Saw Grindhouse today.
You may not know this, but it's not that original an idea for a film. Back in 1976, there was a film called MOVIE/MOVIE that was just about the exact same thing, except it was a tribute/parody of 1940's double features. It starred George C. Scott, Harry Hamlin and Barry Bostwick. The film included a black and white 'B' Boxing picture and a full color Busby Berkley style musical, complete with trailers in between the pictures... and they did it all in 2 hours. It's not out on video and I don't know why. It's a fine film and I think it would be fantastic to have now to show the know-it-all film fans and reviewers of late that they're not exactly inventing the wheel here.
GRINDHOUSE is a noble effort, but it falls short of what it sets out to do. The directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino show a lot of love for the idea of Grindhouse films but not much actual knowledge of how and why they existed 30 years ago. You just can't watch a bunch of Something Weird videos and think you're an expert on an entire sub genre of film making. Because of this basic lack of understanding, the film is ultimately hollow. The problems here are many. There are too many film imperfections here. Lines and scratches are okay, I guess, but burning frames, sudden discolorations and warpages are too distracting. Same to same, purposely splicing the film is all right for effect, but to not have it affect the soundtrack is not realistic. Likewise, the missing sequence title cards don't seem as clever as they seem desperate and lackadaisical. It's like, when they found themselves in a place were they couldn't get from scene 'A' to scene 'B', they just dropped in a scene missing piece and skipped to the next part with no rhyme or reason. My biggest beef may be the use of 5.1 digital surround sound. Um, no people. Old Grindhouse palaces were lucky if the center mono speaker worked properly. There was no surround sound for those films.
My Breakdown of the film?
The MACHETE trailer was great. How the hell did they cull all those Adolph Caesar soundbites for that narration?
PLANET TERROR was pretty much self serving crap. Too many winks at the audience; too many film imperfections. I'm 38 years old and I remember a lot of the original films they paid homage to. Those films didn't look like that then. They do NOW, but not then. Also, it wasn't a very Grindhouse type film. Rodriguez is too Mexican-centric. Yeah, he's Mexican, but he can do other types of films, right? PLANET TERROR should have been aping Italian productions like "Cannibal Apocalypse" and "Nightmare City" than whatever the hell he was trying to do. The whole Strippers, Guns, Undead Things, etc... is as big a yawn for me as it was 5 minutes after FROM DUSK TILL DAWN ended.
Thank God for Josh Brolin, though. He's looking more like his dad every day and he was the only saving grace for me in that film (though, Bruce Willis made for a nice John Saxon stand in). Stacy Ferguson was a delightful surprise. She was actually attractive and sexy here and her short scenes were well acted. I wish I could say the same for Rose McGowan. OK, I'll say it. She's terrible. She's an enormously untalented actress and she never found the right tone for the character. Her dialogue was contrived and poorly written to begin with. It would have taken an actress five times her talent to deliver them properly and she ain't that actress. Marley Shelton was a lot better as Josh Brolin's character's wife. She had the right tone, even when carrying her dead son around. Which brings me to a problem.
There is a scene where her son shoots himself with a revolver. This scene sent two people in the theatre into absolute hysterics. Can someone tell my why this is funny? Please? I mean a proper answer. Not just, "It WAS funny!" or "it was funny because it was shocking!" Those answers are not acceptable. If you laughed at that scene, stop reading this now and go away forever... and kill yourself just so you can understand how funny it is (maybe then I'll get the joke).
All in all, it was overkill. Too gory, to gooey, too self aware, too in love with itself... too too much. My advice, come to GRINDHOUSE 80 minutes late, 'cause it gets better from here.
THE INTERMISSION TRAILERS... Rob Zombie's Werewolves vs. Nazis trailer, "Werewolves of the S S" was a bit obnoxious (Nick Cage? C'mon!). Why doesn't he just admit he wants to be Johnny Legend? Edgar Wright's "Don't" was brilliant: Just everything an American trailer for a British film should have been (and was!). The Nick Frost cameo had me rolling. Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving" will be the most remembered, but it's not the best one, just the most in your face shocking.
DEATH PROOF was, aside from being too talky, pretty astounding considering I hate most of Tarantino's work (I think his only great film was JACKIE BROWN). I was amazed at how much I liked it. It wasn't the second coming, mind you; it wasn't even Grindhouse material... it was pure drive in; but it was everything it should have been. The movie had me immediately when the opening (retitled) credits were set to Jack Nitzsche's "The Last Race". The soundtrack is awesome, though that in itself is a problem: No film like that would ever be able to afford a soundtrack like that.
I love Zoe Bell now. She isn't stunningly beautiful, but she's quite attractive. That is, she does have a quiet star quality. Kurt Russell was really fun to watch. It's really amazing that, when you see him in action, you start to wonder where the hell he's been? He needs to make more movies like this. Rosario Dawson, my love, is totally wasted here. There's just no reason for her presence. Sorry, hon. I love ya, but try for some roles with meat in the future. Tracey Thoms was quite delicious as Zoe's sidekick (Tracey, if you're reading... I'm single. Marry me and you only have to change the last letter of your name. Call me. I'm waiting).
Yes, the film was very Tarantino with long winded stretches of dialogue (mind you this portion of the film was only 80 minutes) so as to mask the fact that there is no real plot to speak of. Still, the scene at the dinner table where the girls talk about a bunch of films that I personally grew up on gave me a warm feeling. The Tarantino / Rodreguez hounds won't understand (I doubt they'd ever heard of "Vanishing Point", "White Line Fever", "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" and "Big Wednesday" until this film), but it made me smile. The car chase sequences are all done for real and it shows. They are very impressive. The only thing really missing from Death Proof is an ending. It just ends. It really needed a wraparound.
All in all I liked it I guess, but I think the most impressive, smile inducing part was the Film Leader Queens tribute during the end credits. Only people who handle film would get that one so I won't explain it. Some things just need to be kept between us film hounds.