The 6th Day

After time travel in The Terminator, aliens in Predator and mind control in Total Recall, Arnie takes on the controversial topic of cloning in this ’00 flick, The 6th Day. It might not be as critically acclaimed as the others, but by gosh is it entertaining.

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Set in a futuristic world – ‘sooner than you think‘ the film suggests – Arnie plays Adam Gibson, a helicopter pilot who remains rather old-fashioned in a world where you can order milk from the touch of a button on your fridge. One of the inventions this film accurately predicted is the sat nav, although in this film it can drive the car to your destination. The futuristic element definitely recalls Total Recall, but I’ll allow it. His daughter’s dog, Oliver, snuffs it one morning (incidentally his birthday) while Adam is at work, and his wife (Wendy Crewson) suggests that he take the dog to RePet, a cloning facility for animals.

It turns out that cloning of all animals has been proven scientifically possible, and practically achievable, although an incident involving the clone of a human has rendered the practise of human cloning illegal. Nevertheless, an underground cloning facility exists, with RePet as their public face.

Creepy

Creepy

Adam decides not to clone the dog, as he feels it’s worth teaching his daughter that all things must die. Nevertheless, when he gets home, he finds that Oliver is alive and well, yapping at him on the front lawn. He then hears a party, as well as people singing ‘Happy Birthday‘ from inside his house, and when he looks in, he sees another Arnie! Dum-dum-DUMMM!

However, the baddies are onto him, specifically Michael Rooker (Merle from The Walking Dead), Terry Crews (from the Old Spice adverts), Sarah Wynter and Rodney Rowland. Despite being rather easy to defeat, the arch-baddie Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) is able to ressurect them through the utilisation of his cloning device, although it would surely be cheaper just to hire new grunts. Eventually, Arnie manages to team up with himself, resulting in some pretty hilarious dialogue. See below.

The effects are adequate, the action is fab, the sci-fi is pretty decent, the dialogue is cheesy and Arnie is simply Arnie. If you’re looking for a rip-roaring sci-fi action B-movie then you’ve come to the right place. Arnie never disappoints!

Django Unchained

Well it’s been fun counting the films up to Tarantino’s latest release, and reliving each one of them certainly got me in the mood for this adventure. Nevertheless, I’m going to have to end this ‘Tarantino Week’ on an anticlimax since the film in question is rather bof, as the French might say.

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The year is 1858, and Jamie Foxx plays Django (silent ‘d’, apparently) a slave who is freed in the opening scene by a Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist-cum-bounty-hunter. Django is treated as an equal, as the two ride around shooting criminals. One night, Django reveals that he wants to free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), a slave working under Mr. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). They conjure up a cunning plan to rescue her, but their plan falls short when Candie’s loyal servant Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) sees what is going on.

The plot is semi-decent but is not a patch on Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds. There’s nothing intricate, deep or even remotely clever about the story, and it definitely does not warrant its 165 minute length. On top of this, while Tarantino’s characters usually have several layers to them, everybody in this film was simply too predictable: Christoph Waltz hates slavery, so he’s the good guy, and stays consistently good throughout; Jamie Foxx is always angry at white people, and wants to kill them; Leonardo DiCaprio simply remains a douchebag throughout the movie; only Samuel L. Jackson remains interesting. I wasn’t sure what his role would be in this film, and we don’t get to see him for a good 90 minutes. However, when he finally appears, the wait is worth it. An old man with white hair, he stumbles out of the house and looks incredulously at Django sitting on a horse like a white man. Throughout Django’s stay, Stephen constantly argues about the rights that he is given, and his bitter personality is actually quite refreshing, and his unfounded loyalty to Mr. Candie is most intriguing.

Samuel L. Jackson: incredulous

Samuel L. Jackson: incredulous

The film is quite controversial because of its ‘unflinching’ attitude towards slavery, featuring heavy usage of the word ‘nigger’, and scenes of black people being whipped or otherwise treated unequally. Personally, I found Tarantino’s take on slavery rather bland, simply depicting it as wrong and immoral, without doing anything very interesting with it. In terms of being moved by the injustice of slavery, To Kill A Mockingbird definitely shocked me more. I find the idea of having your alibis ignored simply because of your race much more harrowing than being torn apart by dogs. As an aside, this is rather similar to the way I feel about the climax of 1984: I found the concept that your perception of truth could be taken away a lot more frightening than the idea that rats might gnaw off your face.

When I watched Argo, I incredulously watched as the country of Iran would shoot an American on sight, but wouldn’t bat an eyelid if a Canadian walked by. In Django Unchained, I was bemused by the fact that as soon as it was revealed that Django was a free man, everyone started to treat him as an equal, pouring him drinks and giving him meals. The racism wasn’t entirely consistent.

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As I’ve said before, with Tarantino films you need to be very patient and hope that the director has something good in store. If you find a gory shoot out where human bodies literally explode with blood every time they are shot to be ‘something good’, then you might actually enjoy the pay-off. That said, if you detest gratuitous violence, then this will not be your cup of tea, and you’ll probably leave the theatre grumbling. Personally, I lapped it up, knowing this was going to be the best scene in the film. The amount of blood is unreal, and the body count satisfyingly high. On the other hand, it’s far from Tarantino’s best, and images of the Crazy 88 from Kill Bill swiftly come to mind.

Perhaps one of my favourite things about spaghetti Westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is that there isn’t much talking, where actions speak louder than words. Of course, Tarantino films are usually nothing but talking, with a few sparse action scenes thrown in for good measure, making it slightly awkward watching him trying to fit his trademark style to an age-old genre. While some of the film seemed to have some very ‘Western’ moments, it played out more like a twisted period drama.

If you like this, there's a lot more where that came from

If you like this, there’s a lot more where that came from

There are quite a few redeeming moments in Django Unchained, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that the film is nowhere near as good as it could have been. The story is too simple, and is drawn out over an extraordinary amount of time; the characters are too clear-cut, with no room for profoundness; the slavery is uninteresting; and the spaghetti Western theme is simply not used to its full potential. What a disappointment.

Inglourious Basterds

When I first saw the curiously titled Inglourious Basterds, I remember quite distinctly seeing at the Pathé cinema in Scheveningen, The Netherlands. Two things struck me as I sat in the darkened theatre:

  1. I had not fully appreciated that this was going to be a Quentin Tarantino movie. By this point, the only film of his I’d seen was Pulp Fiction. It had not occurred to me that there would be roundabout dialogue, larger-than-life characters and other quirky trademark Tarantino facets in this film. I was quite taken aback that, unlike the trailer which portrayed a mindless action movie where Brad Pitt killed lots of Nazis, this was to be another of Tarantino’s cerebral epics.
  2. As the cinema was situated in Holland, naturally the film was Dutch-subtitled. This was dandy, except for the fact that around half of the movie is spoken in either French or German; and this is a long movie! Two and a half hours long! The English subtitles had been eradicated, so I had to use my combined knowledge of French, German and Dutch to work out what was going on. A fun mental challenge perhaps, but gruelling when you just want to enjoy a film.

For these very reasons, I felt it was only appropriate that I watched the film once more, with the subtitles I so badly craved, in order to fully appreciate Tarantino’s sixth film. My second watching proved to be a mesmerising experience, and I was blown away by just how fantastic this film is.

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Inglourious Basterds is a very different film for Tarantino, in that it is a (fictional) historical drama. Set in World War II, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) leads a troupe of Jewish soldiers through Nazi-occupied France on a mission to kill as many Nazis as possible. Meanwhile, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), a Jew who barely escaped with her life after her family was brutally slaughtered by Nazis, runs a cinema in Paris. She becomes acquainted with Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) a German war hero, whose exploits have been made into a film by Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth). Zoller convinces Goebbels to hold the premiere at Shosanna’s cinema, and she resolves to burn the building down with all the Nazis inside. Simultaneously, a British film critic of German cinema, Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is recruited for “Operation Kino” by General Ed Fenech (Mike Myers) and Winston Churchill (Rod Taylor), a mission involving German film star Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) and the Basterds. The drama is made more exciting when it is revealed that Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke) himself will be at the premiere. Personally, I love the plot, far more compelling than the boorish hack ‘n’ slash movie that I’d anticipated. Although things often appear to be going well for the good guys, there’s a fair amount of peril to go around, and the famous shoot-out sequence in the bar shows just how quickly things can escalate in a Tarantino movie.

Inglourious Basterds

It goes without saying that the acting here is tremendous, and Tarantino really has a brilliant turnout for this war epic. It was only a matter of time before Pitt and Tarantino would cross paths, and I’m glad it was on this fantastic movie. Michael Fassbender was a pretty new actor at the time, but since this film, he’s made his name in Hollywood with films such as X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, Shame and Prometheus. Mike Myers name appeared in the credits at the beginning of the film, but I almost missed him as the British General. He’s not on screen very long, but his accent did fool me. However, the German and French talent must also be admired. In particular, I was pleasantly surprised to see Daniel Brühl, of Good Bye Lenin! fame in this flick. It must be said that his French accent is absolutely parfait. Mélanie Laurent is as stunning as she is cunning, and her held-back hatred of the Nazis can be seen through her body language. However, Christoph Waltz steals the show as the antagonistic ‘Jew Hunter’. He speaks the full gamut of languages here, completely fluently: French, German, English and even Italian. His steely calm behaviour makes him a formidable foe, and my favourite moment of his is when he bursts out laughing after hearing von Hammersmark lie about how she got a cast on her leg. He can see right through almost any character, making for the ultimate ‘bad guy’. I am looking forward to his performance in Django Unchained.

What’s quite brilliant in this movie is how the serious can be mixed with the silly in a way that doesn’t compromise either aspect. Blowing Hitler’s face to smithereens with a machine gun is definitely silly, but the relationship between Frederick and Mélanie shows a sense of maturity that cannot be found elsewhere in the film. Their inevitable death is actually quite poignant. Also, this film is much simpler to follow than other Tarantino films (provided you have the subtitles that is), simply because there’s no drugs or crime involved. Drugs and crime always tend to make things more complicated.

Inglourious Basterds

At the end of the film, Brad Pitt pulls away from Christoph Waltz, having just carved a swastika into his forehead and says to B.J. Novak – better known as Ryan from The Office – “You know somethin’, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.” Given that the next thing we see is Tarantino’s name in the credits, I believe this line to be the director evaluating his own work, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Inglourious Basterds tells an entertaining yet clever story with wittily realised characters to match, and it’s execution is marvellous. It’s certainly on par with Pulp Fiction, and I can’t wait to see if Tarantino will do any better with Django Unchained.

Death Proof

I’ve just noticed that each Tarantino film has exactly two words to its title. Coincidence or a stylistic thing? You tell me. Anyway, next up is Death Proof.

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An interesting story behind Death Proof, it was originally released in cinemas as a double-feature alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, under the title Grindhouse. However, while Planet Terror is hilariously over the top and extreme in nature, Tarantino plays a more subtle game, making the audience wait for the carnage they so desire.

This is a film in two halves really, with a repeated story where a group of girls are stalked and targeted by a psychopath Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who wishes for nothing more than to terrorise people with his ‘death proof’ stunt car. However, before the action begins, we are allowed to get to know each of our female characters, and find out just who they are.

Yes please!

Yes please!

It’s a rather disjointed story, and the first car crash makes the film (as well as the car) lose momentum. If you don’t like Tarantino’s long conversation scenes, then you’ll hate this. However, I found myself getting to like the female characters for their personalities, rather than simply seeing them as pretty stunt car fodder. Of course, when the time has come for the exciting finale, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens. The car chase is excellent, and is rivalled only by the Mad Max films.

A nice touch is the change of colour style throughout the film, made to mimic a low budget slasher film of the 70s. At first, the image is grainy, with dirt all over the image. Another scene appears entirely in black and white, with a jolt bringing it back to high-def colour. Quite why the scene is in black-and-white is only for dear Quentin to speculate, but I’m sure fans who care more can argue amongst themselves. Understandably, the stand-alone version of the movie is greatly different from the Grindhouse version, with much of the talking cut out.

This film really defies expectations, in that it is actually rather restrained for the most part, with the action rather tacked on in the middle and near the end. Nevertheless, Tarantino’s characters make the film fairly satisfying, and the wait isn’t so bad. Definitely a film to be patient with.

Kill Bill

Gosh, he’s a pretentious bloke isn’t he? The title card even says ‘The 4th film by Quentin Tarantino’. However, if he wasn’t as pretentious, the films probably wouldn’t be so damn good.

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Six years after Jackie Brown, Tarantino would return with an epic two volume revenge flick, lasting four hours in total. Kill Bill is yet another triumph for the director, blending martial arts, spaghetti Western and other film styles into one fun adventure package.

Uma Thurman plays The Bride, an ex-member of a league of assassins. She is shown being shot in the head in the bloody aftermath of her wedding, just after telling her shooter that her baby is his. Miraculously, she survives and wakes up in a hospital four years later after having been in a coma. She manages to escape and draws up a list of five people she needs to kill

  1. O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu)
  2. Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox)
  3. Budd (Michael Madsen)
  4. Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah)
  5. Bill (David Carradine)

Her revenge takes her across the globe, and gets her into many scrapes, such as being buried alive in a coffin, and fighting off scores of martial artists in a brilliantly choreographed scene near the end of Volume 1.

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The verdict: excellent. This is a masterpiece of entertainment, a rich tapestry of fantastic ideas in one brutal tour-de-force. If you are patient enough to sit through it all, you will be richly rewarded. Another of Tarantino’s best. Let’s just hope that he never tries to do a Vol. 3, Coppola-style.

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown is perhaps the most overlooked of Tarantino’s movies, and I’ll admit that I had never even heard of it before I did some research on the man. My guess would be that it has become overlooked because it is not like other Tarantino films; there are fewer rambling monologues, and less gratuitous death for example. Nevertheless, I finished this film satisfied.

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Jackie Brown opens with Pam Grier rolling on a moving walkway, with the credits rolling in front of her and a song by Bobby Womack playing, a lovely tip of the hat to The Graduate. While she is the protagonist in this film, she hardly features onscreen, and it’s only half an hour in that we’re introduced to her character.

Jackie Brown (Grier) is a flight attendant who is held by the police for having drugs on her, as well as $50,000 in cash. She is let out on the agreement that she will help the police track down an illegal arms dealer, Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). He is expecting half a million dollars to be delivered to him through Jackie, but he knows that the cops are onto her. Through clever manipulation, Jackie manages to bring the film to a satisfying crunch near the end.

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It’s not usually the sort of thing I’d be interested in, but Tarantino’s characters coupled with his fantastic directorial style really brings the story to life. The use of music is very interesting too, and in one scene, three separate (and very good) songs are used as a sort of leitmotif to distinguish between the characters. Interestingly enough, Robert De Niro appears in this film as Jackson’s sidekick, which is not the way around I’d cast them, but it works nonetheless.

Despite being two-and-a-half hours long, I felt the film was paced just right, perhaps due to the fact that the dialogue was usually to do with the plot. With most Tarantino fans, you have to trust that he’s going to deliver something wonderful later on in the film, and in Jackie Brown, the money exchange scene, delivered in Rashomon style with three different points of view, is certainly worth the wait. However, that’s not to say that I was bored for the rest of it, as the build up was just as intriguing as the main event.

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If you like Tarantino and have not seen this flick, then I thoroughly recommend it, as you may just be surprised. It may not be as explosive and dynamic as Pulp Fiction, but it’s a very interesting and satisfying movie nonetheless. Also, the soundtrack is gold.

Pulp Fiction

Next up is Pulp Fiction, surely Tarantino’s most classic film; the one that really put him on the map. This was my first venture into Tarantino films and I was instantly transfixed.

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It’s hard to say what Pulp Fiction is really about, as it covers the intersecting lives of criminals, mobsters, junkies and more in a beautifully dark concoction. It’s like Reservoir Dogs plus, and features a brilliant ensemble cast featuring John Travolta (the only film where I can stand him really), Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel (again), Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken in a cameo role that only he could play.

The film opens, like Reservoir Dogs, in a café, where a couple are chatting. As their conversation slowly unfolds, we are aware that they are a bit strange, but Tarantino pulls the rug from under our feet when it is revealed that they are actually criminals, wishing to steal money from the diner and its customers. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I can’t remember exactly what happens next, and the confusion is doubled since the film is not in chronological sequence, but I remember that the rest is fantastic.

John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are the mobsters, and my favourite scene is where their first, where they threaten and intimidate two other criminals for making their boss Marsellus Wallace ‘look like a bitch’. Jackson then recites a dramatic biblical announcement before executing the criminal. It’s just brilliant.

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No doubt if I’d seen this film more recently, then I’d have more to say, but I think it’s worthwhile leaving the review here. Quite simply, this film is the perfect blend of characteristic “Tarantino conversation” and bloody action, making for highly rewarding, yet simultaneously intelligent, cinema. A dark comedy of brutal proportions, it’s exciting and thrilling and is, for me, Quentin’s best.