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PCR # 367  (Vol. 8, No. 14)  This edition is for the week of April 2--8, 2007.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

"Grindhouse"  by Mike Smith
The Garden State Film Fest '07  by Paul Guzzo
Passing On....Trivial Notes....Dice-K....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 14: Bill Macy  by Mike Smith
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The Weinstein Company     
Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin and Bruce Willis
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Sydney Poitier and Zoe Bell
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Both films together as "Grindhouse":
Rated: R
Running Time: 3 hours 11 mins

Hollywood has had many eras. The 1940s and 50s gave us musicals. The 1960s gave us "message" films. And the 1970s gave us the good old exploitation film. Lots of scantily-clad women, fast cars, zombies. Put any one group in a film and you had a movie. Put them all in the same film and you had a classic! Movies like "Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S." and "Ghetto Freaks" stand out in my mind because I used to work at a theatre that ran them at midnight. In their heyday, the movie theatres in Times Square were referred to as "Grindhouses," theatres that showed these kinds of films to packed houses at all hours of the night. I can remember visiting Manhattan in the early 1980s and seeing hundreds of people lined up to attend a midnight showing of an old Sonny Chiba film, the highlight being a personal appearance by Chiba himself. I'm not the only one who remembers this period fondly. Filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino do, and they have collaborated again (remember 1996's vampire film "From Dusk 'til Dawn?") on a film destined to be a cult classic.

In "Planet Terror," we meet Cherry (McGowan) a go-go dancer fed up with her life. When she begins crying while performing on stage she quits, telling her boss that her life needs a "dramatic change." Wish granted. Within minutes she stumbles upon an old boyfriend and a town full of zombies. Attacked by the monsters, Cherry loses a leg, which is soon replaced with an M16 assault rifle. Dramatic enough? In "Death Proof," a slick Chevy Nova keeps following a group of attractive young women. Driving the car is Stuntman Mike (Russell), who's scarred face didn't keep him from being a stand-in on many television westerns (a nice homage to Kurt Russell's father, Bing, who starred in "The Magnificent Seven" and spent several years on "Gunsmoke."). Mike boasts that his car is "death proof," then must prove it in a showdown.

As individual film makers, both Rodriguez and Tarantino have taken films to new levels. Together they have created a masterpiece of a homage to the films they grew up with and shaped their careers. From the cheesy coming attractions (my favorite was "Machete," starring Danny Trejo as a Mexican mercenary and Cheech Marin as his priest sidekick) to the scratchy film images to the many abrupt cuts and scene jumps, viewing "Grindhouse" is like taking a trip back in time when movies were a shaping force in American culture. Both directors have cast their films with famous faces from the past including Michael Parks from "Then Came Bronson," Udo Kier (star of Andy Warhol's "Frankenstein" and "Dracula") and Sybil Danning. Joining them are some more recent stars like Dawson and her "Rent" co-star Tracie Thoms. Poitier (daughter of screen legend Sidney) is sassy as an Austin-based disc-jockey, and renowned stunt woman Zoe Bell gets to play herself and show her skills. And it's fun to see Josh Brolin on screen as an M.D., following in the footsteps of his father, James, who played Dr. Kiley on "Marcus Welby." The special effects by master Greg Nicotero and his partner Howard Berger are spectacularly bloody, with gallons flowing at the expense of the "Planet Terror" zombies. "Death Proof" is definitely a Tarantino film, with the characters speaking dialogue like it had been written by Shakespeare himself. The stunts in both films are top-notch, especially an incredible car chase between Dodge Chargers with Bell on the hood as the "ship's mast."

On a scale of zero to four, I give "Grindhouse"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Grindhouse" is ©2007 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2007, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.