Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oh My Goodness

In Review: Grindhouse (2007)

I decided that I wanted to see Grindhouse for two reasons (after initially not knowing what to make of the poster). First off, I like to support creative efforts to expose a mass audience to forgotten or perhaps dis reputed sub-genera's of film, and Sergio Leoni and the Infield Fly Rule got me excited about exploring this type of filmmaking. Secondly, I wanted to see Rose McGowen with a machine gun strapped to her partly amputated leg blasting zombie solders lead by Bruce Willis. In addition to all this you get some fun send up trailers, Machete, Werewolf Women of the S.S., Don't, and clever plays on genera conventions such as reuse of many of the same performers, and a recurring gage of reels gone missing at convenient points in the story line (i.e., sex scenes). But Grindhouse isn't really one film, it's two and I'd like to discuss each of them briefly:

Movie: Planet Terror (2007)
Setting: Rural Texas, Mexico; contemporary

The overarching plot device of planet terror is that of a zombie movie. In this case the zombie faction is accomplished by way of a gas, a biological weapon developed by a scientist/illicit business man with a decidedly nasty hang up about taking a certain male body part as a trophy from his enemies. Anyway this gas is captured and released by a group of wronged military men, as part of roundabout effort to find a cure for the effects it had on them when exposed in Afghanistan. This however is just the gimmick of the story, the story itself is actually a number of stories, the primary one being that of former lovers Rose McGown (a Go-Go Dancer), and the wonderful Freddy Rodriguez (a wreckage hauler with a secret past). These two reunite as they attempt to save them selves and a handful of apparently immune survivors (who the solders I guess want to use to find a cure) from the bloated, boil covered cannibals. Another notable plot concerns Marley Shelton (who is not Anna Faris), a doctor trying to run away with her lesbian lover from her sadistic doctor husband, played by Josh Brolin who gives one of the movies most intriguing performances in only about a dozen minutes of screen time. While this film is suppose to look like B grade type stuff, it is a finely done homage that pays off on every little thing it introduces. The better of the two films.

Movie: Death Proof (2007)
Setting: Austin Texas, rural Tennessee; contemporary

The second feature itself is like two movies in one, the first half being slow, atmospheric and talkie, the second being less slow, but also talkie, and containing two really cool extended car battles, which is what you'll end up remembering most about it. Kurt Russell is just hands down great as the at first seemingly charming yet ultimately disaffected former Stuntman Mike ("I was Robert Urich's driving double on the third season of Vega$, then Bob did another show called Gavilan and he took me with him"). The first sequence in which Mike stalks and kills a group of young women, anchored by the strangely appealing Vanessa Ferlito, becomes almost hypnotic in its slow passed living-in-the-movie sensibilities. The group stalked in the second part of the movie, headed by Rosario Dawson, is less appealing; however they do get into some really wild games of chicken with Russell, who provides the topper to movie by showing his demented crazy man to be in fact a complete and total cry-baby (delicious scene in which he attempts to tend to a gunshot wound in his car). While this does in fact constitute my first Tarantino flick, I am aware of his propensity to certain degree of self-indulgence, which is on display here (he even casts himself in bit roles in both films, as a bar owner in Proof, and an infected solder in Terror), however when the very concept of your double feature is self indulgence, I say go for it. In the end Grindhouse is event viewing, the type of which where unlikely to see again soon given its lack-luster box office performance thus far. It's sure to be a cult hit though.

Factoid: Marley Shelton's character of Doctor Dakota Block is one of several to appear in both movies.


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