Saturday, March 24, 2007

Review: Grind House

Here's our first Grind House review, courtesy of Dave Waldon. Dave's a good friend to the people behind film ick. He's an entertainment writer, living in LA, and his most recent book was Snakes on a Plane: The Guide to the Internet Ssssssensation. He's also written plenty for the official Charmed magazine which makes him some kind of authority on Rose McGowan (though not as much, perhaps as Robert Rodriguez is).

Against my own tendencies, Dave has chosen not to fill his review with spoilers, so you can read on safely.

I saw Grind house in Hollywood on Thursday night, and I can happily report that it is one kickass mofo of a flick. It's nearly three hours long and it's totally over the top, but then again, that was the point.

By now most of you know the deal. Two of Hollywood's best - and craziest - directors, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, decided to create an homage to the type of gory, sexy, whacked-out B-movies that used to flourish in the days before DVDs and cable TV - the kind that both of them thrived on when they were growing up. So the filmmakers took their wares and their actors and spent a colorful summer in Austin, Texas, the home of Rodriguez' thriving movie studio where he shot productions as varied as Spy Kids and Sin City. Grindhouse is the end result of their labors, consisting two mini-movies, one from each director: Rodriguez' zombiefest Planet Terror and Tarantino's girl-power road rage opus Death Proof. Both take place in the present day, but they look 30-plus years old. There are untoward splices and frame burn-outs, even inconveniently missing reels. It's said that the developed film was literally dragged along the ground in order to achieve the scratches and nicks one would expect from a motion picture that had been screened countless times, just like the ones that viewers would see at one of those urban cinemas - known as "grindhouses"; get it? - that lived on this schlock back in the day.

Planet Terror, the first of the two flicks, is the stronger of the two. It has more action, more gore and, of course, more zombies. It also has a smashing performance by Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer with higher aspirations (to be a stand-up comedian), but who ends up becoming so much more with the help of her heroic ex-boyfriend (Freddy Rodriguez) and a strategically place machine gun. By contrast, Death Proof is far tamer when it comes to the violence factor (though it has its moments) and contains two of Tarantino's standard traits - it's very talky and, in a continuation of Kill Bill, very strong female characters. At times it can seem slow, but the last 20 minutes or so, in which a trio of ballsy broads (Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms and real-life stuntwoman Zoe Bell) are in a breathtaking car chase with a psycho serial killer (Kurt Russell) with a very large weapon - his own vehicle. To say more would be to give away some of the Grind house's singular pleasures that are best experienced firsthand. I will say this much - if anything, the fake trailers that appear between the main productions may be the best part of the whole thing. And they weren't just made by chimps. Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and Shaun of the Dead's Edgar Wright are among the directors who put them together, and you almost wish there were real movies behind them.

Thanks, Dave. You've made some of us very, very jealous.

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