Kill Bill

May 20, 2018

DJ Rambles About Revenge (2017)

INSUFFICIENT

Of all the subgenres in film, I’m kind of a sucker for a good revenge flick.  The Count Of Monte Cristo, Kill Bill, The Crow, Django Unchained, John Wick, Gladiator, The Outlaw Josey Wales.  They are all films that are the quickest to grab my attention in terms of understanding the needs of the character.  A tale of someone seeking justice without the hindrance of rules or morals.  One of the granddaddies of them all is the 1978 exploitation film, I Spit On Your Grave.  The film I’m reviewing here, Revenge, does not come close to the gory exploitiveness of an I Spit On Your Grave.  However, one can’t help but feel that Revenge is a bit of an echo to what I Spit On Your Grave left, for better or worse.

The glitzy colors mixed with the minimalism of narrative makes Revenge feel like a Jonathan Glazer film (Sexy Beast, Under The Skin) by way of the late great Tony Scott (Literally every film in the ’90s).  It actually comes to us from French director, Coralie Fargeat.  It tells the tale of a “party girl” named Jen who, while on vacation with her married boyfriend, suddenly finds herself attacked, left for dead, and miraculously saved allowing her to seek her vengeance.  And though it seems like I’m being vague to avoid spoilers, Revenge’s plot doesn’t get much more intricate than that.  Since we come directly into the middle of a pretty cliched situation between the characters and don’t know or learn much about them, there really isn’t much for me to cling to in terms of their goodness or badness.  This is a big part, for me at least, in getting the intended catharsis of any revenge film.

We know how good of a man and how despicable of a person Maximus and Commodus are respectively before the inciting incident and quest for revenge takes place in Gladiator.  Characters do nothing but talk about the character of John Wick and the reasons he got out and why it’s really bad that he’s coming in his film.  Same with William Munny in Unforgiven, or the Bride in Kill Bill, or John Creasy in Man On Fire, or Khan Noonien Singh in Wrath Of Khan.  Because we know so little about Jen her man and her man’s friends, we are left to just focus on the incident and titular revenge, weakening the overall catharsis.  In short, you care less because you’re given hardly anything to care about.  A stripped down revenge flick was likely Fargeat’s intention, along with the idea of just having a normal victimized female brutally confronting her attackers. (A clear commentary on the social climate we are living in today with victims of physical and psychological abuse fearlessly fighting back against their abusers.) 

As I alluded to before, the visuals of the film are really well done, as well as the accompanying synthy score by Robin Coudert.  Fargeat has a great eye, a flair for symbolic imagery and a bright future ahead of her.  As far as debut feature film outings go, Revenge is not bad at all.  It just left me feeling unfulfilled near the end, making it an INSUFFICIENT tale of revenge, in my opinion.  Maybe I have to watch it again.  Maybe you have to watch it too…and then tell me I’m wrong.

March 8, 2017

Some of Our Favorite Ladies on IWD 2017

On this International Woman’s Day we at Simplistic Reviews would like to take a little time and thank all the women in our lives; from moms, to wives, to girlfriends and sisters, as 2Pac said “you are appreciated.”

But since we are technically, at least some would say, a movie, TV, and pop culture blog, let’s take a look at a few ladies that we appreciate from the large and small screen:

Buffy Summers
You can pretty much pick from any show that Joss Whedon has either created or worked on and find a memorable female character. While Kristy Swanson created the roll in the 1990 film, Sarah Michelle Gellar perfected the vampire-killing cheerleader from Sunnydale.
Leslie Knope
Nevertheless, she persisted…
Black Widow
 Joss Whedon does it again in creating and fleshing out the Russian Secret Agent that works for SHIELD, Tony Stark, or anyone else she sees fit. Without the popularity of Black Widow, film adaptations of Captain Marvel and even Wonder Woman would have still been a pipe dream. And let’s not forget Agent Carter.
Daria and Jane
 Even 20 years later, the duo of Daria and Jane are as relevant as ever, and are the patron saints of smart and sassy chicks.
Gail
 Like a lioness, or in her case, a Valkyrie, Gail is the protector of Old Town in Basin City and shouldn’t be fu*ked with
The Bride
Beatrix Kiddo would not be denied revenge after the massacre on her wedding day. Throw in her maternal instincts, like Gail, she is another not to be fu*cked with.
Kagero
A bad-ass female ninja with a deadly touch. Her duality of whether she is good or bad is alluring and she makes the ultimate sacrifice to save a man’s life. Would Jubei have the balls Kagero had?
Gloria
Gloria is a woman on a mission; to be on Jeopardy and tell people what foods begin with the letter Q. No matter what, she sticks by her man Billy, until she’s fed up and leaves. A refreshing reminder that if you fu*k up too many times, a girl like Gloria will Rollerblade off into the sunset.
March 26, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round One Results: FILM GOOD

JAMES BOND (1) WINNER
TOXIC AVENGER (16)

One is a mutated, tutu-wearing, former gym janitor, the other is a secret agent that probably has had sex with a lot of girls who wear a tutu for a living.  New Jersey’s own, Toxic Avenger, may have the moves with the mop, but it all comes down to James Bond’s Golden Gun, and he wasn’t firing blanks this time.  Bond delivers “From Russia, With Love” a victory for jolly ole’ England.

INDIANA JONES (2) WINNER
TONY STARK (15) 

Tony may be a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.  However, Indy is an archeologist, professor, pilot, equestrian adventurer, WWII secret agent, playboy, oh…and survived the Ark Of The Convenant and drank water from THE HOLY F%*KING GRAIL.  Even Stark would have to give it up for that one.

JOHN McCLANE (3) WINNER
FOXY BROWN (14)

John McClane has always had tough luck with women.  He either divorces them or kills them.  This one he kills.

ELLEN RIPLEY (4)
CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW (13) WINNER

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway; Jack Sparrow knows how to charm a lady.  Even if that lady has faced Xenomorphs, androids, and criminal rapists in an intergalactic penal colony.  Savvy?  Ellen Ripley appears so.  However, before she can unload her pulse cannon, the crafty captain boards her ship, shivers her timbers, and hoists his main sail (innuendo).  I’m sure Ripley would welcome a facehugger after a night with Captain Jack Sparrow, who upsets one of the heavy hitters in this bracket.

HAN SOLO (5) WINNER
HIT-GIRL (12)

Han shot first…nuff said. 

CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK (6) WINNER
BEATRIX KIDDO (11)
Beatrix Kiddo may be a world class assassin , but she has always been a sucker for charismatic older men.  And they don’t get any more charismatic than James T. Kirk.  Suffice to say Kirk gives The Bride the night of her life before setting his phaser to kill.

MAXIMUS DECIMUS MERIDIUS (7)
SARAH CONNOR (10) WINNER

It was that time of the month…You know what I mean guys…you know.

BATMAN (8) WINNER
JASON BOURNE (9)

Batman has dealt with his share of criminals, killers, and psychotics.  But I can’t say he’s dealt with an ex-CIA agent with a bad case of amnesia, a chip on his shoulder, and the ability to kill someone with a pencil or a book.  The Dark Knight had to pull out all of the tricks from his utility belt to deal with Jason Bourne, who got in a few early shots.  However, he was ultimately dealt a mortal wound courtesy of a Batarang.  He might not be Deadshot, but Bourne was merely a shot away from dispatching Gotham’s protector in this hotly contested battle.
January 4, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds – Tension

I don’t think any war in our nation’s, or world’s, history has been done to death like World War II.  There have been romantic, comedic, heart-wrenching, and just plain bad tellings of “The War to End All Wars.”  On the top of my list I have “Saving Private Ryan” and the so-far-under-the-radar “Enemy At The Gates,”  whereas craptastic crap like “BloodRayne” remains at the bottom of the English Channel.  But you know that when a filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino gets a bug up his ass that he wants to make a war film its not going to be like any war film you’ve ever seen.  Enter, “Inglourious Basterds.”

Before I dive into “Basterds,” I’ll preface;  I was actually going to review all of Tarantino’s directorial efforts in order, but the holidays sidetracked me and I ended up skipping right to “Django Unchained,” where you can read that review right here.  I’d like to think of “Basterds” as the moment where Tarantino went mainstream, and I mean REAL mainstream.  “Basterds” was his first film to feature a TRUE leading man in Brad Pitt, and he finally was able to reward one of his actors with an Academy Award in Christoph Waltz.  In a way it was also one of his most accessible efforts in theaters where it was the largest release for a Tarantino movie to date, “Kill Bill Vol.1” was a close second.  And it was the first of his films to be available in a Digital, DVD, and Blu-Ray format (since the writing of this review you can pick up the Tarantino XX Blu-Ray Collection that features all of his films in an HD format).

“Inglourious Basterds” follows the exploits of a group of Jewish-born Army Mercenaries and their commanding officer Lt. Aldo Raine as they merrily maraude across Europe killing, scalping, and branding Nazis.  But that is just a small portion of the film, which also follows a French-born Jewish female theater owner planning her revenge against Nazis who are planning to premier a propaganda film entitled “Nation’s Pride.”  Included in attendance are Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler.  As you can imagine there are twists, typical Tarantino humor, and scenes of fantastic violence.  The difference between “Basterds” and Tarantino’s other films is the tension and you can cut it with a knife in several scenes.  The best examples include the Strudel scene and the Bar scene.  What you also start to see, and this might have started after QT finished up his “Kill Bill” saga, is the change in his tone of film.

Tarantino began making and writing films with an edge, a very gritty edge.  He dealt with the wrong side of law in thieves, murderers, sadists, and hit-men   And for the most part, it all seemed to fit in some realm of reality.  When “Bill” was released you began to see a different side; which included more fantastic plot devices and stories that revolved more around revenge and the bloody road that leads to it.  I’m not going to say that Tarantino is getting lazy, its really just a maturation process in his filmmaking, or an evolution if you will.  He’s moved from the gritty streets of Los Angeles, to a fantastic Earth 2 of DC proportions.

Look at any war genre film from the 1960s and 70s, and “Basterds” has its fingers all over it.  From the original “Inglorious Bastards” to “The Dirty Dozen” and maybe in throw in a little “Wild Bunch” and you have “Basterds” in a nutshell.  What Tarantino really brings out is the fact that a so-called “foreign” film can be accessible to any audience.  There are a ton of subtitles across this nearly three hour epic, but the actors who read the dialogue do it so well, and with such fluidity, that you get seduced by their delivery, no matter if its in German, French, or Italian.  I brought up Christoph Waltz winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Col. Hans Landa, aka, The Jew Hunter, and part of that victory must have come from his ability to act and deliver dialogue in English, German, French, and Italian with gusto, hilarity, and conviction.  Every time he appears on screen you are transfixed on his slimy SS Officer.  You both hate and love Landa, and there aren’t many characters in the history of film you can say that for.

Is “Inglorious Basterds” a good movie, of course it is.  While some viewers saw it as a little boring, uneven, and maybe even a romantic take on Nazis and World War II France, there is still plenty to take away from “Basterds.”  Also, I would put money on the fact that the ending of “Basterds” is one of the most satisfying in any Tarantino film to date, even “Django Unchained.”  If you haven’t already, or maybe if you’ve even seen it a few times, check out “Inglourious Basterds,” it’s tons of fun, and started a new chapter in the career of Quentin Tarantino.

Fun Fact:  Eli Roth, who appears as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, aka The Bear Jew, in “Basterds” directed the scenes from the film-within-a-film, “Nation’s Pride.”

December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays: Kill Bill

Kill Bill – Feet

After the brilliance of “Jackie Brown” and showing his critics that he wasn’t just an exploiter of violence, our old friend, Quentin Tarantino, stood up, brushed the dirt off of his shoulders, straightened his tie, and said “Guess what motherfu*cker, I’m going to do an old-school kung-fu flick now!  What!”

Of course that’s not what he said, but it would have been bad-ass if he did nonetheless.  After all the accolades of both “Pulp Fiction” and “Brown,” Tarantino decided to work on his first pet project.  A true genre film that centered around one woman and her blood-thirsty quest for revenge against a group of assassins that tried to murder her on her wedding day.  That movie(s) is “Kill Bill” or as I like to call it “Uma’s Got Some Hammertoe.”

*I will be reviewing these films (Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2) as one film.  Sure, I could split it up into two reviews and make you wait for the second one just like QT made us wait in the theaters, but since it’s the holiday season, I’ll do you guys a solid.

As mentioned above, the core of “Bill” is a revenge film, wrapped in a Shaw Bros. movie, encased in a Shakespearean tragedy, tied up with a nice bloody bow.  You can take Tarantino’s three previous films and throw them out the window; “Kill Bill” is a love letter to a by-gone era of 1970s chop-socky karate flicks that members of the Wu-Tang Clan were getting high to back in the early 1990s. (side note:  RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan was the music supervisor for Vol 1.)

Across a four-plus hour epic, if watched back-to-back, Tarantino takes us on a blood-spattered journey with The Bride, our protagonist, as she extracts revenge the best way she knows how; with a samurai sword crated by Hattori Hanzo and the Five-Finger Exploding Heart Technique taught to her by Pai Mei, the mysterious karate master.  If you grew up in the golden age of karate movies, watched “The Green Hornet” or were “Protectin’ Ya Neck” with the Wu back in 1993, Tarantino creates a world that you can still put in the same universe as “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown” but fashions it in a way that makes it seem other-worldly.

The plot is simple, but its the way that Tarantino weaves this revenge yarn that’s the treat.  Told through a series of flashbacks and his trademark non-linear format, we see The Bride training with Pai Mei, learn how to walk again starting with just one wiggle of one toe, her vengeance on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and finally her face-off with Bill himself.  Oh, I almost forgot;  plenty of Uma Thurman feet through both films.  No need to head over to your local adult video store if you love feet, because Tarantino shares your tastes.

I know I might be selling this movie short, and I’m withholding a ton of information, including plot twists, but my recommendation is to stop reading this review, go out and buy “Kill Bill” and enjoy it for all it’s worth.  Thurman’s turn as the killer bride is good, but its funny how she all but fell off the face of Hollywood after what you might call her magnum opus.  One of David Carradine’s last roles as Bill is almost as iconic as his turn as Caine in “Kung-Fu,” and the fight scenes, as over-stylized as they are, are extremely fun to watch with plenty of arterial spray.  Chill…..have a pill, and watch “Kill Bill.”

Fun Fact:  If you want to get creative you could call “Fox Force Five,” first mentioned by Mia Wallace in “Pulp Fiction,” as a precursor to the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.  There was a Black fox, Asian fox, French fox, and two American foxes.  Coincidence?

December 10, 2012

Crappy Holidays: The Man With The Iron Fists

CONVOLUTED 

I am usually in favor of the person at the helm of a particular genre film loving the material they are making.  You put Joss Whedon, a man who has comic book blood running through his veins, in charge of The Avengers, you get a film that is highly enjoyable to the uninitiated while still respecting and indulging the built in fan base.  You put Marc Webb, who is known mostly for music videos and 500 Days Of Summer, in charge of Spider-Man, you get a Twilight-esque, tweentastic, crapfest that commits every single atrocity a superhero film critic uses to devalue the genre.  So, I was very interested when I heard RZA, a man who has loved martial arts films his entire life, was actually doing one.  Unfortunately, The Man With The Iron Fists turns out to be a film with good intentions but poor execution.

For those who don’t know, RZA is a founding member of the 90s rap group The Wu Tang Clan.  Watching any of their videos or listening to any of their song lyrics should illustrate how much he is into martial arts films.  Fellow martial arts film fan Quentin Tarantino even sought RZA’s help to pick out the proper songs for his film Kill Bill Volume 1.  A friendship grew and led to many collaborations.  The culmination would be RZA’s seven year dream project The Man With The Iron Fists.  RZA wrote the script under the watchful eye of Tarantino and fellow friend Eli Roth, and took on directing duties himself.  With all that history and love, with all those helping hands, it is a shame that the film itself turns out to be such a CONVOLUTED mess.  There are so many storylines happening at once with so many vaguely explained characters, you’ll be hard pressed to follow along.  This weakens any stakes the film tries to set up and creates nothing but confusion for the audience.  I’m a pretty attentive guy when it comes to movies, but even I found myself muttering “Is that guy a good guy or a bad guy?” more often than not.  Robert Rodriguez’s films Planet Terror and Machete stumbled into the same problem.  However, those films have a tongue and cheek approach throughout that distracts you from their overly confusing plots.  The Man With The Iron Fist is not light enough to excuse the clutter.

So, why bombard the audience?  I believe RZA does this in a futile effort to world-build.  To create a universe that he can transport us to and manipulate it’s rules.  However, he is not nearly as experienced enough of a filmmaker to do that.  To really pull this film off he’d have to have the scope creating skills of a Chris Nolan or an Ang Lee with the character creation understanding of a Quentin Tarantino or a Guy Ritchie.  He does not.  He would have been better off making this script simple.  A revenge flick or an epic quest.  Not a Shaw Brothers version of Snatch.

The performances are a mishmash as well.  You have RZA as the lead playing everything completely straight, while Russell ‘Why The Hell Am I Here?’ Crowe clowns around like its an SNL sketch.  Now, I can’t completely blame RZA for Crowe’s performance.  I’m not sure how much direction a hip hop mogul can seriously give an Oscar winner before being laughed off his own set.  It might have been a better idea to just have unknowns in these parts to give RZA more control over the performances.  That or have producer Eli Roth direct the film outright.  His lack of understanding in how to direct his talent shows. 

The one positive I can give The Man With The Iron Fists is that its nice to look at.  The cinematography is descent and the action scenes are very fun.  How much of it was RZA and how much of it was stunt choreographer Corey Yuen and Eli Roth is debatable.  The CGI feels slightly out of place at times, but not any more than the hip hop soundtrack. 

The Man With The Iron Fists is the text book example of someone biting off more than they can chew.  RZA is a gigantic fan of the martial arts film genre and you can see his love for it buried underneath the chaos.  However, a more tempered and measured approach to the story and direction could have possibly helped make a better film.  If you want to see this done right, watch Kill Bill Volume 1 or 2.  If you want to see it done not so right…drink some honey nectar…watch The Man With The Iron Fists…then tell me I’m wrong. 

November 8, 2012

Double-ovember: Live And Let Die

RISKY

First, we’re going to replace the tried and true Sean Connery with relative unknown Roger Moore for Bond.  Then we’re going to give him the first African American Bond girl.  Then we’re going to give him the first African American Bond Villain.  Then we’re going to base the story in Harlem, urban Louisiana and a fictional island nation.  Finally, we’re going to throw in supernatural elements like legitimate fortune telling and voodoo.  To say that Live And Let Die was a RISKY proposition would be an understatement.  Though its most thought of as “Bond versus The Black People”, Albert Broccoli’s can take solace in the fact that they brought 007 into a world he’d never gone before.

The culture shock to the franchise was no accident.  Blaxploitation was big at the time and the studio looked to jump on that bandwagon.  And financially, it payed off.  Though, with such a departure from the normal Bond fair, the film itself feels like its a rushed, poorly constructed amalgamation.  Director Guy Hamilton has directed four of the most iconic Bond films of all time.  Live And Let Die is easily his weakest outing.    
When Sean Connery dropped out as Bond, the studio wanted to cast an American actor.  Everyone from Burt Reynolds to Clint Eastwood were considered.  Thankfully, they went with the star of The Saint tv series Roger Moore.  Moore is infamous for playing Bond with a lighter tone than any other actor in the part.  But while Live And Let Die has painfully slapstick moments in it, Moore plays Bond mostly straight compared to his later films.  He wasn’t as good as Connery but audiences could now buy him as Bond.

Rosie Carver, played by Gloria Hendry is the first African American Bond girl.  And that is about as fascinating as she gets.  If you thought Agent Goodnight was a vapid character, Rosie makes her look like Beatrix friggin’ Kiddo.  Again, this era of cinema was replete with shallow, one-dimensional female characters.  But even for that time, Rosie is way more femme than fatale.  Her counterpart in the film, Solitaire, doesn’t fair much better in that regard.  However, she is at least an interesting character.  Would be conquerors using soothsayers to guide them stretches as far back as Macbeth and as recent as that 300 and Immortals.  Jane Seymore, famous for Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and selling strange jewelry, does a decent job of making Solitaire stand out as a character.  Unfortunately, her storyline is underutilized and abandoned as most of the more interesting characters in this film are. 
Kananga…oh boy…Kananga.  Overconfidence is usually the undoing of most Bond villains and film villains in general.  But no more so than Kananga.  There are at least five times he has Bond dead to rights.  Not only does he not kill him, he makes a point to explain master plan and show off supposedly secret facility.  Dr. Evil would even raise an eyebrow to this.  The phrase, “Let me show you exactly how it works Mr. Bond” should never be uttered by a Bond villain.  Its much better to see Bond figure it out himself and save himself rather than relying on dumb luck and dumb villains.  As a character, the only positive I could say about Kananga is that he has style and charm on par with Bond.  However, he is incredibly small potatoes for MI6 to deal with.  His plan?  From the way the film started, I thought Kananga had a beef with MI6 and was systematically taking them out.  Sadly, that is not it.  I’ll have to wait until Friday to get that storyline.  Kananga, however, plans to get the country addicted to heroin so he can become the world’s biggest drug dealer.  Yes, really.  As the first African American Bond villain, the stereotypical corner he’s painted into is nothing short of laughable.  This was a job for the DEA or Shaft or Kojak.  Not a British secret agent.  It just feels like a waste of 007’s time.  Kananga’s henchman Baron Samedi is memorable but again, completely squandered.  His showdown with Bond lasts about as long as it takes James to order a martini.  You set up a character that apparently can never die and just shuffle him away.  
Live And Let Die is a bit too discombobulated and drab for a Bond film.  It’s only real accomplishment is the successful launch of Roger Moore into the role of Bond and an Oscar nominated title song.  A song that ranks in my top 3 of best Bond songs of all time.  Sing it along with Paul…hop in your “pimpmobile”…yes…there is a “pimpmobile” in it…go see…then tell me I’m wrong.   
September 15, 2012

The Raid: Redemption (DJ’s Take)

OUCH

I’ll be brief.  The Raid: Redemption isn’t a movie.  Okay, it’s a movie strictly in the technical sense.  It was shot on a camera, there are actors in it and it was shown in a theater. However, the The Raid really can be best described as an experience.  A hyper violent experience of biblical proportions.  It’s bodies and bullets and blood by the buckets.   Battered bones and broken bulbs used as bayonets.  I’m sure there was a plot in it somewhere, but I didn’t follow it.   Not because I couldn’t.  But because I realized early on that I shouldn’t.  The story is merely a vehicle to legitimize watching an hour and a half long brutal martial arts display.  There are nearly fifty cast members in this film that are credited no higher than AK-47 Gunman #16 or Swat Member #11.  Names aren’t important.  Motivations are made pretty clear.  It’s visceral eye candy at its finest.  And I enjoyed the hell of it.

And I do mean visceral.   I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb here by saying that it may be one of the most violent films ever.   The Matrix? Old Boy? Kill Bill? Ong Bak?  Pikers compared to The Raid.  It is written(HA! HA!), directed, and edited by Gareth Evans.  You don’t care about that.  It features music by Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park.  You won’t care about that.  All you’ll be able to take from The Raid is that Indonesian stunt men need to be paid more.  You’ll cringe.  You’ll grimace.  You’ll gasp.  And then you’ll watch it all over again.   It is a must have for any true action film fan.  Go ahead…watch it…finish blurting out an awe inspired obscenity….then tell me I’m wrong.

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