Tag Archive | Quentin Tarantino

Bidula’s Last Word: The Man with the Iron Fists

Whenever I see Quentin Tarantino’s name attached to something, I expect awesome. 9 times out of 10, I get awesome. This would be that tenth time.

RZA, formerly of the Wu-Tang Clan, threw up his written/directorial/starring debut to the world last weekend with The Man with the Iron Fists. It was “presented by” Tarantino, which most people don’t realize he simply attached his name to help drive up box-office. Though, I thought with Tarantino backing things, maybe this was going to be a seriously awesome movie.

It had potential, aside from Quentin’s name. RZA, as a founding member of the Wu-Tang, is a genuine expert on the cheesy schlock-fu cinema of the seventies. The name of the group derives from one of those movies. Just about every Wu-Tang song makes some sort of Kung-Fu reference, if not using direct audio samples. Obsession puts it mildly.

The problem is, watching and doing are two very different things. RZA might have the geek-cred in this department, but flexing those nuts on the big screen is a huge risk and ultimately falls flat.

While watching, I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t expect much because it was supposed to be a 70s schlock-fu movie. My hopes were escalated a bit when the movie began with a fight sequence over the opening credits to the tune of “Shame On a Nigga”, which was wonderfully timed to the music. This was possibly the only true bright point in the movie. This also maintained as a trend throughout the movie, every action sequence being coupled with East Coast hip-hop or rap (mostly Wu-Tang derivative) enough that you almost feel like you should be watching an episode of Afro Samurai. It gives a sort of interesting flavor to the movie, but gets played out about half way through.

To me, the entire movie was sorta played our half way through. I waited for something unexpected to happen, but it never came. This was unsurprising considering Eli Roth was RZA’s co-writer on the screenplay and the most surprising and interesting things he’s ever done were the faux-preview for Thanksgiving during Grindhouse and his role as Donny Donowitz, The Bear Jew, in Tarantino’s Magnum Opus (and one of my all-time favorite movies) Inglorious Basterds. His writing has never needed to be much more than typical teens-in-the-wrong-place horror and increasingly more creative ways to kill people in the most painful fashion imaginable.

The reason this movie fails is three concurrent plotlines attempting to be explored and resolved within a paltry 1:39, though, any more than that and I may have walked out due to boredom.

Every fight in the movie seemed rushed and focused more on what felt like bad camera direction or bad editing. Like, really bad editing. Though entertaining, mostly due to their soundtrack, they were poorly put together for the screen.

This movie took itself far too seriously. There was a bit of humor, but I think it could have benefitted from more, especially since you’re essentially doing a period film study with this thing. RZA, I’m convinced, thought this film would be entered into the annuls of history or at least the annuls of Kung-Fu fandom. Though he has the star power, bringing Russel Crowe and Lucy Liu into the mix as headline characters as well as including the WWE’s own Dave Bautista as mega-badass Brass Body, he really can’t put much together with it.

Also, making himself the star seemed a bit vain. I understand that the character he wrote was a black blacksmith, but surely there were more capable black actors available. RZA may be cut, but I somehow doubt his prowess in the martial arts. His fights are the most heavily edited of all and come at the climax of the movie, which makes it a bit of a let down. Especially since, being a Kung-Fu flick, you expect a better final fight than RZA vs. Bautista in a Brothel Beatdown Match (copyright WWE).

This movie was fabulously bad. I can’t honestly recommend anyone see it. I’ve described movies as awesomely horrible before, i.e. Sucker Punch, but I could, in good conscience, recommend a movie like that because that movie didn’t take itself seriously and, honestly, was unique for the genre.

This movie is much like that first VHS you saw of Enter the Dragon; a bad copy of something that had been around for many years.

There is a fine line between awesomely horrible and fabulously bad. I’ll leave you to decide which is which. It’s a slippery slope.

Bidula’s Last Word – 5/10. The soundtrack saved it.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Bidula’s Last Word – Inglourious Basterds

I’m honestly not sure how much education is being perpetuated around the school systems currently regarding World War II.

I’m sure that the kids are being taught about D-Day and Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust, but I don’t really remember how far my class got into the war. We were, of course, taught that Hitler was an evil man who had to be brought down. I don’t quite recall how much we dove into his background in class. I don’t remember getting into any actual battle scenarios (except the two mentioned above). I’m sure something was there, but I was in High School and I didn’t pay attention. I looked it up later, after class, but that was for me. I was a slacker in class and a researcher after.
I think I agree with the guy sitting in front of me in the theater who, when we had reached what was essentially the short epilogue of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, shouted “Fuck History Teachers!”

You have to see it to believe it. And, I’m here to make you want to see it.

Inglourious Basterds is almost definitely the best movie I’ve seen so far this summer. There are a lot of ambiguous terms in there, but I have to qualify.
Quite a few people thought Tarantino had hit the wall (no pun intended) after seeing the B-side of Grindhouse, his 70s car chase homage Death Proof. I agree, this was not my favorite Tarantino flick, but it had to be taken for what it was: another part of a two-part tribute to schlock cinema by respectable directors. This was a way for them to cut loose and have fun with a picture instead of pushing the envelope.
If you don’t think Tarantino is back in full-force after seeing this movie, check your pulse. You may be a zombie and I don’t count the opinions of the living dead. Call me prejudiced.

Let me first tell you that this is a dialogue heavy movie. If you’re going into this expecting an absolutely action packed thrill ride, you’re not going to get it. There is plenty of action, don’t get me wrong. Explosions and blood and the absolutely brutal slaying of Nazis are main themes throughout the entire flick, however, it’s almost not even about the action involved. It’s more about the dialogue.
Tarantino shines as a writer in this movie. From the opening sequence, you are left to hang on every word, every uncomfortable moment of silence, and every look in the eyes of the characters. The dialogue is so good, in fact, that you won’t even notice how much of the movie is subtitled for the characters speaking German, French, and even a spot of Italian.

Though you are lead to believe that the story revolves solely around the exploits of one Lt. Aldo “the Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt) and The Basterds – a group of eight Jewish-American soldiers out for blood, retribution, and the 100 Nazi Scalps demanded of each of them by Lt. Raine – it is actually about so much more.
As Tarantino has done in the past, he takes common elements throughout three separate storylines and ties them all together by the end of the movie. One of those common elements is Nazi SS Colonel Hans Landa played to marvelously evil perfection by Christoph Waltz, an Austrian-born actor who is making what some might consider his American debut in this movie, as he’s got some pretty extensive cred within the German film community.
Col. Landa’s cool, cruel, and slightly insane character provides for some of the films most tense and also most hysterical moments. I’m calling a Best Supporting Actor nod right now, actually. This guy was nothing short of fucking fantastic in this movie and almost completely stole the show.
Almost, that is, if it wasn’t for Pitt’s portrayal of Aldo Raine, a hard man with an intense job and gruesome sensibilities who, while taking things seriously, has a light-hearted, care-free, and funny demeanor about him that instantly makes Lt. Raine one of those unforgettable movie badasses.

Other reviewers and critics have said that it’s too violent. I don’t agree. I believe that it is just violent enough. It doesn’t go over the line with the amount of violence, but it does toe it quite a bit. There is blood and gore and moments that make you cringe, but certainly no more than your average war movie a la Saving Private Ryan or Braveheart. Sure, there are some (a few rather comedic) differences in circumstance, but nothing which could truly be complained about.
Every piece of blood and skull and brains and Nazi scalp fit into the movie like a glove. There is not one graphic moment where the more squeamish among us would say “That was uncalled for,” or “Why did they have to put that in the movie?” It was perfectly executed and just enough to make you squirm before they cut away.
Even though Eli Roth was involved (much to the dismay of at least one of my friends), this movie doesn’t reach his level of gore. After all, he was just an actor in the flick (playing Sgt. Donkowitz, “The Bear Jew”, another awesome character). He, thankfully, wasn’t supervising the bloodbath.

Also giving dynamite performances are Melanie Laurent, a 26 year-old veteran of the French film scene, as Shoshanna Dreyfus, a Parisian theater-owner with a deep seeded hatred for Nazis, Col. Landa in particular, and Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark, a German film starlet with an interesting agenda.
There are the classic Tarantino plot twists which you’re not even really suspecting when they actually happen. You will be legitimately surprised as to who lives and who dies by the end of the film.
To be honest, the main reason I wasn’t anticipating the deaths was because this, except for a very few extremely notable moments, was so unlike anything Tarantino has done that the whole preconception of “Tarantino Movie” was lost to me until the start of the credits flashed his name.
He pulled out all of the stops, actually using native language speakers for the proper characters. The tempo of the speech, the authenticity of the expression, and even the shortened slangy dialects of those foreign languages lead to such authenticity with the roles. Personally, I’m proud of Quentin doing this. When I looked on imDb trivia after the movie and saw that DiCaprio had been approached to play Col. Landa, I was amazed at how horrible of a mistake that would have been. Not only because the role was not really fitted to Leo, but because Leo would not have been able to speak German, French, or Italian with the same timbre as Christoph Waltz.
Also, I heard that he had approached Adam Sandler to play “The Bear Jew”, but Sandler couldn’t hang because he was filming Funny People.
I’m actually very pleased with the casting as, with too many big stars, the focus of the story would have been lost on minor characters as all of the names jockeyed for screen time. The movie wouldn’t have been nearly as strong without that character development and cavalcades of stars usually drag it down.

That all said, my verdict is that this movie kicks ass. Go see it right now. Everyone.

Bidula’s Last Word: 9.5/10

It only loses the .5 because I almost wish we could have spent a bit more time with the Basterds than we had. But, with an already lengthy run-time of 153 Minutes, I can excuse it in the grand scope of the story.

Remember: Christoph Waltz, Best Supporting Actor. You heard it here.

Oh, and yes, my wife liked it, too. I might be out of the movie dog house now.