Technology

A Tale of Two Movies

Quentin Tarantino may have found his future vocation. His once shining career as a director clouded over a tad when Jackie Brown revealed his insistence on casting B-movie stars of the 1970s and his unwillingness to edit his work to a manageable length. The Kill Bill movies confirmed both directorial tendencies while also raising questions about whether Tarantino still knows how to write a screenplay. But now, with Hero, the door may have opened onto a new career path: impresario. "Quentin Tarantino Presents," the box cover of the Chinese kung fu epic announces in large type above the title.

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Childish Things

It's not often a television show can make you reconsider the talents of a longtime celebrity. "Arrested Development," the nearly cancelled FOX sitcom whose first season is now out on video, has made me reconsider the talents of two: Ron Howard (whom I'd written off as a purveyor of tame commercial pabulum) and Liza Minnelli (probably best if I not detail my objections). Their mere involvement with "Arrested Development"--Howard as executive producer and folksy narrator, Minelli as a self-parodic supporting character--suggests I may have given neither adequate credit.

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Once Bitten

Bram Stoker must be spinning in his grave. In Dracula, he introduced one of the great hero-intellectuals in modern literature in Professor Abraham Von Helsing, "a philosopher and a metaphysician, and one of the most advanced scientists of his day." In the movie Van Helsing, by contrast, Stoker's creation is rendered as basically a meathead. Not only has he lost his academic pedigree, he shows little familiarity even with the details of his chosen profession of monster-slaying.

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As I Say

The splotch that appeared on satellite photos of North Korea two weeks ago was like a Rorschach blot for foreign policy wonks. A cloud of smoke that would have been considered benign in almost any other country (it being in actuality just a cloud) was immediately feared the result of a nuclear explosion, showing just how anxious national security types have become about Pyongyang's weapons program.

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Unforgettable

It's often said that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. This is nonsense. Yes, a scent may on occasion provoke an emphatic, unmediated recollection, but it is typically an imprecise one--a general period in one's life rather than a particular moment. Our specific memories, by contrast, are primarily visual and auditory, not unlike a movie playing in the mind's eye. It's hardly surprising, then, that cinema has often been described as a kind of synthetic memory.  As John Malkovich, playing director F.W.

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Dud Again

Well, at least we find out how it ends. After two installments and four hours of running time, Kill Bill finally reveals whether it will fulfill the promise of its title. Now we can all move on. Regular readers may recall that I was not fond of Volume 1 of Quentin Tarantino's epic homage to kung fu movies, spaghetti westerns, and Uma Thurman's feet. The good news is that there is less to dislike in Kill Bill Volume 2--no parents casually murdered in front of their children, no jokes about pedophilia or raping the comatose, a vastly diminished body count.

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Bubble Bath

Investors go gaga over the company.

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Crap, Actually

Anyone seeking evidence of the death of romantic comedy will find it in abundance in Love Actually, which arrives in video stores this week. Written and directed by Richard Curtis (best known for penning Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral), Love Actually announces its ambitions early: Too bold to offer us a thin, unconvincing romance, it instead offers us half a dozen.

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Chop Socky

  In an interview following the release of Reservoir Dogs in 1992, Tim Roth ventured that "I honestly think you could take the same script but reshoot it with women and it would work. It would be the most controversial film ever. ... You could call it Reservoir Bitches." It took more than a decade, but with Kill Bill Volume 1 (out on video this week), Quentin Tarantino finally made his Reservoir Bitches. And while it's not the most controversial film ever (nor even of the past twelve months), that was clearly the director's aspiration.

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Vientiane, Laos Last spring, during a trip to Laos, I visited an Internet caf in the capital, Vientiane. Inside, the scene reminded me more of the West Village than the heart of a backward, communist nation. Though Laotians threshed rice by hand just a few miles away, the caf itself was thoroughly modern. Tourists and local teenagers surfed the Internet on relatively new PCs. On a large screen on one wall, music videos featured Madonna gyrating half-naked.

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