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Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Grindhouse" review

Grindhouse (2007)

Directors: Robert Rodriguez(segment "Planet Terror") (fake trailer segment "Machete")
Eli Roth (fake trailer segment "Thanksgiving")
Quentin Tarantino (segment "Death Proof")
Edgar Wright (fake trailer segment "Don't Scream")
Rob Zombie (fake trailer segment "Werewolf Women of the S.S.")

Writers: Robert Rodriguez Quentin Tarantino

Rose McGowan ... Cherry (segment "Planet Terror")/Pam (segment "Death Proof")
Freddy Rodríguez ... Wray (segment "Planet Terror")
Josh Brolin ... Dr. William Block (segment "Planet Terror")
Marley Shelton ... Dr. Dakota Block (segments "Planet Terror"/"Death Proof")
Jeff Fahey ... J.T. (segment "Planet Terror")
Michael Biehn ... Sheriff Hague (segments "Planet Terror"/"Thanksgiving")
Zoe Bell ... Zoe
Michael Bacall ... Omar (segment "Death Proof")
Eli Roth ... Dov (segment "Death Proof")/Tucker (trailer segment "Thanksgiving")
Danny Trejo ... Machete (segment "Machete")
Sybil Danning ... Gretchen Krupp (segment "Werewolf Women of the SS")
Quentin Tarantino... The Rapist (segment "Planet Terror")/Warren (segment "Death Proof")
Michael Parks... Earl McGraw (segments "Planet Terror'" and "Death Proof")
Kurt Russell... Stuntman Mike (segment "Death Proof")
Rosario Dawson... Abernathy (segment "Death Proof")
Vanessa Ferlito... Arlene (segment "Death Proof")
Jordan Ladd... Shanna (segment "Death Proof")/Judy (trailer segment "Thanksgiving")
Tracie Thoms... Kim (segment "Death Proof")
Mary Elizabeth Winstead... Lee (segment "Death Proof")

“Grindhouse” is a gimmick movie but it’s a good gimmick. I might even go so far as to say that it’s a great gimmick. It combines two B-movie tributes plus some fake trailers all for the low price of one movie ticket. Well, it would have been low if I didn’t decide to go to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood to see it. But I wanted to see this exploitation tribute the right way. All I needed was some drunks screaming at the screen and it would have been perfect.

In order to get the full sleaze effect, “Grindhouse” tries to emulate the look of a 70’s double feature. There are deliberate scratches and imperfections all throughout the film and trailers. There are also a couple of spots during the movies where a MISSING REEL card will flash on the screen and the story will jump ahead. Surprisingly, both of those spots were where some hot and heavy action was about to start. Isn’t that always the way with missing reels?

The trailers during “Grindhouse” were hilarious. I would give “Machete” the nod for best trailer. That was the most ridiculously action packed. “Werewolf Women of the SS” is a movie I’d love to see. I was kind of hoping that the trailer was going to be in horribly dubbed English. Italian-made Naziploitation is the only way to go. I could have used a little more Sybil Danning there too. “Don’t” had me laughing. Just “don’t”. “Thanksgiving” started off kind of weak but made up for it with the cheerleader bouncing to her doom. Having fake trailers to space out the double feature was a great idea and added a lot of sleazy fun to the flick.

“Grindhouse” starts off with Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror”. A toxic cloud gets released and people get infected with the standard B-movie zombie killer virus. You know, shamble along, mutate, eat brains, etc. They start to attack a lot of different B-movie veterans but none is lovelier than Rose McGowan. The first scene in “Planet Terror” has McGowan doing a go-go dance which fixates on her legs. The zombies must have been watching too because they dive for them the minute they see her. The survivors have to massacre many zombies to survive the night. This all leads to the highlight of the flick as McGowan gets fitted for a machine gun for a leg.Yes! Much death and destruction courtesy of Rose’s lethal leg follows.

“Planet Terror” was a lot of fun. It was the highlight of “Grindhouse”. This was the flick that represented the outrageous spirit of the B-movie. It’s a straight ahead, gory zombie flick. Nothing fancy just a whole lot of blood and guts to keep the fans happy.

The second half of “Grindhouse” is Tarantino’s “Death Proof”. A bunch of girls are hanging out in Austin, TX when they cross paths with Stuntman Mike, (Kurt Russell). Stuntman Mike has had his eyes on these lovely ladies for quite some time. He envisions them smeared on his windshield. Why Mike wants to squash them into roadkill is never understood but it doesn’t really matter. Stuntman Mike does what he does because he’s Stuntman Mike. Soon Stuntman Mike will try his death proof car against some ladies who get off on vehicular mayhem as much as he does. Dialogue is Tarantino’s greatest strength. It’s also his greatest weakness. It’s his weakness because he loves to hear himself talk on and on and on... Every character who speaks gives him another chance to reference a movie or a TV show or some vague pop culture reference or just gives him the opportunity to babble on about nothing. Some might call it characterization. I call it filler.

While I have nothing against being a little self indulgent, Tarantino lets himself drag “Death Proof” down with many conversations that go nowhere. His talent for dialogue worked to great effect in “Reservoir Dogs”, (one of my favorite movies), and “Pulp Fiction”, (also in my top 20), when Tarantino was writing hilariously vulgar dialogue between tough guys. But “Death Proof” shows that he just can’t write as well for women. The second half of “Death Proof” stuck us with women so boring that I was rooting for Stuntman Mike to run them down. Even having the New Zealand girl imitate the car hood scene from “Fair Game” had me yawning.

Still, “Death Proof” certainly had its moments. When the girls were behind the wheel and doing battle with Stuntman Mike, the movie came to life. I suspect Tarantino just wanted to see if he could make a really cool car chase scene. Any scenes with cars knocking each other across the road were good. It’s just when the engines turned off that the movie came to a halt. The one exception was Rose McGowan and Stuntman Mike’s meeting in the bar. I especially liked Stuntman Mike’s graphic illustration as to why the driver side of his car is death proof.

Overall, “Grindhouse” delivers a lot of what it promises. I went in hoping for some bloody B-movie thrills and that’s what I got. You should try to see it in the theater if you can. “Grindhouse” is a movie experience well worth having.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 4 lethal B-movie babes

4 comments:

* (asterisk) said...

Herr Doktor, yours is the first review I've read that prefers the Rodriguez flick. I'm so glad finally to find such a review because I've been sad to hear all the negativity around Robbo's bit.

Also, you may be interested (or not) in my wife's thoughts on Tarantino writing for women.

Dr. Gore (drgore@hotmail.com) said...

Read your wife's blog. Yeah, Tarantino just has a hard time finding something interesting for women to say. He tries to make them talk tough or dream about finding the car from "Vanishing Point". But then again I really loved Uma Thurman in "Pulp Fiction". Maybe the Tarantino women need gangsters to talk to in order to be cool.

* (asterisk) said...

Yeah, we all loved Uma in PF, sure, but I think QT needs to step up a little. I loved Res Dogs, PF, True Romance, even NBK, but he's living on former glories now, I think. Time to change it up a gear.

Dr. Gore (drgore@hotmail.com) said...

Something needs to change that's for sure.

He's an interesting guy and you know he can make good movies. But he's obsessing too much in telling everyone how much he likes B-movies. He's still the video store guy who won't shut up with recommendations. I hope he can shake it off. Hopefully he has a couple of more cool flicks in him.