Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hiatus Time Again

So here's the deal guys, I popped in "The Outlaw Josey Wales" the other night and started watching it. At about the forty five minute mark, I realized I was way too tired for a movie and decided to turn in. The next night, I picked up where I left off and started watching again and realized this time that I wasn't too tired, I just wasn't the slightest bit interested in watching a movie. I wasn't really enjoying this one anyway, but it seemed to be more than just a bad film and it seemed like my batteries were in need of another recharging. I really tried to stave off taking a hiatus, which is why I took about a week to make this post, to make sure that I really wanted to take another break. The thing is, is that if I continue to watch movies when I'm not in the mood for them, I'll hate them no matter what and I don't want that. So, I'm officially announcing a little break - hopefully it won't last long. I'm going to just go ahead and keep the movies I currently have from Netflix and hopefully that old fire will rekindle here in a few weeks. Until then, don't be surprised to see me pop in with a SINS OF OMISSION post, as I'm still trying to get my master list to 250.

Also, while I'm here, I have to thank Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for inviting me to participate in the GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON. I hope everyone enjoyed my post today and I encourage you to click the link on my sidebar and find links to other villainous tributes. Thank you Karen - I'm always delighted to work on your projects.

I'll be back...

April 22, 2014  10:48pm

THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON! - BILL

Okay, so maybe he's not the most heinous or evil villain of all-time (honestly, my first few choices were already spoken for) but there's no denying that David Carradine's Bill is a character that makes for a good conversation, especially when discussing the biggest heels in film history.

BANG, BANG - MY BABY SHOT ME DOWN!


In Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill", Bill is the leader of a group of assassins, who all have a particularly special sKILL. In fact, when discussing Bill in the context of his own villainy, I would be remiss if I didn't actually include the entire Deadly Viper Assassination Squad: Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and of course, the man of the hour - Bill. Together, the five assassins that would later go on to be a part of The Bride's Death List Five would walk into a small chapel, in a small Texas town, gunning down nine innocent people, including The Bride's (a.k.a. Beatrix Kiddo) unborn baby. Why, you ask? It seems that The Bride was trying to skip town and turn in her Deadly Viper membership card all at the same time. Bill, having loved & mentored Kiddo wasn't going to have any part of it. Having thought her dead, Bill mourns the The Bride before finding out that she was actually in the process of elopement, so that she could make a better life for her child - Bill's child. Bill tracks down the Bride and about two hours into the "whole bloody affair" we lay our eyes on the title character for the first time, as he plays his flute and makes his presence known.

"AT THIS MOMENT, THIS IS ME AT MY MOST...MASOCHISTIC"

"BILL, IT'S YOUR BABY" [BLAM]


There's something to be said for a title character that doesn't appear AT ALL in the first film, yet still makes an impression. I mean, the first one IS called KILL BILL VOL. 1 and yet, Bill's face is never shown. We hear his voice a few times - the unmistakable timbre of Carradine. All we need to know is that behind those vocals lies a very important, very evil, very intimidating man and beyond that, we barely need to see Bill at all. All we really need is motive and an intriguing figure (even a faceless one) and we're all set. When Bill finally does emerge from the shadows, to make his first appearance in KILL BILL VOL. 2, he enters quietly and calmly - the calm before the storm. He plays a mellow flute and looks at The Bride lovingly, despite knowing that she's about to die (or at least he thinks so). I can just picture the character gritting his teeth almost to the breaking point, as he hold it together long enough to meet the groom to be, the hippy Tommy Plimpton. I have a feeling that off camera, it was Bill who savored every moment as he swiped Plimpton's head off with one whip of his Hanzo sword. All in all, our heel of the hour isn't a complex one, nor is he hard to figure out. His motives are clear, his actions are to the point.

"I'VE NEVER BEEN NICE MY WHOLE LIFE, BUT I'LL DO MY BEST...TO BE SWEET"

Do we feel sorry for our evil doer at the end of the picture, though? I think we're meant to and honestly, I did. Even his former cohort in crime, turned revenge seeker sheds a tear, shortly after delivering the five point palm exploding heart technique. Bill wipes a trickle of blood from his lip and asks Kiddo, "How do I look?". She cries for her former lover and the father of her child, as he takes his final five steps and drops dead - cause of death? an exploding heart!

So as we take this week to celebrate villainy at the movies, via THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON, I ask you to remember Bill - the man who had two, full length feature films named after him and the man who, despite not appearing once in the entire first volume of the double shot, still evoked enough emotion out of the audience to bring them back for Volume 2 and the final showdown. Sure, we feel a little sorry for him at the end, because we're shown that he's not a monster and that he feels regret for his wrong doing. However, that doesn't make up for the nine deaths (actually eight) and perhaps the worst break-up to ever be committed to celluloid. Someone shoulda' told the "Snake Charmer" there were plenty more fish in the sea, before he went on a roaring rampage. And don't forget the other four and perhaps the true black hearted characters of the Squad. O-Ren Ishii, a woman who decapitated a man simply for questioning her half Chinese/half American heritage. Vernita Green, who suggests a knife fight at midnight and who has an all out brawl with The Bride just as her child's school bus pulls up. Brother Budd, who decides to bury The Bride alive and leave her to suffocate. And then there's Elle Driver, Bill's current muse. She's the one eyed, golden haired warrior who simply oozes hatred and villainy.

But it's Bill who can stand toe to toe with some of the worst baddies to ever grace the big screen and that's why I chose David Carradine's Bill as the villain to remember this week.

WERE YOU BEING A BAD DADDY?

I WAS A REAL BAD DADDY

R.I.P. DAVID CARRADINE


April 22, 2014  1:26pm

Saturday, April 12, 2014

523. WANDA (1970)


Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Barbara Loden
Written By: Barbara Loden
Main Cast: Barbara Loden, Michael Higgins

GET THE BALL ROLLIN'

So I meant to be back before tonight, but when I popped "The Fireman's Ball" into the DVD player the other night, the player wouldn't read the disc. I popped it back out and discovered a large, very visible crack on the disc, so I just decided to turn in. I seriously hope Netflix somehow tracks down the people that damage their DVDs and closes their memberships. It's ridiculous the amount of broken DVDs I get from them. Anyway, read on...


I didn't know much about this one going in, other than it was directed by the wife of Elia Kazan. Therefore, my view of it was quite fresh and I'll say right off the bat, I quite liked it. The film stars Loden as Wanda Goronski, a down on her luck woman who abandons her husband & children and spends her days drifting around town. We first happen upon Wanda as she wakes up on the couch of a friend and feeling unwanted, decides to leave. She hits up a second, male friend for a few dollars cash and finds herself in a bar, with intentions of washing down the money she's just borrowed. While in the bar, she manages to get the attention of a gentleman, who buys her the drink and ends up in a bed with her. In a scene we don't often see, it's the gentleman who awakes a little later, trying his best to be quiet, so he can sneak away easily. Wanda wakes up and chases him down, but later he ditches her. She then happens into another bar, later that night, to find a barkeeper just about to close up shop. She begs him to use the restroom and he reluctantly obliges. He rushes her out of the ladies' room, but before he can get rid of her, she asks for a drink, a comb and perhaps a towel so she can dry her hands. It turns out that this guy isn't the barkeeper at all, but a man who has just robbed the joint, with the real barkeeper on the floor, behind the bar, gagged with a towel. The two exit together and somehow Wanda ends up shacked up in a hotel with this guy, him demanding that she go out and get him some hamburgers and a newspaper. He's a bully, who uses physical and notably verbal abuse to control Wanda into becoming his muse and together, the two plan a bank heist.


After watching "Escape from Alcatraz" and hearing some people compare it to "A Man Escaped" and reading on Wikipedia that some compare "Wanda" to the films of Robert Bresson, I really can't wait to get a look at that guy's work - which I'll be doing later this season with "Bresson Week" (probably sooner than later). Anyway, yeah this was pretty great. I have to say, I put this in the DVD player last night and then I was doing something (can't remember what). Anyway, the DVD menu just played on a loop and I kept glancing at it and even the disc menu intrigued me - a lone woman in white walking across a pathway, surrounded by mounds of dirt (I think it was actually mounds of coal, but it looked like dirt from just the DVD menu). I think when even a DVD menu can start getting you excited for a film, then you definitely have something. The film was low key, quiet - at times so low key, I felt like a voyeur, snooping on real people, as opposed to film characters - and consisted of lots of realism. I really don't have much nitpicking to do...well, maybe just a hair. I was going to say how much I loved the lighting of the scenes with Barbara Loden and Michael Higgins in that hotel room and how I wished it had gone on longer. In fact, I think I could've watched these two characters interacting in that cramped, grungy, ugly, yet somehow cozy hotel room for the entire duration of the movie. However, I quickly got used to the second half of the film, which revolves around the two planning the bank robbery.


Perhaps I'm missing something, but I kind of have to wonder why Loden would portray such a character. Obviously she wasn't a big feminist, because her creation and portrayal of Wanda is quite the opposite of any positive statements one might want to make in favor of women's power. She's an uneducated, quiet little woman, who believes she'll never amount to anything, nor have anything. She allows herself to be treated like a prostitute and a punching bag (mainly for verbal jabs) by both main character Norman (Higgins) and by the other guy, whom we only see for a bit. I mean, I applaud Loden for not turning her film into an activist's statement and just telling us a good story, but it seems to me that a powerful woman existing in 1970 would want to empower her character too. I mean this was right out of the 60s and wasn't that the big "burn your bra", women's liberation period? I'm probably venturing outside of my comfort zone, as far as my knowledge of this subject goes, so I better turn back. Anyway, that's not a criticism - more of a compliment for keeping the movie statement free.

But yeah, this is definitely one you're going to want to check out. It's not big budget Hollywood, nor is it experimental. It's perhaps an integral film in the birth of independent cinema - a type of film that would fall comfortably between those two polar opposites. Loden shines as the title character - a character you're not going to forget easily. Don't let me forget Michael Higgins who also does a standout job as the bullying bank robber, who takes Wanda under his wing. Recommended.

RATING: 7.5/10  I could see myself going higher eventually, but for right now that number feels right.

MOVIES WATCHED: 824
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 177

April 12, 2014  10:40pm

Thursday, April 10, 2014

March 2014 Recap

I know I said two days ago that I'd have this up in the next twenty-four hours, but what I clearly meant was forty-eight hours. Anyway, let's not dilly-dally.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in March 2014
1) Eraserhead (1977 - David Lynch) 5/10 - I decided to up this one just a hair because the images from this one managed to stick with me throughout the month and I still have that chipmunk cheeked lady and that cow fetus looking baby etched into my brain.
2) Fat City (1972 - John Huston) 7.5/10
3) Das Boot (1981 - Wolfgang Petersen) 3/10 - This was just a rough watch, no matter how you slice it. I stand by my thoughts.
4) Earth Entranced (1967 - Glauber Rocha) 3.5/10
5) Shaft (1971 - Gordon Parks) 6.5/10 - I stand by liking this one. Despite being cheaply made, it was harmless fun!
6) Don't Look Now (1973 - Nicholas Roeg) 7.5/10
7) India Song (1975 - Marguerite Duras) 3/10 - Hypnotic with great imagery, yet boring as hell!
8) Little Big Man (1970 - Arthur Penn) 6.5/10
9) Breaking Away (1979 - Peter Yates) 6/10 - In the long run, I couldn't get over the overly cliched majority of this one. My initial '7' was way too high.
10) The American Friend (1977 - Wim Wenders) 7.5/10
11) Pickup on South Street (1953 - Samuel Fuller) 5.5/10 - Wanted to love it, but went away barely liking it. Great characters and atmosphere, it was the story that fell flat and the fact that Fuller's voice was too prevalent.
12) Shock Corridor (1963 - Samuel Fuller) 8/10 - Here I was able to drown out Fuller's opinions and focus on the core, which was a fantastic idea for a movie.
13) The Big Red One (1980 - Samuel Fuller) 4/10 - Went a little lower, as a '5' was just too much. I wouldn't be against seeing more of Fuller's work though, mainly on the merits of "Shock Corridor".

The goal is still to get to 901 watched by the time I'm 30 (July 12) and with 78 still to go, that's going to take some heavy lifting on my end. I plan to start up again tonight and be back tomorrow with a review though, to get the ball rolling again.

NON-1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in March 2014
1) Gravity (2013 - Alfonso Cuaron) 2.5/10 - For those of you reading this on Letterboxd, you won't know about my current project to watch all 1001 films in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. As I write this, I have about 180 movies left to watch from that list, meaning I've tackled about 820. Perhaps when you see that many movies - just like when you meet a lot of people - you develop a talent to see through the bullshit. You don't swallow everything you're spoon fed and you develop solid opinions, not "kinda liked it"/"kinda didn't like it" ideas.
Maybe the reason I disliked "Gravity" so much is because I was really looking forward to it and it completely failed to live up to any of my expectations, except maybe in it's visual presentation. Then again, I may have hated it because of the shoddy writing, the very Hollywood aspects and the mere presence of Bullock.

If you want to see a good survival story from last year, don't go to space, go to the ocean and rent "All Is Lost", because that's the minimalist survival tale that people should've be carrying on their shoulders to all the big awards shows. With "Gravity" we get too much CGI and not enough realistic impressions. And I realize that when you're filming a space movie, CGI is a must have, but couldn't they have given us real ism elsewhere - in the acting, in the script. Clooney and Bullock made me want to gag with the way that they didn't really alter their normal performances at all. For all I could tell, the man in the space suit, who liked to tell stories was Danny Ocean and the girl was any other run of the mill California actress that you can find anytime/anywhere when you drive the Hollywood hills.

God forbid a character die or we aren't given some sappy line of dialogue, something to make the casual fans recommend this to a friend and rake in a few more dollars. Give me the realism, the grit, the grime and keep this crap to yourself. Maybe the reason I didn't give a hoot about this movie, is because I didn't give a hoot about the characters. This wasn't really a story that was told, but rather something the camera just happened upon and therefore, we were really never tied emotionally to these characters. When George Clooney drifted off into death, did anyone care but the women in the audience who realized that they just paid $8 bucks for only thirty minutes of Cloontang? I know I didn't.

Anyway - rant over. I didn't like it and here's hoping "12 Years a Slave" is better and actually earned it's big award.


ME vs. TV

So I figured I'd add this feature in this month, since I've skipped it for the past few recaps.

I must say, I've given up on most of the shows that started this past fall. I had started out watching most of the ones that looked even halfway decent, but now all I'm still watching regularly is THE MILLERS, ABOUT A BOY, GROWING UP FISHER, CUTTHROAT KITCHEN, BILLY ON THE STREET, RAKE, FAMILY GUY, AMERICAN DAD and HELL'S KITCHEN. And even with most of those, I have a bundle sitting on my DVR, just waiting to be watched. My wife and I have kind of adopted this new policy of letting entire runs of shows just record onto the DVR and watching them once we have the whole series. We're just not reliable enough to have to watch something week after week. HELL'S KITCHEN and BILLY ON THE STREET are just about the only two we actually watch as soon as we get a new episode.

However, as far as DVD TV watching, we've been keeping pretty busy. We decided about a month or so ago to start up BREAKING BAD and are currently on Season Four. Like most of the population that's seen it, we're loving it. My brother promised one of the most intense television watching experiences he'd ever witnessed and he wasn't lying. I have to say though. while I LOVE every season, I liked seasons three and four less than seasons one and two. I feel like by having Skyler find out about Walt's meth making, they lost a lot of the suspense of the show. Still though, don't get me wrong - I'm still heavily addicted and can't wait to see how it all wraps up.

When the wife isn't home or sleeping, I've been doing BOB'S BURGERS in my free time and also picked up the first four seasons of THE SIMPSONS - a show that I've been wanting to watch from the beginning for a while now. I was a big SIMPSONS fan growing up and I want to try and get back into it. Of course, with over 500 episodes, catching up is going to be a task.

Other than The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (which wife and I watch daily - haven't missed an episode yet) and a hearty helping of WWE Network (which I recently subscribed to and spent the first week totally owning my life), that's about all I've been into.

---

Like I said, I plan to get back into THE BOOK watching tonight (still not sure what I'll watch. It will depend on when wife goes to bed) and get the ball rolling again. In the meantime, check out the 1001 Albums page (located above), which I plan to update every Friday. This Friday (tomorrow) I SHOULD have thoughts on Eric Clapton's 461 OCEAN BOULEVARD posted - the only album I managed to get listened to this week.

Until next time.

April 10, 2014  6:14pm

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #8: CLOSER (2004)


Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Mike Nichols
Written By: Patrick Marber
Main Cast: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen
Click here to view the trailer

WHAT IS A "SIN OF OMISSION"?
As noted many times in the recent past here at the "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" blog, in the next 12 - 18 months the ultimate goal of this blog will transform from 'one man's journey to watch all 1001 movies in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book' to 'one man's journey to create his own, personal canon of 1,000 favorite films and show "those 1001 people" just how it's done! Sins of Omission will become a regular feature on the blog where I'll take one film that WAS NOT included in any incarnation of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and DOES NOT appear on the next list of 1000 films that I plan to tackle, give it a formal review and make it a permanent part of my list, which is entitled: 1000 Films You REALLY Should See Before You Die: A Personal, Ongoing Canon of My 1,000 Favorite FIlms.

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK

So, like I said at the end of yesterday's post, I plan to do three more of these (four if you count this one) between now and the next week or so, so that my "1000 Films You REALLY Should See Before You Die: A Personal Ongoing Canon of my 1,000 Favorites" list can be sitting at 250 movies. Anyway, I'm plucking all of these off my DVD shelf because as one might expect, I own quite a few of my own favorites. I first saw this one when it was released on DVD, back in 2005 (when I was working at my second video store) and fell in love with it right away. Read on...


The film, in my estimation, is just a piecing together of many different conversations between the four main characters. We start out with Daniel (Law) and Alice (Portman) approaching one another, while walking down opposite, equally busy sidewalks. They make eye contact & share a moment and before she knows it, Alice is in the street and getting struck by a taxi cab. Fortunately it's not a serious crash and Alice comes to about ten seconds later, locking eyes with Daniel - this time a lot closer. He escorts her to the hospital, where the two mingle while waiting to get Alice's split open knee tended to. They're introduced and there seems to be some chemistry. We learn that Daniel is an obituary writer and that Alice is a former stripper, now on a journey in England (where the film takes place). Fast forward many months and we find Daniel in a photographer's studio, getting his picture taken for the book jacket of his new novel. The photographer is Anna (Roberts) and the two talk and, once again, Daniel finds chemistry with a complete stranger. The two share a kiss, before Daniel's now girlfriend Alice comes to pick him up. She happens to overhear a conversation the two have, where Daniel requests to meet Anna again, in private. Fast forward again and we meet Dr. Larry (Owen), a dermatologist who we first encounter as he chats with a woman named "Anna" in an adult chat room. What Larry doesn't know, but what we, the audience, do is that "Anna" is actually Daniel. Daniel (as Anna) offers to meet Larry the following day at an aquarium and Larry agrees. When he gets there, he runs into Anna (the real one this time) and after a confusing start, the two hit it off. The film keeps fast forwarding little by little, peeling back layers of this love quadrangle, until all four hearts are shattered, mended and then shattered again.


Man, Mike Nichols seems to be the master of showing us the breaking of hearts and the ins & outs of rocky relations. He started his career off by showing us four very different characters in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and nearly forty years later he introduced us to four more interesting, sometimes hard to watch characters. I wonder why it is that I'm so fascinated by relationships falling apart in movies? I can watch something like "Scenes from a Marriage" and just let my heart break right along with Liv Ullmann, likewise for Natalie Portman in this and somehow, through all of the heartbreak, find a certain fascination. Perhaps it's because I've never REALLY had a broken heart. My wife and I get along more than swimmingly, with barely a disagreement and so maybe is all draws back to fascination of the unknown. Yeah, that makes sense.

The film gives us four fairly complex characters and allows us to turn them over in our hands, feel the rough edges and get to know them for a couple of hours, through the use of, what I consider to be, fantastic character development. Trust me guys, you will be hard pressed to find better acting. Sure, there are probably hundreds of better performances, but let's just suffice it to say that all four of the mains here pour their hearts out for our viewing pleasure and it's a treat to watch all of them. I have to give a special kudos to Julia Roberts, whom I promise you've never seen better! I'm usually not a fan of hers and as far as I'm concerned, she's WAY overrated. But then I watch her in "Closer" and realize maybe she's underrated. She's fantastic here. The scene where she and Clive Owen have a screaming match - Owen prying for details of his wife's affair - is acting gold! Not to mention Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen - which this picture had a hand in making me fall in love with all three. I never really cared much for Law, but after seeing both this and his version of "Alfie" back in '05, it was difficult not to like him. Like Roberts, he's probably never been better than he is here. Portman and Owen are always solid in my opinion, but they shine here too amongst their two peers. For more Portman magic check out "Garden State", from around the same time and for more from Owen, I'd recommend either "Croupier" or "Derailed" (one that never got enough love, if you ask me).


Be a fan of dialogue if you decide to give this one a try, because if you can't appreciate good words being hurdled like whiffle balls between four fantastic characters, then you won't enjoy yourself here. Also, don't expect happy endings or flowery exchanges, as this movie just doesn't have them. It's a hardcore look at relationships, both in and out of the bedroom. Can I also add that for a movie that relies so much on the sexual goings-on of it's four main characters, I think it's amazing that it features not one sex scene and barely features nudity (save for a rogue breast in a strip club scene - but it's of an extra, not even one of our mains). However, male fans of Portman will be delighted to know she shows up in a skimpy thong, during a particularly memorable scene involving Clive Owen in "The Pleasure Room" of a strip club, where he hounds her for her real name while throwing twenties at her. Trust me, Portman has never looked better - and I'm not just talking about the thong scene.

Anyway, it's a gem of a movie, as far as I'm concerned, one that I don't think a lot of people have discovered. If you haven't and if you can handle the downtrodden nature of the whole affair, check it out. I for one love the atmosphere and despite NOT being a depressive myself, usually feel more at home with blue movies. The English location also lends itself to the story, as a cloudy sky is sometimes featured to add that extra bit of gloom to the whole thing. Big thumbs up!

RATING: 8.5/10  Fantastic acting, great characters, realistic dialogue that really makes you feel the passion of the characters make this one an easy choice for my personal list. Welcome aboard.

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #7: Escape from Alcatraz (1979)


Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Don Siegel
Written By: Richard Tuggle, from book by J. Campbell Bruce
Main Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom, Fred Ward, Larry Hankin
Click here to view the trailer

WHAT IS A "SIN OF OMISSION"?
As noted many times in the recent past here at the "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" blog, in the next 12 - 18 months the ultimate goal of this blog will transform from 'one man's journey to watch all 1001 movies in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book' to 'one man's journey to create his own, personal canon of 1,000 favorite films and show "those 1001 people" just how it's done! Sins of Omission will become a regular feature on the blog where I'll take one film that WAS NOT included in any incarnation of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and DOES NOT appear on the next list of 1000 films that I plan to tackle, give it a formal review and make it a permanent part of my list, which is entitled: 1000 Films You REALLY Should See Before You Die: A Personal, Ongoing Canon of My 1,000 Favorite FIlms.

WE GOTTA' GET OFF THIS ROCK!

Trying to get back into the swing of things here guys, so pardon my mini absences. I hope you're finding enough archival stuff to keep you busy and I hope this review comes as a treat. Also, just so everyone knows, I haven't forgotten about the March recap and will have it posted sometime in the next twenty-four hours. Now then, onto the good stuff...


If you haven't seen this little gem from 1979 starring Clint Eastwood, then you owe it to yourself to track it down. The title pretty much sums up the entire plot, so I won't have to do much more explaining, but I'll add in a few details just because. Based on a true story, the film begins with Frank Morris (Eastwood) being brought into Alcatraz via boat (for the unaware, Alcatraz Prison is located on Alcatraz Island, just off the San Francisco Bay). It seems that Morris has been sent to Alcatraz because he's been a problem child at other prisons, racking up more than a few escape attempts, some successful. Now on "the rock", Morris spends his first few weeks getting acquainted with the regulars. First there's Litmus, an aging man who carries around a small mouse in his pocket. feeding it scraps from his lunch tray (think Michael Clarke Duncan in "The Green Mile"). There's also English, an aging black who is serving two, back to back life sentences for killing two white men. There's Doc (Blossom), an elderly man who likes to paint and there's Wolf, who flirts with Morris and gets a black eye for his troubles. Of course, the characters are just a piece of the pie, as it's the escape that takes center stage and gets underway after we're done meeting everyone. Morris, along with new cell neighbor Charley Butts (Hankin), John Anglin (Ward) and Clarence Anglin, make intricate plans to dig their way to freedom. Morris starts with a nail clipper, using it to chip away at the corroded cement around a small grille in his cell. After busting through the grill, it's only a short hike to a tunnel that leads to the roof. Together with the resources of his three fellow escapees, Morris plots to create some dummy heads out of paper-mache (to lay in their beds the night they leave, so as not to arise suspicion from the guards) and some life preservers and life jackets out of old raincoats, which John gets from the laundry.


Despite loving this movie, I was planning to begin my review by being my normal, picky self and saying that the movie is just a bit too contrived. It seemed that every time our characters needed some supply, despite being in prison, they managed to get it. Hell, Morris even manages to make a drill out of a fan and talk Litmus into tracking him down a drill bit, for God's sake! Add to that the facts that they manage to make life vests and a raft out of old raincoats, chip through the walls of their concrete cells with finger nail clippers and fool perfectly capable, adult guards into thinking that dummy heads are actually sleeping cons and you've got yourself some heavy contrivances. However, with the little bit of research that I've done, it looks like most of these things actually happened in the real case of the Alcatraz escape. The dummy heads thing was definitely true to life, as was the digging out the cell with a spoon and recreation of ventilation grille's, to make it look as if nothing was out of the ordinary. It actually makes this movie even better, because the whole time I just kept picking on the film, saying things like "Oh, that could never happen" or "Oh, they'd have definitely been caught by now", and to know that all of my nitpicking is busted by true facts makes me love this movie even more!

I'll never forget watching this movie for the first time. My brother had been watching it on television and I walked in toward the very end. I asked what it was and he told me what it was & what it was about. At the time, one of my favorite films was "The Shawshank Redemption" and so even at that younger age, I was hooked on prison films and fascinated with escape movies. I remember seeing the scene with the guard pulling back the covers and the camera focusing on the dummy head and the guards face as he realizes what's happened and knowing I needed to see this movie in it's entirety. It just so happened that whatever channel was airing the film was re-airing it immediately afterwards and so I stuck around to catch the full show and was hooked! It doesn't take a lot of explaining to say why: I love prison films and more specifically I totally dig escape movies (see what I did there? - escape movies, "digging"). This one is particularly good because it has Eastwood and Eastwood in the seventies was almost never miss. It also features a host of other fine actors including Fred Ward, Larry Hankin, Roberts Blossom, Paul Benjamin and Patrick McGoohan, not to mention some seriously great character development, even though that's really not what the focal point of the film is. This is one that could have gone another hour, as they could have easily piled in even more character development and a few more escape details.


Stephen King fans will notice MANY similarities between this and both "The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank Redemption". For starters, you've got the whole mouse in the pocket thing, which not only borrows from the John Coffey character, but also the Brooks Hatlen character from "Shawshank" and his bird Jake. You could also say that the Brooks character is also somewhat patterned after the Doc character, in that he's the oldest member of the film and that he takes drastic actions when he feels there's no other solution. The wardens of both "Alcatraz" and "Shawshank" are also very similar in their demeanor and personality. Both rough, stern men who TRY to have a rapport with the inmates, but usually end up being even bigger jerks. Yep, it's safe to say if you love "Shawshank" (and who doesn't) then you'd also love this and it's a shame that half as many people have heard of this one. Seriously, why THE BOOK didn't stick this one in there, in place of one of their out of left field choices, I'll never know. This would've been a perfect one to tout as something many have yet to discover and something that truly is a quality film. Oh well, that's why I'm making my won list and why this one is a definite inclusion!

RATING: 10/10  I could've lowered it a bit for some nitpicky things, but why squabble over it. I love it and that's that. On a side note, I'm going to try and knock out four more of these sometime in the next week or two, to bring my personal 1000 list to 250 films total.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #6: Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)


Running Time: 137 minutes
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Main Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Perla Haney-Jardine
Click here to view the trailer

WHAT IS A "SIN OF OMISSION"?
As noted many times in the recent past here at the "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" blog, in the next 12 - 18 months the ultimate goal of this blog will transform from 'one man's journey to watch all 1001 movies in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book' to 'one man's journey to create his own, personal canon of 1,000 favorite films and show "those 1001 people" just how it's done! Sins of Omission will become a regular feature on the blog where I'll take one film that WAS NOT included in any incarnation of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and DOES NOT appear on the next list of 1000 films that I plan to tackle, give it a formal review and make it a permanent part of my list, which is entitled: 1000 Films You REALLY Should See Before You Die: A Personal, Ongoing Canon of My 1,000 Favorite FIlms.

ROARING RAMPAGE OF REVENGE!

Did you miss me? Something told me you guys could use some new reading material, so here I am to present you with the sixth entry in the SINS OF OMISSION series - a series that allows me the opportunity to propel some of my old favorites (pre-1001 BOOK) directly into my personal 1,000 best list, which is carefully being constructed. Since I'm currently working on an some outside projects, particularly one that involves David Carradine's Bill character, I thought I'd take the opportunity to put this one on my list. However, this will not be a new entry. On my list, KILL BILL VOL. 2 appears as one entry, combined with KILL BILL VOL. 1. Makes sense, right? Anyway, read on...


So Volume 2 picks up right where Volume 1 left off, with The Bride (Thurman) having already killed two of the five people on her Death List Five. The only three that remain are Bill (of course), his brother Budd (Madsen) and his current muse, Elle Driver (Hannah). The film begins by flashing back to that fateful wedding day (which was in fact a wedding dress rehearsal) and Bill's first appearance (onscreen) in the whole bloody affair. Bill has a talk with The Bride (whom we later learned is actually named Beatrix Kiddo), which seems to be fairly pleasant, before we learn that Bill is still harboring some sour grapes, thus sending in his team of assassins to wipe out the wedding party. Flashback to the present, as we follow The Bride as she tracks Budd, who lives in a mobile home, out in the middle of nowhere. Budd actually gets the jump on Kiddo, by unloading a shotgun blast of rock salt into her chest, right before he ties her up and buries her alive, under a grave stone marked Paula Schultz. While underground, Kiddo remembers the "cruel tutelage of Pai Mei", which actually took place years earlier, when Bill dropped her off to become the warrior she is today. She remembers how her ultra cruel instructor would make her break wood with her fists, thus allowing her to summon her teachings and break out of her coffin and crawl up out of the ground. Meanwhile, Budd makes a deal with Elle Driver - he'll give her The Bride's Hattori Hanzo sword in exchange for $1 million in cash. Elle agrees and this all leads to a showdown at Budd's mobile palace between him, Elle and the recently unearthed Bride. Of course, that's not to mention the grand finale which involves a regretful Bill.

SPOILER ALERT!


You know, speaking of The Bride crawling up out of the ground, I think that's the one thing about this movie I really don't like. I mean, why weren't we given the part of Kiddo's back story where she goes to groundhog training and learns to burrow up out of the ground? Anyway, it's nitpicky shit, but last night, when I watched this, it really took me out of the whole picture.

Besides that, I mean - how awesome is this flick? I can remember KILL BILL VOL. 1 being released on DVD about a month or so before KILL BILL VOL. 2 was to hit theaters. My brother both watched it and made plans to get our asses to the theater to see how this all wrapped up. I remember the anticipation of waiting for the Friday that this was to be released, so we could see Bill finally get what was coming to him and see Tarantino's ingenuity at play. I also remember a co-worker of mine at the time, making the critique that "you can't give me that much blood in part one and nearly none at all in part two". You see, that's the thing though. I think it's best not to think of these movies as VOLUME ONE and VOLUME TWO, but rather one big, long film. That way the blood of VOLUME ONE and the story development of VOLUME TWO can coexist and make for one exciting affair when combined.

You know, on second thought, there's another thing I hate about this movie. The fact that Kiddo doesn't actually kill either Budd, nor Elle. Elle kills Budd and Kiddo leaves Elle in the trailer, still alive when we last see her. Sure, it's assumed that she gets bitten by the snake, but we never see it and after all that Kiddo's been through, it's hard to believe that she'd actually leave a survivor, even a blind one who's alone with a black mamba. Another thing that kind of gets me (and I don't know whether I love it or hate it) is the fact that the biggest fuck up of the whole group - Budd - is the one who actually comes the closest to killing The Bride. Oh, oh, oh and another thing! What's the deal with the big fight between The Bride and Bill only lasting a total of like twelve seconds? Really? I just sat through four hours of a movie called KILL freaking BILL and you're going to give me a ten second fight scene between these two, that should've lasted at least ten minutes!? Man, it sounds like I'm crapping all over this one, but I promise, it is a favorite! I just have a tendency to really pick on the movies that I like and ones where I know the opportunity for maximum potential existed. Those are just a few things that kind of piss me off about this one.


However, it's a Tarantino flick and I'll always have a soft spot for that man's movies. He's the man that got me interested in movies and one that I'll always show up for. He's one of the few guys going today who still brings that special something when it comes to modern cinema and allows the true cinephiles to realize why they fell in love with moving pictures in the first place. I've heard the term "pure cinema" used a lot, but have never bothered to look up it's text book meaning. I have a feeling KILL BILL qualifies though. It nails perfectly everything from score to acting, dialogue to storytelling, not to mention larger than life characters (can I just say I LOVE the Elle character - Hannah NAILED it!). It provides an engaging, exciting, riveting, suspenseful, nearly flawless trip to the movies and when watched in conjunction with VOLUME ONE, as a whole, the damn thing is impossible to exclude for any list and shame on THE BOOK for leaving this volume out of every one of their editions!

RATING: 8/10  I deducted a few points for the nitpicky stuff I mentioned, but an '8' is hard to come by recently, especially by my picky ass standards.

March 30, 2014  10:53pm