Saturday, April 07, 2007

Grindhouse: The review

Your enjoyment of Grindhouse is dependent upon your enjoyment of the OTHER Rodriguez/Tarantino collaboration From Dusk Till Dawn. If you enjoyed the first half of Dawn, where the desperado criminals talk for a real long time and act cool and mean, but hated when the movie became a monster house of vampires, then you'll probably enjoy solely the Tarantino film "Death Proof". Conversely, if the vampires in the bar was the only thing you liked, and wished the entire movie was like that, you'll love "Planet Terror", but probably find Death Proof a little slow on the go. If you hated the entire film altogether, go see another movie. But if you truly enjoyed the entirety of From Dusk Till Dawn, you will burst with glee at Grindhouse.

There's no denying the entertainment value of the entire experiment. I had more fun in the theater than when those pesky snakes climbed aboard that darn plane. Grindhouse is first and foremost a theatrical experience. It's a film that encourages yelling at the screen, and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. You get into it. You LOVE it. The film succeeds in recreating the movie experience that the directors are meticulously replicating. For that alone, it deserves some respect.

(However, I need to point out the extent to which they recreate the experience kind of drove me a little batty, having worked as a projectionist for many years. The scratches, jumps, film breaks, bad splices, poor focus, and other elements added to make the experience exactly as it was made the projectionist inside me cringe. Oddly enough, this is a compliment.)

There's not much point into telling you what the film is about, as it's more about two directors who clearly love trash cinema of yesteryear and wanted to pass that joy onto their fans as much as it's about muscle cars and zombies. It's really about an attitude of cool that I'm finally willing to accept. It's nice to know that Tarantino and Rodriguez are as big a film geek as I am, and it shows in their work. There's no cool detachment from the work, but a genuine love. That's what separates it from the actual Grindhouse films of the 70s, and that's what makes this such a good time.

Here's a brief overview of what kicks ass about the film: It begins with Machete, a fake trailer for a movie I honestly can't wait to see. Then Planet Terror begins with Rose McGowan doing a stripper dance, so already the movie has me hooked. From there, it's 80 minutes of sheer mayhem, full of slime and gore and zombie carnage. And Jeff Fahey, who honestly could be giving the best performance of his life. (Which knocks Darkman 3: Die Darkman Die! from the top). Oh, and lots of lingering shots of Rose which is nice, but oddly disconcerting if you take into consideration the off screen hijinks between her and the director. Then a lot more zombie gore. Hot, zombie on zombie action. Well, not really, but I've become embroiled by the sensationalism of the whole experience.

Planet Terror nails down the mood and feel of these films, but there's no denying it's a Rodriguez film. Albeit, a Rodriguez film with free reign to do whatever he wants, that doesn't involve little kids as spies. He's not confined to the stylistic requirements of Sin City, and he's allowed to do whatever he wants. And the man succeeds. My favorite bit if his was the score to the film. It sounds straight from a John Carpenter film. In fact, Planet Terror is pretty much the greatest John Carpenter movie never made. That's meant to be complimentary.

After Planet Terror, we're treated to 3 more fake trailers for movies I want to see. Rob Zombie's "Werewolf Women of the S.S." is pretty much what you expect from something called Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women of the S.S. I must say, the werewolf women were quite fetching. (Lorielle New is quite a looker, with or without lots of hair). And Eli Roth's Thanksgiving is possibly the greatest thing he has ever done. It's sick and twisted, and everything that Roth should be.

But the greatest trailer, and my favorite part of the entire movie was Edgar Wright's trailer. It's about 90 seconds of pure genius. Yes I am biased. Yes I also saw Hot Fuzz and am on a "Wright Is God" kick. But you'll see what I mean.

Then it's onto Death Proof, which kicks off with the music used at the beginning of Land of the Giants, a film I quite enjoyed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. (Come to think of it, both these films would do well with silhouetted robots in the corner shouting wisecracks at the screen). Then the Tarantino dialogue begins. And it keeps on going as we follow three obnoxious girls. Then we meet Kurt Russell. And he has a badass muscle car. It's seriously badass. But then it keeps going back to the obnoxious girls talking and talking. Then something really cool happens. Then we're introduced to four new girls who keep talking and talking, except this time they're a little more interesting. And one of them is Rosario Dawson, who is my dream girl, although co-star Zoe Bell might be giving Rosario a fight for my affections. But they talk, and talk some more, then get a car to drive fast (but first they keep talking about what they're going to do with the car).

And then an unbelievable car chase happens. It's amazing. And all stunt work and movie magic, no CG. It's incredible.

Tarantino's film is full of the things he loves (women's feet, snappy dialogue, music from other movies, etc), and at first feels really self indulgent. But then you realize that he's not only paying homage to girls and cars films of yore, but he's faithfully recreating them. There was a lot of dead weight in those films, taking a VERY long time to get anywhere, and usually the payoff wasn't even worth it. While I didn't care for the first group of talking girls, the chase completely made up for it.

There are also a lot of fun little things to pick up on, such as the one reel take in the diner. (Look in the background). And in the bar scene, clearly hanging is Jack Burton's T-shirt from Big Trouble in Little China. I geeked out hardcore at that moment. And Jack Burton himself, Kurt Russell, is clearly having a lot of fun. It's nice to see Kurt as a badass again, even if his Snake can't come out of retirement.

The only other badass that can match wits with Kurt, however, is Zoe Bell. Zoe is a stuntwoman from New Zealand, who doubled for Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies, and who plays herself in Death Proof.. She's spunky, cute, with an accent to die for, and to put it frankly, balls of steel. She's a wild and crazy woman, and I like her. She's reason enough to get to the second half of the movie.

Death Proof isn't bad, it's just tough to get into after the sugar high pop of Planet Terror. In fact, upon second viewing, I found Death Proof gets better. While both films could have benefitted from some cutting (and not just the missing reel scenes, which are played to brilliant comic perfection), it doesn't matter. Much like chocolate and peanut butter, these are two great tastes that taste great together. It's three hours of violence and mayhem and tough guys and hot dames and fast cars and explosions. It's a perfect night at the movies for me, and if you're like me (and as cool as I am, which is possible, but not really probable), then you'll have a blast with Grindhouse.

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