I haven’t seen this since it premiered. Teenaged Me was really into Tarantino, and also Counting Crows and Gin Blossoms and the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Wayne’s World and Tim Burton and Mortal Kombat, and most of those things are no longer good, so sometimes I forget that Tarantino still is.

Anyway, here’s what happens in Kill Bill Volume 1:

Whole wedding party is wiped out, execution-style by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

The Bride shows up at Vernita’s house (Vivica A. Fox, lately of Empire). A quick knife fight, then relaxed conversation, then sudden death.

Flashback to the aftermath of the bloody wedding, investigated by the cop from Grindhouse, then Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) is sent to assassinate the Bride in her hospital bed but Bill calls her off at the last minute. We never find out what the Bride did, exactly, to deserve this treatment.

The Bride awakens, righteously murders the dudes who have been coma-raping her, and hits the road in a stolen Pussy Wagon.

O-Ren Ishii animated backstory, which is basically Lady Snowblood.

The Bride talks the retired swordsmith Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba of bunches of Kinji Fukasaku films) into making her a perfect sword.

The Big Finale of Part 1: The Bride shows up at the House of Blue Leaves, taking on crazed teen Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale, The Great Yokai War)…

and O-Ren herself (Lucy Liu)

“Is she aware her daughter is still alive?”


Volume 2:

Wedding reprise, she introduces Bill as her father to groom Tommy (oscar-winning makeup artist Chris Nelson)

Budd (Michael Madsen) has a horrible strip club bouncer job and a pointless life, but he has been warned that the Bride is coming, and he gets the drop on her then buries her alive.

In flashback, Bill sends the Bride to be tutored by Pai Mei (Gordon Liu, star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin with comical white hair), who teaches her “it’s the wood that should fear your hand,” and she destroys the coffin and emerges from the ground living-dead-style. 95% of movies would open with the training scene, then when she’s in trouble an hour later have a voiceover reminder of the training scene, then victory… it seems more effective to structure it this way (hopeless situation / flashback to training scene / solution).

Elle kills Budd via snake, and a close-quarters swordfight with the risen Bride follows. Elle loses her other eye. Frequent sightings of the movie poster for Mr. Majestyk.

The Bride visits Bill and rescues her daughter via the five point palm exploding heart technique.

“The lioness has rejoined her cub and all is right in the jungle.”

Watched this again over a couple days… the Grindhouse version with trailers and interstitial stuff, not the extended director cuts released separately. I’m usually a nut for director’s cuts and extended versions, which is why I keep re-buying The New World and Michael Mann movies, but for some reason I’m satisfied with the theatrical edits here – maybe because the two “missing reels” are the best jokes in the movie.

Replacing my original writeup, which was pretty worthless. I didn’t know who most of these actors were at the time… going through ’em now with too many screenshots.

Machete:


Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez)

I really enjoyed this the first time around, but conventional wisdom from critics in the intervening decade has been “Death Proof is a masterpiece, too bad it’s attached to that garbage Planet Terror.” So this time I was expecting to be disappointed in Planet Terror, to admonish my stupid youthful self for ever having loved it, but nope, still awesome.

Introduces a bunch of great characters in the first half, then brings them together at BBQ joint The Bone Shack, which gets invaded by zombies and catches fire in the missing reel, followed by the all-action showdown finale.

Pole dancer Cherry (Rose McGowan) is reunited with her ex, legendary biker El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez, “lopsidedly muscled” in Lady in the Water)… while scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews: Sense8, Lost) gets double-crossed by militia monster Bruce Willis

Scientist w/ wicked knife:

Fergie (of the Black Eyed Peas) stops at JT’s Bone Shack, talks to proprietor Jeff Fahey:

Dr. Josh Brolin and his anesthesiologist wife Marley Shelton (Sin City, Pleasantville):

Sheriff Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese in The Terminator) and Deputy Tom Savini:

Drama: Cherry loses her leg in a car crash and gets a machine gun replacement. Brolin catches his wife cheating, sticks her hands full of numbing meds, then their young son shoots himself and her Southern gentleman dad (the late Michael Parks) joins up. Willis turns into a giant mutant and his colleague Tarantino gets severe eye trauma. Most everyone dies, the survivors retreat to Mexico.

Marley with messed-up hands:

Fahey and Cherry:

QT, staked:


Werewolf Women of the SS (Rob Zombie)

This was actually kinda overlong and uninteresting and I was forgetting why I thought it was so great, and then came those magic words, “and Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu” and suddenly I remembered.

Still love the voiceovers on Don’t (Will Arnett) and Thanksgiving (Eli Roth).


Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino)

Opens with a great replacement-title gag, then there’s some editing humor and surface noise, and another “missing reel” right when something sexy’s about to happen, but then QT chills out with the self-reflexive filmmaking gags as his movie gets darker.

Three girls are out for drinks in Austin: local DJ Jungle Julia (Sydney Poitier of last year’s Too Late and Netflix horror Clinical), Shanna (Jordan Ladd of Cabin Fever) and out-of-towner Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito of Spider-Man 2). QT and Eli Roth are in the house, then their friend Lanna Frank (Monica Staggs, Daryl Hannah’s stunt double in Kill Bill) finally shows up and the girls take off. Meanwhile, Stuntman Mike has been stalking them, agrees to give a ride to drunken Pam (Rose McGowan again) at the bar, then kills everybody. I remembered Pam getting bounced around in his open passenger area with Mike in the protected driver’s seat, but forgot the rest – he rams the other girls’ car head-on, just destroying it, and the movie jumps back in time to show each death in detail. Except for this gruesome couple of minutes, it’s practically QT’s most wholesome movie, 80% talking and 20% car chases.

Up front: Shanna, Lanna, Jungle Julia, Butterfly:

Pam at left, with bartender QT and patrons:

Planet Terror characters cameoing in Death Proof’s hospital scene:

And about that car chase… next, a bunch more girls, and I can’t maintain much interest in the dialogue after he’s just Psycho’d his entire cast and expecting us to care about a whole new one, but here goes. This time they’re all in the film business: makeup artist Rosario Dawson, actress/model Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the girl with hair like this), and two stunt women, Kim (Tracie Thoms of Rent, Wonderfalls) and Zoë Bell (as herself, lately of The Hateful Eight). Lee is left with some redneck while the others test drive his Vanishing Point car. Kim drives while Zoë does poses on the hood, then suddenly Stuntman Mike starts running them off the road. Some of Zoë’s hood antics here are unbelievable, and the chase goes on nearly forever, then at a stop Kim shoots Mike, who drives off crying until they catch up and beat the shit out of him. Mike is one of my favorite QT creations, a super-tough, scar-faced pervert predator who becomes an absolute whiny little bitch when the tables are turned.

Did anyone else count nine? Maybe Kurt Russell isn’t considered hateful since he always appears to be telling the truth? But he does punch Daisy in the face a lot of times (to the great amusement of the Alamo crowd). So if we count him, there’s the seven star actors mentioned in the trailer, plus the definitely hateful Mexican Bob (Demián Bichir, Castro in Che), and certainly-hateful not-surprise (since there are opening credits, though when he showed up three hours later I’d just about forgotten) guest star Tater Channing. So I suppose the title is meant to throw you off, as is most of the script.

I got to see the little-known 35mm roadshow version, though now having seen it, I wouldn’t cry to lose ten minutes of footage and the intermission. Alamo’s a cool place, though they ran out of half the stuff we ordered and came crawling down the floor to let us know, which all seemed awkward. Mostly it was fabulous to sit front row watching a great-looking 35mm widescreen film from a perfect print.

Let’s keep this short: bounty-hunter Kurt Russell transporting criminal Jennifer Jason Leigh picks up fellow bounty-hunter Sam Jackson and would-be-sheriff Walt Goggins on the way to a rest stop to wait out a blizzard. Waiting there are, as we find out in the second half, an ambush of J.J. Leigh’s compatriots pretending to be random travelers, including hangman Tim Roth, quiet cowboy Michael Madsen and the aforementioned Bob… and confederate general Bruce Dern, a genuinely random traveler searching for his son. Also, Leigh’s outlaw brother Tater is hiding in the basement. Everyone gets shot except Kurt Russell gets poisoned and Leigh gets hanged by ragged, barely-survivors Goggins and Jackson, who reluctantly team up as the plot unfolds. Partly an homage to The Thing (Kurt Russell trapped in snow, nobody being who they say they are). Oh also Zoë Bell of Death Proof appears with others in a flashback massacre. And haha, QT cast a guy named Stark to play a naked man in the flashback leading to Dern’s death just before intermission.

The actors are all perfect for their roles. I’ve barely seen JJ Leigh since the great eXistenZ, though she was one of a hundred confusing people and things in Synecdoche, New York. So the film is well-shot, though confined to the damned cabin for most of its runtime, and the new Ennio Morricone music is lovely, though sparsely used, and the actors are super, though their characters are truly hateful. So I’m not sure what to make of this, or why it’s the movie Tarantino felt he had to make right now. There’s a lot to talk about, and Glenn Kenny takes a great shot at covering it.

Sam Adams, in an article amazingly titled “Fear of a Black Dingus” (just beating Cinema Scope’s headline “You’ve Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me”): “Tarantino has never worked so strenuously to get a rise out of his audience … Watching The Hateful Eight is a little like being [Bruce Dern], knowing that Tarantino wants you to jump, and feeling like a sucker when you do.”

J. Reichert in Reverse Shot:

So, after his biggest box-office success, one of our most obnoxious filmmakers made a movie whose worldview lines up with the Republican presidential debates or a Donald Trump rally … It functions as the opposite of Reverse Shot’s best film of the year, In Jackson Heights, which shows Americans our best selves. The Hateful Eight may not be the Quentin Tarantino film anyone wanted, but it may be the Quentin Tarantino film we deserved.

A. Nayman in Cinema Scope:

One possible way to approach the pachydermous beast that is The Hateful Eight is as a hybrid tribute to/remake of Carpenter’s The Thing … And one possible way to look at Tarantino at this point is as the artistic equivalent of Carpenter’s parasite: an unscrupulous shape-shifter who will throw on any disguise that suits his purposes before moving on, leaving the host party hollowed out as he proceeds on his relentless mission of conquest … This is Tarantino’s most audience-alienating film to date. A line from The Thing springs to mind: “I don’t know what the hell’s in there… but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

Between watching Hateful Eight and getting this post online we also saw Inglorious Basterds at the Alamo, since they’re having a Tarantino fest to celebrate Hateful’s release. Fassbender made more of an impression this time, since now I know who he is. I’d forgotten Waltz’s defecting to the allies at the end, and personally planting one of the basterds’ bombs under Hitler’s chair. Katy was surprised to like the movie, despite all its graphic violence.

Haven’t seen this in 18 years, so I’d forgotten most of it, and didn’t realize it contains The Definitive Samuel L. Jackson Performance.

Sam Goody:

Shot by Tarantino buddy Robert Rodriguez’s cinematographer Guillermo Navarro – close-ups galore and terrific acting. Part of a mid-90’s cinematic Elmore Leonard craze, between Get Shorty and Out of Sight. Grier, Forster and Jackson got various awards and nominations. Only Forster made it to the oscars, though… jeez, it was an all-white year at the oscars except for a 4 Little Girls documentary nomination.

Keaton, the year after Multiplicity. De Niro shortly before he turned to self-mocking comedy in Analyze This and never looked back. Bridget Fonda apparently retired after 2002. Jackson would continue the 1970’s references with his Shaft remakquel. Chris Tucker’s Fifth Element costar Tiny Lister appears as Forster’s employee at the bail-bond place.

Unfortunately Pam Grier’s follow-ups don’t look so good: Chris Elliott comedy Snow Day, Fortress 2, Snoop Dogg’s Bones, Ghosts of Mars, and finally the career-killing Adventures of Pluto Nash. I assumed Jackie Brown was a comeback for her, but it looks like the movies she made the year before were better than any that came after: Mars Attacks, Escape From L.A. and Larry Cohen’s Original Gangstas.

Sure sure, I can slightly, vaguely, ever-so-minimally agree with some specific charges of political incorrectness and racial insensitivity I’ve read from online critics who would apparently prefer that Richard Gere make more movies instead of Tarantino. But Django Unchained was so awesome that even Katy loved it. Seems looser and less purposeful at times than his other movies, but that’s hard to say without having seen most of them in a long time.

Bounty Hunter Christoph Waltz (giving just as delicious a performance as in Inglorious Basterds, but this time as a good guy), the only non-racist in the slavery-era American south, frees Jamie “Django” Foxx from slave traders so Foxx can help identify and kill the Brittle Brothers. I figured from the trailer that they’d be more important, but they’re killed off a few scenes later with barely an introduction. Django stays on with Waltz, learning new strategies for killing villainous white men, until they come up with a plan to rescue D’s wife Kerry Washington from the estate of Leonardo DiCaprio. Many monologues follow, and when Leo gets wise to the scam, Waltz kills him (“I couldn’t resist”), leaving turncoat house-slave Samuel L. Jackson (the movie’s most hilarious performance) for Django to finish off. QT cameos as a doomed Australian.

A couple of quotes contradicting anything negative I said in the first paragraph:

Slant:

[Samuel L. Jackson] reveals himself as the film’s true enemy, a totally indoctrinated subordinate whose slave-subject mentality is so deeply inscribed that he acts out his master’s cruelty and viciousness even in his absence. He hints at the more complicated idea that the kind of violence Django trots out with decadent aplomb in the film’s finale is learned from white folks, a notion implied with more subtlety in the relationship between Django and Schultz. In visiting the film’s most protracted, and ultimately fulfilling, scenes of vengeance against a black man, Tarantino stumbled into his most intriguing social-historical corrective: a full-on reconsideration of classically defined algebra of Civil War antagonism, a counterintuitive take on the well-worn rivalry that pitted “brother against brother.”

A. Nayman:

Once again, in this deceptively baggy, ultimately precisely structured movie, the surface effect belies what’s going on underneath. The sight of two black men locked in a battle to the death at the behest of a white overseer is a tip-off to script’s true conflict. The expression of hatred on Jackson’s face as Django rides up to the inevitably named Candieland transcends the jokey Spaghetti Western posturing — it’s genuinely unnerving.

I’m not sure that I buy Tarantino films as thrice-a-decade Big Movie Events. If guy’s gonna make his fun genre flicks, I wish he’d make them more often. The movies he is emulating didn’t take this long to shoot. I’ve been seeing (and trying not to read) reports on this for years now, while I only heard of District 9 last week and I liked ’em both just as much.

One would think the movie follows the Basterds as they rampage through France and Germany killing nazis, but one would be wrong. Starts with a 20-some-minute scene of nazi Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz won best actor at Cannes – nobody can shut up about him) grilling French farmer Denis Menochet about the Jews he is hiding, in Landa’s patient, wordy (duh), polite, milk-drinking manner. The murdered Jewish family’s daughter Shoshanna (Mélanie Laurent of Indigènes, who will never have a better role) survives (an image reminiscent of the last-girl-standing final scenes of exploitation horror flicks) and three years later is running a movie theater she inherited from Maggie Cheung (in deleted scenes, which will hopefully surface). At that time, hero sniper Daniel Brühl (star of Goodbye Lenin and Salvador) is hot for her, arranges to hold the premiere of his new propaganda film at her theater. When she hears the entire nazi high command is attending, she plots to destroy the theater with them inside.

So what about the basterds? Well, they’ve got a plot of their own to show up at the film premiere, with the help of movie star Diane Kruger (star of Joyeux Noël), threatened when she is injured in a firefight at a group meeting place (which claims the life of my favorite basterd, Hunger star Michael Fassbender). QT allows a single scene of their nazi-scalping terror campaign (starring bat-man Eli Roth) to stand alone – the vast bulk of the movie is introduction then the week or two leading up to the film premiere.

The movie makes light of death and torture, essentially coming off as a comedy (Brad Pitt’s hilariously fake accent helps that assessment). RW Knight: “Overriding Tarantino’s gratuitous gore instincts is his allegiance to the power of the cinema, which he makes material (literal) here in the form of a combustible nitrate collection.” Surely there are tons of movie references, for once actually talked-about and plot-relevant (Goebbels, Emil Jannings, Leni Riefenstahl) instead of appearing as influences and references in Kill Bill and Jackie Brown (Death Proof had plenty of movie talk, too).

DCairns:

“It’s a film about cinema,” said Joe Dante, who was quite enthusiastic. Perhaps not a war film at all. Or a film about the victory of movies over war, somehow. Certainly, that’s literally what happens in the climax, which contains, all too briefly, the most beautiful image Tarantino has ever conceived or executed.

I have to say I didn’t take it as seriously as some, enjoying the hell out of the sight of Eli Roth machine-gunning Hitler’s lifeless body into the ground moments after the above-mentioned beautiful image (already-dead Shoshanna’s filmed face projected ghostlike on the smoke rising from the burning film stock). And the unusual structure, tense dialogue and Film Comment article’s about Tarantino’s references to American Indian massacres and other carefully thought-out pieces of writing make me think it could be worth taking more seriously. But if I take it seriously, I’ll have to consider the following.

DCairns again: “Inglourious Basterds in a way is about stealing back pleasure from horrible facts, the revenge of cinema upon tragic events, but as interesting as that is in the abstract, it doesn’t strike me as a healthy response. And the gloating nastiness is much closer to Nazism than it is to the spirit of resistance.”

The “gunman” (Hideaki Ito, star of Cross Fire from the Gamera director), a stranger who blows into town, plays one of the two ruling gangs against the other and emerges as the sole adult survivor.
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Ruka Uchida, love child of the red and white clans, the other survivor and only non-participant of the bloodshed. According to closing titles he will grow up to be sequel-happy Italian hero Django.
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Shun Oguri (Azumi, Miike’s Crows Episode 0) is Akira, the boy’s father, killed before the movie even starts but shown in flashback.
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Yoshino Kimura (Glory to the Filmmaker, Dream Cruise), mother of the young boy turned Red Clan prostitute and killed off at the end.
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Koichi Sato (Ring Spiral, Kinji Fukasaku’s Gate of Youth), cruel leader of the red clan, rips it up with a chain gun.
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Yusuke Iseya (Memories of Matsuko, Distance, After Life, upcoming Blindness), stylin’ leader of the white clan, kinda the less evil of the two evil lords.
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Kaori Momoi (Izo, Kagemusha), Akira’s mother and a legendary badass in hiding who comes out and helps our hero for the final fight. Falls somewhat in love with a white-headbanded guy whose name I couldn’t figure out.
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Teruyuki Kagawa (of Memories of Matsuko, Serpent’s Path and the next K. Kurosawa film), the town sheriff torn between loyalties to both sides, becomes schizophrenic. Probably Miike’s most interesting new character in the story.
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Quentin Tarantino (Destiny Turns On The Radio, Little Nicky) plays the funny-talking white guy in the framing scenes.
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Watched late at night with Jimmy. Full of eager anticipation, turned quickly to apprehension when we’re unable to understand half the dialogue (plays at festivals with English subtitles, which we lacked). Then movie seemed to get longer and louder and more tedious, and I got sleepier and less interested…
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I mean, don’t get me wrong, it has visual appeal, and a few stand-up-and-clap moments of bravura. Didn’t leave me cold exactly, just… wasn’t thrilling and I started to regret suggesting it.
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But ya know what? Looking through the screen shots I started to like it a lot more. It’s a really awesome movie when… you know…
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…when I’m not watching it.
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