Twin bill B-movies light up theaters

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April 13, 2007

2:15 AM

Drop the remote, cancel your bowling plans, skip dinner at the Caf and go see “Grindhouse.” Entertainment doesn’t come cheap these days, but “Grindhouse” is a steal as you get two films for the price of one. And to top it off, there are fake trailers between the films to compliment the experience.

p. “Grindhouse” is a homage by directors Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Kill Bill”) to ’70s exploitation films, or paracinema to all you film folks. The theaters these films played at were called grindhouse theaters because the films favored an abundance of sex, violence and gore over, let’s say, character development and cinematography. In short, don’t be surprised if critics rag on “Grindhouse.” The question is, how do you make a tribute to a genre that brought such classic films such as “Cannibal Holocaust,” “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS” and, of course, who can forget “I Spit on Your Grave” — a film Roger Ebert called “a vile bag of garbage … without a shred of artistic distinction”? With a plethora of decapitations and mass amounts of carnage, of course.

p. The first of the two films is Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” your not-so-typical zombie affair. While the plot may seem like a rehash (virus is on the loose, turning everyone into flesh-eating zombies), Rodriguez’s trademarks give the film its knockout punch. Most notable is the score, whose Latin flavor compliments the film, making scenes of suspense even more exhilarating. Oh, and did I mention there is a lot of gore?

p. The second film is Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” a tale about a 50-something ex-stuntman named Stuntman Mike, played by Kurt Russell (“Poseidon”), who likes to stalk girls and find creative ways to kill them with his car. “Death Proof” features all of Tarantino’s trademarks, including shots from the trunk and long conversations (and I do mean long) between his main characters. It also features one of the most suspenseful car chases in recent memory that had me at the edge of my seat the entire time.
Both films feature a cast full of big names ranging from Bruce Willis (“Sin City”), to Rosario Dawson (“Clerks 2”), to Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. These are the type of films actors love to make, and it shows. It is also the kind of film in which bad acting doesn’t hurt the end result.

p. Both movies also feature the “missing reel” treatment. You know the part of the film that explains everyone’s motives? Tarantino and Rodriguez felt it was unnecessary and decided to cut it. Actually, the truth is a bit tamer than that. Tarantino once bought the rights to a film that had missing reels during the most important scenes and felt it was a funny way of paying tribute.

p. The concept of putting fake trailers between the two films was genius as well. Danny Trejo (“The Devil’s Rejects”) stars in “Machete,” which may feature the line of the night: “This will teach you not to fuck with a Mexican.” The best trailer goes to Rob Zombie (“The Devil’s Rejects) for “Werewolf Women of the S.S.” if only for having Nicholas Cage (“Ghost Rider”) dress up as Fu Manchu. Other trailers include Eli Roth’s (“Hostel”) “Thanksgiving,” which takes the beloved American tradition and turns it upside down. Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) directs “Don’t Scream,” which aims to poke fun at the movie voiceover guy.

p. Out of the two, “Death Proof” is definitely the better film. “Planet Terror,” while big on the blood, lacks a plot and any substantial character development-. “Death Proof,” on the other hand, features a slow (almost too slow) build with a riveting conclusion that had the audience in the theater cheering. It seems Tarantino is the true fan of the grindhouse genre and Rodriguez is the best friend tagging along, trying to understand what’s going on but never really grasping the concept.

p. “Grindhouse” is not just a movie; it is an experience like no other found today. Leave it to Rodriguez and Tarantino to break new ground in modern cinema once again, even though they had to dig into a very trashy part of the past to get it.

p. __4.5 stars out of 5__

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