Monday, October 27, 2003

Kill Bill, Vol 1

"You didn't really think it was going to be that easy, did you?"
"You know, for a second there...yeah, I really did."
"Silly rabbit...."

So just what the hell has Quentin Tarantino been doing since 1997? I have to admit -- when I saw that "The 4th Film by Quentin Tarantino" card in the trailer, I had to restrain a whoop of delight. Yes, I am a Tarantino fan. Yes, I can recite pretty much every line of dialogue from Pulp Fiction from memory. And yes, I have an enormous Reservoir Dogs poster. Call me a fanboy, call me an apologist -- whatever. I get what Q.T. is saying.

And I knew within five seconds I was going to love this movie: Tarantino opens it up with a hilarious -- and very appropriate -- reference to Star Trek II. It's that kind of love (and encyclopedic knowledge) of film that's apparent in all of Tarantino's work, but none more so than Kill Bill.

The story is strikingly simple: a group of assassins known as the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad hit a wedding in a small church in El Paso, killing everyone. Well, almost everyone -- despite their efforts, the main target of the hit, the Bride (Uma Thurman) -- who is, or was, one of their own -- somehow survives, though comatose. When she wakes up four years later, to discover she's lost the child she was carrying at the time, there's only one course of action: REVENGE~! And in appropriate action-movie style, she aims to take them out one at a time, trotting across the globe to kill them all, finishing with the leader known only as Bill (David Carradine).

In the hands of another writer/director, this would be a dark, serious character study, watching as the Bride slowly becomes more and more machine-like as she moves toward her goal of killing Bill. But not Tarantino -- he's always had an unabashed adoration for those bloody kung fu movies from the 70s, and Kill Bill is his version, complete with cheesy wocka-wocka music cues and characters with names like "Black Mamba" and "Copperhead." Along the way, Q also finds time to give us a short anime film, a horrifying subplot about certain liberties taken with the comatose Bride, and a master swordmaker's reluctant return to his craft.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the picture is the gorgeous cinematography -- colors just burst out the frame, especially in an early sequence in suburbia. The film's climactic fight scene in the snow is probably the most beautiful image I've seen all year. A scene where the Bride, clad in a yellow jumpsuit rides her motorcycle through the neon glow of Tokyo, is similarly stunning. Credit to Robert Richardson for impeccable work. Sally Menke's editing is also noteworthy (and award-worthy).

As far as the acting goes, everyone pretty much hits their marks perfectly. While there's cheese in the music and occasionally in the writing, there's none in the performances, which I have to commend. Tarantino also taunts us, letting us know at the beginning David Carradine is playing Bill, but never letting us see any of Bill other than his hand (that's a tactic Tarantino loves: amping up a character's image in the minds of audience by refusing to let us see his/her face). I should mention Lucy Liu, whom I normally don't care for: I just loved her in this movie. Thanks to the film's obligatory time-jumping (it is Tarantino, after all), I'm not sure if she'll be in Volume 2. Here's hoping.

There's been a lot of talk about Kill Bill's violence, and it's warranted -- this is one of the most graphically violent mainstream movies I've seen. We're talking heads chopped off and spraying blood, hands and feet severed and flying around, and other slashed body parts. It reminds me of nothing less than Monty Python's Black Knight scene, really. But unlike such ritual bloodlettings as Hannibal and the like, Kill Bill takes none of it seriously, so the whole movie as a Looney Tunes/Roadrunner feel that makes it hard to be offended at the various vivisected henchmen. Your mileage may vary, however, so consider yourself warned.

The movie does come to a rather abrupt conclusion, complete with gasp-inducing cliffhanger. I loved it, but I heard a lot of boos from the audience; I have to ask, "What were you expecting?" It does say "Volume 1" right there in the title. I should point on that it's much a better ending than The Matrix Reloaded, and Tarantino doesn't gives us a cheesy "To Be Continued" title, either. It just cuts to the "Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino" card, leaving us breathless with exhaustion and antcipation. Though I didn't like it at first, I'm happy about the split -- I don't think I could sit through much more of this one, as much as I loved it.

So will Kill Bill, Vol. 2 be the 5th film by Quentin Tarantino? Or still the 4th? Fourth-and-a-half? Only a few months to wait and find out. I do know this: Vol. 1 is the best film I've seen this year, by far. Welcome back, Q.

Rating: *****

Thursday, October 23, 2003

In the fuzzy, depressed mental state in which I wrote my previous post, I neglected to mention my acquisition of the new Barenaked Ladies release, Everything to Everyone. It's the same Canadian goodness we've come to expect. And honestly, that's really a incredible accomplishment, when you consider the BNL style; there's a fine line between quirky goofiness and annoying juvenelia, and BNL's ability to land on the positive side of that line so consistently for fourteen-plus years now is truly impressive.

(Someone out there is reading this right now and thinking, "Fourteen years? Dude, was that chickity-china-the-chinese-chicken song fourteen years ago?" No. No no no. "One Week" may have big their biggest hit [in America, anyway], but it was by no means their first. Their first radio hit was "Be My Yoko Ono," back in 1989, and they were very popular in the Canadian club scene for some time before that. They are not one-hit wonders, despite what the clueless sales clerk at Wearhouse told me. Moron. Uh, anyway...what was I talking about?...oh, yeah....)

I've become particularly enamored with a song on the disc called "Upside Down." This may be my new favorite song of theirs...yes, I might like it more than "Alcohol" or "Box Set." I decided to submit the lyrics here for your approval.

I always knew it'd come to this
Sooner or later there must be another's kiss
Behind that kiss a promise of a life of bliss
Yeah, great -- I won't be taking the bait
I'd rather drown
And I will not turn my whole life upside down

Imagine everything you've done
Under a microscope on view for everyone
And if the King of Circumspection's here
He's come in vain -- I won't be sharing the blame
I wear the crown
And I will not turn my whole life upside down

Nothing's good enough for me
To shake me from complacency
I make my mind up and I'll never be...

The kind of man to make a choice
For if I hold my tongue, I'll never lose my voice
If each attempted act of sabotage destroys all hope
I won't be needing the rope
I'm gagged and bound
But I will not turn my whole life upside down

And if the genie was set free
And, by the laws of things like that, he's indebted to me
I'd bury my three wishes deep down in the ground
Cause I will not turn my whole life upside down

Though I appreciate the aim
Tell Andy Warhol's ghost that he can keep his fame
I'd only use to make everything the same again
So don't applaud 'til the end -- I'm not around
And I will not turn my whole life upside down

Nothing's good enough for me
To shake me from complacency
I've made my mind up -- I won't make a sound
And I will not turn my whole life upside down

Well, I like it. And you should, too. So go buy it. And yes, I mean buy it. And yes, I'm talking to you.

And if the clerk tells you that Barenaked Ladies are a one-hit wonder, clock him in the jaw. Moron.

I never though that you would love me
The way that you do
I never thought that you could love me
Half as much as I do
In memoriam: Elliot Smith. Nothing I could say would be better than what a friend of mine did, so I'll just say it's a sad, tragic thing.

I actually came up with an idea for a short play I was going to start writing tonight, but a large part of it involves two characters discussing suicide at length; it seemed a little unnerving (not to mention depressing as all hell) to write this after hearing about Elliot, so I'll put if off for a week or so.

Onto baseball. In the fictional world, the Oklahoma Tornados are now 42-16, far and away the best team in baseball. It's actually scary how good we are. Out of boredom, I simmed the rest of the season just to see what would happen. We ended up 110-52 and walked away with the world title. Awesomeness.

In the real world, the Marlins tried to give away Game 4, but came back to win in the 12th off a homer by Alex Gonzales. So what we have is now the exact same situation as in the ALCS: Yanks lose Game 1. They win Game 2 at home, then beat the other team's ace (Pedro for Boston, Josh Beckett for Florida) in Game 3, then lose Game 4 despite late inning heroics from Ruben Sierra. It's scary, isn't it?

I still hold to my prediction (delusion?) of the Marlins' victory in seven games. Yes, I'm a lunatic.

Next door, the TV's flashing
Blue frames on the wall
It's a comedy of errors, you see
It's about taking a fall

To vanish to oblivion
Is easy to do
And I try to be, but you know me
I come back when you want me to
Do you miss me, Miss Misery
Like you say you do?

Friday, October 17, 2003

Mystic River: ****1/2. The Best Actor race is now a heated three-way between Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, and Sean Penn, who is all kinds of awesome here.

I saw the trailer for Tim Burton's Big Fish. It will either be really good or absolutely unbearable. Not sure which yet.

Oh, and the Red Sox. I'm disappointed, but not surprised, really. I mean, it's the Red Sox. I'm used to it. "Wait till next year," as Dodger fans used to say. And still say, I'd imagine. Next year's dream playoffs -- Astros vs. Dodgers in the NLCS; Red Sox vs. Mariners in the ALCS. I think I would have a stroke trying to decide who to root for.

So it's the Greatest Team Ever vs. Those Crazy Marlins for the prize. As much as I hate the Yankees, they probably are the best team in baseball. You'd have to be a lunatic to bet against them.

Marlins in seven.

You can have anything you want
But you better not take it from me

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Five outs. There were five friggin' outs away. And they blew it.

If you didn't see it, the Cubs were up 3-0 in the 8th. Someone for the Marlins...Castillo, I believe, tapped a short pop-up in foul ground down the third-base line. Into the stands, but definitely playable. Moises Alou -- Cubs leftfielder -- sticks his glove in the crowd to catch the ball....

...and some stupid fucking drunk fan tries to catch the ball and slaps it away.

The Marlins go on to score EIGHT in the inning.

Game 7 tonight. I am afraid. Very afraid.

In other news, Mystic River opens today. Aw yeah.

It'll work out. You'll see it already. In the end, it's all nice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Yes, the Red Sox managed to hold on to win Game 4, despite their best efforts to give it away in the ninth. So it's tied up at 2-2 now, which means that the series is definitely going back to New York for at least one game. I guarantee some stupid Yankee fan is going to start some shit. Watch.

In just a few moments, Game 5 starts. And then, tonight, Game 6 of the NLCS. The Cubs have the chance to go to the World Series for the first time since 1945. One can only hope.

There's a new baseball poll over there. You know what to do.

In other baseball news, my expansion team on All-Star Baseball 2003 -- the Oklahoma Tornados -- are now 27-11, still in 1st place in the NL Central. We're the most powerful offensive team in baseball, and we have one of the best pitching staffs in the league. The other teams cower in our presence. Yeah.

People will come, Ray. People will come.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Oh. Hell. Yeah.

So I saw Intolerable Cruelty yesterday: ****1/2. I also saw Kill Bill, which I just had to write about at length. And I saw the Return of the King trailer. *Twice.* And the Cubs won!

It was a good day.

But now the Red Sox are losing, and Pedro is totally falling apart. Grrr.

Wiggle your big toe. Wiggle your big toe.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Good news: The Lion King (#28 on the Essentials list) is out on DVD. It's about freakin' time.

Bad news: "Morning Report," the all-new song added to the film, is really quite bad. It's unnecessary and messes with the flow of the movie. Plus, it means it takes longer to get to "Just Can't Wait to Be King" and "Be Prepared." Luckily, you can watch the film without it, so I won't have to firebomb Disney in retaliation.

In keeping with the whole Lion King madness, there's a new poll over there. VOTE!

Speaking of voting: Ahnold is the governor of California. Since I don't live there, and haven't lived there since 1989, I really don't much give a damn, but I also don't think it's an "embarassment to democracy" or anything. I mean, why do we assume that just because he's Ahnold, he'll make a bad governor? Sure, he might make a horrible leader, and if he does, I'll be the first to say so. But hey, Ronald Regan was an actor before he became governor of California and eventually President, and he was a....

Okay, bad example.

I know it sounds sordid
But you'll be rewarded
When at last I am given my dues
And injustice deliciously squared
Be prepared!

Monday, October 06, 2003

Okay, so it's been a while. Why haven't I posted? Short answer: "I didn't feel like it." Long answer: "(pause) I didn't feel like it."

So, yeah. I saw Lost in Translation: ****1/2, best film of the year so far. Great flick. Saw The Rundown: ***1/2. I think the Rock might just become an action star after all. How about that. Now it's all about Kill Bill and Intolerable Cruelty.

I was complaining about our government (I know, big surprise) to someone yesterday, and I had to once again listen to that stupid "Well, why don't you just go live somewhere else then?" garbage. They ask me how I'd feel if I was living in a country where I wasn't allowed to complain about the government.

"You mean," I said, "what if I lived in a country where, if I spoke out against my leaders, I would be harrassed and told to shut up or leave the country?"


"Um...I do."

Can anyone tell me where I can get a desktop wallpaper of an upside-down American flag?

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our souls
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The truth will come to you at last
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll