Showing posts with label Quentin Tarantino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quentin Tarantino. Show all posts

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Inglourious Basterds



Set in Nazi occupied France, Inglourious Basterds is a film that took Quentin Tarantino over a decade to write and produce. Multiple plot threads, an ever expanding script and difficulty with the movie’s conclusion meant that from first to final draft, a decade had elapsed. The completed script is one of pure Tarantino penmanship. Featuring ideas of revenge, duplicity and malice while scattered with pop references, albeit from a different era, Inglouious Basterds is as Tarantino as a Mexican stand-off in a Big Kahuna Burger Restaurant. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and taking over $320 million worldwide, it is also one of the director’s most successful to date.

Split into five chapters, the film focuses on the efforts of two sets of people to bring down the Third Reich. Shosanna Dreyfus (MĂ©lanie Laurent) is a young Jewish woman who, early in the film, escapes death at the hands of the gifted ‘Jew Hunter’ Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Having dodged an early grave, Shosanna relocates to Paris where she runs a small cinema which we shall come back to later. Meanwhile, elsewhere in France, the Basterds, a group of American Jewish soldiers, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) are scouring the countryside in search of Nazis to bludgeon and scalp. When the Basterds hear that the entire Nazi high command will be in Paris for the Premier of Goebbels latest propaganda film, they set in motion a plan to end the war the very same night.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

True Romance



Despite initial commercial failure, True Romance’s strong performances and savvy script have made it a cult classic. Written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery before the release of Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino once intended to direct the film too but eventually sold the script after losing interest. Tony Scott took over in the director’s chair and threw out Tarantino’s non-linear storyline in favour of a more traditional linear approach but the bulk of Tarantino’s story remained. The film features a central love story which gets tangled up in the worlds of drugs, organised crime and Hollywood before untangling itself in a hail of bullets following a very Tarantino-esque Mexican Standoff.

The movie is famous for its cast which rivals any in cinema history. Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette star as the young couple who find love at a triple bill Kung Fu movie night but are joined on screen by a vast array of the great and good of their profession. Names and faces recognisable to all include Michael Rapaport, Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, Gary Oldman, Val Kilmer, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Victor Argo and Christopher Walken. I’m struggling to think of any cast which matches the one assembled here and if you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear it.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Six of the Best... First Films



Some film directors are able to maintain success over several decades and get bums on seats or haul awards for almost every film. A select few are able to do both. Whether successful or not, every director has to start somewhere. Steven Spielberg started promisingly with Duel in 1971 and Martin Scorsese’s debut Who’s That Knocking at My Door has its charms but neither film set the world alight. Some director’s though burst onto the scene with critically acclaimed works in what is their debut feature. With often minimal experience, little support and tight budgets, several directors have created debut films which astound audiences and critics alike. Here are Six of the Best…

1. Quentin Tarantino – Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Although he had shot the amateur My Best Friend’s Birthday in the mid to late 1980s, Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was his first real feature. A dialogue driven heist movie, the film was a hit on its initial release and has since gained cult status. Many of the tropes that have come to define the director’s career are evident in the movie and a lot of people, including myself, still consider it amongst his best work. Its bold, violent approach set it apart from the action heavy thrillers of the time and an impeccably neat script not only impressed audiences but also the actor Harvey Keitel who liked it so much that he co-funded, produced and agreed to star in the movie. The direction is slightly more conventional than in his later work but is still recognisably ‘Tarantino’ with long, slow dialogue heavy scenes interspersed with frantic action and innovative camera movement. Reservoir Dogs was released independent of the major studios and as such it afforded the director the freedom rarely found in modern cinema to follow his ideas through to completion unmolested.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Natural Born Killers



I didn’t know anything about Natural Born Killers prior to watching it but saw that an angry looking Woody Harrelson was on the blu-ray cover and that was enough to sell it to me. During the frenzied pre credit sequence I thought to myself that it looked like the most Tarantino-esque film I’d ever seen. I didn’t realise at the time of course that the film was actually loosely based on a script written by Quentin Tarantino and that he received a ‘story by’ credit. The script though, was written by director Oliver Stone, Dale Veloz and Richard Rutowski and is set around a manic killing spree. Mickey Knox (Harrelson) and his wife Mallory (Juliette Lewis) travel around the South Western United States, randomly killing seemingly for the pleasure it brings. Both central characters suffered traumatic childhoods but enjoy the fame and notoriety that their actions bring.

The film is spliced together in a fairly linear structure but has the overarching look of a collage. A multitude of camera angles, effects and styles are used and the estimated 3,000 cuts necessary to piece everything together took around eleven months to edit. Camera angles and shooting styles will change from second to second in what feels like a psychedelic whirlwind. The effect is that Stone creates a movie that seems to surround you on all sides rather than emanate from the TV screen and it keeps you both off balance and highly entertained throughout.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Kill Bill Volume 2



Kill Bill Volume 2 is the second part of Quentin Tarantino’s female led revenge thriller and was released six months after its predecessor KillBill Volume 1. The film follows the continuing vengeful rampage of The Bride (Uma Thurman) who we discover in this film is actually named Beatrix Kiddo. Her name remained secret in the first movie. Having dispatched of two of her former assailants in the first film, Kiddo here hunts down the remaining three; trailer residing, titty bar bouncer Bud (Michael Madsen), one eyed jealous blonde Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and the eponymous Bill (David Carradine).

The film opens with a Hitchcockian style pre title sequence in which The Bride is driving to her final destination while giving a brief outline of the plot so far. This sequence is shot in black and white and uses rear projection to give it the look of a Hitchcock thriller. Even the title font and score are Hitchcockian. The remainder of the film is much more conventional and more settled than the first Kill Bill movie as Tarantino keeps his genre mashing directorial tricks mostly in his pocket. There are occasional switches to black and white and one chapter resembles a Hong Kong Kung Fu movie but for the most part the film is more unadventurous than the first movie. There is much less violence too with only two onscreen deaths in the entire movie.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Kill Bill Volume 1



Kill Bill Volume 1 will always have a special place in my heart for two reasons. Firstly it was the first 18 Certificate film I ever saw at the cinema and as a result it was the first Tarantino film I saw at the cinema too. Thinking back, it might have been the first Tarantino film I saw at all although I can’t quite remember if I bought my VHS copy of Pulp Fiction a little earlier. As a seventeen year old who at the time had little interest in movies beyond the latest American Pie I was awe struck by Kill Bill and I’ve seen it several times since. The movie, as it makes clear during the opening credits was the forth film from Quentin Tarantino and followed a six year break since Directing his third film, Jackie Brown. Although originally intended as one feature the movie was split into two separate films due to a four hour run time and Kill Bill Volume 2 followed six months after Volume 1 in 2004.



This is perhaps Tarantino’s most highly stylised film to date and takes in an assortment of styles, genres and techniques. The Director and story weave from genre to genre, picking up pieces of revenge, Hong Kong martial arts, exploitation and Japanese samurai movies as it progresses in a non linear manner through its plot. The film is separated into chapters which themselves often feel like short films. Each chapter takes from a different style, genre or era and occasionally the style will change mid chapter. The plot focuses on the character of The Bride (Uma Thurman), a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who is beaten and shot in the head by her former colleagues. She wakes up four years later to discover her fiancĂ© and unborn daughter are dead and sets about reaping her revenge on those who attacked her and killed her family. Each chapter tells a portion of her revenge tale.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Jackie Brown



Quentin Tarantino’s third feature and his homage to the blaxploitation and heist films of the 1970s, Jackie Brown has been for a long time the Tarantino film I’ve told people was my favourite. On my first round of watching his oeuvre when I was in my mid to late teens, something about Jackie Brown made it my favourite Tarantino to date. Recently I’ve re-watched Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction as well as the Director’s latest Django Unchained and the film is no longer at the top of my list but it remains perhaps Tarantino’s most restrained and focussed film to date and features a great story and top cast on fine form.

When middle aged air stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is caught smuggling $10,000 and a couple of ounces of cocaine through customs she is picked up and charged. Facing a stretch in jail or a bullet to the head from her arms dealing employer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), Brown attempts to play one side off against the other and pull of an epic but dangerous heist.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Django Unchained



After years of threatening to do so, Quentin Tarantino has finally made his Western, or Southern as he would have it known. Django Unchained takes place in 1858 in Texas and its surrounding states. On the eve of the Civil War and with slavery still thriving in the South, a German Dentist called Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) comes across a slave he has been looking for called Django (Jamie Foxx). Shultz, a Dentist turned bounty hunter frees Django on the promise that the former slave will help him track down three overseers who Django can recognise. Once the men are dead and Shultz has his bounty, he promises Django $75 dollars and a horse but decides to further help the man when he discovers that his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) has been cruelly separated from her husband and sold to the wicked Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio).

As with any Tarantino film there have been moths of anticipation for the release of Django Unchained and the fact that it received five Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe wins before it was even released in the UK further heightened my excitement for its arrival. In the end the film doesn’t disappoint. It is a fantastic mix of drama, comedy, cruelty and violence and features a typically excellent screenplay and some terrific performances but a plodding finale and long run time stop it from in my eyes joining the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction at the top of the Director’s cannon.

Pulp Fiction


Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece of postmodern pulp cinema burst off the screen in 1994. His second Directorial film, it was made for just $8 million but went on to take over $200 million at the box office becoming one of the most financially successful independent films of all time and has since become one of the most critically successful films as well. Nominated for seven Oscars and winning one for Best Original Screenplay, Pulp Fiction has found its place in cinema history as one of the greatest cult films of all time and reinvigorated not only the fortunes of some of its cast but made Hollywood sit up and take notice of small time, independent cinema.



Tarantino often makes use of a non linear storyline but here it is not so much non linear as circular. Pulp Fiction features three interconnecting storylines which are sometimes told from different angles and always out of sequence. The effect is that it builds the story as the film progresses in quite a different way to a traditional narrative but one is never lost of confused. The script is amongst the best if not the best I’ve ever seen and is dense, meandering and full of great dialogue and pop culture references. It is a joy to listen to and the tremendous cast deliver each line with great aplomb.

From Dusk till Dawn



Quentin Tarantino scripted and Directed by Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk till Dawn is a genre mashing, deeply violent, sometimes funny crime-horror-drama-comedy that pulls you close with a left jab before knocking you unconscious with a right hook. Two bank robbing brothers (George Clooney & Quentin Tarantino) are on the run in Texas, heading to the Mexican border. Along the way they take a Preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his children (Juliette Lewis & Ernest Liu) hostage in their RV. Once in Mexico the criminals head to a bar where they wait out the night for their connection to take them to a safe house. The bar turns into a blood bath though as the robbers and their captives’ battle to survive an onslaught from ravenous vampires.

Famous for its violence, unusual script and Salma Hayek’s toe whiskey, From Dusk till Dawn is a fast faced, comedic horror which takes the audience by surprise following a Tarantino-esque opening forty-five minutes. Its use of animatronics and physical effects also takes it back to the 1980s and before the use of computer generated special effects. Rodriguez combines the two methods to create some realistic looking creatures but always maintains a slapstick element to the effects and comedy.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Reservoir Dogs



A couple of nights ago I saw an interview with Quentin Tarantino on Film 2013 ahead of the release of his latest picture Django Unchained. The interview touched upon a lot of his films and with each film mentioned I turned to my girlfriend and said “Ooh! I really want to watch that again soon” while turning to my DVD shelf. When Reservoir Dogs was mentioned I looked for my DVD copy and suggested we watched it that night but my girlfriend told me that it was playing for one night only at our local multiplex the next evening. Five minutes later the tickets were booked and my excitement grew as I was getting the chance to see such an iconic film on the big screen, twenty-one years after its release. Reservoir Dogs burst on to the scene in late 1992 and unusually went on to make more money at the UK box office than in the US but following the release of Pulp Fiction two years later became more widely known and is today recognised as one of the greatest independent films of all time as well as one of the greatest debuts by any film maker.

Featuring a lot of the themes which define Tarantino’s filmography such as a non-linear story, extreme violence, pop culture references, rock and pop soundtrack, rich and deeply woven dialogue and a plot based around an accident, Reservoir Dogs takes place before and after an armed robbery orchestrated by Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son ‘Nice Guy’ Eddie (Chris Penn). We see various meetings and discussions which take place before the heist as the crew is slowly formed but the most famous and memorable scenes take place following the robbery when the various members of the group make their way back to their safe house. The audience never sees the robbery itself but with some of the gang dead and others badly wounded it is soon obvious that something went wrong and that they have a rat in their midst, but who?

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Death Proof



Originally released in the US as one half of an exploitation double feature with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror under the name Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof was released in the UK as a single feature. The film is a pastiche of the sort of cheap, exploitative thrillers that found their way into certain cinemas before the advent of home video in the 1980s. Tarantino purposely damaged the film stock causing rips, jumps and scratches to make it look more like the kind of 1970s film that he was recreating. The film also makes great use of cars and music from the era to further recreate the 1970s feel.



Death Proof is neatly split into two halves with both revolving around a deranged movie stuntman called Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). Mike appears to take joy in stalking small groups of women, following them in his ‘Death Proof’ stunt car before crashing into them. We see this take place twice but with very different results. In the first instance Mike gets to know his potential victims in a bar in Austin, Texas first whereas in the second half his appearance is more of a surprise and fuels a revenge filled final few minutes. I thought Death Proof was ok and with any Tarantino release there is a lot to like but for me there are vast swathes of dull, un-Tarantino like dialogue and it sits towards the bottom of his filmography in terms of how much I liked it and how likely I am to watch it again.