• Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2

    Released by: Miramax
    Released on: 9/9/2008
    Director: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Uma Thurman. Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Sonny Chiba, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks
    Year: 2003
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    The Movie:

    Call it a rip off, a remix, a ridiculous work of plagiarism or a sincere love letter to the exploitation and martial arts films of days past, no matter how you want to look at it Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill is considered by many to be a modern classic. It did remarkably well at the box office when you consider the levels of violence, the lack of an A-list top billed cast and the lengthy running time, and it’s maintained a very healthy following since debuting a few years ago. With that said, why are we still waiting for the long rumored ‘Whole Bloody Affair’ uncut version of the film? For such a popular work, the Kill Bill saga hasn’t been treated all that well on home video and while the Blu-ray releases of Kill Bill Volume 1 & Volume 2 from Miramax look and sound great, they’re still the R-rated American theatrical cuts…

    But I digress. Even if their R-rated forms, this two films (being reviewed here as a single movie) are pretty enjoyable. For those who haven’t seen them, the story follows a woman initially known only as ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) who is shot in the head on her wedding day. Years later she wakes up from her coma and decides that it’s time to get revenge on the person who did it to her starting with her former employer, a man named Bill (David Carradine). To get to Bill, however, she’ll have to take on the ladies who used to be her co-workers – the members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. ‘The Bride’ was once one of the best assassins out there and she’ll have to use all of her skills to finish her quest. A trip to Japan to acquire a sword made by one Hatori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba) is a start but there’s going to be more to it than that. She’ll have to train hard in the martial arts with Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) to take on the likes of Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama), Budd (Michael Madsen) and of course, the eye-patch wearing Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) but once she gets to Bill, she knows it’ll all be worth it.

    A mish mash of better known and better made sixties and seventies exploitation, martial arts and Samurai/Yakuza pictures, the Kill Bill films are basically what you’d get if you took a bunch of great parts from a bunch of your favorite movies and put them in a blender and puree. What comes out is sweet and completely easy to down, but it doesn’t quite taste as good as the ingredients would on their own. Tarantino, wearing his influences plainly on his sleeve as he is apt to do, cherry picks from films like They Call Her Own Eye, Lady Snowblood, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, and The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (along with about a hundred others) pretty much ensuring that the results simply cannot be particularly original, but it’s hard not to have a good time with the two parts of the film.

    Uma Thurman makes for a great heroin and she looks fantastic in her ‘Bruce Lee’ jump suit carving her way through an army of Crazy 88’s (hitmen) in the now famous (and sadly still black and white) ‘House Of Blue Leaves’ sequence from the first part. She’s both menacing and sexy and she carries the film incredibly well. Great supporting performances from Daryl Hannah and David Carradine solidify the line up quite well while the cameo list reads like a ‘who’s who’ list of old drive-in films as we see the likes of Sonny Chiba, Gordon Liu, Bo Svenson, Michael Parks, Sid Haig, Michael Bowen and James Parks.

    Like most of Taratino’s pictures, the film could be considered an exercise in style over substance. The requisite amount of hipster dialogue is here as is the soundtrack made up of old AM radio hits (which, surprisingly enough, fits in nicely with the score that comes courtesy of the RZA). The film makes excellent use of the widescreen canvas and the colors and sets used for the picture all add an air of fun to the picture. The movie isn’t deep – but it isn’t trying to be – its simply good entertainment made by a man who obviously loves genre films. It’s easy to pick it apart if the various nods and references to older films tend to annoy you, but taken on its own as a singular story of revenge Kill Bill delivers.


    The anamorphic 2.40.1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded widescreen transfers are truly a thing of beauty. There’s WAY more detail here than there was in the standard definition releases and the colors really pop off the screen, the reds and yellows in particular. Close up shots reveal every pore on the face of every actor while medium and long distance shots really show off the detail in the sets and locations used in the film. Black levels are strong, deep and consistent while flesh tones look lifelike and natural throughout the picture. There aren’t any problems with print damage to complain about nor are there any edge enhancement or mpeg compression artifacts to note. The anime sequence in Volume 1 looks slightly digitized compared to the rest of the movie but that minor complaint aside, Miramax really has done a bang up job on these transfers, the film looks great.

    The way to enjoy these films is the English language uncompressed PCM 48 kHz/24-bit 5.1 Surround Sound mix but if you can’t handle that, Miramax has also provided French and English standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks. Optional subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish. How does the PCM mix fare? It’s great! There’s a remarkable level of detail in the background of many scenes and the surrounds are used very effectively during the combat scenes and the more intense action scenes to provide plenty of atmosphere and fun directional effects placement. Dialogue stays clean and clear from start to finish while bass response is tight and lively throughout. Levels are properly balanced and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion at all. All in all, this is a very immersive mix that really brings you into the movie.

    Sadly, here’s where these releases really fall short. The only substantial supplement on Volume 1 is the twenty-two The Making Of Kill Bill Volume 1, presented in standard definition and in non-anamorphic widescreen (just like the rest of the supplements). We hear from Lawrence Bender, Quentin Tarantino and actresses Uma Thurman, Vivica A. Fox, Lucy Liu and Daryl Hannah by way of some interesting interviews. Topics covered include Tarantino’s inspiration and what it was like working on the picture. It’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it before but it definitely leaves us wanting…

    Aside from that, look for two bonus musical performances from the’s., trailers for Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1 (teaser), Kill Bill Vol. 1 (bootleg trailer), Kill Bill Vol. 2, animated menus and chapter selection.

    Volume 2 contains the twenty-nine minute The Making Of Kill Bill Volume 2, which follows the style established in the first documentary and expands upon the making of the films by detailing those scenes and characters as they are geared more towards the finale of the story. Aside from that, look for a quick deleted scene and a ‘Chingon’ musical performance along with animated menus and chapter selection. The extras on Volume 2 are, like those on Volume 1, all presented in standard definition.

    The Final Word:

    While fans wait for the rumored ‘Whole Bloody Affair’ uncut super duper deluxe edition, these Blu-ray releases from Miramax will fit the bill. The audio and video quality is superb and while the extras are noticeably lacking, the films remain a lot of fun.