Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Movies: GRINDHOUSE


Before I finally get to the New York stuff, I have one more subject to blog about, and I want to do it before the Weinstein Brothers get a hold of this movie and chop it up.

In case you haven’t heard, GRINDHOUSE, the brainchild of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, hit theaters over Easter weekend. It took in about half the money the studio was expecting (a $12 million take), so the suits are freaking out and threatening to release this movie in two segments since the running time is over three hours. Good idea?

I don’t think so.

See, GRINDHOUSE is an experience, not just a movie. It’s a throwback to a night at the drive-in, with funky “Coming Soon” music and tie-dye visuals introducing schlocky trailers. It’s a double feature with gore, action aplenty, and more gore. Serrating it is not the point here, though I understand that the studio is looking for a profit. They’re a business. But GRINDHOUSE shouldn’t be messed with.

(MINOR SPOILERS AHOY—BEST BE ON THE LOOKOUT)

Let me explain. I haven’t experienced any grindhouse movies, unless you count barely formed memories of sitting in the lowered back seat of a station wagon while my mom and dad told me and my brother to get to sleep as they watched BLUEBEARD. (That turned out not to be a good idea. I remember my mom panicking and covering my eyes at one point, LOL. Poor Mom.) As I understand it, though, the grindhouse experience consists of so-bad-it’s-good plots, boobs, damaged film, and missing reels. GRINDHOUSE has all of these in spades, and it’s fun to see all these touchstones poked at and exploited for laughs. In fact, I would recommend GRINDHOUSE for its fun quotient alone.

Cutting this movie and parceling it out totally mucks up the groove Rodriguez and Tarantino establish. So enough said about that.

Now about the movies themselves. And, be assured, these are two very different movies contained in this one release. Rodriguez starts things off with PLANET TERROR, a zombie flick with splooging blood, superhero dialogue, and so many wink-wink-nudge-nudges that we’re immediately in on the joke. The writer/director is having an awesome time, here, and we’re along for the ride. After the first five minutes, you stop expecting reality and just go with the flow. Pure, gross fun, if you’re in the mood for it—and you’d better be in the mood. Be warned about that.

Then we get to some faux movie trailers—cameos, really—by people like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth. All I can say is…Oh. My. God. Like PLANET TERROR, they’re hilarious and sick. Due to Roth’s THANKSGIVING trailer, I have now seen everything, too. There’s one moment when I actually thought, “I can’t believe I just saw that happen” and you’ll know exactly what I mean when you witness it. (You can look Thanksgiving up on Youtube.com, actually. I’m not going to link to it because I don’t want that on my conscience.) Final note about that demented THANKSGIVING moment: one guy in the theater let out the biggest, most disgusted, “OOOOOOOOOOOOO” I have ever heard in my lifetime.

Then it’s on to Tarantino’s DEATHPROOF, which stars Kurt Russell, who manages to make a serial killer kinda pathetically cute (Those dimples!!!) and pretty sympathetic. Unfortunately, this is where GRINDHOUSE grinded to a bit of a halt for me. From the shuffling and coughing in the theater, I suspect a lot of the audience felt the same way. Where PLANET TERROR was outrageous and established the spirit of a grindhouse experience with its burnt film and skipping soundtrack, DEATHPROOF seems to forget it’s on the same bill at times. What I mean is that this is definitely a more straightforward “QUENTIN TARANTINO” effort. In fact, the story is told with fairly realistic relish, with Tarantino’s characteristic riffing conversations that last twenty minutes and rely on a circling camera to add a sense of action. This relative realism gave me permission to think that some of the plot points were…well, frustrating. For instance, after a long car chase sequence—one in which the characters should be hauling ass out of the scene—they start joking around. Seriously. There’s no, “We should get going just in case Stuntman Mike speeds down the road at 120 miles per hour and rams us,” but there is a cheeky “Who was that maniac?” and the requisite smart ass observations that follow. Also, those long, hip, Tarantino conversations™? Sloooooow theeeeee mooooovie dooooown. In his others films, I found these riffs absolutely fascinating, but here? Nope. However, one thing that saved DEATHPROOF, besides Kurt Russell, was Zoe Bell, a real-life stuntwoman. She is awesome. Awesome, I say, and you’ll dig her, too. (Factoid: I studied Zoe Bell’s career during my stunt research for Vampire Babylon. I feel like I know the woman, although Bell is effervescent while Dawn is…not.) Bell drives this movie, and her stunts are up close and crazy. She steals the show.

Wow, this was long, but there’s a lot to say about this flick. I had a lot of warped fun and I’m the first to admit that I must have issues. It’s recommended if you’re of the same bent disposition.

2 comments:

GeminiWisdom said...

My husband went to see this with friends. His one friend started to "queasy" during Planet Terror. My husband downloaded Death Proof a couple of days and made me watch it last night. He thought I would like it because of all the "chick talk". I feel the same way you did about the movie. I didn't like it. There was too much damn talking! Get on with the action already, y'know?

I'm still kinda ticked at him for making me sit thru it. I didn't want to see it at the movie theater. There's a reason why I didn't go with him and not because it was scary. It's because I saw the previews and none of it captured my interest. I wasn't in the mood to watch TV anyway and it was time wasted when I could've been reading.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Gemini!

Your hubby's friend "quesied" during Planet Terror? Eeeek. I'm thinking it's because it was so gory?

Yeah, maybe, once again, I just had ridiculously high expectations for a movie, and Death Proof didn't deliver for me. That's not to say that there weren't some awesome moments--(SPOILER)the first car murder was really effective as was the ship's mast car chase--and I do find myself still thinking about the movie. That might be because I'm trying to figure out what QT was doing. Was he so involved with aping RESEVOIR DOGS that he overdid that dialogue in the diner scene? I don't know.

Something else I realized: I didn't sympathize with any of the second trio of stalked car girls except for Zoe Bell, and that's just because she's Zoe. I was really ticked at them for (SPOILER) leaving behind their so-called friend for Deliverance Guy. That bothered me a lot, and forty minutes of riffing conversation didn't set-up a good motivation or excuse them for leaving Cheer Actress as collateral. Heck, I felt more sympathy for Stuntman Mike, with his relatively short conversation pieces. In fact, I'd say that Stuntman Mike had some great dialogue, great moments, and great exposition. If the women had been developed with the same succinct care, I might've felt differently about Death Proof.