Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Nothing comes between me and my AK

Now why would anybody want to pick on poor, maligned Jackie Brown?

The impression you get goes something like this – ignoring the cousins (Four Rooms), second cousins (Sin City) and adoptees (Hostel and Hero), Pulp Fiction and Res Dogs are the solid centre of QT’s film family. You’re not going to alarm anyone unduly by claiming they’re the Best Films Ever – even if you disagree personally. Grindhouse and Kill Bill are the slightly gangly little kid sisters – more of an acquired taste, but not without fans. And then Jackie Brown – the fruity aunt whose eccentricities we tolerate, but don’t encourage.

Odd comparison, but it’s the impression I get – it’s basically establishment now to like the first two, it’s cool-in-a-culty-way to worship the latter pair. You get one or two oddballs who admire Jackie Brown and remind you it’s “his most mature and subtle film”, but they’re mostly sour D.W. Griffith fans who pathologically disagree that films should be fun.

Well wake up and smell the roses – I’m out on a limb to tell you Jackie ain’t half bad. We may even have to elevate her to older sister status.

Fair enough, Pulp Fiction’s “the classic”, but who really gives a damn about any of them? I liked all of the characters, they were variously cool and amusing, but I wasn’t going to shed any tears should they meet with misfortune…well, possibly Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, but then again I’m biased (timrothlove…) Compare Butch’s pretty insipid romance with the beautifully handled relationship between Jackie and Max. I mean finally, some fully rounded characters! By gum, I love every single character in Dogs (save Joe) but at the end of the day, you can reduce them down to one or two character traits…

I’ve heard it said Tarantino can’t write realistic women. Disagree. On the strength of Kill Bill vol 1 and Pulp Fiction alone, you’ve got a good case – but Jackie herself is wonderful character. Yes, she’s a strong female, but it’s never at the expense of her humanity. She’s allowed to cry and have basic, sensible human fears, without seeming weak. Her friendship with Max is a beauty to watch.

On the other hand, she’s not really Tarantino’s woman at all. What we have here is a Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch pulled apart and reassembled as a QT film. Consequently, while you can recognise all the hallmarks, at its core the story is a completely different animal. It’s like remodelling a Skoda as a Cadillac – the tailfins are there, but if you try to drive it at speed, you’re going to notice the difference.

For one thing, the humour’s all gone. Jackie Brown is pretty entertaining (because of the music) but it’s nowhere near as fun as the others. QT himself has argued that PF and RD belong in the comedy section. He writes with a smirk and a wink – amid the ultra-realism, you’re reminded it’s not real. Perhaps my complaint that his characters are generally unsympathetic helps this – you can still have a fun time, even if they’re not.

For one thing, notice how all the deaths here are handled gently – no Kill Bill style limb loss or bloodbath a la Dogs here. They take place mostly off screen, with the minimum of ceremony and maximum respect. You don’t laugh, you can’t even smirk (one possibly exception SPOILERVISION: the death of Melanie. It’s a horrible, brutal moment (is this the nastiest QT moment ever? You are, after all, invited to enjoy Mr Blonde’s moment of glory…), but I couldn’t help a momentary, shocked chuckle at Louis’ overreaction.) Perhaps this is where the regular QT fans disappeared – there’s not the comedy comfort zone.

At the same time, all the exterior tweaks are 100% Tarantino. It's got a brilliant soundtrack (think the intercut sequence, where the three separate parties are differentiated by the three different things they're listening to on the radio) and operates in a banal world (i.e. Ordell needs to explain how his car key works. This kinda thing happens all the time in real life, but in films these details are pared down so no one ever gets confused when using unfamiliar items unless it’s a massive plot point.) The homages are subtle, but present; he's resurrecting the career of a slightly past-it star (here, Pam Grier). We had a trunk shot (and was anyone else reminded of the on-set trivia about Michael Madsen deliberately riding down a bumpy road with the radio on when Kirk Baltz decided to follow his actor's method?) - and he even managed to pull the same scene-different angle trick in the dressing room scene.

Not that being samey is necessarily a virtue, but it proves this isn't muse-sacrificing movie. My favourite overhang was that vintage-kitch world his movies inhabit. Even when reminded it's the 90s, it still feels like it's set in a different era. Can you even imagine Tarantino characters buying iPods? Vinyl, yes, tape, yes, radio or jukebox, fine. CDs and iPods? Never...

Let’s put it this way. In the original story “Rum Punch”, Jackie was a blonde bimbo. That says it all, really.

I can see why it’s unpopular; yet at the same time, I think there's a good case to be made for it being better than Pulp (not that I'm brave enough to be the one to make it)...maybe even Dogs as well, though it's unlikely to replace it in my affections.

For one thing, it was nice to see a plot again. Boring? Only if that's a synonym for well paced and relaxed - and it frequently is. I’ll admit the film dragged in places, and it could have lost 15 minutes here and there, but that didn’t significantly spoil my enjoyment (specifically the Ordell section after the shopping centre sequence. It felt like the film had ended ten minutes ago – and if I’m gonna be really picky, it took a while to get going too. )

Actually, as boring is the insult most frequently levelled at it, let’s just sit down and have a long hard think about his other films. I know this meant to be about JB, and not a bitch at PF*, but still…it must be said…if someone were to accuse Pulp of being boring (which I, as a pretentious-movie-buff in training, blindly adoring Tarantino fangirl and bona fide coward, would never even consider) I’d admit they had a very good point. Somebody called Dogs boring last week, and love it as I do, I could also see where they were coming from. I’m not saying Jackie was “less boring” – I’m saying it’s “as boring”.

I’d say that Tarantino counts as an auteur (I don’t care what Truffaut laid down, my private scoring system is this: “Can you talk about one of their films in isolation, without referencing the rest?” I hate this obsession with reviews which resort to discussing the film’s background and citing influences more than the film itself and its own merits. Which is why when I find myself doing it, I know it’s irresistible auteur-power. You’ll see this is the second recent review which has accidentally spilled over into director-love…) which entitles us to write about his films as a sequence, instead of individual works. But Jackie Brown is special. She really needs to be treated differently. PF and RD are a natural pair, and should be left so. Similarly, KB and Grindhouse can be placed in the same box as rampant tributes to everything going. And while I’ve just spent a few pages comparing her (oops, mybad) you’ll get a lot more out of it if you try to think of it on its own. A lot of people will go into it expecting (and wanting) Dogs 3, and they’re the ones which’ll come out disappointed. Is Fellowship of the Ring better than Run Lola Run? Is 2001:A Space Odyssey better than L.A. Confidential? Is Memento better than Citizen Kane? There's a reason you're finding those questions hard to answer...

To put the focus on the actors a moment, they’re all fab. Special mention for Samuel L. Jackson, who is really starting to go up in my estimation: Ordell makes an increasingly chilling villain, without ever becoming pantomime. I think that's more or less it. To sum up, then - this film is not a comedy, and shouldn't be compared to his other comedies. If you don't do that, then you're going to love this film. It’s been 20 minutes and I’m still beaming. It served the ultimate function of film – entertainment. I feel great. In fact, it’s so cool that I feel cool; and I’m telling you, I’m as groove-less as they come. And I loved the Chicks who Love Guns video. Outrageous, but almost plausible…

That probably wasn't the best review I've ever written. Too many things to say, not enough commas, semi-colons and brackets to say them with. Really wasn't very coherent at all. Oh well, I think you got the gist - I liked it a lot. On the other hand, I'm hardly a reliable and unbiased source, considering a) that I'm something of a QT nut and b) I enjoyed Godfather III.

Final word I'm just going to throw in while we're on the subject...and honestly, folks, it is a subject I try not to return to too too often...Tarantino just has this spell over me. All concept of "rated 18"and "patience" go straight out the window the moment he makes a film I haven't seen. And most recently, Grindhouse has invaded that despairing "I have got to see this film right now" hole in my heart so recently vacated by Reservoir Dogs and The Godfather - my new infandum amorem.

I made the mistake of finding and listening to the fantastic soundtrack online. I've been mournfully haunting the official website, playing with the scream machine (ok, only in short bursts, because it's sick) and building my own poster and trailer, not to mention loping around imdb as spoiler-freely as is humanly possible. Friend 4 informs me I used "the G word" five times within three hours. This is all exacerbated by the fact Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost contributed a trailer (significance being that their Hot Fuzz also occupies a small part of that dispairing space, and it isn't out on dvd until 11th June) which is compiling the agony somewhat.'s not out in cinemas over here....mope...and it really needs to be seen at the cinema...mope...and our cinema would be perfect for it, because you get the GH-style crackles and scratches on most films here anyway...and I'm not 18 anyway...mope. But you heard it here first: he's promised to make Inglorious Bastards next (read: spaghetti western set in nazi occupied France), and so far both Tim Roth and Michael Madsen are on the cast list. I'm sure I'm not the only one drooling about that combination. And if things continue that way I'm gonna go see it at the cinema.

*OK, I’m sorry Establishment, I take it back. I am deeply, deeply fond of PF. Don’t hurt me? Please?

I like it, while consciously admitting to myself that there’s something missing – there was never any love. Lots of good things, but they never quite join into a satisfying whole. Great script, great music, great editing, a whole whack of great moments, but no glue. And I’d say my problem with it was lack of emotion. The acting was acceptable, not great – there wasn’t anything wrong with it, but as the plot abandons traditional character arcs in favour of random and meaningless events, there were never any deep emotions for the actors to get their teeth into. They proved they could chat, but we never saw them bleed (emotionally as well as physically)

Plotless is OK up to a point, as long as there’s something which significantly makes up for it. PF almost manages it, with the intriguing characters and fab script, but it’s missing genuine heart. OK, that phrase conjures images of dreadful made-for-TV movies about some kid dying of leukaemia (spot the quote ;) or sickening “heartwarming” tales of a child’s bond with their grandmother (spot the bad film) but I watch films for an emotional ride and Pulp never gets out of first gear. You laugh, you feel uncomfortable, and that’s it. Because you’re uncomfortable, you never laugh as much as you might and vice versa.

So, back to my boring claim. This is the real killer. I have a lot of affection for PF – I put it on when I’m feeling really miserable, but have work to do. Just hearing the words and music is comforting in a wacky way, but crucially, it’s not so engaging I get nothing done. I can easily write an essay while watching it. That’s a claim I make for very, very, very few films indeed. Actually, I can’t think of any other films which I can ignore with such ease.

So is JB better than Pulp? Obviously not – all those critics and members of the general public can’t be wrong [/sarcasm] Seriously, I don’t know. They can’t be compared. They shouldn’t be compared. STOP COMPARING THESE MOVIES!


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