Blu-ray Review: XOXO For ‘Tarantino XX’

Hey, Tarantino fans, Lionsgate just collected his entire filmography in a 10-disc Blu-ray boxset, which includes all eight of his solo efforts and two discs of special features.

So has the studio done right by 20 years of film history with this collection? Well, it can’t be called comprehensive (his contributions to “Four Rooms” and “From Dusk Til Dawn” qualify both of those movies places here), but what’s here, largely discs from Lionsgate’s own catalog, is thorough.

Here’s what’s included:

“Reservoir Dogs” (1992): His gutsy, assured debut, the synthesis of a lifetime of watching film into one of the talkiest, smartest crime movies of the 90’s. The image on the disc looks slightly plastic and “hot” (I can’t find data on the transfer offhand, but it’s not the worst, just a little sharper than expected).

“True Romance” (1993): Tarantino toiled to get this film made under his own direction, but the task ultimately went to Tony Scott, telling the tale of two lovers’ violent cross-country trip with a bag of cocaine. The included version is the director’s cut, and it kind of makes you wish Scott and Tarantino had teamed up for at least one more collaboration.

“Pulp Fiction” (1994): I still love this movie, still think it’s Tarantino’s best, and it’s not quite my favorite among his works. I’m going to explain why below with “Kill Bill,” but the “Pulp Fiction” disc is pretty packed after last year’s re-release.

“Jackie Brown” (1997): This is the one that’s gained in reputation since its release. It was too slow for some viewers, too considered, too deliberate, many of my friends at the time rejecting the movie outright because it didn’t feel as wild and showy as “Pulp Fiction.” But that’s maybe what made it such a great third directorial effort from Tarantino, who used the film to rehabilitate the careers of actors Pam Grier and Robert Forrester in a story of people on the fringes of L.A. crime trying to get rich or just trying to get by. The picture could be called a wee bit soft, but not problematically so.

“Kill Bill vol. 1″ (2003), “Kill Bill vol. 2″ (2004): This would be my favorite film from Tarantino, even though it’s maybe “showier” than “Pulp Fiction” in the way that it hyperlinks so many other films and visual styles. At the same time, distilled down to its essence, it’s one of film’s best and bloodiest breakup stories which Uma Thurman and David Carradine in full command of their roles as lethal ex-lovers. It’s the exhilaration of love, hate, action, violence, heartbreak, and ultimately a mother’s love for her child. I don’t know if I ever want to see “The Whole Bloody Affair” cut because the break between the two films feels so perfect, and integrating the experience into some kind of supercut feels beside the point.

“Death Proof” (2007): It’s weird to only include this half of “Grindhouse” without Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror.” While in no way connected, the two movies felt like great counterpoints to one another (and Rodriguez’s piece honors the experiment more. The languid first third with what we expect to be our heroines in the bar drags on a little long and is the only case where I didn’t vibe with Tarantino’s dialog in a movie, but the back two-thirds chase movie is thrilling in its own rights.

“Inglourious Basterds” (2009): I know I said “Kill Bill” was my favorite among Tarantino’s works, the director rewriting WWII with a story about the power of communication to kill. I actually had to see it twice to be convinced that it was the greatest movie of the year in which it was released, but second impression has held ever since. The transfer from Universal is fantastic on this one, so nothing to worry about there.

So the movies all look great, but what else has Lionsgate packed away in this set?

Special Features and Presentation

We’ve already shown off the massive, gorgeous gatefold from Mondo artist Ken Taylor, but the interior of the set including the discs themselves have some fine, movie-specific details. My only gripe is that whole lovely gatefold packaging is that it’s gatefold packaging. After being spoiled over the last few months with book-style presentation for these kinds of massive collections, unfurling the entire set on your longest available surface is a little bit of a chore, as is clawing each disc out of its respective slot.

“Inglourious Basterds,” “Kill Bill,” and “Death Proof” all had earlier releases from their respective studios, happily Lionsgate was able to retain all of the materials from those Blu-ray releases and ported them over to this set. Likewise, the remaining films in the set have retained their special features from their earlier Lionsgate releases. So if you have any duplicates, you can part with them now (although I’m kind of unwilling to give up on the “Pulp Fiction” disc with slipcover).

Here’s the new stuff: two discs of bonus material. The first disc is “Critics’ Corner: The Films of Quentin Tarantino,” a multi-part critics’ roundtable on Tarantino’s films (04:50:00) moderated by Elvis Mitchell. Most of these come in around an hour, with the exception of “Inglourious Basterds” which clocks in at a little under 40 minutes. It’s a chronological chat, with each critic chiming in on when and how they saw each film, and how they reacted to it at the time as well as their current opinions, observations, and insights into the films. Unsurprisingly, “Kill Bill” is maybe the most divisive title, with critic Stephanie Zacharek still put out by the frenetic first half.

Disc two includes the two-hour plus doc “Quentin Tarantino: 20 Years of Filmmaking,” broken down across recollections on the making of “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Jackie Brown,” featuring some of the producers and filmmakers who’ve workd with him including directors Robert Rodrgiguez (nothing’s sadder than the fact that his interviews are conducted separately from his ex-wife and producing partner Elizabeth) and Eli Roth. The last three parts focus on Tarantino’s mentorship of up-and-coming filmmakers like Roth and the RZA as well as his support and promotion of Asian and indie films through his Rolling Thunder label, and a piece on his longtime editor, the late Sally Menke.

The second disc also includes a sitdown with Tarantino and “Jackie Brown” stars Robert Forrester and Pam Grier and various trailers for December’s “Django Unchained.” This is perhaps the most recent piece of material with the director speaking about his own work, and more of Tarantino on Tarantino (or really, just Tarantino on film’s he’s currently riffing on) would have been a welcome addition.

So what you’re paying for with this set is the lovely (albeit mildly annoying) packaging, and seven hours of bonus material, the most salient of which is the five hour critics’ retrospective. So if you have any gaps in your Tarantino filmography or you’re just the kind of obsessive who needs to have them all in the same place, “Tarantino XX” is for you.

“Tarantino XX” is available now from Lionsgate Films.