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Grindhouse (2007) * Top Pick *

Grindhouse Double Feature - Now that's worth the dollar
Grindhouse Double Feature - Now that's worth the dollar

Genre: Apocalyptic Zombie Exploitation Action Horror Sci-Fi Thriller!!!

Starring: Planet Terror: Rose McGowan (The Doom Generation; Scream), Freddy Rodríguez ("Six Feet Under"; Dead Presidents

Death Proof: Kurt Russell (Big Trouble in Little China; Tombstone), Rosario Dawson (Kids; Sin City)

Direction:
Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez 
Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino

Special trailer segments by Eli Roth, Edgar Wright and Rob Zombie

Overview: Rodriguez presents Planet Terror: A small town falls victim to an infectious gas that turns them into flesh-hungry monsters. 
Tarantino presents Death Proof: A stunt man becomes intrigued with a group of ladies out on the town, turning into a thrill ride of terror!!! 
Both these films and MORE are brought to us in the old tradition of the Grindhouse Double Feature!

Performance:

The character of Mr. Brown in Reservoir Dogs, as you may well know, was played by Quentin Tarantino.   The very awesome introductory monologue was an equally telling prologue to a man who hit the scene like a fireball, and quickly created a niche for the turning Hollywood happenin' scene, if not the Pop Culture Universe, if I do say so myself.  Since then, the roles played by Quentin have begun unfolding themselves into an all too obvious sameness. Whether it be Four Rooms"Alias" or Planet Terror, his characters are always cocky, monologuey, and all too full of themselves.  I gotta tell ya Quint, you need to stop acting. Your direction and vision are solid, your casting choices are perfect. The only reason I'm telling you is because I love.

Kurt Russell is fantastic in Death Proof: over-smooth, over-zealous overacting that you know took take after take to get just right. The nicest surprise I was left with however was a stuntwoman new on the acting scene, the New Zealander, Zoe Bell.  I hope she goes far, her potential is certainly there.

The most joyous casting treasures of the past can be found in Planet Terror, with such wonderfully familiar faces as Dawn Of The Dead's Tom Savini (who played Blades, the biker leader), and Michael Biehn, who played Kyle Reese in The Terminator (not to diminish the incredible performances of Bruce Willis and Freddy Rodríguez).
Rating: 9

Hot legs!

Cinematography:

As one can see from the dangerous yet leggy shot above, there's no doubt that the world of CGI is at a place where we are no longer impressed by the special effects.  It's so seamless that we just plain ignore the fantastic work, asking instead "how does she manages to fire her gun-leg it by sheer force of will?" I was most impressed by Planet Terror's pulsing, bubbling infected flesh on the zombies... oh it's beautiful.

In Death Proof, Quentin flips it around and takes it down a notch, making creative use of classic stunts and high-speed car chases to elevate his film into our memories, all while keeping his well-known healthy dollop of the 70s style apparent.
Rating: 9

Hot Diggety Dawg!

Script:

I don't know what futuristic utopia you live in, but in the world I live in, a bitch need a gun. - Death Proof

Wray: Would you quit crying over fucking spilt milk?
Cherry: I have no leg! - Planet Terror

In Grindhouse, we're graced with the genres of Action Horror (Planet Terror) and Grrrl Power (Death Proof), ages-old champions of the low-budget film house.

Grrrl Power films tout women as the strong independent creatures they are, and in this case, the man is quite the interesting antagonist. Dialogue in such a film is more about the everyday, stories of how last night went, dares and chicky banter. A little fluffy, the focus is never on deep wisdoms.  When you think of simple time-filling stuff that's meant to bring enough dimension to the characters while preparing for the danger, well Quentin nails the style down.  I can see why people would say this is the weaker of the two films, as the beginning is indeed a lot of the common, though it does tribute its roots quite well.  Add the zing of Tarantino-style Black Mama talk and other enjoyable exchanges, and you'll find yourself nodding approvingly, if occasionally it seems all too much.

Planet Terror sports much of the typical banter of its genre as well, but the originality, the character depth and the dynamic between Wray and Cherry is indeed something above and beyond what would be expected from such a production.
Rating: 8

Plot:

Planet Terror is a zombie movie that isn't really about zombies, just like 28 Days Later was...n't.  The story revolves around a contagion, a black market deal gone wrong and more social commentary than you'd expect.  From stabs at Gulf War Syndrome and al Qaeda to American firearms safety and video-game culture, there's enough extra stuff for it to be more than just a story about survival. Death Proof, on the other hand has a very simple story with a lot of filler: man hits on chicks, chicks find danger, chicks deal. 

Two very differently paced stories that are more about fun than lessons, unless that lesson is a contemporary refresher in disco-era film studies... not a bad elective at all...
Rating: 9

"Baby you can drive my car." "Beep-beep? Beep-beep?" "Yeah."
"Baby you can drive my car."
"Beep-beep? Beep-beep?"
"Yeah."

Mood:

Yes, Grindhouse is sharply pointed at a very specific demographic.  The older exploitation film house and Drive-In crowds will get it, others may not. I may have been just a tad too young to truly grok the perfectly conveyed essence of such venues, but having seen many (so many!) of the trashy film styles Grindhouse embraces, well it makes all those misspent hours worth it.  It taps into what we once were and makes us laugh at it, all while genuinely appreciating the tales on their own merit. 

What sets these films apart from any other of its kind is The Package.  We're immersed into the experience of being in an old-school, low-budget independent theater.  We open with an early 70s preview screen while scratchy audio plays, then are presented with a laughable film preview, Machete (which has actually gone into production, ironically enough).  From there, the first feature, Planet Terror, is marred by sound skips and starts, scratches and dust in the 'print', a scene where two minutes of the reel was spliced off, leaving us to forever wonder what happened in that integral character building revelation.  Later there's a scene where the reels gets caught in the projector, burns, is replaced with an apology from the management then skips to the next reel, easily 20 minutes later, with many a question hysterically unanswered.

Next is our intermission with shots of food from the lobby, then some really, really cheesy trailers (many of which are getting more press than the films themselves).  We then jump right into Death Proof, also with scratches, sound dubbing problems, missing reels and a climactic ending perfect for the budget it embraces. It's genius.
Rating: 10

As if you need more reasons...
As if you need more reasons...

Overall Rating: 90% (Get Back To The Nostalgic Grind)
Aftertaste:

I have no qualms in declaring Quentin Tarantino as one of my favourite directors.  I have no shame in declaring Tarantino as one of the Superheroes of Cinematic Advancement while staying deeply rooted in the nostalgia that brought him to where he is as he brings us along for the ride. What is most important about this man's films, whether or not they're good, (sorry Foxy Brown) is how he manages to convey the importance of the past into the present. 

I long ago realized the importance of 'synaptic burn-in' as I call it (seems I actually coined it according to Google...). It's why certain songs always make you feel good, no matter what your mood or where you are, it's a way of digging into what your brain already knows and causing a spark to unleash that happy memory. Tarantino does it constantly. Some call it borrowing, some go so far as calling it outright theft. I call it a warm fuzzy blanket.

I used to think that Rodriguez was dragging Tarantino down.  It's pretty clear these guys are best friends joined at the hip now, and I mourned the possibility that the director of such overblown toilet as Desperado and Once Upon A Time In Mexico would suck all creativity out of Quentin and leave him nothing more than an explosion-loving two-dimensional writer. 

I can safely say today that their union is one of great promise, as they're both sharpening their craft on one another.

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