‘Inglourious Basterds’ offers the unexpected in Tarantino-style
Quentin Tarantino simultaneously surprises and reverts to form in this film set in France during World War II, which tells the fictionalized story of a special squad of American Jews whose mission is to kill and capture German soldiers.
But from the breathtaking opening sequence, it isn’t about history or war, or people and their problems, or anything of substance or meaning. It’s a movie about other movies.
Brad Pitt stars as Lt. Aldo Raine, who announces that he’s part Apache and as such will insist that each of his men owes him “one hunnert Nattzie scalps.” Because it’s Tarantino, viewers can rest assured that we’ll see those scalps being taken. (2:31; R for strong graphic violence, profanity and brief sexuality. In English, German, French and Italian with subtitles.)
Two days before his wedding, Doug (Justin Bartha) and his friends (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis) decide to enjoy one last hurrah in Las Vegas.
But almost as soon as they embark into that good night, all becomes oblivion. They don’t remember a thing. Who was the stripper leaving their hotel room early in the morning? How did that tiger end up in their bathroom? And what the heck happened to their missing friend Doug?
They are lost in a guy-centric universe of their own creation, where there are, essentially, two kinds of women: the humorless partners to whom they are betrothed and strippers with hearts of gold.
And their only way out of this nightmare is to return from the proverbial fire back to the frying pan: the noble institution of marriage. (1:39; R for pervasive profanity, sexual content including nudity and drug material.)
This aggressively stupid entry in the family-adventure genre from Jerry Bruckheimer is a dispiriting primer on the low regard Hollywood has for the intelligence and curiosity of children – and the time and money of their parents.
The spies here are specially trained guinea pigs, Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz) and Blaster (Tracy Morgan). With the assistance of a buzzing, microcamera-laden fly and a tech-savvy mole (Nicolas Cage), the furry spooks try to bring down arms dealer Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy) and save their tiny fraction of the FBI’s research budget.
Their handler is played by comedian Zach Galifianakis, who, fresh off his inspired turn in “The Hangover,” is somehow made boring here. (1:28; PG for mild action and rude humor.)
As Ang Lee’s coming-of-age comedy set during 1969 opens, Elliot (Demetri Martin) is living with his elderly parents at their Catskills El Monaco Motel, which is on the brink of a bank takeover.
When the quiet, dutiful Elliot hears that a three-day music festival has had its permit denied by a nearby town, he contacts the promoter and makes the introduction to a farmer whose green, hilly property is deemed ideal for the event.
The film steadfastly remains outside the main event and its familiar muddy scrum of hippies and hangers-on. Instead, Lee stays with Elliot as he watches the world change outside his window.
Even at its most uneven and unprepossessing, this quirky, self-effacing little comedy takes its place in Lee’s American oeuvre with quiet ease. (1:50; R for graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language.)
Also available: “The Killers: Live From the Royal Albert Hall”; “Robot Chicken: Season Four”; “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie.”