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Jackie Brown The One I Didn’t Like or Watch it if You Like Smoking.

Jackie Brown is a 1997 American crime drama film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.  It is an adaptation of the novel Rum Punch by American novelist Elmore Leonard and pays homage to 1970s blaxploitation films, legend has it the 1974 classic “Foxy Brown.”

The film stars Pam Grier (who also starred in Foxy Brown), Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson (who appears in every Tarantino film), Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton.  Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s third film following his accomplished movies Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994).

Grier and Forster were both veteran actors but had not performed in a leading role for years.  As Tarantino often does with his movies, he gave once popular but then obscure actors’ careers a shot in the arm i.e. David Carradine in Kill Bill.  The film won Forster an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and Jackson and Grier nominations for Golden Globe Awards.

Despite this strong cast, Jackie Brown is the one Tarantino I think stinks on ice.  Yes, I said it, I don’t like this film at all.  One reason is that I don’t find any real enjoyment in watching someone light a cigarette and take the first drag in slow motion.  The story moves at a snail’s pace, which is as fast as one of the cigarette smoking scenes that riddle the film.

Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) plays a flight attendant for a small Mexican airline as her career takes yet another step down.  To “supplement” her income, she smuggles money into the United States for Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a gunrunner on the ATF’s radar big time who learns that one of his workers, Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker), has been arrested.  Certain that Livingston will roll over and inform in order to minimize jail time, Ordell arranges for his bail with bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) and promptly kills Livingston.

Acting on information Livingston had provided, ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and LAPD detective Mark Dargas (Michael Bowen) intercepts Jackie arriving in the United States with cash and some cocaine.  Brown initially refuses to deal with Nicolette and Dargas, so she is sent to jail on possession of drugs with intent to sell.  Sensing that Jackie may now be just as likely to roll over as Livingston did, Ordell goes back to his main bail man Max to arrange for her bail.  Max arrives to pick her up, clearly is attracted to her and offers to buy her a drink to discuss her legal options.  The “perp” walk Jackie makes from the prison to the gate could be one of the longest walks in the history of film.

Ordell later arrives at Jackie’s house intending to use his tried and true technique of insuring silence by simple murder.  She surprises him by pulling a gun she surreptitiously borrowed from Max’s glove compartment, and then proceeds to broker a deal with Ordell whereby she will pretend to help the authorities while still managing to smuggle $500,000 of Ordell’s money into the country allowing him to retire.  To carry out this plan, Ordell employs Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda), a woman he lives with, and Louis Gara (Robert De Niro), a friend and former cellmate.  He also uses a naïve Southern girl, Sheronda (Lisa Gay Hamilton).

In a predictable move, Jackie will help Nicolette and Dargas arrange a sting to catch Ordell. Nicolette and Dargas are unaware that Jackie and Ordell plan to double-cross them by diverting the actual money before the authorities make an arrest.  Unbeknownst to the others, Jackie plans to deceive all of them with the help of Max in order to keep the $500,000 for herself.  A triple cross that only takes a little more than 2.5 hours to unfurl.

In a large shopping mall near Los Angeles, Jackie buys a new suit and enters a dressing room to swap bags with Melanie and Louis, in theory passing off the $500,000 under Nicolette’s nose.  Instead, she gives Melanie only $50,000 and leaves the rest behind in the dressing room for Max to pick up.  Jackie then feigns despair as she claims Melanie took all the money and ran.

In the parking lot, Melanie annoys and mocks Louis until he loses his temper and shoots her while Ordell discovers that Louis has only $40,000 in the bag (Melanie having kept $10,000 for herself after being tricked into doing so by Jackie).  Ordell realizes Jackie has taken his money and, angered, kills Louis and is now concerned with the involvement of Max Cherry, having been told by Louis that he spotted Max in the store before the pickup.  Lured back to Max’s office, where Jackie is said to be frightened and waiting to hand over his money, Ordell arrives armed.  Jackie yells out that Ordell has a gun and he is shot dead by Nicolette, who had been hiding in another room.

In the clear with the law and in possession of the money, minus his usual 10% fee that Max has taken for himself, Jackie wisely decides to leave the country and travel to Spain.  She invites Max to go with her, but he declines before Jackie kisses him goodbye and leaves.

Jackie Brown alludes to Grier’s career in many ways.  The film’s poster resembles those of Grier’s films Coffy and Foxy Brown and includes quotes from both films.  The typeface for the film’s opening titles was also used for those of Foxy Brown; some of the background music is lifted from these films.

Tarantino wanted Pam Grier to play title character Jody in Pulp Fiction, but Tarantino did not believe audiences would find it plausible for drug dealer Eric Stoltz to yell at her.  Apparently when Grier showed up to read for Jackie Brown, Tarantino had posters of her films all over his office.

I’ve always looked at Jackie Brown with a certain disdain.  It is the black sheep of Tarantino’s film family.  This movie has grown old fast though it is still relatively young and has a 1980’s feel and not in a good way.  Reservoir Dogs is 5 years older and looks like it was filmed yesterday.

While it pains me to urinate on this film, I feel I owe it to you.  Also, it’s far too long.  I didn’t expect action throughout the movie but there was nothing: it was just rambling by all the characters and going into (cheap) “deep” analysis about them that was unnecessary and implausible.  Thus Tarantino manages to take a simple plot and drag it out for over 2 hours.  The usual well-paced films we have come to expect from Tarantino is inapplicable to Jackie Brown.  By the end, I just could not care about any of the characters or what happened to them and that is a shame considering the cast of Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, Samuel L Jackson and Bridget Fonda.
The plot is not as thin as a porno but not thick enough to withstand the weight and pretentiousness that Tarantino places upon it.  When the switch comes, over 2 hours in, it is shot with the director’s usual aplomb, from 3 different points of view.  Fair enough (and this is the high point of the film aesthetically) but the actual plotting at this point is poor.  We are to believe that a) the feds will allow their mark to go into a changing room without keeping any sort of tabs on her, and b) that the bondsman, who is known to the villains, will be in plain sight. It all comes across as contrived.

I wanted out after the first hour but felt I owed it to the director to hang in there hoping something—anything would move.  I was wrong about that.  Enjoy the cigarette smoking clips, which to me symbolize the whole film, slow and full of smoke and mirrors.

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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Ok She said she hates Kill Bill. I say only little people hate and one should enjoy art for art’s sake.

JPFmovies does not take challenges lightly.  The gauntlet thrown down in the “review” of Kill Bill 1 must be dealt with as a matter of honor.  We will address with the issues raised by Bonnie seriatim.  Unlike the reviewer of Kill Bill 1, the film should be placed in context before simply spouting derogatory comments about the movie.  The evil Bill (David Carradine) comments, “You know I’m all about old-school.”  What makes this film interesting is that the same could be said for director Quentin Tarantino.  In this film, Tarantino pays homage to such great genres such as Hong Kong martial arts films, Japanese chambara films (my favorite), Italian spaghetti westerns, girls with guns and revenge.  Each genre gets to bathe in the light the director’s tribute and Tarantino gives substantial screen time to each of his favorite sources of inspiration.

Kill Bill was originally scheduled for a single theatrical release, but with a running time of over four hours, it was separated into two volumes (probably because American audiences don’t have the attention span to watch a four hour movie—they did the same thing to Red Cliff).  Kill Bill Volume 1 was released in late 2003 and Kill Bill: Volume 2 was released in early 2004.  The volumes follow a character initially identified simply as the Bride a/k/a Kiddo.  In Volume 2, the Bride (Uma Thurman) continues her revenge mission against Bill and her former colleague’s f/k/a the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS), seeking payback for their vicious objection to her wedding.  Thurman handles the film’s many physical challenges and she makes the Bride a believable killing machine—or as believable as necessary in a film that surfs through a gravity defying movie cosmos.  She makes the most of every scene by taking the viewer along into her struggling victories, defeats, for her savage attacks and counterattacks.

Volume II starts with the Bride flashing back to her wedding rehearsal.  Bill, her former lover and the leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, unexpectedly arrives to wish her well and during their discourse, it is revealed that the Bride has retired from the assassination squad and left Bill as his lover in the hopes of providing a better life for her unborn daughter.  Seconds later the other assassination squad members rout the wedding rehearsal on Bill’s orders.

Back in the present, Bill goes to warn his brother Budd (Michael Madsen also in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992)), a bouncer at a “gentlemen’s club” and former Deadly Viper member, that he is next on the list.  Here Budd (at least partially) takes responsibility for his actions confessing that she (the Bride) deserves her revenge and that they deserve to die.  It is interesting to note that the only character who acknowledges his culpability is the only member that is not killed by Kiddo.  Yes he dies a painful death, but not at the hands of Kiddo.  When Bill asks if he has been keeping up with his sword skills, Budd (untruthfully) also tells his brother that he pawned his priceless Hanzō sword in El Paso for $250.00. 

She arrives at his shoddy trailer and bursts through the door, expecting to ambush him, but Budd is waiting for her and shoots her in the chest with a double-barreled shotgun full of rock salt, then drugs her.  Budd calls Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), another former Deadly Viper member, and offers to sell her Kiddo’s Hanzō sword for a million dollars cash.  He then seals Kiddo inside a coffin and buries her alive.

A flashback takes us to Bill dropping Kiddo off to be trained by the legendary martial arts guru Pai Mei (Gordon Liu).  After what looks like torture, she eventually gains his respect and learns a number of techniques, including the art of punching through thick planks of wood from inches away, and a skill taught to no-one else of killing using non-lethal touches to certain pressure points.  She uses the former skill to break out of the coffin, claws her way to the surface, and then asks for a glass of water.

Elle arrives at Budd’s trailer for their transaction but has hidden a lethal black mamba with her money.  The snake kills Budd.  Elle calls Bill and blames Kiddo for his brother’s death, and thinking that Kiddo is still buried alive, takes the credit for killing Kiddo.  As she exits the trailer, she is ambushed by Kiddo, who had arrived there soon after Elle.  In the middle of an all-out melee in the trailer, Elle taunts Kiddo with the news that she poisoned Pai Mei out of revenge for his snatching out her eye after she called him a miserable old fool.  In return, Kiddo then plucks out Elle’s remaining eye and leaves her screaming and thrashing about in the trailer with the pissed off black mamba.

Now all that is left is Bill.  Kiddo finds him deep in the Mexican countryside, and is shocked to find her four-year old daughter B.B. (Perla Haney-Jardine) alive and well.  She spends the evening with Bill and B.B watching “Shogun Assassin II.”  After B.B. has gone to bed, Bill shoots Kiddo with a dart containing a truth serum and questions her.  A flashback recalls Kiddo’s discovery of her pregnancy while on an assassination mission, and her resulting decision to call off the assignment and leave the squad.  Kiddo explains that she ran away without telling Bill in order to protect their unborn daughter from him and his life.  Though Bill understands, he remains unapologetic for what he did, explaining that he’s a murdering bastard and there are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard.  They fight, but although Kiddo loses her weapon, she disables Bill with Pai Mei’s super fatal pressure point technique, which he secretly taught her.  Bill, aware of the technique and that he will shortly die, makes his peace with Kiddo and dies.  Kiddo departs with B.B. Later they are seen watching cartoons in a hotel together.

A long movie, yes.  A good movie, yes.  The complaints that it is too violent I think are unwarranted as the violence is reminiscent of the over the top martial arts films of the late 1960’ and 1970’s.  Like the martial arts films of the 60’s and 70’s, the violence is to over the top is comical.  When Kiddo chops off a limb what is obviously thick red paint spews from the victim like a fountain—just like the movies Tarantino is emulating.  There is little attempt at realism here instead it borders on the absurd (which is fine by me).

As for Carradine playing a jerk, let us not forget this film resurrected his career and proved that he could play roles other than is most famous Kwai-Chang Kane character  from the 1970’s series Kung Fu as well as bringing Sonny Chiba back to the silver screen.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Here is an another She said-He said format about Quentin Tarantino’s Kill films (2003). Here is the Bonnie’s “review” of Kill Bill 1.

Here is an another She said-He said format about Quentin Tarantino’s Kill films (2003).  Here is the Bonnie’s “review” of Kill Bill 1.

Okay, first the disclaimer: me reviewing Kill Bill is sort of like JPFmovies reviewing Mary Poppins.  This is not my kind of movie.  It’s too much of a bloodbath (did I say one bloodbath? better make that plural) and even director Quentin Tarantino admits that the movie has NO moral.

On the other hand, as JPFmovies keeps pointing out, this film does belong in the genre of “girl power.”  Well, that’s nice.

Here are all the things I hate about Kill Bill:

  • the violence
  • David Carradine playing a jerk, instead of someone who has learned something from the meditative side of his art (as he did in the original Kung Fu series)
  • The portrayal of martial arts as being all about violence (okay, plus determination, but I’m still not seeing any ethics or values here)
  • Um, did I mention how much violence there is in this movie?  Kill Bill is so violent that the word “violent” is really sort of tame to describe it.  NOT ONLY THAT, but the violence in Kill Bill is almost all the fake cartoon “let’s scatter blood all over the place and call it art” violence that I’ve come to expect from Quentin Tarantino.  Even the anime violence in this film (and JPFmovies, if you want to use the anime scene or any other horrific violence, you can find that clip yourself, thank you!) is way way way too much for me.

And yet I do appreciate Kill Bill v 1 for some of what it does:

  • Uma Thurman’s portrayal of one woman’s ability to use sheer grit and determination to pull herself out of a coma and to keep going no matter how badly the odds are stacked against her
  • The Hittori Hanzo scene with Sonny Chiba (might as well just include that as a clip – see below)
  • The scene with Lucy Liu, for several reasons.  First, as I mentioned in the Hero review, I like the cinematography of this scene.  The snow, the blue light, the starting/stopping of the sound track to match the action, the wood fountain piece that keeps filling up and emptying itself out prosaically as if there were no swordfight going on right next to it.  Second, I like the moment when Uma has been injured and says to Lucy Liu, “Come at me with everything you’ve got.”  Why?  At that moment, it’s not her grit and determination I admire.  It’s her character’s ability to see her one chance and simply go for it.  Because the fact is that her one chance to get out of that swordfight alive is precisely for her opponent to come at her with everything she’s got.  Uma (I refuse to call her character The Bride just because she begins the movie in a wedding dress) at that point is supposed to be exhausted from the fight with Liu’s Crazy 88 bodyguards, and she’s just been injured.  Does she have the energy to even bridge the gap to reach Liu and attack her?  No.  So she marshals the energy she does have, instructs Liu to do the work of bridging the gap, and watches for the opening that must be there if she can spot it fast enough to use her last reservoir of strength to exploit it.  There’s something about that moment.  It’s that “all you have to do is do this right just this one time, and by the way, this one chance is all you get” feeling.  Doesn’t that give you chills?  Am I the only one who finds that not only is this scene, in its cinematography, reminiscent of many of the scenes of Hero, but it also exactly parallels Miyamoto Musashi’s response to his injury in his fight with Inshon in the Japanese television series recreation of Musashi’s life.
  • Finally, I respect Tarantino’s desire to pay homage to the Hong Kong action films that shaped him as a filmmaker.  I just wish he could have found a less bloody way to do so.  After all, they did.

There’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 for you, JPFmovies – I dare you to review Kill Bill Vol. 2 and find a bit more redemption of Tarantino in it for me.  Uma doesn’t need to redeem herself – training for and filming a martial arts movie three months after having a baby, while still nursing and trying to lose her pregnancy weight, is enough to leave me in awe of her for all time.  Tarantino, on the other hand, still has some explaining to do!!

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Cannonball (1976) or Don Simpson why didn’t’ you sue the makers of Cannonball Run for copyright infringement?

David Carradine stars in Cannonball, also known as Carquake, a 1976 film that was one of two released in ‘76 (the other being The Gumball Rally) that were based on a real illegal cross-continent road race which took place for years in the United States.  The same theme was later copied by The Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II and Speed Zone!  The Cannonball was directed by Paul Bartel, who, together with Don Simpson, wrote the film.  Simpson even makes a cameo, but we will get to that later.  Apparently the name of the film and the plot were inspired by Erwin G. “Cannon Ball” Baker, (1882-1960), who traveled across the USA several times and by the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, an illegal cross-continent road race introduced by Brock Yates to protest the 55 MPH speed limit—a fine protest indeed.

 

The Trans-America Grand Prix is an illegal underground race held every year starting in Los Angeles and finishing in New York City.  Coy “Cannonball” Buckman (David Carradine) hopes to win the race and get his career back on track as he was recently released from jail serving time for killing a girl while driving drunk (we find out later someone else was driving).  “Modern Motors,” a prominent racing team, has promised a contract to either Cannonball or his nemesis Cade Redmond (Bill McKinney), whichever one of them wins.  Cannonball is still on probation when his parole officer, Linda Maxwell (Veronica Hamel), who he is having an affair with (only in the 70’s: truly outrageous), determines he will be crossing state lines in violation of his parole but instead of stopping her parolee, she is co-opted into joining the “fun.”

 

Other drivers include teenage surfer sweethearts Jim Crandell (Robert Carradine—who would go on to play Lewis Skolnick in the 1984 classic Revenge of the Nerds) and Maryann (Belinda Balaski) driving Maryann’s father’s Chevrolet Corvette, middle-aged Terry McMillan in a Chevrolet Blazer, three stimulating waitresses, Sandy (Mary Woronov), Ginny (Glynn Rubin) and Wendy (Diane Lee Hart) driving in a van, haughty German driver Wolfe Messer (James Keach) driving the yellow De Tomaso Pantera, preppy African-American Beutell (Stanley Bennett Clay) in a Lincoln Continental Mark V, a car which he was hired by a wealthy elderly couple to transport to New York for them and Cannonball’s best friend “Zippo” (Archie Hahn) in a Pontiac Trans Am identical to Coy’s.  

 

Unlike Cannonball Run and others, this race degenerates into a violent and deadly demolition derby.  The Pantera is blown-up, Beutell’s borrowed Lincoln Mark V becomes progressively more damaged as he crosses the country, while Jim and Maryann face engine trouble with the Corvette’s broken fan belt.  The rivalry between Cannonball and the increasingly-unstable Redmond gets out of control as they try to force each other off the road costing Coy his Trans Am after Redmond breaks the headlights.  Luckily, he finds some hicks who just happen to have a 1968 Ford Mustang that admire Cannonball and offer to trade cars as long as when he wins the race, he mentions their name on TV.  Coy and Redmond have their final showdown on an unfinished bridge, which Cannonball and his newly acquired Mustang successfully jump while Redmond loses control, crashes over the side and dies when the car explodes.

 

Bennie, meanwhile, has sent a gunman to kill the driver of the “other” red Trans Am as it is beating Coy.  He is unaware that the driver is Zippo or that Linda is now riding with him, as Coy thought it safer for her to do so since Redmond was after him.  While with Zippo, she has found out that it was Zippo who was driving the car in which the girl was killed, not Coy.  Coy took the blame because he knew the weaker Zippo would never survive in jail.

 

Bennie’s gunman shoots Zippo dead and the Trans Am crashes and explodes.  Linda jumps clear, but is injured.  Jim and Maryann see the wreck and pick up the comatose Linda, taking her to the hospital.  Behind them, the presence of the wrecked Trans Am on the freeway causes a multiple-car pileup.

 

Terry McMillan and Louisa arrive first at the finish line, but Louisa lets slip that the Blazer was flown there and he is disqualified.  The girls in the van and Coy are neck-and-neck until Sandy attempts to take a shortcut when the girls get lost and are stuck in traffic and the van crashes.  Coy arrives at the finish line and is about to stamp his timecard, making him the official winner, when he is told about Zippo and Linda’s accident and realizes Bennie caused it.  He tears up his timecard so it can’t be stamped and gives the pieces to Bennie, who is taken away by gangster Lester Marks (played by the film’s director Paul Bartel) to whom he owes all the money he bet on Coy, presumably to be killed.  Assured of his racing contract, Coy is taken to the hospital to be reunited with Linda by the team manager.  Having decided to finish the race in spite of believing they cannot win having lost so much time, Jim and Maryann are the next to arrive at the finish line.  They are surprised and overjoyed to be told they are the winners of the $100,000 first place prize.

 

At the hospital, Coy and Linda enjoy their reunion, while Beutell delivers the Lincoln – now completely wrecked – to its horrified owners.

 

Cannonball is the movie that broke the dam and started a flood of films revolving around illegal coast to coast car races.  In fact, I am shocked that the makers of Cannonball Run were not sued for copyright infringement.

 

The cameos by Martin Scorsese and Sylvester Stallone (clip provided) are uncredited, while Roger Corman and Don Simpson are both listed in the credits (clip of Don Simpson as Assistant DA).  The real stars of this movie however are the cars.  The film showcases some of the most popular American and a token European (Pantera) muscle cars, ever to make their way on to the road.  My mom had a Lincoln Mark V, just like the one in the film (See the picture of the Lincoln and the clip)—it was even the same color, except that we had a white leather interior.  That Lincoln could have won a race–it had a huge motor in it and it felt like you were riding on your living room couch.  Unfortunately, they don’t make them like that anymore.  There was also a Dodge Charger, Trans Ams (must be popular because there are two of them), a Corvette, Mustangs and the Pantera–all rigged up.  

 

Some of the highlights to look for include the massive car pileup on the interstate towards the end of the film and the exploding Detomaso Pantera.  As you can imagine there’s enough car carnage to make even the most Blues Brothers hardened fan giddy with excitement.  There is also an element of violent explosion with other drivers not even giving the accident a second glance.  I would also like to point out the outfit that Stallone is wearing while he and his cohorts are eating a bucket of KFC.  I love KFC.  It was good to see all of those great cars again, throw in some bad acting and one of my personal favorite actors David Carradine and that is a recipe for a fantastic film.  To those who say this is a “B” film my reply is simple F%$^k You.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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