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Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 6:36 pm
by wpqx
Well sometimes you wonder what all those old fashioned exploitation films would be like if they were directed by a-list directors with a-list budgets. How much better would Last House on the Left had been, or Vanishing Point? Well we get a chance to see with this Rodriguez-Tarantino double feature that very directly calls to mind those previous films. Rodriguez' romp through zombie lore is an orgy of blood and guts and everything that could be construed as bad taste. Tarantino draws direct homage and loads his film with music, tv shows, and numerous references to films of the present. Despite the presence of classic muscle cars, juke boxes that play 45s, and exploitation movie posters around these films are still oddly set in the present.

Direct reference is made to issues of the day, and everybody seems to have a cell phone. Tarantino's nostalgia fest was the preferred film for the females I saw the movie with, and I wasn't too surprised. It is in the vein of not just classic car movies like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry or Vanishing Point, but has all the neo-girl power of Caged Heat. It is a victim turned revenge story, with the prey becoming the predators. Tarantino's move in this film is somewhat novel if not completely original. Like the protaganists in Last House on the Left, Tarantino's film has you firmly established with one set group of female friends, only to shift the eyes of the protaganists two more times. From this group, we enter the eyes of Stunt Man Mike (Kurt Russell) who brings all the nostalgic appeal one would expect from the actor. He looks like Evel Kenevil, but Russell himself makes you recall its own nostalgic appeal. The last group of girls, soon chase him, and this once menacing villain becomes in essence a "crying bitch".

The dialogue in Tarantino's film feels a little forced at times, and although still somewhat clever, I couldn't help but feel like it was written. There were moments of insightful delivery when two guys are talking about buying girls shots of Jager and one says "As long as a guy is buying the drink, a bitch will drink anything." Most of the female dialogue though sounded like Tarantino was speaking through them. The film does pack a genuine amount of thrills, and impractical ending makes it so in tune with the films of the time. I enjoyed how both films had a "missing reel" that copped out on what could have been the interesting sex scene, providing a frustrated laugh from the audience.

Rodriguez' film however is a staggering orgy of blood that is absolutely perfect. A cast of everyone you know, loose morals, and so many novel ways of killing people, including a decapitating helicopter, dismembering, kung fu style knife fights, and Tom "mutherfucking" Savini. This film looked like tons of fun, as a mysterious chemical agent is released making zombies of those exposed. Freddy Rodriguez although something of a surprise hero, turns out to be a new kind of action star. A little guy, who's incredibly adept at killing, and winds up being the dominant hero. Some of the dialogue in this film is so corny but so deliciously clever as well, with lines like "I never miss", and "Just reach up" coming back in tacky yet cool ways. This is the type of gore fest that doesn't take itself anywhere close to seriously and therefore is a joy. The mock trailers thrown in the mix like "Don't", "Machete", and "Werewolf Women of the SS" make me wish that these pictures actually would get made. Of course looking at the films being parodied, they pretty much were made before. Even if it was a fake preview, how can you not laugh at Cheech Marin in a priest outfit shooting someone in the face with a shotgun? This is a gorefest romp that should be seen by all. Now hopefully I'll have a chance this week to indulge in many gory slopsticle fests.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 5:22 am
by justindeimen

As if the Hollywood machine and its swelling budgets needed any more directors to help celebrate its arrested development and self-satisfied ostentation, two of its biggest perpetuators in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez joined up in a mega production called Grindhouse, a double feature that included Tarantinos Death Proof and Rodriguezs Planet Terror, with each film envisaged as contemporary variations of the 70s genre grind-house, a culmination of horror, sex, gore and cheap thrills that piled on as much as it could in its abbreviated runtimes that all stemmed from the misunderstood school of exploitation cinema.

Now, from a prima facie viewpoint, there is something fundamentally ridiculous and witless about spending close to a US$100 million on a film style that was supposed to be cheap, guerilla filmmaking. But with Tarantinos and his leading stylistic impressionist on board, it ended up becoming a if you got clout, flout it sort of enterprise.

With the onus squarely set on the duo, much was being made of the ambitiously puerile simulation of a genre borne out of contempt for Hollywoods status quo. So even while the possibilities attracted a great deal of fanfare before the films opening, and when push came to shove, Grindhouse failed at the box-office with studio executives citing the extended runtime and debated whether audiences were apparently ready for such a project, all backtracking with tails between their legs it has to be said. Fortunately for the studio, its misfortune was limited to its domestic prospect and a decision was publicly made to release each film separately with additional footage. And so we have Death Proof, Tarantinos killer-on-the-prowl pseudo-homage to the muscle car road ragers from the 70s.

Referential, post-modern filmmaking while becoming a patronising fanboy directors crutch, has been handed another layer of conceit by Tarantino who is arguably the most established trendsetter in this particular area of creating exaggerated pop-culture universes, a trait that hit its creative peak in Kill Bill: Volume 1 with a celebratory pastiche of high art and just as easily hit its nadir in Kill Bill: Volume 2 when it started to annotate its own artistic debts by stretching for self-reflexive intelligence.

In his truest follow-up in Death Proof (marketing karma perhaps after the painful splitting of Kill Bill), he carelessly flirts with the sweet spot just between silly hyperbolic kitsch and an essential recreation of the genres milieu and irreverence. Theres a certain symmetry to the chaos that Tarantino whips up with his palette pointedly set on deconstructing the genre from within that at times recalls his best work and also his worst, which possibly derives from the inevitable indecision of presenting a grandiose homage or a modernised renovation of his frisson soaked inspiration.

From an intellectual standpoint, Death Proof attains its grind-house stripes. Being visually confident enough to stage some balls-to-the-walls stunts and setpieces that never really sustains itself, it has an aesthetically opulent style that keeps the screen constantly busy. Ultimately, it offers up some entertaining schlock (and considering its budget and pedigree, Id expect nothing less) that lacks any durable depth. But from an instinctive point of view, Death Proof is much too slick and polished and contradictory to recreate the sort of anti-establishment impertinence its predecessors professed by simply existing to get the piece of the pie, no matter how small.

What Tarantino achieves on his own when he does not simply amalgamate the tropes hes come to love is his distinctive style of dialogue that holds no pretenses and is always direct to the point with a purpose of building his characters (especially gorgeous cardboard cut-out femmes who he expects us not to take seriously at first glance) with an action speaks louder than words ethos. This is an important aspect to discern because it makes this film less a straight up homage and more like a Tarantino grind-house lovefest, even to the point of showing congenial originality and a personal touch despite its many throwaway resemblances to films of yore.

But above all the thematic gambits, Tarantinos bulls eye as a director was to not wrangle in Kurt Russells emphatic performance as Stuntman Mike, a psychotic boogeyman in an indestructibly menacing muscle car whose cat-and-mouse games continue on with Tarantinos harem of Midwest beauties. Russell does leave a lasting impression for many reasons, and is on the level of Uma Thurmans turn as The Bride in Kill Bill so its just unfortunate theres not too much else to get excited about when its just not invested enough for a truly memorable revision of cult cinema.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 11:25 pm
by R6dw6C
Just saw Rodriguez' segment "Planet terror" at the cinema (both films were seperated in germany) a few days ago and was almost angry. The Weinstein brothers seem to be more wise than I thought because the original "Grindhouse" starts with "Planet Terror". It is faster, louder, bloodier - but it's not a really great movie as "Death Proof" was. Just a long, bloody Line of attractions put together. And it definitely looks like an expensive Hollywood-Feature and not like a 70ies Exploitation Film, no matter how many scratches are on the screen. All in all, it was sometimes really dumb and boring - "Death Proof" wasn`t. I know that this is unfair but I just tried to imagine myself seeing both films together with the trailers as they were shown this way originally. "Planet Terror" lost the game. It was funny and slightly satiric at some moments but not intelligent nor really entertaining. A good movie should be both. Maybe, the bad german synchronization (I had no choice as I visited a preview) gave it the rest.
6 out of 10.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:41 am
by wpqx
That sucks, I thought Planet Terror was by far the better film, found it immensely enjoyable, entertaining, and very clever. Tarantino's talk fest seemed better suited to My Dinner With Andre then a grindhouse film. Unfortunately it appears as though the DVD's for these two films are going to be released separately here in the US, which pisses me off, and I can only hope the inevitable "special edition" puts them together again.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:20 pm
by arsaib4
wpqx: could you please add Death Proof and, possibly, Planet Terror to the thread title. (No need to worry about the directors.) Thanks.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 4:24 pm
by R6dw6C
Your thoughts about "Planet Terror" are really interesting (since unexpected), wpqx! I'd really love to have a little argument about the film!

Two years ago I though Rodriguez to be a better and more interesting director than Tarantino but that was, of course, a big mistake. In my german review, I compared "Planet Terror" to the films of Michael Bay which I don't like for almost the same reasons - only attractions and action, almost no substance or dramaturgy. "Sin City" was probably one of the best efforts to new wave of graphic novel adaptions but in "Planet Terror", Rodriguez seemed helpless without having Tarantino, Frank Miller or somebody else behind him. I haven't seen "El Mariachi" so far, maybe I should do that soon.

It seems logical to enjoy "Planet Terror" more than "Death Proof" and I can understand your point of view (and most people obviously felt the same).

It would be interesting if the longer, Cannes-Version of "Death Proof" (the isolated theatrical version running 113 Minutes) would please you more. But probably you would dislike it even more - because there has been added MORE of the forced, ultra-cool Dialogue.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 5:44 pm
by wpqx
Maybe I'm just partial to zombie films, and rarely do you see one on that type of scale.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:03 am
by R6dw6C
Well, that's true but there are so many better Zombie films... I guess you love Romero, don't you?

And that "type of scale" doesn't fit well in this subgenre if you ask me - a zombie film has to be "independent" and not 25 Million Dollar-heavy. Everytime I remember Zack Snyders awful remake of "Dawn of the dead" I could vomit...

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:23 am
by wpqx
Didn't see the remake I have a moral objection to all horror film remakes.

Your argument that zombie films should be low scale independent features defeats your argument that horror and cult directors don't get industry respect, which is primarily because they don't get industry money. The whole point of Grindhouse may have been lost in the excessive budget, but the films were supposed to be entertaining throwbacks, and I think they were. You also can't get more do-it-yourself than Robert Rodriguez.

Re: Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2007 11:43 pm
by arsaib4
U.S. DVD Release Dates:

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof - Sep 18th

Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror - Oct 16th