Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reservoir Dogs

And so another famous career begins. It is all here in Reservoir Dogs. The first scene in the movie is the blueprint for all of the famous Tarantino scenes that have followed, mainly people talking and definitely not talking to explain the plot. The rest of the movie is still classic 15 years later. The joy of watching the tension build till the bloody climax has not lessened now that many of the scenes have been talked about over and over and have been copied multiple times. Tarantino may have improved upon his design in subsequent films, but Reservoir Dogs does not suffer because of it.

With Reservoir Dogs, there are so many unforgettable scenes or lines or images that it will be difficult to not just list them as evidence enough. Still the point of a review is to defend your opinion with some level of detail, so I will struggle along. Seeing Tarantino characters have conversations about inane topics like the meanings behind songs or which actress was in what movie for the first time is very nostalgic. For me, those scenes are usually the best parts of his films and it’s that dialogue that I repeat over and over until it becomes apart of my daily vocabulary. If I had to play favorites it would probably be either “You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize” or anytime Mr. Orange is writhing in pain on the ground. The fact that Tim Roth spends the vast majority of the movement in a pool of blood moaning in pain is just outstanding. From his screaming “I’m dying here”, to shooting Mr. Blonde, to trying to talk his way out of being the mole, to his final admission to Mr. White he holds the whole movie together. And if isn’t the one to keep it together, keep it together, keep it together then Harvey Keitel was more than capable of picking up the slack. Although he may be a career criminal Mr. White seems like a reasonable guy, which makes him susceptible to Mr. Orange’s undercover cop. The conversation between Mr. White and Mr. Pink when they first get to the warehouse is perfect because the actors playing to their strengths, Buscemi playing paranoid and hyper while Keitel is trying to stay calm and figure out his next move. All of it leads to the final moments of the movie when, with both men dying, Orange tells White that he is the mole and you can just see how it crushes Keitel that he killed for the wrong man. The last actor that needs to be highlighted is of course Michael Madsen. In a career full of villainous roles, Mr. Blonde is the one that everyone associates with the man. And it all comes from one scene, one sick disturbing scene. It is not just the threatening, it is not just the dancing, it is not just the cutting, and it is not just the gasoline, it is the pure joy that Madsen is having while torturing the cop that makes this memorable. And since Reservoir Dogs is a heist movie where the heist went wrong, it was nice to have it all end up with a nice classic 4-man Mexican standoff. Which was made even better with Tim Roth on his back but still able to point his gun defiantly at Nice Guy Eddie. There is not much fault to be found here.

I am very thankful that by the time I became old enough to discern what is and is not a great movie Quentin Tarantino had entered the scene. Reservoir Dogs was just a nice breath of violent and profane air. And violent and profane air may just be my favorite kind of air. My only regret is that I didn’t see this in a theater to properly enjoy this new entrant into the movie game.

9 out of 10

More Quentin Tarantino

Well the David Fincher examination was fun so seeing as Grindhouse just happened why don't we move on to my favorite director of all-time Quentin Tarantino. Don't need much preamble this time but I will say that I will be skipping Four Rooms because I don't remember the damn thing and I don't care to track it down and watch it again. So here is the schedule of events:
  1. Reservoir Dogs
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. Jackie Brown
  4. Kill Bill v. 1
  5. Kill Bill v. 1
  6. Grindhouse (Death Proof)


I avoided it as long as possible, but it was finally time to see a truly bad movie this year. There have been disappointing ones and there have been ones there were bland but Pathfinder is just terrible. It doesn’t even have the respect to be memorably awful. I like my bad movies to be on the level of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever meaning something that can be marveled at for years to come. And it is with this in mind that Pathfinder has completely let me down.

So Karl Urban … yeah who decided that he was next up to be the top billed action star? I am not going to trash the man, but I will say that his best work has been when he is farther down on the credits. If the offer was Bourne Supremacy or Doom and you raised your hand for Doom watch your back because I just might hand you an anvil and push you off a cliff. With that being said, in this movie Urban is definitely not with Schwarzenegger turning Conan the Barbarian into something memorable. He is adequate but adequate doesn’t get the job done as an action man. And that in and of itself leads to second failing of Pathfinder, which are the shitastic action scenes. There is nothing good that I can even say about them. Lots of yelling and people swinging stuff and eventually a body or two falls in front of the camera. Then when they tried to create something original; we get the ridiculous contrivance of tying everyone together then knocking the last guy off a cliff, which then pulls the rest of the guys off. Maybe on paper that seemed swell but onscreen it was definitely unswell. The audience gets that plus a really poor avalanche to finish the bad guys off. But don’t despair for the survivors there is a an estranged Viking warrior patrolling the eastern seaboard ready to confront and stop any other conquering attempts by those awful Norseman.

Since there is nothing that great to talk about and the movie is so thin that I can’t even spend that much time bashing it, this review is now coming to an end. Don’t see Pathfinder. And since it took me over a week to write this review, luckily it is already probably out of theaters so hopefully no one will even be tempted.

3 out of 10

Friday, April 13, 2007

The 2007 List (4)

  1. Zodiac
  2. The Lookout
  3. Grindhouse
  4. Breach
  5. Reign Over Me
  6. Black Snake Moan
  7. Smokin' Aces
  8. Shooter
  9. Blades of Glory
  10. Reno 911!: Miami
  11. Ghost Rider

This year has just been brick solid. I have absolutely zero complaints as we roll into the the summer movie season. Well first things first, The Condemned is right around the corner.


This review is going to be an adventure. It would be preferable to split this into one review for Planet Terror and one review for Death Proof mainly because I enjoyed one more than the other, but Grindhouse was a total experience that needs to be judged in that way. Still I am going to grade each film but then give a final rating for the whole pie. To jump straight to the conclusion high marks all around with Tarantino once again delivering at a staggeringly consistent high level.

Planet Terror was the first film in the double feature so it gets to bat leadoff. My feelings towards Robert Rodriguez have warmed over the years. I can probably place my finger on Once Upon a Time in Mexico as the turning point, or maybe it was Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams because I always confuse those two movies. If I were to compare this to his past movies it would be the perverted offspring of The Faculty and From Dusk Till Dawn. Although this was definitely fun to watch there were just points where it became content with actually being a bad movie. That is the main difference between the two features; Tarantino can’t help but make a fully fleshed out movie while Rodriguez was happy to just make an homage to cheap monster movies from years past. Still any movie that contains scenes where both dogs and children get killed on camera, it is impossible for me to complain. Then you can add the machinegun leg, a guy collecting testicles from his kills, the babysitter twins, wrists breaking in door handles, Fergie being eaten alive, no-brainer, and all the other stuff that there isn’t room to list. The best performance should go to Michael Parks reprising his sheriff role from Kill Bill and From Dusk Till Dawn. His character should show up in any movie, television show, comic book, radio drama, oral history, or cave paintings that chooses Texas as the setting. Rose McGowan and Freddy Rodriguez are fine as the lead characters but much like Parks, it is the secondary players that shine. Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey are perfect as the brothers plus what’s better than mutated Bruce Willis? So fun movie yes; great movie no; uplifting ending really?

7 out of 10

Now we can move on to what I paid to see, Death Proof. It is pretty much Candyland whenever a new Quentin Tarantino movie role around. Will anything ever top the Kill Bill films? That would be awesome but I have my doubts. Still there is plenty of room beneath Kill Bill but still above the good movie range and that is where everything the man has done lives. Tarantino has his standbys so if you haven’t liked his dialogue in past movies well what the hell are you watching this for? There will always be extended conversations in his films because that is where he shines. I could have watched the dinner scene if it went on twice as long. He has the ability to establish complete characters even if they only have one scene because usually that one scene involves the flapping of gums. The star of Death Proof is Kurt Russell and he earns that billing. His predatory nature is barely hidden throughout the first half of the movie before he finally reveals himself and kills his first set of girls. But his best work is when the second set of girls fight back and he just starts whimpering and screaming like a baby. It doesn’t get much better than his high-pitched wail after the final accident. Right behind Kurt Russell is the insane work of Zoe Bell. There was a specific reason why Quentin cast a stuntwoman as the main protagonist; they would spend a huge chunk of time hanging on to the hood of a speeding car. And so there was Zoe holding on for dear life live and in color. You would think that would be enough for a great chase scene but as the saying goes, wait there’s more. When the girls go for their revenge on Kurt Russell, it is a classic chase that just keeps going until the fantastic finish. Although the second half of the film is the better half, the first part starts slow but it ends with the crash to end all crashes. I can say this because I am fairly certain that I haven’t seen a leg severing or a tire to the face in a previous movie. Death Proof may have been slow and talky at some points but when the action kicks and is top of the line stuff.

9 out of 10

Grindhouse is obviously more than the two features. All the extras that surround the two movies help to enhance the final product. The 4 trailers include 2 great ones and 2 less than great ones. Machete feels like a movie that Robert Rodriguez would definitely make after Planet Terror, but who would complain if there was movie starring Danny Trejo being made? The other memorable trailer was Thanksgiving just because it was, for a lack of better term, totally fucked up. I am cringing just thinking about the trampoline scene and I think I have just erased the final seconds of the trailer from my memory. The Don’t trailer was a funny concept but grew tiresome while the best thing about Werewolf Women of the SS was Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu. Along with the trailers, all the little 70s advertisements and other bits and pieces all add to the overall insanity.

If you are crazy bastard like myself who is not frightened by the 3 hours and some pennies running time, then I cannot recommend this enough. It may not be the best movie that I saw even in April but there is nothing else like this out there. Just for the variety it should be supported. As for a final grade, well I am going to go with an overall 9 because the strength of Death Proof along with just the inclusion of fake trailers allow it settle on a low 9, like a 9.15 if you wanted to be specific.

9 out of 10

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Lookout

Now it is time for another player to jockey for position at the top of the 2007 list. It has been fantastic first third of the year, definitely the best since I have been paying attention. Along with the strength of the movie itself, Joseph Gordon-Levitt places himself as may be the best actor under 30 years of age. Comparing his work here and in Brick to his prior famous role in 3rd Rock From the Sun is extraordinary. He commands the screen from beginning to end and takes your basic heist story to that next level. I will not be able to recommend this enough it the few words I will be writing up here.

Any discussion of The Lookout should begin and end with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's portrayal of Chris Pratt. Although he is playing the old acting standby of mentally challenged, it is his ability to depict the confusion inside his head while he attempts to go about his daily life that carries the day. His struggle to just open up a can of tomatoes was painful to watch. It is hard to imagine having to write everything down just so you will remember how to do it tomorrow and the day after that. But as Pratt starts figuring out how to properly sequence events in his head, you can see him begin to gain control over his life. Plus it is always funny when characters scream obscenities or say completely inappropriate things because they just don’t have the ability to filter the difference between thoughts and speech. While Levitt’s work is the highlight, Jeff Daniels definitely takes advantage of his screen-time as the blind roommate and guardian. Whenever the tension of the film needed to be broken, he was there. He was just the right amount of quirky. With the two main protagonists being handicapped, it was also interesting that they had the lead bank robber, Matthew Goode, be severely asthmatic. Goode does believable work as he seduces Levitt into helping his crew rob the bank he works for. Of course using Isla Fisher as sexual incentive is a damn useful secret weapon. “I want to see you naked” is definitely the right thing to say when you are having a conversation with her, Chris Pratt.
Whereas the story could have been the weakness of the movie, the accident that opens the movie is both horrific and stupid enough to carry the motivation for the rest of the story. If someone had to live with that on their conscience, especially since it is one of the few memories that stick, that person would become desperate enough to do just about anything to regain what they lost. The ending may stretch believability just a tad but the characters, particularly Daniels and Goode, make it work.

Although sadly it seems that The Lookout is not destined for big box office, just like Brick last year, but hopefully these performances will allow Joseph Gordon-Levitt to springboard into a more high profile career. He deserves scripts that will allow him to gain attention at the end of the year. But for now I am just hoping that people will make the effort to see this film. Cause I have grown tired of people complaining about the lack of quality movies while at the same time 6 total people see this movie.

9 our of 10

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Blades of Glory

Hey, do you like Will Ferrell? I mean do you like the same Will Ferrell character that has appeared over and over again the last 4 years? That’s right the exact same character making the exact same jokes, even though I will admit that many are still funny. If your answer is yes to these questions then I have a movie just for you. Blades of Glory is more Kicking & Screaming than Anchorman but if you are a drug addict that needs your Will fix this is the only game in town. Just prepare yourself for some weak shit.

Lets be clear on one thing, I still believe that Will Ferrell is probably the best comedic actor in movies today. This movie is no different. He provides all the usual but that is the problem at hand. It is the same thing that he did in Talladega Nights, Kicking & Screaming, Anchorman, and Old School but Blades of Glory gets to compete for the bottom slot with Kicking & Screaming. I am still holding out hope that there will be more Stranger Than Fiction in the future and less stock character #1. Besides Will there were plenty of other nice faces to see on the big-screen. Obviously you can’t go wrong when Coach shows up. And there definitely could have been more William Fichtner; he was just wasted in his 5 total minutes. As for the best casting that goes to the Waldenberg siblings, now hopefully Poehler, Arnett, and Fischer can find something better to do with their time. I also can’t forget to mention Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, and Nancy Kerrigan because my enjoyment was completely dependent on bringing legitimacy to the ice skating in this film. And if the Iron Lotus actually existed, the world be a better place to live in.

As for negatives, I hate Jon Heder. He sucks the funny out of comedy. It is such a skill that he should bottle it and sell it on the black market. I could definitely envision situations where that could be useful. You are sitting in a meeting room while someone you despise is giving a presentation and when they go to break the ice with a little humor you open the bottle and not a chuckle is heard. Then the person cracks under the pressure, has a nervous breakdown, you get their position with just a minimal loss of sleep for the rest of your life. In other words don’t cast Jon Heder if you want me to recommend your film. And using ice-skating as the setting for your jokes is weak. It is used just for the easy haha look at how homosexual they are acting moments. Hmm, from soccer to NASCAR to ice-skating so I would guess Will’s next choice will be either competitive fishing or maybe horse jumping.

Well the March release date for Blades of Glory was a correct indication of the amount of quality it would be lacking. I am not ready to say that Will Ferrell has gotten to the point of Adam Sandler but he is definitely journeying on the same path. And that path does not lead to enlightenment; it leads to Mr. Deeds and 50 First Dates. Still it had enough good jokes to not abandon the entire damn thing. There are just better movies to be made and funnier premises to exploit.

5 out of 10

Sunday, April 8, 2007


There was a piece of me, small as it may it be, that was hoping Shooter would really deliver something special. Why the hell did I feel that? I can’t even begin to give you an explanation. All that I know is now I have to accept that Antoine Fuqua just makes acceptable action movies. Training Day was the anomaly, a badass anomaly but anomaly nonetheless. This time around what we get is something that adds up to a Rambo if Rambo was screwed over in Africa instead of Vietnam. Yeah it’s candy not a three-course meal.

Honestly, when it comes to movies and video games how much fun is sniping? You are exactly right; it is that much fun. Easily the best parts of this movie are the truly ridiculous moments that occur when Mark Wahlberg is using his badass sniping skills. What he does to Casey Jones at the end of the film is just beautiful. That goes perfectly with his explanation on how it is possible to make a shot from a mile away, talking about the coriolis effect is downright hilarious. Maybe Marky Mark has become that good. Because he seemed to hold this movie together by the sheer force of his will. Any and all issues that I may have here do not involve his efforts; he is actually someone that I can enjoy watching shoot people from time to time. Lets see what else can I recommend here? Evil Danny Glover? Sure that is a fun time although half the time he sounds like he is talking with a mouth full of phlegm. Army from The Shield as a FBI agent? That works too; he is becoming the type of actor you are happy to see in the opening credits. That is about it. Oh wait the dog gets it, so points there even if it happens off camera.

So the plot, there are times where shadow American organizations work in a movie but this is not one of those times. The screwing over of Mark Wahlberg’s character was so elaborate and for what? There had to be better ways to handle covering up their dirty dirty deeds than these shenanigans. The whole thing was lunacy. And where the hell do these groups get all these soldiers to die for them? Are there that many people just hanging around with elite level armed forces training looking for some merc work? Is it easy to get into that business because it seems like there must be plenty of job openings? I also love that since it is an evil cabal we get to have multiple moments were the bad guys get together to cackle about just how evil they are. You damn well know that if I ever go forward with my evil machinations there will be plenty of times where me and my people get together and just cackle until our throats are sore. And the ending, my god, the ending is just pure Rambo. I was waiting to hear “Murdoch, I’m coming to get you.” Please let there be no part 2.

There is nothing truly offensive about Shooter. If people shooting people and blowing stuff up is good enough for you then this will get the job done. But if when the credits role you wanted a decent explained reason why all this happened, then don’t get your hopes up. Still it was really cool when people were just being blown away and they had no idea it was even coming. Yeah I’m screwed up.

6 out of 10