Tag Archives: David Carradine

Boxcar Bertha (1972) Review

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Barbara Hershey as Boxcar Bertha
David Carradine as Big Bill Shelly
Barry Primus as Rake Brown
Bernie Casey as Von Morton
John Carradine as H. Buckram Sartoris
Director: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s second feature loosely adapts the autobiography of Bertha Thompson, portraying the adventures of the Depression-era criminal following the death of her father. Bertha (Barbara Hershey) joins union organizer “Big” Bill Shelly (David Carradine) in fighting anti-union forces after an unexpected murder drives them to a life of robbing trains. The atmospheric tale depicts their life on the lam, doing whatever is necessary to survive.

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After Who’s that Knocking at My Door, Martin Scorsese’s next film would be an exploitation movie of all things, and produced by Roger Corman. While he’s definitely advanced as a director and there are some good parts to it, Boxcar Bertha is ultimately just another exploitation movie that’s not the best showcase for his talents.

I will preface this by saying that my review is looking at it many years after I saw this movie, so I’m going back and reminding myself of what the movie is. My memory of the movie isn’t all that great. The ‘plot’ is really nothing special and it’s rather uninteresting really. More than likely a big part of it is due to the fact that this was an exploitation movie, and it needed to rely on sex and violence, and those only served to distract and heavily affect the pacing. For my problems with the movie, I do feel like removing a lot of those elements would’ve improved the movie quite a lot. With that said, I can’t say for certain that Scorsese not making this an exploitation movie would’ve made this actually good. The highlight of the entire movie was the last 10 minutes, Scorsese took the plot to a dark and violent place, and not the over the top exploitation route either. So I guess if you stuck around for the whole movie, you are rewarded by a good point to end it off on.

A lot of the cast is quite talented and it still comes across in the movie, but there’s only so much that they can do with the material that they are given. The characters aren’t exactly delved into a lot. Barbara Hershey is the highlight performance as Bertha, and she worked well with David Carradine as the lead couple of the movie. Some of the other supporting actors like Barry Primus and Bernie Casey also work. Nothing to really say about the rest of the cast.

Martin Scorsese’s direction sure has improved since his last movie, but it doesn’t really feel like one of his movies at the same time. It feels like a Roger Corman movie delivered with the talent of a director of Martin Scorsese’s calibre at that time. You can really see from Boxcar Bertha that he had more skill than this movie deserved. A lot of the violence and sex are straight out of a B movie. As I said earlier though, the latter portion does feel like it was directed by Scorsese and that was quite good.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a bad movie, but Boxcar Bertha is really nothing special. I like some of the acting, and Scorsese’s direction really shines through from time to time, but otherwise it’s just another exploitation movie. It’s one of my least favourites of his movies, if not my least favourite. The best thing to come out of this was the fact that after director John Cassavetes saw a screening of this movie, he told Scorsese to direct something much better, and indeed a year later he would come out with Mean Streets, which was basically his breakout movie. I’d basically say if you’re a Scorsese completionist or if you’re into exploitation movies then check it out. Otherwise this isn’t essential viewing by any means.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) Review

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Uma Thurman as The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo (Black Mamba)
David Carradine as Bill (Snake Charmer)
Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii (Cottonmouth)
Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green (Copperhead)
Michael Madsen as Budd (Sidewinder)
Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver
Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale
Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo
Gordon Liu as Pai Mei
Director: Quentin Tarantino

The Bride (Uma Thurman) picks up where she left off in volume one with her quest to finish the hit list she has composed of all of the people who have wronged her, including ex-boyfriend Bill (David Carradine), who tried to have her killed four years ago during her wedding to another man. Leaving several dead in her wake, she eventually tracks down Bill in Mexico. Using skills she has learned during her assassin career, she attempts to finish what she set out to do in the first place.

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Directly after watching Kill Bill Volume 1, I decided to watch the second half of the story that same day. I always remembered it being a solid enough but underwhelming follow up to Volume 1, and it seemed to be a reaction that I’ve seen from multiple people. I definitely think it is a better movie when I saw it again not too long ago. This movie swapped out the over the top action flick with a western-esque revenge, and that’ll either make you like it more than the first movie, or like it less. Personally I now consider it to be the better of the two movies.

Kill Bill Volume 2 is a very different movie compared to the first one. It is much slower paced movie, there isn’t nearly the same amount of the blood and gore and it’s more longer and drawn out at 2 hours and 20 minutes instead of an hour and 50 minutes. It is a lot more dialogue focussed, and given that this is Tarantino’s strongest suit, he excels at it. While it is jarring seeing the difference between the two movies (especially after watching one after the other), there’s a lot more going on with the story. Volume 2 leans in heavier with the Western genre conventions. This movie works a lot better with me on a rewatch than the first time I saw it. I won’t deny that the first volume is way more entertaining, it’s one of the most stylish and iconic movies ever made. However, writing wise I’d say that the second movie is better. With that said, I still don’t think that the writing is anything compared to most of his other movies. While it has some great moments of dialogue, some of the dialogue scenes feel drawn out and unnecessary. The biggest example is a scene between The Bride and a character played by Michael Parks, the scene could’ve just been a couple minutes long but Parks has this long monologue and it really felt self indulgent (really a lot of the movies do). I know a lot of people want a Kill Bill 3 but honestly I thought they ended the story perfectly here.

Uma Thurman is once again excellent as The Bride, this is her career defining role. With this movie being more low-key, story-focussed and less action orientated, she gets a lot more to do here acting-wise. Other supporting players teased in the previous movie also get to do a lot more here. We finally get to actually see David Carradine as Bill and he definitely lived up to all the build up, he was perfect for what the movie needed and he particularly shines in the third act. Not to mention the actual much anticipated confrontation between him and The Bride doesn’t go the way that you’d initially expect it to. The other remaining people that The Bride is after played by Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah also play their roles very well.

Quentin Tarantino’s direction was once again great and like the story, it was a much more lowkey, less over the top action and not nearly as stylish as the previous movie. There aren’t as many insane and over the top moments. However, it is very well directed, the western influences are definitely a lot more present here. If you felt that Tarantino was way too indulgent with the way he directed Volume 1, Volume 2 is probably going to be more up your alley. The action itself is good, even if there weren’t many of them. The highlight was a fight between Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah, which is the most flashy of all the fight scenes, very over the top and entertaining.

Kill Bill Vol 2 worked way better than I initially gave it credit. It fills in much of the story depth that was missing from the first half, the writing and direction was great as to be expected, the cast was great (with Uma Thurman once again leading excellently) and I’d consider it to be better than the first volume. People are generally split on which of the movies is better. I’ll say that if you really liked Volume 1, you’re going to want to watch Volume 2 for the story at the very least. Maybe you might like it even more than the first movie.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Review

Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Uma Thurman as the Bride
Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii
David Carradine as Bill
Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green
Michael Madsen as Budd
Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver
Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale
Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo
Chiaki Kuriyama as Gogo Yubari
Gordon Liu as Johnny Mo
Michael Parks as Earl McGraw
Director: Quentin Tarantino

A former assassin, known simply as The Bride (Uma Thurman), wakes from a coma four years after her jealous ex-lover Bill (David Carradine) attempts to murder her on her wedding day. Fueled by an insatiable desire for revenge, she vows to get even with every person who contributed to the loss of her unborn child, her entire wedding party, and four years of her life. After devising a hit list, The Bride sets off on her quest, enduring unspeakable injury and unscrupulous enemies.

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I’ve been meaning to rewatch the Quentin Tarantino movies I haven’t seen more than once, and I started that with Kill Bill. I remember liking Kill Bill when I first saw it, although I liked the first part a lot more than the second. I don’t remember it being among my favourites of Tarantino’s movies, it was entertaining but that’s all it was for me. I’ve watched it again, and while I still don’t consider it among his best work, I do appreciate it much more now.

Kill Bill is split into two parts and you can feel that for sure, however Volume 1 still works as its own movie. This is a very different film from Tarantino, while the plot of Kill Bill involves revenge (which seems to be in line with some of his other movies), many of the things that happen here is nothing like he’s done before. Volume 1 seemed to be a mashup of anime, martial arts movies and western genres, and the combinations work really well. It’s split up into chapters and not necessarily told in chronological order, yet somehow it works. The pacing is pretty good and fast paced, keeping you engaged throughout the entire hour and 50 minutes runtime. He uses a lot of visual storytelling, and saved much of the big heavy exposition scenes for Volume 2. Now with that being said, with the lack of a lot of dialogue comes with some of the issues of parts of the story being empty, which is something that Volume 2 makes up for thankfully. Some of the chapters also are better than others, the one where The Bride is getting a sword wasn’t as engaging as the other sections of the movie, even though it was necessary for the plot. On the whole it’s really entertaining.

The cast do well in their roles and Tarantino wrote them as being very memorable and fleshing a lot of them out, even with only brief moments for characterisation. It’s really Uma Thurman who’s the standout of the entire movie, she was great as the lead character of The Bride, giving the best performance of her career. She was very convincing as her character, as well as the action. As great as this movie was, it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without Thurman. Lucy Liu also works really well as one of the people that The Bride is after, who plays a large part in the second half of the movie. Vivica A. Fox also does well in the one chapter that she appears in. There are also some brief appearances by David Carradine, Daryl Hannah and Michael Madsen as characters who would play a much larger part in Volume 2 and they are also good in their screentime here.

As to be expected, Quentin Tarantino’s direction is great. As I said earlier, this is a very different film from him, and that’s especially the case with his directing style. Kill Bill Volume 1 is probably his most stylish film, and considering the films that he’s made with the likes of Pulp Fiction and such, that really is saying a lot. It attempts many different styles, there’s even a bit where one of the chapter was a straight up anime and it somehow worked with the whole film. People don’t really think of Tarantino as the action movie kind of director (aside from this movie, the closest thing to an action movie he’s made was Django Unchained almost a decade later) but he handled the action scenes really well. The most standout of the fight sequences was with The Bride against multiple enemies at once, it’s truly something to watch. As it’s a Tarantino movie, you can expect it to get really bloody, and Kill Bill Volume 1 is definitely among his most violent movies. I’m talking about decapitations, limbs being severed and geysers of blood. The aforementioned Crazy 88 fight was so bloody and gory that a black and white filter was put on and I’m pretty sure that it was so that the movie could get a rating less than a NC-17 (yet the black and white stylistically worked incredibly well). So if you have a pretty weak stomach, the Kill Bill movies are definitely not for you. Tarantino is one of the strongest examples of directors who’s use of music is generally iconic and works perfectly, Kill Bill showcases that very well.

Kill Bill Volume 1 was better than I remembered. Quentin Tarantino blended the genres really well, the film was really entertaining overall, and the cast (especially Uma Thurman) were great. It’s still not as great to me as say Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds but it remains a standout of his movies.

Crank: High Voltage (2009) Review

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence, sex scenes, drug use and offensive language
Cast:
Jason Statham as Chev Chelios
Amy Smart as Eve Lydon
Clifton Collins, Jr. as El Huron
Efren Ramirez as Venus
Geri Halliwell as Karen Chelios
Dwight Yoakam as Doc Miles
Art Hsu as Johnny Vang
Bai Ling as Ria
Reno Wilson as Orlando
David Carradine as Poon Dong
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

After surviving an incredible plunge to near-certain death, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is abducted by Chinese mobsters. Waking up three months later, Chev finds that his nearly indestructible heart has been replaced with a battery-operated device that requires regular jolts of electricity or it will fail. Chev escapes from his captors, reunites with his lover, Eve (Amy Smart), and sets out on a frantic chase through Los Angeles to get his real heart back.

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The first Crank was an enjoyable over the top action flick, it’s not by any means a great movie (I don’t even know if I’ll call it a good movie) but it was very entertaining for what it was trying to be. The sequel seemed to be something incredibly entertaining, with it being even more over the top than it’s predecessor (I mean Statham literally needs to charge up his heart with electricity this time). While the sequel is even more over the top (as expected), I don’t know if I can call it very entertaining, or even enjoyable at all. It feels forced in the worst possible way and gets very tiring very quickly. Such a step down from the first Crank, and the original film wasn’t even that great, so that’s saying a lot.

While at times the film is entertaining and funny, the jokes and sequences at times feel incredibly forced and random. It almost feels like a bunch of people (who aren’t the creators of the original) tried to do Crank 2 and recapture the original Crank and doing it poorly. The sad thing is that the same people did the sequel. The one thing I can guarantee is that it is absolutely insane, I guarantee you that you will be wondering what is going on at times. To a degree I’ll give credit to them for going all out. Aside from that there’s not much to really like. It goes too far at times with how crazy and offensive it could be, to the point where at times it felt downright unpleasant and painful to watch. Also there was sort of a mid-credits scene that was put into a movie for some reason and I have no idea why. With that said, a pointless mid credits scene is the least of High Voltage’s problems.

Jason Statham is effortless to watch. He definitely threw himself into this movie and had a lot of fun doing a lot of these insane things. He was really of the best part of the whole movie, if not the best part. Everyone else… not so much. Amy Smart has even less to do than in the previous movie and so her performance was even worse. The other supporting actors, I don’t really have much to say about them. Nobody else from the rest of the cast stand out, except that most of them were downright terrible and at times insufferable.

The direction style here returns from the original Crank and it does still work. It feels completely insane and frantic, especially during action sequences. There was a very bizarre visual sequence that involved Statham in a fight in the third act that is so strange that it was actually quite entertaining. I don’t really think that it was the direction of the scenes that was so wrong with this movie, it’s the actual content itself.

I can’t call Crank 2 a good movie at all. Its entertaining at times and seeing Jason Statham doing a bunch of insane and crazy things is fun but that’s it. It is way too forced, downright obnoxious at times and even at points felt a little unpleasant. If you didn’t like the original, you will absolutely hate the sequel. If you liked the original Crank, give High Voltage a shot, but its very possible that you may not like it.