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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The movie ‘basterds’ of late summer

    The movie basterds of late summer

    It’s been a tremulous summer in America. Unemployment has been rising, industry has been buckling, overzealous government spending has failed to stimulate the economy, but worst of all, the jerks responsible have been shrugging their shoulders as they sip champagne and watch the world burn from their golden parachutes.

    Bastards.

    But while the dastardly deeds of these real-world bastards have gone largely unpunished, cinema has stepped in (as it often does) to capitalize on the nation’s welling discontent.

    Summer may be over for us students, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for a little bastard-bashing wish-fulfillment. If you should find yourself feeling a little sadistic at the end of class this week, curb that angst with one of the many end-of-summer flicks that aim to purify the world, one bastard — or “”Basterd”” — at a time.

    “”Inglourious Basterds””

    Rated: R

    Run Time: 153 mins

    Score: 4.5/5 Nazi Scalps

    There are two camps when it comes to Quentin Tarantino’s ultraviolent, endlessly referential films: those who love them, and those who wish the talky director would just fall on his own Hanzo sword, sparing the world any more insufferable fast-food monologues.

    “”Inglourious Basterds,”” Tarantino’s fifth and newest film, may have promised via its ubiquitous adverts to unite these camps with a straightforward World War II narrative, but may ultimately be the least accessible, most uniquely Tarantino film to date.

    “”Basterds”” is a sensational revision of the end of World War II, brought about by an explosive all-in-one assassination attempt on the Third Reich’s head honchos. Central to the plot is a legendary squad of Jewish-American soldiers known by their enemies as The Basterds, who, under the supervision of the dapper, drawling Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), specialize in the gruesome extermination of Nazis in occupied France.

    While the trailers make it seem like a majority of the film follows the bloody exploits of the bastards, screen time is actually split very judiciously among a motley slew of amusing supporting characters — all equally instrumental in the final attempt on Hitler and his goons. The film begins, for example, with a frustratingly long Spaghetti Western homage that introduces Shosanna Dreyfus (French actress Mélanie Laurent), a Jewish refugee hiding in France, and Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the badass, yet surprisingly amiable, German officer responsible for hunting and killing Shosanna’s family. Other prominent players include sharpshooter and Nazi folk hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), glam German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), and “”Hostel”” director Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny “”The Bear Jew”” Donowitz.

    Given that there’s enough narrative threads in this film to strangle a Nazi platoon, action scenes are few and far between, making them even more satisfying when they appear.

    Stylistically, “”Basterds”” is classic Tarantino: rambling monologues, meticulously lush cinematography, Western homage, stirring sound effects, and, naturally, guest narration by Samuel Jackson. Pitt delivers a hilarious performance comparable to his stint in “”Burn After Reading,”” but Nazi detective Hans Landa truly steals the show with his deranged congeniality.

    Despite misleading marketing, “”Basterds”” is a totally over-the-top, one-of-a-kind cinematic experience with a bloody climax that would make Dick Cheney cry tears of joy. Tarantino fans dare not miss this one; haters will not be converted by it, but just might enjoy watching some “”bastards”” burn.

    “”District 9″”

    Rated: R

    Run Time: 112 mins

    Score: 4/5 Alien Entrails

    There’s no question that Nazis deserve whatever’s coming to them, but the topic of extraterrestrials is a bit more ambiguous. In “”District 9,”” the feature film debut of director Neill Blomkamp, we see that mankind might be the biggest bastards of all.

    Based on the inhumane segregation of South Africa under Apartheid (during which director Blomkamp grew up), “”D-9″” is an eerily believable dystopian vision of first contact.

    When a massive alien mothership halts unexpectedly over Johannesburg, South Africa, the extraterrestrial pilgrims are forced to live in a militarized slum known as District 9. After 20 years with no movement from the mothership, human/alien tensions have escalated to a point of violence, and the government calls in the shady MNU conglomerate to evict the aliens to a veritable concentration camp far from the city limits. At the helm of the operation is Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), who could pass as a more ethnic Steve Carell.

    During the course of the evictions, Wikus becomes infected with an alien virus that slowly metamorphoses his DNA into that of D-9’s scaly captives. Naturally, everything goes to hell from here as the MNU, private military contractors, and Nigerian crime lords from D-9 all vie for Wikus’ valuable DNA and potential to harness radical alien weaponry.

    The beginning of the film is told in a gritty documentary style before switching to a more traditional thriller format after Wikus’ infection. From the opening when MNU soldiers execute unarmed aliens, to Wikus’ painful degeneration from the virus, to the third act when Wikus and his alien confederate Christopher wreak havoc on the military with alien weaponry, D-9 is a nonstop cringe, showcasing very few redeeming qualities in humankind.

    The film suffers a bit from “”Passion of the Christ”” syndrome, beating its message home through scenes of gruesome sacrifice and brutality, but is ultimately more thought-provoking than pedantic. The film ends in both hope and despair, drawing too many parallels to our current world for comfort, but offering a dynamic, action-packed ride all the way. This combination of medium and message is going to make “”District 9″” an icon of modern cinema — depressing as hell, but an icon nonetheless.

    “”Funny People””

    Rated: R

    Run Time: 146 mins

    Score: 3/5 Jewish Comedians

    Last but not least is a little shard of hope in a dismal sea — a film that seems to say “”Once a bastard, not always a bastard.””

    “”Funny People”” is the newest synthesis of Judd Apatow (“”Pineapple Express,”” “”Knocked Up,”” “”40 Year Old Virgin””)’s writing and Seth Rogan (all of the above)’s chubby everyman appeal, but is not so much a comedy as it is a drama about comedy.

    Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a crotchety playboy comedian who realizes he’s squandered his life and his talent when a Dracula-esque Scandinavian doctor informs him he is dying. Simmons wallows in his self-loathing for a while until he witnesses an affecting stand-up set by loser Ira Wright (Rogan). Ira enters Simmons’ employ as a comedy writer/personal assistant, and slowly builds a bond of friendship as Simmons begins to cope with his imminent death.

    But it’s all for naught, because about an hour into the movie everyone finds out that Simmons is going to live after all. The funny man thus resolves to set his life back on track and use this second chance to win back his ex-wife (Leslie Mann) from her Aussie heartthrob hubbie (Eric Bana). Ira tries to prevent his boss from doing anything stupid — but if he succeeded then there wouldn’t be a movie, would there?

    Peppered with stand-up sketches and bits of wisdom from a comedy cavalcade, including Rogan, Sandler, Jonah Hill (Superbad), Sarah Silverman, Ray Romano and even Eminem, “”Funny People”” certainly lives up to its title. This would be more of a compliment if the title was “”Funny Movie,”” but sadly that’s not the case. The film drags on entirely too long and tries to delve too deeply into too many characters’ lives, making it difficult to care about any one particular player or glean a unifying message from the comic stew.

    Forcing the audience to watch Simmons bitch and moan as he dies, then act like a self-entitled adultering douchebag once he realizes he’s going to live is just plain cruel, and robs the character of all sentimentality by the end.

    The meat of the film is in the endearing relationship between Ira and Simmons, but this conflict is often overshadowed by Simmons’ personal conquests and is never fleshed out as much as it deserves. “”Funny People”” has the potential to be a great movie, but with so many variable characters and conflicts crammed into one plot arc, the true beauty of the story becomes lost in a sea of penis jokes.

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