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kendall lopere (H-Town, Tx, USA)

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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but unsatisfying, June 25 2004
I've always felt a certain degree of ambivalence toward Tarantino and his films (can you separate the man from his art?). In interviews he comes across poorly, and his films, while superficially entertaining, seem to be designed to appeal to one specific viewer, himself. However I'd heard such good things about Kill Bill that i felt obliged to see it, and I have to say I'm still somewhat underwhelmed.
Bits of the movie and fantastic, hilarious and beautiful - the final scenes in the snowy garden are just breathtaking, the kid bursting in on the mother's knife fight - genius. But too much of the movie is, well, boring beyond belief. I enjoy a gore-filled romp as much as the next person, but I also believe in suspense and antici...pation. This movie eschews these pleasures to indulge a fantastically outrageous bloodlust, but really, as pretty as Thurman might be, to watch her spank all those henchmen to get to Lucy Liu is tedious and, after a while, merely predictable.
The genre changes were also interesting ("Everyone steals from everyone else"- Swingers), but I don't really feel they added anything, merely indulged tarantino's already inflated sense of his own brilliance. It's not that ground breaking - James Joyce did the same thing in Ulysses almost a century ago - and it merely gives the movie a disjointed, incoherent feel that, combined with the already fractured narrative, disassociates the viewer from the on-screen action.
My final complaint is also somewhat structural - namely the selective application of the laws of physics. Great movie have been made in alternate realities where the laws of physics don't apply and people can fly and run up walls (Crouching Tiger, Bulletproof Monk, The Matrix), but i've never seen one before where the laws work occasionally. They apply merrily here until the final big rumble-in-the-restaurant scene, where all of a sudden people start leaping huge distances. "It's a pastiche, It's an homage"...no, it's lazy and it's boring.
Tarantino needs to get less involves with himself and his ability and the things that he liked as a kid and get back to making genuinely artistic, ground breaking, challenging movies again. Then perhaps he'll be worth the plaudits afforded to him...

Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage
Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage
by Kurt Vonnegut
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
30 used & new from CDN$ 4.61

3.0 out of 5 stars So it goes..., May 28 2004
Palm Sunday reads like Vonnegut's impassioned plea for forgiveness, or perhaps sainthood. "I was right all along" it seems to say, or perhaps "Respect my authority". And who are we to argue?
Who indeed, although a more harsh editor may have scrubbed out some of the self-aggrandizing, i can't believe any editor thought we'd be interested in Vonnegut's family tree. Mind you, i can't believe i read every word of it either... Vonnegut's speeches are pretty inconsequential too - he loves the First Amendment and he fought briefly in WWII, basically sums them up.
Given that Slaughterhouse Five was one of the best autobiographies ever written, Palm Sunday seems somewhat superfluous and any insights into the great man's mind are limited at best, and more tainted by ego than genius at worst.
I'd recommend casual fans should stick to his fiction - only the occasional essay here is particularly enlightening, and i'm not sure it's worth reading through the dross to find it.
Thank you for your attention...

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3.0 out of 5 stars Upstairs, Downstairs, Overkill, May 28 2004
I like Ben Stiller and black comedies as much as the next person, more probably, depending on who I'm sitting beside. For example at a Ben Stiller convention I'd feel a little out of my depth, but if i were in church then...never mind.
Duplex is a nice little New York movie, with jokes about the New York housing market and the joys of apartment living, but it never really feels like more than a series of sketches. The humor is too slow to be truly dark, and the ending is too ridiculous to be unbelievable - some reviewers maintain it was too obvious. I would like to know if they're by any chance clairvoyant? At the risk of including SPOILERS, would you really set your 90yr old grandmother up in a situation where she could get murdered in order to resell a house to make another 2% commission? NP, that's far fetched and unexpected. Drew Barrymore continues a string of good performance, but all-in-all the movie plays like an afterthought. Perhaps Stiller needs to rethink his views on quality over quantity...

Stuck on You (Widescreen)
Stuck on You (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Matt Damon
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 15.71
62 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Tell 'em I'm not here!, May 28 2004
This review is from: Stuck on You (Widescreen) (DVD)
When i heard the Farrelly brothers were making a film about conjoined twins, i have to admit i expected the worst. It seems like one subject it would be impossible for them to walk their fine line being laughing with and laughing at. However, after finally getting round to watching it i have to admit it was actually really good. The Farrelly brothers always show an understanding and an eagerness to involve the plights of those less fortunate than themselves in their movies, which frankly must be a better way of treating the subject of disability than simply ignoring it like the rest of the movie industry. In fact, South Park springs to mind as the only other vehicle brave enough to tackle the issues faced by conjoined persons on screen.
I'll stop there before this becomes a call to award Trey, Matt, Bob or the other one a Nobel prize or anything, but it's something to think about. "Stuck on You" is a very sweet film at heart. The brother's bond with each other (slight pun intended) warms the heart, and there's plenty of sound relationship advice in there too (although if you're looking for relationship advice in a Farrelly brother's movie...). Ultimately the plot serves more as a vehicle for stringing together a bunch of "what if?" scenarios that perhaps seemed a lot funnier when written down. Much of the humor does indeed derive from the brother's unfortunate predicament, but some of this is pure genius, for example in the opening scenes where the brothers are out jogging and a hot female jogger passes and says "Hello" to Greg Kinnear, but not to Matt Damon, who responds "Wow, when did you meet her?!". The bar fight scene is also pretty good, with Damon getting to show he hasn't forgotten the moves he learned for "The Bourne Identity". Cher's acting is terrible and Meryl Steep looks out of place and embarrassed, but Damon is perfect and Kinnear gamely works with what he's given, although in the DVD extras he seemingly tries to disown the entire project.
Finally, i thought the conclusion to the movie seemed both rushed and ill-considered - are we really to believe the boys had never fought and dreamed of separation before in their 32 years together? And if the operation is so risky, why do Kinnear and Damon seem so unconcerned about it? Still, thou shalt find better things to do with thy time and intellect than pick holes in the plot of Farrelly brothers movies. Just sit down, shut up and learn to enjoy the ride.
Overall it's not the Farrelly brother's best, but it isn't Me, Myself and Irene.

The Bourne Identity (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
The Bourne Identity (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Franka Potente
Offered by dodax-online
Price: CDN$ 6.49
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Hunting poor Matt, April 14 2004
Jason Bourne wakes up on a fishing boat in the middle of the Mediterranean sea with two bullets in his back and no idea of who he is or how he got there. Sounds pretty much like an average Sunday morning to me...
He then goes on to discover he can beat up policemen with impunity, scale walls and pick up hot chicks at will. I guess that's where our paths diverge...
The Bourne Identity is a diverting if somewhat insubstantial thriller. It has the power to shock and, yes, thrill the first time around, but repeated viewings add nothing, except for a bewildering sense of how amazing technology is and how poor secret agents are at using it. Bourne relies on miraculous escape after miraculous escape and gets by on chance, fortitude and circumstance. Certainly doesn't reinforce one's faith in the "intelligence agencies". The plot is nicely played and well acted and the car chase bits are good, as is the tension between the main characters, but the love story that grows out of that is unbelievable and diverts from the main theme of the movie -
"Matt Damon can kick butt too!"

Wrong Turn
Wrong Turn
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 22.14
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars "And Deliver Us From Sequels...", April 14 2004
This review is from: Wrong Turn (DVD)
Wrong Turn is a welcome, irony free, return to the seventies slasher genre. As the director himself admits, it never strays too far from being a deliverance meets Texas chainsaw massacre collision, with a little more of the "Blair Witch Project" thrown in than he'd like to acknowledge. The scary bits were pretty darn scary, the characters a little more developed than usual and the inbred hicks lived up to their reputation - perhaps the Appalachian Development Committee should come out and denounce the movie for pandering to simple stereotyping? Who says that all inbred weirdos have to be homicidal cannibals? Can't we have some positive portrayals people!?
A nice touch is that the killings are totally gratuitous and lovingly drawn out. Why merely kill someone when you can drag them off an mutilate and torture them later. Perhaps even save some bits in the fridge for a snack? Fantastic.
The best part of this DVD though is the commentary with the director and the two main stars. The director takes it seriously, explaining how the scenes were set up and giving everyone props for their acting and professionalism. The two stars treat it as a contractual obligation! They make fun of the movie, themselves, each other, the acting, the effects, the CGI, everything! My favorite part has to be at the ~56 minute mark where Desmond Harrington audibly lights up a cigarette, inhales and says "Man, I never realized this movie was so long!".
That leads to the main problem with the movie in my opinion - it's way too short! At 76 minutes you can't help feeling a little cheated. The backstory is skipped over to hasten the arrival of the gore (you know a movie means business when two people get killed during the teaser) and the plot unfolds so quickly it's hard to really get a feel for the horror and tension the characters must be under. That said the characters are slightly more believable than normal - the idea of one guy joining a group of friends is particularly fresh, and at least the horrendous hook-up scene is confined to the deleted section of the DVD. No-one wants to see gratuitous tonsil-hockey in the middle of a blood bath!
Watch it and be scared then watch the special features and laugh at yourself for being scared...

Ichi the Killer (Uncut Special Edition)
Ichi the Killer (Uncut Special Edition)
DVD ~ Tadanobu Asano
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 46.29
9 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars "Life without pain has no meaning..., April 7 2004
Gentlemen, I intend to give your lives meaning..."
I'm not sure if I feel worse that I saw "Ichi the Killer" or that I actually enjoyed it! Probably neither actually. I saw "Suicide circle" a week before, and I feel I may have been somewhat hasty when I said in my review it was the weirdest movie I've ever seen - I think that "Ichi" might just have it beat...
Anyone who saw the humor in the "American Psycho" novel, or enjoyed "Very Bad Things" will definitely want to see this. The plot is fairly ludicrous and poorly explained. Some guys want to bust up some gang so they set a couple of gangs against each other. I think that's it - although there were plenty of mistakes in the subtitles and my Japanese isn't so hot, but I think I got most of it.
Anyway, the real attraction isn't the plot, it's the characters, Ichi and Kakihara. Ichi is a reluctant mass-murderer, while the Kakihara is a willing masochist. Should be fun when they meet, right? The premises and backstories are waaay out there and there's a subtle twist to the denouement and all in all it is a fantastically entertaining ride.
If you have the stomach to sit through it that is...

Let Go
Let Go
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 11.03
17 used & new from CDN$ 3.32

4.0 out of 5 stars I miss you more than you know..., April 5 2004
This review is from: Let Go (Audio CD)
It's been a long and weird ride for the boys from Brooklyn. "Popular" dropped them onto heavy rotation on MTV, creating a ready-made backlash that left them, ironically, somewhat unpopular. In fact they couldn't even get their record company to release their second album. Thankfully however it appears that they're getting the last laugh, as "Let Go" finished high on many critics end-of-year picks, and high/low is gaining recognition as the great lost indie rock album of the mid-nineties.
With "Let Go" however we find a more world-weary 'Surf, whose anger has been dulled by cynicism. I guess this is growing up, mind you, with the treatment they've had from the industry, a little cynicism is more than expected...
The band explore a new sound on this album, with mixed results. Gone is the fuzzy guitar and experimentalism that made the first two albums so exciting, but in comes an added emotional depth to the songwriting and lyrics, a willingness to vent more personal issues than the rage and righteousness exemplified on their earlier albums. This results in some of their best stuff ever - "Blizzard of '77" and "La pour ca", which showcases their French roots, are definitely up there with their best material, however, a tendency for the band to overindulge in ballads is not as welcome. As a case in point, "Inside Of Love" is absolutely terrible. It sounds too much like modern period "Travis", all gently strummed guitars and mawkishly overemotional lyrics. Predictable chord changes and a rock-steady beat are all designed induce a lighter-raising frenzy, however they induce a "Skip" frenzy in this listener. Nada Surf can do ballads - "Blonde On Blonde" and "Killian's Red" are amazing, but too many sub-par ballads* wear me out and make me long for the raging, scuzzed up Nada Surf of old.
This is a good album by modern standards, but i recommend you buy High/Low first...
*As a brief aside, sub-par is a golfing analogy, however sub-par in golf, means below average, meaning better than average, while sub-par in life seems to mean below average, meaning worse than average. How did the two get so confused? My head hurts...

Proximity Effect
Proximity Effect
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 27.60
6 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Is tomorrow Mother's Day?, April 5 2004
This review is from: Proximity Effect (Audio CD)
Proximity Effect is a pretty hard CD to track down - it took me a long time to get it off Amazon.com, and even then it was a second-hand promo copy. Was it worth the wait? Well, kind of...
It turns out the record company didn't like it at first either, and so it's release was delayed for years, until long after the buzz created by "Popular" had faded, it probably even missed the backlash too! But now Nada Surf are becoming cool again and the album's been re-issued it's time to have another look.
I'm a relatively recent Nada Surf convert - i picked up their first album in a bargain bin about 8 months ago and then got the new one for Christmas, so I was eager to complete the set. Proximity Effect does disappoint though. It sounds exactly like what it is - a bridge between the violent, sulking Nada Surf of old and the quieter, more melodious current incarnation. I'm more a fan of the High/Low stuff, so this album is a bit too restrained for me. There are highlights though, notable the opening track and 80 windows, but there are also lowlights. For me, "Mother's Day" is the worst thing they've ever done. A well-intentioned rant against date rape it seeks to compare girls to one's mother and as such it comes across as preachy, heavy-handed and ill-advised. Somewhat embarrassing too...
Anyway, beyond that the rest of the album's ok, but it never takes off like the others and so shouldn't deserve your immediate purchase, but probably deserves a place in your collection somewhere.

High-Low
High-Low
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.95
11 used & new from CDN$ 0.39

5.0 out of 5 stars "The times I have the most to say..., April 3 2004
This review is from: High-Low (Audio CD)
...are the times when i can't talk"
I firmly believe that Nada Surf's debut album is one of the best rock albums of all time. I bought this album cos I'd heard "Popular" on MTV2 a few times, and thought I might throw it on a few compilation tapes - what I didn't expect was that the rest of the album would be so good, and so unlike Popular! Each song on here is unique and brilliant in it's own right. The lyrics are written from a detached outsiders point of view, but often stuffed with spite and hatred. While some reviews on here rather unfairly compare the band to Weezer, I'd say that "The Get Up Kids" are a better comparison. Weezer have never sounded this vicious, and that Nada Surf do it with only 3 members makes it even better. The song writing and guitar playing are particularly self assured, with time changes and other experimental traits pushed to the forefront - for example, one song uses distorted vs undistorted guitar to create a riff out of one note. Genius.
Also, like all good albums it gets better with each listen, and I should know, as I've been listening to it at least once a day for about a month now. Maybe I'm biased, maybe I'm hypnotized, maybe I need to get out more, but this album shines like an undiscovered and unpolished gem from one of American music's worst years of recent times. Try it and see.
Sadly the band have been going down hill since this peak, with neither "Proximity Effect", nor "Let Go" recapturing the angst and the anger vented on this disc.

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