Sunday, October 26, 2003

Kill Bill

My company's storefront is under new management, and that management asked me to run a tournament last night, so I said "what the hell" and spent a few hours up in Redmond running HeroClix. And I had a blast. It's been too long since I've had the opportunity to get out into the real world and see how the game works, and see how people are actually playing it, and it was a nice dose of perspective. We finished around nine, and instead of coming back home like a total bump-on-a-log, I said to my co-worker, "let's go see Kill Bill." Liz expressed zero interest in seeing the movie (she dislikes Quentin Tarantino), but Kytte was game, and we caught a 9:40 show at the Crossroads.

Before I talk about the movie, a brief word about movie theaters. I haven't been to many movie theaters in Seattle, and these days I tend to go to movies at the theater only if I've heard really good things. I used to love the theater, but I cannot stand most of the crowds that go to theaters - typically high school students whose pagers, cellphones, giggles, and screams interrupt my enjoyment of the movie. And it's getting worse. I honestly believe that teenyboppers, male and female, have less and less respect for the other people in the movie theater. It sometimes borders on a total disregard for every other person - a kind of Ayn Randian selfishness that makes me want to kick someone in the head. Like their parents. But I digress.

Kill Bill is, as the title card advertises, the 4th film from director Quentin Tarantino. It starts with the old 70s "Feature Presentation" introduction (the one where the words look like they are in a kaliedoscope and then come into focus) and another little film snip from some Kung Fu flick (I'm not as versed in the nuances of 70s Kung Fu as others, so I won't embarass myself by posing). Then, after a Klingon proverb (which actually comes from an 18th century French writer and was quoted in Star Trek by Khan, not a Klingon - I do know Star Trek at least), we watch as Uma Thurman's character is apparently murdered. Except she's not. She recovers from her coma, and she's out for revenge. The rest of the movie revolves around killing, well, Bill. And Bill's pals, who tried to kill her and her unborn baby.

Typically, I wouldn't have much to say about a movie whose entire plot and premise can be summed up in its title, but Kill Bill deserves more than that. It's been getting really good reviews from fans of the Kung Fu / Martial Arts / Artsy Flick genre, but to those on the outside, the vanilla moviegoers if you will, have panned it mightily. Scan a few film forums if you doubt this - the opinions are almost as wide apart as those about our President.

I liked it, quite a bit. It was 120% style over substance, and that was OK, because if there is one thing Tarantino does exceptionally well, it's style. Jackie Brown didn't pull this off as well, but Reservior Dogs (which I dislike because of the violence - the style was violence, and that alone cannot carry a film, sorry guys) and Pulp Fiction did. The so-called "experimental" aspects of the film - adding an anime cut-sequence, showing the story out of order - aren't anything new. If Quentin thinks he's breaking ground as a film director, he's sorely mistaken. What he does do, is takes these elements, combines them with the ultimate homage to Kung Fu films (and a half-dozen other lesser-known genres) and makes a fine overall package. Kill Bill is great fun to watch, even if you get the idea that Quentin takes himself a little too seriously. But I got that feeling during Pulp Fiction, too. In short, it's worth the price of admission, but unless you're a total Kung Fu fanboy or fangirl, you probably won't be "wowed" by it. Well, maybe if you're 15 years old and you were 6 when Pulp Fiction came out, so you don't remember it. Jesus, now I feel old.

As I left the theater, I wondered: will this be a jump-start for American cinema in the way Fiction was in 1994? The more I think about it, the more I think "probably not." If anything, Bill is riding the coattails of the genre (Matrix, the flood of anime films becoming more and more popular, Crouching Tiger have already stolen his thunder). Instead, it makes a nice little package on its own, and if you ignore Quentin's own yammering about how arty it is, and enjoy Bill for what it really is, you should be fine. Me, I turned my brain off and had a good time. I can't wait for the DVD.

I should also mention - as everyone should expect, the soundtrack was amazing.

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