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Death Proof, a review by Jon
4 out of 5
It's taken me a long time to get to this. Although critically it was highly praised, it never seemed a true success, supported by the comments on this very forum. I started to think maybe Quentin Tarantino was having his first stumble and it put me off. Actually I believe this film was far from a stumble and is a great success, though perhaps not in the way it was designed to be.
Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a serial killer who stalks women and then kills them using his "death proof" car. That's about it! As a grindhouse homage the plot is suitably light.
The screenplay though immediately aims for something more substantial. Playful, manipulative and full of memorable moments, it's an absolute triumph. I know a lot complained about this supposedly boring effort, but many screenwriters would give up valuable limbs to be able to produce stuff like this. Ok, his trademark dialogue in the first half is not full of classic lines like those in Pulp Fiction, but the attitude and flow is just as well judged. I found nothing to complain about and plenty to praise. My favourite type of writing is where things are left to the imagination and he does this brilliantly, with just about no exposition so far as I could tell. That should be applauded. Not knowing who the girls are for about 20 minutes; the wonderful moment with the text message; Kurt Russell's brilliant John Wayne impersonation ("you're going in the book!"); and his admission about just how death proof his car really is... all bloody fantastic. Boring, my arse.
And of course, what's doubly brilliant is that it aspires to no higher a target than Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho...
He definitely makes a mistake in the second half by not at least building on what he achieved in the first. The pacing goes very flat, though I did appreciate the change in tone of the dialogue. I've heard actors before praise him for writing characters that fit their strengths and I'm sure that's what happened here. I also loved the black and white moment; hidden behind nothing more than a gimmick to fit in with the grindhouse effect, was a wonderful visual trick. We see Mike teasing the girls and it's pretty routine, but when it switches back to colour, the contrast was wonderful. Who knew he was hiding a bright yellow cheerleader?
So if that was certainly a flawed section, the finale more than makes up for it. The stunt work is magnificent and kudos to Tarantino for trusting Zoe Bell with a proper character. Albeit herself, there's never any need for doubles and the "Ship's Mast" works all the more for it. This marvellous car chase deserves to mentioned alongside the classics he obviously aspires to.
Overall I found that this was perhaps too much of a straightforward movie. It is very good in it's own right and in the end, I found the efforts to make it grindhouse material too distracting, unlike Planet Terror which thrived on the approach. I'd like to see the two together, but for now I regard Death Proof as a genuine pleasure in it's own right. And he's given us a truly classic character in Stuntman Mike, who Russell obviously relished and found time to even give him a development...
Perhaps Tarantino's first mistake is asking the audience to trust him. Back in 1960 no-one knew what to expect with Psycho, but they not only know what to expect from Tarantino, they pretty much demand it. If you don't agree with his approach then yes, the first half is a boring waste of time, but it's a shame to miss out on a good film because what you assumed would be there isn't. The same sort of thing happened with Jackie Brown and I've always found it odd. Each of his films has been different from the others, so why should anyone be disappointed that the new one isn't the same as the old. Actually it also happened with Kill Bill 2 as that was a different tone to part 1.
This film for me affirms his status as one of the most important players in Hollywood. I really wish it had been a bigger success, because I would hate for him to be compromised. The way he employs old school actors and -in this case at least- stunt people, gives a leg up to new ones (see the featurette), classic music (I have to get the soundtrack!), refuses to use CGI and each of his movies finds a new angle to explore. What's not to like?
(From Death Proof on June 15th, 2008)
Sweet Sixteen, a review by Rich
Using a cast of unknown actors and newcomers, Ken Loach fashions another gritty social drama in SWEET SIXTEEN. In his acting debut, Martin Crampston plays Liam, whose mother is about to be released from prison on his 16th birthday. Liam recognises that the only chance for the pair of them to escape the poverty of their surroundings is to move away from the Greenock council estate they live on. However, to realise this dream he will need to get hold of some money. Roping in his friends to help, he sets out on a series of increasingly dangerous schemes to raise cash and soon finds himself out of his depth.
Typical Loach, gritty, at times depressing, a severely harsh look at modern society and it's youth stuck at the bottom of the pile. Incredibly difficult to follow some of the strong Scottish accents, to consider these were unknown actors the Director used is amazing as generally they were superb, especially Martin Compston in the lead role.
Completely unforgiving film, where the message that hope is futile and a better life does not exist for some of our society, is incredibly powerful and thought provoking. Not for the easily offended due to the continual coarse language and graphic violence, it is perhaps a film that should be seen as it is so raw and real.
(From Riches Random Reviews on April 24th, 2009)
Angel Marathon, a review by DJ Doena
I didn't want to start another disc yesterday evening and so I decided to watch the episode "Angel" again.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1: Episode 7: AngelSynopsis: The Master is really angry because Buffy is killing so many vampires. He sends "The Three" after her and they nearly succeed if it weren't for Angel who intervents, but gets hurt. In Buffy's home it happens: Angel inadvertently shows his "true" face and now Buffy knows what he is: a vampire.
My Opinion: If Angel hadn't help, it wouldn't have gone well for Buffy. That's the reason I don't understand why the Master killed all of The Three. Skeletor killed only one of the mercenaries in "Masters of the Universe" to make his point. And I wished that Angel wouldn't have told Buffy that he has a soul. The entire conversation ("So, what happened?") went to fast in my opinion.
(From Angel Marathon on February 21st, 2008)