Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hump Day Hotties: Grindhouse Girls

At the risk of sounding undeniably easy/geeky by mentioning this again: Rose McGowan has a machine gun for a leg (!!!) in Planet Terror, the first and most accessible half of Grindhouse. Though that famous image is some kind of genius mix of the physiologically wrong and the emotionally right --I've always thought of McGowan as a harder more vulgar version of many other starlets before her with gorgeous mugs and killer legs, ha ha -- that prop is hardly the only hot/sick thing about this double feature and she's hardly the only woman onscreen with deadly --well, I'd share a little more but I'd risk spoilers about some clever symmetries in the three hour adventure. But I don't wanna spoil anything (you really should see it in theaters)

These are my four favorite women (in alpha order) in Rodriguez & Tarantino's double feature jampacked with babes, gore, guns and abundant vehicular homicide.

Zöe Bell, a New Zealand born stuntwoman, plays herself in Death Proof. Kiwi accents are always adorable and combined with her self-possessed physicality and instantly likeable smile --well, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. The cynic would say that this is because she spends half her time in an elaborately compromising position but I really hope she takes another acting role soon to test my theory that this is a woman with screen presence and not just great stunt skills.

Rosario Dawson. Uncle! I've resisted Rosario in the past but since she's looking more and more like she really loves to act (I love it when you can see the joy in performing. I'm usually a goner if that's visible) I've opened my heart. Anyway... appropos of nothing: Remember in 25th Hour when she had those flashback scenes where she's supposed to be in high school only she didn't look young enough? Well she's five years older now (almost 28) but she looks younger than ever in Death Proof. Was it the hairdo? What's going on there?

Rose McGowan, has two legs for most of Grindhouse (she is one of only a handful of actors to appear in both Planet Terror and Death Proof) but the leg gimmick / marketing hook aside this is the best performance I've ever seen her give: Unforced, sexy, charismatic and in on the joke.

Marley Shelton. Aside from her 2000 Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue cover appearance, sandwiched inbetween Chris Klein and Mena Suvari, I've never much noticed this actress before but she was probably my favorite part of Grindhouse. Loved her jittery wide eyed fear and drawn out character gimmick: she plays a nurse with a secret and three deadly colored needles. Rodriguez has lots of fun forcing you to guess how the needles will be used.

As for the movies themselves, I thought Planet Terror was a scream --visually inventive, off its rocker, and perfectly cheesy while maintaining a straight face. Death Proof is wildly exciting in its last act but getting there I'll admit I found torturous. I admired the overall structure a lot and normally I enjoy Tarantino's longwinded dialogue but I failed to see his oft criticized penchant for blather adding up to anything here other than the excessive padding of the running time --can he not edit himself? Here's a thought: Just make a movie that's the same length as your story! If the aim was to make me feel for the characters it didn't work at all. I am mostly a pacifist as a moviegoer and I can't recall ever feeling this way before but I was super glad about the first casualties in Death Proof because I was so anxious for the characters to stop talking --I like talky movies. But I need something to actually be said. The fake trailers were mostly ingenious and fun (Don't! was highlarious but I thought Machete was pretty great, too) but three hours was enough 'sploitation for me. I'm glad I didn't have to sit through the imaginary movies.

Planet Terror B+ / Death Proof C+ / Grindhouse B
Disclaimer: The grade might seem a little low (I had a ball and highly recommend) but adjust accordingly after remembering that I don't go for gore and am not well versed in the type of movies they're paying homage to here.

If you need more from the Grindhouse babes, check out Vanity Fair's fun video of their photoshoot for the magazine. ("Get me Dermarchelier"... "I have Patrick")


damian said...

Really, Zoe Bell over both Tracie Thoms and Sydney Tamiia Portier? I found Bell to be just the worst and really appreciated both Thoms, Portier as well as the other three you mentioned. I mean, Jungle Julia, c'mon?!

Beau said...

I've got to agree with Queeny. Poiter was adequate, but I blame that more on the superficial nature of the character she portrayed as opposed to the woman's talent. Thoms, meanwhile, took on the hefty and potentially disasterous role of the Grieresque hard-ass and turned it into a thing of beauty. Even though I despised how Tarantino wraps up all this business with the women and their wolf, her line-delivery and Dawson's infectous radiance kept me intact and in it.

And yes, Shelton and McGowan KICKED FUCKING ASS.


yeah i think i'm gonna just have to face it: i just don't like Tracie Thoms. I liked her in Rent but I thought that in both Prada and Death Proof she plays her characters in the most obvious way possible. she's all surface to me.

maybe if she sings again in something...

Glenn Dunks said...

Thoms was the very worst thing about The Devil Wears Prada and there wasn't much wrong with it, really. HATED her.

As I said in the other one, I haven't seen GrindHouse but from what I've read Death Proof is the one that most adheres to the grindhouse formula (non-stop chatter about nothing, babes) and that Planet Terror isn't even remotely grindhouse, but in all honesty I don't care about how strictly they adhere to the formula. If one or the other or both are a hoot then I'll accept.

I'd rather a flawed movie though that's trying to do something crazy, than more lamebrained remakes or sequels of remakes or whatever they're moving onto nowadays.

Beau said...

Honestly, I thought Thoms was pretty damn good in 'Prada'.

...well, good in the sense that her acceptance of the Mark Jacobs bag made me giggle with glee. "And it's pretty...."

(...that's about the gayest thing I've said all day.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding Shelton, I think she was already interesting in the brief sequence at the beginning of Sin City, the one based on the story THE CUSTOMER HAS ALWAYS REASON in which she acts with Josh Hartnett and that Rodriguez shot to show his project to Frank Miller. Since the result was good, they put the segment in the final cut and I'm glad they did it. Shelton had a lovely and sweet presence in it, I'm glad she worked again with Rodriguez and I hope this time more people will notice her!

Mirko S.

Lucas Dantas said...

i also hate thoms in prada... she was plain annoying and that's the last image i have from her face so, glad she's not here.

now you gasp, i'll only be able to see grindhouse around july or august!! and worst, they'll release it here separatedly. last thing i read said death proof would be relesed first, having tarantino to promote it here. that means i'll probably never see the fake trailers and not even come a bit close of having the grindhouse experience.

Glenn Dunks said...

I think I dislike of Thoms in Prada is more because her character is so ridiculously stupid. Like, "One of my best friends finally has an opportunity to launch a career in journalism, all she has to do is work for Miranda Priestly and, shock, wear nice clothes. I mean, plenty of other people who live in Manhattan get to a high-paying prestigious job by schlubbing and hanging around with friends all day and never once having to stay at work lake. NEVER."

...yeah. Or something like that. She was fine in Rent though. Very fine actually.

Glenn Dunks said...

lake = late, obviously

Beau said...

yeah, you can't hate on the woman for the ridiculous nature of that character. hell, if that were the case, no one would be digging hoffman's work in 'capote'.

...well, i don't to begin with, but the majority would join me in that mindset.

but for a character who appears onscreen for roughly ten minutes, who has very little to do except plague andrea with moral dilemmas, she didn't do as badly as someone else might have. i think your issue might come more with the part than the actress herself.


except for that i also hated her in DP... for same reason: totally obvious line readings and interpretation of the character.

we'll see. i'll give her one more chance since she was good in Rent

but seriously MARLEY SHELTON! for those who have seen more of her work is she unexpectedly good in anything else?

DrG said...

As a kiwi who used to live in Syndey (now Chicago) it was was a somewhat jarring experience to hear a full blown kiwi accent smack in the middle of Tarantino movie... I felt like he wrote that conversation about never calling a kiwi an aussie just for my personal enjoyment!

I probably slightly preferred DP over PT... but I feel Tarantino cheated a little....?

Anonymous said...

Goodness. Was no one else blown away from the star turn from the other Syndey Portier? I thought she had such a presence and a great tongue for Tarintino's dialogue. Ditto on Shelton. Bitch is fierice.


Dr G ---do Kiwis get upset about that. they said it was a joke but is it?

Beau said...

Last thing I saw Shelton in was 'The Last Kiss', and she was utterly forgettable. My eye was on Jacinda Barrett and Blythe Danner the whole time, both (especially the former) were exceptional.

Glenn Dunks said...

Nat, never ever joke about Aussies being Kiwis or Kiwis being Aussies. You will be looked at with disgust and contempt. "ME? From New Zealand?! No way in hell" and vice versa.


We're funny like that.

Anonymous said...

i missed this article when it came out and just read it today with the link on today's article. you said that what you disliked in deathproof was that it was too short and that the characters were not developped enough. then, you should try to find a copy of the film that came out in france, because it is longer and you get to know the characters better, i enjoyed it greatly.