Tag Archives: Quentin Tarantino

Top 100 Films #43 – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

 

Film Title: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS#43. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger

I still remember my first viewing of Inglourious Basterds like it was yesterday, everything about the theatrical experience was just so perfect.  To this day I still feel that same feeling everytime I see, read about, or think about Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film.  The World War II epic sees a plot to assassinate a theatre full of Nazi leaders – including Adolf Hitler – by an elite group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt).  Unbeknownst to them, the theatre owner Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) has plans for her own revenge against the Nazi officials, creating the perfect storm of violence and vengeance. Inglourious Basterds is without a doubt my favorite Quentin Tarantino film, simply because it’s everything I love about the director in one highly entertaining movie.  It’s violent, features an ensemble cast loaded with great actors in roles outside of their usual comfort zone, and deadly serious with great emotional weight in moments.  Basterds is something only a bold, proven filmmaker the likes of Tarantino would be able to see through to the end – it’s bizarre, revisionist, violent, and confrontational in the way that many of his films are. Tarantino’s portrait of Nazi-occupied Paris is incredible in its tone and atmosphere – SS patrols, guards, resistance fighters, and spies are on the mind of viewers at all times.  The tone creates a suspenseful and intriguing atmosphere that sticks with the film to the very end.  In classic Tarantino fashion, the writer-director infuses the film with a very upfront sense of humor and self-awareness, especially with elements like Eli Roth’s “Bear Jew”, Christoph Waltz’s “That’s a BINGO” moment, and the use of modern songs like David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”.  The fact that Basterds earned universal critical acclaim and awards recognition is a testament to the talents of the writer-director, as well as to its cast.  Speaking of its cast, Inglourious Basterds introduced American audiences to the talent of Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, whose Colonel Hans Landa was one of the most intelligent and sinister villains in modern film history. Waltz picked up a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, and would team up again with Tarantino in 2012’s Django Unchained.  Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine is another highlight of Inglourious Basterds, serving as the film’s central protagonist but also as its occasional comedic relief.  Raine’s atrocious Italian accent is one of my favorite moments in the movie, perfectly displaying Pitt’s penchant for absurd comedy.  The third acting highlight in Basterds is the performance of Shosanna by Melanie Laurent, who transforms from a terrified young girl living in fear of persecution, to a strong, independent, vengeful force looking to single-handedly take down the Nazi regime. While Inglourious Basterds may not be for everybody due to its length, revisionist historical approach, use of multiple languages, or simply due to its tone, there’s no denying the craft at work here. The film is one of the most suspenseful, atmospheric, entertaining, and rewarding movie experiences I’ve ever had, and may very well be Quentin Tarantino’s very best work.  

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Top 100 Films #45 – True Romance (1993)

 

true_romance_5#45. True Romance (1993)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Michael Rapaport, James Gandolfini

Once upon a time I had the pleasure of calling Tony Scott’s True Romance my all-time favorite film.  It had everything I could ever possibly want in one package – violence, unique performances, humor, and romance.  I’ve seen thousands of films since then, but True Romance still endures as one of my favorites, and for good reason.  We follow hopelessly romantic geek Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) and a call girl named Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) as they quickly fall in love, get married, and accidentally come into the possession of a large amount of cocaine wanted by the mob.  Clarence and Alabama arrange for the sale of the cocaine to a film producer in Hollywood, setting in motion the violent, inescapable drug deal of the century.  True Romance, written by modern master Quentin Tarantino, is one of the most unique and bizarre romances ever put to film.  Every bit of it is classic Tarantino, down to the main character loving kung-fu movies and comic books, and its use of the classic “lovers on the lamb” structure, paying homage to films like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde.  The writing is sharp, funny, and very easily builds a cast of very lovable and memorable characters.  While Tarantino didn’t direct the film, Tony Scott’s handling of the material is more than competent, especially in the films sparing action scenes – which were always a specialty of the late Tony Scott.  True Romance has a palpable sense of adventure to it, feeling far larger in scope than other films of the same nature.  Scott’s direction of the very talented cast is top notch, bringing out some incredibly quirky, bizarre performances from the cast – namely Gary Oldman’s gangster pimp Drexl, Brad Pitt’s hilarious couch-potato stoner Floyd, Val Kilmer’s ghostly apparition of Elvis Presley, and Christopher Walken’s violent, unpredictable Don Vincenzo Coccotti.  Our two leads in Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are perfect for the film – their chemistry is immediate from the very beginning, and sells the entire film from the get-go. Slater’s turn as the geeky Elvis Presley obsessed Clarence is charming and adorable, but also strong and goal-oriented, and Patricia Arquette’s hooker with a heart of gold Alabama is wonderfully funny and naive throughout.  Without the memorable performances from the film’s entire cast, True Romance would have been almost immediately forgotten to time.  The film’s best (and most famous) moment comes in the scene shared between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, which features one of the funniest, most tense exchanges of dialogue I’ve ever seen – it’s classic Tarantino.  True Romance is one of the most unique romantic experiences you’ll ever have, but the journey is one you’ll never forget. It’s violent, it’s funny, and it’s charming as hell – it’s a must-see for any Quentin Tarantino fan.

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Top 100 Films #59 – Pulp Fiction (1994)

 

ffc39ebe6c87b384c277ca8ce3a63ba4#59. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken

Pulp Fiction is a film that needs no introduction to anybody who even remotely cares about movies.  Quentin Tarantino’s revolutionary 1994 film changed the way people look at films and their structure, at least in terms of mainstream motion pictures. Pulp Fiction weaves multiple boundary-pushing narratives together into one of the most entertaining, remarkable tapestries ever put to celluloid, with stories that saw hit-men Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) collecting a mysterious golden briefcase, having the interior of their car cleaned after an unfortunate accident, and being held at gunpoint in a local diner.  Another saw a boxer named Butch (Bruce Willis) throwing a fixed fight and fleeing the city, only to encounter Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), the man he double-crossed, in a bizarre torture/sex dungeon.  Tarantino’s film was a massive financial and critical success, being nominated for several Academy Awards like Best Picture, Best Director (Tarantino), Best Actor (John Travolta), Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson), but only won the award for Best Screenplay (Tarantino) – which it undoubtedly deserved. Tarantino’s screenplay is one of the greatest of the 1990’s, combining gut-busting humor, raw violence, satisfying character arcs, and Tarantino’s unique brand of bizarreness into one beautiful package.  Quentin Tarantino’s direction of Pulp Fiction is another element that cannot be understated – using high energy techniques, great music, and paying homage to some of his favorite cult films of yesteryear, every frame of the film has been carefully constructed and labored over.  The ensemble cast of the film features more than a few memorable performances, from John Travolta’s reluctant swagger, to Samuel L. Jackson questioning his faith and the world around him, and even Uma Thurman’s cool, sexy Mia Wallace.  It’s nearly impossible to argue that Pulp Fiction is not a masterpiece – even if you’re not a fan of the works of Tarantino, there’s something here for nearly everybody. While Ben-Hur is the film that hooked me on movies, Pulp Fiction is the work that made me appreciate how they were constructed, and made me dig far deeper into the rabbit hole than I had ever expected.  It’s been a lifelong favorite of mine and no doubt to millions of others.

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Top 100 Films #87 – Chungking Express (1994)

 

65c702e90ed2f7111311f3c9f4a2d461#87. Chungking Express (1994)
Directed by: Wong Kar-wai
Written by: Wong Kar-wai
Starring: Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung, Faye Wong

Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai helped to further popularize international cinema in the 1990’s, inspiring many in the American independent scene with his moody, stylish films.  The film that made the biggest impression internationally was 1994’s highly influential Chungking Express.  The film tells two relatively small and intimate stories of loneliness in modern day Hong Kong – the first follows Cop 663 (Tony Leung) as he is recovering from heartbreak, and a mysterious woman in a blonde wig (Brigitte Lin) as she survives in the Hong Kong drug trafficking scene.  The second story sees Cop 663 reeling from yet another breakup, and a young woman named Faye (Faye Wong – introduced briefly in the first story).  To help Cop 663 get through the rough period, Faye lets herself into his apartment while he is away and cleans arranges things.  The film is as bizarre and surreal as it sounds – but it’s also incredibly beautiful and innovative at the same time.  Wong Kar-wai makes the crowded and bustling Hong Kong streets feel lonely and isolated in both stories, at the same time employing his trademark frantic, high energy direction.  Chungking Express is a revelation, and what I would consider to be the pinnacle of 90’s international cinema.  Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino have lifted a great deal of techniques and style from Wong Kar-wai, and after seeing Chungking Express you’ll understand why.

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End of Year 2015 – Best Films of 2015 (#10-#6)

chi-raq10. Chi-Raq
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Spike Lee
Starring: Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney, Dave Chappelle

The funniest movie I saw all year came from the brilliant mind of controversial filmmaker Spike Lee, director of the race relations masterpiece Do the Right Thing.  Lee’s new film Chi-Raq sees the filmmaker going into uncharted territory, as it’s something of a musical, a comedy, and a satire all wrapped into one sweet package.  Chi-Raq is based on the classic Greek story of Lysistrata, which sees a group of women withholding sex from their mates in order to bring two warring factions to negotiate a peace treaty with each other.  The film sees a great deal of parallels with the story of Lysistrata, but applying it to modern day Chicago.  Chicago is seen through Spike Lee’s camera as a dangerous, but wonderful city, where young African American men and women essentially risk death on a daily basis just because they live in gang populated areas.  After the unexpected death of a young neighborhood girl, a troupe of ambitious and frustrated women young and old come together and solve the gang problem themselves, through the power of their sex appeal  The film is incredibly funny in all of its biting satire, incredibly relevant in the modern age of the Black Lives Matter campaign, as well as the ever-rising number of police shootings in the United States.  The entire cast of Chi-Raq plays outside of their comfort zone throughout the film, and what results is a film the likes of which I’ve never seen before.  Ignore the haters of all things Spike Lee and Chi-Raq, watch this film for yourself and enjoy it for its relevant satire, hilarious performances, and terrific musical numbers.  Chi-Raq is a near-masterpiece, and will hopefully elevate Spike Lee into a territory he hasn’t been in over a decade.


the-hateful-eight-still-19. The Hateful Eight
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Demian Bichir, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, James Parks, Channing Tatum

A film that parallels Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is many surprising ways in its dealings with hatred and race relations.  Quentin Tarantino’s highly entertaining – if overlong – The Hateful Eight may not reinvent the wheel, but I don’t think that was ever Tarantino’s mission for a film of this scale.  The incredible score by Ennio Morricone backs up one of the funniest, most charming, and surprisingly mean-spirited movies of the year, and there’s never a dull moment even in the film’s bloated runtime.  Leading the pack with incredibly entertaining performances are Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson, but the real standout performance for me was that of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s.  Leigh’s character is dirty, loud, obnoxious, and pathetic all at the same time, never quite showing upfront the level of desperation her character is feeling until the very last moments of the film.  Character actors like Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir, and James Parks all have some really fun and juicy roles that they bite into seemingly without hesitation.  None of this would have been possible if not for Tarantino’s epic-length – but small and personal scope – script for The Hateful Eight.  His trademark pitch black sense of humor is in the forefront at all times, but so are his occasionally insightful comments on society at large and the hatred, lies, and bigotry we tend to spew in our worst moments as people.  Tarantino seems like he had a lot to say through The Hateful Eight, and while it may not reach the highs of films like Inglourious Basterds or Pulp Fiction, it still manages to soar in its own right.  The Hateful Eight is a great, albeit dark, time for all moviegoers, and I can’t see how somebody couldn’t find something in this film to connect to.  


room8. Room
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Written by: Emma Donoghue
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus, Sean Bridgers

Room is the little Irish-Canadian co-production that could.  Lenny Abrahamson’s film, based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, is an intensely personal and emotional film that takes a look at some serious issues.  Explored in Room are themes of mental illness, namely post traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression, and anxiety.  Starring the lovely Brie Larson and young star Jacob Tremblay, Room is a film that sounds good on paper, and looks even better when you see it actually come alive before your eyes.  I like to compare it in tone and themes to 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, although that film is a little lighter than Abrahamson’s adaptation of Room.  Brie Larson gives one of the most powerful and moving performances of the year, playing a traumatized mother who is willing to do anything to save the lives of her and her son.  Larson’s character is constantly conflicted and hurt by the things she’s experienced, and we as the audience can feel every bit of her pain.  Backing up Larson’s terrific performances is Jacob Tremblay in what I would say is without a doubt one of the best child performances in recent memory.  Tremblay’s sense of wonderment seen in the first half of the film, and then subsequent acclimatization to the world around him in the second half are both incredibly believable and compelling.  One of my favorite parts of Room is something I haven’t seen talked about very often, and that would be the set design of the titular Room.  Although it’s revealed that Larson and her son are living in what amounts to a garden shed, Room feels sprawling in some moments, and we often see it through the eyes of a child.  Room looks both large and small, and it’s a technical achievement by both the set design team as well as the director and cinematographer.  While Room may not be the easiest watch of the year, it holds two of the most interesting performances of 2015, and has a great deal to say about mental illness.  It’s a crowd-pleaser that doubles as a genuinely great film, I can easily recommend it to anybody.


2015-07-30-09_46_02-spotlight-trailer-1-2015-mark-ruffalo-michael-keaton-movie-hd-youtube7. Spotlight
Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Written by: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
Starring: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan

Spotlight is a film I knew very little about when I went into it, and when the credits rolled I was very happy for that fact.  Tom McCarthy’s most ambitious project yet is also his most successful in terms of blending terrific performances, a tight script, and unblinking direction into one amazing package.  The film takes a look at the Boston Globe’s early 2000’s investigation of the molestation taking place within the Catholic church, and the “spotlight” team responsible for bringing them to justice.  McCarthy’s direction is incredibly fluid throughout the film, giving us up-close looks at both intimate moments between the journalists, and incredibly thrilling breaks in the case and new developments.  Leading the cast are the crew of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Liev Schreiber, all of whom give some of the absolute best performances of their careers in Spotlight.  Keaton is every bit as strong as he was in last year’s Birdman, but is unfortunately overshadowed by a typically great performance from the very talented Ruffalo, who I hope to see pick up yet another Academy Award nomination for his performance in the film.  McAdams is solid in the film too, and is usually a strong talent as long as the writing is strong as well, which is definitely the case with Spotlight.  McCarthy’s script is quite possibly the most impressive thing about Spotlight, covering a great deal of information, investigating countless characters including church heads, victims, priests, journalists, etc., and yet McCarthy’s screenplay never stops to breathe for too long.  Even though this is essentially a film about journalists conducting what may seem a mundane investigation, Spotlight is one of the most riveting films I’ve seen.  It’s heartbreaking, satisfying, and incredibly compelling in every single moment, and I sincerely hope it picks up some big time nominations this award season.


maxresdefault (1)6. Creed
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Written by: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew

Another massive sleeper hit that exceeded everybody’s expectations, Ryan Coogler’s followup to his debut feature Fruitvale Station has proven to be both a critical and box office sensation.  Creed follows the early career of Adonis (or Donnie) Creed, estranged son of former boxing World Champion Apollo Creed.  Adonis teams up with another former World Champion, in the form of “The Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa, who hasn’t trained since his one-off fight with former champion Mason Dixon back in 2006.  Together, Balboa and the young Creed look to overcome all odds and elevate the second-generation star to heights even Rocky hasn’t seen, but it won’t be an easy journey for either of them.  There are far too many great elements of Creed to focus on, from his incredibly energetic direction style, the quick and effortless pacing of the script, and the terrific performances from both Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone.  Stallone gives the performance of his career in Creed, reminding the audience exactly why they fell in love with Rocky Balboa in the first place, but elevating the stakes to new heights.  Stallone swings for the fences in every single scene he’s in, and manages to steal the show every single time.  He single-handedly proved all of his critics wrong in just one performance, and I hope he’ll be able to do it again in the film’s sequel.  Young Michael B. Jordan gives a terrifically physical and emotional performance through the film, always hesitant to acknowledge his roots and the influence his father had on the sport of boxing.  When he’s in the ring, he’s entirely believable as the young Donnie Creed, and is featured in some of the absolute best fight scenes in the entire franchise.  On top of some great performances, highly energetic direction, and a surprisingly subtle script, Creed’s soundtrack will be stuck in your head for days and days.  The new pieces of score are hard-hitting and work perfectly, the re-appropriated pieces from the original film’s soundtrack don’t stick out awkwardly, and the many hip-hop tracks featured throughout had me dancing in my seat more than once.  Forget everything you think you know about the Rocky franchise, and see Creed as soon as possible.


Part 1 (#20-#16) can be viewed here
Part 2 (#15-#11) can be viewed here

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Noirvember Feature #9 – Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

KissMeDeadlyKiss Me Deadly (1955)
Directed by: Robert Aldrich
Written by: A.I. Bezzerides (based on Kiss Me, Deadly by Mickey Spillane)
Starring: Ralph Meeker, Maxine Cooper, Cloris Leachman, Gaby Rodgers, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez

Robert Aldrich is perhaps one of the best known directors of the entire marathon, with a filmography including Noirvember’s latest feature Kiss Me Deadly, The Dirty Dozen, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Flight of the Phoenix, and The Longest Yard.  To say that Aldrich has had an undeniable influence on the history of genre filmmaking is an understatement.  Some of the films listed above are very likely to have paved the way for the future generation of blockbuster and big budget filmmakers.  Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly came early on in his directing career, and would would go on to be recognized as one of his great films.  The film perfectly captures the manic paranoia of Cold War era United States.  Nearly every character in the film is mysterious, immoral, unpredictable, and dangerous, just like the threat of imminent nuclear war during the 1950’s.  Kiss Me Deadly stars Ralph Meeker as detective Mike Hammer, a role that would define his career of starring in low budget and cult films.  The success of Kiss Me Deadly can’t be attributed to its director or star, both of whom were relatively unknown as the time of its release, but rather the controversy and discussions that were generated by the famous film noir.  Both the controversial beginning and ending of the film have had critics and historians poring over and debating the merits of Kiss Me Deadly for decades now.  The fact that people are still talking about this film sixty years after its release speaks for itself as far as the final judgment made by the public.

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Kiss Me Deadly begins with detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) picking up an extremely distressed hitchhiker Christina (Cloris Leachman).  The panicked woman tells Hammer to drive her to the bus station, where he can then forget all about her.  She mentions that if for some reason they don’t make it to the bus station, that it’s important the detective should remember her.  Hammer and Christina are quickly run off the road, the hitchhiker brutally tortured and murdered, and Mike left for dead.  He wakes up to find himself in the hospital, and very quickly gets to work on trying to solve who the woman was, and what she was on about.  Mike quickly finds out that Christina had escaped from a nearby mental asylum, that she had important knowledge held by few, and that the people who are responsible for her death are now after detective Hammer.  Unfortunately for them, detective Mike Hammer isn’t a man who can be bullied into submission by thugs, because our main character is every bit corrupt and dirty as the criminals he is now chasing.  After meeting Christina’s supposed roommate, Lily Carver (Gaby Rodgers) Hammer learns of a valuable box she held in her position, whose contents are a mystery.  We later come to find out what the contents of the mysterious box are and what they represent, and hold the knowledge that if opened could forever change the lives of those around it.  Will Mike Hammer track down the men responsible for Christina’s death and recover the mysterious box, or will the detective be outmatched and outgunned by the clever criminals chasing him?  Find out in Robert Aldrich’s incredible Kiss Me Deadly.

“If I catch ya snooping around with a gun in your hand, I’ll throw you in jail!” – Going to jail is literally the least of Mike Hammer’s concerns in Kiss Me Deadly, and that fact only makes the film greater in its high stakes nature.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve watched the film nearly three times in the last week in order to fully comprehend the twists and turns it makes, as well as understand the fairly complex plot at hand in the film.  At first nothing clicked with me, and I thought that maybe Kiss Me Deadly’s complex and fast-paced plot and large cast of characters just wasn’t for me.  On a rewatch, however, I found out just how wrong I was.  Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, based on a novel of the same name by writer Mickey Spillane, is an incredibly taught and suspense noir, and will very likely go down as one of the most memorable I’ve seen to date.  The cast of characters are all corrupt crooks looking out for themselves, which helps establish the film’s dark and eerie mood.  Mike Hammer is such a complex and unique character that it took me those three watches to finally appreciate him.  I can’t possibly imagine how Ralph Meeker’s performance as Hammer didn’t launch him into a more notable career, but at least it’s here for us to praise all these years later.  The film’s climax is one of the most nihilistic and downtrodden I’ve ever seen, not just in the film noir genre I’ve been featuring this past month.  I can’t possibly spoil it for anybody reading, but I’ll say that it’s explosive in its energy and suspense, and that it’s well worth the wait.  Kiss Me Deadly can be looked back upon as the originator of the “mysterious box” trope found in films like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, which was inspired by Aldrich’s film.  The film is an obvious product of Cold War era Hollywood, feeling incredibly paranoid and untrustworthy in every twist and turn it makes, and this helps further the plot and character building in its own unique way.  

KISS-ME-DEADLY_MAIN1520

In all of its dark, moody, corrupt, and paranoid glory, it’s easy for me to say that Kiss Me Deadly is an absolute masterpiece of the genre.  The character of Mike Hammer is incredibly complex and a delight to watch onscreen.  It makes me wish that more serious adaptations of the novels featuring him as a character were made, and that the team of Aldrich and Meeker were able to collaborate on more than one of them.  Kiss Me Deadly is about as depressing as film noir gets, and it works in every single frame.  I can say without a doubt in my mind that Kiss Me Deadly is highly recommended, and that anybody reading this would find something in it to fall in love with.

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