Category Archives: quentin tarantino

Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun ~ Yeah, so I finally saw this. The number of times this film has been recommended to me by friends whose opinions I respect, and even those I don’t, is countless. Many of those friends have even nagged me with occasional “Did you see it yet?” inquiries.

The title revealing subject matter and the way sometimes I was recommended or asked about the flick has made me wonder about the sincerity of these friends. Ya know how someone will take a bite of something terrible, and then, not wanting to be the only one who is suffering, will offer you a taste? Yeah, that’s the vibe I have gotten in the past from Hobo with a Shotgun.

Right off the top, I have to give props to the director Jason Eisener and the cinematographer Karim Hussain. The color of this flick is insanely vibrant, no doubt a thematic choice to cash in on the 1970s action exploitation vibe that drives the picture. Even the movie poster reflects that homage, sans the Technicolor of course.

Based on the originally fake trailer from Rodriquez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse, the movie delivers its particular brand of hyperviolence almost from the start. Rutger Hauer is the hobo in question, and runs afoul of The Drake, the warlord who rules Hope Town. yeah, that’s the name, or in light of events and graffiti, it’s now called Scum Town.

Hauer is good here, playing apathetic at first and more than a little crazy, much better than his recent turn in “True Blood” as a subtly and hilariously similar character type. Actually had Sookie’s gramps been more like the hobo, it might have saved this season. When a shotgun eventually makes it into the hobo’s hands, he decides to become a crazed force for good, battling the bad guys and inspiring the frightened townspeople.

Trust me, this hyperviolent tale of good vs. evil set in a hellish Technicolor suburban wasteland sounds much better than it actually is but its misshapen heart is in the right place. Hauer watches and reacts for the most part, but for the rest of the cast it’s an over the top acting massacre that would make Lloyd Kaufman of Troma positively jealous.

Speaking of which, if you love Troma Films, you will love Hobo with a Shotgun. On the other hand, if you don’t, this movie is not for you. And neither is it for the squeamish. Either way, the color is fabulous. And maybe Robert Downey Jr. can fight The Plague in Iron Man 4

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The Man with the Iron Fists

The Man with the Iron Fists ~ This film is a mad alternate universe martial arts adventure written by RZA and Eli Roth, an insane love letter to the Shaw Brothers movies of the 1970s. With the backing and support of Quentin Tarantino, a decent budget, an awesome cast, and even cooler soundtrack, the film succeeds on all points of professing its love, providing proper homage, and entertaining the hell out of viewers.

The flick is high camp adventure at its best, and great actors like Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu roll with it with skill. RZA plays the title role, an American emancipated blacksmith who becomes embroiled in this bloody cartoonish tale of greed, revenge, and warring clans, all set to frenetic hip hop soundtrack.

This is pure Shaw Brothers with a big budget and better music, imagine Crouching Tiger without the grace and slow parts but mixed with a bizarre steampunk UFC sensibility and you’ve got the vibe. It even turns almost superhero-ish toward the end.

The red band trailer below is NOT family or work safe. You’ve been warned.

I dug this flick a lot, but found myself a bit bored waiting for the next fight with outrageous opponents to occur. It suffers in these places, but the battles more than make up for it. Recommended for those who grew up with Saturday afternoon martial arts flicks, and loved them despite the silliness and the effects, The Man with the Iron Fists is for you.

Beware the Batman

I approach this new Batman series with both trepidation and resentment. We’re getting this series as not only a replacement for the old “Brave and the Bold” series, which gave us an intriguing and entertaining new direction for the character, but also a replacement for the much loved, and inexplicably ended “Green Lantern” and “Young Justice.” I would have much rather had either of these series back, or a JLA spin-off from the later than anything else Cartoon Network is offering lately, especially the superdeformed mutilation called “Teen Titans Go!” or this newest version of Batman.

“Beware the Batman” is a bit of an oddity, with, in my opinion, very little to like. The animation is CGI style like the aforementioned Green Lantern series, and there seems to be very little reason to have it done in this method. There are no wild scifi elements that this style would benefit. Batman’s head is odd and his whole costume has a wet, almost slimy, vinyl rubber look.

It is also quite violent. I was surprised at how violent, and I’m pretty desensitized to that sort of thing, especially when it comes to superheroes and cartoons. This is also a very different concept for Batman. He is, once again (groan), early in his career and therefore inexperienced. Why can’t we have the confident and competent Batman? That’s the one we like, not the bumbling amateur.

I said this was a new concept, well, young and dumb isn’t what I was talking about. Alfred is very different. More than a butler, he is an Australian ex-spy who looks like cross between Lex Luthor and Vin Diesel. It’s an intriguing idea, but I don’t like it.

Also in the way of change, I understand that the standard rogues gallery is being jettisoned for this new series. I think this is a very odd decision as Batman’s bizarre enemies are as much a part of his popularity as everything else. In the opener, he fights the very strange Grant Morrison creations, Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad. I was not impressed.

Also featured in the episode were a non- Mr. Terrific Michael Holt and a decidedly pre-Metamorpho Simon Stagg. Was this just for the Easter egg name drop then? Let’s face it, Mr. Terrific and Metamorpho are what makes these characters interesting, without them, why use them?

I’m giving this series a wait and see option. I haven’t really decided yet. It could go either way after watching just one episode, but I really don’t know.

I did however like the DC Nation short featuring the Tarantino-esque Aeon Flux style retro Wonder Woman short. Can’t wait to see more. Instead of another Batman, why not a series based on this, of one of the other better shorts like Amethyst, Sword of the Atom, Plastic Man, or Thunder and Lightning? Or if you insist on Batman, how about Batman of Shanghai?

James Gandolfini Dead at 51

Actor James Gandolfini died today in Italy from a massive heart attack, he was 51. The three time Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy winner was best known for playing bipolar modern gangster and family man Tony Soprano in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He was also a producer, and a star of stage and screen, besides his television work.

I first became aware of the man when he played a very evil piece of work in Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance. His menacing presence made him perfect for the complex character of Tony Soprano in my opinion.

“The Sopranos” first entered my wheelhouse during its second season. I had written a still unpublished novel with hyper-violent overtones. Two beta-readers told me I needed a balance between the violence and the drama of everyday life, and both, separately suggested that I had to see “The Sopranos” so I could see how it’s supposed to be done. I got HBO, and was blown away. I quickly caught up, and was addicted to the show until its end.

Most of the reason the show was so successful was Gandolfini’s talent and presence. If we did not believe Gandolfini as Tony, the show falls apart. He was the show in many ways.

The man was perhaps the best lead in perhaps the best show ever made for TV.   It is so sad to lose such a talent so young. Who knows what might have been in his future. James Gandolfini will be missed.

Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark

LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE by C. Hope Clark has the best opening line I have read in quite some time: “O-positive primer wasn’t quite the color I had in mind for the small office, but Lucas Sherwood hadn’t given the décor a second thought when he blew out the left side of his head with a .45.” I was hooked.

Hope’s descriptions don’t end with that beautiful Tarantino-esque opening. In what sounds at first like the last thing I would ever read – an agricultural mystery in the Deep South – Hope delivers fast paced, easy reading, absolutely compelling prose. Her sense of place and people put you there, and the tension and twists don’t let you put the book down. I read it in one sitting, and I don’t do that often. I loved the characters, and the edge. And this is coming from someone for whom mysteries are just not in the wheelhouse.

Carolina Slade Bridges is a strong female protagonist, a good woman drawn from equal parts Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Cornwell, and Elmore Leonard. She’s tough, she’s harsh, she’s by the book, and quite often, she’s Hope Clark herself – or at least the woman, mentor, and friend I have come to know after a decade of interviewing her at The Writer’s Chatroom. It’s no secret the book is loosely based on real events, but how close, no one’s talking. Any way you slice it, Slade (don’t call her Carolina) rocks, and I can’t wait for the next installment – TIDEWATER MURDER, due next month. Four stars out of four, highly recommended.

Buy the book here, and be sure to come by The Writer’s Chatroom this Sunday evening for a chat/interview with the author.

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry ~ There was a time when I was a kid that I thought Peter Fonda was the coolest guy on Earth. He was in stuff like Race With the Devil and Futureworld and of course Easy Rider, so he could do no wrong. He was also in this charmer.

Until I saw Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry again recently I could remember very little about it. I remembered it starred Fonda, and Susan George, in the bizarre title roles, it was a car chase flick, and it was frequently one of channel 6’s late night Friday movies – you know, the ones I wasn’t supposed to be staying up watching – both because of the content, and because it was past my bedtime. Little else was retained by my memory.

Upon watching it again for the first time in almost maybe forty years, I am struck by how really bad it is. It may have been okay or mediocre for the time (1974), but let’s just say the years have not been kind. Rather than an interesting time capsule like other seventies films I’ve watched recently, this is a creaky relic.

Loosely based on the novel “The Chase” (later known as “Pursuit”) by Richard Unekis, one can easily see the influence of earlier films of the genre like Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop, The French Connection, and even Bonnie and Clyde. The problem is that you can also see this film’s own influence on the destruction and mocking of the genre later in the decade by stuff like Smokey and the Bandit, Eat My Dust, and The Blues Brothers. This is the beginning of the car chase movie becoming a joke, amusing or not.

This movie is so seventies, down to the theme song by Marjorie McCoy being used throughout as if choreographed by Quentin Tarantino, to the crazy fashions and ugly cars, to the endless shots of the scenic southwest. And the late Vic Morrow wonderfully eats up the screen as the obsessed pursuing cop. It’s worth a look for the curious, but it’s no masterpiece, but Peter Fonda is still cool.

The Green Hornet

I have been waiting for this movie for a long time. And by long time, we’re literally talking almost two decades, as that’s how long this property has been floating around Hollywood. At different times George Clooney, Jet Li and Kevin Smith have all been involved in its production in one capacity or another. I’m just happy it finally got made. And despite my trepidation at this Seth Rogan action comedy version, I still couldn’t wait to see it, and the four days I had to wait since its release until I saw it were far harder to wait than the twenty years before it. Thankfully, the wait was worth it, this was a terrific surprise and a great flick.

For those not in the know, you might want to check out my article “Re-Introducing the Green Hornet” over at the All Things Fun! Blogs. If nothing else, it should hip you to the love I have for the character and the mythology. Yeah, this flick was pretty important to me.

My fears about this being an action comedy were somewhat relieved when I read an interview with co-writer and title star Seth Rogan. Despite his obvious slob comedy background, the guy has a pure and hardcore love for the Hornet, and while it does descend to the usual Rogan jokey depths, the quality and integrity of the mythos is upheld in my opinion.

The plot, slightly altered from the original has Britt Reid an irresponsible rich boy partier whose father is slain for writing an anti-crime editorial. Britt is forced to straighten out as he inherits his father’s multi-million dollar newspaper. Accompanied by his father’s mechanic, Kato, played by Taiwan pop sensation Jay Chou, he decides that he wants to do something with his life – that being a covert superhero believed to be a villain.

Now Rogan and director Michael Gondry are no fools, they have seen the 1960s “Green Hornet” TV series and they know that the Black Beauty, the badass car, is the real star here. There is much care put into the concept mixing contemporary and retro that make the Black Beauty just as cool now as it was in 1966. I don’t know about you, but I always liked the Black Beauty better than the Batmobile, and still do.

The Green Hornet and Kato have a very unique relationship in the world of superheroes, they are partners rather than hero and sidekick, and this is explored well here, as it would be in the beginning of such a partnership dynamic. Even when it deteriorates into foolish and comedic combat, it rings true.

Seth Rogan toned up for the role and looks good, and when things get serious, he is right on top of it. I love the tie and the vest, both nods to the TV series. Jay Chou, much like Bruce Lee before him, steals the show. He’s the reason to see this, and he’ll be big after this. Christoph Waltz, Oscar winning Nazi from Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, is an intriguing take on the super-villain. Meek, middle-aged, sand oft spoken but still a dangerous sociopath, he is subtlety incarnate here. Another prize performance. Cameron Diaz and Edward James Olmos are lost here in my opinion. Hopefully there will be a sequel to make better use of their talents.

It’s not a perfect movie, and I do have some fanboy nitpicks that did bother me. I wish we had seen the Hornet Sting, and I wish we had heard more of the theme song “Flight of the Bumblebee.” I mean we heard more of it in Kill Bill in homage to the Green Hornet than we did in the actual Green Hornet film. And of course the whole final chase/fight at the climax of the flick could have been avoided had the Black Beauty had wireless. I mean, really, it’s got rocket launchers, machine guns, even a record turntable, but no wireless?

My big problem was of course the identity of the main villain. It hurt me deep. Really, having him be the big bad is the same as having Commissioner Gordon revealed as the main villain in the Batman films. It just doesn’t work. Again, I should say it does work. I don’t like it but it works.

All in all, this was a great flick, and has done better than I think folks thought it would have. The Green Hornet is the best flick I’ve seen so far this year, and heartily recommended. See it.

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White Dog

White Dog ~ This Sam Fuller flick from 1982 is supposedly the movie that destroyed Kristy McNichol’s career. In hindsight, this could have been an amazing Quentin Tarantino, but then again, for many folks, Quentin is only a poor man’s Fuller. Besides McNichol, the star-studded cast also includes Paul Winfield and Burl Ives, not to mention a score by the master, Ennio Morricone. Also look for cameos by Paul Bartel and the legendary Dick Miller.

White Dog is at best hokey horror, not much better than your run of the mill ABC movie of the week in the 1970s, but still that’s a mark to aspire to. Kristy finds a dog and takes him in. She soon finds that he’s a trained attack dog. But he’s not just an attack dog, he’s an attack dog trained to specifically attack black people. Yeah, you got it.

Just for the record, this movie didn’t ruin Kristy’s career, she did. I’ve seen this flick, the dog is a much better actor than Kristy McNichol here. Sad but true…

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Sukiyaki Western Django

Sukiyaki Western Django ~ I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch this one. While I am familiar with the works of Takashi Miike, I had no idea how he was going to meld the legend of spaghetti western anti-hero Django into some sort of modern day samurai western. The Django I knew was from director Sergio Cambucci and featured Franco Nero as the man who dragged a coffin behind him, which secretly held a gatling gun. The violent nature of the character and his world fit Takashi but still I wondered about what it was. In the end, I wonder if even Takashi knew what the film really was.

The tale is that of warring clans of feudal Japan, but taking place in some surreal old west, a world of both gunplay and swordplay, a Nevada in a Japanese desert. It is wholly unique, with hip pop cult blood running through its veins and down its legs. The Japanese actors speaking broken English is strange and awkward, but somehow fitting. Sergio Leone would have been proud, and he would have also been confused. Quentin Tarantino plays well in his cameo, but his scenes are painfully short. He might have saved this.

Oh, it’s pretty, and visually stunning. While it is a marvel to look at, even when it borderlines between cartoon and bad stage play, it really has no plot whatsoever and is just a series of fights and visuals one after another. Pretty with little substance, and bristling with winks and nods to several genres, it comes off more like a parody than an homage. And I doubt that’s what Takashi Miike was after. It hurts me as well. I love this stuff, and I didn’t want to laugh at it, I wanted to laugh along with it. Unfortunately the former happened more than the latter. Must see, but maybe only once, just for the visceral experience.

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Random Thoughts on the 82nd Annual Academy Awards

The best, absolute best, part of the whole thing was the opening number with Neil Patrick Harris. After only five minutes with co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, I was bored to sleepy tears. Why the hell couldn’t NPH have hosted? At least I could have stayed awake – and I was even rocking the fast-forward button and was bored with Martin and Baldwin. There was no chemistry and especially no humor. NPH for next year’s show, folks, okay?

I thought the animated bit was brilliant, and as I said, if Up won, it took it out of the running for Best Picture. More bits like this would be welcomed. On the presenters, I found them more engaging and refreshing by far than Martin and Baldwin – why not next time just have a dozen different presenters and no hosts? And why didn’t they have each song performed live on the show? That’s something that folks look forward to – why get rid of it? Hopefully not to make more time for Martin and Baldwin’s nonsense…

The entire presentation for Best Screenplay with Tina Fey and Robert Downey, Jr. was brilliant. If we’re talking about how to make this show better, this is a step in the right direction. But, who dressed Downey? Wow. Also on the right track was the tribute to John Hughes. Double wow.

On the bad side, halfway through the Awards I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the clips that frequently were cut rife with spoilers and misinterpretations. These were done for each acting and Best Picture presentations mostly but I really wonder how the folks involved in those films and performances felt about them. Stanley Tucci was visibly shaken when the clip of his Supporting Actor bit was shown.

Ben Stiller should join Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as unfunny people who should never host the Awards. Mo’Nique gave a near perfect Oscar speech, just enough of what should be in there, and not too much of shouldn’t. I see the tradition of playing folks off when they go too long is still in place – and still very selective. The tribute to Horror was a bit odd. And wasn’t Silence of the Lambs quite some time after The Exorcist? Someone on the Oscar writing staff needs to do their research better.

The intentional inclusions of clips of Martin and Baldwin in the tributes for no other real reason other than they were the hosts were becoming quite irritating as well. Not as much as their actual hosting however. The dancers doing their thing to the scores was no satisfying substitution for song performances, in my opinion. On the other hand, James Taylor singing “In My Life” during the memoriam was a really nice touch, another highlight. But where were Bea Arthur and Farrah Fawcett?

It was cool for me to see two of my favorite directors, Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino giving away the Best Foreign Film Oscar, a real treat. And what was up with the lamp background? Did the Academy run out of money when it came to stage backdrops?

On the winners, I was glad Michael Giacchino won for Best Score, as he’s my favorite composer these days. I had at least a few of my guesses right. You guys were close but not quite right with the poll to the right, as The Hurt Locker won Best Picture. All in all, this was a tolerable show, not great but not abysmal either. Remember, next year, get Neil Patrick Harris for the whole show.

And oh yeah, go, Sandra!

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