Viewed – 30 August 2010  DVD

Anne Hathaway furthermore destroys that squeaky clean image that made her famous in teen comedies like The Princess diaries with this gritty urban drama following two bored young women, rebelling against their rich, privileged surroundings.  After a drug-fueled trip into the crime filled district of East L.A. ends with Hathaway’s boyfriend almost getting shot by a gang of Latino hoodlums, Hathaway and best friend Bijou Phillips (Hostel: Part II) find the lure of the neighbourhood appealing, but soon discover their thirst for danger comes at a price. 

Freddy Rodriguez plays the leader of the Spanish gang and brings some cool attitude to proceedings (even if the home boy posturing boarders on satire at times), and director Barbara Kopple offers a warts and all viewpoint on a subject that is all too familiar and well trodden.  Hathaway surprised me, delivering much of the sincerity and range showcased in the acclaimed Rachel Getting Married, and wasn’t (like Bijou too) afraid of getting naked either.  Yet this overly-familar movie (see: Thirteen) feels like just one of a crowd, with the Latino gangs portrayed stereotypically, with few redeeming features … and it would have been better if Rodriguez showed a little more humanity than the one-note thug he is becoming type-cast as.  It also plays things too safe, having little guts to show the true consequences of the two girls actions, therefore diluting the movie’s attempt at social commentary.

For style, a pumping soundtrack and some decent acting, this passes the time – but for me it lacked the balls to really deliver.

Verdict:  3 /5

Planet Terror

Viewed – 14 March 2008  DVD

I have to admit, director Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City) plays to the little boy in me and the movies that I would make if I had a hotshot Hollywood career – I mean hey, I’ve written stories that would so suit his sensibilities – that of throw it all at the screen and hope that something sticks, whilst adding lashings of babes, guns and gore. 

Planet Terror formed one half of the disbanded ‘grindhouse’ project that bombed in America, not because the two films weren’t good – they certainly boast plenty of energy and ideas – but as a double feature, such energy was obviously too much for a modern movie lover’s taste not brought up on exploitation films that formed much of Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s miss-spent youth.

Here we get a solute to those 70s cheap thrill vehicles (complete with grainy image quality) with a virus outbreak turning the population of a small town into flesh eating zombies and a band of desperate survivors team up to battle the hoards.  To explain the story beyond it being your usual zombie apocalypse bullshit, would be pointless because there’s so many nutty ideas and over-the-top mad action here that often you forget what the plot is and just sit back and enjoy the ride!  We get a girl with a machine gun for a leg!  (the mouth watering Rose McGowan), a lone drifter who just happens to be bad-ass with guns & knives (Freddy Rodriguez – no relation), a hate-filled husband & wife doctors (Josh Brolin on menacing form, and Heather Graham look-a-like Marley Shelton playing every guys idea of a hot momma) and tons of gore, ripped apart bodies, nudity, explosions and a brilliant guitar theme playing throughout.

So really its as simple as this – if you like your movies to hit you smack in the face but also make you laugh and cheer – this is going to make your day. 

Verdict:  4 /5