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Notes from the Back Row

Vocab time



You learn something new every day right?

Exploitation films – a genre of movies, popularized in the late 1960s-70s, that generally didn’t give a crap about the traditional ideas of film having artistic merit, instead opting for more of a sensationalistic approach; usually featuring excessive sex, violence, gore.

Grindhouse – run-down theatres that once housed the “bump and grind” burlesque crowd that began showing b-movies and exploitation flicks, often two or three films for the price of one. In the early 1980s the grindhouse theatre was rendered almost obsolete with the rise in popularity of home video.


But starting Friday the Village 8 will take a high-octane rip right back to the good old days with the release of Grindhouse , a nostalgic fanboy homage to movie exhibitionism from visionary directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

Grindhouse is two movies run back to back and separated by kick-ass fake trailers. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror isn’t all that terrifying, nor does it take place on another planet, rather it’s a tale about a one-legged stripper (Rose McGowan doing her best [only?] work in years) who leads a band of unlikely warriors through a zombie apocalypse love story. Enjoy gallons of blood, superb decapitations, pus-filled wounds, shotguns, Tom Savini getting torn apart, and yes, a machine gun for a leg.

When the 90-minute Planet Terror ends the grindhouse theater tradition is kept alive with fake trailers from gore lovers like Eli Roth ( Hostel), Edgar Wright ( Shaun of the Dead) and exploitation-king Rob Zombie ( Devil’s Rejects.) And then Tartantino’s Death Proof begins.

Death Proof is a mix of the slasher film, the female revenge flick, and the honkey-tonk car chase picture. Kurt Russell stars as a badass psychotic stuntman killer stalking a bunch of even more badass, trash-talking, butt-kicking, hot chicks and mowing them down with his suped up Dodge Charger. Russell is phenomenal, reminding us that despite the feel-good dramas ( Miracle) he’s been hitting us with lately he still has a bit of the ”I don’t give a f*<k,” attitude of Snake Plissken ( Escape from New York). The women, including Rosario Dawson, are the real stars of the film and revenge is a common Tarantino theme. While Quentin, (true to the genre, and his style) is heavy on dialogue and light on action, the action he does include is astounding, especially the no-CGI car chases that are as good as anything since the original Gone in 60 Seconds, which is one of many classic b-films named dropped in the movie.

Both Grindhouse films stay true to form and genre and include soundtrack problems, missing reals, worn, battered filmstock and shaky empathetic relations to their characters. Hats off to Rodriguez and Tarantino, two of America’s most skilled and revolutionary directors, who embrace clichés, play with them, and bring a film to the screen that’s refreshing in its nostalgic love of long-lost movie culture. For people like me this is the motion picture event of the year. Grindhouse , they just don’t make ’em like this anymore.

  Unfortunately, how they make ’em these days is more akin to Are We Done Yet? an utterly stupid film about a family who moves into a Fix-er-up-er mansion and struggles to fix ’er up. Rapper Ice Cube reverts to his pussy-ass cuddly bear persona and gets beat on by a variety of wild animals including a fish. A fish! It’s a good thing, Cube’s old bandmate Eazy E passed away in 1996, he’d never stand for this crap. Are We Done Yet? It’s not just the name, it’s what you’ll be asking yourself throughout the 86-minute running time.

AT VILLAGE 8 April 6-12: Grindhouse; Are We Done Yet; The Reaping; Firehouse Dog; Blades of Glory; TMNT; 300; Meet the Robinsons; Reign Over Me; Shooter

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