Browsing Tag

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

Many, including everyone I know, have been eagerly awaiting Volume 2 of the Kill Bill saga since the first was released last year. Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film featured the graphic, yet cartoonish violence, that we had become accustom to seeing in today’s cinema, along with intelligent, fun dialog. When the original Kill Bill was split into two pieces, many where outraged, especially when the first film ended with only two of the Bride’s five victims accounted for, but after viewing the film, those doubters were put in their places. Be warned though, those expecting the same type of film as the first will be mildly disappointed as the action takes a backseat to often-windy dialog and Tarantino’s set up of the film’s back-story.

Even without the abundance of action (such as the massacre of the Crazy 88’s in the first film), Volume 2 manages to thoroughly impress with its penance for excellent storytelling. After disposing of two of her former assassins in Volume 1, The Bride (Uma Thurman) now sets her sights on her last two compatriots and her boss, the elusive Bill. Tarantino gives us a look into the setting up of the entire story, beginning with the massacre that started this mess. Whereas the first film focused on telling of The Bride’s revenge, the second sets up why she wants such revenge and how she became the killer that she is today.

As I stated before, those expecting a redux of the first film will be disappointed to find out that only one major fight scene takes place during the course of the movie, but the senseless destruction off a trailer at the hands of the battle’s combatants is more than worth the price of admission. If the film were handled by any other director other than Tarantino I simply don’t think we would pay $6.50 to see people talk for two hours, but, as with Pulp Fiction, QT manages to craft the banter between two people into some of the most intriguing, enlightening, and interesting bits of talking ever put on film.

The story itself is your standard revenge-fare with an almost super-hero like protagonist and the calm, cool, and collected antagonist who knows the end is coming. After watching the film I can’t see anyone but David Charradine as Bill. The dead-pan style in which he delivers his lines and his appearance at the end of the film with the dart of truth serum provides both comic relief and drama. One of the best parts of the film is The Bride’s training with Pai Mei, a white bearded, elusive trainer who likes to stroke his beard and laugh, although this part of the film also makes the ending almost too obvious.

I personally would have like to see more fighting in the film, only because Tarantino and fighting choreographer Woo-ping Yuen have such a knack for creating memorable fight scenes filled with canon fodder as well as characters that we care about. Yet, as I stated before, the fight between Elle Driver and The Bride may be the best in both volumes as the mutual hatred they have for each other ends in an almost comic sense.

As a whole film, Kill Bill is a masterpiece up on a pedestal with the original Matrix, Fight Club, and Pulp Fiction. They all feature directors who know (or in some cases, knew) how to craft an excellent film and do things differently. Also, for all of you wondering out there, The Bride’s name is revealed at the end of the film, including her last name, which will make you chuckle when you then go back and re-watch some of the earlier scenes with Bill.

Kill Bill is an excellent film; there just is no other way to put it. Aside from having one of the longest credit sequences in the history of film, the movie is such an engrossing tale, with such amazing characters, that you have to feel for the Bride, and her pain. As sequels become more and more mundane and cookie-cutter, it’s nice to see a studio and a director making one film, cutting it into two almost self-contained parts, and fill it to the brim with fun. Fans of the series will love this, and with the convenient release of Volume 1 on DVD and the proposed super-box-set in the future, we will be hearing about the Kill Bill saga for quite some time, and that’s no problem to me.

Since the first time I saw Pulp Fiction in DVD I knew that Quentin Tarantino was a god. The snappy, witty dialog, the extreme violence, and the interesting situations that many of the characters found themselves in all lent themselves into creating a totally original and enjoyable experience that should be enjoyed by all. Now after the $100 million dollar plus gross of Fiction and the underappreciated Jackie Brown, Tarantino brings us a tale of revenge in the form of Kill Bill: Volume 1.

I’ll say this right off the bat, Kill Bill should never have been split into two parts. No matter the reasons behind the split, this isn’t the kind of film you chop into two pieces to either a) make more money, b) get it out the door, or c) do it because you want to. Those familiar with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction will note that Tarantino doesn’t show the action of events in the order they happen. The movie jumps around from scene to scene which shows valuable insight into why things happened the way they did. Think Memento on a much more jumbled scale. Cutting Kill Bill into two parts doesn’t fit in with Tarantino’s scene by scene formula at all, and what you get are several characters introduced that appear on screen for no more than 3 minutes, and won’t be seen again until Volume 2.

Kill Bill tells the story of The Bride (Uma Thurman) who we find out is assassinated on her wedding day after leaving the ranks of assassins employed by a man named Bill. We are introduced to three of the four assassins and The Bride faces off against two of them in this installment, with two more and the final battle with Bill to come in Volume 2. The two main characters we meet in Volume 1 are O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Lui), the head of the Japanese underground and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) who is trying to settle into a new life with her daughter. Fox is only in the film for a short period of time, but her performance seems right on the mark for a former assassin trying to change her life. Lui’s Ishii is the feature of the film with an Anime origin scene and the subject of the main battle sequence in the film. For all of those who can forget Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, you may actually like Lui as a decapitating, Japanese gangster. Still the best performance is turned out by Thurman herself who continues to shine even after some questionable film decisions.

Everything you have heard about Kill Bill‘s ultra-violence is very, very true. The film has buckets and buckets of blood (more akin to a mid-budget slasher film) but the amount of press going towards this aspect is somewhat peculiar considering fountains streaming from ripped appendages approaches the campy side of violence instead of the life-life bloodshed seen in movies like Saving Private Ryan. Be warned, however, body parts fly all over the screen in this film, especially the climatic showdown between The Bride and at least 80 subordinates of Ishii. The scene transforms from color to black & white to cover up some of the fountains of blood and, presumably, give the film its R rating as opposed to NC-17. Stylistic or not, it appears as though the Japanese release will be in full color.

As with all Tarantino movies the film flows very smoothly, except for a few parts where the story meanders on seemingly meaningless points, but it doesn’t stay this way for long. Kill Bill is one of those movies where you forget you are wearing a watch because you never, ever check it. For your reference House of the Dead caused well over a dozen “watch-check-moments.”

The biggest drawback of the entire film is we aren’t seeing all of it. The reasons for the split may never be know, but what was released is a truly excellent film. Final judgment on whether or not Kill Bill is better than Pulp Fiction will take Volume 2 being released in February, but as it stands it seems as though all of Tarantino’s hard work has paid off as he has delivered cinematic glory.