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True Romance (1993)

 

Hi. How are you? My name’s Elliot, and I’m with the Cub Scouts of America. We’re… we’re selling uncut cocaine to get to the jamboree.

— Elliot

Quentin Tarantino penned the script for True Romance for director Tony Scott. I heard about this movie, because when I saw the IMDb page of Inglourious Basterds. He made one of the characters “Bear Jew” Donowitz the grandfather of one of the character in this movie. I thought I might check it out. I think this was Tarantino’s attempt to have a bloodily romantic movie, but it fails.

Taking place in Detroit, a comic book store worker, Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) goes to a Sonny Chiba “Street Fighter” triple feature. A beautiful young woman, Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) intentionally bumps into him there. They take a liking to each other and meet each other for pie. He tries to get to know her more, but she is coy.

They quickly fall in love and have sex. Afterwards, Alabama confesses to him that she is a call girl that was hired by his boss to get him laid on his birthday. They promise to be with each other always and get married the next day. She tells him about her fucked up life and how needed to get her stuff back from her pimp

When shit is about to go down the spirit of Elvis (Val Kilmer) gives Clarence a quick pep talk in the bathroom. Clarence wants to retrieve Alabama’s stuff from her former pimp, a Rasta man named Drexl (Gary Oldman). Going over there, things go wrong when he kills Drexl and takes a suitcase. It turns out that suitcase is filled with a million dollars worth of cocaine from a drug lord, Blue Lou Boyle.

The duo doesn’t know this. When Clarence comes back to the apartment bloody and bruised, Alabama is turned on by doing anything for her. They go over to a trailer house to meet his father, Clifford (Dennis Hooper), who is a police officer. They haven’t seen each other in three years. He wanted to know if the cops are after the twosome. Clifford tells them that they are in the clear.

They take a road trip Clarence’s best friend in Hollywood, Dick Ritchie (Michael Rappaport), an actor with his stoner roommate, Floyd (Brad Pitt). After the duo leaves, Vincenzo Coccotti (Chirstopher Walken), the local counsel for Boyle, pays Clifford a visit. The thugs interrogate him when Clarence dropped his license at the crime scene. They want to get their score back.

The movie is supposed to be a modern version of Bonnie and Clyde, but the movie felt false. You know you hear Tarantino dialogue when the characters ramble on about movies and minute trivia. The movie as whole laid flat. There was no oomph. I didn’t care if the characters lived or died. It was disappointing.

Judgment: Words cannot describe how terrible this movie is.

Rating: **1/2

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

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I’m prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigger waiting in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.

–Marsellus

It has been fifteen years since the release of Pulp Fiction, which ushered Quentin Tarantino in the mainstream. The movie has been heavily quoted since its release. It did win for Best Original Screenplay. That’s says a lot. It was also nominated for seven Oscars. It’s currently #5 on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It belongs there.

I owned the VHS of this movie and played it repeatedly. I could quote almost every line from the film. It sucked that my brother’s former girlfriend took the tape with her when they broke up.

It been awhile since I have seen this. After watching Inglourious Basterds, I wanted to see this movie again. I still enjoy the dialogue, the classic music and most of the performances. This fringe movie bent the rules of the Academy. It deserved a lot more acclaim.

If you don’t know the plot of the story – shame on you – revolves around multiple narrative that intercept and become jumbled up. It starts with a pair of robbers, Ringo and Yolanda (Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer) holding up a restaurant where two hit men who had a interesting day on the job, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson).

In his signature broken narrative, there is also stories about Vincent taking his boss’s wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) on a night on the town, dealing with a skuzzy drug dealer, (Eric Stolz). The boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) dealing with an aging boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis) to throw a fight.

Tarantino is known for his long, drawn out dialogue scenes with some sprinklings of violence. One sequence still bothers me to this day. It’s the moment about the origin of “the gold watch”. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was that in the movie? Why was that the motivation to Butch?

Judgment: If you haven’t seen this movie, return your movie snob card immediately.

Rating: ****1/2

The Genius of Col. Hans Landa

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Warning: This essay is about the inception, concept and execution of the character expertly played by Christoph Waltz. The following contains plot points and spoilers for “Inglourious Basterds.” Be advised.

This character of Colonel Hans Landa has been percolating in the indelible mind of Quentin Tarantino for almost a decade. Watching a recent interview with Quentin, he reflected that Landa’s voice come pouring out of him. You can tell onscreen that he poured his heart and soul into the character.

Landa is a complex character that has many layers to his madness or his genius to figure out. When you first meet him, your first impression is to hate him automatically because he is an SS officer. It’s instinct. However, he is so much more than that. Having that lengthy conversation with the French milk farmer was like a game of chess to him. He knew from the moment that he stepped out of his jeep that the farmer was hiding the Jewish family, the Dreyfuses,  underneath his floorboards.

blahLanda is a detective like a bloodhound. He sniffs out the Jews he wants. I was going to say a German Shepard, but they would be too obvious. He can tell from the inflection in your voice to a slight twitch of your brow that you are hiding the truth from him. When the farmer picked up his corn pipe and smoked, Landa had to produce a “Sherlock Holmes” style pipe for the following story. He is close to getting what he wants.

He relays the story about the man versus the rat. At first you are thinking, what the hell is he talking about? Nevertheless, when you get deeper into the story you realize that you agree with him. Only Tarantino’s words could convey a person’s viewpoint, even though you do not agree with their methods, a person’s thoughts that is brutally honest and to the point.

Tarantino10colhans_1460858d“The Jew Hunter” as the Allied forces affectionately call him, gets what he wants from the farmer he orders the massacre of the family. All perished except one, Shosanna, who escapes from a similar fate. She runs through the field with Landa coming after her in a long distance. He has his gun pointed at her, yet he does not pull the trigger.

Why would he do that? Does he want to have the thrill of the chase? Did he instinctively know that they would cross paths again? Did he show compassion or does he wants Shosanna to suffer with survivor’s guilt?

inglourious_basterdsWhen the two of them meets three years later, Shosanna immediately recognized him, but he does not recognize her. When she was running away, Landa never had a clear view of her face. However, he could have deduced that she could be the girl, but that would be reaching. The tension was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Shosanna’s hate for this man is bubbling at the surface. He is calm trying to have both of them enjoyed a plate of strudel. He urges her to wait for the cream.

You think that exchange was about an authentic German strudel. No. Landa wanted to delve into the mind of Shosanna or Emmauelle Mimieux as she is called now. How did she come to own her own cinema at such a young age? She explains it to him. He believes here. All the time during the conversation, the audience thinks that he would ask her if she was the girl that he let get away in that farm three years. You are waiting for the big reveal to happen, but it doesn’t. She is safe again.

Landa’s keen eye worked to perfection when firefight happens in a small basement tavern. Peering at the bullet-riddled bodies of some of the “basterds”, he knows that one person was missing in the heap of bodies, a woman. He finds a woman’s right dress shoe. In the rumble of bullet casings and blood, he finds a single napkin that has the actress, Bridget von Hammersmark’s signature on it.

At the movie première, Landa confronts Bridget and the rest of the “basterds” who are pretending to be Italian. He inquires about their intentions, especially Bridget who has her leg bandage when she was shot in the leg at the firefight. She tells Landa that she injured it mountain climbing. He laughs hysterically at the ridiculous excuse. He had to have room to laugh uproariously.

He regains his composure to usher Bridget into a small room off to side. He interrogates Bridget about her deception about her leg, her lost shoe and her being a double agent. There’s only one thing that he has to do. He strangles her. You understand his motives. This woman betrayed her own country and she has to die for her betrayal.

d4326cdaba05c88989b9He knows that her Italian escorts were actually the rest of the basterds from his extensive knowledge as a linguist. Capturing Raine and Utvich and transporting them to a secret location would be clichéd for the “bad guy” verbally threatening the “good guys” in any other movie, but this is a Tarantino movie.

Landa pulls a bait and switch on the Raine and Utivich He is an opportunist at his core. He wants to have his name in history books as a war hero for either side.

The last frame you see of him is that Landa “turns himself in” to be transported by Raine and Utivich is betrayed by the basterds. He actually lets his guard down for that last moment. They shoot his driver and they carve a swastika into his forehand. Now, he cannot be the perfect war hero that he wants to be. He is now branded as a Nazi forever by this symbol visible on his face.

What will happen to him as he goes into the U.S.? He cannot lead a normal life. He might be a recluse or he commits suicide. That’s it.

There some secret motivations of Col. Hans Landa that you would glance over when you saw the movie, but afterward, you realize that he is genius. He was like a chess player. He knew exactly what moves to make to get his checkmate. Just brilliant.

Tarantino remarked that Landa was the greatest character that has ever created. In my opinion, I would doubt that statement, but I will take his word for it the more I think about it.

Waltz brings a subtlety and nuisance to the character that a well-known person like it was rumored that Leo DiCaprio would play the part, but he would not notice finding the character. Tarantino was quoted in saying that if he could not find a perfect man to play Landa then the movie could not happen.

Naturally, Waltz is receiving a lot of praise for his work in this film. He has already won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Festival earlier this year. People are touting him for giving a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his work. The way that the momentum is going, I think he could walk home with the prize on Oscar night. We just have to see.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

inglourious_basterds_ver9You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business; we in the killin’ Nazi business. And cousin, Business is a-boomin’.

— Lt. Aldo Raine

Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Inglourious Basterds is an homage of spaghetti westerns, film noir and subversive movies about massacring a bunch of Nazis in the past couple of decades. It is currently #192 on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It was a good movie, but I had some problems with it that I will discuss in the spoiler section.

Breaking from his formula of a broken narrative, letting the audience put the pieces back together. This is a tale a group of people that want to destroy the Third Reich, thus ending WWII.

It starts when Shosanna Dreyfus’s (Mélanie Laurent) family is massacred by Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and his crew of SS soldiers. She escapes extermination through the French countryside. She assumes a different identity as Emmanuelle Mimieux, an owner of a French cinema house.

One night, she is visited by an SS soldiers named Frederich Zoller (Daniel Brühl) that is taken with her. She tries to reject his advances. She finds out that he has become a German hero by killing over 250 Allied soldiers. He has a propaganda film made about him called Nations Pride.

Frederich wants to have the premiere of the movie to be at her cinema house. Shosanna has some ulterior motives about the premiere night with her boyfriend, Marcel (Jacky Ido).

Simultaneously, the “Inglorious Basterds” headed by Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt) with eight other Jew vigilantes like Sgt. Donnie Donowitz (Eli Roth), Pfc. Smithson Utivich (BJ Novak), Cpl. Wilhelm Wicki (Gedeon Burkhard), Pfc. Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom) and last but not least, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) have struck fear to the Third Reich with killing their forces and scalping them.

British officer Lt. Archie Hicox (Micheak Fassbender) has to the team up with the basterds along with double agent, German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) to infiltrate the premiere and destroy the highest ranking officers of the Third Reich including Hitler.

This movie is made for cinema freaks. The primarily deals with people that love movies, the climax takes place in a theater. There were some obvious winks to audience.

It was more subdued than his other films. The performances were good across the board with a special mention to Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent. I thought they were terrific in the film.

There were some problems with the pacing of the film. The dialogue dragged on for a long time. A few trims could have tighten up the suspense.

Judgment: It’s not a masterpiece, but a good film all around.

Rating: ****1/2

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Frank Miller’s Sin City (2005)

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“And after I pull off that miracle, maybe I’ll go punch out God.”

— John Hartigan

Sin City is currently #94 of all time on IMDB. I have seen a scene of the film when I was flipping through the cable channels a couple of months ago. I watched the film for the first time yesterday. I wanted to see it, because of Angelina Jolie’s possible involvement in the sequel.

This movie pioneered the faithful adaptation of the graphic novels. Based the graphic novels by Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez with guest director, Quentin Taratino crafted this highly-stylized version of L.A.

The movie is broken up in three segments. The first segment deals with John Haritgan (Bruce Willis), an older cop that has a heart condition is trying to save a little girl, Cordelia (Makenzie Vega) from a pedophile, Roark Junior (Nick Stahl). He is betrayed by his fellow officer, Bob (Michael Madsen).

The second segment deals with a disfigured man, Marv (Mickey Rourke) who is accused of killing a hooker Goldie (Jaime King) that he loves. He is trying to find the person that really killed Goldie. There is a mysterious man in long nails, Kevin (Elijah Wood), the political clout of  Senator Roark and Cardinal Roark (Powers Boothe, Rutger Hauer).  There is also an instance with the working girls of Ol’ Town.

The final segment deals with Dwight (Clive Owen) seeking revenge when Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) strikes Shellie (Brittany Murphy). Dwight gets mixed with the working girls of Ol’ Town, including Gail (Rosario Dawson), Miho (Devon Aoki) and Becky (Alexis Bledel).

It was a good film, but I did not like the various voice-overs. There were some plot holes. There were some instances that I found to hard to believe, for example, people getting shot, having sledgehammers to the face, etc. Are they superhuman? I did get the intentions of Sen. Roark.

Judgment: I was an enjoyable film overall, but I think this film is overrated.

Rating: ***1/2

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