Browsing Tag
robert rodriquez

Grindhouse, the double-bill experiment from cult directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, is a hard movie to review because each film has its own unique style and its own premise, and largely varying degree of quality. Planet Terror, from Rodriguez, and Death Proof, from Tarantino, are spliced together with purposely distressed film, scratches, missing reels, and fake movie trailers connecting the two like an old school, double feature. Unfortunately, none of those in the film’s target demographic could even tell you what a Grindhouse was, let alone try to comprehend what a double-bill would be.

Planet Terror is the better half of Grindhouse, there’s no doubt about that, Robert Rodriguez’s zombie adaptation is fresh, action filled, humorous, and brimming to the top with style and enough substance to keep the audience entertained through its brisk 90 minute runtime. The characters have enough dimension to keep you enticed in their actions, and the missing reel gag only seems to further solidify them as some of the coolest you’ll see on the big screen this year even though, by all other standards, they are 2D replicas of archetypes we’ve seen on the big screen thousands of times.

Still they feel fresh, almost as though the stigma of knowing that Grindhouse, and the films contained within are suppose to be hollow, action-filled romps where enormous amounts of gore fill the screen and movie-making caution is thrown to the wind.

The story focuses on a group of survivors, lead by the mysterious El Wray (Freddy Rodriquez) who can do more with two butterfly knives than most can do with a fully automatic machine gun. The most memorable action sequences in the double-bill take place in Planet Terror, notably Rose McGowan as the gun-legged go-go dancer who lays waste to a group of zombies near the end of the film from the back of a bike and later rocket jumping over a wall. Outlandish? Most definitely. Fun? Most certainly.

With characters like the aforementioned El Wray, devilish Doc Block (Josh Brolin), and Bruce Willis as a corrupt, and changing, Army officer you’d be hard pressed to not find something to smile and awe about in Planet Terror. There might not be something for everyone here, but you’d have to really hate movies in general to not find something to laugh, gasp, or cringe at in this explosive exposition.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Tarantino’s contribution to the film which comes off as a long, boring, talking-head theater filled with nonsensical dialog that does little to forward the story, and without focusing on the main attraction (Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike) the audience is left amazingly bored.

Death Proof feels like part of a Tarantino movie, but without the snappy dialog and intertwining action sequences to fill up the slow parts. Whereas Pulp Fiction gave us a long conversation at Jack Rabbit Slim’s but rewarded us with good dialog and the knowledge that Uma Thurman was about to get a six-inch needle in the chest. In Death Proof we get four twentysomething girls talking for what feels like hours, like we are caught in a bad dream where teenage girls rule the world and we can’t get off the phone with them.

When the action finally starts up, we’re left with one car chase, as spectacular as it is, it feels almost forced, to the point where when the words “The End” appear on the screen the audience is left dumbstruck with confused looks, almost as though they’ve just witnessed something utterly perplexing there isn’t words to describe it in the English language. The feeling is a wave of disappointment filling over you as you realize that the genius who brought us such masterpieces as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction also gave us this in a Grindhouse format that was suppose to blow our socks off.

Something can be said about the quality of the film when several of the audience members were calling for more fake trailers from director’s Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Edgar Wright just so they didn’t have to listen to more talking in Death Proof.

Grindhouse‘s varying degree of quality is a real shame because both directors are versatile, talent individuals who should have made double-bill the very best film of the year. Instead, Rodriguez once again impresses and Tarantino uncharacteristically disappoints and we’re left to wonder what could have been. What if both films were released separately? What if Tarantino had added more action? And will we ever get to see the contents of those missing reels? One can only hope the inevitable superstar DVD release will answer more than a few of these lingering questions.

Planet Terror Rating: B+
Death Proof Rating: D

There are times when you sit down to a movie expecting so much and getting so little. I’ve sat through my share of disappointments over the years, with The Ring Two as the latest addition to that category. Then there are times, and they are few and far between, that you sit down to a film and have your expectations blown away as everything you though about movies in general is shattered like a bullet ripping through bone.

Sin City is one those movies.

Truth be told, up until last year, when the original teaser trailer premiered, I couldn’t have told you what Sin City was, let alone name a single character. Based on the graphic novels of the same name, Sin City is the story of a colorful, yet color-less, cast of characters who will do just about everything to survive and fulfill their cause. The film houses a startling cast with big name movie stars all the way down to relatively unknowns but each one brings his or her A-game to the table and the audience is treated to, what very well may be, one of the best films of the year and the decade.

Sin City is broken up into three separate narratives overlapping, ingeniously written parts to tell and overall story (think Pulp Fiction). Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, the graphic novel’s creator, have constructed one of the most fun films to watch, but also one of the most well written in some time. We get things started with Bruce Willis’ Hartigan hot on the trail of a senator’s son who is also a child molester. After discovering him with his latest victim, Nancy, Hartigan blows perverts ear and genitals off but ends up being shot half-a-dozen times by his partner.

The story shifts to, perhaps, the best of the bunch and focuses on Marv (Mickey Rourke) and his quest for revenge on a silent killer (Elijah Wood) who murdered Goldie (Jamie King), whom he had slept with the night before. Marv is a walking tank, and nearly unstoppable as he’s shot, punched, thrown, run over, and electrocuted in his mission. Next, we’re introduced to Dwight (Clive Owen) who gets entangled in the battle for Old Town between the cops and the working girls after a detective (Benicio Del Toro) is killed (in a rather unpleasant way). Finally the story shifts back to Hartigan and his pursuit to rescue a fully grown Nancy (Jessica Alba) from a yellow menace.

The cast itself, although large, boasts incredible performances from the likes of Rourke and Owen, as well as Willis and Rosario Dawson. Standing amount among them all is Rourke with his up-front manner, massive size, and great dialog delivery for the huge Marv. Clive Owen finally gets a chance to shine outside chick-flicks and the outstanding BMW Films. Bruce Willis appears to be back on track after a few missteps like Tears of the Sun and Hostage, and his character of Hartigan is as hard-boiled as Max Payne with the sense of humor of John McClain. Finally, Rosario Dawson shines again as the leader of the working girls in Old Town with her wardrobe and sadistic glee of killing standing out in a pivotal scene of the film. The cast is just too massive to get into individually, but there weren’t any performances that didn’t hit a note with me, as everything gelled and flowed perfectly.

Sin City is not for the faint of heart, much like his friend Quentin Tarantino (who also guest directs a portion of the film) Rodriguez doesn’t shy away from the brutality of violence. The film is as raw as it gets with gun shot wounds spraying bright white blood all over the screen and a penance for dismember or shooting men in the scrotum seems to be the act of the day. Still, it is almost cartoon in nature because of the black & white print with only shades of color thrown in to highlight certain objects, like a red dress or a character’s eye color.

Filmed similar to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sin City was shot against a green screen with the backgrounds and other effects added in post-production. Rodriguez is know for his economical filmmaking that produces $100 million dollar work for less than half that. His masterful direction and ideas also come thrown perfectly in the film, something far fewer directors are able to do these days with the hack, cookie-cutter-fare we’re subjected to almost weekly.

Fans of movies and movies that are made for true movie fans don’t need to think twice before seeing Sin City, in fact, anyone who has ever thought a frame from a comic book or graphic novel “looked cool” should see this film for the art form that it is. The way every shot is framed, presented, cut, and highlighted brings the novels to the big screen in picturesque storyboard fashion.

Sin City not only raises the bar for adaptations, it successfully raises the bar on the art of movie making as well. Its been a really long time since I’ve been able to say I was truly impressed with a film, but with Sin City, I’m not only impressed, I’m simply bewildered that no one has had the talent or the finesse to make a movie such as this one before. After sitting in the theater and letting the credits role to the end, no words came to me to describe what I had just seen. I was unprepared for the beauty that was Sin City, and I’m only now beginning to realize that it is definitely one of the finest works of art I’ve ever seen. While I should reserve this statement until after some of my other anticipated films of the year debut, Sin City is, by large, a contender for the best movie of the year, and its only April.