Friday, January 11, 2008

Film Review: "Grindhouse" (A+!)

Originally, I was going to review everything about "Grindhouse" separately (films, trailers, overall experience), but I decided to keep it all together as that's how I believe it's meant to be seen.

Now I understand intellectually why "Grindhouse" didn't do well in theaters, but my horror fan heart just doesn't quite get it. I've been told many reasons why it didn't do well (too long, too much exploitation and gore) but ... well, I'm in fucking disbelief that this movie didn't make millions upon millions of dollars. Still. I saw this the midnight before it opened and I enjoyed coming out of the theater after 3am, so perhaps I am not the best judge but I don't fucking care.

Anyone who merely rents these movies on DVD is missing out. Truly. Half of the greatness of "Grindhouse" is the experience of sitting in the theater with other people and enjoying it en masse. Laughing at certain trailers, groaning in disappointment at the joke missing reels, having a crush on Zoe Bell ('cause we all did). I admit - I'm fully in love with that woman. Anyone that isn't doesn't have eyes or a brain. Also, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind there is a fantasy involving Rob Zombie and Eli Roth (add in Josh Brolin and that equals my dream orgy). Both of their trailers were pieces of genius, although Eli Roth holds a large piece of my heart for making me cross my legs in the theater and yell ouch as if it had been me knifed in the vagina (... scary thought). Fuck, that's gross but only he would film something in such a way that makes me STILL laugh out loud and cringe at the same time when I think about it.

The movies were both fantastic - I refuse to admit anything else. I am one of the few who favor "Death Proof" over "Planet Terror," but I enjoyed both immensely. The movies are very different from each other, one being basically a slasher flick except the weapon is a car ("Death Proof") and the other a 90 minute zombie gorefest complete with testicles in a jar ("Planet Terror"). Because they're so different, I find it hard to compare the two and instead simply admit that I tend to like Tarantino's style more.

"Planet Terror" is like your basic zombie movie. On acid. Like I said, there are testicles in a jar ... and that's got to do with humans, not even zombies. Since I'm a stickler about what's a zombie and isn't, I suppose these aren't technically zombies using information we're told, but they sure seem close enough. And they operate the same as a zombie would.

Anyway, there are an awful lot of faces that everyone should recognize and all of them are fucking fantastic. Tom Savini is perhaps one of the funniest horror comedy actors out there ... and should really be in more movies. Josh Brolin, of course, sort of amazes me for his ability to pack so much in his expressions. I could go through everyone in the cast and list how awesome they are, but the point is everyone is on point. However, I was not such a fan of Rose McGowan, mostly because I can never seem to connect with any character she plays. Oh, I liked her well enough, but I was much more a fan of Marley Shelton's character. Overall, "Planet Terror" is a fucking great time and genuinely entertaining.

Now, "Death Proof" ... sort of blew me away. I have such admiration for Quentin Tarantino as a filmmaker. Incidentally, also as an actor, because I found myself liking him in "From Dusk Till Dawn" ... in which he played a sex offender. But that's beside the point.

I would argue that most people liked "Planet Terror" better than "Death Proof" for two reasons. One, his film came last and by that point, I'm sure people were getting antsy in their seats (not me). Two, his film-making is inherently different from Robert Rodriguez's. Tarantino spends much more time developing his characters and making you feel for them. His films also tend to be dialogue heavy. And let me just say this now - the dialogue is fucking genius. There are several exchanges that had me in some sort of fit of pure joy. The first is between Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) and "Butterfly" (Vanessa Ferlito) outside of Guerro's Taco Bar. The second is between Kim (Traci Thoms) and Zoe (...herself) when they are discussing doing a particular stunt. The acting is way above anything I expected, with Traci Thoms and Zoe Bell among my favorites. And Sydney Poitier. And even Eli Roth, whose character just tries to get laid. Kurt Russell is always amazing, so I expected that.

Still, when Tarantino brings the action ... he certainly brings it with all he's got because the car chases in this film are fucking fantastic (although I can't pretend to be an authority on car chases). And Zoe Bell made me want to ride on the hood of a car. This movie builds and builds, until the anticipation explodes into Stuntman Mike getting his ass royally kicked. I literally wanted to stand up and do some sort of dance or perhaps form some sort of cult honoring Tarantino, but I didn't. I still might do the latter. Especially since he somehow made a slasher flick with a car and made two of the female leads so fucking bad-ass (which isn't entirely typical for slasher films).

Like I said, I'm not going to give the films individual grades - I loved them both, but for different reasons. Yes, both films have flaws. "Planet Terror" is, at times, burdened by the weight of all the sub-plots (lesbian girlfriend, biological warfare, sad go-go girl, etc.), while "Death Proof" has two totally separate sets of characters that you have to get to know first (equaling lots of dialogue), which was the main point of contention from the friend I saw it with. However, the entire experience is more than worth it. The flaws just seem to disappear when you're having that much fun. And as a native Austinite, it's nice to see your city so appreciated on screen.

I only wish they would come out with a boxed collector's set DVD with both films and the trailers, as well as extras. It's annoying to have to buy the films separately and it's VERY annoying not to have the trailers.

Here's to Eli Roth having a hand in Grindhouse 2! I think that's all rumor, but a girl can hope, can't she?

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