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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-ray Review: GRINDHOUSE 2-Disc Collector's Edition



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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted October 25 2010 - 04:39 AM

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GRINDHOUSE 2-DISC COLLECTOR’S EDITION


Studio: Vivendi/Dimension Home Entertainment

Year: 2008

Rated: Restricted

Film Length: 3 hours, 11 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)

Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English, English SDH


Release Date: October 5, 2010


The Movie(s)


Grindhouse is the celebrated double-feature collaboration of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, which is the directors’ homage to the exploitation films of the 1960s and 1970s and the theaters that showed those films, complete with fake trailers for other non-existent exploitation films. The original exploitation movies were shown in seedy cinemas in which the quality of the celluloid was atrociously consistent with the quality of the theaters showing these "B" movies. The film prints were typically spliced together with scenes, or even entire film reels, missing from the presentation, and the presentation of Grindhouse has been deliberately designed to resemble scratched and damaged celluloid prints, even on this Blu-ray edition. Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is the first half of the Grindhouse double feature with the second half being Death Proof, aka Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt.


The presentation begins with a trailer for Danny Trejo in Machete, followed by the feature presentation of Planet Terror, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. Planet Terror is the story of Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), a go-go dancer who reunites with her true love and has the worst (and best) night of her life. This film is the gold standard of survival horror flicks, and is filled with over-the-top stunt scenes and flesh crawling gross-out sequences. Many fine character actors are along for the ride, including Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Bruce Willis, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, and many others. Rodriguez seems to have a gift for casting good actors, since even the neophyte actors he recruited for this film seem like talented character actors of the kind that would be right at home in an exploitation flick.


In the second half of Planet Terror, a title card flashes briefly on the screen to inform the audience that a reel is missing, and the story then resumes with some developments that have obviously transpired in the missing reel. The missing reel was also not included in the extended and unrated version previously released on Blu-ray, primarily because it never was filmed in the first place. The next film reel following the missing reel contains some expository dialogue between 2 of the lead characters that basically summarizes the plot developments in the missing reel. In theaters showing exploitation flicks, it was not unusual for the projectionists to cannibalize the film and retain the juicy parts for their private collections, to the detriment of the audience. It was also not unheard of for an entire reel to go missing and for the theater owners to show only the portions of the film on hand. Rodriguez deserves credit for structuring his screenplay in such a way that the missing portion of story seems surprisingly to enhance the entertainment value rather than detract from it. In addition to writing and directing Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez also composed the main theme of the film, which adds favorably to the mood of the film.


The conclusion of Planet Terror leads into some food commercials and film trailers, just like you might expect to see at an old fashioned movie double feature. The fake trailers were created by a few pals of Rodriguez and Tarantino, namely Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, and Rob Zombie. These ads then lead into Tarantino’s Death Proof.


Death Proof is the story of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), an aging movie stuntman who stalks and kills young women with his indestructible cars. Death Proof actually appears to be 2 different slasher movies, both featuring Stuntman Mike, spliced together to create one film. The movie opens with a fancy title card flashing "Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt" for a millisecond before a plain black and white title card displaying "Death Proof" is spliced clumsily into the film. The first half of the film has multiple scratches, dirt, and debris consistent with aging celluloid. By contrast, the second half of the film is virtually pristine, with only a few apparent edits, which cements the illusion that the second half of the movie is a sequel filmed several years after the first movie and later spliced together into one film. As in Planet Terror, a film reel is missing in the middle of the film in a manner designed to tease the audience.


Although I am a Tarantino fan, I did not find this to be one of his better films. The trademark dialogue and eclectic film score are apparent here as in other Tarantino movies, but I was disappointed that the plot is pretty thin. This perceived weakness may demonstrate the difficulty in making a movie as an homage to a genre that never was strong on plot in the first place. Film buffs will spot some stylistic and thematic similarities in Death Proof to Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.


Video


Grindhouse is presented in 1080p high definition in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Rodriguez filmed Planet Terror originally as a "soft matte" in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and then cropped it for theatrical presentation to a 2.35:1 ratio to match the original aspect ratio of Death Proof. The previous Blu-ray release of Planet Terror in 2008 presented Planet Terror in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.


The picture quality is excellent, taking into account the scratches, dirt, and debris that are deliberately apparent. The film quality is deliberately grainy, but the amount of grain is appropriate to the illusion that one is watching a scratched celluloid print of this film on the big screen. The graininess of the picture actually enhances the special effects, which becomes apparent in viewing portions of the film included in the special features.


Audio


Fans of the previous solo BD releases of Planet Terror and Death Proof will be disappointed to find that the lossless Dolby TrueHD audio from those releases are not offered here as audio options. Given the deliberately imperfect video and audio presentation for these films, it is debatable whether the omission of the lossless tracks here is apropos or infuriating. That being said, the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks do fine service to the films. Planet Terror is filled with an abundance of gunfire and explosions to clean the dust off your speakers. Death Proof is heavy on character dialogue with most of the revving engines and crunching steel reserved for the latter half of the movie. The rain scene in Death Proof makes good use of all of the speakers, however, much of the soundtrack comes through front and center in the dialogue.


Planet Terror includes a director’s commentary by Rodriguez that is better than most such audio tracks. Rodriguez has such a love and enthusiasm for film that his comments are always fascinating.

Also included is an audience reaction track which imitates the applause, snickers, and catcalls of a rowdy film audience. This option seems interesting initially but is not the best way to watch the movie, at least not for this reviewer. That is not to say that this feature uninteresting or is not worth trying out, however.


Special Features


Notably missing from the special features are deleted scenes. Additional footage is known to exist that was not in either the theatrical or the extended versions. As just one example, there were alternate scenes filmed for Planet Terror in which one of the characters who dies actually makes it through to the end of the movie. Portions of these scenes are included in the special features, but it would have been great to have these included in a deleted scenes section, or even integrated back into the film by a branching version of the film. Even better, it would have been nice to have the extended versions of both films, previously released on Blu-ray, to have been included in this (otherwise mostly) comprehensive collection. Interestingly, deleted scenes and a gag reel for Death Proof are announced as coming soon on the BD-Live server.


Thankfully, this release includes all of the fake trailers that are arguably the best part of the Grindhouse experience. The previous R1 DVD and Blu-ray releases omitted all of the fake trailers and commercials, with the exception of the Machete trailer, which has always been included at the beginning of Planet Terror.


The special features are primarily on Disc Two, with the exception of the following, which are on Disc One:


Commentary by Robert Rodriguez: The director’s commentary that was included on the previous Blu-ray release is included here for Planet Terror.


Audience Reaction Track: This audio option during Planet Terror consists of an audience reaction track which imitates the applause, snickers, and catcalls of a rowdy film audience. This feature is interesting and worth trying out but gets old pretty fast.


Commentary by Eli Roth: Director Roth and actor/co-writer Jeff Rendell provide optional commentary during their faux trailer Thanksgiving.


The special features (on Disc Two) include all of the following:


10-Minute Film School (11:50): Director Rodriguez offers a fast-moving overview in less than 12 minutes of how various special effects were created for the movie.


The Badass Babes of Planet Terror (11:49): Rodriguez and the female actors provide interview comments regarding the casting process.


The Guys of Planet Terror (16:30): Rodriguez and the male actors provide interview comments regarding the casting process.


Casting Rebel (5:38): Rodriguez talks about casting his son Rebel Rodriguez in this film. This featurette includes portions of scenes deleted from the movie.


Sickos, Bullets, And Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror (13:16): Features interviews and behind the scenes footage of the numerous stunts in this film.


The Friend, the Doctor, and the Real Estate Agent (6:40): Rodriguez talks about casting some of his acquaintances in roles in this film. Rodriguez obviously has a talent for finding fresh and interesting faces for minor roles. I wondered who these actors were when I first saw Planet Terror, and their performances were of such quality that I never realized until seeing this featurette that these people were new actors.


Planet Terror Poster Gallery: Features different lobby cards for Planet Terror.


Stunts On Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof (20:39): Director Tarantino talks about the different generations of stunt drivers that worked on this movie, along with behind the scenes footage of various parts of the car chases, and interviews with the drivers themselves.


Quentin’s Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke(4:36): Tarantino offers comments about working with his long-time editor and talks about how he has his actors say "Hi" to Sally in dailies. This is followed by "Hi, Sallys" from the cast of Death Proof.


The Guys of Death Proof(8:14): Tarantino talks about casting the male roles in Death Proof.


Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike (9:32): Tarantino and Russell talk about the inspirations for his role as Stuntman Mike.


Finding Quentin’s Gals (21:13): Quentin Tarantino speaks in depth about casting each of the female leads, who also offer their anecdotes about being cast in this film.


The Uncut Version of "Baby, It’s You" by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (1:47): Features Winstead’s complete performance of "Baby, It’s You" in one continuous film sequence.


Introducing Zoe Bell (8:57): Zoe Bell was Lucy Lawless’ stunt double on Xena: Warrior Princess and Uma Thurman’s double on the Kill Bill movies, and she plays herself in this movie.


The Double Dare Trailer (2:35): Trailer for documentary about legendary stuntwoman Jeannie Epper and Zoe Bell.


Extended Music Cues: This option presents complete audio on 3 music tracks: Unexpected Violence by Ennio Morricone, Gangster Story by Guidot and Maurizio De Angelis, and Italis A Mano Armata by Franco Micalizzi.


Death Proof International Trailer (2:20): This trailer plays up the sinister aspects of Kurt Russell’s character.


International Poster Gallery: Features 17 different lobby cards for Death Proof.


The previously listed special features were all ported over from previous separate releases of Planet Terror and Death Proof. The special features listed below, also on Disc 2, are brand new to this release:


Robert Rodriguez’ 10-Minute Cooking School(8:30): Rodriguez continues his tradition of cooking with an appropriate (to Planet Terror) demonstration of beef barbeque.


The Makeup Effects of Planet Terror(12:02): Gregory Nicotero is interviewed regarding his creative process in producing makeup effects for Planet Terror.


The Hot Rods of Death Proof(11:46): Featurette regarding the unique vehicles used by Tarantino in Death Proof.


From Texas to Tennessee: The Production Design of Death Proof(8:01): Art Director Caylah Eddleblute and Production Designer Steve Joyner discuss their aesthetic design choices for Death Proof.


Extended Werewolf Women of the S.S. trailer(4:59): This is a longer version of the trailer created by Rob Zombie that is also shown between the two films on disc one. Rob Zombie also provides an optional director’s commentary for this extended version.


The Making of Werewolf Women of the S.S. trailer(8:48): This featurette presents behind the scenes footage and interviews regarding creation of this trailer.


Extended Don’t Trailer(1:35): This is a longer version of the trailer created by Edgar Wright that is also shown between the two films on disc one. Wright also provides an optional director’s commentary for this extended version.


The Making of Don’t Trailer(9:40): This featurette presents behind the scenes footage and interviews regarding creation of this trailer.


Don’t Storyboard/Trailer Comparison(1:40): This brief featurette shows the original storyboards in comparison to the final product. Wright also provides an optional director’s commentary for this feature.


Don’t Storyboards Stills Gallery: This option is navigated by use of the arrows on your remote control.


Don’t Poster with extended score by David Arnold: This option includes music by the composer for the trailer.


New York Times Talk with Lynn Hirschberg(1:04:36): Rodriquez and Tarantino discuss Grindhouse with film critic Hirschberg.


Comic Con 2006 Featuring the Directors and Cast of Grindhouse(23:35): This is an edited version of the Q & A panel from the San Diego Comic Con.


Hobo With A Shotgun(1:59): This trailer was the winner of a contest to produce original movie trailers for non-existent films.


BD Live: As of the date of this review, the only BD Live features offered online for this title is a still gallery of the making of Thanksgiving. Deleted scenes and a gag reel from Death Proof are shown as coming soon.


Conclusion


It is great to finally have the theatrical version of Grindhouse, complete with the trailers, on Blu-ray. The trailers are arguably the best part of the experience, which demonstrates how "less is more" in this genre. The problem inherent in making an homage to bad films is that slavish imitation of that genre may also create a bad film. Death Proof is not a bad film by any means, it is just not a great film. Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have both made other films in this genre that are much better. (Pulp Fiction and From Dusk Til Dawn come immediately to mind.) Tarantino has previously set the bar so high for himself that Death Proof cannot help but be a disappointment. The good news is that a bad Tarantino film still surpasses most average films. Death Proof has some great car chase scenes, snappy dialogue, and memorable music.


The video quality on both films is as good as can be expected, given the deliberate celluloid flaws included on the transfers. The separate Blu-ray release of Planet Terror included an option to view the film in its pristine state, and it would be nice to have this as an option on the complete package here. The audio does good service to both films, even if the lossless audio from the separate Blu-ray releases is not replicated in this package. There is a multitude of special features, not only those ported over from the earlier releases, but also a number of features new to this release as well. This collection falls short of being fully comprehensive by its exclusion of the longer edits of Planet Terror and Death Proof that were included on the separate releases.  There are also a couple of trailers for Planet Terror and Death Proof that were not ported over from the separate releases.  Completists will want to hold on to their separate releases of these films. If you have been waiting for the full theatrical presentation of Grindhouse to be released on Blu-ray, your wait is finally over. 

 



#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted October 26 2010 - 06:50 AM

Awesome, I held off on the individual ones to get this.  Sold!

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#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Bryan X

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Posted October 26 2010 - 08:36 AM

Sam, if you're a fan of Grindhouse and don't have the individual blu-ray releases, you should pick those up too.  While I love the theatrical experience with the new Grindhouse release, I actually prefer the the extended cuts that are on the individual releases when it comes to just wanting to watch one of the movies.

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted October 26 2010 - 08:54 AM


Originally Posted by Bryan X 

Sam, if you're a fan of Grindhouse and don't have the individual blu-ray releases, you should pick those up too.  While I love the theatrical experience with the new Grindhouse release, I actually prefer the the extended cuts that are on the individual releases when it comes to just wanting to watch one of the movies.



I agree.  I find the extended cuts of both films to be better.  Tarantino has stated that they were pressed for time in post-production and had much less than the normal amount of time to put the footage together for theatrical release.  I think that shows in that the extended cuts show the extra time that Tarantino and Rodriguez were able to put into their films for polish.


I seem to get more enjoyment out of the hokey trailers than anything else, though, so I am glad to finally have the opportunity to see the theatrical version of Grindhouse.







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