Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie Review: “Death Proof” (R). Reviewed by Daniel Kilgallon

Runtime: 113 mins

In 2007, frequent collaborators Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino released a double feature called “Grindhouse” - a homage to the same named genre of B-movies that dominated drive-in theaters of the 1960s and 70s. While the filmmakers worked together on each portion of the project, Rodriguez was the director of “Planet Terror” and Tarantino took the reins for “Death Proof”. The pair of movies are not directly related in their plots, but are intended to be watched together in order to simulate the experience of the so called “grindhouse” cinema, even including fake trailers and advertisements between the films.

“Death Proof” stars Kurt Russell as an aging Hollywood driver named “Stuntman Mike” who rides around in 1970 Chevy Nova, which is “death proof” . . . for the driver. The film consists of two separate instances of Mike attempting to murder young women in car accidents that he sets up; the first taking place in Austin, Texas and the second in Lebanon, Tennessee. In the later half, Mike ends up driving a 1969 Dodge Charger as he is pursued by a tough gang of girls that decide to fight back with a vengeance.

As I have worked my way through this marathon of Tarantino’s filmography, I am yet to doubt his vision as a director and can confidently say that this remains true with “Death Proof.” Simply put, in each of his projects, it is quite evident that Tarantino made the movie exactly the way he wanted to. 

With “Death Proof”, he primarily set out to pay homage to previously discussed “grindhouse” 
cinema, particularly this specific muscle car segment of the genre. In order to add extra effect and emulate the time period, Tarantino used many jump cuts throughout and physically scratched the film to achieve a dirty, grainy look.

Between the obnoxious, over-the-top story, ridiculous chase sequences and overall film style, it is clear that Tarantino didn’t want to make a groundbreaking masterpiece here (for once). That being said, “Death Proof” is a lot of fun for what it is, highlighted by an amusing performance from Kurt Russell and a couple of long, entertaining chase sequences. However, this is not a movie I’ll be rushing to watch again, as it is simply not on the superior level of storytelling quality as the rest of Tarantino’s work. 

From my interpretation, “Death Proof” is all about this time-machine like experience of simply having a couple hours of fun with an intentionally not-so-good movie. Tarantino changed direction quite a bit in 2009 when “Inglorious Basterds” was released; watch out for my thoughts on that soon.

Friday, November 10, 2017

"Kill Bill: Vol. 2" A movie reivew by Daniel Kilgallon

“Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (R)
Runtime: 137 mins

Following the release of “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” in October of 2003, the second part of Quentin Tarantino’s twisted samurai story hit theaters on April 16, 2004, in the form of “Kill Bill: Vol. 2”. As mentioned before, the acclaimed director considers the combination of the volumes as one cohesive story that makes up his fourth feature film. “Vol. 2” contains most of the previous cast highlighted by Uma Thurman’s reprisal of The Bride. While “Bill” has a few speaking lines in “Vol. 1,” it is worthy to note that David Carradine finally, fully appears as the titular character here. On top of that, we also see a lot more of his brother, Budd (Michael Madsen) and even a brief scene featuring another Tarantino favorite, Samuel L. Jackson.

Early in “Vol. 2”, there is a flashback sequence depicting Bill and the Deadly Viper Assassination Group killing all of the participants of The Bride’s wedding rehearsal. Following this recap, The Bride picks up right where she left off and continues her quest of vengeance to destroy her former team, especially Bill, the ex-lover that betrayed her. She eliminated two of the Vipers in “Vol. 1” and has two more to take care of before she finally comes to face to face with Bill himself. 

As Tarantino does, I also view “Kill Bill” as one long, epic story. That being said, there is a clear difference between each half of the director’s passion project. While “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” sets all of the groundwork for the plot, it is definitely much more of an action movie; something that Tarantino hadn’t quite dealt with up to that point. On the other hand, “Vol. 2” is a return to his roots of sorts, as it is much heavier on the writing and dialogue. In my opinion, each part of the film is a masterpiece for what it is intended to be.

There is truly some brilliant screenwriting on display in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2”, particularly in the long-awaited meeting between The Bride and Bill. Uma Thurman and David Carradine deliver some tremendous performances here and I really think that they deserved more recognition than a pair of Golden Globe nominations. Their confrontation is set up to be yet another epic samurai sword fight; an idea that the two characters even discuss amongst themselves. However, largely due to the situational circumstances, it becomes a battle of words instead. Luckily that is Tarantino’s specialty and he delivered a script even more intense than the blood-bathed battles that preceded this long meeting. In the end, “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” forms a near perfect conclusion to a fantastic story that can’t afford to be missed. My review of “Death Proof” (2007) will be on the way soon, as we work our way into the second half of Tarantino’s filmography.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Movie Review: "Kill Bill Vol. 1" Reviewed by Daniel Kilgallon

“Kill Bill”: Vol. 1 (R)
Runtime: 111 mins

“Kill Bill: Vol. 1” is the first of two parts making up a cohesive story which director Quentin Tarantino considers to be his fourth feature film. While “Kill Bill” was filmed in a singular production, one movie would have run over four hours long, leading to a decision to split the samurai movie in two. “Volume 1” hit theaters in October of 2003 and “Volume 2” was released in April of 2004.  Quentin Tarantino wrote the script for this movie, but collaborated with Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction”) in writing her character, “The Bride”.  “Kill Bill” marks a bit of a change in Tarantino’s filmography, as this chapter in particular focuses a lot more on action, unlike his previous projects which were driven by extended scenes of dialogue.

Before she decided to get married, The Bride was part of a group of killers known as the Deadly Viper Assassination Group, led by her former lover, Bill. She escaped this life after becoming pregnant with Bill’s child and went on to fall in love with a different man in Texas. On the day of her wedding rehearsal, Bill and the other four Vipers performed an act of jealousy by killing all of the participants. Bill shot The Bride himself and left her for dead, but she ended up going into a four-year coma instead. “Volume 1” tells the tale of her awakening as she embarks on a quest of revenge to kill her former lover who betrayed her.

Most of Tarantino’s work is outlandish in one way or another, but this has to be the most bizarre project to date as he really holds nothing back here. The director is in full command of his wild signature style and the film encapsulates his signature humor and violence to the absolute extreme. 

“Volume 1” is absolutely loaded with action and every stunt almost feels like it is flying off the pages of a comic book. The fight scenes are stylized brilliantly with completely excessive amounts of blood and over top sound effects. The iconic siren and whistling scores also play a huge part in delivering the incredible amount of homage on display in this project. 

While Tarantino plays tribute to classic cinema in all of his work, it is never more evident than in “Kill Bill”. There are countless references to older samurai/martial arts movies as well as the Spaghetti western genre. From my interpretation, “Kill Bill” represents the purest form of Quentin Tarantino’s genuine love for movies and I absolutely love that. While just about every element of this universe is totally unrealistic, the world comes to life very effectively for what this film is supposed to be. “Kill Bill: Volume 1” is a true Tarantino classic that shouldn't be missed; watch out for my thoughts on “Volume 2” soon.