Saturday, April 07, 2007

See You at the Grindhouse

Sometimes, you go to a movie and come out feeling enlightened, educated, like a better person for having seen it. Sometimes you admire the technical achievements of a film. And sometimes, you just come out thinking "Damn, that was fun."

Grindhouse is obviously the third option. It's been so long since I went to see a movie and marveled at how much fun I was having. I mean, Blades of Glory was funny when Will Arnett and Amy Poehler had center stage, Zodiac was gripping and thrilling, and Reno 911: Miami was entertaining but ultimately rather disappointing, to name a few recent movie escapades. But Grindhouse was just plain fun. Gross-out, jump-out-of-your-seat, grip-the-chair-arms-in-terror, laugh-your-ass-off-when-it's-done fun. It's clear that Tarantino and Rodriguez really love the genre to which they're paying homage.

I liked Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror for its sheer awe-inspiring intentional badness. The plot makes no sense (is there a plot?), the dialog is hokey and the movie is horribly underlit. But it's all in good fun, and when you're not cringing at the extreme gore, you're probably laughing at the absurdity of it. "It's a no-brainer," Josh Brolin says of a head that has... well, no brain. And even though it's quite possibly the most obvious pun on the planet, it's really fucking funny. Rodriguez only shoots on digital these days, and he used that to good effect, scratching up the "film" to an occasionally unwatchable degree, which just adds charm.

Death Proof, Tarantino's contribution to the film, could stand alone as an actual good film. Whereas Rodriguez's installment only really works as part of the Grindhouse gimmick, Death Proof is good - well-acted and genuinely suspenseful, with a great cast of characters. So what if Tarantino likes to have his characters sit around and talk? The banter is witty and engaging, and he writes interesting characters. The girls are sassy and feminine and assertive. Kurt Russell's "Stuntman Mike" is simultaneously seductive and scary, and then batshit crazy, in an awesome way, of course. And then when the car chases start... holy shit. The stuntwork and driving are mindblowing.

And then there were the faux-trailers. Would it surprise you to hear that Edgar Wright's was my favorite? Didn't think so. Plus, Will Arnett did the voice over for it. One of my favorite actors working with one of my favorite up-and-coming directors? I only hope they collaborate again in the future. The other trailers were good too, but I don't want to spoil too much of the amazingness.

Seeing Grindhouse at the movie theaters at The Grove - with their leather seats, stadium seating, and computerized snack bar ordering system - was probably antithetical to the whole grindhouse experience. Regardless, there's something about the shared moviegoing experience - the hushed whispers during the coming attractions, the smell of popcorn, the feeling of anticipation as the film begins - that makes me think that Grindhouse won't translate quite as well to DVD. The individual films, perhaps, especially Tarantino's. But Grindhouse as a whole is an experience that you've got to get off your ass and go to the theaters to see.

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