Monday, May 24, 2004

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Watched a couple of entertaining movies over the weekend, and they couldn't be more different.

First, Bend It Like Beckham, a thoroughly predictible, but no less enjoyable film about a young East Indian girl named Jess (short for Jesminda), played with spark by one Parminder K. Nagra, whose dream it is to play soccer (or "football", if you will) for England. Of course, her devout and straightlaced parents are dead against it, her mother because she wants her daughter to follow in the footsteps of her older sister and get married, lkearn to cook and raise a family, and she would be "showing her bare legs to complete strangers"; and her father because he was a good cricketer who wasn't allowed to play in London due to prejudice against Sikhs. The complications ensue when she meets Jules (played by Keira Knightley, who left me cold in Pirates of the Carribean, but who's quite likeable here), who sees what a good football player she is and recruits her for the local women's team, called the Houndslow Harriers. She begins sneaking off to play and practice, and much of the first half of the film is devoted to the complications caused by this. Eventually, a love triangle forms between Jess, Jules and the coach of the team (Jonathan Rhys-Davis), who can't really pay attention to either of them because he's their coach...but eventually breaks down and falls for Jess, which infuriates Jules. But don't worry, everything pretty much turns out OK in the end, although not quite in the way you'd think, and I was consistently entertained, charmed, and fascinated by this film, which does follow the standard template but adds enough quirk and personality that it overcomes its limitations. The soundtrack, a mix of Eastern and Western musics and studded with cuts by the likes of Melanie Chisholm, Beckham's spouse (for now) Victoria, and Curtis Mayfield (sadly missing on the CD), is great and there's even a colorful and raucous Eastern Wedding scene. I heartily recommend this film to anyone who is in the mood for a feel-good kind of movie with enough of a twist that you'll respect yourself in the morning.

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I guess there's not much else to be said about Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol.2 that hasn't been said much better in many different places...but I'm gonna try anyway. KBV2 is, when you boil it down, a movie made by a film geek for film geeks, and if you are inclined to like his sources, or like a down-and-dirty action tale with snappy dialogue and interesting characters, you'll more than likely dig it a lot. Tarantino's simply making film as collage, passing on the styles he loves- no more, no less. He's not really aspiring to ART, even though if it happens during the course of the flick that's just fine with him. There are nitpickers and naysayers, mostly repulsed by the violence, or perceived sexism, or what have you- and those people will always find something to complain about. But for those who are a bit more objective about their film, or can be if need be, then I don't see how you can't not like these films, both this and Vol. 1. I have to admit that I got more of a charge from the first volume...this one was more Italian Western than Hong Kong Fu-influenced, and I've never been real crazy about the films of Sergio Leone and others. Just personal preference, I suppose. Secondly, V2 just seemed a bit padded. Of course, this was originally conceived as one long movie, but the studio requested it be shortened somehow and it eventually got split into two "volumes"...but it didn't show as much in the first as it did in the second. Another minor quibble. I can unreservedly say that I really liked the performances by Daryl Hannah (who knew she could play such a bad-ass bitch!) and especially Michael Madsen, whom I've always liked and seemed doomed to straight-to-cable mystery/thriller hell and hasn't been a part of a movie this good in ages. Of course, Uma Thurman gave a real eye-opening perf as the main character- seems that QT knows how to bring out the best in her. She's been unrelievedly bland in everything she's done since Pulp Fiction. The Kill Bill films may never be considered "great cinema", but I happen to appreciate what Tarantino's trying to do, and I hope he keeps on doing it for as long as he can. I'm also hoping that Kill Bill will be restored to a complete film again and released on DVD that way, 'cause I'd really like to see it in one sitting.

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