Monday, April 23, 2007

Friday Grindhousing

This past Friday, I rushed downtown to see Grindhouse, the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez double feature. The two movies were Planet Terror (Rodriguez) and Death Proof, with mock trailers before both of them.

I won't go into too much detail about the trailers. Machete (which I guess will be expanded to a feature length DVD) really took the cake on this one. The trailer introduces the story of a Mexican guy who takes a job as a hit man, but it turns out to be a set up. From there, he decides to take his revenge, so he gathers together his padres, including a priest who forsakes his frock for Machete. Can't really remember much from the trailer, but I remember laughing my ass off yet thinking, "This could be one great movie!"

Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror played first. Simple premise: a group of jaded soldiers release a gaseous weapon onto a small Texas town. The gas turns most of the townspeople into packs of zombies with sores all over and a taste for flesh. . .and their bite, of course, turns other people into zombies. Not much else to the plot, other than uninfected humans running about, shooting zombies, trying to survive and kicking some ass here and there. Plenty of random explosions abound. Also bunches of silly subplots, cheesy yet clever turns of phrase and plain random chaos.

Lovely appearances by major stars like Bruce Willis and Naveen Andrews. TWo actors stand out, though: Rose McGowan, simply because of some great lines and her machine gun/grenade launching leg, and Freddy Rodriguez because he never misses when he shoots, kicks major zombie ass with switchblades and provides a major bad boy performance.

Do not try to make any sense of Planet Terror. I repeat, do not try to make sense of Planet Terror. The explosions happen because they happen. The zombies attack because they attack. The people who don't get infected don't get infected because they don't get infected. This movie provides plenty of fun for the sake of fun, and any attempt to analyze it or look for some deeper meaning will take away from the fun. Just lose yourself in the mayhem, disgusts and explosions.

Death Proof, on the other hand, bored me to no end until the second part of it. It pretty much shows two vignettes, one of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) killing a bunch of girls with his death proof car, and the other one shows when the girls bite back.

Before I tear Death Proof a new one, I just want to urge everyone to take a restroom break during the fake trailers before Death Proof. Remember, these two movies and the trailers, all combined, come out to three and a half hours or so. When I came back from the rest room, I didn't much care for what I saw on the screen. I could appreciate the principle of it, but I didn't like. Straight out: someone screwing a decapitated head. Ick.

As for Death Proof, until the action started, it felt like the usual self-indulgent Tarantino having people act all "cool," "bad ass" and playing off each other with word play. I could've taken all of that if the topics of the conversations didn't really bore me, become annoying and purely tangential. Yes, it had realism and some of it supported the plot, but ack, most of it just felt like boring filler. I could live with the cell phone making an appearance, but. . .the focus on it went nowhere. I repeat, NOWHERE!

In the long run, Kurt Russell made the first part. He pulled off the lame psychokiller perfectly while also coming off as slick and charming. Not really having paid attention to trailers or any briefings on the movie, I found myself liking the guy. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by him killing girls with his death proof stunt car, but it just struck me as tragic that this actual character was such a bastard.

Action in the first part doesn't really bare much attention. It happens at night, and only the beginning of it when Stuntman Mike really starts acting and the very end of it when we see the pretty graphic death of the four girls really provides any kind of satisfaction.

Second part starts slow again, and even the action starts off pretty annoying and repetitive. Then things turn on Stuntman Mike, and we're all in for the ride of our life. We get overtaken by the excitement of vengeance. At first, the turn on Stuntman Mike triggers some cognitive dissonance, then it sucks you in, and your cheering for him to die, die, die a very horrible death at the hands of these three angry, angry girls. It's very primal and exciting. I just wish it wasn't drowning in the Tarantino-esque faux bad assness and faux feminism.

If you try to find deeper meaning in all movies, don't see Grindhouse. If you dislike swearing and flagrant violence, don't see Grindhouse. If you get annoyed by things that don't make logical sense, don't see Grindhouse.

If, however, you like irony, excitement, gore and all types of in your face political incorrectness, see this movie. It's bald faced ironic homage in only the way that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez could do (even though I bet $1 million that Peter Jackson could pull it off, too. C'mon! You've seen Meet the Feebles, haven't you?).

It's all in good fun!

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