Thursday, January 24, 2008


1 divided by 2 + footage=Planet Terror

By Edward Copeland
I never got a chance to see Grindhouse in the theater though I really wanted to, but the odd way they've handled its DVD release means I will never see what others did. The much-talked about trailers between Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof might be on bonus discs, but I didn't rent those. Of course, I also have no way of knowing what's been added to Planet Terror. I can say though that, for what it is, I enjoyed it quite a lot.

For the most part, Rodriguez really nails the look and feel of a '70s-type exploitation film and the great ensemble cast all play it just right, from Jeff Fahey as the chili cook to Josh Brolin as the asshole doctor, from Naveen Andrews' crooked scientist to Freddy Rodriguez's ostensible hero.

If I had any complaint about Planet Terror, it's when it inserts timely references such as Osama bin Laden and 9/11. They seem out of place since the film plays as if it were made in the 1970s and come off sounding like anachronisms.

The action scenes come off suitably over-the-top as does the gore, since this is a zombie film. I wish I could have seen it as Grindhouse, especially with those fake trailers in between, though the Machete preview at the opening is fun in itself.

Death Proof is up next in my rental queue, so I'll get to see the second half of Grindhouse soon, sort of.

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It's funny, something I REALLY liked about Planet Terror was the modern references to Osama, etc. In the films of the 70's you'd have similar references, and I like the idea of a movie that feels like it's from the 70's but takes place now. It's sort of mixing universes.

Anyway, it worked for me.
I saw it in Istanbul where the film was released on its own (as was Death Proof), so I, too, will never have the same experience people had in its original US run.

I enjoyed Planet Terror more than I did Death Proof, which goes on for far too long. The former is exactly what it says on the tin, with a few nice surprises along the way. It's the kind of gratuitous violence that really is meaningless: its vacousness is its greatest asset. If the film tried to be about something, like the new Rambo film, it would have floundered.

Best moment: Naveen Andrews's surprising exit.
I'm about halfway through Death Proof and I already agree that it's way too long, but I have lots of other problems with it that I imagine would have been there in the shorter version as well. It's nowhere near as fun as Planet Terror.
If you're only halfway through Death Proof, I think you may enjoy it more in the second half. In comparison to Rodriguez's film, which is pure pastiche and an undeniable joy to watch, Tarantino's film is all about the structural pleasures of the narrative, which winds up being, IMO, a much deeper experience than Planet Terror. That said, I haven't seen the expanded versions of these films yet, so I could see how a longer running time and added scenes might slacken the impact of what was, in its original incarnation, a perfectly paced and constructed film.

The chopped-up release of these films is doing them a grave disservice in general. The original experience of seeing both these films separated by the hilarious trailers was a real hoot and one of my most fun theatrical viewings last year.
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