Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)


Leave the Limbs You’ve Lost.  They Belong to Me Now.

Fabio came through in a big way after work today.  I was trying to figure out what I should watch next, and he was more than happy to give me a recommendation.  And what’s more exciting about it is that he actually requested a movie that I like.  Technically two.  Today, we’re going into the first movie in the series.  I’ve liked the greater majority of the movies put out by this writer/director, and today’s movie is probably my favorite of his movies.  It takes a great writer/director and allows him to play in a world that both he and I are very passionate about, and today’s movie is the spawn of that passion.  At least of his passion.  Today’s review is the spawn of my passion.  With that, we get into my review of Kill Bill: Volume 1, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Lui, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Michael Parks, Michael Bowen, Gordon Liu, and Michael Madsen.

A pregnant lady – we’ll call her “The Bride” (Uma Thurman) – winds up on the business end of a gun held by her former boss, Bill (David Carradine).  Something she’s done did not sit right by him, causing him and his posse – O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), and Budd (Michael Madsen) – to attempt to kill The Bride and everyone attending her wedding.  When the police arrives, Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) finds that The Bride survived her head wound.  Four years later, she wakes up from her coma and takes a Pussy Wagon off to get her revenge.  Her first objective is to travel to Okinawa to get a sword from legendary swordsmith Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba).  With that in hand, she sets her sights on on O-Ren Ishii and Vernita Green.

Mother fuck this is a good ass movie.  There’s a very strong chance that I liked this movie more than your typical movie goer because of my own passions.  If you’ve ever been inside my house, you’ll know that I love swords.  I have a decent collection of swords hanging around my house, and I always feel like I want more.  Every time I watch this movie, I feel like I need to go out and get myself a replica Hanzo.  The story of this movie is a pretty typical revenge movie, but told in a Tarantino fashion.  The Bride’s motivations in this movie are never in question.  That girl deserves her revenge.  You never once doubt that she deserves to kill the people in the way of her goal.  I could’ve done without Tarantino’s signature style of showing the movie out of order, but it also didn’t hinder the movie at all.  There was just no point to it.  Did The Bride kill O-Ren first, or was it Vernita?  And more to the point: who cares?  At that point, why bother?  I also didn’t understand the idea of bleeping out The Bride’s name.  Does it spoil anything in the movie to know that her name is Beatrice Kiddo?  Hells to the no.  So why are you doing it?  Again, it takes nothing away from the movie, but it also adds nothing but the question in my mind.  I also don’t understand The Bride’s notebook.  Does she really have trouble remembering the names of the five people that killed her friends and family, caused the death of her unborn child, and attempted to kill her?  Or is it that she has trouble remember who she’s killed already?  Either way, if it’s something my memory is capable of, your memory should be as well.  On the other hand, she DID get shot in the head in the beginning of this movie, so maybe I should let it go.  This movie is also done in a grindhouse style, and if you read my previous review of Hobo With a Shotgun, you’ll probably assume that I hate this movie because of that.  Not the case.  This is grindhouse done right.  It doesn’t look like shit; it’s just stylized.  It looks great.  They just went a little over the top on the violence so that it wasn’t really realistic.  I don’t mind that.  I also appreciated the one long shot of The Bride walking to the bathroom in the club before the fight with the Crazy 88’s.  I appreciate those kinds of shots because of the potential difficulty in getting an entire scene shot correctly in one go.  The music is also great, as Tarantino is prone to do.  It’s the music you wouldn’t necessarily expect in such a scene, and certainly not music I would’ve ever liked on it’s own, but it helps the movie greatly.  It’s all really memorable too, like Elle Driver’s powerful whistling or “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei.  After seeing the movie, you could probably do a pretty good rendition of either of these two songs at any point in the future.

As much as I liked everything else about this movie, the fights are really what sold me on it.  And they really don’t waste too much time before they get into a good fight.  We barely get into the movie before The Bride and Vernita have having a knock down, drag out fight.  It’s not a particularly pretty or impressive fight, it’s just two chicks throwing down with a couple of knives and a butt-load of glass.  The next fight is an animated one, vaguely reminiscent of the old Akira cartoon.  It’s very violent and pretty awesome.  But the real treat of the movie is the 15 minute sword fight between The Bride and 88 soldiers in O-Ren Ishii’s army.  This is a masterpiece of a massacre, a symphony of slaying, a bolero of blood.  It’s stylized and gory, and never gets boring, even though it goes on for 15 minutes.  The fight with O-Ren afterwards pales in comparison, but only because the previous fight was so freaking good.  If you weren’t sold on The Bride as a badass before this scene, you should be afterwards.  There is one part in the movie (which I won’t say, but you’ll know it once you’ve watched the movie) where a character gets the top of his or her head cut off, and it was really fakey.  I don’t know if it was intentionally bad because it would fit the grindhouse style, but I feel like they should’ve, and could’ve, done it better.

I liked every performance I can currently think of in this movie.  Uma Thurman was a boss.  The greater majority of this movie she was a relentless, stone-cold killer.  She also had to drop some emotional performances, like when she realized she had lost her baby.  She had a couple of parts where she was just real and normal, like the part with Sonny Chiba and about three lines of her conversation with Vernita.  Speaking of Vernita, Vivica A. Fox didn’t really work for me in this movie.  I think it was mainly the way she talked shit to The Bride when they were fighting because it sounded less like something a professional killer would be saying and more like something two drunk girls would be yelling at each other while pulling each other’s hair outside of a club.  O-Ren Ishii was a good character though, and Lucy Liu did it well.  She was pretty friendly in parts, then completely sadistic, and in her battle with The Bride I actually started liking her because of how respectful she was being in battle.  I was also a fan of Sonny Chiba.  I know that Tarantino was a big fan of him because of his older movies, but I’d never seen any of those.  I gained my appreciation because of this movie alone.  He seemed like such a nice and friendly (except to his lazy assistant) sushi chef, and then became the legendary swordsmith, filled with regret for the lives that his weapons had taken.  I also really liked Chiaki Kuriyama as Go Go Yubari.  I believed that there was a very good chance that she was crazy.  She was also hot, so I liked that.  And she was good in the fight, so that was nice as well.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a fantastic movie.  Putting someone like Tarantino into a genre that he and I are both really passionate about works out to make an amazingly entertaining movie.  The story isn’t entirely impressive, but the way it’s told is.  Amazing action, fantastic style, and some really good performances sells this thing.  I thoroughly recommend this movie, for both watching and purchasing.  I own this thing on Blu-Ray.  I technically own it on Blu-Ray AND DVD right now.  It’s definitely visually appealing enough to go straight to Blu-Ray, and definitely a movie that’s great enough that you should own it.  We’ll find out tomorrow how I feel about Volume 2, but for now Kill Bill: Volume 1 gets “Wiggle your big toe” out of “Lucky for her, Boss Matsumoto was a pedophile.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Hobo With a Shotgun (2011)


Hobo Stops Begging.  Demands Change.

I got it in my head today that I wanted to watch a movie that was fun.  When I was trying to think through various review requests I had gotten, I thought back to something that I believe was requested by my friend Robert a long time ago.  He had mentioned this movie to me, but I completely forgot about it.  When I took a look at my Netflix streaming queue and saw this movie, I thought that I would have a hard time thinking of a movie that seemed like more fun than this movie because there was no way that it could take itself too seriously with a title like the one it had.  Let’s see how that decision went in my review of Hobo With a Shotgun, written by John Davies and Jason Eisener, directed by Jason Eisener, and starring Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, and Jeremy Akerman.

A hobo (Rutger Hauer) hops on a train car and comes into a lawless town called Hope Town (though the word “Hope” has been covered up with the word “Scum” on the sign).  The town is under the control of a guy called The Drake (Brian Downey) and his equally crazy sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman).  The Hobo has no particular reason to have come to the town, and his only real driving force at first is his desire to purchase a lawnmower.  He befriends a hooker named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) after saving her from Slick with a sock full of quarters.  Doing so comes with some retaliation though, as Slick and Ivan carve the word “scum” into his chest after finding out that the police department is in The Drake’s pocket.  The Hobo performs some degrading acts (like chewing glass) for a local cameraman making Bumfights-esque videos to get some money.  He goes to buy his lawnmower, but sees the pawn shop getting robbed and decides to use his money on a shotgun instead.  With his unlimited supply of ammo, he decides he’s going to right the wrongs of this small town … sigh … one shell at a time …

Ever look at your life and think that you have way too much time in it?  Well, you’re in luck.  You’re already midway through reading one of the worst ways to get rid of an hour and a half of it.  This movie was nothing like the fun movie I was expecting it to be going in.  It was a pretty miserable watch, in point of fact.  I get the feeling that they just made a shitty movie and decided to try to rely on it’s camp and grindhouse style to make people forgive it.  No dice, movie!  They story is pretty basic vigilante/revenge fare, and it never really tries to surprise or break from expectations.  Best I can assume, the filmmakers figured out how to make some over the top violence and worked backwards from there until they had something close enough to call a story.  And that’s basically all this is: a demo of a bunch of ways to use fake giblets and red corn syrup.  If that’s all it takes to make a movie you’ll like, then please stop reading my reviews.  You’re getting finger paints all over your iPad.  The violence looks okay, but the rest of the movie’s grindhouse look makes it unpleasant to look at.  They also weren’t paying a great deal of attention to continuity or logic.  Some people would be inclined to give the movie a pass because it’s claiming to be a grindhouse movie or because it named itself Hobo With a Shotgun.  When a doctor in a hospital straddles his patient to pound on her chest to revive her, it may have been acceptable in shitty movies from the 70’s, or really bad episodes of ER, but today it’s just ridiculous.  And maybe people in the 70’s didn’t really pay attention to the fact that a girl taking a hacksaw to the clavicle wouldn’t be much helped by the neck bandage she was wearing later.  And no real explanation was offered for how the hooker with no discernible abilities beyond opening her legs was able to walk into a pawn shop and expertly solder and disassemble a lawnmower.  I was not alive for your grindhouse movies, so I carry no inherent love or forgiveness for them.  If done right (and often written by Quentin Tarantino) then it can still be good.  If it’s just an excuse to do something stupid and show lots of violence, but everything else is stupid, then I don’t give a shit.

The performances were pretty hit and miss in this movie.  Rutger Hauer’s performance was fine enough, but never really impressed.  It may not have really been his fault as I feel most of what annoyed me about him was the ineffectual one-liners he was delivering.  Molly Dunsworth did a pretty good job as the prostitute.  She was mostly screaming in terror and/or pain, but she pulled it off very well.  I was a bit surprised that she didn’t unleash them boobies, and she was pretty good looking so I was waiting for them.  It’s just disgraceful to the part to play a hooker but to have too much self-respect to whip your boobs out for a movie.  Brian Downey really hammed it up as The Drake.  I’m sure he’d say he intended to ham it up because villains did that in grindhouse movies, but I intend to say, “fuck your excuses.”  Prepare yourselves for that to happen.  Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman were also pretty hammy and typically just annoying.

If you’re more forgiving of movies that use “grindhouse” as an excuse than I am, you may like this movie.  I can’t imagine it, but it seems possible.  The story’s mediocre and mainly just an excuse for violence that’s so ugly the camera they used was probably cranked by hand.  The title’s the only really interesting thing about this movie, and you’ve already gained all the enjoyment out of that.  That being the case, I don’t recommend this movie.  You could stream it on Netflix, or you could stream good movies that actually try to make a good movie.  Hobo With a Shotgun gets “I’m gonna sleep in your bloody carcasses tonight” out of “Fuck your excuses!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Raging Phoenix (2009)


The Key Ingredient of Drinking is Alcohol

The inspiration for watching today’s movie came from seeing the same actress last year in a film called Chocolate.  It was about a young autistic girl who develops martial arts abilities by watching it on TV.  The young star of the movie impressed me enough to put another one of her movies in my Netflix queue, and promptly forget that it was there.  But Netflix didn’t forget.  It worked it’s way up my list and was shipped to my house, much to my chagrin, since it was available for streaming and I wasted a disc delivery on something I could’ve already watched.  I’ve forgotten nearly everything about Chocolate by this point, but I still decided to watch and review Raging Phoenix, written by Sompope Vejchapipat, directed by Rashane Limtrakul, and starring Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda, Kazu Tang, Nui Saendaeng, Sompong Lertwimonkaisom, Boonprasayrit Salangam, and Roongtawan Jindasing.  Not a single one of these people was named with the fact that I would have to type their names out in mind.  Very selfish.

Deu (Jeeja Yanin) is a young girl without a lot of direction in her life.  In her loneliness, she gets super drunk and almost abducted by the Jaguar Gang, a group that abducts young women to steal their tears as if they were Gypsies.  She’s rescued by Sanim (Kazu Tang) and (this is really their names) Pig Shit (Nui Saendaeng) and Dog Shit (Sompong Lertwimonkaisom).  Fuck these names.  Seriously.  Anyways, Deu gets them to train her in a strange, drunken boxing-esque style, and she uses it to help them free other abducted women, with the ultimate goal being to free Sanim’s wife, Pai, who was abducted three years prior.  Eventually, they let Deu know that they were after her (and other such girls) because they have a certain smell that means their tears can be used to make a special perfume.  She also learns that the drunken fighting style is not fueled by alcohol, but emotional pain.  So you know the movies gonna get depressing.

This was a decent enough martial arts movie, but didn’t really strike me in any particular way.  The story was decent, but not really what I go into a martial arts movie for.  Generally speaking, I don’t even mind if a martial arts movie forgets to have a story.  This movie has a whole big story about love and it really gets to be kind of miserable by the end.  I suppose it’s not that uncommon for a martial arts movie to be a bit of a downer, but I’ve always preferred martial arts movies to be a little more fun.  That’s why I’ve always been such a big fan of Jackie Chan.  His movies are usually pretty fun to go along with their good action.  Speaking of which, I was curious (when the idea of alcohol and drunken boxing came up in this movie) to see if the movie was going to turn out to be a lot like the Legend of Drunken Master, one of my favorite Jackie Chan movies, but they actually plain out forgot about the alcohol part not that long after it was introduced, leaving the true source of power to be emotional pain.  I took that as a cue that the movie would be a downer, and I was right.  That was part of the problem I had with some of the Tony Jaa movies.  Shit just keeps getting worse and worse and, at the end, nothing’s that much better.  The protagonist has just beaten the crap out of everyone that they can.  And that’s what happened here as well.  Even having three of your main characters have names that were Something Shit did not keep it from being a downer.  Neither did people saying things like, “The key ingredient of booze is alcohol.”  Also, the title of the movie never really has anything to do with the movie itself.  The fighting is more what draws me to a martial arts movie, though, and this movie’s fighting was fine, but not really a style that I’m particularly interested in.  From what I could figure out, it was the combination of some different forms of martial arts (mainly Muay Thai) with B-Boy dancing styles.  It ends up looking a lot like Capoeira.  It’s pretty visually interesting, I suppose, but I felt like it was a little too much dance and not enough face punching.  One of the first fight scenes is against some guys with these springy shoe things with blades on them, and those were pretty ridiculous, but at least it was interesting to watch.  They also had a big fight over a series of three rope bridges that was pretty interesting and innovative.  The movie itself was pretty visually interesting as well, at least until the end.  Most of the scenes were very colorful, and the bulk of the scenes took place on a beach with a bunch of colorful alcohol bottles laying around.  Near the end, most of the color was removed, adding to the already somber story.

Jeeja actually surprised me in this movie.  Though I’m not fond of how much of a downer the movie is, Jeeja pulled off the emotional parts as well as she did the physical parts.  In Chocolate, she really didn’t have to emote that much, but she was crying for about 90% of this movie.  She’s also a very pretty girl who’s totally able to whoop some ass in movies, and that’s a pretty new thing for most of the martial arts movies I’ve seen.  She’s like Tony Jaa, but I’d totally have sex with her.  Kazu Tang was also pretty good in the movie, at both the acting bits and the action bits.  Nui Saendaeng as Pig Shit was introduced in a drunken form, and he really worked on my nerves.  Thankfully, they forgot about the alcohol subplot and he was less annoying afterwards.  Roongtawan Jindasing was the main bad lady and she did a good enough job, but was pretty clearly doubled out for some of the fight scenes.

Raging Phoenix was a decent enough martial arts movie, but was a little too much moroseness and not enough fighting.  The story was fine and the movie was visually interesting, but it didn’t make any real impact on me.  I think Jeeja has a lot of potential, though, and I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.  If this movie is still streaming on Netflix, and you’re a fan of martial arts movies, this is a decent enough watch, but I’d still recommend Legend of Drunken Master a lot more.  Raging Phoenix gets “It’s a Tony Jaa I can have sex with” out of “Pig Shit.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Judge Dredd (1995)


I AM THE LAW!

Strangely enough, I had never gotten around to seeing today’s movie, even though it’s one of the classic representations of a big dumb action movie.  It wasn’t recommended or anything, but I know it would’ve been as soon as one of my readers thought of the movie again.  I decided to jump the gun.  When I was reminded of the movie by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garmin on Hollywood Babble-On, I decided that I should watch it post haste.  This is a movie based on a comic book that I’ve never read, so I’m going into this movie clean.  So here comes my review of Judge Dredd, based on a comic book created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, written for the screen by William Wisher and Steven E. de Souza, directed by Danny Cannon, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Jurgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Joan Chen, Balthazar Getty, Joanna Miles, Mitch Ryan, and James Earl Jones.

As in most things from the future, Earth has gone uber-shitty and humanity is living in walled off Mega-Cities.  Justice is maintained by an elite group of police officers/judges/jury/executioners known as Judges.  One of the best of these Judges is Judge Joseph Dredd (Sylvester Stallone).  He shows up to end a riot and save Judge Hershey (Diane Lane).  He also ends up arresting the recently released hacker, Herman Ferguson (Rob Schneider), even though he wasn’t actually involved in the riot.  Rico (Armand Assante), a former Judge that went nuts, escapes from prison, dons a counterfeit of Dredd’s Judge uniform, and guns down a news reporter (Mitch Ryan).  This murder gets pinned on Dredd, but his mentor Chief Judge Fargo (Max von Sydow) intervenes by retiring in order to grant Dredd leniency.  Instead of death, Dredd gets life in prison.  On his way to jail, he reconnects with Leo Getz … I mean Fergee, in order to keep the audience nice and annoyed, then their ship gets shot down and Dredd and Fergee get captured by a group of cannibals, the Angel Gang.  Meanwhile, Judge Griffin (Jurgen Prochnow) works with Rico to create a lot of chaos and get the other council members to activate the Janus project to genetically engineer the perfect Judge, which in this case will be Rico because of his interruption.  I bet Judge Dredd is going to have something to say about that.  And it’ll probably be dumb.

For a big dumb action movie, this movie was acceptable.  Of course, “acceptable” for a big dumb action movie is pretty shitty for a movie in general.  The idea and the story of this movie are good enough, but the greater majority of the dialogue sucked.  I can’t really knock the movie for having a pretty typical dystopian future setting because (though it’s played out) I’ve liked some movies that use a similar setting, so I have to be fair to the ones that aren’t that great in those settings.  I also like the idea of them making the justice system more efficient by making their cops the judge, jury, and executioners.  The rest of the story was okay as well, with the whole cloning thing and the betrayal in the government thing.  This stuff is probably all taken from the comic books, so I give them no credit.  The dialogue is something that I imagine they wrote, and it mostly sucked.  90% of the things people said was, “I AM (insert any word here).”  “I AM THE LAW!” was the most popular, and they said it a lot.  Of course, there were many other things that were really stupid.  Take, for instance, when Dredd turns his gun to grenade mode (without the barrel changing size at all, somehow), and shoots a door five feet away.  One of the accompanying Judges applauds him with, “Nice Shot!”  Apparently, this other Judge is such a bad shot that hitting the broad side of a barn from five feet away is spectacular.  It’s okay, he gets killed shortly after this.  I felt better.  Later, when Dredd is fighting a robotically enhanced member of the Angel gang, and very angry because he just stabbed his mentor, he ignores the guns laying around the room, ignores the gun he was just holding, and chooses to fight the guy with a stick.  Of course, it’s unfair to assume Sly would do something intelligent.  Later still, Judge Griffin shoots himself in the arm with a pistol to make it look like Dredd attacked him, even though Dredd was carrying a shotgun and no one seemed to care anyway.  So he just shot himself in the arm for no reason whatsoever.  And near the end of the movie, Rico activates the clones to attack Dredd and Hershey.  The clones pop out of their containers to frighten people a time or two, and then are completely forgotten.  No one ever dealt with the clones!  They completely forgot to tie up that part of the story!  They didn’t even have Fergee and Hershey run in and say, “Oh man, it sure was difficult killing all of those clones while you fought Rico, but we did it.  You should’ve been there!”  The movie does look good though.  The graphics were way better than I would’ve expected from the movie.  I especially liked Rico’s robot body guard.  It had a nice look, but it never moved in a smooth manner.

The greater majority of the performances in this movie did not impress, but the other ones were plain awful.  So they have that going for them.  Sylvester Stallone was … in the movie.  Thankfully for him, the character he was playing was stiff and emotionless, so he didn’t have to try and fail at acting.  He was mostly there to deliver horrible lines and throw punches at people.  That mostly worked out for him, but at one point, when he was fighting Armand Assante, he threw a punch that was so ridiculously high so that Armand could duck under it that I thought he would dislocate his shoulder.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie with Armand Assante in it before, so I can’t compare the uber-hammed up performance he gave here to any of his other ones.  And oh boy was it over the top.  It couldn’t even see the top from where it was.  Even the music was confused by him.  When we first saw his character in prison, the music swelled up as he turned around as if we were supposed to have any idea who this guy was.  It’s like, “BUM bum BUM!  This is how you should feel now!  We’ll explain later!”  Diane Lane was pretty good in the movie, and attractive as always, but didn’t do that much.  She did get in a fight with another really attractive girl, Joan Chen (I wouldn’t have thought I’d have reviewed two things with her in them), and it made me wonder why a trained Judge was having such trouble fighting some random Asian lady.  Rob Schneider was the Leo Getz of this movie, and by that I mean that he was a failed attempt at comic relief that wouldn’t shut up, but still had to be around for almost every scene.

Judge Dredd isn’t a great movie, but it’s a fair enough distraction for two hours.  The premise is good, the story is fine, the writing is awful, and the performances are what you’d expect.  At least the thing looked pretty good.  Because it can’t be streamed from Netflix, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend you go through any trouble to find this movie.  If it was on Netflix streaming, and you had nothing better to do, I would recommend it as background noise, or something to make fun of, if you only had to click a few times to get to it.  But as it is, no real reason to watch this thing.  Judge Dredd gets “It’s better than prison” out of “Emotions … there ought to be a law against them.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Serenity (2005)


At Last, We Can Retire and Give Up This Life of Crime

Because Sam requested it, I busted my BluRay of today’s movie out.  I’m always more than happy to do it because I really liked this movie, and because Alan Tudyk being in it gives me another reason to plug Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.  Because I don’t watch very much television, I had no idea about this movie or the show it was based on until a friend of mine named Liz beat me over the head with how awesome it was.  I’m not sure if I saw the TV show or the movie first, but once I had seen one, I went out to buy the other.  So now I bring to you my review of Serenity, from the TV show Firefly, written and directed by Joss Whedon, and starring Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Maher, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Morena Baccarin, Ron Glass, and David Krumholtz.

A young girl with psychic abilities named River Tam (Summer Glau) is trapped in a facility, being physically and mentally conditioned by Alliance scientists to be a war machine until she is rescued by her brother, Simon (Sean Maher).  An assassin with no name (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is sent to find her.  Simon and River have joined the crew of a Firefly-class transport vessel called Serenity with Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), his second-in-command Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), her husband, pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), mercenary Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), and mechanic Kaywinnit “Kaylee” Frye (Jewel Staite).  After a bank robbery goes sour, Simon decides that Mal’s ship is too dangerous for River to stay on.  When they go to leave at the next port, River watches a very Japanese-looking commercial and starts beating the living shit out of everyone in the bar, until Simon shows up and uses a “safe word” to make her fall asleep.  I have the exact same reaction when watching those commercials.  They contact a reclusive hacker called Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz) who tells the crew that there was a hidden message in the broadcast, designed to make River go nuts and (apparently) say “Miranda”.  The crew of the Serenity must unravel the mystery of River and Miranda, while avoiding detection from the Alliance and the Operative.

I really like this movie.  Knowing that I was a big fan of the movie, I went in looking for things to make fun of, but kind of came up empty handed.  The closest thing to a complaint I had about this movie was that the Serenity (though well animated) looked a little goofy in it’s design for my taste.  Looked like a bird of some sort.  After that, pretty much everything about this movie works for me.  The story of the movie starts off interesting, but doesn’t really hit it’s stride until the real story is revealed towards the end.  At first it’s just about the Tams escaping from the Alliance and having some issues with the leadership on the vessel.  It slowly turns into a bit of a mystery about why River has such an adverse reaction to Japanese commercials.  Near the end, there’s a much bigger problem with a better message and a bigger cause.  I was already on board, but it got even better at that point.  I think what really sells the movie in the early part is how good the dialogue is and how great the characters are.  It’s easy to assume that they got a really good handle on who these characters were throughout the TV show and knew that, for the most part, the people that were already familiar with the characters from the show would be watching the movie, so they didn’t really waste a lot of time spelling out who the characters were for the movie.  It just put them in the situations and let us figure it out ourselves, without thinking the audience was too dumb to catch on without backstory.  And the dialogue is pretty crisp and smart throughout, while more often than not ranging from funny to downright hilarious.  They put in action evenly throughout the movie so that people with attention problems would be brought back in with regularity.  A couple of chases, a couple of brawls, a couple of spaceship battles, just so no one will get bored.  And the fights were pretty well choreographed as well.  River fighting was pretty elegant and always seemed to be a step ahead in the fight, as a good psychic should be.  Mal, on the other hand, did not make fighting looked pretty, but usually found a satisfying way to win.  The Reaver/Alliance spaceship battle was pretty epic and spectacular as well.  I don’t normally notice the music, but I really liked the music here.  Much as the settings and the language in the movie, the music was a mash up of Oriental and Western sounding music, performed by something that at least sounded like an orchestra, and really set the mood well.

The characters and the performances was what really sells this movie to me.  They’re all fantastic with no complaints beyond the fact that I can’t see more of them.  Nathan Fillion played Mal in equal parts charming and damaged.  He was mostly funny, goofy, and entertaining, but if you got on his wrong side, he was easily able to intimidate.  He also tried very hard to hide his morality, but when a cause big enough fell into his lap, he was quick to take it seriously.  Summer Glau was also very entertaining as River Tam.  She was generally cute, quirky, and funny, but also had a pretty big secret that you could see sitting just behind the facade.  I understand the reason for this, but she did not sell me on her first fight in the movie.  It was very elegant and smooth, but her mannerisms seemed more like a dancer that was more concerned about accidentally hitting someone.  From what I gather from her Wikipedia page, that’s because she was a dancer that was probably pretty concerned about hitting someone.  But her second big fight (near the end of the movie) was unequivocally awesome.  Chiwetel Ejiofor was a great character as well.  He was calculating and cold as ice, but had the badasslerly to back it up.  I never really liked Sean Maher as Simon Tam, but only because he seemed indifferent to the advances of the love of my life, Jewel Staite.  I fell in love with Jewel Staite way back in the day when I used to watch her as Catalina on Space Cases (a show I’m sure I’m the only one that remembers).  I remember being fascinated with her at the time and then, when I first saw Serenity, I instantly recognized her and remembered her name, even though I remember literally nothing else about my life.  And it was a good thing I found her in this movie too.  Even though I was a year younger than her while watching Space Cases, if I continued to be in love with her as Catalina when I was in my 20’s it would begin to get disturbing … about 10 years ago.  Now I can be in love with her as Kaylee, and who wouldn’t be.  She was adorable and hilarious, saying more than one thing you wouldn’t have expected to come out of her mouth to great comedic effect.  This movie made me a fan of everyone in the cast.  I love Alan Tudyk (go watch Tucker and Dale vs. Evil), and he was very funny in the parts he was in, but I felt like he could’ve been used a little more for my liking.  Movies are made specifically for my enjoyment, right?  Well he also had a part in the movie that I didn’t like because it bummed me out, but movies can’t all end with everything going right for our heroes.

I love this movie and that’s why this review probably isn’t all that interesting.  I cannot mock great movies!  What the hell am I supposed to say?  Oh, your dialogue is so funny, your characters are too good, to Hell with your beautiful actresses!  And why won’t Jewel Staite return my phone calls?!  If you want entertainment (and you aren’t finding it from my reviews of love to good movies), then maybe you should just go and get entertainment from the movie itself.  I guarantee it won’t be long until I’m relentlessly mocking another movie.  But I just can’t do it to Serenity.  And with that, Serenity gets “It’s love, in point of fact.  Something a good deal more dangerous” out of “Goin’ on a year now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Hulk (2003)


We’re Going to Have to Watch That Temper of Yours

I’m pretty sure that this movie ties up my series preparing for the release of the Avengers movie, but I did not endeavor to save the best for last.  Today’s movie was despised by nerds, but you didn’t come here for the opinion of nerds.  You came for the opinion of only one nerd.  I had not watched today’s movie since when I had seen it in theaters, and I really only remember that I liked the second movie much better, and that we did not see the titular character until about 50 minutes into the movie.  That is not a good sign.  Let’s see what I thought of Hulk, written by Michael France, John Turman, and James Schamus, directed by Ang Lee, and starring Eric Bana, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Jennifer Connelly, Josh Lucas, Cara Buono, Celia Weston, Johnny Kastl, Lou Ferrigno, and Stan Lee.

David Banner is a geneticist and a douche bag.  He’s a geneticist because he’s doing experiments to take special qualities from animals and mix it with human DNA.  He’s a douche bag because he tries it on himself and passes it down to his son.  When his boss, Lieutenant Colonel “Thunderbolt” Ross, finds out, he shuts down his research.  David overreacts a little bit and sets off a giant explosion in their gamma reactor, drives home, and stabs his wife in the chest.  He’s put in the looney bin and his son, Bruce (Eric Bana), is raised by foster mom (Celia Weston) until he becomes a successful bionuclear researcher.  Things get a little crazy for him at the facility when the military-industrial complex representative, Major Talbot (Josh Lucas), starts wanting to get their research, and the janitor turns out to be a much more grizzled version of his father (Nick Nolte).  It’s also not that easy working with his ex-girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of now-General “Thunderbolt” Ross (Sam Elliott).  And things just get worse when he steps in front of a gamma blast to save his friend after a lab accident and he starts turning into a big, green thing when angry.

There were some things about this movie that worked, but the greater majority of them did not.  One big issue is not so much the story, but certainly the writing.  The biggest issue I had with the movie when I saw it in theaters carried over to irritate me again.  The Hulk is not shown until 42 minutes into the movie.  This movie is about him, or at least that’s what I was lead to believe by the title.  It’s supposed to be about a big, green thing smashing things that made it angry.  Instead, we watched a movie mainly about David Banner and the effects he had on other people.  But don’t worry.  If you came for lots of smashing you’ll get lots and lots of … people doing scientific experiments.  When the Hulk finally shows up, he just makes a mess of a laboratory and leaves.  Then you have another 20 minutes until you see him again.  This time, he actually decides to smash something.  That something is three ridiculous looking mutated dogs.  There are many things I want to see when the Hulk smashes giant mutant dogs.  I would be happy with blood, guts, bile, and any number of bodily fluids.  I would even be content with you just doing it off camera to keep the movie PG.  What I’m not too keen on is them just exploding into green pixie dust.  It was kind of cool that he broke one of the dog’s jaws by flexing until it dislocated.  You’re not really going to get any kind of real satisfaction from the Hulk until he starts fighting the military.  That bit of action was fairly well done, but also about two hours in.  I’m not happy that the Hulk is somehow concerned about making sure that a jet doesn’t crash into the Golden Gate Bridge after it had just been attacking him.  I understand that parts of Banner are still in the Hulk, but the Hulk should be thinking, “Fuck that guy.”  I guess the Hulk wouldn’t say that … just like he wouldn’t say, “Puny human,” because the Hulk himself is (in a way) human.  The Hulk says, “Puny Banner,” when he comes out of a mirror in a dream sequence and chokes Banner.  And then we get to the ending, causing me to throw up some ::SPOILER ALERT::  David Banner has done an experiment on himself to give himself powers, making him able to absorb energies.  He turns into a giant electrical thing to fight the Hulk and try to absorb his energy.  The Hulk responds with a line that they stole from Jiz Soaked Jezebels 14 and says, “Take it all!”  He then somehow releases a bunch of energy jiz into him which inexplicably makes a giant bubble of water out of the lake they were in that then explodes into green pixie dust.  Fuck that ending in the butt.  ::END SPOILERS::

The biggest problem with this movie is that it was WAY over-directed and poorly planned.  Ang Lee got obsessed with the artist direction of this movie, making it look like a comic book with interesting transitions, multiple panels on screen, and various camera angles happening at the same time.  It was a very interesting art project, but a super boring movie that needed to remember that it was about the Hulk.  It all has a good look to it, but at a certain point I started thinking, “Would you just knock it off and play the movie already?”  The BluRay of the movie did make it extra beautiful to look at.  In a lot of the opening, they decide that the audience needs some random close-ups of algae and trees.  It looked so good in HD that it made me wish I was just watching one of those Planet Earth movies instead of someone inexplicably putting these things into a Hulk movie.  We know that this character came from comic books, but we’re not reading the comic books.  We’re watching a movie, so just make a movie and not a hybrid of the two.  The CG characters (like the Hulk and the dogs) look good sometimes, but also occasionally don’t appear to be part of the scene.  And when Talbot’s character has something explode behind him and Ang decided he would do a freeze frame of him a-la Charlie’s Angels, that was just stupid.

Sometimes, when I see the cast they’ve attained for a comic book movie, I get really disappointed.  Other times – as with this movie, the X-Men movies, and the new Batman movies – I get excited that they actually got some good actors to elevate this comic book movie past it’s station.  I was about half right with this movie.  I was excited that Eric Bana was in the movie because his last name is so close to the character he’s portraying, which means he’ll definitely do a good job at it.  He did a good job throughout the movie but one scene was just bad.  It was when he had just beat up the green pixie-dogs, turns back into Banner, has a little anger freak out, and starts choking Betty for no reason whatsoever.  Jennifer Connelly was great and very real all the way through, but I can’t really look at her anymore without seeing some old guy saying, “Ass to ass.”  Nick Nolte did a decent enough job … until the end of the movie when he and Bruce are having a conversation and Nolte does a little mock pout thing.  That was funny, but it probably wasn’t the place for funny.  Josh Lucas played a decent enough asshole, and Sam Elliott was pretty good as General Ross.

This movie had a chance but, let’s be honest, Ang Lee fucked this thing up.  The story could have been alright with a little more smashing and the performances were mostly good.  The real problem with this movie is that Ang Lee was asked to do it right when he was finishing film school so he wanted to be able to submit this movie.  Pretty, but pretentious.  And just boring.  You don’t need to see this movie.  Watch the Incredible Hulk instead.  It wasn’t nearly as pretty, but my Hulk movies involve mostly smashing.  So fuck this movie, but make love to the Incredible Hulk.  Hulk gets “Oh, some more repressed memories” out of “Bad science, maybe.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

John Carter (2012)


You Are Ugly, But You Are Beautiful!

The inspiration behind seeing today’s movie is going to be hard to explain, mainly because I had no inspiration to see this movie whatsoever.  I saw the trailers and thought, “Yup.  Looks like a movie.”  And that was it.  I saw a couple of people on Facebook talk about how great the movie was, but I would not be swayed.  One friend asked me if I wanted to see it, and I said no, but probably would’ve gone anyway had I not been at work.  When my roommate got a free ticket and offered to pay half of mine, I decided the universe was telling me to see this movie already.  Let’s see how it did in my review of John Carter, based on a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon, directed by Andrew Stanton, and starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Mark Strong, Willem Dafoe, Ciaran Hinds, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, and Daryl Sabara.

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) of Virginia has died suddenly.  When he fell ill, he had sent for his nephew, Edgar “Ned” Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara), but he arrives postmortem, but is given John’s diary by his butler and told that only he was supposed to read it.  His first thought is to release this book, slap his name on it, make millions, and then get a movie made about it with the guy that ruined Gambit in the Wolverine movie, but then his second thought is to read it.  It details a story about John looking for gold and finding a cave with a pasty bald dude who tries to kill him.  John shoots the pasty dude and gets transported away by the dude’s medallion.  He wakes up in a desert slightly different than the one he was already in and finds himself able to jump really high.  He meets a giant, green, four-armed creature called a Thark who is named Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe).  Eventually, a couple of airships commanded by by the ruthless Sab Than (Dominic West) pursues a ship carrying Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) into Thark territory.  Sab Than has been given a powerful weapon called the “Ninth Ray” by the pasty bald Therns and is pursuing Dejah because she is trying to escape marrying him to save her people.  John uses his new powers to save her and bring down the majority of the ships, though Sab is able to escape.  Through Dejah, he finds that he was transported to Mars.  John resolves to get back to Earth, Dejah resolves to get John to defeat Sab, and Tars Tarkas’ secret daughter Sola (Samantha Morton) resolves to follow them around and be relatively ineffectual.

This movie perplexed me.  I didn’t find the movie hard to follow as the story is not really that complicated.  What perplexes me about the movie is that it’s inexplicably boring.  But, because I’m writing a review, I must find a way to “explic” it.  It’s strange to me because it has all the components of a really cool, really interesting, and/or really fun action movie, but it never comes to fruition.  The story is an interesting enough concept.  I like the idea of a human being transported to Mars where he turns into a superhero because he comes from a place with higher gravity, allowing him to jump higher and hit harder on Mars.  I don’t really get behind the idea that he’d EVER want to return to Earth, though.  His family died long before the movie started, so he didn’t need to get back because of that.  He did have a cave full of gold waiting for him, but you know what a cave full of gold can’t buy you?  Fucking super powers!  And you want a reason to hang out with your super powers on Mars?  How about the sexy as Martian woman you just met?  Sure, their romance came out of nowhere, but who cares?  She’s hot!  Their relationship never really worked for me.  He saves her life with his superpowers, but all she’s concerned about is getting him to save her city.  A while later, he helps her up off the ground and you see that they’re crushing on each other now.  That’s how he wins her?  Helping her stand up?  Neither one of them had given the other any reason to like the other before that, so it must’ve been his ability to help her off the ground.  She was constantly trying to trick him into helping her people, and he was completely unconcerned with helping her people.  No reason whatsoever.  Though this story had elements that should entertain me, it never really did.  One of the few parts that gained some interest was the Thark tradition of letting loose some babies and having mother pounce on them and fight over them to gain motherhood.  So, with a story that never catches your attention, you’d have to rely on the action to do it.  There was lots of action, but none of it interested me, and I’m still a little curious about why.  There was a guy or two with superpowers, some sword fighting, some giant creatures, but it all eventually devolved into people randomly swinging swords and blue blood flying around a little.  That’s about it.  It could have been the look, I suppose.  Almost every setting was identical, or not far removed.  It goes from desert, to desert, to desert with some water, back to desert, then ends up in a city … surrounded by desert.  I’m sure that’s what Mars looks like, but Mars looks boring.  The CG all worked really well though.  The creatures looked like they were talking, animated like real creatures, they had personalities, weight, and lighting to all look really good.

I had been trying to figure out where I knew Taylor Kitsch from every time I saw the trailers.  I wasn’t able to figure it out until the actual movie started, but then it worked against him because Gambit was my favorite X-Man and he ruined him.  He did fine enough in this movie, but I didn’t like the character because he looked the superpowered gift horse right in the mouth.  He did introduce himself as, “Carter.  John Carter,” and I’m pretty sure no one’s ever actually introduced themselves that way.  I was a big fan of Lynn Collins from her work in her own hotness from the moment I saw her.  I didn’t pay much attention to her performance though.  I did get supremely irritated by her character though.  It takes her the greater majority of the movie to stop being a selfish bitch.  She’s basically told that Sab will kill her people unless she marries him … so she runs off.  That means he’ll kill your people!  You care enough to try to get a guy with no interest in your people to help out, but you could’ve just married the guy in the beginning and not been a selfish bitch.  She figures it out about two hours later and does it, but now John loves her and stops it from happening.  Everyone else in the movie was either forgettable, a voice of a CG creature, or both.  Most of the characters in the movie made so little impact on me that I genuinely found myself much more interested in what was happening with the giant, alien, dog-like creature called Woola.  I loved that little guy, mostly (I’m sure) because he reminded me a lot of my own dog, Jabba.  He had an oversized head, big sloppy tongue, cheerful demeanor, and tendency to lie down and go to sleep at random.  The similarities were damaged some by the fact that the dog could run super fast instead of running for a few seconds, getting bored, and going to sleep. But so disinteresting were the human characters that, in a battle between a large army of aliens and John Carter, with Woola helping out a little, I found myself ignoring what John was doing and looking to make sure Woola was okay.

John Carter is a movie that seemed to have everything, but actually offered next to nothing.  The story was in interesting idea that didn’t deliver.  The action had all the ingredients but turned out bland.  The performances were fine, but all of their characters were overshadowed by a dog.  The CG was great, but the settings all looked the same and were visually boring.  Like I said, this movie is inexplicably boring, but it’s been explicked to the best of my ability.  I would say this movie is a waste of two hours plus, so I would recommend you steer clear of coughing up theater prices for it.  When it comes to RedBox, that might be the time to give it a look, but you’ll also do well to avoid it there as well.  John Carter gets “To those who seek the solace of eternity” out of “When I saw you, I believed it was a sign … that something new can come into this world.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.