“Grindhouse” on BluRay

Directors: Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) and Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof)

Cast: Planet Terror – Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson, Electra and Elise “The Crazy Babysitter Twins”  Avellan

Death Proof – Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Sydney Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Eli Roth, Monica Staggs, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, Quentin Tarantino

Machete Trailer – Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey

Synopsis: Finally, Grindhouse is released in Australia as it was always intended.   A collaborative project between Rodriguez and Tarantino, this two-for-the-price-of-one double feature is a tribute to the B grade exploitation films that played mainly in American cinemas in the ’70s and 80’s.   We are talking guns, girls, gears, and gore galore.   The experiment also included scratching up the print and having missing film reels as was often the case back in the day.   Unfortunately, the experiment failed in the US, so Australia only got to see the two films individually.   An error corrected with the BluRay release, with fake trailers also inserted back in where they belong.

If you did not get the idea from the synopsis, it is almost with a sense of relief that Grindhouse has been released as originally intended.   That is something I have been waiting for, and have done so for many years now.   I refused to see the films at the cinema because I was not going to pay twice for what should be a single feature.   I only bought the individual films on DVD when the price had dropped low enough for them to equal two-for-the-price-of-one.   Yet being separate I think damages both films, as it is now clear that in separating them a good part of the magic and tone was lost.

Individually, they are not brilliant films.   They have paper-thin plot, a cast bursting with some of the most attractive women on-screen today, and with over-the-top production values and way much more gore than can possibly exist in a human body… and that is the whole point of the experiment.   The films were never meant to be taken seriously.   They are all about popcorn.   They are about teenage boys ogling fine female forms.   They are about seeing images you do not get elsewhere (for instance, an amputee go-go dancer with a machine gun for a prosthetic leg), and they are about real stunts, edge of your seat action in the absence of CGI.   Bringing the films together with over-the-top trailers, including Machete which was later made into its own feature which I have reviewed previously, Grindhouse sings in all of its exploitation glory.

Planet Terror is a zombie movie, with McGowan as the aforementioned amputee go-go dancer Cherry, and one that is actually an entertaining character as well as a punchline, Rodriguez is the classic outlaw hero type El Wray whom has a history with Cherry, Brolin is a doctor whom terrorises his anaesthetist wife, played by Marley Shelton, and there are a number of great cameos, including Willis and Tarantino.   As for plot, we have a group of survivors trying to escape a zombie outbreak… that’s it!

Death Proof is Tarantino’s homage to the classic car chase movie, with a focus on real stunts as opposed to CGI.   The impact of this approach is breath-taking (pardon the pun).   There is a clear difference to the action on display here than there is in any CGI car chase filmed in recent years.   Russel is Stuntman Mike, a psycho with a car that he has manufactured to be death proof… for him anyway.   He gets his rocks off causing attractive girls to get into horrendous accidents.   Ans that is the role most of the females in this film play, except when he meets real-life Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell (playing herself) and her friends Kim (Thom) and Abernathy (Dawson).   Russell really gets the joke in this film, and hams it up delightfully.   Being from south of the equator myself, it was great hearing Zoe’s native Kiwi accent up there, as well as seeing her play a classically delightful Kiwi personality type.   She lights up the scenes she is in, even when playing being in danger.   But the film in the end is not about actors, it is about cars, and the chase scenes really kick arse.

I can acknowledge how Grindhouse did not find success on its initial release.   If you went in not knowing what to expect, just wanting a traditional film with a Tarantino or Rodriguez bent, then this film may have exceeded many people’s sensibilities.   In the end, if you are reading this review and are thinking “this sounds so cool, get a copy of Grindhouse at the earliest convenience.   If you are not convinced yet though, chances are you never will be, so I advise you save your money!!

4.5 stars out of 5
Grindhouse on IMDB

Grindhouse on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0AaVUs3-Pw]

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!


Die Hard 4.0 – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Len Wiseman

Cast: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Synopsis: Many years after the last instalment, Die Hard returns.    McClane gets drawn into a terrorist attack that is targeting the realm of information technology.    Given his previously well established technophobe status, the side-kick duties go to Long’s Matt Farrell, a hacker whose activities unwittingly contributed to the initiation of the chaos.

A review by Film Nerd.

There was a mix of dread and anticipation when this film was originally announced.   Sure, Die Hard is a great franchise and ripe for a fresh instalment.   But Bruce Willis has aged considerably, so could he still pull off the big scale action blockbuster.   The naysayers need not have feared, as not only is Willis still convincing in an action role, the other important half of the equation, the laconic wit, is 100% in tact.

Making technology the enemy was an inspired choice.    If anything has been evident in this films predecessors, it is that McClane has never been a fan of all the mod cons.   As such, he is placed out of his depth immediately.   Without someone guiding him through, chances are him being successful would have been implausible.    Enter hacker Matt Farrell, another great big geek boy for Long to add to his long list of similar roles.   Before even seeing the film, I realised this partnership would determine the success of the film.   Thankfully, Farrell is not just a whiney inept tag-along type.   Yes, the director does exploit the fact that these two guys are from completely different realms, but Farrell becomes a worthy companion to McClane, and steps up to the plate when it is required of him.

Olyphant also is deserving of mention.   His villain actually has some pretty interesting motives, subverting the classic terrorism or bank heist macguffins of the previous films.    His history is shrouded to begin with, but as the layers are peeled back, matters do get more interesting.   Maggie Q has little to do overall, except be an arse-kicking vixen, a role she has also played in Mission: Impossible III.   I believe she is next to appear in a renewed television series Nikita, one of the many American rip-offs of Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita.    She does have the potential as a good actress, so this may not be a bad thing.   I would have liked to have seen her character here developed more though.   The other major cast member is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as McClane’s daughter Lucy.   She does achieve a lot in a relatively small role, and as mentioned in my review of Scott Pilgrim, she is an actress I intend to keep watching from this point on.

From a drama perspective, the film does achieve some brief moments of depth.   More so than any of the other films to date, the script explores the implications of what it is for McClane to be a “hero”.   It is not all roses and cotton candy, that is for sure.   That said, it simultaneously explores his motivation to step up when needed.   It is an interesting angle for a franchise born in the ’80s, but it was perhaps a vital link that connects this films with the expectations of modern audiences.

On the flip side of the coin, the other important thing to mention is the action.   It is regularly over the top, and scenes of McClane hanging on to a fighter jet to avoid falling from a destroyed bridge do stretch credibility to breaking point.   If you are going to criticise the film for this though, you are clearly missing the point.   Simple fact is, Wiseman has recognised that what propelled the action in the previous films is a constant sense of fun, and the action here delivers just that.

This is a perfect film for already established fans of the film franchise, as well as being a good introduction to the uninitiated (I can see Bride of Film Nerd reading that line with a bit of trepidation… not without reason as I think I will introduce her to this film at some point).   My personal recommendation is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Die Hard 4.0 on IMDB

Die Hard 4.0 on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EUJYh32KVw]

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Hader

Synopsis: Isn’t it always the way??   Boy meets girls, gets up the courage to talk to her, they go on a date… and he learns that he must now defeat her seven evil exes before he can truly start the relationship.   Wait, what the???   Based on the series of graphic novels written by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

A review by Film Nerd.

The scuttlebutt on this film had me face adversity (very minor burgeoning cold symptoms) and the blistering cold weather (actually, it was kinda warm, now i think of it), and drag a less than willing (actually, very willing) Bride of Film Nerd to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World after a visit to the bank this morning.  Okay, so the only real problem was that we didn’t go to our regular cinema so we paid through the nose for parking, but I digress.

I had high expectations walking into this film, and started to worry perhaps I should tame them for fear of disappointment.   I needn’t have worried.   From the moment a very pixellated Universal logo came on-screen with the regular audio being replaced with music that would not be out of place on a Commodore 64, I was hooked.   This remained a very kinetic and visually spectacular film throughout, so much so that the severest case of ADHD could easily be soothed in its 112 minute running time.   On top of this, it was as funny as all hell.

That said, I consider myself squarely in the target audience for this film, having grown up in the era of Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.   Each of these defining console games was affectionately references, often with humourous results.   Despite being rated M here, this is also a hero film you can take your kids too, as all the violence was very cartoon like, and with villains being dispatched in a cloud of coins.  In fact, it is more evidence that the Australian classification system is a joke, as this got a PG rating in the states, and a G rating in Canada.   I have the most accurate violence barometer sitting next to me in the cinema, and the only flinching she made on this occasion was struggling to breathe at times from laughter.

It is a fittingly quirky film from the director who brought us both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.   This is his first big budget American film, and I am delighted to say the budget only gave extra scope for his imagination rather than proving an odious burden, as it has so often done for lesser director’s in the past.   He is supported by a brilliant cast.   Cera’s Scott Pilgrim starts the film in the classic nerd role we know this actor so well for, but he actually kick’s arse when he gets to the battle scenes.   This is refreshing to see from him, and hopefully it is the start of him expanding out from the persona he has developed since Arrested Development.   Winstead plays love interest and source of everyone’s affection, Ramona Flowers.   I think we can expect a lot from this young actress, who has now impressed me for the third time, the first two times being John McClane’s daughter in Die Hard 4.0, and in Tarantino’s half of the under-rated Grind House, Death Proof.   Despite her loud and often changing hair, her performance is one of subtle nuance, perfect for the girl of mystery.   Pilgrim’s friends are a real treat, and given enough screen time each to exhibit their own eccentricities.  Leaving room for the seven evil exes to smirk and chew their way through scenery, from Evan’s movie actor Lucas Lee with numerous stunt doubles, and swooning opportunities for my partner in crime, to Schwartzman’s big bad, Record Label producer Gideon.

Which brings me to the other star of the film… the music.   Pilgrim is the bassist of band Sex Bob-Omb.   Artists such as Beck, and Canadian bands Metric and Broken Social Scene have each individually contributed music for the various competing bands, resulting in an incredibly cool soundtrack.   In fact, Australian Empire informs me that the soundtrack is “such an embarrassment of riches that it’s being released on two CDs”.   I was keen to buy said soundtrack after the ending credits finished rolling, but I am informed I will have to wait until it is released on September 7.

I highly recommend this film first to those that grew up with any gaming console 16-bit or less, second to great music fans, and third to fans of comedy in general.   It is hands down the funniest comedy released so far this year, taking the crown previously held by Date Night, wearing it to obtain increased strength and dexterity, then blowing all other competition away in a flurry of high kicks and sword play.   Now if that doesn’t get you excited, or if you are prone to epilepsy, stay away.   Everyone else, enjoy the ride.   Game on!

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on IMDB

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NUBVcit5VM]