my Movie

Movie Details

Title:   Grindhouse
Director:   Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Year:   2007
Genre:   Exploitation
Times Seen:   2
Last Seen:   09.06.09

Other Movies Seen By This Director (0)

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
09.06.09Netflix So... it's been a while since I've seen these movies. Inglourious Basterds is out. So is Shorts (although that doesn't look like something I want to see).. I figured it's time to revisit both of these movies and a) see if my opinion on them has changed at all, and b) see if the "director's cut"s make them any better.

Planet Terror
I still didn't like this at all. I absolutely hate how Rodriguez treats the film aging as an effect. I hate how the film "goes red" with lame CG tendrils just for one scene because there's a bad guy or how the frame burns up (complete with lame fireball sound effect) because Rose McGowan is soooo hot (but not hot enough to show nudity apparently). I can't stand any of it and it shows such a basic misunderstanding of what he's supposedly trying to homage that it comes off as an insult.

I also hate how he uses the "missing reel" gimmick to get around minor things like making the plot make sense or telling the story. He also renders the technique impotent by having the first dialogue after the cut be a nearly complete explanation of everything that we've "missed."

But... uh.... trying to think of things I liked... Good to see some of the actors again like Michael Beihn and Jeff Fahey (who aren't completely wasted like they were in the theatrical cut) and overall the director's cut made for a more complete movie... but mostly i see it as a failure.

Death Proof
This one improved a bit for me. I still think the structure is really strange and there's too much dialogue but... accepting all that, there's a lot to like here as well.

The aging is done 1000% times better. The first half of this movie feels to me like an old print of a cheap movie (except the crash scene). The dirt and scratches are pretty spot on and the dirty splices and reel changes feel much more subtle and natural. It also seems like the Austin portion of the film is much softer like it's a dupe print or something. It's a great effect and gives the movie the exact right vibe.

Inexplicably, that stops with an awkward scene in black and white (which I can't remember if it was in the theatrical cut or not) then pristine IB Tech for all the Tennesee stuff. It had to be intentional but since it's SO clean it makes the one weird splice stand out as awkward. It's not like Quentin hasn't shown prints that are half red and half perfect though... so maybe it still fits who knows.

I enjoyed the stuff I recognized as extra (the lapdance ahem) but still found a lot of the dialogue to be stilted and fakey. Especially with the Austin girls. Luckily, Zoe Bell is so awesome that the Tennesee stuff seems much better. I also LOVED the scene with Michael Parks and his son where they're clearly just walking down the Planet Terror hallway set over and over again while talking. The sound and set in that scene really struck me as something ultra-cheap that I would see at a weird wednesday.

I have a little more respect for the car chase at the end after seeing the special feature talking about who all the stunt drivers were, but i still could've used a bit more there. Kurt Russell is still the best part of the movie and seeing him whine and cry after getting shot is my favorite moment in the whole movie.

And finally, it's still awesome to see people and places I know in a movie. Can't get over seeing David and Kaela in the background of The Omlettry or Kevin getting his neck ripped apart in the hospital hallway. Freakin cool...

I'm glad I watched these again separately. It cemented my dislike for Planet Terror and increased my enjoyment of Death Proof quite a bit. I might eventually have to pick up Death Proof just to keep my QT DVD collection complete.
04.08.07Alamo DowntownThis Screening is part of event: Grindhouse All Nighter
After the film we broke for breakfast in the lightening gray of overcast dawn. A little kid approached Lars and said "so it's between that and Toys are Not for Children." After a few shocked seconds, he asked "where did you see Toys are Not for Children!?" That kid's either gonna end up a really cool guy or locked away for a long long time. Bellies full, a still-packed house sat down to see Grindhouse. Perhaps it's unfair to spend the night watching great movies authentic to the era and follow it up with a modern-day emulator, especially when that emulator starts off with a Robert Rodriquez film.

Planet Terror feels like and exploitation of exploitation. Robert takes the most superficial aspects of the genre and roughly jams them together in an effort to create a pastiche of potent images and moments that will hopefully overwhelm certain parts of your brain into overlooking the absence of anything real. The usage of these techniques however, showcases Robert's fundamental misunderstanding of the genre. Planet Terror is not a grindhouse film at all, but a Robert Rodriguez film wearing a store-bought Grindhouse Halloween costume. For better or worse, Robert's trademark style drives every aspect of the film. Environmental hazards such as missing reels and print damage are utilized as dramatic tools, making absolutely no sense in realistic terms. Scratch lines don't change from shot to shot and color fade does not introduce in CG tendrils and fade back to pristine 30 seconds later. To an eye used to seeing the effects of time and many many projections on aged prints, the blatant manipulation of these effects were a constant distraction. Aside from the occasional spare piano melody meant to evoke John Carpenter andthe broad-stroke idea of a zombie movie (except they're not zombies), the films bears stronger resemblance to Desperado than anything else. Perhaps a strong argument toward the auteur theory, but thoroughly out of place from the vintage-esque trailers and drive-in concession ads that the film strives to present.

These, by the way, are excellent. Rodriguez's Machete trailer performs much better than Planet Terror, Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women of the S.S., on-screen credits aside, fits well into the mix, and Eli Roth's Thanksgiving ties with Edgar Wright's Don't as my favorite moments in the film. The Acuna Bros. concessions and various vintage ratings and "coming soon" animations all work very well to establish mood and give the films a more presentational "main event" introduction. It's a shame that people missed all of this with trips to the restroom after Planet Terror ends, hurrying back to their seats in time for Death Proof to begin.

Death Proof, while not without its problems, fits much better into the experience that Grindhouse presents to its audience. Quentin's occasionally Slasher-influenced tale of groups of women attracting the attention of a crazed stuntman and his Death-Proof car fits the mold of a film inspired by the title and poster and shot on a shoestring budget to accomodate that. Lots of slow dialogue fill the time between "money shot" scenes of automotive madness and mayhem. Until he gets flashy with an ambitious 8-minute steadicam shot, Tarantino's direction even mimics that of the time with simple set-ups and a general feel of cheapness and compromise with a limiting schedule. Of course, we know all of this is deliberately designed since he actually had plenty of time to shoot and plenty of money to spend. Nevertheless, Death Proof plays like a modern-day exploitation classic. Quentin also uses spare aging effects to dirty the heads and tails of his reels and introduce a splice here and there. His missing reel, as unfortunate as it seems to be, plays more like an actual missing reel than a story crutch.

And then there's Kurt Russell. With precious few moments, Russell delivers Stuntman Mike into his canon right along with Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, and R.J. MacReady. My biggest frustration with this film, followed in a close second by the overwhelming amount of meandering Quentin-aware dialogue, is the lack of Kurt Russell. Although he's very effective as the constant observer seen in the background and used more as a force rather than a character, every second Stuntman Mike's on screen is great and there should be more. Perhaps a sequel's in order, playing like Psycho II, where we follow along in the further adventures of Stuntman Mike as he targets other women to have fun with.

I do have problems with the film, but they're minor compared to Planet Terror. Choosing to see Death Proof as any other drive-in feature, I'd say it's very successfull. Sergio Martino's Torso gets much respect and that's pretty much just for one scene so I can forgive Tarantino his indulgences with dialogue and thinking he knows how to talk like a woman.

I also really liked Quentin's song choice and seeing the Alamo in the establishing shot of Austin.

And that's it. Grindhouse is over. It's almost noon, time for either lunch or sleep whichever urge takes hold first. All in all a very enjoyable night spent amongst friends in a great place. There's nothing quite like walking out of the Alamo to a dead silent wasteland of downtown Austin Sunday morning, eyes squinting from the light and completely disoriented trying to remember where you parked. I really cherish these times and hope everyone that was there had as good a time as I did. To those that weren't there, I hope you had a good time following along on here. Until the next one, cheers.
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