Archive for the 'Road Movie' Category

21
May
08

Death Proof (Grindhouse: Death Proof)

 Death Proof [2007]

Death Proof is Quentin Tarantino’s 5th major movie and is also a part of the Grindhouse collaboration.

Kurt Russell plays ‘Stuntman Mike McKay’, an ex-stuntman that now, for whatever reason, roams the streets in search of young ladies to  murder.  His weapon of choice is some Detroit muscle.

But not just any car will do. Before he puts the pedal to the metal, he must “death proof” his car. This is a old stuntman tradition, done by heavily reinforcing the fame and placing an intricate web of roll bars into the car. When he is strapped into his seat harness, he is in an almost magical way, invincible. With this in place, he can now prey on helpless women around the highways with no fear of getting injured himself.

The movie can very easily be described in halves. Most people who have seen this movie know that there is the first set of girls and the second. Each set takes up a little under an hour to wrap up and tell their part of the story.

OK, this is gonna be a long one, so you want me to start with bads or goods first? Fine, lets get it out of the way.

The bads are quite a list to say the least. WOW. Where to begin. First of all, boring. Boring, boring, boring, boring. The first 45 min of the movie is hard for ANYONE to watch and be 100% engaged into the film. Why is that? Well, because the story, for the most part, follows around 4 of the most uninteresting young women you could ever hope to not meet.

These would be girls you see that work at Mervyns and are always outside on a smoke break. The girl that gave you a quick ride home last year. Remember? When you got in her car, it smelled SO bad and was completely trashed from top to bottom. She thought after High School, she would meet a doctor and run away. But he never showed up, so they continue their vain attempt to find a decent guy using booze and cheap perfume to lure him. For some odd reason, she has multiple PETCO P.A.L.S. cards in her purse. You get the picture. I already know too much about these girls based on their lifestyle and appearance. Why would I want to know more? Well too bad. You get novels of dialogue between them. Back and forth. Talking about weed, humping guys, bars, liquor, laziness, and…………………………. under ground, rare, impossible to find, old, soul music?

Wait… what?????

My main problem with the dialogue in this movie, is that it is obviously writen by a guy. These girls talk like guys. And not just any guy. They all talk like Quentin Tarantino himself. Its shown with their quirky taste in everything from t-shirts, poems, music, and yes, movies too. You ever wonder why Big Bank Hank from the Shugarhill Gang sounds like Grand Master Caz? CAUSE GMC WROTE HIS RHYMES! The same goes for this. Its TOTALLY obvious. The first 45 minutes is almost completely unbearable and I always find myself fast-forwarding through parts.

The first half also has the ‘Grindhouse’ feel with the cheap horror music, bad editing, and damaged film. This look is one of the better parts of the first half… but for some reason… its gone in the 2nd half? Totally doesn’t fit or make sense.

Another thing about this movie is that is almost a collage of references. As if it was the art project where you cut up magazines and make a big ugly poster of all the things you like. Its no secret Tarantino is a fan of the old road movies, so you may call it a “tribute”, but it borders on the line of straight unoriginal. Its everywhere. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Convoy, Vanishing Point, Gone in 60 Seconds, Smokey and the Bandit, Gator… the list goes on! Every time I see a road movie, I see something that Tarantio took! There are so many ‘nods’ in this movie, it may as well be a giant bobble head!

Sounds pretty abysmal doesn’t it? Well, he’s not the great “QT” for nothing. He can work wonders at times… It seems he needs a big knock out to recover from this brutal beating. Can he pull it off?

Well, there is many great things about this flick as well. The 2nd half of girls have much better lines and its way easier to care and follow whats going on. Although its still obvious a geeky film buff wrote this script, based on their very niche interests. The acting is better, the lines are better, and the pace is better.

Tarantino is not of big fan of CGI (nor am I for that matter!). And this is clear as he set out to make a car movie with no computer animated driving or stunts. THANK YOU QT! Because of this film, he put plenty of old stuntmen to work. Hollywood now a days doesn’t want real action. It costs too much and takes too much time. They would rather pay some gord in his parents basement to computer animate a sequence because its faster and cheaper. The chase scenes are some of THE BEST in history in my opinion. Gets me excited every time. Hats off to QT and the stuntmen who worked very hard on this film!

Also, Kurt Russell does a great job of the “Cowardly Lion” like killer. He plays a washed up has-been stuntman that thinks hes still slick. Even though no one has heard of the TV shows or movies he as worked on. He really thinks he is impressing these girls with his credentials and his John Wayne impression! That may work on girls in the 70’s, but not now! What a great out of touch creep he plays. It was said by Kurt that the character was actually based on a stuntman he grew up around.

Every car is hand picked to be a killer! You get a Nova, a Charger, a Mustang, and a Challenger. Great picks and nice variety. The abrupt ending is fantastic, and very ‘Grindhouse’ / B-movie feel. I couldn’t have ended it better!

Well, when its all said and done, this movie drains the life out of you, then pumps it back in. It would easily gain a 5 star rating if they had just been more careful what they put in. But instead you get a 0 star that works its way back up to 3 star.

So, if I confused you, 3 star. You will love and appreciate the best stunt driving in history. The story may make you laugh in the end. And Kurt Russells performance is perfect. But the first half of the movie will drain and drag you down, leaving you to fast forward the first parts over and over.

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04
May
08

The California Kid

The California Kid [1974]

The California Kid is a 1974 TV movie starring Martin Sheen, Vic Morrow, and Nick Nolte. It has gained a cult status over the years and has recently been resurrected on DVD.

In this small town, would be speeders find there is no escaping the long arm of the law. It is rumored that the local sheriff (Vic Morrow) is so strict about speeding, he will do ANYTHING in his power to stop lead foots.

Fiction becomes fact when the sheriff decides to ram two naval cadets off a cliff when caught speeding. Too bad one happens to be the brother of Michael McCord (Martin Sheen) AKA The California Kid. McCord rolls into town in his 1934 Ford three-window coupe. After doing some research on the death of his brother, he finds it is no accident. From then on, it is his personal job to settle the score and bring justice to the sinister sheriff.

This movie no doubt gained cult status for one of three reasons. One, it has a mean classic beast of a car. Two, it is one of Martin Sheen’s earliest roles. And three, it is an odd premise… a killer whos choice of weapon is a car. Perhaps this is where Tarantino got his idea for ‘Death Proof’?

I liked the car very much. And Martin Sheens cool as stone demeanor was a perfect compliment to the automobile. Vic Morrow does his ‘Cowboy Cop’ routine with ease. And…. that’s about it….

Its a very short movie, probably because it was made for TV. There’s not a lot to it. Very short, simple, to the point. No one part particularly stands out. But its not worthless. Good short Sunday movie.

2 Stars. It has its use. Watch it to pass time or veg out. Luckily, its very cheap. I got it sealed for $5.99 and Amazon has it for less.

03
May
08

Electra Glide in Blue


Electra Glide in Blue [1973]

Someone once said, “Electra Glide in Blue is the best movie you have never heard of.” Whoever said that, I would most defiantly have to agree. Before I tell you why I found this so entertaining, lets start with the basics.

Robert Blake stars as ‘John Wintergreen’. Wintergreen is sometimes referred to as ‘Big John’, a tease as to his very short height. John is a motorcycle cop in Arizona. Along with his partner ‘Zipper’ (Billy Green Bush), they lead a boring job writing tickets and citations. Zipper is just fine with that, but Big John has big dreams.

He wants to become a detective and get all the glitz and glamour that goes along with it. Well, a murder falsely set up as a suicide give him the chance to prove his detective skills. And as he plays his usual “by the book” routine, he finds people on both sides of the law are constantly trying to bend it in their favor. While searching for the murderer, he listens to what everyone says rather than listening to the voice within himself, telling him what he knew was true all the long.

But you know, living “by the book” and listening to yourself can only get you so far, and John Wintergreen has a few more lessons to learn before the credits roll.

Electra Glide in Blue is an odd little movie. This movie is very difficult to write about. It really must be seen to appreciate its full beauty. There is no ONE climax that the movie builds around. Rather, several small ones. It keeps the flow smooth and always ready for the next moment. I have not seen any other Robert Blake movies, but from what I hear, this is his best performance. I don’t doubt that one bit. This performance is nothing short of perfect. You feel like John Wintergreen is a real person. Most likely someone you have met in real life before. Also, Billy Green Bush does a fantastic job as Zipper. Someone get this man a best supporting actor nomination please!! The same can go for Mitchell Ryan playing detective ‘Harve Pool’. Yes, I know hes the dad from ‘Dharma & Greg’, but a role like this shows he can do much more.

The story and acting are so gripping, they suck you in the middle immediately. It makes you think on many multilayer levels. After pulling your thoughts and emotions in so many directions, its hard to find a common theme in the movie. But as confused as it may seem, its really a beautiful piece of work. When you see Wintergreen put on his detective suit for the first time, or when you see him pull over a Vietnam vet truck driver, or when you see Zipper’s joy to show off his new bike, it all feels so real, it could be a documentary almost. Maybe slightly exaggerated, but still real to life none the less 🙂

This is a wonderful movie, but its not perfect. People put this in the stunt car movie category. They say the motorcycle chase scene is like ‘Vanishing Point’ or ‘Gone in 60 seconds’. If you are watching it for this reason, prepare to be disappointed. There is only one chase scene, and it seems to only last one minute. It is very well done, but still, this is not a ‘chase’ or ride by the seat of your pants type movie.

Although I have high praises, I’m not sure this movie is a 5 star complete classic. Some people may find it useless and boring. You will at the very least be entertained however. After much thought between 3, 4, and 5 stars, I have decided to give it a 4. Hopefully, you will see why, if you have a different opinion, let me know! That’s why we have comments! 🙂

01
May
08

Race with the Devil

Race with the Devil [1975]

Wow, you know, the title says it all. Roger (Peter Fonda) and Frank (Warren Oates) decide to take their wives and vacation in Frank’s new RV. While camping out for a night, Frank and Roger wander in the brush and see what appears to be a ‘wild orgy’ in the distance. Giggling and taking turns with the binoculars, their tomfoolery turns to horror as they realize they are actually watching a satanic cult preform a human sacrifice.

As their wives yell for them to come back to the RV, the satanic cult realizes they have been watched. The rest of the movie, they are chased from highway to highway, town to town, trying to escape the murderous cult.

Race with the Devil has a campy appeal that is sure to thrill those knowing what they are in store for. Low budget, strange premise, and a knack for cheap thrills make this a classic ‘B’ movie.

The action and stunts in this movie stone cold awesome! Also, the acting isn’t half bad. All the players here are seasoned pros. Even the bit parts. Where the movie falls short, would be in the middle. Like having the best looking car in the world, with a mediocre engine option.

The middle is riddled with ‘suspense’ that really doesn’t captivate the mind much. For instance, they receive a satanic note with half written in code. After going to the library to search for a meaning to the symbols, they never really get it figured out. They also play off strangers quite a bit. Everyone is a suspect, so I guess they felt the need to do suspicious staring contests over and over.

But you know what? That first class action and premise I was talking about makes up for quite a bit! Even with its slow parts, there was no bad pacing whatsoever. It moved along like melted butter on hot corn-on-the-cob! Before I wrap this up, let give a common warning for 60s and 70s movies. If you plan on watching this movie, DO NOT SEE THE TRAILER. It shows you all the best parts. However, if you don’t want to watch the movie, and want a general idea, watch the trailer as it really is a super compact version of the full feature!

Race with the Devil gets 3 stars. But before viewing, make sure you are in the total mood for this type of flick to get the full effect.

01
May
08

White Lightning

White Lightning [1973]

Well its only natural to kick off this blog with a Burt Reynolds movie review right? Well, White Lightning just so happens to be the freshest movie in my memory, as I watched it just last night.

White Lightning is the story of a good ol‘ boy moonshiner by the name of ‘Gator’ (Burt Reynolds). After the murder of his younger hippie brother by a corrupt sheriff, Gator decides to walk the path of vengeance.

White Lightning has many good things going for it. Gator is a simple character, without much complexity to him. However, Reynolds does a great job of giving him a realness and true heart. The fact that Reynolds started as a stuntman in Hollywood helped him give the 1971 Ford Galaxie a strong presence of its own. If you have ever driven anything as powerful, big, or long, you know its hard to drive it with authority and presence. Burt makes it look as simple as putting on socks.

The story also does a good job of toying with emotions. Are moonshiners evil? Are they just simple folk looking for a bit of fun in a poor and desolate place? Are hippies long haired pot smokers? Or do they have something more to offer, like when they help protest against southern racism? All these questions swirl around Gator, but don’t faze him. And while everyone seems to think hes on ‘their’ side, he really only has one thing on his mind. Kill the guy that killed my brother. No politics. Plain and simple.
But the movie suffers in other ways. Perhaps its tempting in the deep south, but I don’t find a sweaty, pig faced, gap toothed, dirty barefoot, wrinkled woman all that attractive. She wanders and has the libido of small dog in heat. Yet we are supposed to be drawn, like him, to her. We are supposed to feel bad that she was once an unwed mother. Who cares? She gave out her ‘shaky pudding’ to anyone that wanted a taste.
Also, for a action movie, there was not a whole lot of it. It came in little bits. There could have been more car chases and gun fights. The drama was set up perfect to have some real tense scenes, but they never took full advantage. 
3 stars. Over all, it was good. Not GREAT or FANTASTIC, but also not terrible or worthless.



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