Fargo (1996 - DVD)

Uh, well, this movie wins the award for "Most Overrated Movie I Saw in 2010". I wonder if all the people responsible for it having a 94% rating at rottentomatoes would still think it holds up if they went back and watched it now. I mean, nobody in this movie has any brains, and I had no idea who to root for. First of all, the two bungling crooks kill a state trooper in a really implausible manner, and then the "mute" crook makes a big deal about Steve Buscemi having to move the body out of the road. WHY?? Did he think that would make it less likely to be found? Of course, what happens is that instead of burning rubber and getting the hell out of there, they take so long trying to move the body that somebody drives by and sees them. And in all the calamity, they don't even bother to steal the trooper's journal so that no one else can get a description of their vehicle!

Now I can see where Marge may be somewhat likable, but a lot of her scenes have nothing to do with the plot. You think her investigation is leading up to something, but the only reason she finds the crooks is because she coincidentally drives past their car!

Should I even mention the creepy car salesman, his son's sobbing in a fit of poor acting, his annoying kidnapped wife, or the fact that Steve Buscemi so badly wanted to keep a car that all the police are on the lookout for. And for heaven's sake, if half the conversations in a movie take place on the phone, subtitle it, please!

The good points:

Buscemi's acting was good as always.

It was short.

Rating: 2/5

Kill Bill, Volume 1 (2003 - DVD)

The first half of Quenton Tarantino's revenge movie masterpiece is one of the best, if not the best, martial arts films I've ever seen. When you consider how many modern movies use camera techniques and action that's moving so fast it's hard to tell what's going on, it's amazing that Kill Bill contains a scene that's fought in silhouette and it's still easy to follow it.

The story is simple enough, but the characters have layers of complexity that are revealed in each of the movie's "chapters", most of which culminate in an elaborate, action-laden swordfighting sequence. The Bride, a former member of an assassination squad, now wants revenge against her old employer, Bill, and his four subordinates for an incident in which they massacred her would-be husband, his friends and family, and her unborn child, and left the Bride herself for dead. The Bride will stop at nothing and travel all over the world to take out her targets, one-by-one, before reaching Bill, but the bulk of this volume deals with the fight against O-Ren Ishii - a spectacular battle in a Japanese restaurant against dozens of swordsmen. There's even a very well-done animated portion in the style of Japanese anime. Rating: 4/5

Kill Bill, Volume 2 (2004 - DVD)

Unfortunately, the Kill Bill finale is a bit of a letdown. The first 3/4 of Volume 2 is actually very, very good. It's right on par with the first volume, and I love all the scenes involving Pai Mei, the Bride's cruel martial arts instructor, and the scenes with Bud, including one in which the Bride is almost buried alive(!). The fight with Elle Driver is awesome, too, although it has an incredibly gorey climax.

But the movie slows down to a crawl at the exact moment that the Bride goes to see a pimp character, and quite frankly, until I saw this movie subtitled I never understood a single word he said. Even worse is that the pace fails to pick up again after this scene. The confrontation with Bill at the end is extraordinarily drawn out, and then the fight with him is over before it even got started - very anticlimactic when you consider how long you've been waiting for it.

Finally, this bothered me the very first time I saw this movie in theaters and time has not mellowed my feelings on it: Bill was a bad person, okay, but it seemed like he was a loving father to B.B. B.B. has never met the Bride before. She does not know her. So, the Bride shows up, kills Bill, the man she knew for four years as her loving father, and takes B.B. away... and B.B. is totally okay with this?
Rating: 3.5/5

The Matrix (1999 - DVD)

The first time I saw this movie, I thought it was okay, but I fear it doesn't hold up as well on a rewatch. Much of the beginning, and even the middle, of the film is exposition. If you've seen it before, then you already know all this stuff and are just kind of waiting for it to get to the action scenes, which are (admittedly) very well done when they do occur.

Unfortunately, Neo has almost no personality and no set-up. We're told he's a great computer hacker, but we see no real evidence of that, and Keanu Reeves's acting isn't very great or convincing. I also found it far too easy to sympathize more with Cypher (the villain character) than Morpheus's crew. I think the movie is trying to make some kind of statement about how we are slaves to society and not really free - but then why make life inside the Matrix seem far more desirable than life onboard the Nebuchadnezzar?
Rating: 2.5/5

Saw (2004 - DVD)

Saw is a neat little horror flick with an interesting, if somewhat implausible, premise. A psychopath called "Jigsaw" kidnaps people whom he views as being "sinners" of sorts and "punishes" them by ensaring them in elaborate traps with only one chance to escape, or else suffer a grisly fate. Two men wake up in a dingy old abandoned bathroom and find themselves the latest unwilling participants in Jigsaw's sadistic games. They are chained to the walls and the only way out is to "win" by doing something incredibly unspeakable.

The level of suspense is pretty high, and along with the bathroom situation, we're also shown some of Jigsaw's past victims and the "clever" ordeals that they had to go through. It has a neat, if dusky, visual style (I'm sure this movie is what inspired the apartment complex in Silent Hill 2), and many little surprise twists and turns... which keeps you riveted, but also serves as one of the film's slight undoings. *MAJOR SPOILER* Highlight to read: If Zep wasn't Jigsaw or at least in cohoots with Jigsaw, then why was he acting so psychotic?

Incidentally, this is third movie I've seen this year that has a scene where a guy wakes up in a tub of water and has no idea what's going on.
Rating: 3.5/5

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979 - DVD)

And here's my award for "Most Underrated Movie I Saw in 2010". Star Trek: TMP gets a lot of flak for being too slow-paced, and that's not to say it isn't slow-paced: It is. But if you go into it knowing that and prepared for it, it's actually not as bad as you might expect. Most of the slow scenes involve a long shot of the camera panning across some scenery, such as the Enterprise when it's introduced, or the alien landscape inside the "space cloud" that is the movie's main antagonistic force. The superbness of the visuals and special effects make these scenes well worth it.

Along with all its sci-fi settings and geeky technobabble, there's a very "human" plot at the movie's core. The humor is more subtle than in some of the other movies (most of it being relegated to Bones's dialogue), but hey, if you want goofy Star Trek movies, you have the other 5. It's nice to have at least one movie that takes the source material a little more seriously, and does it in a way that's not disrespectful or makes it seem cheesier.

Note: I watched The Director's Edition, which has some improved special effects and scenery over the original theatrical release.
Rating: 4/5



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