Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Pulp Fiction - The Grindhouse

I was able to catch the complete version of "The Grindhouse" thanks to a free preview weekend. I had missed this in the theatres and had heard that the two films of this double feature had be released separately on DVD. So when the opportunity presented itself to see both films the way they were presented in the theater, I jumped at the chance. What I ended up seeing where two movies that gleefully dove into a world of over the top violence, exploitation, and just plain stupid grin movie making.

The first film, "Planet Terror" is your basic zombie film. You've got a group of survivors battling their way out of the zombie infested world using various guns, explosives and makeshift weapons. What makes it any different? I goes out of its way to make you feel like you are watching a beat up old 70's flick, with bad acting, bad dialogue, ultra-violence and completely ridiculous circumstances. The characters here aren't really well rounded, but all of them are big. Why have just a plain old go-go dancer when you can have one that loses her leg and gets it replaced with a rocket launching machine gun? Yeah I cant' think of a good answer to that either. Director Robert Rodriguez is obviously having fun pushing things as far as he wants and then pushing a little more. This is a bad movie, but one that knows it and quite frankly wants to be bad. You're supposed to enjoy it because it is so ridiculous and stupid.

I really enjoyed it, but I was in the right frame of mind. I could easily see this film coming across as too self conscious and having most of the fun drained out of it, because the director feels he is so damn clever to have thought this up. My argument would be that the pervading tone of the film was just one of pure entertainment - nothing deep, just a grimy, gory, and stupid good time.

The second film, "Death Proof" takes a slightly different path. It wears its exploitation roots on it's sleeve, but attempts to make a solid movie within the confines of a low budget look. It's directed for Quentin Tarantino, so you know what you're in for. The story revolves around two sets of the girls. The first group gets together at a local bar and run into a gent who goes by the name of Stuntman Mike (played perfectly by Kurt Russell looking every bit the like the burnt out stuntman). Mike seems to take a liking to the girls, but they ignore him as the old timer who is more fun to flirt with, but not go much further. Well Mike does want to go further, much further. When he get's behind the wheel of his heavily modified "death proof" car, he shows the girls how much he does like them.

The second set of girls seems to be getting set up the same way, but the only trick is that Stuntman Mike might have just met his match. These girls all work in the movie industry and two of them are professional stuntwomen. As he escalates his little game, the girls start giving back as good as they get - and now Mike's found the tables turned on him. Just how far are these girls going to go to show him what happens when you mess with a stuntwoman?

What's interesting about this movie is that it's about 90 minutes long, but feels like it drags in the beginning. Some of it is Tarantino's typical dialogue. If you like his style, then you'll love this part. If you think he gets bouts of verbal diarrhea, well the first half of the film really suffers from it. I fall in the middle. I think I see what he was doing with this section. He sets up Stuntman Mike and his preoccupation with the first half. This creates some serious suspense in the second half. Part of it might be the girl’s characters in the first half aren't as interesting as the girls in the second half. Either way, once the second half kicks in with it's car on car mayhem, you'll find yourself sitting closer and closer to the edge of your seat. The ending is fitting and segues into the typical great closing song over a Tarantino movie's credits.

In the end, I found both films to be a trashy good time. They had a similar feel, but were different enough to make it a nice evening of pulpy entertainment. If anything Rodriguez and Tarantino are very well versed in this type of film making and enjoy it as well. I also think that Rose McGowan has found her niche. She's really good in these movies (I'm not typically a fan of hers). If only we could keep Tarantino off the screen. He appears in both movies and his "acting" is so distracting that I kept wishing he'd wander off screen and get lost.

It's tough to make trashy movies well. Most good trashy movies weren't trying to be trashy and stupid and just ended up that way. But that’s the topic of another blog…

Did you see either film in the “Grindhouse” collection? Did you like one over the other? Did you see them together or apart? What do you think of “trashy” movies?

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