Friday, August 21, 2009

Off the Topic: Movie Review of "Inglourious Basterds"

If you get a chance, try to catch "Inglourious Basterds" in theaters this week. Believe me, this is one of Quentin Tarantino's best films.

I know this is a baseball blog, but like I warned before, there will be certain times when my mind wanders onto different areas within and outside sports. This is one of those moments as I will review "Inglourious Basterds", Quentin Tarantino's latest film which I just watched this afternoon.

One of the most popular genres in the movie industry is the "War Movie." Name any great director, and chances are, they have made a war epic of some kind. Stanley Kubrick had "Paths of Glory." Francis Ford Coppola had "Apocalypse Now." Steven Spielberg directed "Saving Private Ryan." The "War Movie", and the take on war and its themes is always a certain in the careers of the most established and successful directors.

And like most directors, Quentin Tarantino continues this trend and gives us his take on World War II in his latest film, "Inglorious Basterds," a movie about eight Jewish soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (played by Brad Pitt) who drop into Nazi-occupied France to wreck havoc on the German army.

The only thing though about "Basterds" is that it is only "kind-of" a war movie. And when I say "kind-of" I mean that it is closer to the comic book Capitan America than "The Moon is Down" by John Steinbeck.

Most "War Movies" are filled with all kinds of messages: the cruelty of war, the bond of brotherhood, the heroism of patriotism, the strength of the human spirit etc.

"Basterds" exhibits none of those traits, and you know what...the movie is better for it.

After all, what else should we expect from Tarantino? I mean, did we seriously expect he would create a tribute film when all his movies from his past were made for entertainment purposes only?

But that is not a bad thing. When it comes to entertainment, Tarantino succeeds, and his effort with "Basterds" is no different. It is a gory, darkly-comical affair that may run long ( two-and-a-half hours to be exact) but never is boring. Sure, some scenes draw out longer than they probably should, but Tarantino's dry wit in his script keeps the audience engaged, even in the most trivial of scenes.

We know how talented a script writer Tarantino is. He won best screenplay at the 1992 Academy Awards for a reason with "Pulp Fiction." However, as a director and movie enthusiast, we are finally seeing Tarantino's becoming better and better at what he has been trying to do since "Jackie Brown": make movies that satisfy the old movie geek, and the current movie fan simultaneously.

In "Jackie Brown" he tried to explore Blaxploitation films, only he was constrained by a script that was rigid because it was based on a novel. In "Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2" he was trying to combine his love of Samurai, Spaghetti Westerns and other nostalgic films in a two-movie extravaganza. However, it was all TOO much, and ended up alienating more viewers in my opinion than uniting them. In "Death Proof," his film in "Grindhouse," he simply didn't have enough time to do anything, for I believe he was more enamored with the whole concept and idea of the movie rather than actually directing the movie itself.

In "Basterds" though, Tarantino makes perhaps his most balanced film yet. It's incredibly mainstream, but incredibly geeky as well. It will satisfy those who grew up on dime store pulp novels written by Mickey Spillane, but it will also satisfy those kids who play Call of Duty on their X-Box.

"Basterds" satisfies in so many ways, and that is why I think this movie is his greatest accomplishment since "Pulp Fiction." Don't get me wrong. I loved "Kill Bill," but more people will love "Basterds." That is how balanced this film is. "Kill Bill" was meant only for the Tarantino buffs. But "Basterds"? It goes beyond just the Tarantino loyalists. People who sat cold-faced during "Kill Bill" will get a chuckle or two in "Basterds". Granted, this movie won't reach that much further out to mainstream moviegoers, but it will be much further than any of his last two film efforts.

A good director can't do it alone of course, and even though Tarantino went the other road and went relatively unknown in his casting except for Brad Pitt, the stars in this movie still shine. Other than Pitt's Raine, the main character that will entertain movie fans is Nazi officer, Hans Landa, also known as the "Jew Hunter" (if that doesn't indicate the mood of this movie, than nothing will). Landa, played by relative unknown Christopher Waltz, is a delightful, yet incredibly gruesome character that is incredibly hard to decipher...but in a good way. He is endless entertainment, and you almost can't wait for his appearance on screen in a way that resembles how you wait for your favorite baseball hitter to come to the plate (sorry...I had to do one baseball reference).

"Basterds" is bloody. "Basterds" is shameless. "Basterds" is unapologetic. "Basterds" is funny. "Basterds" is irreverent. "Basterds" is witty. "Basterds" will probably piss you off if you consider yourself to be a World War II history buff. "Basterds" isn't a movie that will allow you to make out with your girflriend. "Basterds" will give you feel mixed feelings about certain characters despite their one-dimension-ness.

But in the end, "Basterds" is pure entertainment. It is also the most entertaining movie to come around in a long time, a sign that there is still some hope in the movie industry despite the unintentionally funny crap that is drudged out in the mold of "G.I. Joe" and "Fast and Furious."

Since he finished "Jackie Brown," Tarantino often talked about his "War Movie" coming to fruition. The movie world waited and waited and still...he put it off for other projects.

Now, 12 years since he promised that his "War Movie" would be next, we finally have "Inglorious Basterds," that long anticipate promise.

Boy, was it worth the wait.

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