Tim Blake Nelson's 'O' (2001)

This statement evokes feelings of shallowness, but considering the cast of this movie the quality of the film surprised me. Josh Hartnett, Mekhi Phifer, and Julia Stiles all give top-notch performances in this modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello. I believe that I was 17 or so when I first saw Josh Hartnett in Pearl Harbor and I thought he was so cute and so boring. His performance in The Virgin Suicides was a little more compelling, but the role was small and he was basically playing Cute Boy, not a very demanding role. As Hugo, Hartnett displays more range than those two previous performances combined. He could have played Hugo as a manipulative egotist and nothing more, but Hartnett brings an unexpected vulnerability and humanity to the character, which makes Hugo equally despicable and pitiable. I first encountered Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You, which remains one of my favorite guilty-pleasure movies, and she is terrific as the rebellious, flinty Kat. She failed to sparkle in subsequent films such as Mona Lisa Smile and The Bourne Identity, but her performance as Desi in O renews my belief in her acting talent. Stiles plays Desi with a beautiful trusting openness but gives her enough backbone at the right moments. Mekhi Phifer steps away from his brash, egotistical persona of Dr. Pratt on ER, bringing charm and vulnerability to the character of Odin.

I found the script a surprisingly good adaptation that distills the essence of Shakespeare's tragedy and successfully transplants the plot into a high school setting, crafting an exploration of the origins of school-age violence. Being conscious of its source material, I recognize the intricate weaving of the plotlines and lucky coincidences as pure Shakespeare. But Brad Kaaya's script and Kate Sanford's tight editing ratchets up the dramatic tension slowly, involving the viewer so completely that she forgets to dwindle on the contrivances.

'Gilmore Girls': Wholesome Is Tasty

So far season seven? HAAATE. We're not at a season three low, but wait for it. I'm not blaming Palladinos or Non-Palladinos because I do really like some bits of the season. Some scenes have been deliciously old-school GG, and, dude, does it get any better than Paris and Doyle hip-hop dancing?

HATE, the first: The Marriage. The effing MARRIAGE. It's not so much the marriage, even though ARGGH!, but the mushy writing (or perhaps it's a miscommunication between the writers and the actors?) concerning the marriage. I have no idea how Lorelai feels about this situation. Most of the time she doesn't seem that happy, but when Christopher or anyone gives her a chance to say that she wants out she doesn't say it. And Rory? Does she have a reaction? I figured that after initially admitting her annoyance at Lorelai getting married without her that Rory would stew about Lorelai committing to something she shouldn't have. But Rory seems to be stew-free and not even that soupy even, at least in respect to her mother and father. In fact, she doesn't really seem to care either way. Which is WEIRD.

HATE, the second: Where's Rory? I feel like she has received all of five minutes of screen time this season. And with those five minutes, she has engaged in fascinating storylines like treading water in her relationship with Logan, meeting two hyperactive, melodramatic Yale quirks (who can never rock as hard as Paris rocks) one of whom has a voice Jennifer Tilly would find grating, and Marty? Boring! But Alexis Bledel? Acting fabulous, looking fabulous, and managing to interact with people a little less awkwardly.

HATE, the third: Luke. Let me rephrase: I do not hate Luke. In fact, I like both him and Scott Patterson very much, even though Luke acted like an ass last season concerning the whole April thing. But this season? I feel like he shouldn't even be on the show anymore since he broke up with Lorelai, especially since they are having incredibly strange, tension-free scenes together. At the very least, he should not be receiving as much screen time as he is. Sorry, Scott. I do hope that Luke and Lorelai mend fences so that I will no longer be annoyed by your on-screen appearances.

And maybe they use more paperbags than the average TV show, but until I watched Gilmore Girls I hadn't noticed that propmasters use extra-thick bags to minimize that paper rattle sound, which would necessitate a lot of looping.

I didn't think that I could love Lauren Graham anymore, but she loves The Sound of Music! And she went to a sing-along!

Paul Dinello's 'Strangers with Candy' (2005)

Sadly, this movie kind of sucked.

It kind of....wasn't funny. I love Stephen Colbert. Really I do. And I love a lot of the film's supporting actors, like Alison Janney and Chris Pratt. But the movie kind of sucked.

The plot is ridiculous, of course, but a ridiculous plot does not necessitate a film's failure. But an unlikable main character? That kind of inevitably causes suckage.

I'm sorry, Amy Sedaris. My friend really likes you and I'm willing to give you another chance, but you kind of suck in this film. Sure, you give Jerri Blank your all, I see that. But you do not seem to possess the comedic talent to make this unlikable character palatable and sympathetic for the audience. Look at Colbert. He manages it somehow. Maybe it was the writing, Amy -- the script was not serving any of the actors well. But you helped write the script, didn't you, Amy? On paper I like you, Amy. I like that you have a cupcake business and an imaginary boyfriend named Ricky. I like that you are so involved in rabbit rescue. And I think that you are super cute. I don't think that I will give Jerri Blank another opportunity to woo me, but feel free to hit on me in other capacities, Amy. In capacities that don't suck.

Neil Jordan's 'Breakfast on Pluto' (2005)

In a rare occurrence, this film's previews sparked my desire to see it. Granted the film is strange, but the previews made it seem even stranger. In other words, I expected to see a lot of drug-induced hallucinations. And while I did not dislike the film, I struggled to engage with the characters.

Cillian Murphy attracted attention from stateside audiences with roles like Scarecrow/Dr. Crane in Batman Begins and Jackson Rippner in Red Eye. In the case of Breakfast on Pluto, Murphy uses his razor-sharp cheekbones and androgynous appearance to deliver a pretty convincing portrayal of a unswervingly optimistic gay transvestite. The one fault of his performance? His apparent unwillingness to kiss another male actor. Sure, he creates some chemistry with Gavin Friday in particular, but Jordan does not require any intimate contact. In fact, the most romantic scenes between Kitten and his love interests tend to occur outside with the characters wearing heavy overcoats. Sexy, right? In the interview of Murphy included on the DVD, Murphy makes a point to mention that he differs from Kitten in the area of sexuality, which suggests that Murphy is not the most gay-friendly of individuals.

I struggle to pinpoint what exactly didn't click for me with this film. It is very episodic and sometimes I didn't think that the transitions between episodes were very effective. For example, Charlie pulls Kitten out of his magic act with Bernie; Bernie chases them for two seconds and then we never see him again. Considering that he basically told Kitten that he loved him, I have difficulty believing that Bernie would say to himself, "Huh. I chased him for half-a-block. I guess I can let him go now."

The momentum in the film is generated by people finding Kitten's optimism and individuality compelling, but oftentimes the connection between Kitten and various characters felt forced. I blame this misstep on the script or editing rather than Murphy's performance. Though perhaps Murphy does share some of the blame. I found Kitten's nonsexual relationships – namely Charlie, John Joe, and Father Liam – most believable, which might suggest that Murphy's failure to embrace homoeroticism more fully deteriorated those sexually charged connections.

Speaking of Father Liam, I wish that more time had been spent on developing that relationship between him and Kitten. I like that Father Liam becomes a keeper of social misfits at the end of the film, but I would have liked to see how he progressed from completely dismissing Kitten at the confessional to coming to London and providing him with Eily Bergin's address.

I enjoyed the conclusion of Kitten's search for his mother because it was not a typical Hollywood ending. However, I wish that storyline had had more momentum. Kitten seems to spend an inordinate amount of time fucking around London instead of actually trying to look for his mother, his purported reason for even being in that city.

Jordan explores layers of storytelling within the narrative. Patrick/Kitten narrates as, the audience assumes, the Patrick/Kitten outside of the experiences which he describes. Jordan also uses the viewpoint of two robins to tell bits of the story, and uses some camerawork that mimics a bird's point of view, e.g. the swooping crane shots in the one of the first scenes in which Father Liam takes baby Patrick to his foster mother. I assumed that these bird bits were separate from Patrick-as-narrator's retelling of his life, but are they actually woven into Patrick's memoirs? Patrick-as-character also weaves quite a few stories within the frame of Patrick-as-narrator's retelling, including that hilarious recounting of his supposed conception.

'The Closer', or TNT is a tricky bastard

I feel betrayed. I swear that the two-hour event of The Closer the other week, featuring a very special appearance by the incomparable William Daniels, was a season premiere and not a season finale, but I seem to be wrong. The previous episode was all the way back in September. Why the hell did TNT wait so long to close out the season?

I do not understand why I like this show. Is it Kyra Sedgwick? Does she have powers beyond human comprehension that emanate from her hair or something? I guess that I appreciate The Closer because it is a little less exploitive, a little less gross than the majority of the current crime dramas out there. I think the writing has become a little more melodramatic in the second season, but the stories are still interesting. The character of Brenda is also the large appeal for most people, I think. I like that Brenda is a powerful woman and that she does not diminish that power or act ashamed for possessing it. But she also experiences insecurities and doubts, though not in a way that turns her into a victim.

‘Kill Bill’: The “I Don’t Have to Pander to Quentin Tarantino’s Ego” Edition

First, I would like to thank TNT for allowing me both to review films that I have not seen in some time and for giving me an opportunity to attempt films that I have been hesitant to watch, including Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films. I had not seen any of Tarantino's films before watching Kill Bill, nor was I fan of kung fu movies or Japanese films in general. Thus, I did not rush to see Kill Bill because I did not consider myself part of its demographic. But thanks to TNT I watched Vol. 1 and became intrigued.

Ultimately, I think that Tarantino shot himself in the foot with these films. Separately, they are both enjoyable in two very different ways, but both seem bloated. Tarantino is so in love with himself and his creation that he often fails to give Sally Menke enough lattitude in the editing room. But I very strongly believe that within these four and a half hours of footage there IS a good two-and-a-half-hour film. Therefore, I offer my critic's cut of the film.

“Do You Find Me Sadistic” - I give credit where credit is merited: the opening of the film is fantastic. This short, simply shot scene introduces a strangely tender rapport between The Bride and the man who shoots her, whom she later intends to kill. The scene also introduces the very soap opera-ish premise of the film and The Bride's character in a way that does not rely on a lot of tedious exposition.

Main Titles: Bang Bang - Tarantino's choice of Nancy Sinatra's torch song remake of Sonny and Cher's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" can be called nothing less than brilliant. The song's lyrics serve to build the relationship between The Bride and Bill and musically the song encourages the audience to mourn for The Bride and sympathize with her position.

Chapter One 2 - I think that Vivica Fox does a lot with an underdeveloped character and I do enjoy the interaction between her and The Bride ("I shoulda been motherfuckin' Black Mamba"). But the script does not serve Vernita well – the audience doesn't care if she lives or dies – and her scenes do not give any unique information, with the exception of introducing the Deadly Viper Squad and The Bride's code name as Black Mamba. I do recognize that Tarantino is trying to infuse some momentum into the film at this point, but I will discuss an alternative further down.

"We'll Have Us a Knife Fight" - See above.

Chapter Two The Blood-Spattered Bride - Yes. That's right. I'm cutting out Chapters One and Two. Why? I just don't think that they are necessary. In the case of Chapter Two, the audience doesn't care about the characters and the scene does not offer any information that is not explained in a more interesting way later in the film.

“Word of Advice, Shithead, Don’t You Ever Wake Up” - I love Elle; more specifically, I love how much I love to hate her. Daryl Hannah gives the finest performance that I have ever seen from her, and she creates Elle as a terrific foil to The Bride. This hospital scene develops Elle as an interesting character and establishes the dynamic between herself and The Bride. The scene also answers a question that the audience most likely will ask: why didn't the Deadly Viper Squad finish off The Bride when she was at her most docile? And it continues to build the relationship between Bill and The Bride. The Bride's voiceover that introduces the Deadly Viper Squad during one of Vernita's scenes easily could be moved to the hospital scene.

“My Name Is Buck, And I’m Here to Fuck” - Initially, I did not see the value of the inclusion of Buck and his whoring out The Bride to other perverts, but my friend commented that her being raped while comatose puts The Bride at a nadir at the start of her quest for revenge. Because Tarantino paints them so evilly, the audience also can be forgiving of The Bride killing Buck and his necrophiliac friend to obtain something that she needed, namely freedom from the hospital and a mode of transportation. Speaking of that mode of transportation, there is no way that the police would not have stopped and questioned The Bride in two seconds for driving around that spectacle of a truck, which belonged to a murdered man.

“Wiggle Your Big Toe” - Even though the scene slows the pace of the film a bit, I like the "Wiggle Your Big Toe" scene because it demonstrates The Bride's determination.

Chapter Three The Origin of O-Ren - While I applaud Tarantino's attempt at using multiple visual styles within the film, the anime segment is superfluous and it unnecessarily distracts the viewer from The Bride. None of the other Deadly Vipers receive as much backstory as O-Ren, and really this backstory does not service O-Ren's character development much. Lucy Liu creates O-Ren as an interesting and sympathetic character without the aid of the anime piece.

Chapter Five Showdown at House of Blue Leaves - This scene that introduces O-Ren as the leader of the Tokyo Underworld easily replaces "The Origin of O-Ren" and it features a brilliant bit of acting by Lucy Liu. My one edit would be to remove Gogo from the film entirely. She isn't interesting and her fight with The Bride is slow and boring.

Chapter Four The MAN from OKINAWA - These Okinawa scenes slow the pace a bit, but I recognize that they comprise an important part of the mythic hero quest, i.e. the hero(ine) obtains a magical weapon. And Sonny Chiba is having too much fun with his character for me to remove them completely.

"Funny, You Like Samurai Swords, I Like Baseball" - First of all, is Tarantino serious with that line? I mean, glah! That scene in the attic(?) with the swords isn't very interesting. Add the exchange about You know I don't make weapons anymore, Why should I help you? to the scene in the restaurant and move on to the sword ceremony.

"If On Your Journey You Should Encounter God, God Will Be Cut" - I like that line that Tarantino stole.

“The’s” - Obviously, one cannot remove this scene entirely because it sets up the most impressive fight sequence of the films. However, a lot of the stuff in this section is pretty useless. Tarantino really wants the audience to know what a goddamned genius he is, given all of the tracking shots in this sequence. He also has an excess of his trademark "cool" shots, but if the Council meeting scene were moved earlier in the film they would remind the audience of these characters.

"Tear the Bitch Apart!" - I'm curious if perhaps this first piece of the fight could be rewritten slightly and moved earlier in the film to replace the fight with Vernita. I think that the "Trix are for kids" exchange would make a nice transition out of this scene and into the flashback in the hospital.

You Must Be Gogo - Bye, Gogo. We don't care.

The Crazy 88s - Yes, this fight scene is impressive and well-choreographed, but it goes on FOREVER. As my friend said, "I would rather it be The Crazy 22s."

"That Really Was a Hattori Hanzo Sword" - I like the fight scene between The Bride and O-Ren, mostly because of The Bride accepting O-Ren's apology for ridiculing her. Oh, and did I mention that Lucy Liu rocks?

"They'll All Soon Be As Dead as O-Ren" - I would axe Sofie's bit, but I like Julie Dreyfus and she's a vehicle to reintroduce Bill, whom we have not seen in a while.

“Revenge is Never a Straight Line” - Most of this scene can be removed because the previews for the next film are unnecessary -- we're soldiering on. I also think that Bill's line about Does The Bride know that her child is still alive? should be removed so that the audience will be as surprised as The Bride when she meets her daughter toward the end of the film. So, I guess all that we're keeping from this scene is her writing her death list on the plane. Eh, you don't really need that either. Let's get rid of it.

"I Am Gonna Kill Bill" - Don't need the recap of Vol. 1, but thanks, Uma.

Chapter Six Massacre at Two Pines - This scene begins to flesh out the incident that instigated everything that has preceded it in the film. I considered moving this bit and the following scene earlier in the film, but I think that it provides a nice break from the swordplay and blood.

“Are You Gonna Be Nice?” - This scene is actually quite moving and really firms up the affection and longing that existed between Bill and The Bride before he tried to assassinate her. The scene could use some trimming because it does feel overly long, but it is well-acted and provides character development.

“That Woman Deserves Her Revenge, And We Deserve to Die” - I debated removing this scene entirely, but I really like the dynamic between Bill and Budd. In fact, I just like Budd period. Besides Bill, he is the most humanized of the Deadly Vipers and I like how pragmatic he is.

Chapter Seven The Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz - Whee! More Budd.

A Satisfied Mind - I think that the misdirection of Budd looking out the window when he hears a dog bark could be taken out, but this scene is all about furthering the plot.

“This Is for Breaking My Brother’s Heart” - Again, the scene could use some editing, but it pushes along the story.

"Once Upon a Time in China" - Include a mention of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique when Bill leaves The Bride at Pai Mei's and move on. Their farewell at Pai Mei's tells the viewer the exact things about Bill and The Bride's relationship as the bonfire scene.

The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei - I would cut out Pai Mei entirely, but I recognize that in creating his kung fu pastiche, Tarantino needs the training sequence. And Gordon Liu has so much fun flipping his beard.

“OK Pai Mei, Here I Come” - Rollin', rollin', rollin', let's get this plot a-goin'.

Chapter Nine ELLE and I - Take out the unneeded shots of The Bride walking through the desert, but otherwise leave this scene untouched. "You know, I've always liked that word 'gargantuan.' I so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence." Ha!

“Bitch, You Don’t Have a Future” - Elle! 'Nuff said. Oh, but does The Bride really have to step on Elle's eye? That seemed a bit excessive.

Last Chapter Face to Face - I can't say that I really like this scene between The Bride and Esteban, partially because it introduces a new character late in the film whom the audience really doesn't care about, but mostly because I cannot understand Esteban very well. Michael Parks does a good accent, but he mumbles. I would cut the scene, but Esteban leads The Bride to Bill. And Uma is such a badass.

“Bang, Bang” - Good scene, but would have been better if the audience had not been told that BB was still alive. I like that Tarantino chose not to portray Bill one-dimensionally and shows him to be a loving father.

Emilio’s Story - The Bride just looks kinda stupid during this scene. (Sorry, Uma. I still think that you're fabulous.) I think that "Bang Bang" could easily transition into the scene in the bedroom.

"Were you being a bad daddy?" - I think this bedroom scene accomplishes Tarantino's objective of the Emilio scene more effectively and efficiently. In my opinion, "Emilio's Story" establishes the tenuous truce that Bill and The Bride declare around their daughter. Bill does most of the talking during these scenes, demonstrating that he is willing to be generous to The Bride by allowing her time with BB, despite the fact that she has come to kill him. Tarantino blocks this scene in the bedroom so that Bill has his back to The Bride for most of the scene -- how would an assassin better display trust and vulnerability than turning his back to an enemy? The Bride actually engages in this scene, which makes it much more interesting than her stare-with-her-mouth-open stance of the previous scene.

Superman Speech - Good scene. One of the few scenes in the film with really good dialogue.

Pregnancy Test - Good scene. ("Congratulations." Ha!)

“You and I Have Unfinished Business” - Good scene.

Next Morning - Good scene.

And FIN. Can I say that I really don't understand that contrivance of censoring The Bride's name in the first film. I mean, I understand WHY Tarantino didn't want her to have a name — her identity is completely tied up on in her quest for revenge — but Tarantino could've just not written her name into any of the scenes. Nor do I understand what's up with the credits. It seems like Tarantino promised every actor that he would credit her name at least three times.