April 10, 2007

Grindhouse: Guys Movie Night

grindhouseDoes it matter that I never went to a grindhouse in the late 1970s? No, it doesn't.

Is it relevant that my earliest moviegoing memory is Star Wars, not Vanishing Point? No, it's not.

Is it possible to enjoy this double feature without taking QT's master class: Trashy Exploitation Movies 1975-1981? Yes, it is.

While Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror was more faithful to the spirit of the "grindhouse" theme, Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof is a more satisfying movie.

SCREENING NOTES:

  • Guys attending the screening: George, his co-worker also named George, and Chris.
  • Non-Guy who had to cancel: Laura planned on attending, but she was stuck on a broke-down train somewhere near Providence, RI.
  • Originally scheduled for 8pm, AMC cancelled the 8pm screening, so we attended the 7pm screening.
  • The screening took place in Theater 2 at AMC Boston Common. I don't think I have ever attended a screening in #2-- I will check my records and update this entry.
  • Also screening this evening at the multiplex: a preview screening of HOT FUZZ, which I am desparate to see; and THE CONDEMNED, with a special in-person appearance by Stone Cold Steve Austin!
Robert Rodriguez continues his streak of casting Mexican badass Danny Trejo in the preview-for-a-nonexistent-movie MACHETE. Tagline: You Just F***ed With The Wrong Mexican! But speaking of casting, where was frequent Rodriguez castmember Salma Hayek?

Rodriguez's gooey zombie movie Planet Terror perfectly captured the low-budget sleaze of early-eighties horror. My only complaint is that actor Freddy Rodríguez was badly miscast in the lead role, the badass with a mysterious past El Wray. When you're looking for a Snake Plissken type, you don't cast a guy who measures 5 foot 6. The entire cast towered over him, and when he stripped off his shirt to reveal his scarred, tattooed body, I almost laughed out loud at his sunken chest. He looks like a "before" photo in a Charles Atlas ad in the back of MAD Magazine.

Speaking of casting, I loved Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn as brothers, one a BBQ joint owner, and the other a sheriff. Josh Brolin was great as the jealous, crazy Doctor Block, and I like Marley Shelton a little bit better every time I see her.

Rose McGowan is completely convincing as the take-no-s**t go-go dancer Cherry Darling. It's easy to understand how the director had an (alleged) affair with her after watching her opening-titles go-go dancing sequence (which Rodriguez shot himself). However, after seeing interviews with McGowan, it's obvious that's she's as crazy as her engagement to Marilyn Manson would suggest.

One couple left after the first feature, which I didn't think twice about, but I read on IMDb this morning that some industry types suspect that not all moviegoers knew there was a second feature on the bill-- Death Proof was definitely better than Planet Terror, so if I left after the first feature, I wouldn't recommend the movie. Harvey Weinstein has suggested he may re-release the two features separately, as they were overseas.

More prevues: Rob Zombie presents "WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS"; Edgar Wright presents a silly trailer for a very English haunted house movie "DON'T SCREAM"; and Eli Roth presents an alternatingly funny, sick, and gruesome trailer for "THANKSGIVING", the last holiday not exploited for a horror movie. The best bit: when the bad guy chops the head off the turkey mascot in the Plymouth town parade.

Quentin Tarantino's last few movies have featured strong lead roles for women (Kill Bill, Jackie Brown), and Death Proof is no exception. Death Proof is a chick flick/revenge thrill ride which had the audience cheering. Stick with Grindhouse till the end- it's worth it!

Kurt Russell is back as a badass: Stuntman Mike stalks beautiful carfuls of women. It would not be unreasonable to suspect Stuntman Mike had a fetish for women in tight t-shirts with cool retro pop icons screenprinted on them either: of the nine women Mike stalks in his matte-black killing machine, seven are in tight t-shirts, and one is in a cheerleader uniform.

In Car #1, an Austin deejay (Sydney Poitier, yes, his daughter) goes out on the town with her friends, then demonstrates what happens when you ride in a Honda with your leg propped up on the open window sill. I always thought this was a dangerous practice! Let's just say QT has wrecked another little Honda (see Pulp Fiction.) I thought QT lingered too long with this quartet- perhaps our emotional investment made Car #2 even more satisfying?

In Car #2, a quartet of ladies on break from a movie shoot test drive a 1970 Dodge Challenger. Quentin casts real-life Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell as herself (Bell did Uma Thurman's stunts in Kill Bill.) Bell was great. Not only was she cute and charming and capable, but her stuntwork added 150% verisimilitude to the car chase.

Parts of Death Proof were shot in Austin- the characters in Car #1 have margaritas at Guero's Taco Bar, a fabulous spot for margaritas which I have been to twice. QT shot the exteriors of the Guero scene at the actual restaurant. Later, QT has his characters drinking Shiner Bock, a great local beer: QT includes many Shiner Bock bottles, cases, neon signs, etc, in the bar scenes.

The theater smelled like a junior high school gym locker. Ugh. George and I tried to decide if one of our nearby moviegoers was the culprit, but we found it hard to imagine that someone could go around smelling that bad and not notice.

MY GRADES:
Planet Terror: B plus (for Freddy Rodriguez, slightly draggy)
Death Proof: A minus (for pacing issues in first half)
Fake Trailers: A plus
Overall Presentation: A (AMC Boston Common; Encore viewing with Mrs W: May 19, 2007)