Original Run: October 30th, 2020 – current Created by: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz, Nat Saunders Directed by: Jim Field Smith Written by: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz, Nat Saunders Music by: Robin Foster Cast: Nick Frost, Emma D’Arcy, Samson Kayo, Malcolm McDowell, Simon Pegg, Susie Wokoma, Julian Barratt, Rosalie Craig
When I saw the trailer for this television show, I was immediately stoked. However, once I started watching it, I was severely underwhelmed by it and then, by the end, I was just disappointed and sad.
I love Nick Frost and Simon Pegg and that goes all the way back to their TV show Spaced, which I saw via VHS tape from a friend in the UK, who I used to trade tapes with.
I think what makes this show weak is actually the fault of several things working against it.
To start, the concept is okay but the execution was weird and nonsensical. Basically, the writing isn’t good and most of the characters within the show are pretty unlikable. In fact, the only one I really liked was Malcolm McDowell, who at least got to ham it up and look like he was enjoying the material he was given.
Nick Frost was just Nick Frost and he felt a lot like his character Ed from Spaced but swap out his crazy love of guns for his crazy love of paranormal investigation tech.
The two younger co-stars were both pretty shit and I couldn’t relate to them and just didn’t care about their supernatural stories.
The sidekick’s sister was an absolute abomination of a character and she came across as some generic person-of-color that the BBC would’ve clunkily implanted into a show just so she could lecture all the characters. She’s a bossy, awful bitch and writing her character to have mental health issues isn’t a valid enough excuse to wedge her in and kill every scene.
Now I did like Simon Pegg’s character but at the same time, he wasn’t anything special. He was quirky and weird but a good leader and respectable boss. Still, he was used sparingly and didn’t get to properly develop. The big mistake with that is he’s a highpoint that wasn’t utilized anywhere near as well as he could’ve been.
I also enjoyed Julian Barratt in this but like Pegg, he’s not used enough and you never really get to know his character enough to really care.
Overall, this sucked. I really hoped it’d be a nice shining light in a year where entertainment has been pretty much absent. But it’s 2020, so I guess even two of my favorite comedic actors were simply destined to give us their worst work at the end of this terrible year.
Rating: 4.75/10 Pairs well with: other things with both Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in it.
Release Date: March 12th, 2011 (SXSW) Directed by: Joe Cornish Written by: Joe Cornish Music by: Basement Jaxx, Steven Price Cast: Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, Nick Frost
StudioCanal, Film4 Productions, UK Film Council, Big Talk Productions, Stage 6 Films, Screen Gems, 88 Minutes
“No one is going to call you Mayhem if you keep acting like such a pussy!” – Probs
I haven’t watched this film since it initially came out in the States. But revisiting it now, I was reminded of how cool and fun this movie is. In all honesty, this is one of the coolest movies of this decade and it also helped propel the careers of a few of its stars. Plus, Nick Frost is in it and Edgar Wright was involved with the production.
Attack the Block is a fantastic picture, to put it simply. It is imaginative, energetic and a fresh take on the tired alien invasion storyline.
The film starts out with a mugging by a gang of London thugs. However, the victim (Whittaker) gets away when something falls from the sky, smashing a car next to the muggers. Investigating, the muggers discover it is some sort of vicious alien creature. It attacks the leader, Moses (Boyega), and gets away. The thugs then pursue the alien in an effort to kill it. You come to discover that the thugs are just young teenage boys and the film peeks into their lives, humanizing them after committing an atrocious act to kickoff the story. As the film progresses, the boys and the victim discover that they live in the same building and have to come together to survive the invasion and a pissed off drug dealer. Ultimately, it is a coming of age story about Moses having to rise up, become a hero and redeem himself from his bad choices and actions.
The thing that makes this picture special is the style of it. The alien creatures are incredibly original and sort of resemble a hybrid of a big wolf and a gorilla with jet black fur and a glowing neon blue mouth full of sharp teeth. The building where the majority of the film takes place is cold and lifeless but the cinematography and lighting are absolutely superb.
Even though all the kids are little shits, they all become endearing in some way and you can’t help but like them, which is the point, really. You have these asshole kids but they are just kids and despite their bad life choices, they don’t deserve to die. The film does a great job of conveying the right sort of emotions from the victim and the thugs while they learn to trust each other and become not just allies but friends.
I don’t think that the story would have worked as well without the casting being just right. Jodie Whittaker, who is now the first female incarnation of the Doctor from Doctor Who, and John Boyega, a household name now because of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, had a wonderful chemistry and they carried this unique and great picture on their shoulders. Franz Drameh, who would go on to be in Edge of Tomorrow and star in The CW’s The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, also held his own as a member of Moses’ gang.
The film also benefits from a prodigious score that is actually one of the best from the past decade. It hits the right notes, keeps the energy flowing and just encapsulates the tone and style of the film in an uncanny way. It is a perfect accompaniment to the visuals.
Attack the Block is a damn good motion picture. It is straight to the point, quick moving and builds up the characters just enough without it getting in the way of the excitement. The ending is also extremely satisfying.
While I have seen both Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof multiple times, I never got to see the full-length version of Grindhouse until now.
When it came out in 2007, only one theater near me carried it and it wasn’t there very long, so I missed it. Also, the films were released separately, as expanded editions, when they hit store shelves. There wasn’t a full version of Grindhouse available after its theatrical run.
When I subscribed to Starz via my Amazon Fire Stick, I saw that the full version of the movie was available and thus, I could finally rectify this cinematic injustice. I’m really glad that I did because these films actually play much better in this format, as double-billed companion pieces to one another.
Plus, I finally got to see the trailers, as a part of this overall experience, even though I have seen them on YouTube multiple times since 2007.
Robert Rodriguez’s trailer for Machete was a highlight of the film and it was so good that it became its own motion picture and then expanded into a franchise. Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS trailer was interesting enough, as a trailer, but doesn’t seem like something that will work as a full-length feature. The same can be said for Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Now Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving should be made into a full-length slasher film in the same vein as Machete. Roth has hinted at making it and I hope he eventually does.
This film also spawned a contest for fans to make fake trailers in the grindhouse style. This lead to the full-length feature Hobo With A Shotgun, which was a hell of a lot of fun. I need to re-watch it and review it in the near future.
Moving beyond the fake trailers, we have the two big films that make up the bulk of the Grindhouse experience. So let me get into each film and discuss them on their own.
Planet Terror (2007):
Release Date: April 6th, 2007 Directed by: Robert Rodriguez Written by: Robert Rodriguez Music by: Robert Rodriguez Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Stacy Ferguson, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Savini, Michael Parks
Rodriguez International Pictures, Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes
“Now you’ve got a gal in your wrecked truck with a missing leg? A missing leg that’s now missing?” – Sheriff Hague
Planet Terror has always been my favorite of the two movies in Grindhouse. That still stands, as I love just about everything about it. It may even be my favorite Robert Rodriguez picture but it is a close race between this, From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.
The film is essentially a zombie outbreak movie but it is really gross, even for that genre. People’s faces start bubbling into puss and there is a lot of blood and other strange bodily fluids oozing out of people throughout the movie. There are also lots of severed testicles and a melting penis. It’s a gross movie but it is still well done and it doesn’t overtake the picture making it a mindless gore festival.
Planet Terror has a lot of depth and character development for a movie loaded with a ton of people. Everyone has an interesting story and it is cool seeing it all play out as these people eventually come together in an effort to escape the growing threat of a zombie apocalypse.
It also really fits the old school 1970s exploitation style of horror pictures that populated grindhouse theaters in big cities. The cinematography really captures the right vibe and kudos to the extra graininess and inconsistent look of different shots in the same sequences.
The practical effects also work well in making this film fit the grindhouse mold. Sometimes there is obvious CGI and it is a reminder that this isn’t a true 70s grindhouse picture but it isn’t a distraction and it serves its purpose well enough.
The cast is also phenomenal. I remember that when I first saw this, that I hoped it would open up doors for Freddy Rodriguez. He’s still not anywhere close to being a household name but his character of El Wray should reappear in some way, in some other Rodriguez picture. He’s a guy too cool to just be confined to this one movie.
This is also my favorite thing that Rose McGowan has ever done. Plus you get a very evil Josh Brolin, an enchanting Marley Shelton, a bad ass Michael Biehn, plus Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Bruce Willis, Lost‘s Naveen Andrews and Quentin Tarantino as his most despicable character to date. Jeff Fahey, who is always stellar, really kills it in this movie as J.T. the Texas B-B-Q king. Also, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has never looked better.
Planet Terror is unique, even for a film in a tired genre. It takes the zombie formula and ups the ante in every way possible. Rodriguez made a fine picture that should be mentioned alongside other great zombie classics.
Death Proof (2007):
Release Date: April 6th, 2007 Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Written by: Quentin Tarantino Music by: Rachel Levy, Jack Nitzsche, Mary Ramos Cast: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks, James Parks, Marley Shelton
“Because it was a fifty fifty shot on wheter you’d be going left or right. You see we’re both going left. You could have just as easily been going left, too. And if that was the case… It would have been a while before you started getting scared. But since you’re going the other way, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to start getting scared… immediately!” – Stuntman Mike
When I first saw Death Proof, it didn’t resonate with me. I mean, I enjoyed it enough but it just didn’t compare to the work that Quentin Tarantino did before it. I still feel this way but I have more of an appreciation for the film now. Also, seeing it in the Grindhouse format, which is more condensed, serves the film better.
The problem I initially had with the film, and some of Tarantino’s other pictures, is that it is way too talky. Sure, he writes great dialogue but sometimes it can run on for far too long. Death Proof in its longer running time falls victim to this. The condensed Grindhouse version, however, is better balanced.
Another problem with the film, is that many of the characters just aren’t likable. This is especially true for the first group of girls we meet. At least the second group felt more like friends and their conversations came across as more natural and authentic.
Kurt Russell initially knocks it out of the park as the killer driver, Stuntman Mike. However, as the film and his character evolves, he completely loses the cool bad ass shtick and becomes a giant whining weeny. His character transformation isn’t a bad thing, it is just how it is executed that makes it a problem.
The one thing that really makes this a cool picture, however, is the cars and the stunts. Tarantino selected some seriously bad ass automobiles that were homages to films that influenced him. The stunt work and action was amazing and the sequence of the first major accident was shot and executed stupendously.
The problem with the film, being that it is supposed to be a grindhouse throwback, is that it needed more balls-to-the-wall mayhem and less chit chat. The fact that this has a lot more dialogue than Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror but somehow can’t develop characters as well is pretty baffling. Tarantino would just rather focus on cool conversations on subjects that directly interest him than to have any sort of meaningful character development. You just don’t care about these people in the same way you care about those in Planet Terror.
Regardless of my criticisms, I do still like this movie. But to be honest, I still think it is the worst film in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. Granted, that doesn’t mean much, as everything he’s done has been fairly great in some way.
In the end, this is still entertaining as hell and who doesn’t love muscle car chaos and kick ass chicks?
Additional directorial credits:
Robert Rodriguez – Machete trailer
Rob Zombie – Werewolf Women of the SS trailer
Edgar Wright – Don’t trailer
Eli Roth – Thanksgiving trailer
Additional acting credits from the fake trailer segments: Danny Trejo, Nicolas Cage, Sheri Moon Zombie, Cheech Marin, Udo Kier, Tom Towles, Sybil Danning, Bill Moseley, Will Arnett, Nick Frost, Rafe Spall, Jason Issacs, Simon Pegg, Peter Serafinowicz