Monday, April 09, 2007


Title: Grindhouse (2007)
Dir: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie & Eli Roth
Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

If you miss this in theaters, I truly feel pity for you. Grindhouse is the most fun I have had at the movies for some time.

I absolutely love the idea behind this feature - what the grindhouse experience would be like today, in the hands of modern filmmakers. All five directors involved pay great tribute to the genre, even if some are weaker than others (more on that later). And they cover multiple categories of grindhouse film, including zombies, nazis, and cars (oh my!)

This double-feature is comprised of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, with four faux movie trailers in-between. I'll review each individually:

Planet Terror (dir: Robert Rodriguez) ***** out of 5 stars

The film begins when some ex-military terrorists (led by Bruce Willis) release an airborne toxin that spreads rapidly through the population, turning people into bloodthirsty zombies. Among the small group of survivors are Ray (Freddy Rodriguez), his one-legged-stripper-ex-girlfriend Cherry (Rose homewrecker McGowen), a police sheriff (badass Michael Biehn), and a short-order cook (badasser Jeff Fahey). And there's also Josh Brolin as a crazy doctor trying to kill his unfaithful wife (Marley Shelton).

The whole cast is great, and loaded with cameos. Rodriguez's script is fun and hilarious. The FX, provided by Greg Nicotero and Howard Burger, are over-the-top and wonderful. Planet Terror maintains the cheese factor required of a grindhouse film, but it's also genuinely good. In fact, it's my favorite Rodriguez film to date (not counting Sin City, which was really Frank Miller's movie). I had a blast watching this one and could do so over and over.

Death Proof (dir: Quentin Tarantino) ***1/2 out of 5 stars

Tarantino's take on grindhouse is very different from Rodriguez's. Death Proof homages the old car chase films (e.g., Vanishing Point). To be honest, it is far more faithful to the genre, which means it is also really boring at times. I can appreciate what QT was going for - those old films often had long periods of dull dialogue punctuated by a badass action sequence or two. And that's exact what happens here. Death Proof is 3/4 talking and 1/4 the coolest shit ever.

The film opens with a group of girls enjoying a night at the bar. There is probably 45 minutes of these chicks talking about things we don't care about and have zero relevance to the movie. Then a mysterious stranger named Stuntman Mike (played brilliantly by Kurt Russell) starts terrorizing these ladies. This culminates in the single greatest car crash sequence I have ever seen. I give MAJOR credit to Tarantino, Nicotero and Burger on that scene. I get chills just thinking about it! And Kurt Russell OWNS this movie. Everytime he was on-screen, things got a lot more enjoyable. This is old-school Russell - like the Jack Burton/Snake Pliskin days.

So then the film has another 45 minutes of some other girls sitting around and talking. Yawn. And once again, Stuntman Mike shows up to do some terrorizing. And yet again, the film then delivers one of the greatest sequences ever shot. The ending is absolutely wonderful and easily made me forget how boring the last hour was. I walked out of the theatre still laughing. So in short, expect to be bored. But also expect that it's totally worth it in the end.

And now, some coming attractions....

Machete (dir: Robert Rodriguez) **** out of 5 stars

This is only my third favorite trailer in Grindhouse, but that doesn't mean I don't love it. Danny Trejo plays a Mexican dude who is set up by some bad guys and left for dead. So he becomes a vigilante hell-bent on taking out the bastards who tried to kill him. He chucks machetes, he rides a motorcycle with a mounted gatling gun, and of course, he gets the ladies. This trailer is delightfully tongue-in-cheek. The narration had me rolling with laughter, and Rodriguez threw in some nice cameos from Jeff Fahey and Cheech Marin. This seems to be the fan favorite, but for me, the trailers get even better....

Thanksgiving (dir: Eli Roth) ***** out of 5 stars

I didn't expect much at all from this trailer, but Roth surprised me yet again. This may be the funniest section of the whole movie. It's about a killer dressed as a pilgrim who slaughters teenagers on Thanksgiving. That idea alone is classic. And in just three minutes, Roth gives us some of the greatest, most fucked-up, hilarious deaths scenes. I loved every second.

Don't (dir: Edgar Wright) ***** out of 5 stars

This is the trailer I was most excited about, since I'm a huge fan of the director. With this one, Edgar Wright pays homage to European grindhouse, like Legend of Hell House and Suspiria. The trailer is vague and makes very little sense, which is exactly the point. It's a spot-on homage. Will Arnett provides the hilarious narration and Don't boasts British cameos ranging from Simon Pegg (duh) to Jason Isaacs. Like everything Wright makes, the trailer looks fantastic and very original. I really wish he'd make a full-length feature of it.

Werewolf Women of the SS (dir: Rob Zombie) *** out of 5 stars

This is my least favorite trailer of the bunch. I give Zombie credit for the look of it. I like the visual style, the music, and the general idea. You just gotta have one completely ridiculous Nazi movie somewhere. But I just felt it wasn't as original. Firstly, it's the only trailer to name-drop, which bugged me. Zombie made a point of mentioning his wife, Bill Moseley, and Nicolas Cage (a cameo I thought was hilarious, nonetheless). I wish he wouldn't have done that, it came across as pretentious to me. And those old movies didn't have actors anybody heard of, so naming them is a no-no. Werewolf Women was an amusing addition to the film, but Zombie could've done a lot more with it.