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.
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!
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
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…
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
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… [/list]
Yep that’s it.
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.