Monday, April 09, 2007



Creative forces: Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino

Stars: Freddie Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Kurt Russel (Plus lots of cameos!)

Haven't we all seen a Saturday double-bill of movies so awful they made you laugh? Been there. Done that. Guilty as charged. Plus I'd seen SIN CITY (also a collaboration of these two director/writers) and wasn't terribly impressed.

That being the case, I had no great desire to see Rodriguez and Tarantino's homage to the exploitation movies of the 70's. At least until I saw an interview with the two directors. Clips of PLANET TERROR suckered me in. The film looked like great fun. Campy enough that it shouldn't give me zombie nightmares, and peopled with characters who already had me rooting for them in just brief seconds of film clips.

Plus the "package" is just wildly creative. The whole experience comes complete with hysterically funny (but seriously executed) preview trailers for non-existent movies. I lost count of the fake movies being hyped but the first one, MACHETE, is brilliant. Every trailer is perfectly cast with working actors you at least recognize even if you can't name them. That's part of what makes the trailers so believable.
The film has defects and scratches just like the 'old days' when the quality of picture relied on the condition of the actual reels being screened. You really do feel as if you've stepped into a time warp.

If any of you read novella anthologies, then you're already probably guessing what I'm about to say next...all stories, visions, voices are not created equally. GRINDHOUSE as a "package" is brilliant but for my money, only one of the movies is brilliant--the first one, PLANET TERROR. This deftly told story works simultaneously as dandy little zombie movie and a campy recreation. Yes, the gore is over the top but the violence is telegraphed well enough and the movie shot dark enough that you can get your eyes closed in time if you don't want to see someone shredded.

Rose McGowan (a "Charmed" one) is appealing as a Go-Go Dancer ("There IS a difference.") who's unexpected reunited with an old flame, who happens to be the one man that might get her butt out of zombie-harm's way. Some plot points are improbable but this wouldn't be an exploitation film if you didn't occasionally have to take a logic leap. After having one leg ripped off by zombies fairly soon into the movie, our gal Rose manages to make it through the movie with improvised prosthestics, including a machine gun. And when the relationship between McGowen's character and Freddie Rodriquez begins to get steamy? Just like the old days...the film melts and you get a message from management saying they're sorry for the missing reel. (Which you know now lives with Projection-man Willie at his house.)

This is SO not my kind of movie but I thoroughly enjoyed all the parts in which I wasn't closing my eyes. I did at one point channel Dorothy from the WIZARD OF OZ when I thought, "Lions and tigers and pustules, oh my!" Despite my complete dislike of that sort of cinema, I felt like this was "old home" week with familiar characters and dialogue you knew was coming but *wanted* to hear anyway.

By the time GRINDHOUSE ground down to the Tarantino portion of the evening, I was ready to enjoy another rollicking poke-of-fun at the bad movies of yesteryear. Unfortunately Tarantino wasn't ready to provide that. His DEATH PROOF plods along. I couldn't find a character to truly root for in the film but he does give you someone to root against...eventually. I predict next year's DragonCon will see its share of Stuntman Mike costumes.

Just as the older production houses used their "stable" of actors again and again, DEATH PROOF retreads a few of the actors from the first film. Female characters abound and Tarantino seems to have a penchant for writing really bad, smart-ass girl-talk. Didn't make me like 'em. Bored me in fact. The resolution does make a strong statement about the power of women. I'm not sure it's a flattering statement, but Tarantino does resolve his movie in a way that leaves the viewer feeling that the justice or revenge was done. (You'd have to see the movie to decide which it is, but I recommend skipping DEATH PROOF altogether. Watch the trailers after PLANET TERROR and then leave. Your butt will thank you.)

Has anyone else seen GRINDHOUSE? Do you agree that one of the films is clearly better than the other? Do you like remakes or "homage" because these aren't true remakes. Just throw backs to action/zombie/prison-babe movies of yesteryear.


lois greiman said...

Okay, I'm trying to stretch my wings, but Grindhouse is SUCH a stretch for me that I don't think I can even make myself see it. I generally like my characters with two or more legs. But maybe that's just me.

Betina Krahn said...

Okay, I may have to see this. . . will probably have to go by myself some afternoon, since everyone else in my clan has passed on the opportunity. I love a good tongue-in-cheek zombie flick! And the "unique" prosthetic leg sure is an attention grabber! I'll have to get back to you on my reaction.

Meanwhile, I saw two movies this weekend. "The Lives of Others". . . a German subtitled film that won the Academy Award for best foreign film-- over "Pan's Labyrinth," which was the predicted winner. Boy, I can see why "The Lives of Others" won-- it was gripping and fabulous. Such acting. Those Germans know how to create ten-megaton inner conflict. And the story was so human, so... heroic. I loved it.

But the movie that had me sighing this weekend was "Miss Potter" with Rene Zellweger and Ewan MacGregor. Talk about charming and sweet. Talk about romantic. Talk about saying a lot with a few words and glances.

Rex and I both sat there with tears running. Such a sweet story. As a writer I really appreciated what she had to go through and how unappreciated she was at home. And the bunnies. . . oh, the BUNNIES! And when Jemima Puddleduck flicked her tail flirtatiously at Ewan MacGregor, I just melted. The real Miss Potter might have been certifiable, but the movie version is wonderful.

Now, off to the Grindhouse!!

Michele Hauf said...

Miss Potter is out? I have to go see it! I love MacGregor. He's got the best smile.

Grindhouse? Nah, not me either. Anything Tarantino does give me the creepy crawlies, though I do like Rodreguez's stuff. And his flick has my favorite guy from Six Feet Under (Rico, the mortician); he is a great actor, and cute.

While the gun leg does intrigue...I think I can hold back from going to see this one.

Saw The Lookout last night. About a kid who was in a car accident and had frontal lobe damage, and has trouble remembering and doing simple tasks. He's coerced into being the lookout for a bunch of thugs planning a bank robbery. Some good writing in it. I liked it.


Christie Ridgway said...

Miss Potter is out? Like Michele, must go see it.

I'm sure Grindhouse will come my way, though I think I'll wait for the DVD. Son 1 probably won't. He intro'd me to Rodgriguez (all the Mariachi movies, I like the first one, in Spanish, the best) as well as Tarantino (just watched Pulp Fiction twice this weekend).

Thanks for the review, Deb!

Susan Kay Law said...

Deb, okay, how long is the whole thing?

Really, given that this is so not my kind of thing (it is, however, my husband's) how worth it is it for me to go?


Debra Dixon said...

Hey, guys! I've been at a client's today. Now to questions...

Miss Potter is out???!! Not here. That sucks.

Susie-- It's long. Like 3 hours, but you can definitely skip the second flick. Totally not worth it. Wayne said he enjoyed both but liked PLANET TERROR better. You could certainly give this a whirl in DVD just for the cameos and the fun not-quite-parody aspects, but there is something weird about sitting in that theater seat and feeling like you've gone back in time. I'd say don't go unless you just really want to see what that's like.

Betina Krahn said...

Deb-- I just got back from the movie-- it's Thursday-- and you were so right on about it. Planet Terror was a hoot and I loved the trailer for "The Machete." Loved the gore-- the explosions looked like exploding bags of Koolaid. And I give Rose McGowan props for managing to look kick-butt sexy with a table leg and a gattling gun for legs! But I think I saw one too many erupting pustules. I may see them in my sleep tonight!

Should have stopped after the intermission, but we stayed for the second feature. Death Proof was a snoozer-- SLOW. . . with way to many of Tarantino's patented "character rants" and some really unlikeable characters. But it really picked up when the Kiwi started bounding around on the hood of the car. . . in peril of being squished between two racing vehicles. And I must say, watching Kurt Russell's maniacal character turn into a woosie and go all squealing girlie over a simple GSW to the upper arm-- that was priceless. Also. . . watching the gals kick the soup out of him was alarmingly gratifying.

But hey-- it's just a move, right?