[font=Arial]Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2003 and 2004) -- After seeing "Kill Bill Vol. 2," there is one thing that is abundantly clear -- Quentin Tarantino did a masterful job splitting what is obviously a single film into two volumes. "Vol. 1" and "Vol. 2" are most definitely films that must be seen as parts of a whole, and I'm quite excited to see a "director's cut" on DVD down the line. But each volume does not mirror the other; rather, they complement one another. And, in the process, the "Kill Bill" mythology stands as one of the most unique cinematic undertakings in recent memory.
"Vol. 1" was decidedly a product of Tarantino's love for grindhouse kung-fu films and heavily reflects it in every line and frame. If the two volumes were placed back to back, the transition would be nearly flawless. It would feel natural, rather than choppy (as one would expect). But despite this cohesiveness, "Vol. 2" is its own film. If "Vol. 1" was in the style of Eastern revenge films, "Vol. 2" is all about the Western revenge film-the spaghetti Western. Tarantino draws on the traditional Western style with reckless abandon, even down to shots reminiscent of old John Ford movies. Some of the Eastern kung-fu influence remains, most notably in the chapter about Bill and The Bride's kung-fu master Pai Mei.
This shift in tone is matched with the shift in secondary villains. The Bride is now hunting Bill's brother and sister, Budd (Michael Madsen) and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). Budd has been reduced to trailer life in the desert, working as a strip club bouncer. This is where both The Bride and Elle find him, and "Vol. 2" takes off on its way toward its inevitable conclusion.
While the Budd character comes across as so much more than expected (largely due to Madsen's excellent performance) the best chapters in the film center around Bill and The Bride. The opening chapter details the infamous wedding rehearsal, which was only seen in bits and pieces in "Vol. 1." The undertone here, when The Bride realizes Bill has shown up at her wedding rehearsal, is outstanding. Whereas "Vol. 1" makes it hard to believe The Bride and Bill could ever have been in a relationship, "Vol. 2" makes that relationship quite real.
"Kill Bill" is unlike any action film to hit American theaters. It is a celebration of Eastern and Western film -- a visual wink and a nudge, as though Tarantino is slyly poking fun at the genres but he is allowed to because of his deep knowledge and love for them. He has created a film borne out of collective memories, scenes and scenarios and characters skimmed from the surface of all the old kung-fu and Western films. The result is quite an accomplishment, even for a director like Quentin Tarantino. Each film as a part is only a 9 -- but I suspect "Kill Bill" as a whole will easily be a 10.[/font]
[font=Arial]Zoolander (dir. Ben Stiller, 2001) -- Very much a typical throwaway comedy film. I have nothing against comedies -- some of them have a staying power that others lack (Happy Gilmore and Tommy Boy come to mind). Zoolander is funny, and a decent enough time, and fairly quotable. Ultimately, though, it lacks that spark that would make it a film worthy of multiple multiple viewings. I'm not a huge Stiller fan, and frankly I cannot believe that he's going to have 3 films released in 2004 -- BEFORE SUMMER (Along Came Polly, Starsky and Hutch, and Envy). Nonetheless, Zoolander's a decent enough popcorn flick worth watching.[/font]
[font=Arial]Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Mel Brooks, 1993) -- Ah. See, this is a comic parody/satire I can get behind. It's not brilliant by any means, but it is packed with performances, lines, and sight gags that are more than memorable. Dave Chappelle is outstandingly funny (as he always is), Cary Elwes is quite good, etc etc etc. It's not Brook's best film by a long shot (that's a contest between To Be or Not To Be, Blazing Saddles, and Spaceballs), but man alive is this movie hilarious. [/font]