’s a little unfortunate that the movie seems to say that finding her prince charming is ultimately more important than her lifelong dream, but at least he helps her achieve it in the end, so that’s okay. Right?

The only other comment I have about the movie regards Naveen’s accent. He has a heavy Spanish accent that reminded me very much of Pepe the Prawn. (He even uses Pepe’s trademark “okay” at one point.) It made me long for a Muppet adaptation of this movie called “The Princess and the Prawn.” The precedent is there – many of Kermit’s frog companions come from an adaptation that Henson did of this same fairytale way back at the start of his career. In fact I think we have that video tape somewhere – perhaps we should add it to the project!

May 24, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 449 – Kill Bill vol. 2

Kill Bill vol. 2 – May 23rd, 2011

I’ve always felt it odd that this movie and last night’s were meant to be a single film. And from what I’ve read the decision to split the story into two parts came late in the game, which means a ton of it had been filmed. So I have to wonder if they’d been laid out yet. The episodic nature of them certainly would allow for some mixing and matching and the movies both play with timelines, so it’s entirely possible that had it been one long movie things might have been paced differently. I don’t know. I’m not Tarantino. As it stands, however, this movie just plain feels different than the first one and with good reason.

While we watched this evening I tried to explain how I saw the differences to a friend who’s not as familiar with the movies. I ended up having to list the important moments and plot points in the two and what I came up with was that where the first one is a barrage of choreographed fight scenes where the Bride is a vengeful badass, the second one spends a lot more time listening to what she has to say instead of watching what she has to do. We got our introduction to her as a deadly assassin in the first movie. We get our introduction to her as a person in this one. And I find that interesting. This movie isn’t as focused on the vengeance as it is on the Bride herself. The character, not the plot. And I’ve got to say I rather like that because I like that the Bride is a person here, not just a killing machine. And really, that’s part of the point of the background we get for her.

This movie is episodic, like the first one was, but while the episodes are announced by title card and all they don’t feel so clearly delineated. They bleed into each other more. They’re rougher around the edges. At the same time, I still get the feeling that this movie could have been split up and shown as a serial before other movies in the theater and Tarantino’s the sort of guy who I think would get a kick out of that. But the rougher splits between the sections definitely affect the feel and flow of the movie. So too do the locales used. Instead of the sleek scenery of Tokyo and the suburban settings of the first movie we get rural Texas and a remote temple in China and overgrown haciendas in Mexico. Everything feels isolated and out of the way. Off the beaten path. The people in it are rougher. Instead of Vernita in her soccer mom duds and manicured lawn we get Budd in his old bowling shirt and trailer in the desert. It’s a more intimate world our heroine has gotten to.

Of course, she’s still looking for Bill. And Bill knows she’s coming and he’s warned the remnants of the old gang. Now, I find the dynamics here interesting. Budd’s clearly had a falling out with his brother, Bill. He’s left the assassination squad and works as a bouncer in a strip club that never seems to have any customers. That’s a pretty long way to fall and we’re never given the exact reason. In fact, it seem the only member of the crew still working with Bill is Elle Driver. It’s implied in the first movie that Vernita got out around when she herself got pregnant (her girl’s about the same age as our heroine’s would be, so it stands to reason she didn’t stick around) and O-Ren’s gone on to bigger things. Elle’s apparently trying to take the Bride’s place as Bill’s favorite, which apparently never quite worked out, and then there’s Budd. Why did he leave? What did he argue with Bill about? Was it the attack in the chapel? He clearly has some remorse over it, but he’s also not about to sacrifice himself in the name of penance. He’s a scumbag who knows he’s a scumbag and lives with it. He’s a fascinating character and Michael Madsen plays him well.

Elle Driver is the other baddie here. She’s a far less in-control version of our heroine. The version who wanted all the things our heroine has and had but can’t quite manage it. She can’t quite get Bill. She couldn’t get the sword. She couldn’t get the training. She doesn’t deserve it and she hates that and therefore hates our heroine with a vicious and fiery passion. We never get much in the way of background for her, much like we don’t get much in the way of background for Uma Thurman’s character. Daryl Hannah plays Elle as a fact-obsessed sociopath and she does so with relish. Watching them face off together is one of my favorite moments in the movie. It’s a far less polished fight scene than anything in the first movie, but that’s the point. And we get to see just how much better our heroine is. Of course.

One of the other things I love about this movie is the training sequence with kung fu master Pai Mei. He’s a fantastic classic kung fu master, though not of the type who appears to be a regular every day guy. He lives in a temple on a mountain, all by himself, and teaches things like how to punch through wood with only three inches of clearance and how to pluck an eyeball out and how to kill someone with pressure points. But only after one has gained his trust and respect, which is, of course, a grueling task. There’s some great character development for the Bride here, long before she put on a wedding dress. Not only do we see that determination has always been one of her strong suits, but that she was enthusiastic at one point, and thoroughly enamoured of Bill. Watching her with Bill as he tells her a story about Pai Mei while they sit at a campfire is a fantastic look into her life before it all fell apart. Watching her with Bill outside the chapel even closer to the crucial pivot point in their lives is similar. You can see the relationship between the two of them and a level of understanding that wasn’t apparent in the first movie. I like how that’s expanded upon well before we get to Bill at the end of the movie here.

The thing is, the movie spends a lot of time on all these relationships. As I said early on, this is a movie that is more concerned with the character than the plot. We finally learn her name, though I’m still not sure why it was buzzed out all through the first one and into the beginning of this one. It’s not a particularly impressive reveal. It just is. Anyhow. We get to know her, and that takes a lot more talking and non-actiony interactions between characters. It’s not an entirely stationary movie but it ambles instead of zooms.

By the time we hit the end and we see Bill and Beatrix (yep, that’s her name) and little B.B. we know why Beatrix left the group and we know why Bill killed off the whole wedding party, including the organist, and we know that the two of them had something. And now it’s gone. It was inevitable. While I could quibble over the pacing of the movie (I think it could have benefited from a little more editing) and I didn’t really need to see Budd at work at the strip club to understand where he is in his life (I’d rather have seen more of Elle’s life), overall I rather like this movie. It’s an odd marriage between it and the first part, but it still deals with vengeance. It’s just moved beyond what Beatrix is willing to do to get to Bill and moved on to what she’s willing to endure. And Uma Thurman carries off every moment, from the steely focus on beating her opponents to the determination to gain Pai Mei’s respect to the grinning protege to a brutal killer to the weeping mother finally reunited with her child. It’s a fantastic performance and she ties the movie together, episode by episode, to make a whole.

May 23, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kill Bill: Volume Two

May 23, 2011

Kill Bill: Volume II

I’ve only just finished writing my somewhat tardy review for Volume One of the Kill Bill movies and now I have to start in on a whole ‘nother Kill Bill review. I remember thinking when I saw this movie in the theater that it was not as good as the first movie. It’s more cerebral. More talky and plotty. It has huge giant swaths of pithy dialog (a Tarantino specialty) but not the same level of awesomely choreographed fight scenes. Watching it back to back with the first movie helps though. They were conceived to be a single lengthy picture after all, so it makes sense that they work better together as a unit than individually on their own.

This is a movie that has to answer questions from the first half and tie up plot threads. There are questions that don’t particularly need answering, such as what is the Bride’s name which has been bleeped out up until now. (It’s Beatrix Kiddo by the way, and I honestly can’t think of any reason that I should care.) It resolves the mystery of what happened to Elle Driver’s missing eye. Most importantly it answers the question of why Beatrix left the Vipers (because she wanted to raise her unborn child outside the influence of her lover and handler Bill) and why Bill turned around and slaughtered her and her entire new life (he admits he over-reacted.)

I’m very much of two minds regarding this movie. There are parts of the movie I really enjoy. Everything having to do with Pai Mei – the Bride’s Chinese kung-fu master. He’s ornery and cranky and clearly a kung-fu legend. He has a long beard, bushy eyebrows and a big white top-knot. He laughs a lot. There’s the entire training montage, which is fantastic. There are the wild zooms in to Pai Mei’s cackling visage that feel so very authentic to the source material. (I particularly grinned at the zoom that leaves him all blurry until the focus pull brings him back.)

Michael Madsen as Bill’s down-on-his-luck brother is fantastic. You get the impression that his self-imposed exile and the crappy life he’s living is his penance for the part he played in Beatrix’s betrayal. Then he turns around and shoots her in the chest and buries her alive, so maybe he’s not too sympathetic after all. I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to think. It’s a great role for Madsen though – even if half the time I thought he looked more like Micky Rourke than like himself.

Daryl Hannah is wonderfully evil as Elle Driver. She’s just to malevolent and menacing. She’s the most heartless of all possible killers, which makes her a great foil for the Bride. It’s also great to see her get her comeuppance.

But this movie is mostly about Bill and Beatrix and B.B. The resolution of their collective plot threads is not an over-the-top super action extravaganza. It is a series of scenes with people talking at each-other. We get to see Bill finding Beatrix in the church in Texas where he first tried to kill her. We get a fairy store from Bill about Pai Mei before Beatrix goes to train with him. Bill soliloquises about learning about death, about the nature of Superman, about feeling betrayed. It should be some indication of just how talky this movie gets that a big action plot point is when Bill shoots Beatrix with a dart filled with truth serum. You thought there was going to be a shoot-out? Nope! More talking!

I do enjoy Tarantino’s pop culture dialog style in small doses. The Superman speech for example is a nice one even if it does sound more like Kevin Smith than Quentin Tarantino. It just doesn’t seem to fit the expectations set by the first movie. I wanted gallons of blood and hundreds killed. This movie (or half of the movie depending on how you view such things) is just so slow and deliberate in comparison.

One thing this movie has going for it, though, is Uma Thurman. Her performance in this movie is simply awesome. She gets to be the unstoppable killing machine, which is great. She also gets to be the mother reunited with the daughter she thought she has lost, though, and that role is such a powerful one. I am only willing to sit through David Carradine’s constant monologues because the powerful emotions that play out on Uma’s face as she reconciles her need to fulfil the title of the movie with her still existent love for the father of her child. (Well and because Carradine is fucking Kwai Chang Caine and Frankenstein – the guy could read the phone book and make it sound spiritual and sinister.)

I’ve watched both movies back to back now and I have to say that although I like the first a lot more, because it is full of light hearted action and awesome fight scenes, the second one has its place as well. I’d very much like to see the two edited together in some fashion that spreads the adrenal rush of the action a little better, but I’m happy with the product as it currently exists. I think I need a small break from Tarantino now before we embark on Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs or Inglourious Basterds. It’s very much possible to overdose.

May 23, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 448 – Kill Bill vol. 1

Kill Bill vol. 1 – May 22nd, 2011

I’ve got mixed feelings when it comes to Quentin Tarantino. I think he’s a brilliant guy who knows movies like few other people do. He has a recognizable aesthetic and he can do homage and reference while keeping the result distinctly his own. He has a good eye and an excellent ear and hearing him talk about movies it’s clear just how much he loves watching them, absorbing them and then making his own. And that’s all great. But he’s also got an ego the size of Jupiter and he can get so wrapped up in his own cleverness and image and reputation that things get overdone. Death Proof lowered him a lot in my eyes, but I have to reconcile it with this movie, which is an entirely different creature. So, like I said, mixed feelings.

This is probably one of the most obvious revenge quest movies I can think of. There’s no attempt to disguise it and that’s the point of the whole thing, that it’s righteous and bad-assed. There is never any question of who you should root for here. The Bride, whose name is omitted whenever it’s spoken, is your hero. She’s been put through hell and she’s going to get her revenge and if you’re not going to help her then she’s going to ignore you and if you hurt her then you’re as good as dead. She was beaten and shot on her wedding day, pregnant and trying to escape her former life as an assassin. We meet her as she tells the man shooting her – Bill – that it’s his baby. Just before he shoots her in the head. Now that? That is some potent backstory for a revenge plot.

I like how this movie is put together. Sure, starting out by going forward in time and then back is a bit of a gimmick but I don’t really mind. The Bride makes a list of people she needs to kill and we meet the second one first, but it’s a fast bit of action, all things considered, and it serves to introduce the character’s skills, lack of weaknesses and a good amount of her background. We hear she would have had a daughter. We get a bit about the assassination squad she was part of. We see a lot here, including action and a good amount of blood (but nowhere near as much as we will see). So I like it as an introduction. And by the time the movie ends we know what the Bride’s already been up to before she even got there.

It’s a fairly episodic movie. Yes, we see the last episode first, but otherwise it’s all clearly delineated by location. She starts in Texas, she wakes up in the hospital, she goes to Okinawa, she goes to Tokyo, she comes back to the US. Each section is well defined and within the section in Japan we get a complete style change to animation to show the backstory of one of her opponents: O-Ren Ishii. Now, the animation and storytelling there? I’m not so keen on. I can see its purpose, but it seems to be there more because Tarantino thought it would be cool than because it’s necessarily required for the plot. I’m not sure I care enough about O-Ren to see her childhood trauma and her own revenge story. And the animated style of it defines it as not a part of the rest of the movie’s storyline, but it also serves to separate it out and keep it from fitting into the movie as well as it should. And I find that frustrating. Whereas the rest of the episodes in the movie fit together as part of the Bride’s story, O-Ren’s doesn’t. It’s there for style more than substance. But that’s sort of how I see Tarantino: He has the potential for such fantastic substance, but gets distracted by style sometimes.

The other thing I really like about this movie, aside from the excellent cinematography and directing and all those things I expect from a Tarantino film, is that it’s not wall to wall violence. Oh sure, once the fight scenes start they’re relentless – as they should be – but there are other scenes where there’s little to no violence whatsoever. Specifically there’s the Hattori Hanzo scenes. Those are some fantastic bits that serve both as homage, with Sonny Chiba playing a role that’s a clear reference to a television show from the 80s, as well as character development for the Bride. She’s not a mindless assassin who uses a sword because it’s cool. She has a reverence for it and for its history. And it shows here. It’s a nice bit of quiet in a movie full of noise and I appreciate the pause it creates in the middle. It’s sort of a calm before the storm that is to come in the teahouse later on when she faces off with O-Ren and her gang.

This movie? Is not for young audiences. In fact, I’m impressed that the tricks that were used to land it an R instead of an NC-17 actually worked. And it gets shown on television! Every so often I flip past it and I usually pause to watch for a little while because I enjoy it quite a bit. But oh is it funny how it gets altered to make it “safe” for television. I’m often amused by these things (when we review The Breakfast Club I’ll share my favorite example) but this one is up there near the top of my list. I can’t speak to exactly how much blood and gore gets removed, but the most noticeable change is that “pussy wagon” is changed to “party wagon” and the line “My name is Buck and I’m here to fuck” gets changed to “My name is Buck and I’m here to party.” As if that at all hides the fact that Buck’s been selling her body while she was comatose. And there’s just something so ridiculous about trying to clean up this movie by changing the terminology but not the content.

Aside from the animated section I really feel that this is a tightly put together movie with a clear idea of where it’s going and what it wants to do and how it’s going to do it all. The Bride is a strong character, willing to do whatever it takes to get to Bill and kill him and take down the rest of her former teammates as she goes. Sure, she’s had horrible things happen to her, but the movie doesn’t seem to delight in showing them to us, which is a huge difference for me from Death Proof (also a revenge story but one in which the revenge cannot be enacted by those harmed the most because the movie just had to show how much they were harmed). The Bride faces off with a number of other strong characters, ones who have lives and backgrounds of their own and who can certainly go toe to toe with her. It’s paced well, populated well, written well. It’s full of darkly humorous lines in the midst of the revenge. And all the homage and reference are combined well to make it something different. I honestly think it stands fairly well on its own, but it’s only part one and ends on a cliffhanger, so we’ll have to finish talking about it tomorrow.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kill Bill: Volume One

May 22, 2011

Kill Bill: Volume I

We keep saying, as we’re watching various films in our collection, “We should watch Kill Bill soon.” On Friday, for example, when we reviewed Sonny Chiba’s Dragon Princess, we commented on how the plot of a woman seeking revenge was so compelling even if the execution in that particular case was muddied by a poor translation and dub for American audiences. When we were watching Five Superfighters we were also reminded of this movie, because that sort of kung-fu staple is what inspired this movie.

Quentin Tarantino is completely straight forward in talking about this movie as homage to the samurai, kung-fu and spaghetti western movie he enjoyed growing up. In the making featurette that is on the DVD he says that in his mind Kill Bill is to the martial arts films of the seventies what Indiana Jones is to the adventure serials of the forties. In many ways I can see that, but it’s not a completely perfect analogy. Kill Bill doesn’t concern itself so much with having a continuous narrative. Instead it takes the form of isolated chapters, each taking cues from a particular genre of film. They are held together by a flimsy revenge plot and by some fantastic characters and actors, but they do not really make a complete whole. Indeed so disparate are the styles and looks of the different segments of the movie that even though events are shown out of sequence (in a very Pulp Fiction style) it doesn’t really impact the story telling.

We start out with “The Bride” (our anonymous heroine played fantastically by Uma Thurman) beaten and bloody on the floor of the chapel where she was to have been wed. Her vengeful ex Bill, whose face we never see in this movie is the head of an elite squad of killers, and together they all slaughter the wedding party and leave the Bride for dead. But she doesn’t die of course.

The movie jumps way forward now, and we see the Bride reuniting with one of her tormentors, who now lives in an unassuming suburban house with her husband and four year old daughter. She used to be Vernita Green but now she’s just Mrs. Bell. Until the Bride shows up and abruptly tries to kill her. It’s a knock down dirty vicious knife fight. This is the most brutally realistic part of the movie and the most hard-hitting. Perhaps that is why this is how Quentin chooses to start things out.

The next portion of the movie involves the four years the Bride spent comatose after her shooting. An evil one-eyed Daryl Hannah comes to her in her hospital room, but Bill calls her off before she can ignobly kill the Bride in her sleep. Eventually, of course, the Bride wakes up to discover that her comatose body has been pimped out by a slimy nurse in the hospital for the sexual gratification of awful perverts. Naturally she kills the client who has come to rape her, and kills the nurse Buck (who according to the television edit likes to party, but likes to do something more crude in the theatrical cut.) Yeah, that sets the mood for the movie right there. Awful people who deserve to die being killed.

As the Bride recovers in Buck’s truck (the Pussy Wagon) from four years of catatonia which has left her weak and almost paralyzed, we learn about the first person on her death list – O-Ren Ishii. This segment of the movie is an awesome and bloody anime short which details the young life of O-Ren as she is raised on a Japanese army base to her Chinese father and American mother. An evil mob boss kills her parents while she is hiding under the bed, and eventually an eleven year old O-Ren kills the mobster in revenge, thus beginning her career as an elite killer. In the time since O-Ren participated in the slaughter at the Bride’s wedding she has risen to the top of the Japanese underworld to be the head of all organised crime in Japan.

The next segment of the film is by far my favorite part of the whole movie. The Bride travels to Okinawa where she seeks out the retired sword maker Hattori Hanzo. Sonny Chiba portrays Hattori Hanzo, a character he has played for decades and whom Quentin Tarantino loved in his youth. This is a simple, comedic, spiritual interlude in a bloody and overwhelming movie and as such it’s an island of calm. The Bride needs the ultimate sword to exact her vengeance and apparently Hattori was once a mentor to the mysterious and nefarious Bill, so he agrees to come out of retirement and do that which he had sworn an oath never to do again: make a thing which kills people.

After this the movie returns to pure fantasy violence. The entire remaining third of the film is one long extended action scene as the Bride confronts O-Ren Ishii in a Japanese night club called the House of the Blue Leaves. She takes out the “Crazy Eighty-Eight” (O-Ren’s gang) and their masked commander as well as O-Ren’s sadistic schoolgirl bodyguard and finally faces O-Ren herself in a climactic swordfight.

This movie is all about capturing a series of visual moments. There are a few quintessentially Quentin moments, such as the “walking down the hall” scene at the House of the Blue Leaves. There are some amazing and complex camera shots, such as the lengthy steadycam shot that follows the Bride through the House of Blue Leaves, sweeping along beside her, up over walls, back through the crowd, over the balcony, picking up O-Ren’s multi lingual secretary Sofie as she walks down the stairs and completely unawares into the restroom where the Bride is waiting. Most of the time, however, the movie concentrates on evoking a particular cinematic mode. Each chapter has a distinctive style and soundtrack. Each part is a homage to an entire genre of film. As such this is actually a whole series of short films all starring the same indomitable character and all centered on a theme of vengeance.

They’re all great films though. Brilliant and well made and most of all just plain cool and fun to watch. The action is extreme, the blood is plentiful and the soundtrack is the pinnacle of awesome. Tarantino has done exactly what he set out to do – he’s distilled kung fu, spaghetti westerns, blacksploitation films and samurai movies into a single super action-fest and it is good. He pays homage and gets some of the great names to participate. Fight choreography by Yuen Wu-Ping. Sonny Chiba. This was the movie that convinced me that I completely loved Lucy Liu, who is completely awesome and kickass as O-Ren. My only regret is that I never saw this movie in the theater and had to enjoy it on the small screen. It’s a grant big action movie that deserves better.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment