Archive for April, 2007

The Grindhouse: Tarrantino, Rodriguez and me

April 7, 2007

It was an experience alright. Not one many seemed to get. What do I mean by that? That even among the pulp schlock crowd there are idiots who don’t even seem to know what they are watching. Two things stood out among the audience during this film. The first, moments after Rodriguez’s Planet Terror came to a conclusion a good 20 people stood up and left the theater as if the movie was over. I watched in absolute astonishment as this occurred. Did they not realize that Kurt Russell hadn’t appeared in the film yet? That there was no deadly car chase sequences? Very odd. And secondly, only about a quarter of the audience was laughing and truly appreciating the amazing experience that these two talented filmmakers created for our pleasure. They were watching but they certainly weren’t seeing. Every detail of these two films was so minutely crafted to capture the essence of the original grindhouse movies that really its difficult to calm them bad movies. From seeing the crew and camera man in the mirrors in the opening moments of Planet Terror to the constantly shifting backgrounds every time the camera cuts in the first car ride in Death Proof, you know, if nothing else, that Rodriguez and Tarrantino have seen far too many of these movies themselves.

But even where homage is paid, the films stand alone as very entertaining and enjoyable modern films. The car crash sequences in Death Proof are really quite thrilling. The violence is unquestionably and almost realistically violent. If you know someone who has been in a fatal automobile accident, you may want to close your eyes during this sophisticated slasher movies first big death scene. But then if you do, the final 20 minutes of the film won’t be nearly as satisfying. The only problem here is that, well, you’ve seen Tarrantino do this all before. Certainly not with a murdering stuntman behind the wheel, but the whole 70’s exploitation in modern setting, you have…over and over again. So when the camera wraps around the girls in a diner quipping in pulp culture references…you’ve seen it. When you witness the over the top violence…you’ve seen it. This is Tarrantio’s specialty. This is why people love him, and will continue to do so. Because while he takes himself seriously as a filmmaker (my friends would argue too seriously), he takes himself too seriously when concerning film genres that don’t matter as much to anyone else. (Except maybe Eli Roth – who is his own sort of twistedness.) Even when there are a few moments of this film that drag a bit (the second group of girls especially), it’s so smoothly done, and has such an incredible end, you’ll find yourself a fan…I was even hooting and hollering in the end, which is something I don’t normally do. And thank goodness Kurt Russell exists. I don’t know what I would do without the man.

As for Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. It’s just impressive to see a man take such a ridiculous idea and make something beautiful out of it. Oh, and grotesque. But instead of making my own statements about the film, I’m going to pick on someone else’s statements. That being this final statement made by Richard Roeper in his current review “Grindhouse” over at the Chicago Sun Times…

“Rodriguez is a ridiculously talented writer, director, editor, composer, cinematographer, sound designer, etc., etc., and he absolutely nails the tone of the classic zombie gore-fest. Even through all the winks and blood and decapitations, he gives us twisted little subplots and a handful of three-dimensional characters. The cast is strong, though it’s a bit tough to buy the slight (albeit talented) Freddy Rodriguez as the baddest man on the planet. The sole reason I’m giving “Planet Terror” only three stars is I’ve never been a zombie-movie guy; I’ve always found this particular strain of undead, with their limited brainpower and their halting gaits and their dopey groaning, to be among the least interesting horror-movie monsters. But for fans of the genre, “Planet Terror” is just about perfect.” (more…)

Movie Trailers Are Evil

April 5, 2007

The point I’m at in my movie watching life is the point in which every film is a little more predictable then it might have once been. Films like The Prestige and 21 Grams I can see the end coming from the very beginning. Films like The Painted Veil I’m able to guess how each scene will end just as it begins. You can see the movie dissolve in front of your eyes just as it’s being created. Not an enjoyable experience by any means. Is that because I’ve gotten smarter? Or that films have gotten dumber? Perhaps a little of both. For both The Prestige and 21 Grams, they both thought they were being clever by showing hints of what was going to happen later in the film. Anyone paying attention could have easily figured it out, and since all of the characters in each film were so incredibly narcissistic, the journies weren’t all that fun either.

But that’s the movies. You’re at least sitting there watching it. But what do you do about the trailers! You haven’t even paid to see the movie yet, and the studio is already ruining what could amount to some of the most intense scenes in the film. The new trailer for Live Free or Die Hard has just been released on-line. I’m not going to say where, cause I’m of the mind that the less seen the better. Unfortunately, in my excitement I started watching it. I was a good thirty seconds in when the film showed me how one of the big action sequences ended. How it ended!!! It even fed me the clever line MacClane says afterwards. I’m irate! Wasn’t the teaser good enough. To know that John MacClane was strapping down for another adventure was for me. Did I have to know the intricate details of the story’s setup. No! This has gotten so bad in recent times that I’ve stopped watching trailers for big budget tentpole films all together, for no other reason but to save the experience for the actual movie, and not have them wasted in a ten second clip. Thus far I have yet to see the new Spiderman trailer. My friends think I’m crazy when I close my eyes and plug my ears. But who wanted to know that Tom Hanks got off the island in Castaway, who wanted to see what the kracken in Pirates 2 looked like before the film. Who I ask…WHO??? Not me! Why can’t I find out what’s under the water when I see the movie itself. The film spends so much time not showing you, building up to that moment, and thirty seconds into the trailer you see it! Isn’t this completely antiproductive when a filmmaker and a crew and a writer and an editor have spent years designing a film to build to a moment like that, and a studio head comes in or whoever comes in and says, “Show me the kracken!” Or they show a scene from Children of Men in which they are already in the darned boat!? They spend the last third of the movie trying to get to the boat…and you’re going to show it to me in the preview?! For me it’s the smallest of visuals that can destroy the end of a movie. Maybe I pick up on too much. Maybe because I’ve studied film to death that one visual says more than an entire play of words does for me that I’m able to do this. Still though, every now and then they make a really tight trailer. It’s relevant to the style of the film, it captures the film’s essence without giving too much away. But it’s rare these days. I wanted to barbecue the guy who put together the trailer for Miami Vice. The line alone when Colin Farrel asked the person on the other end of the line if they knew what foreboding meant… here, here it is…it makes me giggle every time I listen to it…the character doesn’t even know what foreboding means!