Category Archives: 2004

Rocks In The Attic #860: Various Artists – ‘Kill Bill Vol. 2 (O.S.T.)’ (2004)

RITA#860I think the reason I’ve not gone back to this film as much as the first one is that as a pair they’re so uneven. The first film is front-loaded with all the action, and then all the exposition and character development ends up crammed into the second film. It makes for a strange double-feature.

We catch up with Uma Thurman’s Bride as she’s driving down a desert road. She delivers a monologue straight to camera:

Looked dead, didn’t I? Well, I wasn’t. But it wasn’t from lack of trying, I can tell you that. Actually, Bill’s last bullet put me in a coma – a coma I was to lie in for four years. When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as “a roaring rampage of revenge.” I roared, and I rampaged, and I got bloody satisfaction. I’ve killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point, but I’ve only one more. The last one. The one I’m driving to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I am gonna kill Bill.

We open in the Two Pines wedding chapel. We’ve seen this location before, in the black and white flashback sequences of Vol. 1, but here we get to see the whole thing play out. There’s a wonderful Orson Welles-worthy crane shot towards the end of sequence, where the camera drifts back through the aisle, out of the doors as we see Bill’s assassins walk into the chapel, ending with an aerial shot as the gunfire starts. It’s probably my favourite shot of the film; stellar filmmaking.

RITA#860aThe intertextuality and references to Tarantino’s earlier works keep on coming, with a short but memorable cameo by Tarantino-regular Samuel L. Jackson. Moments later, we’re introduced to David Carradine’s Bill, the Caine of Kung Fu that Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction aspired to be at the close of that film.

A few scenes later, at the trailer of Michael Madsen’s Budd – which pre-dates Brad Pitt’s set-up in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Budd captures the Bride, who has been waiting to kill him. Budd calls Darryl Hannah’s Elle Driver and says “I just caught me the cowgirl”. The line immediately echoes a similar scene in Pulp Fiction, where the pawn-shop owner Maynard captures a bloodied Butch and Marsellus (Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames): “Zed? It’s Maynard. The spider just caught a coupl’a flies.” RZA’s underscoring with the melody line from Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) over this scene is very nice, and probably his finest moment in terms of original composition. Much later, at the close of the film, Bill describes the Bride as a ‘natural born killer’, and if that isn’t a reference to an earlier Tarantino script, then I don’t know what is.

It’s not all great though. Michael Madsen’s conversation with his strip-club owner boss is the very definition of filler. It doesn’t go anywhere, and his subsequent character development belies the fact that he probably wouldn’t put up with somebody so annoying and unthreatening.

My other major gripe is the use of Malcolm McLaren’s About Her – a rewrite of the Zombies’ She’s Not There. It’s a nice track from McLaren’s 2005 album Tranquilize, and uses a Bessie Smith sample (‘My man’s got a heart like a rock cast in the sea’) similar to how Moby deployed old-timey samples on 1999’s Play, but the prominence of those lyrics – ‘Well nobody told me about her’ – to soundtrack the moment the Bride is reunited with her daughter is just awful. Shoehorning the lyrics of a pop song to lazily describe the events in a film is something a hack director would do. Who’s responsible for this choice of song? Tarantino or RZA? The rest of the soundtrack is amazing, and what you’d expect from a Tarantino film, but this one song is definitely its weakest point.

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The buried alive / grave sequence is absolutely horrible, particularly so if you don’t like enclosed spaces. It gets me in the same way as a similar scene in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The shot of the Bride walking across the road into the diner is a nice little capper. A lesser director would have played the shot more for laughs – particularly as she’s walking out of a cemetery looking like that – but Tarantino gives us just the right amount of levity, without breaking the sombre tone of the film.

The standout scene of the film though is the trailer fight between the Bride and Elle Driver. I can’t believe I’ve forgotten about this. It’s the best close-quarters fight this side of a Bond film (see From Russia With Love, Diamonds Are Forever, SPECTRE), and manages to tread the line between serious and hilarious, influencing a similar scene in Christopher McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher.

Hit: Goodnight Moon – Shivaree

Hidden Gem: Summertime Killer – Luis Bacalov

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Rocks In The Attic #771: Scissor Sisters – ‘Scissor Sisters’ (2004)

RITA#771I’d heard a few of this band’s singles – most probably Laura, Comfortably Numb and Take Your Mama – on BBC Radio 2 (where else?) before I dragged my friend Denise to see them play the Pyramid Stage on the Saturday morning at Glastonbury 2004. I was so glad I did; it was a performance that has really stuck with me, regardless of the direction the band went in after this first album.

The band started playing the opening bars of Take Your Mama, to a huge cheer, before their vocalists hit the stage. The huge screens either side of the stage caught Jake Shears and Ana Matronic walking backstage as they spotted the size of the crowd. They almost fell over each other in shock, which just made the crowd roar even louder. Unfortunately, although the performance is available on YouTube, that particularly joyous moment isn’t captured.

RITA#771aOne of the things I’ve always loved about Glastonbury is that bands don’t always turn up, play their set and leave straightaway. Occasionally, they’ll stay for the whole weekend – particularly if it’s a fresh up-and-coming band enamoured with the festival itself – and you may even catch a glimpse of them walking past you. At some point the next day, I ran into the Scissor Sisters as we both queued up to buy some potato wedges and sour cream from one of the food trucks. Rock and roll!

I lost touch with the band after this record. Their brand of music – half Elton John, half Talking Heads – is perfect radio-friendly single material, and their brilliant collaboration with Elton on I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ from their follow-up album is a prime example of this. They seemed to head towards the pop charts and away from the indie-rock charts, and so I didn’t hear as much from them.

I also lost my job around this time, and so I stopped spending as much time in the car listening to the radio. Maybe I lost touch with the Scissor Sisters because I stopped listening to Radio 2.

Hit: Take Your Mama

Hidden Gem: Mary

Rocks In The Attic #688: Probot – ‘Probot’ (2004)

RITA#688.jpgAnybody who has written off Dave Grohl as a commercial sell-out really needs to listen to this, his metal side-project from 2004.

Alongside Lemmy, Max Cavalera, Kim Thayil, Jack Black and many others, Grohl plays almost all instrumentation on a record that is so heavy your neighbours will love it.

In fact, the record feels so right it makes you wonder where Grohl’s heart really lies – the doom and sheer oomph of this versus the mainstream watered-down Emo of his day job.

Hit: Centuries Of Sin

Hidden Gem: Dictatosaurus

Rocks In The Attic #81: Aerosmith – ‘Honkin’ On Bobo’ (2004)

Rocks In The Attic #81: Aerosmith - ‘Honkin’ On Bobo’ (2004)Aerosmith really know how to disappoint. When I first heard about this record – that it was going to be a back-to basics Blues record, produced by their old-time 70s producer Jack Douglas – I was so excited. After almost twenty years of trying to rewrite their past, and becoming a shadow of their former selves, this idea seemed to make sense. They’ve realised that their Geffen output was sub-par! They’re going back to their Blues influences! And just to make sure it all works, they’ve got Jack Douglas back on board to produce the record! What could go wrong?

This album is so bad it’s offensive. Everything sounds so clean and polished, they end up sounding like the resident jazz band on the Starship Enterprise. Any indication that they were going back to their roots was then completely swept aside when they went out on tour to support the album. The accompanying tour DVD – You Gotta Move – shows them getting massages and travelling to shows separately in private jets.

If there is one good thing to come out of all this, it’s the fact that they started playing their older material on tour. During their Geffen days they pretty much only played Geffen material live. When I first saw them touring Get A Grip in 1993, and then twice touring Nine Lives in 1997, they pretty much only played their Geffen singles, plus a few album tracks from the respective album they were touring, rounded off with an encore of their three big Columbia singles – Dream On, Sweet Emotion and Walk This Way. Since they reacquainted themselves with their older material for Honkin’ On Bobo, they now tend to play roughly a 65/35 split – with their older stuff still taking the minority – but at least they’re playing a decent amount of 70s material and not acting as though it doesn’t exist.

Hit: Baby Please Don’t Go

Hidden Gem: The Grind