Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Stacy Ferguson, Nicky Katt, Tom Savini, Carlos Gallardo, Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Eli Roth, Danny Trejo, Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, Sydney Tamiia Poitier
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie
Dreamworks - Official Site of the Movie
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Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have teamed together again. This time to bring us the ultimate movie experience with Grindhouse, a throw back to the dilapidated run down theaters that would show double features of poorly made films featuring sex, violence, and gore that were too intense for the mainstream audiences. Like most of the 18 to 30-year-old target audience, I’m too young to have experienced the true Grindhouses of that era. I have watched a fair share of these films on DVD, but the closest I’ve come to the actual theater experience is probably dollar theaters or midnight screenings of Rocky Horror. I’m sure it’s not even close to being the same thing, but I’m happy to say my young years and inexperience with the genre had no affect on my pure enjoyment of the movie. The two directors have managed to put together an exhilarating and outrageous, unique night at the movies
The first installment, Planet Terror from Rodriguez, is damn near perfect. I loved it from start to finish and was only upset with it when I thought it was closing in on an ending. Thankfully this story about the survivors of an airborne zombie infection goes on for the appropriate more than satisfying amount of time. When I say that it’s "damn near perfect" you have to remember that because of the nature of the kind of movie experience they're trying to create, things like plot holes and bad acting only make the movie better. Had some over-the-top line deliveries or fuzzy 911 back-story been part of a "real" movie, Planet Terror would not have hit the same note. But because its part of the Grindhouse, I openly welcome machine gun legs, syringe launchers and the next generations Snake Plissken bucking down zombies while riding a mini bike. It actually makes the movie better.
Freddy Rodriguez who stars in Planet Terror as the mysterious Wray is truly the B-movie action star that young movie fans have been waiting for. So much so that I’m secretly hoping for a prequel for the character that sheds a little light on how he became the badass sharpshooter he is today. If Rodriguez weren’t teasing us with the possibility of a full-length movie for one of the four fake trailers featured in Grindhouse, Machete, I would want him to focus the great momentum he’s got going on another Wray project. But Danny Trejo hurling knives at people and telling them, “They messed with the wrong fucking Mexican.” Is a very welcome alternative.
Actually if all I ever get for any of the characters in Planet Terror is this non-stop gorefest, I can die a content man. Robert Rodriguez has delivered a true event that is distinctive and refreshing in comparison to not only his past work but also to traditional Grindhouse movies as well. If those movies had been nearly this entertaining they would have become mainstream.
When it comes time for Tarantino to do his thing I’m a little less enthusiastic about the final result, a movie about a road raging madman that sets his sites on two groups of beautiful young women in Death Proof. It’s not really fair to compare it to Planet Terror, a film that borderline spoofs Grindhouse movies where as Death Proof tries to create a new experience inspired by those films. It's more of a character movie but less of a complete story from start to finish than Rodriguez’ half. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing necessarily. Death Proof is disjointed and incomplete but that lends itself very well to the Grindhouse atmosphere. And part of me expected this deep characterization from Tarantino’s script, but as it is - you're waiting for the car. You're waiting for Russell. And all the hot girls in the world talking candidly about sex, muscle cars, and old movies in Tarantino wip-smart speak isn't going to cover up the fact that you've been sitting in a theater for an hour and 45 minutes, and it just doesn't deliver.
Without being part of the Grindhouse I don't think Death Proof holds its own as a complete movie experience. It doesn’t have the traditional beginning middle and end you’d expect from a normal story. It has plenty of great things going on, but after all that time in the theater, it's damn near impossible to sit through without wondering when they're going to get to it. And I counted 7 people that decided walking out was more important than waiting around to find out what a maniac and his car were going to do next. I heard a rumor this morning that Tarantino is looking to add footage to Death Proof to submit to Cannes later this spring. Could be pretty cool, but if what’s in Grindhouse is trimmed and to the point, I don’t know if I want to see something that’s more fleshed out.
For me the most disappointing thing about Death Proof is not the waiting game, but how they built up a character only to knock him down. (Mild spoilers ahead.) In the first half of this segment, Kurt Russell’s character Stuntman Mike is established as an evil badass in every sense of the word. What he does to those 5 girls is sick and twisted and an iconic character is created the second he flips those headlights on.
In part two Stuntman Mike becomes a weepy bitch when the tables are turned on him. Like a bully that gets a taste of his own medicine we see this potentially great, legendary movie villain erased before our eyes as girl power wins out. To be fair, the audience ate it up. Cheering and applauding as Russell has his break down and the girls show him what true terror is. And I applauded right along with them. It was entertaining and funny, but in the back of my head I knew that this was the beginning and end of a character that could have been recognized for years as one our greatest heavies ever. Grand opening, grand closing. Down goes Stuntman Mike.
It just hurts after the similar characters Tarantino created in Mr. Blonde or Vincent Vega who managed to get taken out with a little dignity. Ok, Vincent hit the floor before his toilet completely flushed, but he was still a badass motherfucker.
The truth is I would love to see Death Proof with fresh eyes. I think the benefit of seeing it without having already been in the theater so long will really make the good qualities of this half of the film pop out. I think I’d even be able to appreciate the full arc of Stuntman Mike for what it is instead of what I would’ve liked it to be.
For everything it doesn’t deliver, Death Proof does offer plenty of great things to behold. Besides the extended car chases and gruesomely disturbing crash, Tarantino has assembled a gorgeous and hysterical list of ladies to speak his words. Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead Sydney Tamiia Poitier, and Zoe Bell, as herself, give Russell (and the rest of us) something to admire and fixate on.
Bell won the role after playing Uma Thurman’s stunt double in Kill Bill where Tarantino thought her personality would translate well to screen. The extra added bonus is that she can do her own stunts, so every second of the car chase, you can tell it’s her strapped to the hood. There’s something to be said for being able to see your lead actresses face, the speeding ground below her, and ever angle of the car that insures you there’s no tricks. No magic. Just a woman clinging to life. So with all the waiting, we’re not walking away completely empty handed.
There’s so much awesome going on from start to finish in Grindhouse that by the time you leave the theater you won’t be able to process it all. You’ll forget that Naveen Andrews’ character collected the trestles of his victims in a glass jar of formaldehyde. A character trait so uncanny that it would standout like a sore thumb in any other movie, but gets buried under the machinegun legs, Bruce Willis hand signals, tongue explosions, foot fetishes, car stunts, and full circle beat downs that could only happen… at the Grindhouse!
Rating: 8 out of 10 - As a full experience this movie is a lot of fun, just make sure you’re well rested or you may find yourself wilting towards the back 9. Grindhouse is the crown jewel in The Weinstein Company’s arsenal after their departure from Miramax a couple years ago. They can’t be thrilled that the film from their two golden boys wasn’t able to perform at the box office the way they had hoped. Grindhouse came in 4th place with just over 10 million dollars. A number that the sold out showing I went to on Friday night did not indicate.
My guess is that the movies 3 hours and 11 minutes scared off potential viewers and kept people from returning to see it multiple times. I wonder how much return viewers are considered in Hollywood, but after 300, another niche R rated movie, was able to bring people back multiple times, it’s a safe bet we won’t be seeing a lot of 3-hour gore-fests down the road.
For Planet Terror I’m going with a 9 out of 10 and for Death Proof I’m cooling down to a 6 out of 10 but for the complete Grindhouse experience I’m giving an 8 out of 10.
I actually look forward to the DVD release where I'll be able to enjoy the two halves of Grindhouse separately. Planet Terror one day, Death Proof the next. Together the two halves definitely make for an original experience, but I think apart the movies will be able to stand on their own and I’ll be able to enjoy them in a whole new way.
Death Proof specifically suffers from the time spent in the theater before it even starts up. It has the stronger ending of the two films, but fatigue sets in fast as you’re waiting for the engines to rev up. At home, with the benefit of being able to jump right to Death Proof, I think the dialogue and characters will standout just as much as the high octane chases.
If that weren’t enough, Grindhouse promises to be loaded with extras including everything from director’s commentary to behind the scenes documentaries. These guys love movies too much not to jam pack the DVD release with anything and everything they can get their hands on. It’s going to be a good set.
So here we have the Little Mermaid, largely regarded as one of the as one of the hotter Disney female characters, combined with Rose McGowan’s machinegun leg, which has been causing a brand new fetish across the internet ever since the promos for Grindhouse first showed up. Together this is potentially the geekiest fantasy that could ever exists, though I suppose if you replaced the gun with a lightsaber, the sex appeal would be off the charts.
From Dusk Till Dawn - These two great directors have combined numerous times in the past to create some very impressive cinema, but of those films, the one that comes closest to capturing the Grindhouse experience is probably From Dusk Till Dawn. This Mexican vampire story directed by Rodriguez and written by/co-starring Tarantino, like Grindhouse, is split into two halves. The first dealing with two criminals on the run is character driven and dialogue heavy just like Death Proof. But as soon as they get to the Mexican biker bar where they’re supposed to meet their contact, the movie turns into a very bizarre, larger-than-life, vampire showdown that Planet Terror fans should feel very comfortable with.
At first I found the two halves of From Dusk Till Dawn to be jarring, but over the years have come to appreciate them for their differences. The standoff in a grocery store is a perfect example of how dangerously awesome Tarantino can be behind a typewriter. And the bloodbath that ensues in the vampire bar is a reminder of how much fun and imaginative Rodriguez can be when he’s running the show.
From Dusk Till Dawn has the smart dialogue, original characters, sexy Mexican table dancers and exploding heads we’ve come to expect from these guys. And if you loved the mayhem that Grindhouse had to offer, you’ll definitely enjoy this smaller taste in its convenient just as violent, just as fun, under 2-hour package.
Tom linked to this blog in Friday’s Theater Hopper where the author talks about the damaging affects of expectation with really great movies. I thought it would be a poorly backed-up, whiney rant from a man that hasn’t even seen the movie but feels like he knows what it should or shouldn’t deliver. It turned out to be a pretty well written account of one true movie fans fears of being let down. He talks about movies that didn’t measure up and then goes into all the expectations that could potentially ruin Grindhouse, then he slaps you in the face with the reality of the situation while staying relatively spoiler free. “Willis is only in Planet Terror for 5 minutes, there are only 4 mini-trailers and we’ve seen most of them in the previews”… stuff like that. It was a quick read that I was expecting to be a big ball of blind negativity, but I think this guy could be on to something with his method of squashing expectation.
Halloween - I was so glad to see the Halloween trailer this weekend and was even more pleased that I wasn't expecting it. It totally snuck up on me and when we see the little kid sitting in his room putting on a creepy mask, then killing his family, I actually sat up and said, "what the hell is going on here!?" Then the music chimed in and someone says, "Michael." and I rested comfortably knowing that another movie wasn't ripping off Halloween. Well, not really. Do remakes count as rip-offs?
Zombie has put together a great cast and I think Halloween has some real potential to be something we're not used to these days... a great remake. The best thing about Zombie’s directing style is that he brings to the table a quality of realism that a lot of modern horror movies don't have. I don't know if his jump cuts or big shocks will be sleek enough to scare a jaded and sophisticated modern horror audience, but what he lacks in music video nimbleness he'll more than make up for in gritty realism. Should be a fun night.
That’s it for today. Nothing spectacularly new to share other than we recently received some e-mails asking if there’s a possibility that we’ll be making Ben Kanobie: Intergalactic Badass shirts based of the New Hope strip from last year. It felt like it was pulled out of thin air, especially on the day when a new Palpatine strip went up, but who am I to complain? So what do you think? Can anyone else out there picture themselves in a “Ben Kanobie: Intergalactic Badass shirt? Don’t worry, my feelings won’t be hurt if you say “no”.
Live Journal/Myspace/Rotten Tomatoes/Buzz Comix/Top Web Comics/Comics on the Ipod/The Webcomics List/Online Comics/Wikipedia/Comixpedia/JLCM Map!
Joe – The creator of the strip who has embraced giving crappy movies the chance they deserve. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - The Introduction
Yeo – Yeo is Joe’s wife and often the voice of reason in the strip. Having her act rational allows the rest of the cast to embrace being in a comic strip which primarily involves randomly punching people, interacting with fictional characters and talking about boobs. Yeo is smart, beautiful and way too good for Joe. Don’t tip her off.
First Appearance - Fever Pitch
Irv – Joe’s movie-going sidekick who’s always down for watching Jason Statham crescent moon kick some thug through a plate glass window and getting some drinks before after and during a Vin Diesel movie. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Agent 337 George Jones – A government Agent that took over for Joe after he was bad-mouthing President Bush in the V for Vendetta strip. George ran the show for over a month bring a much needed sense of patriotism and justice to both the strips and reviews. He eventually got too attached to his work, empathizing with Joe’s plight to give crappy movies a fair shake. In a way he came to love crappy movies as well and was pushed out of the position. He spiraled out of control and ended up in prison. His adventures will be told in the limited series JLCM Presents: 337 Locked Up which is set to début Christmas of 09.
First Appearance - V for Vendetta
Other Notable Appearances: Stay Alive, Ice age 2, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Slither, Here Comes Guest week, Let’s Go To Prison
Leonidas – The former king of Sparta who has traveled into the future and is having trouble coping with the modern times. Yelling loudly and kicking people into giant holes doesn’t really work the same way it did in the olden days. As time as gone by he’s adjusted but it’s a safe bet that he’s always one bad message away from throwing a spear through someone.
First Appearance - 300
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Strip# 300, The Golden Compass, Rambo, Untraceable, The Ladies of Max Paybe
Palpatine – Former Senator, Emperor of the Galactic Empire, Sith Lord... He shows up in the Joe Loves Crappy movies galaxy on occasion to let people know that they’re being stupid. No one’s really sure how he shows up in this universe but chances are it breaks all kinds of copywrite laws.
First Appearance - Episode III: The Dark Side
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Night Watch, Saw 3, Are We Done Yet
Slow Billy – Billy is a sweet kid but he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. If you’re watching him for the day be prepared to explain to him the plot of the movie or how popcorn works or, not so much where babies come from, but what babies are. He’s a complete moron.
First Appearance - Four Brothers
Other Notable Appearances: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Da Vinci Code, Vantage Point, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Kyle the Movie Snob – Be careful what fun facts about movies you tell your friends at a friendly gathering or in line for the latest blockbuster, because if you’re even slightly wrong, Kyle will be more than happy to let you know. He usually gets what’s coming to him though. Poor guy has cracked three ribs since joining the JLCM cast.
First Appearance - Ultraviolet
Other Notable Appearances: 16 Blocks, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Transformers, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Jean-Luc Picard – Another lawsuit waiting to happen is Jean Luc Picard who, towards the end of the strip’s first year, became the go-to background character. If there was ever a seat to fill or a random person to place wandering around in the background, nine times out of ten it was Picard. While Picard has crossed paths with Irv he and Joe have never met. Perhaps they will some day but for now just can an eye on the background.
First Appearance - The Producers
Other Notable Appearances: I’m not telling you, that’s no fun. It’ like Where’s Waldo – go find him!
Ice Cream Sandwich – Delicious and… deadly? Usually when you see someone eating an Ice Cream sandwich, someone else is experiencing a substantial amount of pain. Still, how nice is an ice cream sandwich on a hot summer day?
First Appearance - Saw IV
Other Notable Appearances: Bee Movie, Run Fatboy Run, Saw V