Kill Bill Volume 1

One from the rewatch pile…

Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Film: Quentin Tarantino is one of those writer/ directors whose films are either loved or loathed. QT is regularly accused of plagiarism and being unoriginal on one hand, and on the other hand, he almost single handed lay brought back the popularity of some exploitation and international films into the limelight. It is unfair to call QT a plagiarist, as he freely acknowledges his influences, and ha always worn them on his sleeve. This film, Kill Bill Volume 1, was conceived during the filming of Pulp Fiction, where GT could see a potential in Uma Thurman to be a great female action lead, and decided to write an entire film around her.

As the title suggests, Kill Bill Volume 1 tells the first part of a revenge tale. ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) was thought to have been murdered by a squad of killers she was once a part of, The Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, a group led by the mysterious Bill (David Carradine). She cuts a swath of violence in this film to get to her intended victims: O-ren Iishi (Lucy Lui) , Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Budd (Michael Madsen), but will she get to them all? Will she survive countless battles so that she can finally Kill Bill? Mmmm…I guess you shall have to watch Volume 2.

So, what is your pleasure? Wuxia? Got it! Exploitation? Yeah, got that too. What about gangster flicks? Yep, there’s a little of that as well. We even have a little bit of anime!! Some of the dialogue in this film suffers from ‘Lucas’ Romantic Scene Disorder’, where the lines seem to have trouble coming out of the actors mouths, and feel as awkward as a contestant on Young Talent Time. Tarantino’s plotting talents however should keep you interested enough that it is only a minor bother.

As usual, QT’s supporting characters are just as interesting as the main cast, and the plot, disjointed though it may be (like Pulp Fiction), moves along at a great pace. A fan of the type of cinema QT has interests in could really spend hours with a group of like-minded friends spotting the massive amounts of nods to other films.

With influences ranging from Tobe Hooper to the Shaw Brothers, and even sometimes borrowing from his own films, Kill Bill Volume 1 could have easily been takeaway crap, but instead it is a fresh dine-in meal with all the trimming… though the dessert has been saved for a Kill Bill Volume 2.

Score: ****

Format: Kill Bill Volume 1 was reviewed with the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen which is clean and perfect. The reds are SO red, the yellows are SO yellow and the black and white is… well, contrasting! This film is in Dolby 5.1 and is a kick ass track. The sounds of blood spraying and swords clanging together will ring in your lounge room long after the film has finished. There is some great use of musical cues that really make full use of the 5.1 sound stage as well.

Score: ****

Extras: The Making of Kill Bill should have been a three hour extravaganza where QT goes through everything that influenced this film and his career, but instead we get a 22 minute fluff piece that admittedly has a lot of interviews but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied.

There are two music clips from the 5,6,7,8’s, ‘Walk like Jayne Mansfield’ and “I’m Blue’. Is it surf music, is it pink? Who cares, it’s awesome!

There is also two trailers for Kill Bill Volume 1: a teaser trailer and a‘ bootleg’ trailer, which weirdly contains some footage from Volume 2!

Score: **1/2

WISIA: Oh HELL yeah I’ll watch this again!

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

One from the re watch pile…

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

Film: You have to love the way some people think. When director Bo Arne Vibenius’ 1969 family film flopped, he did what any good director would do: he got straight back on the horse and made what was to become one of the most un-family oriented mainstream releases ever made (albeit under the pseudonym Alex Fridolinski). This film, Thriller – En Grym Film, in its original Swedish title, has gone by many names: Hookers Revenge and They Call Her One Eye to name a few, and has been released in more running times, due to censorship laws in various countries, than you would find at the Olympics. Notorious to its core, this version, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, is unrated and with the unnecessary hardcore sex and (apparent) actual corpse mutilation in lieu of special effects. Synapse released both the hardcore and no-core versions on DVD, the Red cover, with the subtitle ‘A Cruel Picture’ is the XXX one where as the yellow cover, with the subtitle ‘They Call Her One-Eye’ is the non-awkward porn version.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture tells the tale of young Frigga (Christina Lindberg), who lost the ability to speak after being raped at a very young age. Her mother and father regularly send her to various doctors in the hopes that she will regain her voice. One day, after missing the bus to one of her appointments, she accepts a lift from Tony (Heinz Hopf) who dopes her and within ten days has her hooked on heroin and working for him as a prostitute. After she attacks a client, Tony cuts one of her eyes out. Eventually the pressure of all her woes gets to her, and she decides to fight back…with a vengeance! (Cue zoom in and stabbing strings)

The first thing to say about this movie is hubba hubba: even with one eye covered, Christina Lindberg oozes a sweet sexuality that would be slipped on if you stepped in it. It is unsurprising however that Vibenius had little success with his previous film, as he is an extraordinarily BORING filmmaker. His action scenes are suitable enough, although the use of slo-mo is somewhat excessive. The dialogue or ’emotive’ scenes are done with such extreme close ups of the actors faces that instead of looking sad or friendly, they just all looked ominous. Also of particular note are how badly the cars must be made in Sweden: even the slightest bump during the car chase scene causes these pieces of rubbish to explode. Having said all that though, it was kind of like watching a train wreck; you just couldn’t take your eyes off its grizzly allure.

The hardcore scenes in this film also deserve a mention, as the ‘stunt actors’ in them are quite obviously not Lindberg and her fellow cast mates.

This film never quite fits a certain genre. It’s sometimes arthouse, grindhouse and porno-house all mixed in one. Even though the hardcore parts were obviously tacked-on and felt completely out of place, they didn’t really effect my overall enjoyment of the film (although there was one bit of going-in-dry footage that made me cringe). This is one of those must see oddities. You have heard a lot about it, especially in the wake of the Kill Bill films, but few will probably enjoy it. I was one who thoroughly did, and it will become a regular rotation… although I might fast forward through some of the hairy nut parts, or watch the alternate release, Thriller: They Call Her One Eye.

Score: ****

Format: The picture quality is all over the shop. Grain, cigarette burns… you name an artefact, and this film has it. I will say though, the image is still clear enough to be watchable, and judging by the amount of bootlegs there are around of this film, it is probably the best it has looked in years. To be brutally honest, the slightly off image just adds to the sleaziness of the entire proceedings, and is probably reminiscent of those old grind house cinemas that exploitation stuff like this used to get shown in. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio, even though the package states it’s 1.78:1. Presented in spectacular 1.0! This is a fairly clear mono track, but to fully appreciate this film you need to watch it both in English, and then with the subtitles…they are almost a different story! Even the main character’s name goes from Frigga (English dub) to Madeline (English subtitle). Keep your ear out for sound effects straight out of Scooby Doo cartoons, especially during the car chase scenes

Score: **

Extras: There are 4 theatrical trailers on this disc: the TV spot (for They Call Her One Eye), the theatrical trailer (for They Call Her One Eye), the Double Feature trailer (a grind house double feature trailer where the film is called the Hooker’s Revenge and is accompanied by The Photographer’s Model) and the Thriller trailer.

Outtake Reel is a few short outtakes, all in complete silence.

Alternate Harbor Fight is a reconstructed version of the harbor fight sequence using pieces of thought to be lost footage, which is then put together with some actual film footage to make a ‘new’ version of the fight.

Movie in Pictures (38 seconds) is the entire movie shown with a single shot from each scene…why? It’s like a crappy View Master version of the film.

There are 5 stills galleries: In Bed with Christina, a series of nude shots of Lindberg. Behind the Scenes, which is a collection of BTS footage, mainly of Lindberg, but dressed this time. Advertising and Promotion shows the posters and other advertising paraphernalia for the film. Deleted Fight Scene shows the still pics from a scene omitted from the final film, and Production photos are on set photos taken during the production of this feature.

There are also text filmographies for Lindberg and Vibenius.

Score: ***

WISIA: This film is such a weirdo watch, I actually can’t resist it, and have watched it several times.

The Commuter (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Commuter (2018)

Film: Now and again, I am more than happy to watch a generic, by-the-numbers thriller. Something that doesn’t tax the brain but can provide a generic amount of thrills to keep me interested.

You know the score already, it’s that post-Speed plot that is used, and used, and used in every quick buck, single location, Liam Neeson starring film. There’s a secret something that our hero has to has to uncover before insert-the-vehicle-here stops finally at its destination. I’m not criticising the plot, but it’s nothing original.

The film was directed by The Orphan’s Jaume Collet-Serra, who has a really interesting eye for some sequences, with a story by Ryan Engle (writer of Non-Stop and kind of proving my point), Brian Willinger and Phillip de Blasi.

Our film opens the daily life of ex-cop Michael MacCauley (surprise! Liam Neeson), now an insurance sales person who on this particular day is going to have a vastly different day to all those other ones.

Today, Michael has been sacked from his job and has been manipulated to be on a particular train at a particular time, and he finds himself sitting opposite Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who claims to be interested in the human condition and discusses some psychology with him that involves hypothetical proposition that actually ends up being a real proposition: find someone on a train, drop a GPS tracker in their bag and receive $100,000. The problem is that no-one knows what the person looks like, only that they are carrying a bag, and are getting off at a particular stop.

Being desperate, Michael accepts the ‘job’ and the investigation begins, but as you expect, he can’t ask for outside help and definitely can’t report it to the police, which he does, to his ex-partner, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), he realised that he is being constantly watched, and all of the sudden, Michael realises he’s in total jeopardy, and can barely trust anyone, except maybe the other regular commuters he sees every day.

Sure enough, the stakes get higher as Michael threatens to refuse to play…

The film cleverly shows the boredom and regimen of the daily commute, and how boring and repetitive those of us who have a ‘joe’ job exist from day to day, and the almost Michel Gendry way of showing the slightly differing repetition was disturbingly familiar. This, of course, juxtaposes itself brilliantly with just how screwed up Michael’s day becomes.

The only real problem I had with the story, other than it being a very familiar basic plot, is the solution to Neeson’s conundrum is actually fairly clearly shown in the early parts of the film and is quite clearly telegraphed, to the point his inability to work it out… and then miraculously figure it out make it quite frustrating, especially considering he used to be a police officer!

There’s some pretty cool big parts played by big names too, and Sam Neill as a New York police captain came as a big surprise. Also, keep an eye out for Black Panther’s Shuri, aka Letitia Wright, in a tiny bit part.

All in all a well made film with some action movie favourites in cast and stunts which all make for an easy 100 odd minute distraction. Nothing new, and you’ll forget about it in a week like that other action film… you know the one: what’s it called again?

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which was presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a only couple of extras on this disc. One is an interview with Liam Neeson and the other a tiny barely two minute piece about the making of the film.

Score: **

WISIA: As these film are so cookie cutter and generic, it is easy to watch, and probably easy to rewatch. The cast are likeable as well so that heads me towards a rewatch too.

Deadpool (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Deadpool (2016)


Film:  

I never wanted to see Deadpool. 

I detested pretty much well everything that Rob Liefeld, comic ‘creator’ and ‘artist’ did to my favourite comic, which I had been collecting since issue 1, Marvel Comics’ brilliant The New Mutants, and every time I saw one of his new characters, I rolled my eyes at the crudely drawn, horrible characters. The New Mutants was a companion comic to The Uncanny X-Men that started in the early eighties and told of Professor X’s attempt to relaunch his school for super powered kids.

Deadpool was amongst those characters that helped execute it and I pretty much well ignored him until around 2004 when I was attracted to the art in a comic called Cable & Deadpool. I enjoyed that comic’s irreverent humour, but when it folded I didn’t actively pursue either character, so Deadpool and I drifted apart again.

I do however enjoy the X-Men movies, and if I’m completely honest, I loved Ryan Reynold’s portrayal of the character in the dreadful X-men Origins: Wolverine film, but mainly because they completely screwed him up, and I hoped that he would be retro-fitted out of the Marvel comic universe…


However, I must eat a large slice of humble pie as I just watched the film Deadpool… and loved it. The film is the first feature film from visual effects designer, now director Tim Miller from a script by Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick (both from Zombieland, which explains a lot about the comedy in this), from comic ideas from Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld.

Deadpool tells of ex-special ops guy Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who now earns money as a mercenary, with the occasional good will job. He meets and falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and things seem to all be great until one night he passes out, and they discover he’s suffering from multiple cancers.

After some research he decides to take up an offer he’s received to have his cancer cured by having an artificial mutant gene introduced to his body by a man named Ajax (Ed Skrein), but what he doesn’t realise is, Ajax sells the mutated people as weapons.

Wilson is a giant smartarse, and takes great delight in teasing Ajax, who in turn tortures him as a petty revenge. The operation is successful and his body now has a healing factor akin to Wolverine’s, but it does have some cosmetic side effects… And perhaps fractured his mind.

So with his help from the X-men Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kepipic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Wilson becomes Deadpool, and seeks Ajax and his men out so he can reap bloody revenge…


This film is one of the most entertaining comic films I have ever seen, with perfect comedy timing and an element of violence not before seen in a mainstream Marvel character’s film. The cast is bang on with their performance and the choreography of the violence is catastrophic and awesome.

I must say that being a comic fan is of great benefit to watchers of this film, as is knowing that there have been other comic films around helps as there are references to everything from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the previous cinematic appearance of Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds not-entirely successful turn as Green Lantern. It’s not essential though, but your experience is certainly enhanced by it. This is possibly one of the endearing things about this film: it is self-referential, it regularly breaks the fourth wall and enjoys the fact that it KNOWS it can’t be taken 100% seriously… Because you know, basically the concept of superheroes is one that is hard to take seriously.

The film also doesn’t stop at any point for a breather. From the beginning of this built-like-Pulp-Fiction movie, if you aren’t cringing at the hyper violence, you are laughing at the constant barrage of filth coming from the main characters, or perhaps are admiring the hot naked girls in the strip club, or wondering how they got away with the sex scene. The best idea anyone ever had about this film was to make it for adults: innuendo does NOT exist in Deadpool’s world.

Also, Stan Lee’s appearance, and I won’t spoil it here, was certainly different from any he’s done so far!

If I have to really dig deep into my hyper-critical reviewer pockets to pick on this film, but I did and I have. Very occasional there are some dodgy CGI physics, and the character Colossus is SO obviously an effect… I mean, he’s a giant walking metal mutant, by the just never felt like he was not completely present physically in the film, like when Jerry the mouse (from Tom and Jerry) danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh: most special effects take an element of deliberate ignorance by our brains to be effective, but I just never found him visually effective. Luckily his Boy Scout persona made that easier to overlook as he is Deadpool’s perfect straight man.

I am however being extraordinarily picky in this case as I liked the film so much and am just attempting to find some thing to take this film to task on.

The film is just so damn violent, so damn funny and so damn fun it’s like a traditional superhero film, but made by the guys who did The Story of Ricky with the script writer from Superbad. It’s hilariously violent, and violently hilarious. I think this 20th Century Fox production will open the eyes of other companies, including Marvel themselves, making superhero movies, and if the trailers to Warner Bros/ DC’s Suicide Squad are anything to go by, maybe they have…

Score: ****1/2

Format: This review was done with the Australian, region B, bluray (steelbook) edition, which runs for approximately 108 minutes, with a 2.40:1 image and a DTS-HD 7.1 audio, both of which are perfect. The package also comes with a digital download of the film.

Score: *****

Extras


Deleted Scenes with or without commentary by the director: The Raft, Cancer World Tour, , Extended Workshop Fight, Morgue, 5 Year Montage, No. 5 Bathroom, Extended Angel/ NTW Fight, Extended Rubble/ Gratuitous Worth It and Alt Coda. Some of these deleted and extended bits have unfinished CGI elements, but the lover of the making of films finds this interesting. Watching with Ritter’s commentary is quite informative as well.

I love me a good Gag Reel and this is excellent, a hoot and a holler, with heaps of dialogue freestyling from some of the cast.

From Comics to Screen… to Screen is a series of making-of mini docs including Origin…ier, Peoples and Muties, Stylin’, ‘Splosions and Magic! Watched from start to finish, these docos cover everything to do with the production of this film, and it’s entertaining as well.

We have Two Audio Commentaries on this disc too, one by Reynolds, Reese and Wernick and the other by Miller and Liefeld. Both commentaries tell of different processes and have different tales to tell of the production of the film, but both are heaps of fun and very informative.

There is a series of galleries for Concept Art, Costumes, Storyboards, Pre-vis and Stunt-Vis – Shipyard. Normally I hate stills galleries but this is a money saver as I won’t have to buy the expensive no-doubt-impending ‘Art of Deadpool’ hardcover book because all the images are here.

Deadpool’s Fun Sack is all the worldwide advertising for the film. It contains all the trailers and interstitials and a whole of bunch of posters.

Score: *****


WISIA: I’m already seeing it again. Nuff said!