Your Weekend at the Grindhouse

08/21/2009 8:25 AM |

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Hey, it’s Grindhouse reunion weekend! Oh, also, the Weinsteins are releasing a movie by a major American director on a ton of screens within striking distance of Labor Day! Cause that’s how they do. Until they go bankrupt.

Inglourious Basterds: I’m not sure if I have anything interesting to say about Quentin Tarantino at this point, because just about every one of his too-infrequent movies is preceded and postscripted by a good four to six months of movie-blog discussion and analysis (especially of his problem, as in “Tarantino’s problem is…”) regarding the promises made and kept or not by his early-90s success. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; dude makes conversation starters, dude is a conversation starter, and that’s a lot of fun. But it can get a little exhausting. [Now would probably be a bad time to link to our video essay on him, then. -Ed]

Though his apparently revisionist WWII epic Inglourious Basterds was shot and edited relatively quickly after years of dithering, the lead-up to the Cannes premiere and subsequent tinkering before its late-August release, not to mention all of the fretting and chops-licking over how it could contribute to the success or demise of the Weinstein Company, has made it seem like Tarantino has been offscreen since 2004’s second half of Kill Bill, rather than 2007’s Death Proof half of Grindhouse. In other words, I’m ready to sit down and watch the damn movie and not read anything about it for several days. I’m a little bummed this “men on a mission” picture didn’t have Tarantino’s bandied-about dream platoon cast that somehow included Adam Sandler, but rather has a ragtag bunch that somehow includes horror director Eli Roth. Regardless, I’m dying to see what he’s come up with, because every time it sounds like he’s doing something less exciting to me (adapting someone else’s novel; making a slasher movie), I pretty much wind up loving it, as I did the lovely, deliberately paced Jackie Brown and the talky, strange, and playful (and, hey, also kinda deliberately paced) Death Proof. So, ramblers: let’s get rambling.

Shorts: I’m a big Robert Rodriguez booster, which is why his recent relative lack of productivity has wounded me. Between 2001 and 2005, he did an entire trilogy (Spy Kids), capped off another one with Once Upon a Time in Mexico, started a potential franchise with Sin City, and apparently had about two days left over because that’s how long I assume it took to make The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl. But around the time of the underappreciated Grindhouse, Rodriguez started to work at a more human pace. The Rodriguez of 2003 would’ve directed both segments of Grindhouse, plus all the fake trailers, and would’ve put out several trilogies based on said trailers in theaters by the following spring. But instead, Rodriguez has circled a variety of projects — Sin City 2, the sci-fi picture Nerverackers, an adaptation of The Jetsons, the Grindhouse spinoff Machete — without going ahead and shooting any of them within a week in his garage and doing post in his tub. He seems to be gearing back up, co-directing Machete with his protégé, making Nerverackers himself, and producing some kind of overhaul of the Predator series — but first, I guess, a palate cleanser: one of those non-Spy Kids movies about ordinary kids in fantastical and cheap-looking situations, here brought on by a magical wishing rock. Shorts looks, like his lesser kid movies, a bit loud and garish and amateurishly (if gamely) acted, but he does do loud/garish/amateurish with more heart than those talking animal movies the kids love so much. Also, isn’t it weird that Tarantino and Rodriguez have movies coming out on the same day that aren’t part of an exploitation-themed double feature? At least, not one that I’m aware of.

World’s Greatest Dad: Speaking of Spy Kids, little Juni Cortez — Daryl Sabara — is all semi-grown and playing a real bastard of a teenager in Bobcat Goldthwait’s dark comedy. I never saw Sleeping Dogs Lie (formerly Stay), Goldthwait’s bestiality-themed rumination on trust and honesty, but I hope it’s better than World’s Greatest Dad, which falls squarely into the “nice try” category. Robin Williams plays a failed writer and single father whose son Kyle (Sabara) is an insufferable, nigh-friendless, highly antisocial creep. When Kyle dies accidentally, his father makes it look like a suicide, even forging a note, bringing the kid posthumous recognition which benefits his dad’s life mightily. It’s a spiky premise handled with reasonable smarts by Goldthwait; it’s just that the damn thing isn’t particularly funny or insightful.

Post-Grad: There’s something about Alexis Bledel that irritates me — maybe her baby voice, or her big head on her tiny body, or her twitchiness that makes her resemble Kristen Stewart except during her actual acting, or maybe there’s more than just one thing and all of that stuff applies. But I am a sucker for movies set in that netherworld between graduation and the mysterious next step, as Post-Grad apparently is. I’m also intrigued by the casting of Jane Lynch and Michael Keaton as Bledel’s parents, and concerned by the thought that this is going to wind up being about some best-friend guy who she realizes is the love of her life. In other words, I’m going to wish I stayed home and watched Kicking and Screaming again, aren’t I? Let’s just hope Bledel generates more chemistry with her gentlemen callers than she did with those dudes in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies.