I'm not sure how to review Grindhouse, any more than I'm sure how I could review a blowjob. By which I mean, I'm not without anything to say, but most of them involve the word "awesome", so I feel less than academic expressing most of them.
First of all, I'll be incredibly curious how this plays for the mainstream and indie crowds who will certainly be turning out en masse to see this. Much, much more than with, say, Kill Bill, this is a movie that is about the tribute more than the story. A scan at Rotten Tomatoes shows nearly all the critics are letting fly with knowing - or seemingly knowing - references to The Crazies and Vanishing Point. I can only wonder what any of it would mean to people who have to click to make sense of those titles, or others just like them, will make of this.
This movie is not, as previous works by directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino or others like them, a condensation of the things that are "good" in a fairly standard, mainstream sense recognized and rebuilt into something shiny and new. This movie is specifically a celebration of the things that mainstream audiences scoff at when exposed to these kinds of movies, from bad prints to wonky plot-points to bad special effects. I can't imagine it will win over many fans, although I'm sure many will pretend to have enjoyed this, perhaps inventing an irony most certainly not intended by the filmmakers.
As it goes, "Planet Terror" is easily the best piece of solo writing Rodriguez has done for an adult audience. Able, in this context, to use the everything but the kitchen sink approach that makes movies like Spy Kids so charming, he's clearly as much - if not significantly more - in element here as he's ever been. His use of the missing reel to push his story forward is near brilliant and the energy and humor of his story is infectious. A delight to watch.
"Death Proof", on the other hand, begins with the kind of amusing but rote style that Tarantino used for his segment of Four Rooms. He's seems much less comfortable revelling in this style than in simply namedropping the examples he loves. Aside from Kurt Russell's wonderful performance, the first half lags and drags until it's nearly over. Not only that, his missing reel seems more like another way to hide from his continuing fear of showing sexuality directly. Once the second half of the segment gets going, however, he's leapt fully into gear. This segment contains a much more charismatic cast and what will undoubtedly go down in the history of car chases.
As to the fake trailers... Rodriguez's "Machete" opens everything with a bang. I can't even begin to say how much I'd like to see that movie. Between features, we get a chance to see the other three. First is Rob Zombie's "Werewolf Women of the SS", which is delightful and funny. Second is Edgar Wright's "Don't", which seems to mimic the gothic horrors of John Hough, whose Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is referenced several times in "Death Proof", and is two or three of the most perfectly executed minutes in the whole three hours, which I mean in this case as a very high compliment. The third is Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving", linked below, which riffs on the same old chestnut as the old "Arbor Day" parody from MAD Magazine, although not without some humorous moments of its own.
And I managed to write a review without filling it with "awesomes", perhaps if I find someone looking for people to review blowjobs, I may submit this as a writing sample.