Quentin Tarantino makes crazy fun movies that, at their best, are also pretty serious and engaging. Kind of spastically addictive.
Reservoir Dogs (1992) -- Still my favorite Tarantino movie, it's just really solid and with people we care about before they die.
Pulp Fiction (1994) -- The movie everyone copies. I'm always saying that I like Reservoir Dogs better than this movie, but that's not to say that I don't like Pulp Fiction: in fact, I think it's about as great and influential as everyone says it is. And it's fun.
Four Rooms (1995) -- Directed with Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, and Robert Rodriguez. It's hard to rate this movie as a whole, since the four parts by the four different directors are so different, though I can say that Tim Roth's performance throughout is hilarious. The first witch segment is stupid, the second segment is dull. Robert Rodriguez's third section is very funny, with over-the-top acting by Antonio Banderas, more hilarity from Tim Roth, two funny kids, and a crazy situation. Quentin Tarantino's fourth segment is the best, which is odd since mostly it's just talk (though, of course, that's half of what makes Tarantino so great, and this is some of the best talk ever). Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell get a frowny face; Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino get a huge grin face.
Jackie Brown (1997) -- I didn't like this much the first time I saw it, probably because I was expecting some more of the "cartoony" stuff from Pulp Fiction, but this one turned out to be more "real" and now I've come to appreciate that. It's a great odd little movie: I mean, in a way it's a movie about growing old, something that might not seem apparent at first glance. It's good stuff.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) -- This guy just knows what he's doing. The plot is only "Uma Thurman is out for revenge," and yet this is one of the most captivating movies ever made, by anyone, not just Tarantino. Funny, exciting, pretty, addictive, everything. It's not just the same bag of tricks either.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) -- Where the first one seemed to have the more cartoony types of movie-making (right down to an actual cartoon), this half seems more gritty, almost like a different movie entirely (even though they were originally going to be one). As with Volume 1, Tarantino has essentially given us at least a dozen movies however. This thing is never lazy. Perfect moviemaking.
Sin City (2005) -- Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, with Quentin Tarantino guest directing a segment. This movie is ballsy. Of course, there are the literal balls in the movie: every guy's nuts being blown off or ripped out. Then there's the testosteroniness of the movie, with every guy narrating his macho philosophy and every woman being a hooker or stripper. But then there's the ballsiness of Rodriguez for putting this thing out the way he did: as a purposefully-offensive movie, where the offensiveness eventually becomes the magic and fun. It worked for me. Also, even as a guy who doesn't much like comic books, it was great to finally see a comic book being presented the way everyone always wanted them to look on the screen. I wasn't sure why or how Frank Miller was given co-directing credit for this one, but then I realized it was because his comics were pretty much used for storyboards, meaning that Miller was making the movie for this way back when he first did the graphic novels. There wasn't even an adapted script, making this more of a Miller project than a Rodriguez project in the end. The collaboration on the movie was very cool (including the cameo direction by Tarantino), the black and white mixed with touches of color was beautiful, and in the end I was totally sucked in. This movie is pretty much a masterpiece.
Grindhouse (2007) -- Directed with Robert Rodriguez, featuring Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, and Rob Zombie. I'll talk about the separate parts first, then the collection as a whole. First, the trailers. Robert Rodriguez's "Machete" was good, and the most realistic. It didn't just go for laughs, but looked like something that may have actually existed. Rob Zombie's "Werewolf Women of the S.S." was great. Really goofy, and the only place where you'll find Udo Kier and Nicholas Cage in the same movie. Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving" was the most hilarious and almost believable as one of those horror-on-holiday movies. Edgar Wright's "Don't Scream" was probably my favorite, with an old trailer style that I remember seeing a lot of in those days, complete with annoying repetition. Huge smiley faces all around for all the trailers and the other 70s-style movie bits that were thrown in that made the entire experience fun. On to Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. I liked this one a lot. A simple, gross mutant movie with the ridiculous (in a good way) premise that Bruce Willis had killed Osama Bin Laden. Rose McGowan was really sexy and was paired well with Freddy Rodriguez. All of the actors and characters were cool and likeable, which is important in a movie like this where you should care if they're eaten or raped or whatever. A big, fun smiley face for the first half of the movie. Now Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. Ug. Tarantino hadn't made a bad movie to this point, but here it is. First we're introduced to three really annoying girls, the most annoying of which is Sidney Portier, whose father apparently -- instead of giving her acting lessons -- said to her, "Just cock and bobble your head around every time you talk." When these three girls eventually got killed by the supercharming Kurt Russell, I was happy. Rose McGowan was the only one in the first part of this movie worth saving, which is what made her death actually work. We liked her, and it made Kurt Russell seem that much more evil for killing her. So already we've been annoyed for many minutes by the worst dialogue QT has ever written... and then he does it again! With four new, even more annoying, girls. They sit at a table while the camera moves around them Reservoir Dogs style, but this time they're not talking about interesting (or at least realistic) stuff like the meaning of "Like a Virgin" or whether or not to tip. They're talking about stuff so boring that I barely remember what they were talking about. Only the cheerleader girl who likes Pretty in Pink is somewhat likeable, but the audience is meant to think she's stupid. So when Kurt Russell eventually goes after them too (after some more annoying stuff about how the girls are going to "con" some hillbilly by leaving their Pretty in Pink friend to be raped by him), I would imagine we're supposed to wish that he'd kill them off as well. But no! We're apparently supposed to be on their sides, and the movie ends with them killing him (or at least beating the shit out of him). Hoorah? If the premise of this movie was that some old stunt guy from the 70s was on a mission to kill modern-day bitches, then I'd be all for that. It's supposed to be an exploitation movie, after all, so it would make perfect sense. But you can't show bitchy girls, a charming guy, and pretend that the bitches are the heroes and he's the villain. It's one of my many illogical aspects of this movie. The other thing that doesn't work is the style. It's fine if you want everyone to dress 70s, the cars to be 70s, to play 45s in the juke box, etc. and have text messaging, but what you can't do is have a character in the movie make fun of Kurt Russell for "crawling out of a time machine" when the entire set has crawled out of a time machine. It would be like someone in Blue Velvet saying that something "looked like the 1950s." And speaking of text messaging, why do we have to watch text messaging for ten minutes? There are several "threads" in the movie that never go anywhere. There's a line in Death Proof where Kurt Russell talks about one of the girls' bruised feelings because the guys weren't all over her. It made him wise, it made her almost likeable because she knew he was right, and it was the only line in the movie where Tarantino displayed any of the sensitivity to feelings and words that he's been known for in his other fantastic movies. Too bad the rest of the dialogue-drenched movie sucked so bad, making the would-be-cool action sequences suck as a result. Now for Grindhouse as a whole. Too long! Each movie should have been an hour apiece. It would have helped the flow of the entire piece, and it would have actually given a reason for the "missing reel" of both movies (explaining why it was twenty minutes or so shorter than a normal film). Even Planet Terror got old after a while, and a significant reducing of Death Proof would have helped to save it (though a rewrite and re-cast of the seven girls is what was really needed). The length doesn't fit the intended effect either: over three hours feels epic, while the movies are supposed to feel quick and fun. Of course, a quick fix would be to turn off the movie right before Tarantino's begins.
Copyright (c) Jan 2001 - Apr 2007 by Rusty Likes Movies