Saturday, April 07, 2007

Grindhouse (Spoiler Free)

Kill Bill is my favorite movie, so I was at an 11:30pm show of GRINDHOUSE -- a double feature of Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof will added fake trailers. This review will be spoiler free, but I wanted to give it its own post so that spoilers can be in the comments thread, if people want it.

The first thing that strikes me about Grindhouse is that it seems like a bit of a joke on Rodriguez, like when two friends agree to shave their heads and then, the next day at school, the other guy doesn't do it: I know they are both friends and I am sure they worked together closely, but it feels a bit like they got together and said "Let's make a pair of Grindhouse flicks": Rodriguez exemplifies the genre, as his hyperbolic mode is only a parody in the sense that making an old fashioned movie like this, complete with missing reels and crackling sound, NOW pretty much HAS to be a parody; Tarantino, rather than exemplifying the genre as Rodriguez does, delivers ... something else. I cannot say what that something else is without ruining his film, but there is a reason the trailers are filled with images from Rodriguez's film, a reason a girl with a machine gun leg is the icon of the film.

A few warnings: I am not sure that the whole Grindhouse package sits well together. The fake trailers are fun, especially the one for Machete, but some of the others -- what did I expect from Eli Roth -- made that subtle shift from funny-violence to wrong-violence. I might be the only person that felt this way, but I enjoyed all the violence of Rodriguez's movie but wanted to get out of the theater during Roth's trailer. Not so much my thing. Also just about every great image in Rodriguez's entry you have seen on the trailer. Then after an hour and a half into Grindhouse you get Tarantino's film -- it is a GREAT film, but part of the way the film works is to spend time on seriously languid pacing and dialogue at more than one point before getting to the pair of action sets. On the one hand, of course, it is Tarantino. But as part of the Grindhouse package, that promises exploitation at every turn, my audience got VERY restless after sitting in the theater for so long. But it is worth the small to moderate frustration -- if unlike me you are not Tarantino obsessive and love every scene: Tarantino's film is exquisite.


Voice Of The Eagle said...

I felt the same way- Rodriguez movie was solid, b-movie fun and Tarantino-does something else. The twist feels cheep and -because the characters involved are so fricking obxious- almost unpleasent to watch.

I'm a fan of twisted, messed up imagery, so the Roth trailer was my favorite part of the movie.

Geoff Klock said...

The Tarantino twist may be cheap -- and I am not at all sure that is is -- but grindhouse films are cheap films so can you really blame him on that front. I would not agree that the girls are obnoxious -- he just needs to establish that these girls are rowdy and tough so the end works.

Tim Callahan said...

Because we had the day off for Good Friday, I decided to corrupt the students in the Cinema and Screenwriting class I teach and invite them on an "unofficial" field trip to see the Grindhouse matinee. My wife joined us, and we all had a great 3 1/2 hours at the movies! My students seemed to love it, and so did my wife. It was the most energizing experience I've had in a theater since I first saw Pulp Fiction.

Geoff Klock said...

Tim: nice.

Jay Nagy said...

I'm not sure if it's what the first commenter meant, but I did find the first round of "Death Proof" characters obnoxious, especially Sydney Poitier who's an example of the "sexy" that turns me off, plus she was just unlikeable to me. So I was just glad to get past those characters. It was like the movie heard my dissatisfaction and delivered Zoe Bell to make up for it. Her, Tracie and Rosario were a lot more fun to hang out with, they were tough, and Zoe showing her chops was ten times as sexy as the barefoot sorority girls.

To say nothing of the action taking place at that time. Wow. I saw it twice yesterday and was still charged the second time, sitting way up close again to really ride the movie. "Planet Terror" had more straight up comedy, but both made me guffaw with delight whenever they'd pull out a new ridiculous, outlandish bit. So much FUN!!!

And I'm going again *next* Friday. Maybe I'll finally be able to spot Simon Pegg. And am I crazy or was that Mike Mignola in the first trailer? I can't find any evidence to support it but even imdb hasn't cataloged the entire cast yet (ie. Jason Isaacs).

Ted said...

I think that PLANET TERROR is much more a reflection of the late seventies and early eighties era of 'grindhouse,' with regards to how loud and chaotic it is. Rodriguez says as much, with John Carpenter's later themes so obviously defining the work (the apocalypse from PRINCE OF DARKNESS, the mutations from THE THING, the horrendous one-liners and synth soundtrack from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, etc.).

DEATH PROOF, by contrast, is deliberately based on the earlier, quieter sixties grindhouse (the girl with the FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL, KILL! t-shirt reaffirms this). Tarantino puts his film in a more obscure context by basing it on a divide between his passions and those of his audience (see Stuntman Mike's disappointment at the girls' confusion over who Robert Urich is). He knows that he needs to bring more of his unique vision to bear on what we're presented (because who the fuck do you know who has seen DIRTY LARRY, CRAZY MARY?). While Rodriguez goes out of his way to work with tropes more familiar to his fans, Tarantino's weird vibe is part of his theme. Rodriguez tries in little ways to fuck with us (how many movies can you think of that have a kid shooting himself?), but Tarantino knows better than that. He addresses others' frustrations at his earlier works (making Uma's stuntwoman from KILL BILL his lead, so as to reassert that she's REALLY grappling not to fall off the Dodge hood) while reassessing the things he does best: Hence, the maddening, self-referential dialogues and repetitions upon repetitions of characters and events. We're going to see what happens next from both of these moviemakers before we know just what to make of this three-hour experience.

Regarding the trailers: Anyone who says they don't want to see DON'T is a liar.

sara d. reiss said...

didn't see the movie as I'm a huuuge chicken when it comes to gore (even b-movie gore) and will have to wait for the dvd however I know who did the DON'T trailer and cannot WAIT until Hot Fuzz comes out.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are on FUSE today discussing it. That means Simon is in NYC and I am resisting all urges to go and stalk.

Jay nagy said...

Just remember though, there's apparently no plans for any three hour seamless double feature dvd. "Grindhouse" as it is will apparently be a unique presentation. And the dvd's won't be 2 for the price of 1. Never before will home video be SO not the same!! you know. And I want to be a rabid cheerleader for this sucker.

hcduvall said...

Just saw it last night and I can say that I enjoyed Planet Terror more, but that Death Proof is the much better movie. But comparing them seems foolish, since I think they both achieve what they set out to.

Ted: I think I have the reverse conclusion--that we've seen what they've made before so Grindhouse was so sort of, tonally, as expected. I don't really disagree, I just think they've established their respective styles and tastes pretty definatively now. Which for me brings up a brief lament for QT to go back to something like Jackie Brown...which Death Proof maybe the closest....

Geoff: I liked the Thanksgiving trailer...and then it went on...yikes.

Death Proof wise, it's as you folks said. The dialogue is there to in languorous pace and banality to make them more realistic, down to the assholish friend. That affects you to your viewing tastes, but that seems to have been it's point. If anything, I liked and cared for the first set more, if only because some of the points repeated with Zoe Bell's crew (impressive one-shot though it was).

My only trouble is with leaving the cheerleader for laughs in the situation she was in. Maybe there's some meta argument that she's the wrong kinda film fan or the like, but it left a bad taste to leave it hanging. And per some interview with Rosaria Dawson, QT was adamant to not even toss her the keys and leave her an out.

Geoff Klock said...

Jay: wow you saw that twice in one day?

Ted: some very good points there.

Sara: hot fuzz will be great

Jay: that is amazing -- Grindhouse will not be out on DVD as it was in the theaters. Fantastic.

HC: I liked Tarantino's pacing, just not after sitting in a seat for two hours before it got started. Tarantino's film is perfect; Grindhouse is less than perfect, though still a lot of fun and a must see in the theaters, given what Jay is saying.

I don't know what to make about the cheerleader. That is very interseting; it seems like he wants to make sure the film is not just a victory revenge -- he wants something more complicated.

I have another point about this film -- for a genre with huge sex and violence, Tarrantino and Rodriguez were very light on the sex, making jokes about missing reels to excuse leaving it out. Tarantino, as far as I remember, does not film sex scenes. I don't know what I want to say about that I just want to point it out.

streebomajic said...

Hey Geoff! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the flick!

I enjoyed the heck out of Grindhouse from beginning to end. Planet Terror seemed to take everything that is great about zombie films and have unfettered fun with them. I love the idea of the machine gun leg and never once found myself thinking about how she actually fired the thing. There were nice little plays on the zombie genre - such as

SPOILER - when the Jeff Fahey character of "J.T." is found behind the counter with what appears to be his guts lying on his chest - which turn out to be just barbecue sausages - playing with the urban legend that George Romero used sausages for guts in his seminal zombie film - Night of the Living Dead. It was great to see Tom Savini drawn and quartered by zombies as it has become a recurring motif in the zombie films of Romero - established by the effects wizardry of Tom Savini - of course. SPOILERS END.

So it was nice just seeing so many little details like that mixed into the hyper kinetic stew of Planet Terror.

As for Death Proof, Tarantino went on record saying his film followed a slasher film formula. This plays out in the beginning of the film when we are introduced to a set of thoroughly unlikeable characters that are summarily killed off. I felt it deviated from the slasher formula after that point and went into car chase territory.

No, Tarantino does not use nudity in his films. he attributes this to having worked in porno theaters before - and claims he finds them utterly boring. It doesn't bother me, because he tries to make his films appealling to women by featuring strong females. His films are guy movies that women will see. That means I don't have to argue with my girlfriend about going to see them!

The trailers were fabulous. Roth's trailer Thanksgiving played like the 2000 carbon copy slasher films that were released from 1978 to 1983. They all featured an unidentified killer with some sort of mask and costume - wielding an array of sharp weaponry. The scene of the cheerleader on the trampoline called back an identical image of a babysitter on a bed in Alone in the Dark -when a large bowie knife thrusts up through the mattress in front of her. AS for the end of his trailer - I can't recall ever seeing anyone do that to a turkey. There's a first time for everything.

I can't wait to go back for more! Anyone that DVD waits on this film is robbing themselves of a fun cinematic experience.

Geoff Klock said...

Streebo: nice point about Savini. I remember he died pretty much the same way in From Dusk Till Dawn.

Matt Brady said...

I believe Tom Savini was killed similarly in Dawn of the Dead.

Also, the current rumor about Grindhouse is that it will be split into two separate films and rereleased to theaters. I think this is how it is being released in Europe anyway.