Archive for the Robert Rodriguez Category


Posted in 2010, Craig Shaw Gardner, Friday Night Knife Fights, Grindhouse, Guillermo Del Toro, Indie Horror, Robert Rodriguez with tags , , , , , on November 26, 2010 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Craig Shaw Gardner

(The Scene:  a boxing ring, with spotlights on Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Craig Shaw Gardner, sitting on stools inside the ring.)

MA:  Welcome back to FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Tonight we’re continuing our brawl—er, discussion—of Robert Rodriguez vs. Guillermo Del Toro, in order to judge ultimately which one of the two is the better director?

I’m joined once again by L.L. Soares and Craig Shaw Gardner.  Gentlemen, thanks again for joining me.

CSG:  Happy to be here.

LS:  Screw the niceties.  Just get on with the questions.  I’m sure there’s a movie playing somewhere we have to review.

MA:  No doubt there is.  Anyway, LL, since you’re so full of—energy— tonight, we’ll start with you.  Of the two directors, Robert Rodriguez and Guillermo Del Toro, which one means more or has done more for the horror genre?

LS:  They have both done a lot for the horror genre—.

MA:  Cop out.

LS:  Will you let me finish?

MA:  Sure.  Go ahead.

LS:  As I was saying, they both have done a lot for the horror genre, although I feel Del Toro has a much stronger resume in the genre. Where Rodriguez has also made action films and family films, Del Toro’s output has been almost exclusively focused on horror, or at least dark fantasy.

MA:  Okay, it’s Craig’s turn.  Craig, how about you?  Who has done more for the genre, Del Toro or Rodriguez?

CSG:  Well, Del Toro has given us stuff like THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001) and PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006), movies that engage the mind as much as any horror/fantastic films made today.

LS: I love them both! Great movies.

CSG: Both directors play fast and loose with horror conventions, but Rodriguez’s stuff seems to have less staying power.  So, I’d have to go with Del Toro.

MA:  I don’t know.   Rodriguez’s stuff has stayed with me.

However, because he’s has created such detailed and elaborate worlds of darkness in his movies, I’d have to say Del Toro has done more for the genre.  Rodriguez probably means more to the action/pulp genre than to horror.  I still prefer Rodriguez’ movies though.

And on that note, has either one of these two directors made a movie or movies that you’ve disliked?

I’ll answer my own question first and say no, neither one has made a movie that I’ve seen that I’ve disliked.  I’m not a big fan of PAN’S LABYRINTH, but I wouldn’t say I disliked it.  And I’ve liked everything I’ve seen directed by Rodriguez, even his SPY KIDS movies.

LS:  They have both made movies I have disliked. I was not a big fan of Del Toro’s MIMIC. While it had some interesting ideas, I didn’t care for it.

MA:  I liked MIMIC.  I thought it had its moments.

LS:  And something like BLADE II from 2002 (which was maybe the best installment in that series), though based on a comic book, is much inferior to his HELLBOY films, which are also based on comics.

As for Rodriguez, I am not a fan of the SPY KIDS movies. But then again, I am not the intended audience for them.

MA:  But without the SPY KIDS movies, there wouldn’t have been an Uncle Machete!

LS:  And I thought his MARIACHI films were uneven. Even his straight-out horror film FROM DUSK TIL DAWN—while there are some things I like a lot about it—is pretty much a mixed bag.  Overall, I think Del Toro has the stronger filmography.

MA:  So, Craig, which one has made a movie you’ve disliked?

CSG:  Both. And they were both sequels.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (2003) and HELLBOY 2 (2008) were, each in their own way, terribly confused, and big letdowns compared to the earlier films.

MA:  Time for our next question.  Which one would you want directing your own screenplay?  Craig?

CSG:  It would depend on the nature of the screenplay.  Haunted, spooky, reflective stuff would go with Del Toro.  Balls-to-the-wall action, and we’re going with Rodriguez.

MA:  Yeah, I would agree with that.

As for myself, I’d want Rodriguez directing my screenplay because I would most likely be writing something highly energetic with a pulp feel, as opposed to something more cerebral set in a fantasy world.  Rodriguez would be a better fit for me.

LS: Actually the best fit for you would be Hanna-Barbera.

MA:  Try Looney Tunes.  But cartoons aren’t on the ticket tonight.

LS:  If one of them were to direct a screenplay by me, I would definitely prefer it be Del Toro. While working with Rodriguez seems like it would be a lot of fun, and I agree he’s excellent when it comes to rapid-fire action, I just think Del Toro is a much more gifted director.

MA:  Okay.  That brings us to the final bell, the big question of the night.  The bout is over.  Robert Rodriguez or Guillermo Del Toro?  Who’s your pick for the best director?  Craig?

CSG:  First, I will admit to skipping a couple of Rodriguez films (some of his lesser, later, kid’s films.)

MA:  It’s okay. I haven’t seen all his films either.

CSG:  I would go see anything Del Toro was involved in (including stuff he produces), so I guess he’s my favorite of the two.  So I guess I’d have to go with Del Toro.

That said, I have no interest in reading the vampire book series he’s co-writing.  We all have our limits.

MA:  Absolutely!  I just read the book jacket of the latest book in that series the other day at my local library, and I left it on the shelf.

LS: Yeah, I’m not that interested in checking them out, either. Although, if he made films of the books, I’d go see them.

MA: My answer to the question, which one’s the better director, I’m sure both of you have already figured out.

For me, the best director is Robert Rodriguez over Guillermo Del Toro, hands down!

LS:  As usual, you have no idea what you’re talking about.  While they’re both talented, I’d go with Del Toro over Rodriguez any day.

MA:  So, there you have it folks, two votes for Del Toro, and one vote for Rodriguez.  So, on this particular night, Del Toro is the winner of the FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.

LS (shakes CSG’s hand): Thanks for proving I’m right. This guy never learns.

MA:  What a kiss up!

Anyway, on behalf of L.L. Soares, Craig Shaw Gardner and myself, we’d like to thank you for joining us tonight.  We’ll see you next month with another exciting bout between two horror icons.

LS:  And who knows which members from our illustrious staff will be here then to take part in the bloodshed.  Tune in to find out!

MA:  This has been FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Good night everybody!


© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda,  L.L. Soares and Craig Shaw Gardner



Posted in 2010, Art Movies, Friday Night Knife Fights, Grindhouse, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Rodriguez with tags , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by knifefighter

Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and Craig Shaw Gardner

(A spotlight in a dark room suddenly illuminates MICHAEL ARRUDA)

MA: We’re kicking off a new column here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.

Welcome to FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS, the column where titans of terror square off in duels to the death (well, figuratively speaking, anyway), and it’s up to our illustrious panel of writers to determine the victor.

Tonight it’s ROBERT RODRIGUEZ VS. GUILLERMO DEL TORO, two of the most talented film directors working today. Which one of these talents is the better director?

I’m Michael Arruda, and joining me tonight to determine the answer to this question is my fellow knife fighter, L.L. Soares, and New York Time Bestselling author Craig Shaw Gardner. (As he introduces them, spotlights illuminate them as well, showing all three of them are sitting inside a boxing ring.)

Okay, here we go.

ROBERT RODRIGUEZ VS. GUILLERMO DEL TORO – who is the better director?

Craig, we’ll start with you. Of these two directors, whose style do you prefer?

CSG: It depends on the project. Rodriguez is better at straight ahead action. Del Toro is better at mood. If forced up against the wall, I’d pick Del Toro.

MA: Well, fortunately, we won’t be forcing you up against a wall on this issue.

CSG: That’s good.

LS: Although this is Cinema Knife Fight, so you never know!

MA: That’s true. LL, how about you? Whose style do you prefer?

LS: I’ve been following both Robert Rodriguez’s and Guillermo Del Toro’s careers since their first films…so….

MA: Really? So, you should have a lot to offer tonight on these two guys.

LS: …..Yeah, sure, if you let me talk. Besides, I have to make up for your shortcomings.

MA: I’ve seen a decent number of films by these guys. Don’t you be concerning yourself with me.

LS: I’m not planning to.

Anyway, in Rodriguez’s case, his first film was the much-lauded EL MARIACHI (1992), which received a lot of attention because it was made on an unbelievably small budget (rumored to be just $7,000). The movie, about a musician who is mistaken for a hit man, was a hit on the indie circuit and got Rodriguez’s career rolling. For Del Toro, his first feature film CRONOS (1993) was a unique take on the vampire yarn, concerning an old watchmaker and his granddaughter, and a strange clockwork device that turns people into vampires. This movie also received much attention during its release, mostly in  art-house theaters, marking Del Toro as an up-and-coming director to watch.

Rodriguez’s films are much more grounded in a grindhouse aesthetic (which makes sense, since he directed one of the two films that made up the “cinema experiment” called GRINDHOUSE in 2007, along with Quentin Tarantino) and this is evident in his Mariachi trilogy (EL MARIACHI, DESPERADO (1995) and 2003’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO), as well as films such as PLANET TERROR (his half of GRINDHOUSE ), FROM DUSK TIL DAWN (1996), SIN CITY (from 2005, which he co-directed with comic book legend Frank Miller), and of course, his latest film MACHETE (2010). Rodriguez also has a strong base in family fare, having made the very successful SPY KIDS films (the first one was in 2001).

Del Toro’s work has had more of an  art-house sensibility, with a bigger emphasis on imagery, atmosphere and style. Since his early days, Del Toro has been splitting his time between Hollywood (movies like MIMIC (1997), and the successful HELLBOY films – from 2004 and 2008) and Mexico (more artistic Spanish-language films like THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001) and PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006), both of which are excellent).

Del Toro is interested in other mediums as well, and has even written a series of novels (THE STRAIN series) with crime novelist Chuck Hogan.

Del Toro’s more literary background is also evident in the choice for his next film, a adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, which he has been trying to get green lit for several years now.

MA: So, whose style do you prefer?

LS: I’d have to go with Del Toro, too.

MA: In true Cinema Knife Fight fashion, I prefer Rodriguez’ style over De Toro’s, because I tend to enjoy his highly charged, energetic movies.

I enjoy movies with a high-octane pace, and Rodriguez’s films tend to fly at high speeds. Also, for me, a film with an edge is more compelling than say a film with great visual detail. Rodriguez’ movies tend to have more bite. I also prefer a movie with a strong story over one with a strong visual style. I think the stories Rodriguez has chosen to film—or at least the ones I’ve seen—have been stronger than the stories Del Toro has chosen. Again, from the ones I’ve seen.

LS: I disagree. Del Toro is as strong a storyteller as he is a visual artist. While I enjoy Rodriguez’s work a lot, I think his stories are more superficial than the more mythic quality found in Del Toro’s work, for the most part.

MA: If you say so, but I enjoyed the stories in movies like MACHETE and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN much more than the stories told in either of the HELLBOY movies, for example.

And while Del Toro is a master of creating strong visuals in his movies, Rodriguez is no slouch either. A film like SIN CITY is full of powerful visuals.

LS: Well, a big reason SIN CITY has such powerful visuals is because it is taken directly from Frank Miller’s graphic novels. It’s Miller’s vision, filtered through Rodriguez. But I have to admit, Rodriguez does a great job of helping Miller bring his artwork to life. Even though the movie is “co-directed” by Miller, I tend to think Rodriguez did most of the directing here –only because the movie maintains his kinetic style of movie-making throughout. So, as far as SIN CITY goes, you’re right. I think it’s easily Rodriguez’s most impressive project.

MA: Moving along, of the two, whose movies do you prefer? Craig?

CSG: Didn’t I just answer this question?

LS: He tends to repeat himself.

MA: It’s the middle school teacher in me. I actually asked whose style do you prefer before, and now I’m asking whose films do you prefer, but I’ll admit, they’re similar questions.

CSG: Whose movies do I prefer? Del Toro’s, probably, just because he’s better at bringing in the right collaborators for his individual projects.

LS: I like them both and think they are both bringing a lot to the current world of cinema, however, if I had to choose, I prefer the films of Guillermo Del Toro. I think that, of the two, Del Toro is much more of an artist, who knows how to use the medium of film to its best effect. Even his Hollywood films (especially the HELLBOY series) have vivid visuals and strong characterization, two things I look for in movies.

MA: See, I’m less interested in visuals, and I’m more into a good story.

LS: We’ve been over this already. Del Toro is more than just visuals, he’s all about story, too. Besides, how can you dismiss strong visuals, when film is a visual medium?

MA: I guess it’s just the writer in me.

LS: That’s a cop-out.

MA: No it isn’t. I write stories, and I enjoy stories, and while I enjoy the different ways directors tell their stories in their movies, if a film’s strength is its visuals and not its story, nine times out of ten I’m not going to like it as much. Obviously you feel that Del Toro is a very good storyteller. Fine. But I think Rodriguez is better at it.

As such, I prefer Robert Rodriguez’ movies over De Toro’s.

I loved MACHETE (2010), as the action was so over-the-top I couldn’t help but get drawn into its story. I also really enjoyed FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996), though admittedly, it does go downhill as it gets deeper into its vampire plot. It becomes almost silly. It’s a much edgier film early on when it deals with its straight action plot.

I liked SIN CITY (2005) a lot, and I even enjoyed THE FACULTY (1998).

With Del Toro, I liked the HELLBOY (2004 & 2008) movies a lot, but mostly because I enjoy the character of Hellboy. I enjoy the character much more than the actual movies. And while most people loved PAN’S LABRYNTH (2006), I wasn’t all that excited about it. I can’t deny its strong visual style, but its story I found too depressing for me to enjoy.

LS: That’s because you’re a wuss who can’t appreciate the power of darker storylines. “Oh, it’s too depressing for me.” That’s hardly a legitimate criticism! And PAN’S LABYRINTH has a stronger story to it than anything Rodriguez has made.

MA: And you’re a grump who can’t stand the fact that people disagree with your opinions. What do you mean it’s hardly a legitimate criticism? PAN’S LABYRINTH has a depressing story, and as such, it’s not for everyone’s tastes.

LS: You’re a horror writer. If anyone should be able to appreciate a dark storyline, it should be you. Weren’t you the one who said you liked movies with an edge? I guess as long as it’s a nice, safe edge that isn’t too dark, then you’re fine with it.

MA: I wouldn’t describe MACHETE or FROM DUSK TILL DAWN as nice and safe.

Hey, if you think PAN has a stronger story than Rodriguez’ movies, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. But in my opinion, PAN’S LABRYNTH’s story is nothing to brag about.

And you’re calling me a wuss? You’re the one who raved over that art-house wannabe movie MONSTERS and thought it was compelling! That movie was so much about nothing I think Jerry Seinfeld co-wrote it!

LS: Yeah, well, I stand by my positive review of MONSTERS. You were wrong about that movie, and you’re wrong in this argument as well.

MA (mockingly): All bow down to the all-knowing god of film criticism! Wrong? How judgmental of you! Try a different opinion, bud!

(CSG watches them with a smirk on his face)


To find out who we ultimately choose as the best director between ROBERT RODRIGUEZ VS. GUILLERMO DEL TORO, tune in next Friday for Part 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and Craig Shaw Gardner