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Columns > Evan Winiker

Published: 2007/04/18
by Evan Winiker

Grindhouse

Movies have always been an integral part of my life. From the first movie I saw
(_Fievel_) to the most recent movie I’ve seen (_The Hoax_) there’s always been something that inspired me and lead me to watch more and more of them. About a year ago I
began to devote my free time to a movie blog I created based on a joke by Daniel
and Nate from Rose Hill Drive (moonpiemadness.blogspot.com). Having a Netflix queue
that rivaled Blockbusters distributor and a ton of time between shows, the site
flourished and I was soon being asked to freelance for other sites.

When Dean Budnick,
editor in chief of Jambands.com, recently sent me an email asking if I’d like to
do a monthly movie column, I was ecstatic. Jambands.com is a site that I’ve frequented
since high school, and its a site that I still go to daily, so I’d really like to
thank Dean, Mike and everyone else at jambands.com for welcoming me to their staff.

I’m gonna try to provide you guys with a decent synopsis of the films I’m reviewing,
as well as my humble opinion. Hopefully you’ll be able to decide whether the film
is for you or if its not. The first film that I’d like to take a look at is the
recent Tarantino/Rodriguez flick,
Grindhouse.

Grindhouse

Cult movie directors pay tribute to a long forgotten genre

In early January I began to hear rumors about a new Tarantino movie slated for a
spring release. The news was soon followed by word that Robert Rodriguez would be
co-directing, which was then followed by an announcement that it would be a double
feature B-movie thriller. To say the least, I was puzzled. How is it that two of
the most renowned cult directors of our time would come together to work on such
a picayune film?

Though Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino had worked together before (_Sin City_,
From Dusk Till Dawn), the idea to collaborate on a double feature didn't come
about till a party at Tarantino’s Los Angeles home. Tarantino, who most recently has
been producing films (_Hostel_, Hero, etc.), is known for showing double features to
large groups of friends, and one of those friends was director Robert Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was so inspired by the idea of a double feature exploitation film, that
he immediately pressed Tarantino to do it, saying “We have to re-create this experience
for people.” In late March of 2006, Rodriguez began work on Planet Terror and in
August of 2006 Tarantino began filming Death Proof.

In Planet Terror, a small town is forced to deal with a deadly outbreak that turns
people into flesh-eating zombies. Everyone from the town sheriff to the local BBQ
owner gets in on the action, taking out A-list zombies such as Fergie, Bruce Willis
and even Quentin Tarantino. I give Robert Rodriguez a lot of credit for pulling
this one off, the plot is so far fetched yet while watching, it doesn’t feel out
of the realm of possibility. Other standouts are Lost’s Naveen Andrews, playing
a weapons dealer who collects testicles, and Freddy Rodriguez, who plays the film’s
knife wielding protagonist, El Wray. The two storylines in this picture weave together
very well and keep the viewer thoroughly entertained, but beware this movie is not
for the faint of heart. There are some extremely gruesome scenes involving needles
in eyes and testicles coming out of scrotums, so don’t see it if you can’t stomach
it.

The same can be said for the latter half of Grindhouse, Death Proof, Tarantino’s
homage to psycho stuntmen. Captivated by the way they “death proof” their cars,
he set out to create a slasher film about a stuntman who stalks and kills girls
with his car. Tarantino recalls, “[I wanted to] take the structure of a slasher
film and just do what I do. My version is going to be fucked up and disjointed,
but it seemingly uses the structure of a slasher film, hopefully against you."
Hoping to cast Sylvester Stallone and Kal Penn as the two leads, Tarantino settled
for Kurt Russell who delivers one of the best performances of his career as stuntman
Mike.

It takes some time to get into Death Proof as it begins like most Tarantino
films do, with conversations about random subjects that surface as the story proceeds.
The movie takes off and begins to rival Planet Terror when the car scenes come
into play, particularly the dueling car chases, something that Tarantino felt was
lacking in films. “I don't think there have been any good car chases since I
started making films in '92,” recalls Tarantino, “to me, the last terrific car
chase was in Terminator 2...In between that, not a lot. Every time a stunt happens,
there's twelve cameras and they use every angle for editing, but I don't
feel it in my stomach.” If Tarantino’s goal was for the audience to feel it in their
stomachs then he accomplished his mission; I spent most of my time in the theater
wiggling around in my seat, kicking the chair in front of me. The standouts in this
one are Kurt Russell, who might have revived his fledgling career, and Rosario
Dawson, who impressed me as the makeup artist whom Russell stalks. Of the two movies,
Death Proof is definitely the weaker one, but it still manages to captivate with
its high speed car chases and fast track action.

As a whole, Grindhouse is a hardcore, three and a half hour movie experience. I
Wouldn’t say that it leaves you wanting more, but it definitely fulfills its purpose
as an entertaining thriller/horror movie. Sadly, its extended running time limited
the theater count and its box office results were very weak (especially for a Tarantino
movie), but there is no doubt in my mind that this movie will be remembered as a
unique excursion for these two distinguished directors.

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