Battle Royale (2000)

It’s Beautiful, Even Though It’s Where Everyone Died

When I got the request for today’s movie from my friend Jordan, I decided that I needed to do it ASAP.  You see, I intend to watch and review a movie for tomorrow that I’ve heard is very similar to today’s movie, except that today’s movie is much more Japanese and would require me to read it.  I would first like to invite Jordan to obtain a step ladder and use it to promptly jump up my butt for making me read a movie, and then I would like to present you with my review for Battle Royale, written by Kenta Fukasaku and Koushun Takami, directed by Kinji Fukasaku, and starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Takeshi Kitano, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, and Sousuke Takaoka.

A class of students is gassed on their way to a field trip.  They wake up in a room, surrounded by troops and all wearing digital watches around their necks.  They are informed by Kitano (Takeshi Kitano), their former teacher, that they have been randomly selected to participate in a new project called the Battle Royale Act.  The 40 something students will be given food , water, and one random weapon, sent out into the wilderness for 3 days, and only the last student alive can leave.  If they have not all killed each other by the end of the third day, their collars will explode and they’ll all die.  We mainly follow two students named Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (Aki Maeda).  Other students of interest are the two dangerous exchange students – Kazuo Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando) and Mitsuko Souma (Kou Shibasaki) – and the exchange student that helps Shuya and Noriko, Shogo Kawada (Taro Yamamoto).

I don’t really see the fascination that Jordan has with this movie.  It was okay, but certainly not something that I liked well enough to overcome the fact that I had to read the whole damned thing.  The story is an interesting concept, but not one I found entirely engrossing.  It doesn’t seem like that original of an idea to put a bunch of kids on an island and have them kill each other to survive.  It’s kind of like Running Man, Death Race, or Gamer with kids instead of criminals.  I also didn’t understand their dilemma.  Sure, I recognize the fact that it would probably be difficult to kill someone, but I feel like I would be much more comfortable doing it if the alternative was my own death.  So many of the people in this movie seem immune to the entire concept of the island and start trusting and turning their back on other students on the island, only to get shot or stabbed in it.  My philosophy would instantly be to kill anyone I saw the second I saw them.  The end.  But, instead, some of them get killed for being too trusting and some of them collect in a lighthouse, determined to not kill anyone else.  But what’s the point in that?  If you all just decide not to kill anyone, then you all die anyway.  Might as well give it a fighting chance.  Especially if all you start with is a pot lid and a pair of binoculars, as the main characters did.  That’s some bullshit, right there.  There was a pretty good amount of violence in this movie, if that’s all you require out of a movie.  It’s mostly not that great thought, being pretty exaggerated like when people get their neck slit and blood fires out of it like when you put your thumb on the end of a hose.  The girls in the movie can also take an inordinate amount of damage before finally throwing in the towel, most of them taking a full clip of bullets before finally dying.

The performances in the movie were pretty good, but most of what it required was for them to be really scared, sometimes to the point of madness.  Tatsuya Fujiwara and Aki Maeda didn’t have to do a whole lot beyond being terrified.  Masanobu Ando was kind of a badass as one of the exchange students that just went around the island by himself, killing anyone in his path.  Kou Shibasaki was the other dangerous exchange student, but she did it more with backstabblery by getting someone to trust her enough to turn their back on her.  Chiaki Kuriyama was in this movie, but not for very long.  That is significant because I actually managed to recognize her from her more famous performance as Go Go Yubari in Kill Bill Volume 1.  This amazed me because my racism leads me to get confused about which characters I was looking at for the first half of the movie.  For a race already rumored to all look alike, making them all wear the same clothes too is not doing me any favors.

I’m sure Jordan would be able to wax idiotic (VERY idiotic) about why he loves this movie so, but I ended up just deciding it was thoroughly okay.  The story is fine and is an interesting assumption of how people would react to violence, but the motivation for the movie and the student’s lack of logic annoyed me.  The violence was over the top at times, but the performances in the movie were all pretty good.  You could do worse than having to watch this movie, but I just didn’t find anything that superb about it.  Battle Royale gets “This is my weapon.  I thought it was so-so” out of “Here’s your list of friends in the order they died.”

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.

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.