Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bumping... and Grinding.

Having grown up in the New England sticks, I never had the chance to see proper "grindhouse" cinema in its legendary habitat. Oh sure, the Union Theater in Attleboro had a certain low-rent squalor and the Plainville Drive-In would occasionally show an awkward double feature along the lines of The Rescuers and Porky's -- but there were no real experiences to be had of this type in my formative moviegoing years. The Home Video wars (that is, VHS versus Beta) finished fairly quickly and many of the exploitation world's finest offerings began spilling into living rooms across the country in their hard plastic shells labeled "be kind, rewind." Of course, my film interests were more middle of the road back then (Spielberg, John Hughes and the like) but I'd grab the occasional Cannon Films or Vestron Video offering to mix things up a bit. I say this because I feel... well... saddened and dismayed that I missed out on what many would consider the true and proper Grindhouse Experience.

Which is probably just one of the reasons I enjoyed the new Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino film, Grindhouse... and why it's such an important movie for this particular generation at this particular time. Grindhouse isn't just a slick, thoughtful, bloody, twisted, hilarious and exciting movie. It could serve as a torchlight illuminating the genre and could lead the viewer to seek out and experience the films it pays homage to -- and is therefore better bang-for-the-buck movie goodness than anything released in quite some time. The youth of today are being lulled into a safe, green, motion picture pasture in which there's a computer-animated talking or singing animal movie being released pretty much every week on some format or another. These people could use a wake-up call -- and a film that features Disney's "Captain Ron" driving a black, crossboned, high-octane deathbeast over someone's face might just be what they need.

Rodriguez's Planet Terror is pitch perfect, if a little too highly competently made -- few zombie/action flicks of the old days are this smartly paced, sleekly sexual, self-aware or technically polished -- and Rose McGowan earns her new star status with humor and intensity. Tarantino's Death Proof achieves a neat trick with its indulgently lengthy set-up by delivering a visceral and hysterical punchline while giving Kurt Russell his best role in decades and delivering actress/stuntperson Zoe Bell into the hearts and fantasies of audiences everywhere. The icing on the cake is/are the "fake trailers" that appear throughout the film from the likes of Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright. Hell, I could've watched ninety minutes of them, if they were all as good as Don't! and Machete. One can only hope that even a few theaters and cinema pubs across America will take a cue from the film and start programming similar double features in the spirit of recapturing the craziness and abandon of these howling, insane, often so-bad-they're-beautiful works of art. C'mon, people. Do it... for the kids.

I caught Grindhouse at the Boston sneak on Thursday night with a few hundred screaming movie fans; the type that will happily stay up until after 3:00am on a weeknight -- and just as happily go into work and/or school, bleary-eyed and sleep deprived the next morning -- if a good cinema experience is to be had the night before. And ever since then, whenever I found myself talking to someone at work or around the apartment, I'd find myself asking them a couple of quick questions.

"What are you doing here, right now?"
"Why aren't you at the movies right now seeing Grindhouse?"
And... "Are you a movie fan or not?"

Theatrical Reviews:
Grindhouse ****
Hot Fuzz ****
Roman ***1/2
300 ***

Home Video:
Masters Of Horror: Cigarette Burns: ***1/2
Masters Of Horror: Sick Girl: ***
Wild Side (1995) ***
The Dangerous Brothers/World Of Danger (UK, 1991) ***
Cross My Heart (1987) ***
Hellboy: Sword Of Storms **1/2


DanielLee said...

I am having such a hard time understanding why Death Proof came off so good to people.

Do you really think it was that good?

Just curious. :)

--mcc said...

I did, indeed. Granted, when I eventually watch it on DVD I might be tempted to hit the fast forward button... But I do appreciate what QT was doing in terms of narrative.
Lots of set-up and two great punch lines. :)


millionsuns said...

Hey man, just saw it last night. My overall opinion was that it was...boring as hell!

Planet Terror was decent, but was clearly expensive to shoot, making me wonder why they were selling it as an example of grindhouse cinema. Was looking forward to seeing some awful effects and horrible acting, but since Rodrguez's forte is to take a meager budget and blow your mind, it seemed like he was incapable of really stretching his muscles to make something purposefully awful.

Totally agree with you re: the trailers. They were awesome.

The last 15-20 minutes of Death Proof were f-ing fantastic, but it wasn't worth having to listen to Tarantino's dull-as-dogshit dialogue for an hour beforehand.

After listening to the first batch of characters prattle on for 5 minutes about nothing interesting or funny, I decided to take a pee break. I came back after 5 minutes and they were still talking about nothing...for 20 more minutes! I swear, QT's appreciation for his own dialogue has grown in direct proportion to its quality in the last 10 years.

But that's just me. Can't wait to discuss in person.