Saturday, September 30, 2017

Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" - a movie review by Daniel Kilgallon

Runtime: 154 mins

After bursting into the filmmaking world through the success of 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs”, Quentin Tarantino went on to release “Pulp Fiction” in 1994. Similar to his debut movie, “Pulp Fiction” is driven by extended scenes of sharp dialogue and witty humor, in an absolutely brilliant script which Tarantino wrote with Roger Avary. This time around, there was a significantly bigger film budget, which hovered around $8 million according to the Internet Movie Database. 

Between more money to work with and the success of “Reservoir Dogs”, an even better cast was put together for this masterpiece; led by a career resurrection of sorts, for John Travolta and perhaps the quintessential role for Samuel L Jackson. Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken, and Bruce Willis are just a few other names included in this all-star group of acting talent. With such a special team behind the production of this instant cult classic, Quentin Tarantino crafted a completely original story that many believe to be his magnum opus. Because of that, “Pulp Fiction” has rightfully landed near the top of countless lists of the greatest films ever made.

Typical of a Tarantino film, “Pulp Fiction” has a nonlinear structure that lets the audience piece together the overarching plot down to every detail. The movie intertwines several different storylines into one giant tale of gangster violence; included in this are: A young couple of diner robbers, two hitmen, the wife of a local kingpin, and a talented prizefighter. I would hate to spoil anything more from this gem, as the film’s closing scene ties everything together in a manner that practically demands multiple re-watches.

In my opinion, the sheer uniqueness of “Pulp Fiction” represents so much about what is wrong with many films today, that it has only become better each time that I see it. Just about every word of dialogue contributes at least one of the following elements, including: building strong characters, moving the plot along, and providing strong humor. Each and every role is executed to a tee, but the script is written so naturally that all of the conversations feel very casual and draw the audience in, unlike any movie I have seen before or since. It was more than well-deserved for Tarantino and Avary to bring home the top honor for writing, at the 1995 Academy Awards.

While the tremendous screenplay is the clear strength of this movie, effective use of homage and excellent action sequences are a few other aspects that have earned it such a positive reputation. Unless you just don’t like Tarantino’s edgy style or can’t handle the plethora of violent sequences, “Pulp Fiction” is a must watch for any movie fan who hasn’t seen it and worth checking out again for anyone who has. It is currently available to watch online with Netflix, along with the next film in this series of reviews, “Jackie Brown”.

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Reservior Dogs." A movie review by Daniel Kilgallon

“Reservoir Dogs” (R)
Runtime: 100 minutes

Whether you love or hate his controversial body of work as a filmmaker, one would be hard pressed to find another director in the industry today that can match Quentin Tarantino’s skill as a screenwriter. 

Each of his full length feature films are characterized by an oftentimes twisted blend of brutal violence, humor and brilliant dialogue. I have seen just about every movie he has written, from the two part samurai story of, “Kill Bill” to his most recent epic western, “The Hateful Eight” (pride-fully marketed as his … eighth film). I completely respect Quentin Tarantino’s incredible ability to deliver an entertaining, oftentimes nonlinear storyline fueled by extended scenes of dialogue that demands the attention of the audience. 

On the premise that his movies are practically in a category of their own, Tarantino’s debut film, “Reservoir Dogs” is perhaps the epitome of his genre, along with being widely considered one of the best independent movies ever made.
According to the Internet Movie Database, the 1992 crime drama was a shot on a relatively small budget of just over $1 million, demonstrating that this film has earned the status of a masterpiece, due to outstanding storytelling instead of blockbuster visual effects. It is worthy to note, that the now iconic cast members, were far from A-listers at the time and a majority of the scenes take place in a single warehouse.

The straightforward premise of this cult classic revolves around a group of criminals who join forces to perform a diamond robbery. However, we never actually see the heist and the sequence of events are revealed through a blend of nonlinear storytelling and flashback scenes. twist is that the gangsters have extremely limited knowledge of each other and are supposed to refer to one another by their assigned color (Mr. White, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde, etc.) Following the iconic opening diner sequence that perfectly sets up the rest of the film, we discover that the mission went horribly wrong and before long, it becomes a game of sorts, for the men to figure out who is the apparent police informant amongst them.

I cannot think of a filmmaker that burst into the industry in a more powerful, signature way than Quentin Tarantino; “Reservoir Dogs” is incredibly indicative of every film he has directed or written ever since. Simply put, each action and word of the film contributes to the story or character building, in one way or another, in a manner that never loses the interest of the audience. Anybody who hasn’t seen this gem should give it a viewing if given the chance (it seems to come and go from Netflix streaming). Watch out for continuing reviews of Tarantino’s directorial work in chronological order of release, with 1994s, “Pulp Fiction” coming up next.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Matt Pascarella reviews the movie "It"

I was skeptical going into the remake of Stephen King’s “It”. I am a horror movie fan and I had seen the 1990s mini-series and wasn’t impressed. Remakes can be worse than the original. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I liked it more than I thought I would. It had a compelling enough story, predictable in parts and was fast paced enough that two-plus hours didn’t seem that long.   

In a nutshell, or in a red balloon, Pennywise’s (Bill Skarsg√•rd) calling card, “It” takes place in 1988 in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. “It” is the story of Billy (Jaeden Lieberher) whose little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) was kidnapped by Pennywise while playing with a paper sailboat in the rain. A year later, Billy believes his brother is still out there and he goes with his friends, Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and Beverley (Sophia Lillis) to look for Georgie. 

Along the way, Pennywise and his red balloons make several appearances and attempts to kidnap the children, appearing in their homes, while they are outside and especially while they are alone, often lunging at them out of the darkness or hiding behind a bunch of his red balloons. He uses his red balloons and the line, “You’ll float, too,” which is said in a hoarse, gravelly voice and can elevate to an unnerving scream. 

Will Billy find Georgie? Can these friends band together to stop this malicious clown?

This movie had a very 1980s movie feel in spots. There are multiple scenes where you see the group of seven children riding bikes to the sewer well which reminded me of “The Goonies” - friends banding together to go on an adventure. 

There is another scene where bullies, known as the Bowers Gang, led by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) including: Belch (Jake Sim), Victor (Logan Thompson) and Patrick (Owen Teague) beat up Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and the other children come to his aid. One screams “rock wars” and they begin throwing rocks at each other, eventually scaring off the Bowers Gang. This was very “Stand By Me”- ish; friends defending each other against bullies. The film even comments on its 80s-like appearance in places, with one of the characters referring to redheaded Beverly, by saying, “Who invited Molly Ringwald?”

For a horror movie, “It” had a number of funny parts. Beverly teases Ben about liking the New Kids On The Block. After he is attacked and cut by Pennywise, the other kids are bandaging him up and Beverly asks if they’re using “the right stuff,” the title of a New Kids On The Block song.
In a similar scene, after being chased and attacked by Pennywise, one of the kids comments that another is “leaking Hamburger Helper.” Later on, Eddie refers to the medication he takes as “gazebos,” (placebos). 

Did I find “It” scary? No. There were jumpy parts, like just about every time Pennywise launches out of the darkness towards a child. Watching to see where Pennywise was going to appear made me a little nervous, but, scary movie nervous. Overall I found this movie entertaining.

Should you see “It” in the theater? If you were a fan of the book and miniseries and want to, then it might be something to consider. 

Although I enjoyed this movie, I’d say you can probably wait until “It” comes out on DVD/streaming services.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A movie review of the 1993 crime drama, "True Romance" by Daniel Kilgallon

“True Romance” is a 1993 crime drama directed by Tony Scott (“Top Gun”) and written by legendary director/writer Quentin Tarantino as his first full length screenplay. He was coming off a groundbreaking directorial debut with “Reservoir Dogs”, and went on to write and direct “Pulp Fiction” just a year later. As a giant fan of all of his movies, it was really cool to finally see “True Romance” - as his writing alone made it feel like any other Tarantino film. His sharp screenplay was as unique and entertaining as most of his other work, without a single line of dialogue being wasted or boring. Stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette did a great job of bringing the script to life, alongside a standout supporting cast featuring Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, and the late James Gandolfini.

The first act of “True Romance” consists of an unconventional love story in Detroit between a movie nerd named Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) and a call-girl by the name of Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). Eventually, the two accidentally come across a suitcase full of cocaine and run away to California in order to make some money with it. It doesn’t take long for the Sicilian Mafia to figure who stole their drugs and set out on a mission to get them back.

The storyline of this movie may seem somewhat straightforward or even clich√©, but the buildup to get there is anything but that. While it is a little bit quirky at times, “True Romance” provides a completely original plot fueled by witty, amusing dialogue. In fact, my favorite parts of the film were the character building moments delivered by all of the brilliant actors in minor roles. Slater and Arquette did a good job of carrying this movie, but I personally think that the supporting cast was even better. For example, Gary Oldman was practically unrecognizable in his wild role as a wannabee gangster pimp and Christopher Walken delivers some of his finest moments ever as a lead mob boss in a dialogue with a former cop played by Dennis Hopper.

Any of the elements mentioned above are enough to cement this as a classic of Tarantino writing, but all of the over-the-top violence throughout, makes it seem like he actually directed the movie. Putting aside a few choppy storytelling decisions and an ending that I thought could have been a little better, “True Romance” is still a quality, underrated film that shouldn’t be missed by Tarantino junkies or movie fans in general.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Book review of “Writing Hard Stories” by Melanie Brooks. Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree

In the interest of full disclosure, Melanie Brooks, author of “Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma”, is my friend. And because she’s my friend, I know how hard she worked on this book, traveling the country to interview memoirists about how they managed to get down the words, to tell their stories about tragedy, grief, pain. How hard she worked to find the answers she needed, and to share her insights with others on a similar path.
Melanie began this book as part of her MFA program. She’d been writing her own hard story—about the death of her father from AIDS in 1985—and as she struggled, she tried to find a book that offered guidance on how to live through the grief dredged up by remembering the very story she felt compelled to tell. She couldn’t find one. So, she wrote it.

In “Writing Hard Stories”, Brooks interviews authors including, Andre Dubus III, Monica Wood, Mark Doty, Richard Blanco, Edwidge Danticat, and many others. She asks them the question they almost never get asked: How did you survive? She wants to know how they lived through the pain, how they handled the opinions and maybe even the objections of their family and friends, how they dealt with the truth, or the truth as they remembered it. And, because Melanie is warm and thoughtful and wonderful, they all told her.

Of writing the thing that haunts you, Joan Wickersham, author of, “The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order”, says, “It’s not that it leaves you, but you are not obsessed with it in the same way. The obsession burns itself out.”

This is a book for anyone writing a memoir, or for anyone writing any kind of book at all. Because all writing that touches on any kind of emotional honesty is hard. While this is a book about sad stories, it is by no means all grief and no joy. Of her first encounter with Alysia Abbott, Brooks says “…when I’d gotten my chance to speak, I only said that my father also died of AIDS. Then, I’d thrust a chapter of my memoir into her hands and literally ran away. Not one of my finest moments.” 

“Writing Hard Stories” is also a book for readers who want to gain some insight into the writing process of some incredible authors. Melanie’s interviews make the reader feel like she’s right there in the room with them, sipping on her own cup of tea, just listening.

Meet author Melanie Brooks here at the Library on Wednesday, October 11 at 6 p.m.

For more information, call Barbara at: 892-1908.