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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (RECOMMENDED)



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#1 of 219 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted April 13 2004 - 02:52 PM

Posted Image


KILL
BILL

VOLUME 1
Studio:Miramax
Year:2003
RunTime:111 minutes
Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 2.35:1 OAR
Audio:5.1 DD English, 5.1 DTS English, 5.1 DD French
Subtitles:1 English (in LBX area), 2 English (in picture area for hearing impaired), 3 Spanish, 4 Japanese, 5 Korean, 6 Chinese, 7 French
SpecialFeatures:Making-of Featurette, Music Video, Trailers (for this and other Tarantino films)
ReleaseDate:April 13, 2004




The Movie...


This is the fourth movie from Quentin Tarantino for those of you keeping count. Chances are if you liked any of his other films (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown), you’ll like this one as well. It’s got lots of the same shock-worthy violence carried out by individuals who seem remarkably cool performing their macabre deeds. Kill Bill distinguishes itself from Tarantino’s other films by taking on the satirical guise of a low-budget Hong-Kong grindhouse cinema / spaghetti Western. This adds, or better juxtaposes, an oddly light-hearted and humorous flavor throughout what is otherwise high-paced action drama relentless with unapologetic gratuitous violence (Just as with his other films, the faint-of-heart need not try to tarry these challenging waters). It succeeds marvelously well, and similar to some of the action scenes in the Matrix, the violent action sequences often take on an almost dance-like character. The unquestionably beautiful Uma Thurman plays the protagonist and the woman-woman combat scenarios she delivers are disturbingly grotesque and entirely captivating simultaneously. In a somewhat Moulin-Rouge-esque fashion, KILL BILL blends jarring and colorful visuals with an unconventional palette of sound effects lifted from a variety of independent sources. I’m certain that every Tarantino fan feels that he/she can do a better job with the exposition of this film so I’ll stop here. Suffice to say that KILL BILL volume 1 impressed me and I can’t wait to see volume 2.

please note: I’d rather not give plot-summaries for films of this nature which I feel play much better for the first-time viewer if he/she is not informed about the details of the story. This is one reason why I focus more on the thematic and artistic facets of the movie presentation -- which I find are more interesting to discuss.



Picture...


This is the first DVD I’ve had the privilege to review on my BenQ 8700 being driven via DVI from my new Momitsu v880 DVD player (full digital video connection from DVD to projector). WooHoo! Posted Image

The 16x9 encoded 2.35:1 aspect ratio image has some wonderful strengths but also some disappointing weaknesses.

Good: Color is incredible. Those of you who’ve ready my Farscape Review know that much I raved about its gloriously saturated color pallete. Well, right after having been so mesmerized by Farsape’s unusually strong color pallete, KILL BILL comes along and challenges it for the prize. KB’s color is simply outstanding. Colors are rich and make you feel as though if you touched the screen they’d rub off onto your fingers. Tarantino makes playful and dramatic use of color and you feel as though the color pallet becomes its own dramatic actor. Black level and grayscale are also nicely rendered on this DVD, and I see little of any obvious evidence of compression artifacting such as MPEG blocking or mosquito noise around sharp edges.

Bad: The image is a bit too overfiltered for HF detail for my tastes. I doubt that most direct-view watchers with screens smaller than 40 inches will notice, but anyone watching this DVD from a viewing distance of less than 2 screen widths away will probably notice that mid and far-ground shots are really lacking in picture information. Close-ups look startlingly clear and sharp…as they almost always do in cases like this. But the minute actors move into the mid or far-ground of the scene, their faces lose all definition. That really bugs me and it really hurts the “film like” effect when you’re watching this DVD projected 8 feet wide. And yes…to compensate for the lack of image detail there is the occasional ringing from a mild case of EE. Not too bad, and again most small-screen (relatively speaking here) viewers won’t be distracted, but DVDs can look so much better and this particular film could have been absolutely spectacular with a little more care in mastering.

At times whites appear a bit blown (like an overexposed film print -- especially during the kitchen scene early on) but I have a suspician that this is due to artistic intent so not to worry; I just mention it here to be comprehensive.

So what’s the verdict? Well, to put everything in perspective, watching KILL BILL was still an enormously satisfying experience that was only slightly mitigated by the lack of fine picture detail and occasional EE halo. Kill Bill is better than “average” in DVD–picture-quality-land but not on par with the reference discs like Moulin Rouge or the Fifth Element. Your mileage may vary, but my score would be:

Picture: 4/ 5
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Sound...


Oh yeah. Here’s where this DVD really shines. We’ve got a 5.1 DD English and French soundtrack, along with a 5.1 DTS soundtrack. The fidelity of the soundtrack is commensurate with the quality of the plethora of source material from which it is compiled. Some sequences sound like cheezy 1970’s magnetic-mono tracks because that’s exactly what they are. Other elements to the soundtrack come across with almost uncanny realism. Every sound is rendered exactly as it should be. This is a first-class sound mix/mastering job.

Surround use is phenomenal. You as the listener are placed in the center of action sequences and in the acoustic soundfield of the more passive environments. If you want to convince your significant other that surround sound really does make a difference this is a disc that will do just that (assuming your significant other can handle KILL BILL and all its demands). Bass is solid and authoritative. Vocals are clear and intelligible and the treble always comes across naturally without any harshness or flat-sounding highs. The DTS presentation sounds to be a few db louder than the 5.1 English mix (probably dialogue normalization) but even after level-matching it sounds more dynamic, unrestrained, and generally higher-resolution with an improved sense of spaciality to the mix. My ears also discern a more natural tonal presentation with the DTS mix where musical timbres just sound more “real”. You’ve heard it all before… Posted Image

One thing to watch out for, especially on the DTS mix, is that if you’ve adjusted the volume to get what sounds like comfortably intelligible dialog, you might be in for a surprise as many action scenes may sound notably louder. Not a problem for those of you with a dedicated theater in your basement who really want to “get into” the movie in a hip-happenin’ sort of way. But if you live in an apartment building you might find yourself keeping the remote handy so as not to disturb the neighbors. This isn’t a criticism of the mix (I very much like the bold use of dynamic range), just a comment.


Sound: 5/ 5
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Special Features...


Not much folks. What’s here is nice but I was honestly a little surprised that there wasn’t more.

    [*]The Making Of Kill Bill Vol. 1: This is your usual making-of documentary fare, which is to say it’s well worth having on this DVD. It’s 4x3 encoded with 2.0 DD sound and won’t wow you on technical marks, but on content it’s got a lot to offer. We spend a lot of time with Mr. Tarantino who shares his inspiration for making the film along with lots of interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits and discussion with various talent. Very interesting, and watching this making-of featurette really gave me the foundation of context I needed to fully appreciate the film.
    [*][b]Bonus Musical Performances by “The 5, 6, 7, 8’s”: A 4x3 lbxed music video (why can’t they just go 16x9?? Someone tell me please??) featuring some of the talent that was featured in one of the sequences in the film. Didn’t change my world but it is sure to please some fans.
    [*][b]Movie Trailers: Can it be? Yes! We have a mixture of several trailers for various Tarantino films including Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2. All are 4x3 encoded though some are widescreen. Technical marks are not high for the general picture/sound but hey…these are trailers and some of them date back quite a few years. And you get not just one…but two trailers for Kill Bill Vol. 1. Here’s the list:
      [*]Reservior Dogs (4x3 1.85:1 lbx 5.1 DD)[*]Pulp Fiction (4x3 1.85:1 lbx 2.0 DD)[*]Jackie Brown (4x3 fullframe 5.1 DD)[*]Kill Bill Vol. 1 (4x3 1.85:1 lbx 2.0 DD)[*]Kill Bill Vol. 1 “Bootleg” Trailer (4x3 2.35:1 lbx 2.0 DD)[*]Kill Bill Vol. 2 (4x3 1.85:1 2.0 DD)[/list] This is the second DVD from Disney I’ve seen lately that’s contained a trailer for the feature film (Ed Wood was another). Who knows…maybe soon Paramout will be the only studio not supplying trailers on their DVDs… Posted Image[/list] Yep that’s it.

      [b]In Closing...


      Tarantino fans will be pleased with this DVD and those of you who whimped out of some of his other films might actually find KILL BILL palatable due to its unusual blend of humor which takes the hard edge off of some of the violence. KILL BILL volume 1 is a vastly entertaining film, one that purports to be a farcical satire of a Hong Kong action flick while at the same time delivers an involving experience that will have you checking the dates for KILL BILL volume 2. While objectively a bit thin on the extras, the picture is good and the sound is great, making KILL BILL worth the buy for anyone who wants to take the ride.

      [b]RECOMMENDED








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#2 of 219 OFFLINE   George_W_K

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Posted April 13 2004 - 03:10 PM

please note: I’d rather not give plot-summaries for films of this nature which I feel play much better for the first-time viewer if he/she is not informed about the details of the story. This is one reason why I focus more on the thematic and artistic facets of the movie presentation -- which I find are more interesting to discuss.


I agree with you.

Great review of this fine movie. I agree with your assessment of the PQ, beautiful colors, but lack of detail in the nonclose-up scenes. I liked the soundtrack, but I felt that it sounded better at the theater. I usually don't feel that way about movies at the theater anymore. I especially remember the Origin Of O-ren scene sound being more dynamic. Don't get me wrong, though, it still sounds good.

I enjoyed this movie a lot and will probably watch it again tonight!

#3 of 219 OFFLINE   Nick Sievers

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Posted April 13 2004 - 03:59 PM

Solid review, David. I'm glad someone else was impressed with the audio as much as I was, great atmosphere.

I do hate double dipping but I enjoyed this film too much to wait for a proper release. I know I’ll get my $17 worth out of this disc, heck I’ve already watched it twice since I got it yesterday once by myself and then again because the SO wanted to know what I have been raving about for the past few months. We will both be going straight after work on opening day to see Vol. 2, can’t wait.
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#4 of 219 OFFLINE   Steve K.H.

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Posted April 13 2004 - 04:17 PM

An amazing film to be sure.

I'm assuming the famed b/w scene is not in color? I was hoping for a non/rated version...

DTS... that was a bonus!



Warning

This ain't a film to watch with your young teens, let alone the kids, the grandparents, the local priest... etc...



On a semi-related note:

Why do they say this, and JB, PF, and RD form the FOUR Tarantino films? What about other films like Dusk to Dawn 1,2,3?

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#5 of 219 OFFLINE   Xenia Stathakopoulou

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Posted April 13 2004 - 04:19 PM

Great review David, my favorite film of 2003.I cant blame you for not giving it highly recommended since this dvd was thin on extras. Ive already watched my dvd numerous times.The bad news, here in Greece, kill bill 2 doesnt come out till april 30th in theatres .Posted Image
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#6 of 219 OFFLINE   Nick Sievers

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Posted April 13 2004 - 04:25 PM

Quote:
Why do they say this, and JB, PF, and RD form the FOUR Tarantino films? What about other films like Dusk to Dawn 1,2,3?

Because Tarantino has only directed 4 films, he only served as producer with Dusk till Dawn.
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#7 of 219 OFFLINE   Rob Lutter

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Posted April 13 2004 - 04:54 PM

He's also written...
True Romance
From Dusk Till Dawn
Natural Born Killers

and all the films he's directed...
Reservior Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Jackie Brown
Kill Bill

#8 of 219 OFFLINE   Drew Reiber

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Posted April 13 2004 - 07:21 PM

I really thought the release was poor. The DVD box art was smaller than the packaging, making it look similar to a bootleg or cheap movie. The picture is noticably softer than the theatrical release I'm familar with (saw it 8-9 times, actually).

The making-of is obviously a standard EPK that Miramax ported over, with noticable lack of offensive material and plenty of needless film footage. I think the band footage is about the only material on this disc that took any real thought to include.

And I don't know if it's the disc I bought or not, but the sound is eerily low on my player. I'm going to keep looking at it, but I'm very disappointed that this was the best they could do until the full version is made available. Especially considering the empty promise (a habit) Tarantino initially made about making these discs collectible.

I honestly can't say it's likely that I'm going to double-dip by purchasing vol. 2 when it hits, if this is what I can expect. I'll probably just pawn this off when the full version hits.

#9 of 219 OFFLINE   Daniel Windsor

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Posted April 13 2004 - 07:42 PM

Bad review.

Why is this 'recommend' when it's the seriously cut/censored version?

You also fail to make any mention of this and that the uncut version is available in Japan (with English subtitles). Is this ignorance or arrogance by the reviewer?

IMDb alternate version information [add the h]ttp://us.imdb.com/title/tt0266697/alternateversions


I think you should call the film Kill Bill ½.

#10 of 219 OFFLINE   Nick Sievers

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Posted April 13 2004 - 08:06 PM

Quote:
Is this ignorance or arrogance by the reviewer?

Nope, David reviewed the theatrical edition that was released to most of the world. How many times must the cut to black & white be explained?
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#11 of 219 OFFLINE   Nkosi

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Posted April 13 2004 - 08:35 PM

Thanks for the great review David. It was a really good read which just really hit it on the nail in my opinion!

Great movie. I can't wait for Vol. 2 this Friday.

I am disappointed by the barebones release. It seems like the trend nowadays by many studios is to release a standard barebones addition followed by an obligatory "Special Edition." It just means we the consumer must shell out more bucks.

I can't fault anyone who passes on this disc and decides to just wait for the subsequent DVD. In fact, I applaud them. Me however, I'm weak. I must have a movie right away and I must add to my collection. Sucks. Maybe someday I'll decide to make a stand. Until then, this disc looks pretty nice on my shelf right now.

#12 of 219 OFFLINE   PhilipG

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Posted April 13 2004 - 09:29 PM

Quote:
Bad review.

Why is this 'recommend' when it's the seriously cut/censored version?

It's the exact same version that played in the US and the UK.

David doesn't need to tell Kill Bill fans that there's a full-colour version from Japan. Just as I'm sure you know there will be subtitles issues (all or nothing) with that particular version.

What makes David's reviews so great is the time he spends explaining the various video/audio aspects of the DVD. Thumbs up from me. Posted Image


#13 of 219 OFFLINE   Tom Oh

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Posted April 13 2004 - 09:42 PM

I'm curious to see if Korean and HK releases will be uncensored as well. Japanese DVDs are just too expensive.

#14 of 219 OFFLINE   Prentice Cotham

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Posted April 13 2004 - 11:02 PM

Tom,

The HK and Korean releases are censored.
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#15 of 219 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted April 13 2004 - 11:42 PM

But Daniel has a point, why is this DVD 'recommended' when an uncut version with the B/W sequence restored to color is readily available to buy in other regions?
I'm not a huge fan of the film so I don't much care, but a friend of mine has already ordered the Japanese version. I'm sure Tarantino will release a 'special' unrated version on r1 sometime in the next year or so, he'll be nuts not to.

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#16 of 219 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 13 2004 - 11:52 PM

But Daniel has a point, why is this DVD 'recommended' when an uncut version with the B/W sequence restored to color is readily available to buy in other regions?

Because it's the version that most of us saw in the movie theater. Personally, I could careless whether I ever see that sequence in color and I love the film as it was presented to me.

If you don't agree with David's recommendation then so be it, but the recommendation is his opinion and one in which I agree with.






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#17 of 219 OFFLINE   Bjoern Roy

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Posted April 14 2004 - 12:01 AM

David,

i fully agree with your PQ assessment. Posted Image Posted Image

Color, both tone and saturation is indeed marvelous on this release. Shadow detail, delineation and contrast is excellent as well, yielding good picture depth. The scenes that have borderline clipped whites ARE by intend, btw, i have seen the movie multiple times in the theater. The 'glow' in some scenes (e.g. Uma upstairs at Hattori Hanzo's place) is also artistic intend.

Detail has indeed be filtered considerably. Not unlike many recent DVDs from Miramax, New Line, etc. And while the ringing is nowhere near as pronounced as on Pirates, for example, the basic characteristic is pretty similar.

Btw, the filtering and ringing go mostly hand in hand. The anti-alias filter (hor) and flicker filter (vert) used to brickwall out high detail can have a ringing characteristic visible in the yielded pass band all by themself. No need to apply 'classic' EE afterwards to have oodles of ringing.

The really odd thing about recent R1 titles is the fact that its 'hip' to use very heavy horizontal filters. The PAL siblings of the LOTR DVDs, but also the Indiana Jones triology, now Kill Bill and many others i compared not only have more vertical detail (expected), but also more horizontal detail. Doesn't make ANY sense. If anything, since both mostly use about the same available bitrate, the PAL should have had LESS horizontal detail to maintain a certain threshold of acceptance in regard to compression artefacts. Beats me.

Even Universal started to brickwall out much horizontal detail (starting with Bourne Identity up to more recent ones like Hulk, Seabiscuit or Schindlers), yielding a bit horizontal ringing (at vertical edges). Still, they are among the best (esp Seabiscuit), since they excel in the vertical direction and the rest of the characteristic is mostly perfect (except shadow delineation, the achilles heal of Universal and Paramount).

All the Universal titles mentioned above would probably set new standards if they were Superbits (maybe in another region some day?). Not because of the bitrate, mind you, Superbits are NOT about bitrate in the first place, like most still seem to believe. Superbit is about using a very relaxed anti-alias filter, yielding more horizontal detail (price: more horizontal aliasing) and less/finer ringing. The high bitrate is only needed to make this feasable without a blocking mess.

Anyway. The PAL Kill Bill has the identical (great) characteristic in regard to colors and contrast. On the pixel level, it has more vertical AND horizontal detail and a smidgen less ringing. While the NTSC has only very few compression noise issues, the PAL has a tad more, not really problem, though. So overall the PAL has the better picture.

I don't think the PAL is pitch corrected. Since one of the most important aspects of this movie is its utterly brilliant musical score, its not hard to imagine that most of us who are bothered by PAL speedup, will watch the NTSC despite the better PQ on the PAL.

In regard to audio. I agree that this is overall an excellent mix, loved it. There were a few scenes that were over-powered and clipped, though (e.g. the climax of Elle Drivers whistling melody and some dialog). So i would drop the score on that account a bit.

Score PQ:
Colors/saturation: A
Overall delineation (gamma) and contrast: A
Shadow detail/delineation: A-
Grain handling: A-
Ringing: C
Detail: C

Overall: 4 / 5


Score SQ: 4.5 / 5

Probably THE freshest (at least IMHO) out of hollywood in recent years.

Regards
Bjoern
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#18 of 219 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted April 14 2004 - 12:07 AM

Well as long as you agree with it, fine by me Crawdaddy.Posted Image
So it's 'recommended' for people who saw it in theaters and couldn't really give a fig if it's not the version Tarantino would have loved to release? Okay. Clear. I can deal with that.Posted Image

Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


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#19 of 219 OFFLINE   Rob Lutter

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Posted April 14 2004 - 12:21 AM

Tarantino has NEVER publically condemned the Theatrical version of the film that was seen everywhere except Japan. I, personally, plan on getting BOTH versions (kinda like I have the theatrical and EE versions of the Lord of the Rings movies).
Quote:
Is this ignorance or arrogance by the reviewer?
Sorry, but you went over the line with that comment. Posted Image

#20 of 219 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted April 14 2004 - 12:24 AM

Im waiting for what I think will be a uncut complete vol1&2 3 or 4 Disc Edition.


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