Let's start with Kill Bill Vol. 1. People have said this film is horribly gory. People
have said this film sucks. Well, they're both wrong. Maybe I am too conditioned to
violence to notice, but yes lots and lots of people get killed in this movie, and in
very violent ways, but the violence is so cartoonish. Blood spraying out of severed
limbs like a fire hydrant, eye balls plucked from faces, and superhuman martial arts and
swordplay. Wasn't the violence in Saving Private Ryan more disturbing?
I liked the movie, only because from hearing so much about it beforehand, I
went in expecting to see a movie that was an homage to kung fu movies, and it was. The
music was horribly cheesy (especially the sirens going off before Uma started killing),
the violence was cartoonish, the plot was thin and weak in parts, and the characters
were superhuman. But that doesn't mean it was a bad movie. The movie does a great job
of blending the American violence that Tarantino does so well, with the soul of a kung fu
movie. Using David Carradine as Bill makes the homage (or is it homage/satire) perfect.
If you went in expecting a deep (yet violent (hey, it's Tarantino, you can't be an idiot))
drama about murder and revenge, you were probably disappointed.
This movie isn't Pulp Fiction, it isn't Reservoir Dogs either, but it's better
than Jackie Brown.
The acting was good, which is what you expect from the usual suspects involved in
a Tarantino film. Vivica A. Fox is still damn sexy, Uma is... Uma, however, Darryl Hannah?
How is she getting work in Hollywood? She looks like hell (not just in the movie mind you),
she embodies the saying "can't act her way out of a wet paper bag", and honestly looks
like she's on drugs (again, not just in the movie). Outside of her, the rest are very good.
Overall, I'd give the movie a 6. If you like Tarantino, see this movie. If you don't,
skip it. This isn't a movie people will be talking about 10 years later like people do
with Pulp Fiction, but still worth seeing (if only to know the background for watching
Kill Bill Vol. 2... )
Next is The Bourne Identity. Let's face it. Matt Damon is not Tom Hanks. Even Tom
Hanks isn't Tom Hanks anymore. But he's a better actor than Ben Affleck, and he actually
doesn't mess this movie up, too much. Damon pulls off the angry confused thing well
enough (see Good Will Hunting) to make this movie worth watching. The movie is based off
of a best selling novel by Robert Ludlum. "Based" is stretching it. A couple of quotes
off of a forum on IMDB.com: "... I must mention that it is my feelings that this
movie is a 'Little golden book' version of content from the book." and "The movie is just
fan fiction that features Jason Bourne." From what I read, the changes made pretty much
nullify following the other books as templates for sequels.
Since I haven't read the book(s), I'm going to judge the movie as a standalone. Very
good plot that could have been written a bit better and acted a bit better. A young
Alec Baldwin/Harrison Ford turns this movie (and the sequels, Bourne Supremacy out later
this year) into the same franchise as the Jack Ryan movies (Hunt for Red October,
Patriot Game, Clear and Present Danger). However, a good sophomore showing for both the
writers and Damon could still turn this one around.
I was mixed on the rest of the cast. I loved Franka Potente (from Run Lola Run), but for some reason didn't like
Chris Cooper (a more obscure "that guy"), although Julia Stiles was good in that even
though I don't like her, her character acted just like I would expect the actual Julia
Stiles to act.
Regardless, some good action, realistic fight sequences (i.e. no matrix-like crap), and
the love scene was mercilessly short (which is only a good thing b/c there was no nudity,
if it's going to be long, let me see Franka naked).
Anyway, I digress. Another 6. Glad I saw it, but not disappointed it took me so long
to see it. But good enough to get me interested in seeing the sequel.
Up next is The Cooler. This movie had a lot of buzz after it came out. Alec Baldwin
got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, steamy sex scene with a naked William H. Macy,
and more importantly a naked Maria Bello! I had high hopes for this and was moderately
disappointed. I found the plot very weak (although one big hole in the plot is nicely taken
care of late in the movie). The acting was fantastic though. Which means if you took
this movie and did it up a la American Pie (as in using no-name limited talent actors) it
would have been terrible. The actors hold your attention, and not much else. I also
enjoyed Ron Livingston (who you might remember from Office Space) ... who I suppose has been
too busy working on Band Of Brothers to do many movies, but how does this guy not get more
work? Somebody make a movie with more of him in it...please! Ahem...
Anyway, I ended up watching the Sundance Film Festival's "Anatomy of a Scene" extra on the
DVD which actually gave me greater appreciation for the movie. When you think of it as a
Film Noir/Fairy Tale... it works. It makes sense. Some good twists at the end made the
movie worth watching...along with many naked shots of Maria Bello... that made up for
the nakedness of William H. Macy. Oy! (nice butt for an older guy though...must have
been a butt double) :-D
All in all... another 6. The fine acting saved a plot that I just didn't buy into.
And finally, Bowling For Columbine.
I watched this last night and was ready for a movie dedicated to stickin' it to the
right-wing nuts at the NRA. But the documentary seemed to lack focus.
We looked at the Michigan Militia, then at the NRA, then at the media, then at Lockheed
Martin (???), then at K-mart, then at the economy, then at the US history of violence,
then at white people's fear of black men, then at government policies. It was a real
shotgun approach (pardon the pun).
What I found most interesting was that Michael Moore is a member of the NRA (joined when
he was very young), Charlton Heston's house is god-awful ugly (and he's a bit of a dick),
and that Canada has 7 million guns for 10 million homes, and had about 1% of the gun-related
deaths the US had on a yearly basis.
Moore eventually rules out many of these factors by making comparisons to other western
countries of the world: Canada has a lot of guns per person, Germany has an even more violent
and bloody past than the US, unemployment is higher in other countries, most violent video
games come from Japan, etc. Even the NRA, while incredibly unsympathetic and insensitive,
is pretty much let off the hook. Although his interview with Heston is interesting.
When Moore asks Heston why he thinks there is so much violence in the country Heston says
it's in our past. When refuted by Moore (Germany, UK, etc. has had even more violence),
Heston then says that the reason maybe because we have so many different minorities here
(I'm paraphrasing). But he didn't say that again, and went back to his stance that it's
because of the violent history. He may not have intended it to sound racist, but it
certainly came out that way to me.
At any rate Moore finally seems to settle on the one thing that makes our country different,
and therefore more violent; it's the media creating a culture of fear...mostly a fear of
It's an interesting premise. It does seem that the nightly news is filled with reports
of black men committing crimes. White people have used the black man as a cover-up for
their own crimes. A black man stole my children, a black man killed my wife. And for the
most part, people buy it. I think fear is a contributing factor, but in my mind the main
factor is one that Moore dismissed quickly, and that's poverty. His only explanation is
that unemployment in Canada is higher than here.
So first you have to make the jump that poverty is worse in Canada than it is here as
well...which may or may not be true. Then you have to forget that Canada is a socialist
system. Even those in poverty can get basic needs, food, health care, housing.
I could go on, but I find his arguments simplistic and shallow...not shallow as in
without merit, but shallow as in poorly defined.
I can understand why this documentary won awards. It contains powerful images, and
compelling stories. But the haphazard way they are put together, and the poorly
communicated message from Moore makes the documentary disjointed.
I give Bowling For Columbine a 4. I said it before, but the best way for me to describe
this movie is that it lacks focus. While a documentary doesn't have to give answers, we're
talking Michael Moore here. He wants nothing more than to tell every conservative person
where and why they are wrong.
So, 4 rentals, and nothing spectacular out of the bunch. I had high hopes for each of
these movies, only to be disappointed (to varying degrees) with each one.
Better luck next time.