Shana Stein

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Hell Ride Review


Unbearable
In Hollywood, as they say, it's not what you know. It's who you know. Some people don't know anything and still manage to get movies made. Take Larry Bishop, for example. He worked with David Carradine, Michael Madsen, and Quentin Tarantino on Kill Bill. One day, after shooting, they probably got together for a few drinks and rambled about making a biker movie. A few meetings with the Weinsteins later, Hell Ride was given the green light.

Bishop played a strip club manager in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and directed the flop Mad Dog Time back in 1996. He writes, directs, produces, and stars in Hell Ride, so at least audiences will know who to blame for wasting their time and money. A self-adoring, offensively boring homage to biker movies of the '60s, Hell Ride is indeed one of the more hellish cinematic experiences this year.

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Restaurant Review


Good
They might as well have called this movie J. T. McClure's, which is the name of the "restaurant" where all the film's characters work. That would have at least helped to add a little mystery and some flare to such a pitiable title. Thankfully, the film itself is a whole lot better than the name might indicate. Restaurant, directed by Eric Bross, spins the story of a group of young twenty-somethings struggling to reach their dreams of fame, while working at an upscale bar and grill in Hoboken, New Jersey. It's got that sort of Swingers humor and mentality, mixed with a diverse cast and much more serious themes.

Our protagonist is the restaurant's bartender, Chris Calloway (Adrien Brody - Summer of Sam, Six Ways to Sunday), a struggling playwright weaving his real life problems into his first play -- a work in progress that he can't seem to finish. When he meets the newest waitress Jeanine (Elise Neal - Mission to Mars) and they hit it off, he's faced with his second interracial relationship (the first being Lauryn Hill, who we see mostly as a picture on the refrigerator). Chris can't figure out why he likes black women so much, especially after his Italian father raised him to be a bigot. This dilemma is portrayed in his unfinished play, which is the story of a white man that can't deal with the external pressures of having a black girlfriend, even though he's madly in love. As he tries to make sense of his feelings, he gets caught up in the past when his ex (Hill) shows up at a friend's wedding. Because his relationship with her ended on such a bizarre note, he can't put it behind him, which prevents him from devoting his heart to Jeanine, and finally, thwarts him from finishing the play. Whew!

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Kill Bill: Volume 1 Review


Grim

In the wake of "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown," film buffs have come to expect intrepid sub-Hollywood scavenger Quentin Tarantino to bowl us over with ingenious, amped-up, style-blending B-movie off-shoots made with a quantum leap of depth and cinematic panache.

Influenced by cut-rate, under-the-counter samurai imports, spaghetti Westerns and popcorn-munching exploitation flicks of bygone eras, the writer-director's two-part revenge saga "Kill Bill" ("Volume 2" is due in February) has sexy, gritty, droll, deluxe Tarantino élan coming out its ears -- and absurdly grisly dam-bursts of stage blood spurting from other violently severed body parts in ambitious marathon swordfight scenes. But while the picture oozes style (and blood), it comes up short on substance -- which is what has always set Tarantino's grindhouse homages head and shoulders above the pulp pictures that inform them.

Choreographed by both kung-fu genius Yuen Wo-Ping ("The Matrix" movies, "Charlie's Angels," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," etc.) and Japanese Kenjutsu legend Sonny Chiba (who plays an eccentric master sword-maker in the film), these focal-point fights are the culmination of a plot about a sultry, strong-willed former assassin (Uma Thurman) who was left for dead when her employer -- possibly peeved by her resignation, although "Volume 1" is vague on that point -- turned her wedding into a massacre.

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Kill Bill: Volume 2 Review


Good

Everything the kinetic, colorful, superficially violent "Kill Bill: Volume 1" lacked in depth and character is remedied tenfold in Quentin Tarantino's stunning, cunning conclusion to his epic revenge fantasy.

Gone are the absurdist bloodbaths and the superficial grindhouse storytelling, and in their stead the wily writer-director transitions (with masterfully effortless cinematic aplomb) into a character- and dialogue-driven feast of substance and surprises -- which is, nonetheless, still punctuated by spectacularly stylish swordplay.

After a winking mock-noir prologue of recap narration, Tarantino opens "Volume 2" with a parched black-and-white flashback to the wedding rehearsal (glimpsed throughout last year's installment) at which The Bride (Uma Thurman), an unnamed and incognito former assassin trying to go straight, was brutally gunned down (along with everyone in attendance) by her former compatriots.

Continue reading: Kill Bill: Volume 2 Review

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