Friday, December 29, 2006

Grind Or Die


It seems only fair that Quentin Tarantino would now offer us two movies for the price of one, since in his last outing he gave us one movie for the price of two. However, I'm not sure how to feel about Grindhouse. The trailer has an excellent look to it--some serious attention to detail went into making these movies look like authentic '70s trash. The lighting, the production design, the beat-up film, the voice-over, everything. And there are some cool things going on that definitely pique my interest. Rose McGowan with a gun in place of her amputated leg? Awesome (and an impressively seamless special effect--eat your heart out, Gary Sinise). I'm not sure how far back the hot-chick-with-prosthetic-gun idea goes. Personally, I saw it first in Gunsmith Cats. Even so, it's cool here. As for Death Proof, it promises more hot chicks and lots of car mayhem.

On the other hand, I've never really been a huge Tarantino fan--as I've said before, the only movie of his that I really like is Kill Bill. I find his movies to be tinged with a certain unpleasant sadism. And the fact that these are horror pictures--even cheesy ones--is a turn-off for me. In this case, I'm not sure whether the cool stuff will outweigh the unappealing stuff.

Live Free or Die Hard

I really like the Die Hard franchise. Or at least, I like the first one, which is a well-structured, perfectly contained classic in its genre, and the third one, which flips the claustrophobia of the first movie on its head and turns it into a sprawling scavenger hunt of a movie. The ending, admittedly, is flawed, and even screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh admits in his DVD commentary that he wrote himself into a corner and still doesn't know how to solve it, but the rest of the movie is strong enough that I am willing to forgive.

The second movie is too similar to the first, while at the same time being vastly inferior. One problem is that McClane is not the only man on the inside, which leads to countless scenes of him telling idiots that they ought to listen to him, even though there is no particular reason he should know better except that we know he's the hero. Add to that the fact that one plane full of innocents does crash, which makes McClane's victory sort of hollow and unsatisfying, and we have a Die Hard that is worthwhile only for the part where he lights the trail of jet fuel on fire.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way to Live Free or Die Hard. First of all, the title is hilarious and awesome. Brilliantly stupid and wonderful. I love it. The trailer is a bit lackluster so far, and the hacker-centric plot is worrisome. But damned if there aren't a lot of cars flying through the air, and the one shot where a car just misses them as they duck between two others? Very cool. Bruce Willis, fortunately, has not yet reached the Harrison Ford stage where he makes a laughable action hero, and with his dignified shaved head he looks ready for battle.

The Die Hard series admittedly doesn't need another entry, but I want this to be good. I am cautiously optimistic. They should bring back McClane's wife.



Zack said...

The first Die Hard was great. The second was so-so, and the third pissed me off, which I realize does not mean it was inferior. All I remember is liking the major characters but not being able to stand the fucking riddles. When the heroes got to the fountain and find the old 3C/5C volume puzzle, I think I literally started yelling at the TV. Good job, movie writer. Good job checking out "501 Classic Brain Teasers" from your local public library. And good fortune, indeed, to find two protagonists less worldly than the average third grader.

Steve said...

The Planet Terror half of Grindhouse is written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, not Quentin Tarantino. Each one did their own half independently.

They showed some of Planet Terror at Comic-Con last year (that hadn't started filming Death Proof yet), and it sold me. Looks like a fun time.

I'm still skeptical about Die Hard 4.

Kenny said...

You're right about Rodriguez. For some reason I didn't bother to mention it. I do kind of like him--though his filmmaking has a bit of a slapdash feel sometime, that's part of its charm. And it's still very stylish.