Category Archives: Terrible Reviews

LOTR controversy is nothing new. It’s just the same old “old vs new” argument.


So — ooh, boy. We’re going to make a mistake here. We abandon the website for a year, then with the second post upon our return we wade into the waters of fandom, racism, and social media. Top shelf idea, there. It’s gonna be great.

Look, LOTR and criticism thereof sort of has this problem.

And the problem is that you have to measure anything LOTR against the films of the original trilogy.

Why is this a problem? Because the films were just so damned good.

Say what you will about the novels. (They were formative for me — I discovered them in high school, read them, loved them, and have re-read them a few times since.) And say what you will about the adaptations. (There were some things I disagreed with, given my knowledge of the books. Some things that just didn’t make sense to me then, though now that I know a bit more about storytelling and movies, we get it. (See: moving the encounter with Shelob from the end of book 2 to the middle of book 3.)) But good ol’ PJ did that rare thing with the trilogy: he caught lightning in a bottle. He brought to life on the big screen a story that for so many of us had lived only in our imaginations, and it was as good, if not better, than we expected. He brought new fans to the story who never would have read the books otherwise. Oh, and he changed the way Hollywood thinks about stories and trilogies and series and all that stuff (for better or for worse.)

(Sidenote: We don’t talk about The Hobbit films.)

And, well, now we have to (or rather, now we get to) live in the universe where all those things happened.
And like any good series or book or otherwise IP, What Comes Next will inevitably be measured against the standard of the original. (Which is never going to be favorable for the new stuff. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. You can’t even catch it once. This is metaphor.)

We talked about this a bit back when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out and all the hubbub about that film (spoiler alert: the hubbub did not quiet down, it only got worse, and that’s all very dumb, but that’s not our focus today, please stay on topic). About how the longtime fans feel some ownership over the thing, so when the New Stuff comes and it’s not exactly what they remember and expect, they get upset. But it’s rearing its head again and we’re thinking about it again, and well, I’m back, baby, so we’re gonna dive in and make some sweeping generalizations.

So, the new series is coming out. We haven’t even had the first episode yet, but people are angry. They will cite any number of reasons for their anger, but what they generally boil down to is: Thing Does Not Conform To My Expectations For Thing. Dwarves and elves with dark skin, Galadriel in battle armor — these things did not exist in the original works of Tolkien and they therefore have No Place in the new Tolkien thing.

Rings of Power in Vanity Fair – characters behind those posters UPDATED |  Lord of the Rings Rings of Power on Amazon Prime News, JRR Tolkien, The  Hobbit and more | TheOneRing.net

And then, like clockwork, come the rebuttals and indignation from the other side. We’re not living in Tolkien’s time; we’re living in the 21st century, and representation matters. These stories belong to everybody, not just a bunch of white dudes. Say what you will about the response to the response, but it follows its own (entirely predictable) patterns.

We should point out, here, that there’s no simple answer to this problem, for reasons that will quickly become apparent, but it’s important as story-consuming people to think about these things, and what they say about us, and what we can learn from this, so that maybe (okay, probably not, but we can dream) we don’t have to keep having the same arguments over and over again.

The problem here is the same problem you have when debating a societal issue of any other stripe. Abortion. Religion. Gay marriage. Trans issues.

That problem is: both sides are right.

Let’s pick a spicy one, to make sure to offend as many people as possible. Abortion. One side says it’s the woman’s body, so it’s the woman’s choice, and they’re right. The other says all life is sacred, that every new life should have a chance, and they’re right, too. Gay marriage? On one hand, two people who love each other should be able to enjoy the benefits that society offers to the married just like anybody else. On the other, if marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman, then calling a same-sex union a marriage is, by definition, wrong. (Personally, I think we need to abolish the concept of recognizing marriage through government institutions anyway — theoretically we have a separation of church and state in this country. That would unmake this whole issue, but it’s largely moot these days anyway. History moves on and the arc bends towards justice, or so they say.) The problem is that we get all territorial and tribal and we take bad-faith shots at the other side’s arguments and call them idiots and knuckle-draggers and anything else under the sun, and we try to make that comment that’s going to go viral, and we can’t compromise. We’ve forgotten how, in The Discourse.

Well, LOTR is the same. Dedicated, lifelong fans are right. Tolkien’s works were written by a white dude without much consideration for diversity, and possibly (probably?) with some assumptions that might not sit well with our collective consciences here, half a century and more on from when he set his tales down. To change the texts, to introduce characters outside of that mold, is, in fact, to change the texts themselves. But fans who want more inclusivity are also right: that the texts don’t represent the world we live in now, that the stories have appeal for a broader audience and, as a result, it would be nice to have a bit more inclusivity than the books did in their original form.

And you can already hear the arguments from both sides. “Why not make new stories with more diverse characters and casting needs — why do they have to change this one that’s already out there?” Well, that might be a good point … but no new series is going to have the brand appeal that LOTR has. It just can’t. New stories are great — and coming out all the time, by the way — but they’re not LOTR, and they can’t be. And from the other side — “why do these fans have to be so closed-minded and racist? Why do they have to pretend like they own everything?” But they’re not wrong — the original series actually is written that way.

Is there middle ground to be found between these two viewpoints? Almost certainly not, because we’re too conditioned by our echo chambers to seek out the support of those on our own side while scoring points at any cost against those guys over there.

It’s a depressingly obvious and probably unavoidable cycle. It played out with Star Wars, it’s playing out now with the LOTR series, and it will keep playing out as long as there are fandoms and social media and the internet and, probably, people.

I don’t actually have a solution for this problem at the macro level, because the problem doesn’t get solved at the macro level. It comes from one-on-one conversations and the commitment of the individual to stop shouting “OTHER SIDE BAD” for a minute and actually listen to what’s being said.

Our society just isn’t built for those conversations any more. It’s built for quippy one-liners, mic-drops, and dunking on the other side. And it’s a shame.

Sidenote and disclaimer: the world we’re in is changing, and media and filmmakers are changing with it. If you are bound and determined that your old stories remain what they are and never get changed to adapt to the times we’re living in … I have some unfortunate news to give you. That may or may not be right, but it is a fact. And life is just easier when you accept facts as facts. But that’s a whole other topic.


What I Learned from Hamilton


Okay, so I’m five years late to the party. I put off watching Hamilton because it blew up, it became this huge thing, and I figured it was so big, it had to be some lowest common denominator action happening, something that was mindless and appealed to all. Big spectacle, catchy music, no substance. So I didn’t get involved. Didn’t listen to the soundtrack (inasmuch as I could avoid it), didn’t watch video clips of it.

Well, we finally watched it this past week. It’s on Disney Plus. Big Mouse. Big House. Much Exposure. I couldn’t put it off any longer. We watched it.

And at first watch? It’s exactly as expected. Big, catchy numbers. Wonderful choreography and storytelling. A thoroughly enjoyable musical theatre experience. Substance? More than expected. (It’s a historical dramatization, after all.) But then we listened to the soundtrack again on a long drive, and it got under my skin. If music has an infectious quality, this was that, exactly. My wife started reading articles, then ordered a book on Hamilton. I found myself searching for podcasts on American history (I always need more material for my morning runs).

But the more I thought about the story from a literary perspective, the more I felt hollow. See, from the theatrical perspective, the show is absolutely lights out. A rap musical? A stage full of performers at the top of their game? Multicultural cast appropriating a bunch of crusty old white dudes? Yes. This is the jam. Turn your brain off and drink it in. But from the perspective of actual story?

Man.

It hurts.

Because we like arcs. And we like themes. And we like characters that grow and mature and overcome their faults and save the world.

And Hamilton? Well, here’s where the spoilers set in. There’s none of that.

He starts as this brash, talk-too-much unstoppable force and … well, he’s that way for his whole life, never really gets that in check. It gets him killed.

He has all this incredible potential — a mind like none other, the wit to put his ideas into words and to convince people, but he blows up his political career (and in fact his whole life) because he can’t keep it in his pants. He’s a superman brought down, not by the nefarious dealings of foes who conspire against him, but by perfectly ordinary means: his own failure to master his impulses.

Even his death. He dies “throwing away his shot” — that is, wasting his opportunity to fire upon his opponent in a duel, believing that his opponent will also do the honorable thing as well. But he overestimates his opponent’s good will and takes a bullet in the chest. Of course, that’s tragic — until you remember the same thing happened to his son years before. The son had a duel, came to the father for advice, Hamilton advised him to do the honorable thing and throw away his shot … and his son gets killed by a less-than-honorable opponent. He learns nothing!

So he has this incredible life, creates (apparently out of whole cloth) the economic structure of a new nation, and dies because he can’t keep his mouth shut and trusts to the better nature of a man he believes to be a scoundrel.

I suppose it fits the mold of a Greek Tragedy more than anything else, but even in a Greek Tragedy the hero has that moment of recognition, where he realizes he was wrong all along. Hamilton doesn’t get that. He stays who he is until the last.

And while in real life that may be something worth boasting about, in a story, it’s unsatisfying.

So I find myself going round and round with this. What do I take away from this story, when the main character is so frustrating, and his end so abrupt and needless?

But that’s the answer. The play is very concerned with Hamilton operating like he’s on a timer: he writes “like he’s running out of time”, he can’t wait to assume command in battle and prove himself; heck, the closing number for the first act is titled “Non-Stop”. What stands out in the story, for me, is the fact that none of us knows how much time we have, that the timer is counting down for all of us. That death waits for all of us. And like Burr, the villain of the play, most of us seem to be waiting for something. Hamilton may do a lot of things, but waiting is not one of them.

We don’t know what history will say about us. We don’t get to decide who will tell our stories. All we can do is make the most of the time we get.

That’s the core message of Hamilton, I think.

As frustrated as I am with the rest of it, I can be moved by that.


How To Ruin a Movie with Just One Character


I’m gonna say it, all right? I love Wonder Woman.

Conceptually, I mean. Like, she’s basically the answer to Superman, right? This broad, poorly designed skillset. She can basically do anything the situation calls for, as long as she “discovers the power within herself” and she’s doing it to save somebody, or save some institution, or you know, she feels like it or whatever. I mean, she flies in the new movie. Lassos bullets. Heck, she hookshots and Tarzan-swings off of friggin’ lightning in the new movie.

And it’s awesome. Who cares if it makes sense? I wasn’t a fan of the comic books or of the old school show or anything, but you know what? She’s a great girl-power character, the first movie is tons of fun, and it’s a harmless guilty pleasure. Is the first Wonder Woman a great movie? I dunno. But it’s definitely good enough to rank in the top half of the superhero movies out there, and it’s probably near the top of DC’s catalog. (Sorry, DC. You kind of suck.)

And there’s a new Wonder Woman out! Holy shnikes! Wonder Woman has this new badass gold armor with wings, oh my god. And it’s in this awesome 80’s aesthetic with that new-wave soundtrack? That was so cool in Thor: Ragnarok! This is gonna be amazing. I couldn’t wait.

See the source image

And I gave up on the movie about twenty minutes in.

I can’t even speak to how good the movie is generally, because I couldn’t get past this one thing. The movie went so horribly and stupidly off the rails before it even got out of the first act, it never got me back.

Mild spoilers here — I’m not going past the first act as I mentioned — but here’s your warning.

Her love interest from the first movie is back.

Was that in the trailers? I can’t remember. I remember seeing a trailer in the movie theatre back when we could still go to movie theatres, which was what, about seven years ago?

But he’s back. And I get it, he’s the big-name co-star in the franchise. He’s probably contractually obligated, fans maybe want to see him; this is Hollywood. Okay, fine. But if you saw the first movie, and if you have basic math skills, you recognize there’s a problem here.

The first Wonder Woman is set in the time of World War I, when Chris Pine plays a pilot. Wonder Woman 1984 is set in … 1984. So there’s some time passed there, and they can no longer (if they want to be story-consistent) have young, beautiful Chris Pine in the movie; that doesn’t make sense.

So instead, Gal Godot, young and immortal because Wonder Woman and all that, is approached by some rando at a public event. He hits her with something only Chris Pine would say. Slaps Chris Pine’s old wristwatch into her hand. It’s him. Her old flame. They go back to his room. We see the rando in the room, but there’s Chris Pine in the mirror, and from here on out, rando dude disappears and we only see our beautiful, rugged, contractually-obligated Chris Pine in the movie.

But like … how? I mean, I get it. Chris Pine’s soul or whatever has wound up in this random dude, but the movie has no interest in explaining how or why he got there. Wonder Woman literally asks him “how” and he’s all “I have no idea,” and that’s about as close as the movie gets to explaining this.

This is bad storytelling.

This is not in and of itself a bad plot idea — and certainly it’s been done in movies before, to better or worse effect. But here, it’s handled so badly that my eyebrows shot up to the top of my head and did not return to normal until hours after the movie was over and I had fallen asleep. I mean, explaining this thing away is easy, right? There is, literally, magic in the world when Wonder Woman is involved. The first movie’s big villain is the Greek God of War, for heck’s sake. Literally call on any god watching out for Diana, wanting to do her a favor, to squirt her old flame’s soul into this new husk like Cheez-Whiz into an olive, and bang, there’s your answer. But no, the movie just hand-waves it away and we’re expected to go along.

Or how about this? Start the movie not from Wonder Woman’s perspective (do we really need to go back to the island where the first movie started, aside from the super-obvious plant about not taking shortcuts from princess Buttercup?). Start instead from this rando’s perspective. Show his apartment. He’s obsessed with tracking Wonder Woman. He’s got newspaper clippings of this strange woman at the site of all these strange occurrences, pictures of Diana walking around town. The stereotypical red yarn zig-zagging across a big creepy stalker bulletin board. Dude is obsessed with her and we don’t know why. Feels creepy. Is he the villain? Is he gonna try to kill her? Then we go to the same big event. He’s got his collar pulled up, his hood hiding his face. He sees her. She moves away from the crowd. He makes his move — he’s gonna grab her, DANGIT WONDER WOMAN DON’T GET PUNKED BY THIS FOOL — and there’s the watch. And she knows it, and we know it, and okay, we haven’t explained any more what’s going on with this guy but we’re at least involved and we care about him.

But we don’t get that. We get a rando who Diana recognizes immediately as her guy and we’re asked not to worry about it. And I can’t do it. If you’re gonna bring back a character who should be dead or at the very least aged into uselessness to go on an adventure with your heroine, you have to at least make an attempt at telling your audience how it’s possible. I mean, audiences maybe aren’t as tough to please now as they were a year or two ago? COVID has softened our hearts. We just want to be entertained. Take us on a journey.

But that doesn’t mean you get to pretend we’re stupid.

And the presence of Chris Pine in this movie says that we’re stupid. It feels like the movie studio throwing up the big middle finger to us, saying “whatever, it’s a Wonder Woman movie and Chris Pine comes with the Wonder Woman movies, so just shut up and sit on your couch and eat your popcorn.”

Is WW84 a good movie?

I really can’t tell you, because I never got past this crap.


For The Record, Star Wars is Awesome


Because there is still good in this world, The Rise of Skywalker is available to stream today. So of course I’m watching it.

And I tweeted about it. And my usually very humble Twitter account suddenly got a ton of likes and retweets, and a handful of comments.

Now I’m a Twitter baby, and I don’t care about it a whole heck of a lot, so the likes and retweets are cool, but the comments baffle me. Because most of the comments are negative.

I mean, I get it. Twitter sucks, it’s home to trolls and grumps and nothing is better than disagreeing with somebody on the internet and Twitter is bloody fanTAStic for that. But why? I make a post about something I love and grumps want to roll into the comments and say any number of variations on “YOU SHOULDN’T LIKE THAT THING.”

Like … okay? I mean, consider. You’re in a grocery store. (Actually, given the state of grocery stores the last couple days, the grocery store might not be the best setting to consider, but heck it, let’s move ahead.) You hear a person saying to another person, possibly while standing near the bananas, “man, I really love a good banana.” And you pounce upon them: “I HATE BANANAS AND I ALWAYS HAVE SINCE I WAS A CHILD BECAUSE MY MOTHER FORCED ME TO EAT THEM AND I HATE MY MOTHER AND YOUR MOTHER TOO.”

Well, we all have opinions, don’t we? But yours isn’t going to change the other person’s, in this case, and all it really accomplishes is making them wonder who hurt you and why you are the way you are.

Anyway, I just started responding to the negative comments with the following gif:

king e3 GIF

Which might, in fact, be my response to everything negative I encounter on Twitter going forward.

But I don’t want to gripe about Twitter (man, the world has enough of that). I want to rave about Star Wars. (Because … the world doesn’t have enough of that? Eh.) Because the new trilogy gets a lot of hate. And I think that’s hot garbage. I’m pretty convinced that most of the guff these movies get comes from prejudice on behalf of the guffer; it comes from hangups and holdouts that people have against these movies. Star Wars Owes You Nothing, as I’ve mentioned before.

And I get it. It’s impossible to consider the new trilogy independent of the originals. The new trilogy is not the original trilogy. Not for nothing, filmmakers have learned a lot about filmmaking since 1985 when Jedi came out. They know how to push our buttons better, they know how to pull us in. And the new trilogy is absolutely lousy with brilliant moments that push our buttons, both from a storytelling point of view and, of course, from a cinematic one.

So because you needed it today, here’s a non-exhaustive list of awesome moments from the new trilogy, moments that made me go “WHOA” or “HOLY CRAP” or “NO WAY”.

  1. Kylo Ren freezes that blaster bolt in midair
  2. Rey scavenging the husk of a star destroyer
  3. “The garbage will do”
  4. Rey mind-tricks the stormtrooper into dropping his weapon
  5. “That’s not how the Force works!”
  6. Kylo Ren murders Han
  7. The entirety of the lightsaber battle in the snow but especially
    1. Finn picking up the saber and
    2. Kylo Ren force-pulling the saber to him but it goes flying past him and into Rey’s hand (I get chills every time!)
  8. Luke tosses the saber over the cliff
  9. “You went straight to the dark”
  10. Kylo Ren murders Snoke
  11. And the entire ensuing battle in the red room
  12. Holdo’s kamikaze lightspeed maneuver
  13. Kylo and Luke’s duel (Luke doesn’t leave footprints!)
  14. Rey surrounded by the floating boulders as the rebels escape
  15. The Emperor’s cackle
  16. Rey accidentally blows up a ship with force lightning
  17. Dark Rey
  18. The duel over the ocean
  19. Rey kills — and then saves! — Kylo Ren
  20. Ghost Luke stops Rey throwing the saber away
  21. Thousands of ragtag ships drop out of hyperspace to fight on Exegol
  22. Kylo Ren pulls Rey’s saber from behind his back
  23. Palpatine zaps every single ship out of the sky
  24. Rey hears the voices of the Jedi

And I mean, there’s dozens of smaller, less significant and less awe-inspiring bumps along the way. These movies are awesome and they fill me with joy.

Is the new trilogy perfect? Heck, no. There are plot holes and dumb diversions aplenty, things that don’t make sense, things introduced and then forgotten or never explained. But — and here’s where I shock you — those things are in the original trilogy, too.

Episode IV is just, I mean, horrifically paced. It’s so slow. You’re a good hour into it before anything really starts happening. Empire has so many tangential diversions from the main plot it’s ridiculous. (Wampas! Space Eel on an Asteroid!) Jedi? All I have to say is Ewoks. Let’s not pretend these are perfect movies.

So when somebody tells me that any new Star Wars movie can never measure up to the originals … meh, that’s maybe not a bad thing.

Anyway, enough about Star Wars. (As if such a thing were possible.) I’m locked down and I have movies to watch.

Star Wars Rey GIF by Red Giant

Terrible Reviews: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


I love Tarantino movies.

Which is why what I’m about to say is gonna hurt.

I saw Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs within about a week of each other when I was in high school, under the assurances of my actor friend that the movies were “brilliant” and “hilarious” and all the good things, and like a good friend desperate to fit in I dutifully loved these movies in all their fast-talking, self-aggrandizing, slow-mo-walking, perversity-loving and gratuitous-gore-worshiping glory.

I say that with cynicism but I really did love the movies, and for better or worse, they taught me a lot about movies, and especially about writing; I think there’s more than a little bit of a Tarantino echo in my back-and-forth often-anticipating-what-the-other-guy-is-thinking kind of dialogue. (Or maybe I’m just being kind to myself; always an option.)

Anyway, I loved Tarantino in high school but pretty much left it at that until Kill Bill came out, and while I don’t think that one (well, two) reaches the pinnacle of Pulp Fiction for sheer filmmaking swagger, it’s a heck of a good time and hey SAMURAI SWORDS EVERYWHERE and that’s kind of awesome. Not for nothing, too, it sort of establishes a trope in his movies of the “avenging angel” style of heroine, which is a nice flourish, so I went ahead and loved those too.

Then it was Inglorious Basterds and it felt like we were back to master-class form again, with the masterful opening scene and the bloody inspired performance of Christoph Waltz and the avenging angel in full fiery glory.

Some years further on, then, there was Django Unchained, and while I only saw it once (and consequently don’t remember it as well), it felt very much like a natural addition to his catalog: There’s Waltz again killing it, and oh man here comes Leonardo diCaprio killing it, to say nothing of Jamie Foxx killing it (and everybody on screen), and there’s blood and gore and uncomfortable topics right in your face and COWBOYS YEEHAW.

And it’s like, you know, this Tarantino guy, he seems to know what he’s doing.

And then we get Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (Here is where the minor spoilers kick in, so, y’know, heads up and whatever.)

And, look, I’m as skeptical as the next guy. All kinds of things can affect your reading of a book or your viewing of a film: the particular circumstance of your life at the time of the reading, who you’re with when you see it, heck, the leftover pizza you had for dinner before you turned it on. Anything can throw the experience off, can make things strike you in a different way, if not entirely wrong.

But I don’t think that’s what happened here.

My wife and I were super bored by the movie for the entire first half. I’ve never felt bored by Tarantino before, and here, I felt bored. We’ve got Rick, the washed-up movie star, and Cliff, his stunt double, trying to figure out their way in a Hollywood that’s leaving them behind, and … well, that’s about it. Rick bumbles around and Cliff is a badass but there’s no particular sense of where they’re going, no particular sense that they’re actively adapting to this new world, just that they’re scraping by within it.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. Not every movie has to have blood and guts and a streak of searing-hot vengeance through its core to hold my interest, but over two decades, I’ve developed a series of expectations for a Tarantino movie, and it ain’t this. It was well done, mind you, and had all the clever dialogue and stuff you want from a Tarantino movie. In fact, taken out of context, each scene could probably be considered masterful, but as a whole, the first half is a snore.

And then we have the second half, which just feels like we were cruising along having a good old time (albeit a boring one) on a peaceful country highway, then suddenly detoured onto a bumpy side road leading up to a satanic church in the woods. The second half feels entirely disconnected from the first in every way except the presence of the main characters; it’s almost as if the second half of the movie is telling its own story independent from the first half.

And that’s … just … not great. As an audience member, I felt like my time had been wasted. And as somebody who thinks a lot about entertainment (specifically, about how an audience feels about their entertainment), wasting your audience’s time feels like the closest thing to an unforgivable sin.

The climax of the film is as unconnected to the rest of the film as the second half is to the first, and it’s nothing to do with either of the two protagonists’ struggles. nor does it test them in any way that challenges who they are or what the rest of the story has taught them. It’s almost as if Tarantino had almost finished the film, then remembered, “oh crap, I’m Tarantino, I’ve got to have some ultraviolence in here somewhere” and that was it.

Seriously. Brad Pitt and his trusty dog go insane on a band of would-be murderers while Leo is zoning out in his pool out back. There’s a flamethrower involved. It’s awesome. But it’s almost nothing to do with the rest of the story. I mean, in Pulp Fiction, you get Jules and Vincent shooting people up left and right, you get Bruce Willis slicing up a serial rapist, but it’s all in service to the narrative. In Kill Bill 1 (the better one), yeah, you get a twenty-minute long orgy of blood and blades as Beatrix slices her way through an entire gang of Japanese mobsters, but the whole movie has been building up to that moment. Ditto when Shoshanna locks a gaggle of Nazis in a theater to burn them alive, ditto when Django shoots up a plantation.

In Hollywood, the antagonists stumble into Leo’s home on a whim.

It’s just so slapdash and haphazard. DiCaprio is crushing his performance, but to what end? Rick doesn’t really go anywhere, emotionally. Pitt’s performance is in the same vein. He trounces Bruce Lee in a sparring match early in the film, so when he curb stomps the killers at the end, we’re just like … duh. Of course he did. Margot Robbie is here, too, and her purpose in the film is … what, exactly?

Contrast that to Pulp Fiction, where you have these two hitmen at a crossroads. They go on a routine hit and it goes sideways; a goon with a gun gets the drop on them and unloads. Shoulda killed ’em. Doesn’t. Samuel L. Jackson takes this as a sign from God and decides to reform his life. John Travolta reads absolutely nothing into it and keeps on mobstering. Later in the film, the two have diverged. Both characters come to meet with other obstacles — dangerous people at the end of their rope — and their actions earlier in the film have consequences. Jackson, with all his serene understanding that he’s on a new path, uses his calm to save not only his own life but the lives of his partner and several others in a restaurant holdup. Travolta goes on from there to get killed by a washed-up boxer because he’s still just blundering around with his guard down. There’s a setup and a payoff. And there is *nothing* like this in Hollywood.

This film is just lost as a story, and it’s frustrating, because as I said some 1200 words ago, I love Tarantino. I love his movies and his characters and the clever way he puts things together and the way little things in the plot pay off. And ALL OF THAT is missing, here.

The film is pretty, the dialogue is sharp, and the individual performances are good, bordering on great. But as a whole, the thing falls on its face like a decapitated Japanese mobster.

Final Verdict: Two out of Five butcher knives shoved into Brad Pitt’s hip.


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