Posts Tagged ‘inglourious basterds

06
Jan
10

Top Ten Movies of 2009

What a year it has been for movies. From a film for fanboys (“Watchmen”) to a teeny-bopper supernatural romance (“New Moon”), from a Jarhead visiting a world of blue people (“Avatar”) to ugly aliens visiting our own (“District 9”), from man’s continuing struggle to against the machine (“Terminator Salvation”) to the machines having taken over and a scientist’s soul divided into mini-creations trying to survive (“9”), from the return of 80’s cartoons as live action (“G.I. Joe”) to the return of 80’s horror (“The Stepfather”) and everything in between (there were TWO movies about mall security cops), it truly has been a year.

As far as film goes and in my own opinion it’s been a tough year. One can blame the economic recession/depression for monetary aspects, but it’s been an overall success for the Industry for the year. This year was more about the aftermath of the 2007-2008 writers strike than any other single factor.

It was difficult making this year’s list because the overall feeling from watching movies this year was “meh.” I enjoyed quite a few movies, but the indies seemed to have peaked the year that “No Country for Old Men” saw release and the blockbusters haven’t held the caliber of “Iron Man” (although “G.I. Joe” was more fun than “Transformers 2”) Another problem with constructing the list was that three of my favorite films I saw this year (“Frost/Nixon,” ‘The Wrestler,” “Gran Torino”) were limited release 2008 in cities such as NY and LA and therefore had to be struck from the list.

Here, in order of release/when I viewed them, are my Top Ten movies of 2009 and my thoughts:

“Star Trek” – “Alias” and “Lost” creator JJ Abrams was given the keys to Kirk and Company and made a fun and enjoyable movie that was truly a reason to go to the movie theatre. Chris Pine channeled a bit of Shatner while Zach Quinto did a spot-on Spock. Some have called it “Star Trek for Star Wars fans” and that may have a bit of truth to it, but it doesn’t take away from being a solid, enjoyable film.

“Up” – If this year had a theme it would be “films that other people thought shouldn’t work but did.” “Up” was being crucified before it got to the theatres. I saw an article where “Wall Street” experts were predicting it as a failure for Pixar. The result? A heartfelt, beautifully colored solid story about a former balloon salesman uprooting his house for the ultimate adventure of his life taking along a stowaway who needs a father figure. It may not have the technology of “Avatar” but the story was original and solid and Pixar up’d their technology work with the brilliance of their color palette.

“The Hangover” – A movie I probably would not have watched had it not been for the free screening. The initial WB test screening went so well they ordered a sequel, which I had never heard of happening before. My brother and I went to a PACKED screening at the Commerce Crossings theatre two weeks in advance. Walking out of the movie my brother gave it the best endorsement I’ve ever heard for a movie: “I would pay to see that again.” So would I.

“District 9” – Following “Moon,” (which gets Honorable Mention) director Neil Blomkamp took racial prejudice in South Africa and changed it to alienation of aliens. Shot on a limited budget and handheld/doc-style, it was an innovative sci-fi film and one that should raise the bar for doing science fiction films.

“Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino threw everything but the blender into this one: a hodge-podge of war films, exploitation, film geekness, and World War II. This film ran the risk of being exclusively for those who love films and/or Tarantino and while that concept may seem to be running on fumes, and trust me it has its faults, overall it tied together at the end. It’s not “Kill Bill” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the Tarantino catalog.

“Capitalism: A Love Story” – One of the most personal of Michael Moore’s films and his best since, “Bowling for Columbine.” It got snubbed for next year’s Academy Awards and that just goes to show Californians DO love their money…

“Paranormal Activity” – Most likened to being this decade “Blair Witch,” this really IS the little movie that could. Done for $15,000 and shot in one location this preyed on those times when you sit in a house, alone, and hear the creaking of the floors, strange noises, etc. This is a film that works best on people who have imaginations, as opposed to those who enjoy the “idiotic group of college teenagers going out to an abandoned shack” formula. I caught a late showing on a Tuesday night and couldn’t get the final scene outta my head. On DVD next week!

“The Blind Side” – So I had to put another “heartwarming” movie on the list. It wasn’t groundbreaking and you could tell the smarminess from the get-go, but I enjoyed the film. Not everything I watch has to be earth-shattering or socially conscious; sometimes it’s nice to fit in an “uplifting” movie.

“Me and Orson Welles” – Charming, amusing movie rooted in its when and where. I am not a big fan of Orson Welles as a person or his personality, but Christian McKay did such a spot-on job with playing Orson Welles it’s uncanny. It was great speaking with Ed Hart about this one; it truly deserves to be recognized. I wish it luck.

“Avatar” – I initially thought against putting this in the Top Ten but Cameron’s attention to detail and use of 3-D technology make this one to be seen. It’s not a great story; in fact, you’ve already seen it as “Dune,” “Dances with Wolves,” etc. The attention to detail and world of Pandora that Cameron created are what sets this above the others.

There are others that deserve mention (“Moon,” “Zombieland”) but these were the ten best for the year (that I watched). Feel free to give your comments. Happy holidays and see you at the movies!

Chas Andrews

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03
Sep
09

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

I B Teaser 1-Sht.

 

Tarantino rewriting history for fun

Stars Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Melanie Laurent, Mike Myers, Diane Kruger. Directed by Quentin Tarantino.

More World War II movies need spaghetti Western music. I might be getting ahead of myself here.

Let me get this out of the way: Brad Pitt and Company (Eli Roth, etc.) “aren’t much into the taking prisoners business. We in the killin’ Nazis business.” Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine, a Tennessean good ole boy who keeps a company of eight men inside German-occupied France and who charges each man with delivering “100 Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps,” taking a cue from the Apache Indians. Each man is Jewish and mostly American (a few are German). Among the group is Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) who made the German papers tracking down and personally killing 13 high ranking Nazi SS. Their personal dream is to take down the entire Third Reich by any and all means possible.

But the movie isn’t just about them.

Shosanna (Laurent) is a French Jew living in Paris under the name Emmanuelle. Years earlier her family hid under the home of a farmer known for his daughters and milk production. Shosanna narrowly escaped with her life from the execution brought by “Jew Hunter” Colonel Hans Landa. Landa is a keen hunter/detective for the Third Reich with fluency in several languages and the ability to detect B.S. a mile away. In short: he’s the ultimate antagonist overshadowing the other high-ranking officers.
Back to Shoshanna: she’s now living in Paris and owns a cinema supposedly given to her by her dead aunt and uncle. Her projectionist is a black man named Marcel (Jacky Ido), whom she also loves. Along comes Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), the “star of the moment” for defending a seized city and killing over 300 combatants in a period of three days. This led to a movie being made about him directed by Joseph Goebbels called “Nation’s Pride” where he plays himself. He falls for Shosanna/Emmanuelle and has her meet the high-ranking officials of the SS and persuades them to use her theatre for the premiere of the movie. She hatches a plan whereby she’ll ignite the 350 highly flammable nitrate films (a segment narrated by Samuel L. Jackson) and get vengeance on the Germans for killing her family.

And the third story:

A British film critic-turned-soldier (Gedeon Burkhard) is inducted to be part of Operation Kino by General Ed Fenech (Mike Myers). He is to go to Paris and escort double-agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) to the premiere of “Nation’s Pride” which Hitler is supposedly going to attend.

How do the Basterds weave through these stories? How is Landa involved within them? For that, you’ll have to watch the movie.

Tarantino throws in everything but the kitchen sink into this one: he borrows the book chapter titling from the “Kill Bill” movies to kick start the separate stories. Samuel L. Jackson (as noted above) narrates a section explaining nitrate film. Julie Dreyfus (interpreter in “Kill Bill”) shows up in this too as in interpreter: French-to-German, vice versa. Harvey Keitel lends some voiceover work from a telephone connection toward the end of the film. Spaghetti Western music surrounds the torture sequences of the Basterds; even a David Bowie songs makes an appearance in the movie in a very apropos segment. Camera crane shots following a character seem to mimic those from “Kill Bill Volume One.” And lest ye forget: over-the-top characters.

Ultimately this is a film geek’s movie as well as a Tarantino fan’s movie (which if you’re one you might as well be the other). From Tarantino’s style culled from his previous fare (“Kill Bill,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Jackie Brown”) to homages to his favorite films (I think there was a reference to “The Searchers” somewhere in there) it has its moments of fun. What better way to give credit to those who watch and love his movies than centering the events of a movie around film itself?

Brad Pitt is great as the Southern Lt. Aldo Raine. Eli Roth (not a favorite) works as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, “The Bear Jew,” a guy who kills Nazis with a baseball bat. Christoph Waltz is the perfect Nazi bad guy. Laurent is great as the woman swearing vengeance on the party and who ends up in a doomed relationship. One thing Tarantino has above other directors is the ability to either perfectly cast someone, or make the person work for the role they’re given.

Why should you see this film? You’re a Tarantino fan. You’re a film geek/nerd. Or maybe you just wanna see some Nazi scalping. Speaking of which watch for Tarantino in the beginning of the film as a Nazi being scalped.

Not to dismay the fun, but the film does lag at a certain point. It’s not so much the dialog as it is the story weighing down the fun of the movie. Don’t get me wrong: the beginning and ending acts are GREAT, but somewhere before the finale things tend to drag. Blame it on the pacing. Also, I wanted to see more of The Basterds in action. I was hoping the movie would be more about the group than the other stories it divided time between. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it overall but… I wanted something more. Not so much more explanations of the characters but more scenes of their adventures.

My grade: B+