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Kill Bill, Vol. 2 [DVD]
Kill Bill, Vol. 2 [DVD]
DVD ~ Uma Thurman
Offered by Nomad Distribution Group
Price: $8.30
465 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We've had the style, now here's the substance, April 20, 2004
This review is from: Kill Bill, Vol. 2 [DVD] (DVD)
Kill Bill volumes 1 and 2 really work best when you consider them two parts of a whole. Combined, they tell a whole story and each one has what the other lacks. Volume 1 had style, razzle-dazzle filmmaking, a fast pace, lots of action and gallons and gallons of blood. Volume 2 lacks most of those qualities and instead gives us tried-and-true Quentin Tarantino dialog, more character development, and the biggest surprise of all, real human drama.
Dialog, yes. Lots and lots of it. Tarantino makes up for the fact that there was little of his brilliant dialog in Volume 1 by making the follow-up (not a sequel) a thoroughly talky affair. The Bride (Uma Thurman) and Bill (David Carradine) in their long-awaited confrontation, duel not with swords, but with words. Both actors turn in excellent performances which I hope will be remembered next year at the Oscars.
Indeed, this film is a major change of pace after the bloody mayhem of Kill Bill, Volume 1. It has the look and feel of a western (complete with references to Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and others) as opposed to the primarily Eastern feel of the previous volume. Many viewers who enjoyed Volume 1 only for its action and bloodshed will no doubt be disappointed by this. However, Tarantino obviously had more in mind for Kill Bill and intended for it to be much more than just a brainless action flick which pays tribute to many samurai and kung fu movies. In Volume 2, he gets down to the nitty gritty and shows that he's trying to make a real film of real substance. Of course, (...) as the showstopping fight between Uma Thurman and Darryl Hannah reveals, but he's less interested in wowing the audience with action and violence.
Highlights include a scene where The Bride is buried alive which is made frighteningly effective by the brilliant use of sound effects, and a flashback to The Bride's training under kung fu master Pai Mei (played by Gordon Liu). David Carradine simply lights up the screen with his charismatic portrayal of Bill, straddling the line between murdering criminal and lovable human being. It's shocking how far this character is from the samurai-sword-stroking faceless villain that we got only a peek of in Volume 1.
Quentin Tarantino just may have made his masterpiece with Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2. He has managed to take the films that influenced and inspired him and turned them into something completely new and wholly Tarantino. Considering both parts as a whole, it adds up to a great movie that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Kill Bill, Vol. 1
Kill Bill, Vol. 1
DVD ~ Uma Thurman
Offered by Best Of Best For You
Price: $6.50
608 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Tarantino, Uma, and a big samurai sword... what more do you need?, April 5, 2004
This review is from: Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (DVD)
How can half of a movie be supremely satisfying as a viewing experience? That's just one of the remarkable accomplishments of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume 1, a masterpiece of cinematic style. Volume 1 is merely half of a story, which has Uma Thurman chasing down the bad guys (and girls) who left her for dead, yet it was certainly the single most enjoyable, satisfying movie that I saw in 2003.

It's been over a decade since Tarantino blew us all away with Pulp Fiction, and in the time since we have probably forgotten just what a remarkable talent he is. In all that time we only had one film, 1997's Jackie Brown, an underrated gem that didn't cause a tenth of the stir that Pulp Fiction did. It failed to connect with a wide audience the way its predecessor did, probably due to the fact that it completely defied most expectations. To me, however, it was further proof that Tarantino was one of our best filmmakers. Now, Tarantino returns with two films that tell one story. Kill Bill, Volume 1 is the first part of the story featuring The Bride (Uma Thurman) tracking down and killing the criminals that left her (and her unborn child) for dead in a wedding chapel. That's the premise, but there is so much going on in this film, that descriptions just don't do it justice. Kill Bill was conceived as an homage to all of the flicks that Tarantino grew up watching: kung-fu films, samurai films, spaghetti westerns, crime dramas, action films, gangster films, Japanese anime, etc. He has taken all of those styles and created a big, delicious cinematic blend of styles and genres. This is quite simply a spectacular movie in every respect. Kill Bill is pure cinema, from the first frame to the last. Every shot is so infused with a love for the art of filmmaking that it can't help but rub off on the viewer. Every aspect of the film, cinematography, acting, editing, dialog, music, set design, is used flawlessly to its absolute potential. Every scene effectively conveys a different mood and brings to mind a different film genre, from Thurman's suburban fight with Vivica Fox to the awesome spectacle of the showdown in the House of Blue Leaves. Kill Bill demonstrates just what a filmmaker can do with inspiration and true passion for his material. It is a beautiful, beautiful film. As one critic eloquently stated, "It's the most gorgeous B-movie ever made." It also demonstrates how much can be achieved without computer animation. There might be some computer-generated or assisted imagery in Kill Bill, but it is absolutely minimal. Tarantino did everything retro style, including the amazing fight scenes. It's all just stuntmen on wires, no computers. He collaborated with Yeun Wo-Ping, the world-renowned choreographer who did the fight scenes in The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The fight scenes are indeed spectacular. Tarantino reveals himself as a skilled action director. However, the film is not all action. It is heavy on back-story and characterization.

The film is accompanied by an amazing soundtrack, one of my all-time favorites. Starting with Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)", then launching into a wide variety of musical types. There are themes from the likes of Bernard Herrmann and Luis Bacalov, a Japanese ballad from Meiko Kaji, a rockabilly Charlie Feathers tune, Santa Esmeralda's disco-flamenco-rock cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and perhaps the piece that's used to the most stunning effect in the movie: Zamfir's The Lonely Shepherd". This one piece of music perfectly captures the feel of the film.

If you are like me and passionately love Quentin Tarantino, and movies and cinematic technique in general, this movie was made for you. It is a truly remarkable film that cinema lovers should treasure. Plus, it's a whole lot of fun too. Very few movies that are this well-crafted are this much fun to watch. Kill Bill (volumes 1 and 2) is a film for the ages, destined for immortality.

Bootleg Series 6: Concert at Philharmonic Hall
Bootleg Series 6: Concert at Philharmonic Hall
Price: $14.99
80 used & new from $5.09

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It's just Halloween. I have my Bob Dylan mask on.", April 1, 2004
So says young Bob Dylan on October 31, 1964 after wowing his audience with a new tune called "Gates of Eden". Just one of the many highlights of this new set, Bootleg Series volume 6: Concert at Philharmonic Hall. Previously this excellent series gave us the legendary 1966 "Judas" concert, then a sampler of Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue, both excellent releases which I truly cherish. Volume 6, Live 1964 might be my favorite so far, however. It gives us a rare glimpse at a young 23-year-old Bob Dylan in the awkward transition between folky protest singer and poetic wordsmith. That juxtaposition is only one of the fascinating things about this concert. At this concert, Dylan was less than a year away from "Like A Rolling Stone" and the Highway 61 Revisited album. However, there's folk music a plenty, "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues", "Who Killed Davey Moore?", "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", and also a good taste of the genius that Dylan was to display in the next year: "Gates of Eden", "Mr. Tambourine Man", and a stunning nine-minute "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)".
This is Bob Dylan as many fans have probably never heard him. A young, energetic singer who seems genuinely excited to be performing for an audience. His banter with the audience is worth the purchase price alone, as he jokes and giggles between songs. Quite a contrast from the reclusive curmudgeon that we know nowadays. But ultimately the music is what it all comes down to and it is thoroughly excellent. Dylan's voice, guitar and harmonica, nothing more. Yet it is riveting. Joan Baez lends her beautiful voice on four songs, which is always welcome in my opinion.
Bob Dylan's music moves me like very little other music does. Never before has one man achieved so much with just a voice, a guitar and a harmonica. If you feel the same way, this CD is a must-own. This was Dylan at a pivotal point in his music career, and a portrait that we will probably never see the likes of again. Highly, highly recommended.

21 Grams
21 Grams
DVD ~ Sean Penn
Offered by Big_Box_Bargains
Price: $7.97
225 used & new from $0.01

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent; One of the year's best, March 18, 2004
This review is from: 21 Grams (DVD)
2003 belongs to Sean Penn. He gave two of the best performances of the year in two of the year's best movies, Mystic River (for which he won the Best Actor Oscar) and 21 Grams. 21 Grams, however, has gotten far less attention than Clint Eastwood's film. I, personally, find it the better of the two. It was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of the excellent Amores Perros from 2000, and it bears the mark of its skilled director. In 21 Grams, as in Amores Perros, Inarritu handles heavy subject matter - life, death, loss and regret, and weaves seperate storylines together. I don't want to talk about the story, but Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro play three characters all connected by a tragic incident. The acting is uniformly excellent. The leads give three big staggering performances that are incredibly moving. Alejandro Inarritu does a solid job directing, giving the film a distinct look and feel that separates it from more mainstream fare. He has the potential to be a major director and I can't wait to see what he's doing for his next film.
There has been some debate over whether or not it was necessary to tell the story out of chronological order. I don't think 21 Grams would be a lesser film if it were told in chronological order, but do I think it does contribute to feel of the movie. It gives us somewhat of a sense of confusion and helplessness like that of the characters'. I also like the way that the structure makes the film a series of individual moments without concern for time.
I feel that 21 Grams is one of the best movies of 2003. Anyone who is looking for a gripping, exhilarating, moving film experience need look no further. If you are looking for bland, mindless entertainment, this is not it. This is a powerful film of real emotional substance. It is not a "fun" movie. If you appreciate real filmmaking with brilliant and honest acting, 21 Grams will be a riveting, unforgettable experience.

L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
DVD ~ Romain Duris
Price: $5.90
82 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An appealing cast in an enormously enjoyable film, February 15, 2004
I watched L'Auberge Espagnole because of the presence of Audrey Tautou, the luminous star of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's masterful Amélie, but it ended up as a complete surprise. Tautou has a relatively minor role, but the film didn't even need her. I didn't know what to expect, but I found it to be one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in a long time. It sucked me right in from the beginning. The main character is Xavier, a French student who goes to Barcelona Spain to study. There he stays in an apartment with about six other people all from different European countries. He's studying economics, but he finds that he learns more from his roommates than he ever may in school.
This is a bright, dazzling, lovely film. The cast is excellent with many interesting characters. Several different languages are spoken (mostly French, English and Spanish) and the differences between them provide much of the subject matter. Of course there are many romantic entanglements, both serious and humorous, and subplots and side stories which take us deeper into the lives of the characters. By the end of the film, I really felt like I knew these characters and wanted to spend more time with them. It's a two-hour film, but I didn't want it to end. I could have easily sat through another hour of it. At the end, however, I really felt fulfilled, and much like Xavier in the film, felt that I had learned a little about life and how valuable our experiences are.
L'Auberge Espagnole is a wonderful, thoroughly enjoyable film about human relationships and experience that is both comic and poignant. I loved it and I look forward to seeing it a second time. Highly recommended.

DVD ~ Jude Law
Offered by Videophile549
Price: $16.72
39 used & new from $0.01

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seriously underrated Cronenberg sci-fi film, February 14, 2004
This review is from: eXistenZ (DVD)
The biggest strike against David Cronenberg's eXistenZ is the year that it came out - 1999. It was a summer dominated by Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. Cronenberg's film covers strikingly similar territory to The Wachowski Brothers' comic book/kung fu/sci-fi/action opus, The Matrix. Whereas The Matrix was a big-budget Hollywood movie aimed at a wide mainstream audience, eXistenZ is an independent lower budget Canadian production aimed at a significantly smaller audience. Both movies deal with issues of technology, specifically actual reality versus computer-generated reality. That's where the similarities end. The Matrix may ask profound questions, but it's an action film at heart, and it's only interested in asking those questions so long as they pave the way for a set piece filled with special effects and stunts. Cronenberg is not interested in dazzling the viewer with effects and action. He wants to make the viewer think (and of course, feel completely repulsed and disgusted).
eXistenZ is a smart sci-fi thriller that is thought-provoking, complex and completely immersing. The premise is pure Cronenberg brilliance: A designer of virtual reality games which use living, organic "controllers" that plug into the user's spinal cord, is pursued by a gang of realists who resent her attempt to deform reality as we know it. She enters her game to make sure it wasn't damaged in the attack, and things get interesting from there. Is anyone even after her at all? What is real and what isn't? Cronenberg manages to infuse his usual trademarks into the story, particularly technology versus biology. The part synthetic/part organic game pods are very clever, and I especially liked the completely organic gun made of bones and cartilage which fires human teeth as bullets. Cronenberg loves to combine flesh and bone with technology as illustrated in many of his films. The film has its share of gross-out moments as per usual for the director. The Chinese restaraunt sequence was particularly memorable for me. This film may put you off Chinese food for good.
Cronenberg's vision is decidedly much darker than the comic book universe of The Matrix. I felt that The Matrix had good intentions but took the wrong approach. It's very difficult to successfully merge existentialist philosophy with action shoot-outs. The Wachowskis felt the need to dumb down their subject matter for the action movie crowds and the movie suffered as a result. David Cronenberg is not trying to make an action movie, so the ideas reign supreme here. The subject matter itself, is hardly original, but Cronenberg deals with it in a fresh and unique way adding his own grotesque sense of style. This is not a movie for all audiences, certainly. For those who like their science fiction cerebral, dark and grimy, eXistenZ should be right up their alley. I find it to be an overlooked gem of a film that is a great alternative to that over baked Hollywood cash cow The Matrix.

Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation
DVD ~ Bill Murray
Price: $7.59
300 used & new from $0.01

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, honest and genuine romantic comedy, February 10, 2004
This review is from: Lost in Translation (DVD)
Sofia Coppola follows up her lovely film The Virgin Suicides with this gem of a film, Lost In Translation. For someone such as myself who passionately loathes the tedium and banality of mainstream Hollywood romantic comedies, Lost In Translation is a godsend. It doesn't waste time on a useless, predictable plot like so many romantic movies; this film is out to give the viewer an emotional experience. One thing I love is the way it's shot in a very realistic, almost documentary-like style. The characters feel like real people, not merely big stars who are just collecting a paycheck. The dialog feels truly genuine. That's what impressed me the most the first time I saw it. The dialog is real. It doesn't feel forced or phony and neither do the excellent performances. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray are truly perfect in their roles as two lonely souls who find each other amid the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. The film tells us much about the characters using visuals. We see Bob and Charlotte spending time by themselves, searching for something or someone, perhaps. They meet and soon become friends, finding that they are in similar situations. In a place that is foreign to both of them, all they have is each other.
In a typical Hollywood movie, things would be familiar and typical. There would be cheap jokes, predictable situations and obvious dialouge. Lost In Translation, however, always keeps things fresh. Bill Murray gives a splendid performance as the weary Bob Harris, who finds a real friend in Scarlett Johansson's lonely Charlotte. Sofia Coppola's direction is perfect. The film feels real. It never feels like a production. The characters feel just like real people. The backdrop of Tokyo forms a wonderful canvas for this story, and it is beautifully photographed.
Lost In Translation is a wonderful film that is sure to delight viewers who are tired of phony Hollywood romance. The film never panders to audience expectations. It keeps things fresh, original, honest and genuine. It is truly one of the best films of 2003.

Meet the Feebles
Meet the Feebles
DVD ~ Danny Mulheron
Price: $15.77
23 used & new from $11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the most bizarre, demented movies ever made, January 26, 2004
This review is from: Meet the Feebles (DVD)
I've seen a lot of bizarre movies. Unusual, weirdo films are one of my biggest passions. I can easily say that Meet The Feebles ranks as one of the most bizarre, even downright crazy films that I've ever seen. It's about a puppet variety show, similar to Jim Henson's Muppet Show from the 1970s, The Feebles Variety Hour. It begins with a little musical number, "Meet The Feebles", complete with a singing hippo, bunny and all sorts of other creatures. Unlike the Muppet Show, however, Meet The Feebles is far from wholesome, as the backstage lives of the performers reveal. The boss, a giant walrus, makes porno films in the basement involving a cow in S&M gear. The walrus also does drug deals with an evil warthog. There's a heroin-addicted Vietnam Vet frog, a hippo with an eating disorder, a rabbit who believes he has AIDS, you get the picture. The film's finale must be seen to be believed. The hippo loses it and goes on a shooting spree while a fox sings a production number about sodomy. At this point, the viewer must think to him or herself, "this is one ... up movie". It will make you laugh, it will make you cringe, it will shock and disturb you, it will make you question the sanity of the filmmakers that made it.
The filmmakers who made Meet The Feebles, oddly enough, are now Academy Award nominees. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (director and co-screenwriters of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) were responsible for this sick little film. Who would have guessed that a mere ten years after making Meet The Feebles, Peter Jackson would be directing the greatest fantasy epic in film history. A grand epic completely devoid of vomit, porno and drug-addicted animals. Well, it's a crazy business. Peter Jackson earned himself a large cult of fans with his early films beginning with Bad Taste, a horror-comedy about aliens invading New Zealand and dining on the inhabitants. Meet The Feebles followed, and then came Dead Alive (aka Braindead) in 1992, a film that still ranks as one of the goriest movies in existence. These films cemented Jackons's status as a cult film icon. Now, added to that cult are millions of J.R.R. Tolkien fans, and soon Jackson may even claim the title of Oscar winner.
Anyone who was introduced to Jackson via Lord of the Rings would be interested to see his early films, but they should be cautious. He was a daring low-budget filmmaker. Admittedly, demented at times, he nonetheless displays a true passion for his craft. The title of his first film, Bad Taste, lets you know what to expect from his early films. They display a joyous dementia that is sure to offend prudish types. Those who get the joke however, will be delighted with his audacity and enjoy the ride.
Cult movie fans should certainly check out Meet The Feebles and Jackson's other early films. Just be sure that you know what you're in for.

Offered by Customer Direct
Price: $3.99
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ZZ Top's best album in ages and one of their best ever., January 13, 2004
This review is from: Rhythmeen (Audio CD)
In 1996, long after their 80s MTV heyday, ZZ Top ditched the gloss and the synthesizers to record a back-to-basics, no BS rock album. The result was Rhythmeen, one of the best albums of ZZ Top's career. After seeing the pop-friendly monstrosity that they became in the mid 80s (Afterburner?! Ick.....), Rhythmeen is a breath of fresh air and a reminder of what a great rock band ZZ Top is. Billy Gibbons cranks the amp way up and incorporates various distortion effects to produce Top's heaviest, hardest rocking album ever. Billy's guitar rules the show, his riffs and solos are spectacular and there are several tracks that are quite memorable. "Bang Bang" and "She's Just Killing Me" could have been rock radio hits.

If you like ZZ Top's earlier material (Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres) then you must check out Rhythmeen. It's not quite as bluesy as that earlier material; this is more hard rock than anything, and some of the songs are not far from Black Sabbath-style heavy metal. Rhythmeen is a must-own for fans of bluesy hard rock. This is the loudest album ZZ Top has ever made and probably ever will make and it rocks hard.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2011 2:59 PM PST

Owning Mahowny
Owning Mahowny
DVD ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by CAC Media
Price: $22.49
76 used & new from $2.53

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Phil Hoffman is excellent as always, December 9, 2003
This review is from: Owning Mahowny (DVD)
Philip Seymour Hoffman is truly one of the finest actors of this generation. I've been mesmerized by him ever since I saw him in the otherwise-dismal Twister (yes, Twister), where his was the only standout performance. In the years since, he has turned in many memorable performances including Brant in The Big Lebowski, Allen in Happiness, and Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. In the past year or two his status has risen even more, and he's gotten bigger and juicier parts. He appeared in the big-time Hollywood movie Red Dragon, a brief but memorable part in P.T. Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, Spike Lee's 25th Hour and his biggest role to date in the underrated Love Liza.
Now, Phil Hoffman gets another juicy role to show off his acting chops in Richard Kwietniowski's Owning Mahowny, a portrait of a compulsive gambler that is based on a true story. Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, a Canadian bank employee who is so helplessly addicted to gambling that his entire life soon revolves around it. He manages to swindle his bank out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and head to Atlantic City to indulge his passion. In the process he endangers his relationship with his girlfriend Belinda (played by a nearly-unrecognizable Minnie Driver), but begins a new relationship of sorts with casino boss Victor Foss (a suave John Hurt).
Owning Mahowny is similar to other movies of this sort (It sort of reminded me of Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can) and it's simple and straightforward. There are really no surprises to be found, it pretty much stays close to the facts of the true story. It's really not about plot, or even story, however. It's about one man's descent into addiction, gambling in this case, and how he is nearly destroyed by it and how he hurts others by it. The script and direction are unremarkable; it's Hoffman that makes the film worthwhile. His performance is harrowing and mesmerizing. Without speaking a word, he can convey unimaginable sorrow and frustration. In fact, Hoffman is at his best when he's silent. With mere movements he creates memorably pitiable characters. Sort of ironic that one of the most gifted actors of our time establishes himself by playing afflicted losers.
For fans of Philip S. Hoffman, Owning Mahowny is a must-see. His performance carries the film and gives it its weight. For general audiences, the film may be unbearably slow and uninteresting. I can't wait to see what Phil does next.

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