Inglorious Basterds

inglorious-basterds-poster-1“Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…”

Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown) and WWII, seems like a perfect match? Not to give too much away for those who want to see this film…this is the story of a group of Jewish born Americans led by southern redneck Lt. Aldo Raine. Their mission is to inflict pain on the Nazis. Also it follows a story line of a Jewish girl seeking revenge on the Nazis. Opportunity arises as they find out of the Premiere of a German propaganda film and Hitler and Goebbels will be in attendance, the chance of a lifetime to end the war. In a nut shell, without ruining it for others, that’s it.

Any die hard Tarantino fan will tell you the entire movie is completely genius and is the perfect movie, unfortunately I don’t have my head buried that far down in the sand. I don’t think this is Tarantino’s best work, nor do I think it’s his worst. As far as drawbacks go, the film started out with bits and pieces of “Tarantino” style film making. Bringing up the big 70’s type when introducing Hugo Stiglitz, and even the beginning, stating “Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…” and then it pretty much disappears until the very end when hand written type appears pointing out who is who in the German army. I would have preferred more of that, or do away with it.

The bar scene seemed way long to me. Tarantino, known for his dialog scenes…has a very well written scene but my only problem with it was I am not sure how good it is to actually be reading the scene in subtitles instead of actually enjoying the performances and the quick banter back and forth between characters. And the last problem I had with the film was I thought Tarantino could have left out Goebbels and Hitler in the end and that would have made the movie plausible in history rather than ignoring it. It’s kind of like watching Titanic and it never sinks.

OK, even though I had the issues above, that does not mean I didn’t enjoy this film. It had many good laughs and dark comedy moments which all Tarantino fans will enjoy. The performances were so good, I could see a few Oscar nominations come from this film. I have already heard of Christoph Waltz getting a supporting actor nomination. He was very good, rambling away during an interrogation scene and speaking many languages, makes this character one you grow to like and then he snaps and you are right back to hating him. I thought the best performance though comes from Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys, Mr and Mrs Smith). He is amazingly funny with his dry humor and redneck approach to the war. I would love to see him get a Best Actor nod for this, but for someone that has top billing in this film, he sure seemed to be absent from it quite a bit. Knowing that Anthony Hopkins won  Best Actor for Silence of the Lambs with under 20 minutes screen time, maybe there is hope.

If you are familiar with Tarantino and his style and know what to expect going in, you’ll like this film. It was well written, beautifully photographed and very good soundtrack featuring the great Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…Tarantino’s favorite film by the way!). In all, I really liked this film and will see it again at some point. If you love Tarantino dialog and humor, there is plenty of it in this film…..it’s a must see!

Once Upon A Time In America

Once Upon a Time in America

Everyone’s first thoughts seem to be to compare this film with the Godfather. Everyone knows Godfather I and II as great masterpieces in film history and as well they should be. But don’t cheat yourself out of seeing this film, because you would be doing just that, only cheating yourself.

Believe it or not, I have never seen the American cut of this film, which I understand was hacked and put into chronological order. I guess American studios don’t have that much faith in American movie fans to follow anything a bit different or actually thinking for themselves. Directed by Sergio Leone who was known best for the spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), directs this film. When taking in a film by Leone, just be ready for a drawn out, mood setting scenes which are very well crafted. Being drawn out isn’t a bad thing, just as the water pump knocks back and forth endlessly at the beginning of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, a telephone rings for what seems 5 minutes, setting the mood, increasing tension and peaking curiosity.

Of course accompanying Leone is Ennio Morricone. (who also scored the famous and highly recognizable The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly score….you know you’re singing it in your head right now!) Morricone does the usual masterful almost haunting score for which he won a Golden Globe for. Leone and Morricone are a wonderful team and seems to be meant for each other.

This film stars Robert DeNiro (Best Actor Raging Bull) plays Noodles. The film follows his character and Noodles only knows one thing, never sell out your friends. James Woods plays his friend Max. Woods is wonderful as the flying by the seat of his pants, high strung friend. Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) and Burt Young (Pauly in Rocky) give good performances as well. And if you think you kind of recognize the little girl dancing in the beginning, you probably do know her. This is Jennifer Connelly’s (Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind) very first feature film.

This is a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it. I didn’t want to give too much away in this review, for those that want to see it. Remember Sergio Leone is a wonderful storyteller, but tells it his way at his pace, which just adds color and drama to his films. Settle in with a bucket of popcorn or some good red wine…this is good movie making!