REVIEW: PULP FICTION

517F3T1H3EL
CAST
John Travolta (The Punisher)
Uma Thurman (Kill Bill)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers)
Tim Roth (Lie To Me)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Amanda Plummer (Drunks)
Bruce Willis (Die Hard)
Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible)
Rosanna Arquette (The Whole Nine Yards)
Eric Stoltz (Caprica)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Kathy Griffin (Shrek Forever After)
Alexis Arquette (Bride of Chucky)
Harvey Keitel (Red Dragon)
Peter Greene (The Mask)
Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof)

Outrageously violent, time-twisting, and in love with language, you don’t need me to tell you that Pulp Fiction was widely considered the most influential American movie of the 1990s. Director Quentin Tarantino merged amazingly complex yet casual dialogue with the serious violence of American gangster movies and films noirs mixed up with the wacky violence of cartoons and video games.

The fragmented story-telling structure keeps you watching to see how it all fits together. The script intertwines three stories, featuring Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, as hit men who have philosophical interchanges on such topics as the French names for American fast food products; Bruce Willis as a boxer; and Uma Thurman, whose dance sequence with Travolta proved an instant classic.

The moments of shocking violence are simultaneously humorous and ghastly. The surreal yet realistic atmosphere, long takes, and wittily literate non-stop dialogue engage me in the characters’ experience. I’m sure I could dissect this film to no end, commenting on the pop culture references and influences, I could comment on how I enjoyed Samuel L Jackson’s furiously philosophical character and the mysterious item that was in that brief case, but I won’t. I won’t because I don’t need to, it won’t change the fact that this film is an absolute classic, everybody knows it and it will always be remembered when people think of 90’s cinema, plus It’s so nice to watch a film that is a critical sensation and a box-office hit, as you feel clever and entertained

REVIEW: BASIC

CAST

John Tarvolta (The Punisher)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan)
Connie Nielsen (Gladiator)
Tim Daly (Superman: TAS)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Brian Van Holt (S.W.A.T.)
Taye Diggs (Chicago)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Cristián de la Fuente (Driven)

In Panama, a team of Army Ranger trainees and their instructor, Master Sergeant Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson), engage in a training exercise: navigate the jungle in hurricane conditions using live fire to hit targets before rendezvousing at a bunker. Later, a rescue chopper sees Sergeant Ray Dunbar emerge from the jungle, carrying wounded Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall. The two men are pursued by a third soldier, Sergeant Mueller, who is shooting at them. Dunbar kills Mueller in self-defense. Although no other bodies are found, the rest of West’s team are presumed dead.
Dunbar refuses to talk to Captain Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen). Instead he insists on speaking to a fellow Ranger from outside the base and draws an “8” inside a circle on a piece of paper. Spooked on seeing the “8”, base commander Colonel Bill Styles (Timothy Daly), calls in an experienced interrogator and friend, DEA agent Tom Hardy (John Travolta) who is also an ex-Ranger. Even though he is now under investigation for suspicion of bribery, Styles assigns him to Osborne. The pair have only 6 hours before the CID transport from Washington arrives to take Dunbar and Kendall away.

Dunbar’s story

Hardy begins by revealing to Dunbar during the initial interrogation that he served under West as a Ranger. He also mentions that he knows West is infamous for being a ruthless, tough-as-nails sergeant.
Dunbar relates that another trainee who went on the Panama training mission with Dunbar, Kendall, Mueller and two others, Nuñez and Castro, was named Pike. Pike had earned West’s wrath, because West thought he was not following orders. Hardy and Osborne suggest that with plenty of reason to hate West, Pike had motive to murder him. Dunbar refuses to say more. Before Hardy and Osborne leave, Hardy asks for cigarettes because he had “forgotten” them in his car.
 

Kendall’s story

Hardy and Osborne then go to see Kendall, son of a Joint Chiefs of Staff general, recovering from gunshot wounds. At the hospital, Hardy runs into Dr. Peter Vilmer (Harry Connick Jr.), an old friend and Osborne’s former love interest. Kendall, after recognizing Hardy as “the DEA agent with friends in low places”, reveals he is a homosexual and claims West hated him because of it, and that West silently threatened his life shortly before the mission began, partnering him with Castro for the mission, and feared West may have ordered Castro to give him a “training accident”.
 
Kendall claims West died when hit in the back with a white phosphorus grenade and that Pike confessed to the crime, thinking his comrades would be “on board” with him in support. However, the team decided to turn Pike in. In the night, Pike tried to gain Kendall’s sympathies, playing on their mutual hatred of West. Pike proposed killing Mueller and Nunez and convincing Dunbar and Castro to back them up. Kendall dismissed Pike’s suggestion, but later spots Pike whispering to Dunbar. Kendall says Dunbar went back to his bag, extracted his pistol and aimed it at the sleeping Mueller. A firefight ensued, and Mueller shot Castro, who fired and hit Nunez, Kendall and Pike. Nunez and Pike die and Kendall is wounded. Dunbar then carried Kendall, exchanging fire with Mueller to the pickup point, as seen at the start of the film. Asked why Dunbar would rescue him, Kendall suggests maybe Dunbar expected him to cover for him in gratitude.

Dunbar’s second story

Dunbar, now accused of murder, says Kendall is lying and claims he didn’t shoot West. Hardy notes Kendall claimed West died from a grenade, not shooting. Dunbar claims Mueller and Castro were selling prescription drug kits called “combat cocktails” to help dull physical pain and sharpen the mind; that Mueller shot West, who became aware of their drug dealing, and claims Mueller then used Pike’s grenade, stolen from his pack earlier. At the bunker, Mueller tried to pin the blame on Pike, but Pike pointed out evidence throwing suspicion on Mueller. A fierce argument ensued and Mueller executed Pike. A firefight broke out and Castro and Nunez die. Dunbar rescued Kendall and during the pursuit killed Mueller before the helicopter pickup. Dunbar provides proof of the drug-dealing operation, and states Vilmer supplied the drugs to Mueller and Kendall.
 

Kendall’s second story

Osborne and Hardy return to the hospital and speak with Dr. Vilmer, who admits that he distributed drugs to Mueller and Kendall and that he falsified drug tests so the soldiers would come up clean. Vilmer is placed under arrest. After his case discussion with them, Styles orders Osborne and Hardy to not talk to Kendall again.
 
But Hardy and Osborne confront Kendall, who is acting very strangely and refuses to give them any useful information, such as why he pinned the three murders on Dunbar. However, Kendall, still claiming that Dunbar was the guilty party, forces them to ask Dunbar about “all the murders he’s covered up for his drug dealer”. They soon discovered that they planned the murder on West, and after a brief chat between Hardy and Osborne, with Kendall still making fun of the two, they are threatening to charge him with the crime as an accessory, which he does not want any part of it, and Kendall continues to laugh at them, thinking that they got nothing on him. Suddenly, while Osborne tells Kendall that they find one of the dead bodies, Hardy noticed him beginning to bleed out of his ears, and calls for a nurse. While Osborne is trying to hold Kendall, he suddenly starts vomiting blood, and abruptly dies. Before he dies, he uses his blood soaked finger to draw on Osborne’s palm what she thinks is the sign of infinity. Shortly after, she realizes it is an 8. She shows this to Hardy, who indicates ignorance of its significance. She suspects he knows. After a brief physical fight, he takes her aside and explains the conversation he had earlier with Styles. There is rumored to be a group of ex-Rangers in Panama, trained under West, who turned rogue and became drug-dealers. They call themselves Section 8.
 
Styles is furious that Osborne and Hardy talked to Kendall a second time after he explicitly ordered them not to. He relieves Osborne of duty and asks Hardy to leave. He informs them that Dunbar and Vilmer will be taken away shortly on the transport plane that has arrived from the U.S. and he considers the investigation closed.
 
At the stockade, Vilmer casually observes to Hardy and Osborne that he will be on the same plane with Pike. Hardy corrects him, saying that he’ll be on the same plane as Dunbar, but Vilmer says that’s not right. He reveals that Ray Dunbar is black. The white “Dunbar” Hardy and Osborne have been questioning is in fact Pike, the man whom West antagonized during training (according to his own story). Pike had switched his tags with Dunbar’s, in order to throw off the local authorities and disappear, after being transported for trial. Hardy and Osborne rush back to the base just as Pike is being taken onto a transport plane. Hardy grabs Pike, but not before he grabs a gun from one of the guards, and holds his face dangerously close to the plane’s whirling propeller. The two engage in a brief screaming match, although what they say is inaudible. Pike then drops to his knees, out of breath. Afterward, Hardy and Osborne lead Pike away to interrogate him again now that they know the truth.
 

Pike’s final explanation

In Pike’s new story, West was not shot, and he claims West knew about the main operation going on at the base: cocaine smuggling. He claims West confronted the Rangers in the bunker and told them that he would turn them in to authorities in the morning and tell Styles everything. A brief Mexican standoff ensued and West escaped the bunker. Nuñez chased after him and was shot by West. Shortly after, Castro and Mueller went looking for West, Pike found Dunbar dead, West shot Kendall, wounding him, and tried to convince Pike to give himself up. Pike says Mueller managed to kill West, that he then shot at Mueller, and knowing that he would be blamed if West died, took Dunbar’s dog tags. It is still established that he managed to escape, carried Kendall through the jungle, killed Mueller and was picked up by the helicopter.As proof, he gives Hardy, Osborne and Styles the number of a crate where Vilmer had stowed cocaine, and they open it.
 
Hardy then talks to Styles alone. He asks why West wouldn’t tell Styles about the drugs as soon as he suspected something. He then accuses Styles of lying, and believes West did in fact go to him, but that Styles was behind the drug dealing operation the whole time; that rather than side with West, Styles ordered Mueller and Kendall to kill him in the jungle and then poisoned Kendall afterward to keep him quiet. Osborne, meanwhile, approaching the office, overhears, and secretly listens. Styles laughs off the accusations, but as Hardy starts to leave by turning him to the authorities, Styles offers him a percentage of the operation, once he’s back in business, in order to keep his mouth shut. Hardy, realizing that Styles has been involved in this whole operation all along, says he’ll have to think about it and turns to leave. Styles draws his weapon to force Hardy to accept his offer, but is killed by Osborne.
 

Final twist and explanation

After the Military Police wrap up the investigation into Styles’ shooting, Osborne is about to leave the base for the night and Hardy tells her that everything’s fine and all they have to do, concerning the shooting, is “Tell the story right.” Osborne recalls hearing that phrase during both Kendall and Pike’s stories, describing how members of the conspiracy planned to cover up West’s death.
 
Osborne suspects Hardy may be involved, especially since he hated West and because Section 8 contains West’s former trainees. She tails him out of the base, and sees Pike run out from some roadside bushes and get into Hardy’s jeep. She follows them by car, and then by foot through the streets of Panama City crowded with costumed revelers and watches as the two of them enter a doorway with a big eight ball hanging above it, revealing it as their headquarters. Osborne sneaks through a long hallway, down a flight of stairs, and up behind Hardy and Pike, with her weapon drawn, believing that they are behind both Section 8 and West’s murder. Then West, very much alive, walks up behind her. Castro, Dunbar and Nuñez are also there, fixing breakfast. Hardy reveals them as his colleagues.
 
They reveal to Osborne that Section 8 is actually a black-ops anti-drug unit led by Tom Hardy (who is addressed as “Colonel”). The “Section-8” insane-mercenary story is a cover to spook the cartels. “Dunbar”, “Castro”, “Nuñez” and “Pike” (not their names) infiltrated the base to investigate the cocaine trafficking that was going on, and discovered Mueller, Kendall and Vilmer were responsible. West, not realizing Styles was also involved, informed him of the findings. Styles responded by ordering Mueller and Kendall to kill West. The training mission ordered by West was in fact a covert Section-8 set-up to get rid of Mueller and Kendall, faking West’s death (in order to transfer him to Section 8) and Hardy had been called to the base by the coded message from “Dunbar” to confirm Styles’ and Vilmer’s involvement. West and Hardy then offer Osborne a job.
Basic is an interesting military mystery thriller, strong, convincing performances by the leads helps sell it, combined with a twisting story. That arguably is a little bit confusing at times, while your interpretation of the film come the finale, will hinge on the ending itself.

REVIEW: THE PUNISHER (2004)

 CAST

Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea)
John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Will Patton (November Man)
Roy Schneider (Seaquest)
Laura Harring (Exit To Eden)
Ben Foster (X-Men 3)
Rebecca Romijn (Ugly Betty)
John Pinette (Alf)
Samantha Mathis (Little Women)
Eddie Jemison (Izombie)
Kevin Nash (John Wick)
Marc Macaulay (Swamp Thing: The Series)

MV5BMTc0NjA3NDcxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SX1535_CR0,0,1535,999_AL_Way back when a character named Frank Castle made his first appearance in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #129. Castle’s family was mowed down by the mob in New York City and he took it upon himself to ‘punish’ all criminals from then on and he became…insert dramatic pause here… The Punisher. The character developed a solid cult following with guest appearances in later issues of Spider-Man as well as Daredevil and he was eventually given his own five issue mini series by Steven Grant and Mike Zeck in the eighties. A regular series followed a few years after that as well as a spin off series or two and a goofy straight to video film starring Dolph Lundgren. Since then series’ have been cancelled, then rejuvenated and since injecting the character with some much needed fresh blood in the form of Preacher team Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the comics seem to be back on track and thus, a new R-Rated big screen adaptation is born.MV5BMjI5MDkxNDA1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTk5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1475,1000_AL_In this incarnation, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane – no relation to yours truly) is an undercover agent finishing his last job before he and his lovely wife and son are to go off to London to live happily ever after. When one of the hoods gets shot up and dies in the sting, he Castle finds out the hard way that he was the son of a prominent businessman, Howard Saint (John Travolta). Saint doesn’t take too kindly to the death of his son and decides to pay Castle back in spades by having his entire family killed during a party on the beach at his parent’s house.MV5BMTM1NTI0MzU4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzk5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1510,1000_AL_His family’s death sends Castle into a downward spiral – he starts drinking heavily and becomes a man obsessed with vengeance. He uses his special forces training to trick out some weapons and build himself a small arsenal, which will come in handy when he begins to wage his one-man war on crime. He moves into a run down apartment and befriends three of the tenants there, then proceeds to take Saint and his small army of thugs down a few pegs, proving that revenge truly is a dish best served cold.MV5BMTMxNzY0MzI2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzg5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1486,1000_AL_There aren’t a whole lot of plot twists or deep, original characters in The Punisher. There aren’t any intricate, meaningful discussions on the reasons we’re all on this Earth and it doesn’t really break any new ground in any way whatsoever. What it is though, is pure, unabashed entertainment.MV5BMTQ5NDM0MTUxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDk5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SX1535_CR0,0,1535,999_AL_Despite some very obvious moments where the comic strays from the source material  the character does stay reasonably true to his comic book roots. Jane does a great job as a tough man of few words – playing the strong and silent type with a bit of style and a whole lot of cool. Travolta does a nice job as the heavy, going over the top as he’s prone to do in a few scenes that make him look and sound like a walking talking comic book villain. Throw in some fun cameos and bit parts for the lovely and talented Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men), Roy Scheider (Jaws), and even professional wrestler Kevin Nash and you’ve got a good cast that do a good job with the unashamedly popcorn material they have to work with.MV5BOTg4ODc2ODU3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTg5ODkwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1529,1000_AL_Castle’s mission of vengeance is more or less a way to tie together a few different action set pieces in the film, giving the character a reason to kill. Director John Hensleigh ensures that the movie trucks along at a quick pace and that the action scenes are the focal point of the film, but still manages to work a simple but effective story into the shoot-outs and explosions we all want to see.

REVIEW: BE COOL

CAST

John Travolta (The Punisher)
Uma Thurman (Kill Bill)
Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers)
Cedric The Entertainer (Ice Age)
André Benjamin (Revolver)
Christina Milian (Smallville)
Debi Mazar (Batman Forever)
Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs)
Dwayne Johnson (The Scorpion King)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
James Woods (Another Day In Paradise)
Anna Nicole Smith (To The Limit)
Minae Noji (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Arielle Kebbel (The Vampire Diaries)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Nicole Scherzinger (Men In Black 3)

F. Gary Gray’s follow up to Barry Sonnenfeld’s excellent Get Shorty comes in the form of another Elmore Leonard adaptation, Be Cool. Continuing the story of Chili Palmer, Gray’s film lacks much of the black humor and slick charm of the first film but still manages to be good for a few laughs.  Picking up shortly after the events in Get Shorty we find Chili Palmer (John Travolta once again) getting tired of the Hollywood machine. After working at film production for a while now, he’s grown tired of it all and is looking for something new to try his hand at. Where do all successful Hollywood types go when they want a change? Just ask Don Johnson and Eddie Murphy, they’ll tell you what I’m telling you know – they head for the recording studio. Knowing his skills lay in the behind the scenes type of roles, Chili decides to head on into the music business as a producer. It seems his good friend Tommy Athens (James Woods) was mowed down and his widow, the sultry Edie Athens (Uma Thurman) needs some help with the family business. Chili steps in, hilarity ensues.

BE COOLBefore Tommy died, he’d told Chili about a hot up and coming act named Linda Moon (Christina Milian) and Chili figures that getting her signed would be a nice way to start things off in his new profession. Unfortunately for Chili, an equally sleazy music executive named Raji (Vince Vaughn) has got his eyes on Ms. Moon too. Raji, along with his homosexual bodyguard Elliot (The Rock) and his business partner Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel) aren’t too keen on Chili getting to Ms. Moon before they do and a bit of a race ensues. To complicate things a little more for everyone’s favorite former goombah, it seems that before Tommy was killed he was a little mixed up in some dealings with the Russian mafia, who are now looking to Chili to get things handled.JOHN TRAVOLTA and UMA THURMAN star as Chili Palmer and Edie Athens in MGM Pictures' comedy BE COOL.If that weren’t enough to deal with on its own, a prominent rap music producer named Sin LaSelle (Cedric The Entertainer) is out to cause Chili a few problems of his own, and his hip hop happening posse called the Dub MD’s, lead by Dabu (Andre 3000 a.k.a. Andre Benjamin from Outkast) are on hand to make sure he gets his way. Just when it looks like all is lost, Edie pulls a rabbit out of a hat when it turns out that she has some ties to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (playing himself) who, after a chance run in at a Lakers game, decides to lend his considerable lip service to Chili and Edie’s cause and help out an old friend.Linda Moon (CHRISTINA MILIAN) performs at the MTV Music Video Awards in MGM Pictures' comedy BE COOL.There are some very funny moments in the film, most of which, oddly enough, come courtesy of The Rock,. Travolta is still good in the lead and his fans will enjoy seeing him reprise his dance moves from Pulp Fiction where he once again cuts a rug with Uma Thurman. Speaking of Uma, she looks great in this movie and is seductive enough and smart enough to be pretty sexy in spots yet she’s still able to remain believable in her role. She and Travolta do have a certain on screen chemistry that, while not as strong as it was in Tarantino’s Oscar winner, does rise Be Cool up a notch or two.

REVIEW: GET SHORTY

 

CAST

John Travolta (The Punisher)
Gene Hackman (Superman)
Rene Russo (Thor)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Dennis Farina (Luck)
Delroy Lindo (Gone in 60 Seconds)
James Gandolfini (Killing Them Softly)
Jon Gries (Men In Black)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs)
Alex Rocco (The Simpsons)
Jaob Vargas (Traffc)
Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley)
Bette Midler (Hocus Pocus)

In Get Shorty, John Travolta plays Chili Palmer, a mobster who works out of Miami and is affiliated with a big time thug named Ray Bones (Dennis Farina). Ray is a violent man who doesn’t like to be messed with, and Chili takes care of business for him. Ray sends Chili out to Las Vegas to collect on a sizable debt owed to him, but once he’s there, a casino big wig talks Chili into rerouting over to Los Angeles to collect an even larger amount owed by a filmmaker named Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). Harry is an eclectic man, who produces and directs low budget b-grade horror movies out of California. When Chili heads out that way and gets a taste for filmmaking industry, he figures he can use the skills he learned while working in the mafia to produce his own movies, with a little bit of help from Harry.get-shorty-travolta-russo

Soon Chili gets involved with Harry and his cohorts – Karen Flores (Rene Russo), a b-movie actress and Harry’s go to girl for all of his films; Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo), Harry’s money man who gets all of his disposable income and investment capital from selling drugs; and Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), Karen’s ex-husband who happens to be a pretty recognizable star in Hollywood, something his insanely inflated ego is only all too happy to tell you about. Weir’s nickname happens to be Shorty.

While Chili and his new friends are out in LA making movies, Ray Bones is wondering what happened to him and so he heads out to California to check things out for himself. Chile begins to fall in love with Karen as they spend more time together, and a whole lot of people are going on about a locker at the Los Angeles airport that’s got a whole lot of money stored inside of it.

get-shorty

John Travolta  plays his role with just enough smugness to remind us he’s a hood, but at the same time as the movie goes along and he gets involved with Karen and starts to make his film, we find he’s not a totally unlikable guy – and he never loses his cool. Travolta delivers the dialogue perfectly, as does the rest of the cast, notably Hackman and DeVito who are both great in their supporting roles. Dennis Farino does an admirable job playing the heavy, and seeing James Gandolfini in a small role playing a bodyguard is fun as well.

The main reason to see the film t is for the fun and witty story, and solid performances.