A Tarantino Trawl: Jackie Brown

Moving right along from last weeks look at Pulp Fiction, this week I’m looking at Tarantino’s third feature, Jackie Brown.

What’s interesting with Jackie Brown is that this is the first and, to date, only film in Tarantino’s back catalogue which is based on a source material. Although if you want to be picky I guess you could mention Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City in which Tarantino was credited as guest director, but that hardly counts. The source material in question is Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, which I must admit I’ve not yet read myself so can’t actually comment on how good a job Tarantino did in terms of adaptation. But regardless of that, Jackie Brown is another classic.

Blaxploitation queen, Pam Grier stars as the titular character along with Robert Forster, Samuel L Jackson, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton. When flight attendant Jackie Brown gets caught smuggling money across the border for black market gun salesman Ordell Robbie (Jackson), she sets about trying to play him and the cop after him (Keaton) in the hopes of walking away with half a million dollars. Along with the help of bail bondsman Max Cherry (Forster).

At a 150 minute running time, Jackie Brown is bloated slightly. But when you have Tarantino’s rich dialogue and beautifully dark humour, it’s barely a problem. While it doesn’t pull the same punch as Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, there’s still much to be admired thanks to the cast. Grier brings a fantastic lead role to life as Jackie but it’s the supporting cast that are the highlights. Samuel L Jackson seems to have a lot of fun with Ordell Robbie and yet still gives a menacing performance at times. Though he spends much of his time chatting away about guns and trying his best to impress his newly released prisoner guest, Louis (De Niro) he does have one or two moments which prove he is much more.

Robert De Niro meanwhile, stays rather silent and is probably the least outgoing of the cast, yet still manages to stay entertaining. And again, he has some moments which bring lots of laughs. Whether it be trying to show Bridget Fonda’s Mel the best 3 minutes of her life or finding a particularly effective way of dealing with her mockery, De Niro and Fonda make a fine double act.

It’s usually the second film that’s the dodgy one when it comes to successful directors, but with Tarantino it seems it was almost third time unlucky. Whilst it’s certainly not awful, compared to Pulp Fiction it is a slight drop. A very slight drop mind. But then again, how could anyone ever be able to bring a film after Pulp Fiction and make it better?

Of all Tarantino’s directed films, Jacie Brown is probably his worst. HOWEVER, even at his worst. He’s still pretty fucking great…

A Tarantino Trawl: Pulp Fiction

This September it’ll be 5 years since I first saw the film that changed my life. I’ll always remember flicking through the channels late one night and happening upon Pulp Fiction just as it was starting on BBC1. Recalling my cousins suggestion that I should watch it after being rather unimpressed with Inglourious Basterds (My first Tarantino experience. More on that in a few weeks though) I decided to stay up till the early hours of Saturday morning just to watch it. And to this day it will be one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.

Pulp Fiction is a beautiful mess of a film. My first viewing confused me so much, what with Tarantino’s presentation of the jumbled up story-line. But I knew I’d just witnessed something special. From that day on I have and will always cite Pulp Fiction as my all time favourite film. Whilst I understand there are plenty of other films just as good and at times even better than it, there’ll never be another film that sits so close to my heart.

With a cast including John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman and Harvey Keitel, Tarantino’s mobster epic has enough to please anyone in its 153 minute run-time. Travolta and Jackson’s storyline of a day in the life of two gangsters is spliced perfectly within the story of Bruce Willis’ Butch Coolidge attempting to do over gangster boss Marsellus Wallace in a fixed boxing match.

Each mini story in Pulp Fiction weaves effortlessly between themselves and gives plenty of shocks as well as plenty of laughs. Most of this is of course due to Tarantino’s flawless script, but praise must also be given to the late Sally Menke for her fantastic work in the editing suite. Having already proven herself a worthy ally to Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs, Menke outdoes her last performance by pulling off the editing of Pulp Fiction. Imagining anyone else pulling off such a feat in the same way is near impossible.

I can’t end this review without mentioning one of the greatest moments of Pulp Fiction. Whilst there are plenty of moments and scenes which can be picked out of the film to be discussed at length easily enough, such as Samuel L Jackson’s ‘The path of the righteous Man’ Bible quote or John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s dance scene to Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell, the one stand out moment for me has got to be that of Christopher Walken’s scene. Tarantino gives us a fantastically written three page monologue in the form of a story about two men, the Korean war and a gold watch. And Walken gives an equally fantastic performance as he tells the story brilliantly. It’s not surprising that Tarantino decided to keep the camera on him during the whole speech. Walken demands your attention from beginning to end.

Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece in every way possible. Whilst it’s not a film that can be watched constantly over and over again, it IS a film that deserves to be seen once and revisited again and again from then on. After only five years since my initial viewing, it has become an old friend and whether I watch it a year later or ten years later, the experience will be nothing short of magnificent.

 

Next week I’ll be looking back at Jackie Brown so keep a lookout for that. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not giving the films in this batch of reviews a mark out of 5 because I can tell you right now that each and every one of Tarantino’s directed films gets a 5 from me.

A Tarantino Trawl: Reservoir Dogs

It seems that, in the past year or two, my interest in not only writing about, but watching films has somewhat lessened. So in a pitiful attempt to bring back my love for movies, I figured I’d finally try my hand at writing about the work of the man who became my cinematic God back in 2009 when I first laid my eyes on Pulp Fiction.

But before Pulp Fiction, it seems only right that I tackle Tarantino’s first feature length. Of course if I were doing this properly I would start at the very beginning with Four Rooms. But maybe we’ll come back to that later…

Released in 1992, Reservoir Dogs very quickly became a much discussed film after screening at Sundance. And rightly so. It’s an extremely powerful film to kick off ones feature length directorial CV. From it’s opening scene in which Tarantino’s character, Mr Brown discusses the music of Madonna whilst Steve Buscemi’s Mr Pink explains why he doesn’t believe in tipping, right through to it’s mexican stand off conclusion, Tarantino gives us plenty of gems which, even 21 years after release, are still discussed and debated.

Reservoir Dogs 1

 

No doubt the most memorable of scenes is that of Michael Madsen’s sadistic Mr Blonde torturing a cop whilst dancing to Stuck In The Middle by Steeler’s Wheel. A scene that quickly attached itself to the song and will forever be remembered together. Madsen’s portrayal of Mr Blonde is incredibly performed. From the second he enters the film, having been watching in the background as Mr White and Mr Pink argue like an old married couple, he brings about an air of, simply put, coolness about him.

However the real stars of Reservoir Dogs, for me at least, are Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth as Mr. White and Mr. Orange respectively. Throughout the course of the film their relationship blossoms from professional to an almost father/son connection as White protects a dying Orange. Although, with the way in which Tarantino lays out the timeline of his screenplay, it’s the father/son relationship we see moreso than the professional one.

In regards to the story, Reservoir Dogs certainly isn’t the most original story Tarantino has come up with. However he does manage to bring the traditional heist plot with a fresh twist. Not showing the heist at all and instead focusing on the aftermath of the failed attempt. Tarantinos quick paced script with it’s hefty dialogue will make you rush to keep up and have you thoroughly entertained as you try to figure out who the undercover cop is.

Not much can be said these days about Reservoir Dogs that hasn’t already been said. However the main reason I wrote this is just to bring back my absolute love and adoration for films. If you haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs seek it out. It’s on Netflix so you have no excuse really.

Do feel free to comment with any suggestions on other reviews you’d like. I’m planning to come back to this more than I used to so if you’d like me to look back over any other directors when I’m done with Tarantino, let me know. I’ll be back probably in a week or so (Maybe sooner) with Pulp Fiction. And I may put some other stuff up in the mean time…

2014 Oscar Predictions

Well it’s that time of the year again folks! This time tomorrow we’ll know what won, but for now have a look at some predictions. Below you’ll find my predictions for what will Will Win in most categories. However, as happens every year, The Academy does get it wrong every now and then. In my opinion at least. So I’ve very thoughtfully added what I believe Should Win in each Category:

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave – Will Win
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
– Should Win
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street) – Should Win
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) – Will Win
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) – Will/Should Win 

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) – Will Win
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) – Should Win
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) – Will Win
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) – Should Win
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Best Director
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) – Will/Should Win
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

Best Adapted Screenplay
John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater (Before Midnight)
Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena) – Will/Should Win

Best Original Screenplay
David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
Spike Jonze (Her) – Will/Should Win
Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)

Best Animated Feature
The Wind Rises
Frozen
Will/Should Win
Despicable Me 2

The Croods
Ernest & Celestine
 

Film Editing
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
– Will/Should Win
12 Years a Slave

Best Song
“Alone Yet Not Alone” (Alone Yet Not Alone)
“Happy” (Despicable Me 2)
“Let It Go” (Frozen) – Will/Should Win
“The Moon Song” (Her)
“Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

Best Original Score
John Williams (The Book Thief)
Steven Price (Gravity) – Will Win
Alexandre Desplat (Philomena)
Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks)
William Butler and Owen Pallett (Her) – Should Win

Best Cinematography
Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster)
Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) – Will/Should Win
Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Roger Deakins (Prisoners)
Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska)

Costume Design
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby – Will/Should Win
The Invisible Woman
12 Years A Slave

Makeup and Hairstyling
The Lone Ranger
Dallas Buyers Club – Will/Should Win
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Production Design
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby – Will/Should Win
Her
12 Years a Slave

Sound Editing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity – Will/Should Win
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips
Gravity Will/Should Win
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor
Inside Llewyn Davis

Visual Effects
Gravity –Will/Should Win
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

As you can see I have Gravity tipped to win the most awards this year including Best Film. But with such a rich choice, it seems the big awards could all be spread out well among different films. Gravity is of course worthy of winning Best Film but personally I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for Her.

Join me from 01:30GMT on twitter as I live tweet the ceremony @movie_mad. I may be around from 11:30 live tweeting the red carpet a bit but it all depends on how much of Ryan Seacrest I can stand…

NB. There are some categories I haven’t predicted because I’ve not seen the films nominated. These include:

Best Foreign Film

Best Documentary Feature

Short Film Live Action

Short Film Animated

Documentary Short

Bottom 10 Movies of 2013

And so with the top 10 films of 2013 comes the worst of the year. Think of this as a public announcement. AVOID THE FOLLOWING FILMS!

10. Dark Skies

A pitiful attempt at horror.

9. The Fifth Estate

Two hours of mindless boredom.

8. Pain and Gain

Michael Bay proves that he doesn’t need fighting robots and/or explosions to be bad.

7 A Good Day to Die Hard

Bruce Willis kills the legacy of John McClane even more in the fifth installment to the Die Hard franchise. That’s right, it’s a franchise now.

6. This is The End

You’ll wish it was as you watch a bunch of pretentious A Listers dick around for an hour and a half.

5. Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue is the DULLEST colour

4. The Host

It’s only fitting that an adaptation of a Stephanie Meyer book makes the list for a second year running…

3. Mama

Not even Jennifer Lawrence can save this.

2. Upstream Color

Apparently there’s a message in this?

Movie 43

10 times as many big names than This Is The End and 10 times as worse.

Top 10 Movies of 2013

It’s that time of the year again folks! With 2014 only a few hours away what better way to end 2013 than by summing up the year’s top 10 films! 

The year has been filled with so many fantastic films to feast your eyes on that it’s hard to pick 10 let alone put them in order. But I’ll try my best. 

10. The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer make a great duo in Gore Verbinski’s latest offering. 2 and a half hours of pure fun no matter what the press says. It’s the best substitute we have for Hammer playing Batman for now at least.

9. Stand Up Guys

What looked like a terrible comedy with a few classic actors thrown into the centre for good measure actually turned out to be a heartwarming film which proves that Pacino’s still got what it takes to entertain us. Even after his career’s near death experience in Jack and Jill…

8. Stoker

Park Chan Wook gives us drop dead gorgeous shots in his first English Language film, with Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode giving great performances and Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller proving he’s not just a pretty face with his first script.

7. The World’s End

Edgar Wright brings his Blood and Ice Cream trilogy to a fantastic end which will have you craving Cornetto’s once more.

6. Trance

Danny Boyle manages to twist and turn until the very end in a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat

5. The Purge

A great premise for a slasher film which deserves a sequel.

4. Frozen

Disney’s take on The Snow Queen finally makes an appearance and does not disappoint. It’ll have you singing the soundtrack for weeks to come.

3. Gravity

If you didn’t manage to see this on the biggest screen you could then you missed out dearly. It’s not just a film, it’s an immersive experience which will grab your attention and not let go until well after the credits roll.

2. In Fear

A thrilling game of cat and mouse in the Irish country side makes for the most terrifying experience of the year. 

1. Django Unchained

Released in January in the UK and still 12 months later nothing has come close to the excitement that this brought. Call me biased if you must but Tarantino remains a God.

Stolen

These days it seems going to see a Nicolas Cage film is almost the same as going to the casino. You could end up with more than you had and have you quoting Kick Ass for the rest of your days, or it could leave you penniless and waking up to horrific nightmares of the debt you have to pay for watching his performance in The Wicker Man. Stolen happens to sit nicely in between the two . Although it’s at times laugh out loud ridiculous it will keep you entertained.

Cage plays Will Montgomery, a former thief who, after being released from prison finds that his old partner, presumed dead, is still alive and out seeking the $10 million they stole in their last heist. Montgomery races against time to find a way to get his kidnapped daughter back and replace the $10 million he threw away when he was caught.

In the 96 minutes that follows we are treated to some of the most dire dialogue and the longest opening sequence ever made as we see Mongomery’s botched attempt at stealing $10 million in almost real time. A sequence which was covered easily in a few seconds in the trailer but which director Simon West seems to take about 30 minutes explaining. Had he narrowed it down to five or ten he could have had more time focusing on things like character and storyline and maybe even possibly script to make for a more fun filled ninety odd minutes.

It’s clear that the film is trying desperately to be the new Taken and whilst Cage proves that he certainly has the strength to be some competition for Liam Neeson, his talent is wasted here. With some appalling supporting cast including a truly awful taxi firm controller whose accent and humour are just dreadful; and an Australian tourist character who makes Tarantino’s Django Unchained cameo look Oscar worthy.

But don’t let this put you off. Although it is downright insulting to moviegoers you can still watch it and not feel as though you’ve wasted your time too much. The trick is to go in and simply laugh at it’s pitiful attempt at entertaining you. Laugh at it’s awful dialogue and even worse editing. And let the laughter drown the sobs of disappointment at what Stolen could have achieved if anyone but Nicholas Cage had actually bothered to try their best with it. All while thinking of the people in the screen next door watching Cage in The Croods and actually enjoying themselves.

3/5

The Host

It’s been four months since the Twilight saga ended its reign of the box office with Breaking Dawn Part 2 and already we have another adaptation by the same author. However, this time we don’t have sparkly vampires or unemotional female leads.

Starring Saoirse Ronan, The Host is essentially another teen romance at heart, but with an interesting premise. Set in a dystopian future in which Earth has been overthrown by an alien race who use human bodies as a vessel to take over the world, the film does give some thought provoking insights into humanity. Ronan plays Melanie Strider, a young girl who is part of a small human resistance. However whilst on the run from the surprisingly peaceful aliens, her body is soon invaded by Wanderer. As Melanie fights to stay alive in her own body, she shows Wanderer her memories of the loved ones for whom she is fighting, in the hopes that Wanderer will help.

At just over 2 hours long it does seem to stretch a bit. Time that could have been better spent expanding the themes more is instead spent on a love square rather than the traditional love triangle we’re all too familiar with, as Wanderer and Melanie both find themselves in love with different boys. A situation which doesn’t work two well with two personalities in the same body. And whilst it does entertain for the most part, there is the feeling that a better story could be told.

However, it’s not as anger inducing as the Twilight Saga (here the acting is somewhat better) it still lacks the spark it could have easily have had. At times it doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be an action movie or a romantic drama and can’t seem to find the perfect line between the two, often switching between genre almost haphazardly.

Ronan proves yet again that she can hold a film up as she has done a number of times already in her short career. Whilst this is no Hanna it still provides as a worthy example of Ronan’s acting abilities as she manages to outshine the rest of her co-stars, although that’s not a very tough thing to do in a film like this.

Not the best release of the week but certainly not the worst either.

3/5

The Croods

Hollywood heartthrob Emma Stone has never quite looked as different as in The Croods; the latest offering from Pixar’s competitor DreamWorks, which just goes to prove yet again that, they are well on their way to overtake the Disney giant.

Set in the Stone Age, The Croods follows a family of cavemen headed by dad, Grug, brilliantly voiced by Nicholas Cage. Although it’s full of the usual stereotypes you find in any old family comedy – the over protective father not wanting to let go of his daughter; the rebellious teen etc –  it somehow feels fresh. With Ryan Reynolds’ Guy introducing the Croods to a more modern lifestyle with such marvellous things as shoes and fire.

As well as a light hearted children’s family comedy, the film also serves as a road trip movie as The Croods move from the safety of their dark cave, where Grug teaches the family to ‘never not be afraid’, to new surroundings as they follow the sun to the land of Tomorrow. The opening will grab you as The Croods show off their hunting skills which very cleverly reflects the modern day American football game.  Apart from ‘releasing the baby’ of course which I’ve yet to see at the superbowl…

The creative team behind this seem to have had as much time making the film as you will have watching it, with such an array of different animals. Each one is more beautiful than the last and adds to the delicious cinematography which drips with delightful colours throughout.

Although it does begin to drag a bit in the final act it still manages to keep you, and more importantly, keep the kids interested enough throughout.

With a great cast, the highlight of which is most definitely Nicolas Cage who brings the most laughs, The Croods will undoubtedly become an instant classic and family favourite. If not for the beautiful scenery and animation of such vastly different animals then for the screenplay, which boasts a ‘Story By’ credit from none other than John Cleese and features countless highlights. This is surely a film which will not disappoint both parents and children alike and will prove an afternoon’s trip to the cinema well spent. And of the two Nicolas Cage films out this week this is surely the one to spend your time on.

4/5

Oscar Predictions

As a year of cinema finally comes to a close tonight with the Academy Awards I thought I’d share my predictions for tonights show. Although there are a few missing due to not having seen many (or any) of the films in particular categories like Best Documentary I’ve done my best to predict them all. For each category you will see I’ve put I’d Like and I’m Expecting for my predictions, just to see how much money I would have won, had I actually bet on any this year. The only exception for this is Foreign Film, which the only one I’ve seen is Amour and there’s no way on earth I’d LIKE that to gain any recognition from the Academy.

Anyway rambling over, Scroll down and read for yourself and come back in the early hours of the morning to see the outcome! Also for the tweeters, feel free to follow me @movie_mad to see a live tweet along to the ceremony. Hopefully this year they won’t ban me for supposed Spam just as best Actress, Actor and Film are being announced…

Best Film:
I’d Like: Django Unchained
I’m expecting: Argo

Best Actress:
I’d like: Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
I’m expecting: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Actor:
I’d like: Denzel Washington (Flight)
I’m expecting: Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Director:
I’d like: Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
I’m expecting: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Best Supporting Actor:
I’d like: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
I’m expecting: Christpoh Waltz (Django Unchained)

Best Supporting Actress:
I’d Like: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserablés)
I’m expecting: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserablés)

Best Foreign Film:
I’m expecting: Amour

Best Animated Film:
I’d Like: Brave
I’m Expecting: Brave

Music (Original Song)
I’d Like: Skyfall
I’m expecting: Skyfall

Adapted Screenplay:
I’d Like: Argo
I’m expecting: Argo

Original Screenplay:
I’d Like: Django Unchained
I’m Expecting: Django Unchained

Cinematography:
I’d Like: Skyfall
I’m expecting: Life of Pi

Costume Design
I’d like: Les Miserablés
I’m expecting: Les Miserablés

Film Editing:
I’d Like: Argo
I’m Expecting: Argo

Make-up and Hairstyling:
I’d like: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I’m expecting: Les Miserablés

Production Design:
I’d like: Anna Karenina
I’m expecting: Les Miserablés

Short Film:
I’d Like: Paperman
I’m expecting: Paperman

Sound Editing:
I’d Like: Argo
I’m Expecting: Argo

Sound Mixing:
I’d like: Les Miserablés
I’m Expecting: Les Miserablés

Visual Effects:
I’d Like: Life of Pi
I’m Expecting: Life of Pi