REVIEW: PULP FICTION

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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: FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

CAST (VOICES)

Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Alec Baldwin (Mission Impossible 5)
Ving Rhames (Julia X)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games)
James Woods (Another Day In Paradise)
Keith David (Picth Black)
John DiMAggio (Futurama)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)After the runaway success of Final Fantasy VII on the original Playstation, Sony greenlit a Final Fantasy movie. The final result, The Spirits Within, didn’t appear on movie screens until 2001, the same year as Shrek. However, unlike the unfunny green ogre, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within failed to generate any meaningful business at the box office, and it was the biggest bomb in film history up to that point. It’s admirable for its sweeping alien vistas and imaginative space-age designs, but the story just doesn’t have enough in it to keep the audience’s interest.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)The film follows Doctor Aki Ross (Ming-na) as she and her mentor, Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland) attempt to discover a way to clear Earth of a strange race of alien beings known as Phantoms. These Phantoms have made Earth uninhabitable, aside from a few protected cities. The film opens with Aki dreaming of an alien world, only to wake up on a space shuttle. She takes the shuttle down to Earth to find remnants of organic life. However, she’s soon trapped by Phantoms, determined to kill her, when she’s saved by a group of space marines, led by Captain Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin), Aki’s former lover. It’s soon discovered that the plant Aki was after was part of a series of organisms that Aki and Sid are collecting to assemble a spiritual wave that they believe will counter the alien infestation at its source (a giant asteroid from which the Phantoms spawn).Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Their theory is not a popular one, however. The human government still has armies, and their general, Hein (James Woods), has erected a giant space cannon which he intends to use to blow the asteroid to smithereens. Sid and Aki contend that this would irrevocably damage the planet, but without further proof, their protests fall on deaf ears. Now it’s up to Aki, Sid, Gray, and his team to find the remaining organisms so they can finish the wavelength before Hein uses the cannon. And Aki keeps having these strange dreams.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within feels like what Aliens might have been like had James Cameron been into New Age philosophy. The space marines (voiced by Steve Buscemi, Frasier’s Peri Gilpin, and Ving Rhames) are reminiscent of those more famous marines in Cameron’s film. The overall design feels like it could have been in line with that world, and the idea of the Phantoms infecting you and taking you over from the inside feels very similar to the parasitic nature of Alien’s xenomorphs. In point of fact, the one thing it doesn’t feel similar to in any way, shape, or form is the Final Fantasy series of video games from which it derives its name. Dr. Sid is the most notable callback, as in almost every Final Fantasy game there is a character named Cid. Also, some of the other character names vaguely resemble those found in the games. The Gaia theory posited in the film is very similar to the Living Planet of Final Fantasy VII, but to no real effect. I can understand wanting to create a fresh story that newcomers and old fans alike could enjoy.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)The film’s half-baked idealistic philosophies, combined with its often groan-inducing dialogue probably killed the movie more than any lack of resemblance to the video games. The whole conceit of the wavelength, while explained repeatedly and in excruciating detail, never quite gels. Similarly, Hein’s Zeus cannon doesn’t seem like a much better alternative, and it doesn’t help that he’s a terribly written villain. Of course, you have to respect James Woods’ ability to chew the scenery even when there isn’t any actual scenery to chew. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Woods, as he’s one of my favorite actors, but he’s so over the top here it hurts.The rest of the cast fare marginally better. Ming-na has a respectable voice acting pedigree that serves her well, as does Peri Gilpin (most recently heard in the animated Hellboy projects). Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames don’t take their roles too seriously, which works to their advantage. Alec Baldwin, aside from being a great actor, lends his voice to one of the most memorable cartoon characters of recent memory (that of Leonardo Leonardo from the Clerks animated series), but he plays it straight here and is fairly disappointing. It doesn’t help that his character is animated to look exactly like Ben Affleck. I’m not kidding. This movie’s worth renting just to see how meticulously the filmmakers recreated every facet of Affleck’s face–only to give him Baldwin’s voice.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)That does bring up an important point, though. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was meant to be the first in a series of computer generated films that were photo realistic. And while it’s clear the film is CGI, it still looks damn impressive. The character models are exquisite, making the more cartoony offerings from Pixar or Dreamworks just seem amateurish by comparison (and I know that Pixar and Dreamworks aren’t striving for realism, I’m just saying how one looks against the other). The environments are amazingly detailed, and the movie is just a beauty to behold. Unfortunately, the film’s complete and utter financial failure bankrupted Square Pictures, although they did manage to make The Final Flight of the Osiris for Warner Bros. Animatrix project before closing shop. Square returned in 2005/2006 with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which looked even more spectacular than Spirits Within, but did not see a U.S. theatrical release.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within deserved a better fate than it got at the box office, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great movie. While it certainly was a great technological breakthrough, it didn’t have the story or characters to make it work.