Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 1′ (2003)

This stylised revenge film is centred around Uma Thurman’s character who is known as The Bride and having been left for dead at a church in El Paso by her ex-boyfriend Bill she wakes from her coma four years later and basically has a hit-list of people as her quest for vengeance begins. She sets about hunting down Bill’s gang members who destroyed her life and killed her baby before finishing things off with Bill himself (seen in Vol. 2). ‘Kill Bill’ was actually split into two with the follow-up released shortly after the first part and back in July it was announced that a third part will come out in the future though god knows how the story will continue.

The Bride flies to Okinawa which was no doubt just filmed in the studio as it only features the sushi bar (below right) and workshop of retired sword maker Hattori Hanzo (one of Bill’s former tutors) where she goes to to aquire the perfect sword needed for her revenge attacks. Tokyo appears on screen just after the hour mark as we see The Bride riding her motorcycle over Rainbow Bridge and through Shinjuku (below left) as she heads to a restaurant (lower left and right).

   

As I mentioned in a post a couple of years ago ‘Gonpachi’ is the restaurant in Nishi-Azabu which served as the inspiration for the ‘House of Blue Leaves’ as the photo frame (below left) hanging in the restaurant shows. This very nice, cavernous, rustic-themed place (below right) was not actually used though as a similar looking one was built on a soundstage in the studios in China. It was used for the extensive and bloody slice and dice one-against-all scene which precedes her showdown with O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) outside that place in the snow.

 

I don’t mind director Quentin Tarentino’s works prior to this film but I’m certainly no big fan of his weird trademarks and unfortunately I don’t have much idea about what kind of cinema (particularly the Japanese films) inspired his work on ‘Kill Bill’.  Things like bleeping out The Bride’s name a couple of times as well as black & white shots and an anime introduction to O-Ren Ishii are thought by many as being quirky but I personally just find them a bit irritating. Furthermore the dialogue is a bit cheesy, corny and over-dramatic but maybe that was the idea. I should add that none of the aforementioned things really spoiled my enjoyment of this movie.

If you ask me (and I know you didn’t!) I think its the great soundtrack that enriches this film and its the eclectic mix of musical genres which accompany the almost continuous  blood and gore as well as the great sword fighting sequences which are great though the viewer does need to suspend their belief quite a bit.

 

Las Vegas Filming Locations: James Bond

Las Vegas figured prominantly as Sean Connery returned to the 007 role in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971) which is far from my favourite Bond film but it does happen to have the finest theme song accompanying it.

On his arrival in this glossy location Bond goes to Willard Whyte’s house which is the Las Vegas Hilton and is slightly off The Strip so we didn’t bother going there. Besides it was the interior of Riviera Hotel & Casino at 2901 Las Vegas Boulevard South which was used in the scene where Bond wins $50,000 and meets the opportunistic Plenty O’Toole before taking her up to his room where smugglers are waiting and throw her out the window. Bond say that its lucky there was a pool down below to which the classic reply comes in the form of “I didn’t know there was a pool there!”

   

Riviera Hotel & Casino also featured in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (1998), ‘Casino’ (1995) and ‘Oceans 11’ (1960).

Its quite a walk up The Strip but we did go to Circus Circus at 2880 Las Vegas Boulevard South which the owner allowed to be used in the movie as he was a fan of the franchise. This is where Bond meets up with Tiffany Case wanting to retrieve the diamonds at its casino.

   

Bond himself stays at The Tropicana on 3801 Las Vegas Boulevard South and this fairly dull looking hotel (well compared to the others in Vegas its appearance is not so flamboyant!) was snapped from the window of our room at the MGM Grand.

For anyone wondering why the parking lot of The Mint (where the car chase took place) isn’t included here that is because it was actually filmed on the backlot at Universal Studios. Now you know!

See other James Bond filming locations by clicking on the cities below:

Tokyo   London   Prague   Venice   Como  Istanbul

Las Vegas Filming Locations: Various

Whatever happened in Vegas……erm, goes on Facebook! Now its time for it to go on this blog! I can’t say that I’d ever had any desire to go to Vegas but as Ethan suggested it I had little choice but to go along with the idea not that I was exactly complaining. We checked into MGM Grand  on our arrival early evening from Death Valley in California. It was only $40 per night each for our twin room which is admittedly more than I usually pay but not that much. Besides, you don’t go to Vegas with the intention of not spending much money though it is actually possible.

 

Vegas may be basically just one street (albeit a very long one) but it packs a lot into that area. One doesn’t even need to leave their hotel complex in Vegas given the amount of ammenities inside or maybe thats the idea! Anyway, it took us a good 15 minutes just to get from our room to the strip or the hotel pool given the vastness of the hotel. After a fairly uneventful quiet first night (due to my tiredness/jetlag) we began the following morning by the pool with a yard of pina colada which provided a nice souvenir and was consumed as if it was a smoothie. No affect was felt and back in the room I said we should hit the strip right away but Ethan suggested a quick 30 minute power-nap. Over three hours later we both woke up!!

 

We then went about seeing Vegas as its supposed to be seen and thats all lit up. Places included the Hard Rock Cafe, Riviera, Harley Davidson Cafe, The Bellagio, New York New York, Tropicana, Paris, Imperial Palace, Caesars Palace, The Mirage, Circus Circus and many more.

        

Ultimately we were both pretty under-prepared for Vegas with our individual efforts before the trip being put in to the Los Angeles filming locations and Magic Mountain respectively. As for Las Vegas filming locations there are a fair few with significant ones including The Bellagio, Riviera and Imperial Palace. The former featured in both ‘Oceans 11’ (2000) and ‘Oceans 13’ (2007) and the latter two were in ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’ (1997). Imperial Palace was Alotta Fagina’s penthouse and the Riviera’s interiors were used instead of Stardust Resort and Casino which is where Austin and Vanessa stay. That hotel had been knocked down when we were there.

    

As we walked up and down the strip we were drinking and going in and out of the casino’s and all in all it was quite refreshing to be in a place where there aren’t too many rules regarding alcohol, smoking and so on. Where else can you just wander from casino to casino (via a bar or two) with a can of supermarket beer in your hand and not have any problems with the authorities. The place really takes it out of you though and I’m not just talking about the contents of your wallet! We both tried our hand at blackjack with mixed fortunes but overall we were both quite cautious, especially myself who soon realised I wasn’t gonna win big having not done my research on how to play the game well.

With nothing to do on the final day apart from wait around for our night flight to Texas we thought that it would be an easy relaxing day. It started off that way but soon turned into an all-day drinking session! Already fairly bored of looking around the shops and casino’s on the strip we decided to have an early afternoon bottle of beer which was on special at an Irish bar. A musical comedy duo were just getting ready to perform on-stage when we arrived and we were a little wary of them at first but soon got into it which probably had something to do with one bottle of Miller leading to many more and a few hours later having filled the table with empties we decided to head back to the hotel (via a Star Wars photo opportunity which Ethan had no recollection of the following day!) to get our bags and we even walked to the airport which was over an hour away.

   

Star Wars Traveller: Tatooine (a.k.a. Death Valley)

Having been to see the Star Wars filming locations of TunisiaItalySpain and England I thought that was the end of the ‘Star Wars Traveller’ series but not so as I couldn’t go to the USA and be so close to some locations without checking them out. Admittedly, Yuma and Redwood Forest featured in ‘Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’ but there’s not much to be seen there. On the other hand Death Valley in California is a different matter and parts of this vast national park were used to portray Tatooine in ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ and ‘Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’Tunisia is of course more famous for being Tatooine’s true home but scenes were shot in Death Valley and inserted and blended in with those shot in Africa.

Ethan and I were very tired when we arrived in Death Valley one evening last month. Whilst having our burgers at a roadside cafe we debated where to stay that night. In the end we decided to stay in the car all night to save a bit of money. We parked the car on the most quiet of side-roads near the Death Valley sign and, despite being really tired, we ended up drinking a 6-pack of beer each as we got excited by the nothingness of the situation. Despite being in the middle of nowhere in pitch-black darkness we were still able to get phone reception so we skyped a mutual friend back in the UK which was a laugh not that we remember too much about the call!!

   

Our day started early the next morning and first stop was Stovepipe Wells which is where we briefly see R2D2 wheeling his way across the sand dunes (at 10 mins 23 secs on the special edition dvd) following an argument with C3P0. The sand was absolutely baking hot while we were there and it was painful on the feet at times (I’d discarde my sandals earlier on as we crossed the dunes) as I lined up the shots seen below by matching up the mountains in the background with particular reference to the peaks.

   

Desolation Canyon was next where the film crew did a couple of pickup shots in the vicinity of this place. The first is the sandcrawler station (13 mins 8 secs) and inevitably can only be matched up using the mountains in the background and the directions given on this article. A 1.6 yard-long radio-controlled model was used for the wideshots such as below left. Whilst I brought my droid figures with me I never gave it a thought to bring my sandcrawler toy which would have been a good idea. Oh well! On top of that I later noticed a mark on the camera lens which is now in a lot of my photos such as the one below right which is a match-up of the screenshot next to it.

 

Moving a little into Desolation Canyon is where the Bantha (a large native Tatooine animal with a long furry tail) filming took place (28 mins 1 sec) which was basically just an African elephant in a costume! As the name implies this place was completely desolate which can be the only excuse for stripping off for the lower left photo! Actually I’d been telling my American counterpart Ethan that its British-style to do such a pose though whether theres any validity in that statement I don’t know! One gets bored of doing the same poses so here is something different!

   

Having reached erm rock bottom there, we moved on to Artist’s Palette and it was there that I found the path that Artoo rolled down (11 mins 21 secs and 11 mins 29 secs for the respective screenshots below) before he was attacked by the jawas. This was probably my favourite Death Valley shot as it was one that I remember vividly without having to get the dvd out and it only lasts for about two seconds as indeed do all of these Death Valley locations!

     

The next location was one I was looking forward to purely for the fact that it was to my first ever ‘Return of the Jedi’ scene. The dirt road for Twenty Mule Team Canyon was used way back in December 1982 where we see the two droids approaching the palace below left. Of course CGI was used to add Jabba’s palace into the background which appears on screen after 5 mins 14 secs. Sadly I don’t have figures of C3P0 and R2D2 which are the same size so my recreation is not perfect but are they ever?!!

   

Dante’s Inferno was the final destination on this Star Wars tour and by far the easiest to track down as its a major sightseeing spot in its own right. We were of course there as it was the overlook where Ben Kenobi famously introduces Luke Skywalker (as they stand on the cliff edge in Sidi Bouhlel in Tunisia) to Mos Eisley spaceport by telling him “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy“. The screenshot is below left and the views were naturally way more impressive than what was described by Ben Kenobi.

   

Overall the vast area is a beautiful scenic location as it is and our trip was just further heightened by the six Star Wars locations shot there. After Dante’s Inferno it was then time to leave our great memories of Death Valley (the night spent in, and indeed out of the car was one of the highlights of the whole American journey) behind and make our way to Las Vegas for some very different landscape!

Thanks to the following site: starwarslocations.com

*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Como, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Villa del Balbianello, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Seville, Spain) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta, Italy) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Watford, England) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours, Tunisia) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba, Tunisia) here

Los Angeles Filming Locations: The Karate Kid (1984)

It wasn’t just Terminator and ‘Back To The Future’  locations whilst Ethan and I were in L.A. as we also visited the apartment complex where Daniel and his mum moved in to at the start of the ‘Karate Kid’ (1984). It also featured in the sequel movies. The address is 19223 Saticoy Street in Reseda and we went here early in the morning on my birthday (the perfect present!) before hitting Universal StudiosBelow left is the screenshot from the film and as you can see below right the place is not too different nearly 30 years after filming took place. Apart from the trees one difference is the apartment blocks entrance gate. Today it is an iron gate with a pin-code needed for entry but in the film it was a wooden gate which Daniel-san kicks open and promptly knocks over a fellow resident.

   

They walk up to Daniels new apartment passing by the swimming pool which his mum had been raving about. Sadly for them it was pretty much empty (below left) whereas when I was there the pool was in fine condition as seen below right.

At the bottom of the steps they meet the old woman and ‘Uncle Louis’ Dog’ who Daniel later brings down a bowl of water for.

 

Daniel’s apartment is at number 20 and is the first door on the left at the top of the steps. The rocky waterfall feature seen in the film below left has been replaced by a hedge.

 

The tap is not working in Daniel’s apartment so he goes to find the janitor by walking down the steps from his apartment and going down a little alley where he finds Mr Miyagi practising his chopstick skills (though not in the conventional manner!) in his workshop. The lower left picture is where that workshop was which I guess was a temporary facade put up by the film makers. A security gate has been added.

   

The above right photo are the bins where he dumped his bicycle following his second altercation with the Cobra Kai gang. To the right of that is the fence where the ‘skeleton’ fight scene takes place with Johnny kicking the sh*t out of Daniel before Mr Miyagi comes over the fence and intervenes giving the Cobra Kai a good kicking in the process.

Many thanks to the following sites: fast-rewind.com and cinema-astoria.com