In the 20 years since Reservoir Dogs, director Quentin Tarantino has built a distinctive body of work that has made him one of the most influential and controversial filmmakers of his generation. His trademark non-linear plots, aestheticization of violence, profuse profanity, quirky characters and witty dialogue have often polarized critics, though he's earned more acclaim than disdain. Either way, he demands attention.
His newest film, Django Unchained, hits theaters Christmas Day and stars Jamie Foxx as a revenge-seeking former slave. The film, which also stars Leonardo DiCaprio, is set in the Antebellum South but is inspired by Spaghetti Westerns. That kind of genre mash-up has characterized many of his films, whose influences have included Hong Kong martial arts, blaxploitation, women in prison and slasher films.
In the new 10-disc Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection (1992-2010, Lionsgate/Miramax, R, Blu-ray, $120), Tarantino highlights the movies that illustrate his development as a director. They also represent his biggest success. In addition to the eight films, the set has two discs of new bonus material that includes an in-depth discussion by critics on the impact of Tarantino films and an examination of his career with interviews with co-workers, critics, stars and other filmmakers. There is also a tribute to late film editor Sally Menke, who worked on all of his films until her death in 2010.
The films in the set include:
Reservoir Dogs (1992) — Tarantino's directorial debut set the tone for many of his subsequent films with its stylized violence, pop culture references, excessive profanity and non-linear storyline. It tells the story of a diamond heist gone bad, but only shows the crime's buildup and aftermath. The ensemble cast had Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Lawrence Tierney.
True Romance (1993) — Tarantino wrote this film directed by Tony Scott about a guy who marries a hooker, rips off cocaine from her pimp and then tries to sell it before the owners can kill them and get it back. Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette star in the romantic crime story, which also features Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore.
Pulp Fiction (1994) — His most iconic film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture and acting nods for John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman. The violent hard-boiled crime drama is rife with dark humor and snappy dialogue and follows the crisscrossing storylines of a variety of small-time crooks and lowlifes. It was Travolta's best role in years.
Jackie Brown (1997) — This adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch, Pam Grier plays a flight attendant busted for smuggling $500,000 in from Mexico for a vicious gunrunner (Samuel L. Jackson). With the help of a shady bail bondsman (Robert Forster), she plots to stay out of jail, escape her employer and keep the money. The film, a homage to '70s blaxploitation films — Grier was a major star — rekindled both her and Forster's careers. Bridget Fonda, Chris Tucker and Robert Di Niro also star.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) — The two-part story was supposed to be a single film, but its running time of more than four hours necessitated breaking it apart. Uma Thurman plays "The Bride," an elite assassin who left her crime organization. She is tracked down and shot in the head by her former colleagues, who slaughtered the rest of her wedding party. After waking from a four-year coma, she begins a campaign of revenge to kill them all.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) — Released just a few months after Vol. 1, "The Bride" continues her implacable quest of murder and mayhem. After catching up to her old partners — played by Vivica Fox, Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah, she finally confronts the elusive Bill, played with serene menace by David Carradine. The films pay homage to martial arts films and other mayhem-fueled film genres.
Death Proof (2007) — This was paired with Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror under the umbrella title Grindhouse, to re-create the vibe of viewing double features at grindhouse theaters, specializing in exploitation films. A stuntman kills women in staged accidents using his special stunt car. The cast included Kurt Russell and Rosario Dawson.
Inglourious Basterds (2009) — Two separate plots in occupied France to kill high-ranking Nazis during World War II — one by a team of vengeful Jewish-American soldiers and another by a young Jewish theater owner — wind up dovetailing in the end. Brad Pitt, Christopher Waltz, Melanie Laurent and Eli Roth star.