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Monday, November 28, 2011

Pulp Fiction Blu-ray Review

A pair of low-rent hit men, Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), are sent out to collect a stolen briefcase for their mob boss employer, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Having proven himself worthy, Wallace then entrusts Vincent to entertain his wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), while he is out of town. Meanwhile, Wallace has paid off aging boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) to throw his next fight. The lives of these wildly entertaining characters intertwine with unexpected and violent consequences. The film was honored with an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and earned a total of seven nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Quentin Tarantino.


Film (5 out of 5 stars)

Pulp Fiction changed movies forever.  Even now, seventeen years later, it is still imitated and referenced which is somewhat appropriate since the movie itself is full of references to other movies and TV shows.  The difference between Pulp Fiction and all of its imitators is that Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary combined all of their influences into something new, while the others were content to just essentially attempt to clone Pulp Fiction.  Tarantino and Avary won a well-deserved Oscar for their Pulp Fiction script that is full of dark humor and a circular narrative that forced audiences to not only pay attention, but also to participate as well.  By telling three different stories in a non-linear way and then intersecting them at different points, Tarantino is able to comment on  and set up past and future events.  As he later said, “”I got the idea of doing something that novelists get a chance to do but filmmakers don’t: telling three separate stories, having characters float in and out with different weights depending on the story.”
The three main story-lines focus on three different leads even though all of them play a part in each story-line.  The first act focuses mainly on Vincent Vega (John Travolta) who is a low key hitman that loves Amsterdam and drugs.  Vincent has recently returned from Amsterdam after staying there for several years enjoying the relaxed drug-related laws.  Now that he’s back, he likes to regale his partner Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) with tales of the differences that exist between Europe and America, such as how McDonald’s quarter-pounder is called a Royale with Cheese.  Vincent has been asked by his mob boss Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) to take his wife Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) out for some fun, much to the amusement of Jules and others.
Vincent and Jules are sent by Wallace to retrieve a suitcase that was appropriated by some young guys who clearly didn’t know who they were messing with.  After debating whether or not a foot massage is grounds for being tossed off of a four story building, Vincent and Jules enter the apartment to get the briefcase.  The dialogue that follows is both hilarious and scary, since Jules likes to recite bible passages before executing people and isn’t above killing someone to make a point.  When an armed assailant bursts out of the bathroom and fires repeatedly at Vincent and Jules and misses them completely, Jules believes that it’s a sign from God while Vincent thinks it’s just luck.  Jules is so convinced that it was a message from God that he starts to rethink his life much to Vincent’s annoyance.
The second story-line involves an aging prize-fighter named Butch (Bruce Willis) who has been ordered to throw a fight by Wallace.  Butch agrees to do it and takes the bribe money but uses the money to bet on himself to win.  Instead of throwing the fight in the fifth round as instructed, Butch not only wins the match but accidentally kills his opponent.  Knowing that Wallace and his men will be looking to get even, Butch has sent his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros) to retrieve his clothes and the watch that was passed down to him from his father.  In a very funny flashback, we learn that Butch’s father died from dysentery in a POW camp in Vietnam from his close friend and fellow prisoner Captain Koons (Christopher Walken)  and that both men hid the watch in their rectum to make sure it reached Butch as it was his birthright.  When Butch learns that Fabienne forgot to bring the watch, he decides to risk returning back to his apartment to get it.
Meanwhile, after surviving their close encounter with death, Vincent accidentally shoots their informant Marvin (Phil La Marr) in the face which presents a serious problem for the hitmen since there’s blood all over the car windows.  Jules decides to hide the car at his friend Jimmy’s (Tarantino) house so they can get cleaned up and remove the blood from the car.  When he hears what happened, Wallace sends an underworld clean up specialist, Mr. Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) to fix the situation.  Vincent eventually takes out Mia Wallace to Jack Rabbit Slims where they win a trophy for their dancing and things are going so well between them that Vincent has to remind himself not to get involved with her.  That proves to be a problem when Mia overdoses on some drugs she found in his jacket.  Desperate to keep her alive for her own sake and his, Vincent races to his drug dealer (Eric Stoltz) for help.
All of these stories collide in the third act when Vincent is sent alone to Butch’s apartment, a den of rapists is discovered the hard way, some one will be run over by a car, people will die, and a pair of inexperienced thieves (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) learn that they are in way over their head when they come face to face with a professional killer.  Tarantino weaves all of these stories together masterfully, as he jumps around in time with scenes starting and stopping out of order which gives an extra charge to the movie as you have no idea what’s about to happen.  This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a roller coaster ride that leaves you exhilarated and happily drained when it’s over.
The movie gods smiled on this movie when the cast was assembled.  I remember how shocked everyone was when superstar Bruce Willis agreed to be in the movie since that just wasn’t done before this movie.  Thanks to his faith and courage to star in the low budget film, Willis started a new wave of stars looking to get some “indie cred” in between their usual blockbusters.  Willis’ participation also ensured a lot of foreign investment in the movie and attracted other actors to the project.  This movie also revitalized John Travolta’s career and gave him a role that showed off his range which put him on a new career path.  As good as Willis and Travolta are in the movie (and they are very very good), the real star of the movie was Samuel L. Jackson in a career defining performance.  The entire movie is imminently quotable, but the lion’s share of the great lines in the movie belong to Jackson and his iconic delivery of those lines has been indelibly burned into our minds. The est of the cast is also great with Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Ving Rhames, and a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Steve Buscemi as Buddy Holly.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer offers the best presentation of this movie that I’ve ever seen including its theatrical run.  The detail is amazing and the clarity is so good that I noticed things that I had never noticed before.  Black levels are solid and the contrast is excellent.  Textures are well-defined and offer a level of detail that blows away the previous DVD release.  Flesh tones are natural and consistent and just wait until you see the extreme close ups that allow you to see every detail in the actor’s faces.  This is a stunning transfer that was approved by Quentin Tarantino himself.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)

Pulp Fiction’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as incredible as the picture quality.  This is an extremely active mix that surrounds the listener with a continuous sonic wave.  Gunshots, squealing tires, and more are brought to life with this mix in a startling way.  Dialogue is crystal clear throughout the movie and the various music tracks sound incredible.  There’s so much immersion with this mix, that I kept looking over my shoulder to see if what I was listening to was from the movie or something else.  This is a demo-worthy disc!

Special Features (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

This is a pretty good mix of new and old extras.  The new stuff is in high definition while the old stuff is in standard definition.
  • Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat – An all new retrospective with the cast and crew where they talk about how they got the job and how the movie’s success affected their careers.  This is a very candid discussion with Travolta talking about how much he appreciates Tarantino casting him for this movie and how it resuscitated his career.  Another surprising confession from Samuel L. Jackson who shares that when he as told the part of Jules was written for him, just read it impassively which almost cost him the part to Laurence Fishburne.  When he found out that his role was in jeopardy, he came back and blew them away with his audition of the restaurant scene.  From then on, the part was his.
  • Here are Some Facts on the Fiction – Elvis Mitchell, Scott Foundas, Stephanie Zacharek, Tim Lucas and Andy Klein discuss the merits and impact of the film.  This is kind of interesting but basically it doesn’t really cover any new ground.
  • Pulp Fiction: The Facts – A look back in time at one of the previous featurettes that is one of the few places  you will get to hear Tarantino’s thoughts since he didn’t participate in the new retrospective.  While this isn’t as detailed as the new one but there’s some good bits in here.
  • Deleted Scenes – Tarantino introduces the deleted scenes and declares that there will never be a director’s cut since he does it right the first time.  The scenes are pretty good but not really needed.
  • Behind the Scenes Montages – A look some behind the scenes film of  “Jack Rabbit Slim’s” and “Butch Hits Marsellus.”
  • Production Design Featurette – A talk with the film’s Production Designer David Wasco and the Set Decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco.
  • Siskel & Ebert At the Movies: The Tarantino Generation – This is a segment of Siskel & Ebert At the Movies that was devoted to Tarantino and his films.  It’s great to see the late Gene Siskel again and to watch their interplay once again.
  • Independent Spirit Awards – A short interview of Tarantino by filmmaker Michael Moore.
  • Cannes Film Festival – Palme D’Or Acceptance Speech
  • Charlie Rose Show- The most in depth interview with Tarantino on the disc where he talks about his influences and childhood.
  • Marketing Gallery- Includes a ton of the marketing materials used for the movie’s advertising:
    • U.S. Theatrical Trailer
    • UK Theatrical Trailer
    • French Theatrical Trailer
    • German Theatrical Trailer
    • Japanese Theatrical Trailer
    • Question TV Spot
    • Electrifying TV Spot
    • Event TV Spot
    • Reaction TV Spot
    • Nominations TV Spot
    • John TV Spot
    • Question/Review TV Spot
    • Review TV Spot
    • On the Move TV Spot
    • Movie Event TV Spot
    • React/Review TV Spot
    • Academy 7 TV Spot
    • Travolta Academy TV Spot
    • Posters
    • Academy Award Campaign and Trade Ads
  • Still Gallery
  • Enhanced Trivia Track

Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars)

This is my favorite Tarantino movie and one of my all time favorites period.  The chemistry between the cast especially between Travolta and Jackson is fantastic.  The movie’s non-linear story-telling always keeps the movie fresh as does the witty and darkly comic script.  All of the elements came together perfectly for this movie and I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Order your copy today!

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