Flickadaweek: Grindhouse

So I’m scalp-deep in pre-holiday deadlines–sucks now, but damn, son, am I going to be chillaxin’ this holiday–but I finally ended up seeing both halves of Grindhouse, so I gotta write about it:

Check out that poster. Sweet, huh? And yet, almost nobody saw the movie when it came out earlier this year. Why not? I can hazard a few guesses, but after seeing both flicks, I’ve got to say that the folks who stayed away had at least half of the right idea.
The best part about both movies was the fake trailers for other, unmade flicks. Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving”–about a massacre on Turkey Day–is flat-out spooky thanks to the Blair Witch-style camerawork and dead-voiced narrator. And if Robert Rodriguez doesn’t make a full version of “Machete,” starring Danny Trejo as a revenge-crazed psychopath–one guess as to his weapon of choice–well, there is no justice in this world.
First of the two films was Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” which threw together zombies, horror, barbecue, military conspiracy, and love gone wrong into a nut-crunchin’ good time. Freddy Rodriguez probably made himself a legit career with this movie, and Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews (Sayid from “Lost”), and everybody else chews scenery like…well, like the zombies chew brains. Highly recommended for a beer-and-pizza Saturday night.
More problematic is Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” starting with the fact that I don’t know who it would be recommended for other than Tarantino himself. One of the problems with being a trailblazing visionary, which Tarantino was with “Pulp Fiction,” is that once you’ve blazed the trail, others are going to catch up with you. “Death Proof” has at its heart the concept of a stuntman who can never die as long as he’s strapped into his car. Nice idea, if not quite as transcendent as, say, a glowing suitcase. But the problem is that “Death Proof” comes off like a parody of a Tarantino film–endless meandering talk that goes nowhere, chicks with attitude a mile long and no real reason for it, geekout references to long-forgotten pop culture ephemera, loving/fetishistic shots of bare feet. It’s all here, and it all adds up to far less than the sum of its parts. True, Kurt Russell has one of the best lines of 2007 in it: taking a young woman home, he pulls to a three-way stop. He asks her if she wants to go right or left. She says right. He replies, “That’s too bad. See, if you were going left, it would be a while before you got scared. But since you wanted to go right, you’re going to have to start getting scared right now.” And off he goes to the left…and eventual oblivion. A shame the rest of the movie was such painfully forced “cool.”
Tarantino’s supposedly still at work on his WWII epic “Inglorious Bastards.” And yes, I’ll line right up to see it. But if it’s full of soldiers yammering about the metaphoric implications of Rosie the Riveter and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” I’ll be flying out to Hollywood to kick Tarantino’s ass…and I’ll probably have to stand in line when I get there.

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