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April 09, 2007

Grindhouse: Roadkill Movie May Be Hacked And Slashed Into Two Separate Movies

Note: I just thought I'd highlight something that doesn't come through in my review. Although I seem pretty damn negative about this movie -- and I'm still bewildered at some of the choices made, the bloated running length, etc. -- overall, it's a fun movie, and I liked it quite a bit. I'd give it three stars, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the basic premise (and who understands this is one of the goriest movies ever made; a lot of that gore is played for silly laughs, but some will still find it pretty disgusting).

I have a lot of criticisms of it, and I think it could have been a minor classic were it not sabotaged by over-indulgence, but overall -- hey, it was a fun three hours and twelve minutes, and I didn't get bored at any point, except for Tarantino's interminable yak-yak parts, when I got very bored indeed, bordering on physically angry at Tarantino.

But that said -- the good parts of Death Proof make the whole featurette worth watching. Well, worth watching like a porno -- fast-forwarding to the action. And Planet Terror is largely a hoot. And the trailers... awesome.

...

Big box office disappointment:

Harvey Weinstein told me this morning that he's "incredibly disappointed" with the half-than-expected $12 mil box office for Grindhouse released on Easter Weekend (a controversial move itself). So much so, that he's considering abandoning the double feature as a single feature concept and re-releasing the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez movie around the U.S. "in a couple of weeks" as two separate feature-length movies with additional footage put in. grindhouse_bigfinalposter.jpgThat's what Harvey says The Weinstein Co. is already intending to do with the film's release in Europe: split it into two separate pics, Tarantino's Death Proof and Rodriguez's Planet Terror.

....

So this is why The Weinstein Co. is now deciding to suck it up and do in this country what it probably should have done all along. "First of all, I'm incredibly disappointed. We tried to do something new and obviously we didn't do it that well," Harvey told me today. "It's just a question of how is it going to hang in there. But we could split the movies in a couple of weeks. Make Tarantino's a full-length film, and Rodriguez's too. We'll be adding those 'two missing reels' that's talked about in the movie." (At one point in Grindhouse, a sex scene is interrupted because of "two missing reels" -- one of the many conceits and indulgences.)

Weinstein pointed to several reasons why Grindhouse did so poorly in theaters over Easter weekend. "Our research showed the length kept people away. It was the single biggest deterrent. It was 3 hours and 12 minutes long. grondhouse1.jpgWe originally intended to get it all in in 2 hours, 30 minutes. That would have been a better time. But the movies ran longer, the [fake] trailers ran longer, everything ran longer," Harvey told me.

Okay, let me say that having seen the film, cutting it into two will not work. Neither of these "features" is capable of standing on its own. That isn't to say Grindhouse is a bad movie; I liked it a great deal. But neither "feature" is long enough or strong enough to justify release as a stand-alone picture. They work together -- especially with those fake trailers, the best part of the whole damn thing -- but won't work alone. Together, they're a spoof/homage to crap cinema; on their own, they're just sort of, well, crap cinema, period.

What was really needed was a great deal more editing. Both "features" clock in at nearly 90 minutes (89 minutes for one, 87 minutes for the other). That is unacceptable and grossly miscalculating an audience's patience for this fare.

Three hours and 12 minutes is a long time to spend in the theater. Personally, I thought the time went by pretty quickly -- except for Tarantino's endless, mindless, pointless scenes of meaningless dialogue he uses to pad out his 50 minute mini-movie into a bloated 87 minutes.


(However, let me say that the good twenty five minutes of Death Proof are very good indeed; one quickly forgives Tarantino's insufferable induglences once the gory Coyote/Roadrunner muscle-car chase sequence begins.) I'd recommend the movie, even at that length, and just tell everyone that they can have a bathroom break and a cigarette break and even a ten minutes of videogames break during the plodding and horrible opening 25 minutes of Death Proof. Just make sure you come back when the girls are getting ready to leave the bar.

However, a little bit of prudent editing, and an initial plan to shoot for 60 minute, rather than 90 minute, "features" would have been a great idea. First of all, the film features "missing reels" for effect -- both to simulate what it's like watching a movie in a crappy theater and to allow the directors to skip portions of their movie so they can, in theory, segue right from opening to Big Stunt Scene One to Thrilling Climax without all those boring "talking bits" in the middle. However, neither really seems to take advantage of that. Tarantino fills a good 40 minutes on those boring "talking bits" (and it's not even interesting dialogue; he seems to reject interesting dialogue as an unrealistic contrivance, and so gives us the mundane, stupid, obvious, not-even-worth-listening-to babble that most real "dialogue" really is. Rodriguez, on the other hand, gives us far too much plot for his silly little movie -- look, we're just there to see Rose McGowan shoot up zombies with her machine-gun leg. Couldn't he have skipped most of the boring and stupid plotting of a real film of this type?

At a lean, mean 2:25 minutes, this movie would have been terrific. Plus they even may have been able to include one or two more fake movie trailers, which would have been great, because those little two-minutes-of-gore-filled-stupidity are just plain hilarious.

And I thought that was the whole point of Grindhouse: to abandon plotting and characterization and just give us the good 'n gory parts of a couple of cheap exploitation pictures. The trailers remember that, but the features don't. Instead, Tarantino sets out to make a more or less straight Tarantino picture (seeming to forget, entirely, the spoof nature of this endeavor) and Rodriguez loses steam in a pointless overabundance of plotting.

As it is, it's good, but flawed, and very nearly drives you out the theater during the beginning of Tarantino's Death Proof. (But if you are driven away-- come back. Kurt "Plissken" Russel is hilarious as automotive serial killer Stuntman Mike once the comical reversal occurs.)

Rather than release it as two separate pictures -- which will really cause it to tank; trust me, people could barely sit through Tarantino's feature at its current running length; they will riot in the theater if it's bloated any further by "extra matrial" -- they really should just get in there with editor's scissors and start cutting out chunks of the parts that don't work. Doesn't really matter if the plot makes less sense that way; that's part of the charm of this release anyhow.

A good ten minutes can be clipped from Rodgriguez' movie, and a good twenty-five from Tarantino's. Get thee to the editing machine, boys.

Actually: Rodriguez' movie could probably only stand to lose five minutes or so. Unlike Tarantino, he actually has enough material to make an (almost) full movie. Tarantino, on the other hand, just had a cute premise (which is probably ripped off from some other movie) and about 20 minutes of good action and then padded out with what he considers his Brilliant Ear for Dialogue.

It's not brilliant. It's awful. Death Proof is just like his segment in Four Rooms -- a cute idea ripped off from someone else's move (or tv episode), a small comical variation on that, and then a punishingly long preamble of excrutiatingly bad "Tarantinoesque" dialogue that makes you want to punch him in his geek mouth. The actual payoff is kinda good, but then, the payoff is fairly brief; why did we have to sit through all that awful dialogue for such a quickie punchline?

But, in the interests of "fairness," I'll claim that Rodriguez can lose ten minutes of his movie. He probably could, but it should be said that Planet Terror is consistently amusing, even in its draggier parts, and its draggier parts are only a minute or two long at the most. It's consistently amusing and fun.

Death Proof, on the other hand, is two separate movies, one godawful, one pretty damn good. Three minutes early with Kurt "Plissken" Russel, and then the last twenty five minutes of the chase -- that's the good stuff. The godforsaken stuff is everything else, more than half the "movie."

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posted by Ace at 07:36 PM

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