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“Lost” The Pilot Episode Part 1

At the recent San Diego Comic-Con, I made my way to a showing of “Lost”, part one of a two-part Pilot Episode. Created by J.J. Abrams (Felicity and Alias) along with the writing talents of Damon Lindelof (Crossing Jordan) and David Fury (Angel), “Lost” tells the tale of 48 plane crash survivors thrown together on a Pacific island. Starring; Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder (Smallville), Dominic Monaghan(Lord of the Rings), Jorge Garcia, Maggie Grace, Malcolm David Kelley, Naveen Andrews, Harold Perrineau, Josh Holloway, Matthew Fox (Party of Five, Haunted), Terry O’Quinn (Alias), Daniel Dae Kim (Angel, 24, ER), Yunjin Kim. Lost throws together a nice ensemble of characters whom soon discover that they are not alone on this island. What actually is in the jungle just beyond the safety of the beach?

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Before Sunset

“So what did you think of the film Dee Dee”

Dee Dee:
“I thought it was a refreshing take on relationships, since I’m not a big fan of how most romances are typically portrayed in movies. Maybe because I am in my mid thirties the conversation between Jessie and Celine (about my same age) seemed so real. Like I could have been watching two friends. The Cinema Verite style, with the film being shot in 80 minutes of real time made me feel as though I was experiencing the ups and downs of their emotions with them, unrehearsed as in real life. Did you feel the same wayr”

“ I definitely get the feeling as though these two characters have a very strong and mutual attraction for one another. Jessie has written a novel about their first chance meeting in Vienna. It is a moment in his life that has remained with him for the last 9 or so years. And when they meet again in Paris by chance, we can see that the attraction still exists. Even though this film holds together on its own merits, I am glad that we watched Before Sunrise the other night. I love the fact that it has been about years since they first met and it was cool to see how these characters have changed while still very much remain the same. Still talking about life, love, politics and what might have happened if they did meet each other six months later as they originally planned.”

Dee Dee:
“I know what you mean. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, were co-writers of the film along with Richard Linklater. Apparently they began exchanging ideas about what might happen to their characters shortly after the first film was made. This continued until the script was written, making the improvisational style of the script so natural for them. It’s likely the root of their on screen chemistry.”

“Yeah that’s what makes both of these films work so well. The two characters are such personable and likable people and we can easily identify with them. The film captures the essence of love, romantic love, with subtle glances and realistic dialogue. I loved it when Celine looks at Jessie and asks him if she still looks the same. The simple smile that forms on Jessie’s face says more about love and attraction than most big budget Hollywood Romances.”

Dee Dee:
“I loved that too! But my favorite scene is the last one, the way Celine… uh… oops, I better stop right here. Just know I loved this film, all 80 non-pretentious, non-insulting, witty and fun minutes of it.”

“Who would have thought what is essentially My Dinner with Andre for Generation X would be so enjoyable. It is one of the nicest little films to come along in awhile. Let’s just hope that by word of mouth people will get out and see this gem of a film.”

Rating: A

Bubba Ho-Tep

So begins “Bubba Ho-Tep,” one of the most interesting and original films to come along in years. It seems that Elvis (Bruce Campbell) is still alive and living in an old folk’s home somewhere in East Texas. You see he traded places with Sebastian Haff, an Elvis impersonator, years before to get away from all of the fame, fortune and sycophants. He wanted to lead a “normal” life for a while, but never got the chance to switch back due to the fact that the contract he had between himself and Haff, burned up in a trailer park accident and then Haff who had a weak heart and a taste for drugs went and died on him. Now, years later, an invalid due to a broken hip which was caused by falling off a stage, no one believes that he truly is the “King”. His only friend in the nursing is a Black man (Ossie Davis) who believes that he is John F. Kennedy. He says that the government dyed him black and replaced part of his brain with sand. They begin to suspect that the residents at the home aren’t all dying of natural causes, but in fact are being killed off one by one in the middle of the night by some soul-sucking Bubba Ho-Tep (a Texas redneck cowboy-looking mummy.) Since no one in their right mind would believe these two old coots, they proceed to take matters into their own hands. So with walker in hand and electric wheelchair in tow our two unlikely heroes set out on a TCB (Taking Care of Business) mission to rid the their home and save the residents souls from this Bubba Ho-tep.

Directed and adapted from a short story, Don Coscarelli of the Phantasm franchise, deftly moves the story between crass jokes, moody old-school horror atmosphere and a large dose of genuine poignancy. Both Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis give believable and touching performances. Campbell as the aging Presley brings out a quirky inner sadness with his portrayal of the aged bed-ridden King. Elvis, with a past full of regrets, wishes to redeem himself for a lifetime he feels he’s wasted away. His redemption comes in the form of this adventure in which he and JFK go head-to-head and toe-to-toe with a soul-sucking redneck mummy.

“Bubba Ho-Tep” was one of the best films of last year. It is completely different and more original than any other film I have seen in a long time. A film that is not afraid of crossing over multiple genres to create something new and different. The film is funny, bittersweet and genuinely heartwarming. The kind of movie the Hollywood studios would never think of making.

This DVD comes with some cool special features. The audio commentary with Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell is fun and informative. The commentary by “The King” is only for die-hards. Funny for a few scenes, but it gets tiring pretty fast. The four featurettes are really enjoyable, especially “Rock Like an Egyptian” about Brain Tyler’s music score.

Dick says, “Check it out!”

DVD Special Features:

  • Commentary by director Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • Commentary by “the King”
  • Theatrical trailer(s), TV spot(s)
  • Joe R. Landsdale reads from “Bubba Ho-Tep”
  • Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • “The Making of ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’” featurette
  • “To Make a Mummy” (makeup and effects featurette)
  • “Fit for a King” (Elvis costuming featurette)
  • “Rock Like an Egyptian” (featurette about the music of “Bubba Ho-Tep”)
  • Music video
  • Photo gallery
  • Limited collectible packaging
  • 12-page scrapbook/behind-the-scenes photos with personal comments from Bruce Campbell and Don Coscarelli and a two-page letter from Campbell to his fans
  • Widescreen anamorphic format
    Rating: A
  • Kill Bill Volume 1

    It’s just your standard old-school revenge flick plot riddled with a cast of bada** muthaf***as. Besides revenge, “Kill Bill” crosses many genres, including yakuza, kung fu, samurai, anime and spaghetti Western. Tarantino (read our interview with the director) supposedly just kept writing and writing until he wrote too much, with the script soon becoming the size of a telephone book. After viewing the final cut of the film, Tarantino, his producer Lawrence Bender, and Miramax Films decided to cut the finished product into two parts, or “volumes,” as they are marketing it.

    The Bride (Uma Thurman, related interview) just wants to get out of the killing business to start a new life and raise a family. Unfortunately, it seems that her boss and former lover Bill does not agree with this decision and decides to send her former friends and partners [The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad] to the chapel to “shoot now or forever hold their peace.” Well they try, they fail and just like Uma says in the trailer, “Guess they should have tried harder…”

    Because after being in a coma for four years, she wakes up in a pretty pissed off mood. Just like Old Saint Nick, she’s making a list and checking it twice, going to kill off who has been naughty and not so nice. With her list in one hand and a Sharpie in the other, she proceeds to set out on her mission of revenge, crossing off the bad guys and gals’ names along with their lives, one line at a time. While the film is morbidly funny, Thurman plays her character straight, with only vengeance, retribution and her Code of Honor on her mind. She expects nothing less from her former partners in crime as well. By allowing them to choose their weapon of choice, and on their turf, she gives her ex-compatriots the upper hand in the duels, but vengeance is strong and merciless.

    Her road to retribution leads her to Japan to confront O Ren-Ishi (Lucy Liu, interview) — now head of a Yakuza crime family — but before she can get to her she has to go through 88 Kato-mask wearing henchman and one vicious Japanese school girl, memorably played by Chiaki Kuriyama from “Batoru Rowaiaru,” aka “Battle Royale.”

    Those waiting for the “Return of Tarantino” will not be disappointed. While “Kill Bill Volume 1” is a departure from his earlier works, with a noticeable lack of Tarantinoesque dialogue, but makes up for it with a great deal more action. The battle that takes place in the House of Blue Leaves took eight weeks to shoot, and what a battle it is. One by one the Crazy 88 fighters try to take out the Bride, individually attacking her, one fighter at a time, a la a Bruce Lee film. She proceeds to dispose of them limb by limb, as he splashes us with gallons of blood and mounds of body parts. I have not seen this much blood spraying from severed bodies since Sam Rami’s “Evil Dead 2” and Peter Jackson’s “Braindead,” aka “Dead Alive.” The scene is shot in black and white in order to get an R rating from Jack Valenti and the MPAA fascists, but producer Lawrence Bender assures us we can see the colorized version of it in the Japanese cut of the film. Thank you DVD.

    The film shot by Robert Richardson is beautiful and rich with texture. The snow garden fight scene between Thurman and Liu feels like we are looking at a painting in a museum. Hats off to Sally Menke for the best editing I have seen so far this year. The film moves along at a brisk pace, shifting seamlessly back and forth through the fractured narrative and multiple flashbacks. The characters are memorable, vicious and cool, and the fight scenes have some of the most spectacular choreography and wirework you will ever see. This film has loads of and energy and is lots of fun, fun, fun. The six-year wait is over. When you finally catch your breath after the film has ended, you’ll be pleading for more and dying to get some answers. Alas we will have to wait for “Volume 2,” coming soon to a theater near you February 2004.

    Rating: A+