I’ll start this week by telling you not to read the Death Stranding piece if you don’t want a headache. I got a headache just trying to remember all the information dumped on me within the first handful of hours. Damn you Kojima, you somehow made a game more obtuse and bizarre than the Metal Gear series. Anyway, you’re here for movies and TV, and there’s a bit of that here, too. Three movies, a TV show, and the first section of a game are on the docket today.
Nov 5: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Netflix)
Despite encompassing exactly what you think of when you think of Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is probably the most dissimilar film from the others in his filmography. It’s an homage to stylized action of olde, and not much else. Tarantino’s trademark dialogue is sparse, and as a result, the film is a nice, quick, visceral experience. Stripping that element out doesn’t hurt the movie, but it doesn’t do it any favours either, since it only left me feeling like Kill Bill Vol. 1 is an interlude between projects Tarantino was truly passionate about. It’s interesting to see a Tarantino that all but says “don’t worry about the story, here’s some bitchin’ action sequences,” and I enjoy the fact that the so-called plot of Vol. 1 is just an excuse for said action.
One thing that did bother me, though, is the fact that it’s non-linear. The style worked brilliantly in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, obviously, but its inclusion here feels like more of an afterthought than a deliberate choice. Having this movie play out in sequence would change nothing in terms of plot, and would most likely add a tad bit of tension had we not known from the get-go that Lucy Liu is crossed off Uma Thurman’s list. It’s not even used as a crutch or a distraction from some other negative aspect, it genuinely appears to be non-linear for no reason other than Tarantino enjoying non-linearity.
Nov 5: Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Netflix)
Then you’ve got Kill Bill Vol. 2, a movie in which Tarantino must have said “ah fuck, I actually did mean to put a story in the first movie. Lemme backload all this unnecessary plot nonsense into a movie a full hour longer than it should be.” This nearly immediate followup to Vol. 1 takes a wildly different approach to action filmmaking: there’s barely any. Instead, we have to go through Uma Thurman’s past and how she became The Bride, or whatever. Every flashback scene is a cheap and obvious setup for later, and they aren’t interesting enough to stand on their own like so many classic Tarantino moments. The over-the-top absurdity of the plot slows to a crawl to explain relationships between characters I care shockingly little for, creating a strange juxtaposition of over-seriousness and dumb, fun, self-aware action. I’m not sure if I was just tired while watching it, but the last hour or so of Kill Bill Vol. 2 had me begging for it to be over. [Spoilers] The Bride finally confronts Bill, and she discovers she has a kid. Instead of a climactic finale ensuing right there, The Bride settles down for a while to get to know her daughter, and then Bill lectures for an eternity about comic books. It’s a snoozefest that culminates in an incredibly brief duel between the The Bride and Bill, and that’s it.
The reason I can always forgive Tarantino for being self-indulgent is that his writing is fantastic, and is consistently the best feature of his works. But in Kill Bill, he turns his writing brain off and flips his action brain to full. The first volume uses this to his advantage, while in the second volume, it manifests as a detriment. Vol. 1 doesn’t do a good enough job of establishing the characters, and Vol. 2 assumes you’re already on board with them, which I most definitely was not.
Look, this isn’t actually a bad movie, but it’s hard to find anything it does better or even close to as well as literally any other project in his filmography. I’m being particularly harsh because Tarantino deserves to be scrutinized; he’s one of the best directors alive. I’ve seen both these movies before, and I felt the need to update my opinion on them based on my current, more critical lens, and found far more flaws than I’m willing to accept in anything Tarantino puts out. But if I had to choose between him doing another Kill Bill or a freakin’ Star Trek movie, sign me the heck up for more Kill Bill.
Nov 7: The End of the F***king World (Netflix)
I was furious to hear that there was going to be a second season. The series ended on what many were calling a cliffhanger, but what I believed to be a beautiful, poetic ending to a fantastically irreverent show about two extremely troubled teens going on the run and finding what might’ve been love. And while the second season isn’t exactly crucial to the overarching themes and narrative The End of the F***king World is all about, it’s a worthy successor that keeps things unpredictable and new enough to justify its existence. [Spoilers] While the first season is something of a dark comedy with a fair bit of poignancy, the second is more dour and melancholic, with our main characters at a loss as to who they are, what they want to do with their lives, and whether that involves each other or not. The show concludes on a moment that may be sweet, but exemplifies the characters’ continued lack of understanding of what their emotions mean, and they have a long way to go before they can understand what love means to them. It’s a great little show with some incredible performances, especially from Alex Lawther.
Nov 7: Hot Rod (Netflix)
I said to Vic, I said, Vic, I know people like this movie, but I don’t think I’m gonna like it. This time, I have to admit, I was very wrong. Hot Rod features Andy Samberg as the same character he plays in pretty much everything, but god damn he does it exceptionally well. The story is the generic ____ needs to pay for a very important ____, and has to do wacky shenanigans to raise the money necessary, but with a twist: Samberg needs to raise enough money to pay for his stepfather’s heart transplant so that he can finally beat the shit out of him fair and square. It’s a bonkers plot that only gets more bonkers as it goes along. He attempts to make $50k by doing insane stunts on his moped, inspired by his biological father, an unnamed stuntman. We see Andy get hurt. A lot. It’s like if Jackass was actually funny. Andy Samberg falls down a hill for a full minute or so, and it’s absolutely hysterical. Honestly, I might like Hot Rod more than Popstar, the other film from the Lonely Island crew. It’s that funny.
Nov 8: first impressions of Death Stranding (PS4)
Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) is a porter in post-apocalyptic America. After the Death Stranding happened, the US was fragmented, and people flocked to cities cut off from each other. The Death Stranding was an event that blurred the lines between the land of the dead and the land of the living. See, every human (but no animals) have something called a Beach, which is the second stage of death after the Seam. Some people can access their Beach, and these people have an infliction known as DOOMS (I think). There are different levels to DOOMS, and Sam is a level one, which means he can sense BTs but can’t see them. BTs are ghosts of the dead attempting to return to their bodies, which they can do ever since the Death Stranding. Human bodies must be cremated immediately, because If BTs end up reaching their body, they cause what’s called a voidout, which results in a massive explosion decimating everything within miles, leaving only chiralium. Chiralium is a kind of particle that’s been around since the big bang, and cannot be destroyed nor created. Humans have learned to use chiralium as a network between cities, and Sam’s job is to use the Q-Pid device to connect every city that remains standing in the UCA (United Cities of America) to the chiral network. At the beginning of the game, Sam delivers a package to Capital Knot City, which is where his mother Bridget Strand (Lindsay Wagner), the final President of the United States, is dying. She tells Sam that he has to unite America, and that a woman named Amelie (Emily O’Brien) needs help doing the job, since she has been captured by Homo Demens, a separatist group that does not want to become part of the chiral network. Amelie hasn’t aged since her 20s, because she…uh, I think it has something to do with the Beach? And she might be some kind of reincarnation of Bridget, since they sometimes share a voice actor? Or maybe Amelie is a young version of Bridget stuck in her Beach? Anyway, Deadman (Guillermo Del Toro) explains how to use your BB, or Bridge Baby, which is a fetus removed at seven months and placed in a clear incubator that can be strapped to your suit, and for some reason they can detect BTs for you and help you avoid them when the rain comes. The rain, also called Timefall, rapidly ages anything it touches upon landing, and then goes back to being regular water. Heartman (Nicolas Winding Refn) helps to turn your blood into a weapon against the BTs, and takes a sample every time you shower. Mama (Margaret Qualley) is also in this game, but her purpose seems trivial so far. Higgs (Troy Baker) is a Homo Demens with DOOMS level seven, which allows him to control BTs, and he can make stuff float, and he holds a grudge against Fragile (Léa Seydoux), who uses her Beach to teleport around at will. Oh, wait, one more thing: Sam seems to have a memory connection to his BB, and keeps seeing a man (Mads Mikkelsen) attempting to soothe the fetus, and promising it that everything will be okay in the end.
…The gameplay has you delivering packages from one place to another.
Shoutout to Google. Y’all motherfuckers gave me a phone that stopped working after just over a year, sent me a new one, and the new one was broken within 24 hours. Now I’ve gotta waste my time emailing you bozos. I know, it’s a First World problem, but still, shit sucks! And I’m gonna keep complaining about it!