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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25.62%
Average: 7.44%
Pretty Bad: 3.31%
Total Crap: 2.48%

9 reviews, 67 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Only A Hot Fuzz/Knocked Up Double Feature Could Be Better This Year"
4 stars

After explaining to radio hosts who claimed to be big fans of Tarantino that the Grindhouse experience recreated by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin for this double feature experiment was not at all like the Ed Wood films of the ‘60s, it dawned on me that I was going to still have to offer a little explanation as to what this geeked-out horror fest was rooted in. Grindhouses were theaters in the ‘60s and ‘70s famous for playing double features of B-movies known for their exploitation of extreme violence, sex and taboo subject matter. Since many of them also offered burlesque shows as additional entertainment, the “grind” in the terminology was born. While many theaters and conventions such as Chicago’s own Flashback Weekend (held each summer) have had special programming for hardcore fans, Rodriguez and Tarantino are giving it a full re-birth complete with fake trailers, scratchy prints, missing reels and a full movie apiece. Despite the occasional bump-‘n-grind over its three-hour-plus running time, there haven’t been two films released in 2007 yet more worth your dollar.

Things kick off in true grindhouse fashion with Rose McGowan go-go dancing her way over the opening credits to Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. She plays Cherry, a dancer prone to ending her routines with tears rather than fully exposed flesh. (After From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and Sin City, Rodriguez is officially the king of creating strip clubs where nothing gets stripped.) In a chance encounters she comes across her ex-lover, “El” Wray (Freddy Rodriguez, kicking a whole lot of ass in this part), a mysterious drifter whose nickname gives him the respect he normally wouldn’t receive from the local sheriff (Michael Biehn). This isn’t a story about lost love though. There are ZOMBIES on the loose!

A toxic gas from the nearby military base is infecting the town of Austin and it doesn’t help that two of their doctors, Dakota & William Block (Marley Shelton & Josh Brolin), are in the middle of a brooding marital dispute. Those immune to the outbreak join forces and ammunition to horde off the bitey invaders which will take them from the off-highway BBQ shack run by Jeff Fahey to the base itself overseen by one of several surprise cameos. Cherry’s fate is redefined by a nasty encounter with the puss-filled munchers, leaving her half a right leg and an opportunity for Wray to turn her into a destruction instrument of superheroic proportions.

Rodriguez has always been a filmmaker less concerned with expensive budgets and more with how much he can get out of the new toys he has to play with – and that makes this goofily entertaining piece a perfect fit. As he works in a new idea or gross-out gag in seemingly every scene, Rodriguez also plays with the grindhouse aesthetic to a literal extreme. There are lottery tickets with less scratches then on the print of Planet Terror and he’s made good on his promise to add large, gaping splices during moments the MPAA poo-poo’ed as too much to stomach. Zombies explode, abcesses are popped and gun safety advocates have a new PSA that could start running immediately. It’s all part of the frenetically funny opener that’s a perfect warm-up for Tarantino’s unpredictable contribution to the dance card.

But first, the intermission. Not an actual one mind you as there’s still plenty to see, but if the urge for a bladder break hits you, use the two minutes during Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the S.S. trailer. Aside from the hilarious cameo at the end, here is further proof that Zombie can’t even make a worthwhile film using nothing but money shots and exaggeration. It’s a wasted idea that’s just a fantasy excuse to put his wife (Sheri Moon Zombie) in a Nazi costume instead of utilizing Sybil Danning’s Howling II connection. On the other hand, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is his best work to date. As a filmmaker whose horror/comedy aspirations (Cabin Fever & Hostel) translate uneasily to feature-length narratives, Roth beheads enough people in less than three minutes to push the Legend of Sleepy Hollow to a page 12 footnote and the result is a lot of fun. Robert Rodriguez’s Machete precedes his own feature as the kick-off, but it’s Edgar Wright’s Don’t that wins the grand prize for perfecting the mock-up of the classic British horror films warning and (at the same time) daring its audience to attend it’s macabre promise of doom. Wright has already blown the lids off the zombie flick (Shaun of the Dead) and the cop genre (the impending brilliance of Hot Fuzz) and if Grindhouse 2 is eventually greenlit, here’s hoping that Wright is the first one chosen to follow in these film geek footsteps.

Big shoes to fill coming from the feet of Tarantino whose second feature of the evening, Death Proof, is going to be remembered on a lot of Nick Hornby-esque lists for years to come. Number one with a bullet is the amount of gabby setups for the big punchline to the guts, but we’re nitpicking ahead of ourselves. When three girls (Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Poitier, Jordan Ladd) make their way to a local Austin watering hole, they didn’t expect more than a few drinks, avoiding bad pick-up lines and some good tunes. Ferlito’s Arlene has seen that dark, skull-painted car around town a little too often today and tonight they will meet the owner. Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who goes under that full name and boasts an occupational hazard scar across his face, appears harmless enough unless you’re a plate of nachos. Get him behind the wheel of his stunt-enforced auto though and there’s little insurance can do for you.

Mike loves getting more bang for his buck and tracks down another foursome on break from shooting a Hollywood movie including Rosario Dawson’s Abernathy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Lee whose I.Q. seems to have come with her cheerleading costume. Two of them are stunt women themselves (Tracie Thoms and real-life stunter Zoe Bell as “herself”) and their gab shifts frequently to famous car chase films in the light that a local is selling the exact model Dodge Challenger featured in 1971’s Vanishing Point. When they (again) talk their way into a test drive, how can Stuntman Mike resist the opportunity to go wheel-to-wheel with one of the legendary cinematic automobiles?

At an equal 85 minutes to Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, Tarantino’s Death Proof takes its sweet ol’ time getting to its two sequences of Mike’s autoerotic destruction. No less than an hour of it is dedicated to the slow build (and, at least, half of that is Mike-free.) It’s part Tarantino’s gift for nonsensical gab and part frustration in wanting Mike and his car to have more than just a supporting role. You can guarantee some restlessness in the audience since the first payoff could easily have come 10-15 minutes earlier (beginning by chopping out Eli Roth and the other men, including Tarantino, from the bar scene) and we’re already into the third hour of the experience. But all is forgiven when Quentin gets his big shot to make cinema history.

The first of his car crashes is an exercise in shocking the audience piece-by-limb over and over again, but itself is merely a trailer of things to come as the final 20 minutes make up one of the most impressively staged and performed car chases you’ve ever seen. And I use the word “performed” in order to give due credit to stuntwoman Zoe Bell making her acting debut. Bell, who was Uma Thurman’s double in Kill Bill (and was one-half the subject of a marvelously entertaining documentary about stuntwomen called Double Dare), is completely charming in the role but its what she does on the hood of a Dodge Challenger that will be remembered long after you’ve left the theater.

This is where Tarantino’s build-up pays off in spades. It’s more than just caring for these women during the terror they are put through, but also to establish them as tough enough to take a few sideswipes and then look for payback. Rent-haters may enjoy Stuntman Mike bumpin’-n’-grindin’ a quarter of the film’s cast around a bit, but Tracie Thoms isn’t bursting into song to deal with it. Her performance as a tough-as-balls (but 100% feminine) stunt chick will elicit more applause and appreciation than a hundred female-empowerment action flicks (another list that Death Proof belongs high up on.) But if Kurt Russell, one of the most underappreciated actors we’ve ever had, doesn’t get his just due as Stuntman Mike then people aren’t paying attention to how truly brilliant his work is. Imagine his best roles with John Carpenter (and notice the shirt hanging in that Austin bar) mixed into a blender and served into an unending portion of tough-guy cool, creepy misogyny and macho bravura turned on its ear. Russell’s last few scenes are unquestionably the most hilarious work of his entire career and adds a dimension to the character that you couldn’t see being pulled off by Mickey Rourke (who was originally cast and dropped out over differences with Tarantino.) Russell owns this role and audiences couldn’t hope to leave the Grindhouse experience with a greater final payoff.

Rodriguez’s film certainly moves at breakneck speed compared to the majority of Tarantino’s, which may lead some to thoughts I originally had in that the order of the films be switched. By the end I would disagree and not just because Tarantino’s final moment is more satisfying or the backwards order allows for Quentin’s time-shift continuum. With all the inventiveness Rodriguez has brought to the screen with digital filmmaking, there’s an interesting progression considering his segment is purposefully more retro and Tarantino’s has the classical look of old-fashioned cinema while far more skillful than the works they are both homaging. If there’s a battle for cinema’s soul, Tarantino wins it hands down despite both of them pussying out on the sex element and turning it into a running joke that will get a huge groan the second time around. Rob Zombie and lack of nudity aside, Grindhouse is a theatrical experience that I’d love to see more of provided it doesn’t turn into a second-rate Masters of Horror (which would still be a step-up.) But for now, bargains don’t get much better than this.

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originally posted: 04/06/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell long but fun 4 stars
4/16/14 Charles Tatum Rodriquez gets in the spirit, but QT's is so boring. 4 stars
12/26/12 J. Van Buren death proof does seem a little dry the first time but gets better with repeated viewings. 4 stars
8/30/12 roscoe planet terror is fairly good. death proof sucked ass 3 stars
4/04/12 Jason Coffman 5 stars for the full theatrical experience! 5 stars
9/26/10 art only good thing in 'GRINDHOUSE" was ROSE MCGOWAN"S exotic dancer! 2 stars
3/15/10 matt planet terror is flawless action comedy. death proof was long but enjoyable, underrated imo 5 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper 70's style double feature for a generation that doesn't know what that is. 5 stars
12/01/09 Cutter blah blah boring tripe 2 stars
6/27/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess It's almost like a double feature DVD from Something Weird Video, but as one movie! 4 stars
5/05/09 Kike Sosa Now every single car chase I see WILL suck! 4 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner I really enjoyed this film. 5 stars
5/18/08 jm Why did the second half of each film suck? 4 stars
4/14/08 Mike Has funny moments, has disgusting moments. Both can do a lot better. 2 stars
3/25/08 Isaac M. Baranoff Loved it. They should make one of these every year. 5 stars
3/10/08 Jayme Isaacs I Really Liked This Movie 5 stars
11/12/07 Alec Original, clever, and often hilarous - I liked this movie 5 stars
10/28/07 Jonathan The shot in the arm movies have needed for far too long. 5 stars
9/20/07 Johnnyfaye hahaha what fun, if you didn't like the movie, you knew what you were getting into.WhydidUg 4 stars
9/10/07 Doug Best movie of the year!I vote for "Machete" and "Thanksgiving" for the next double feature! 5 stars
8/31/07 scotty The Best Movie of the Year!! 5 stars
7/30/07 Louise Saw Death Proof - good stuff, just dragged in the middle when dialogue went on too long 4 stars
7/22/07 Don Paco Only saw Death Proof - and it fucking rocked. 5 stars
7/04/07 Booksworm Veritas is right.Rodriguez should make"Machete".(Of course,I'd likely watch"Thanksgiving".) 5 stars
7/03/07 William Goss Sloppy homage-tacular proves to be great fun in distinctly different manners. 5 stars
6/21/07 Alice only saw DP (europe).GO TARANTINO GO!!! HE DID IT AGAIN ! 5 stars
6/20/07 caiphn I really liked Death Proof. Planet Terror was good too. 5 stars
6/15/07 Anthony G Best movie of the year so far. Just shows that box office doesn't mean shit. 5 stars
6/10/07 Danielle Ophelia Entered the theater a skeptic, left a total believer. 5 stars
5/16/07 matt Sick, demented fun. Planet Terror kicked so much ass... 5 stars
5/11/07 chris. you call this cheap porn? the sections with the porn were lost! noooooo 5 stars
5/08/07 Itsgonnarock Amazing start to finish can't wait till the missing reels are added in the dvd 5 stars
5/04/07 Boaby Digital Won't work for everyone but if you like a tongue in cheek romp, it's a blast! 5 stars
5/03/07 Wesley Death Proof is good, with one of the best car chases ever, but Planet Terror stomps it. 5 stars
5/02/07 Veritas One almost wishes that this "Grindhouse" trend would continue.(Like with Machete?) 5 stars
4/23/07 Zaw Somepeople just don't get it please wikipedia GrindHouse. 5 stars
4/20/07 VInce Planet Terror was awesome, Death Proof was OK. 5 stars
4/20/07 Lauren you have to go see it! 5 stars
4/16/07 Wayne machine gun leg, Death Proof dialog, 3+ hours, etc.... oh the humanity, it was REALLY bad! 1 stars
4/16/07 Dragula Just plain BAD 1 stars
4/16/07 Bob G. The most fun I have had at the movies in years!!!! 5 stars
4/16/07 Steve Loved it, didn't seem as long as it was. 5 stars
4/16/07 msxanax 5 stars
4/16/07 Reesefire Black How much do you wanna bet that Indrid Cold's gonna pan this? 5 stars
4/15/07 lakemiss took way too much time ..not worth it 1 stars
4/15/07 mr. mike just didn't work for me 2 stars
4/14/07 Shaman 3 words for Tarantino- "Just SHUT UP"!! Other than that, it was great! 4 stars
4/13/07 Alex I actually liked Planet Terror more than DeathProof, but I thought both were great. 4 stars
4/12/07 Miss Lady I let my 15 yr old son talk me into seeing what I thought was carp! It was awesome, 5 stars
4/12/07 3Y03 The best movie I've seen this year. The trailors are ingenious. 5 stars
4/12/07 Anthony G AWESOME. See this movie, period. 5 stars
4/10/07 Jeff. Three words. Go, See and It! 5 stars
4/10/07 John Totally laugh out loud hilarious 5 stars
4/10/07 RazorFang Planet Terror had more action and violence;Death proof had better acting and plot. 5 stars
4/10/07 gulembo cabrón! 4 stars
4/10/07 Darren Shea Extremely self-indulgent, but almost as much fun to watch as it probably was to make. 5 stars
4/09/07 BrianWilly Oh SO VERY AWESOME 5 stars
4/09/07 dbx PT - great film, totally fun. DP - AWESOME. outstanding. inspiring 5 stars
4/09/07 Stacy Planet Terror -- great. Death Proof -- boring for an hour, then awesome. 4 stars
4/09/07 m-dude Unbelievably geuniusly rediculous and one of the best movies ive ever seen 5 stars
4/08/07 Sully I'm gonna call a couple a hard, pipe-hittin' grrrls to go to work on the homes here 5 stars
4/08/07 Eric P. Thrilling and amazing. 5 stars
4/07/07 malcolm ridiculous but fun 3 stars
4/07/07 Ole Man Bourbon Death P'-awesome, but no 2nd act. Planet T'-meh. Kurt is great for QT. No int'msn fwiw. 5 stars
4/07/07 the wizz i came in to this expecting nothing but some cheap porn, i wasn' diappointed! 3 stars
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  06-Apr-2007 (R)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2007



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