In my review of Inglorious Basterds, I talked about improv and Quentin Tarantino.  It is interesting that on the same weekend, I see a movie made by Tarantino’s partner and friend, Robert Rodriguez, and am once again thinking of improv games.

But I am ahead of myself…..

Over the years, Rodriguez has done what Tarantino could never do – cross over to the family market.  His success with Spy Kids let him work with other kids stories to see what would work.  Such is the case with Shorts.

Shorts is movie about the effects of a wishing rock on a group of people.  Readers of The Monkey’s Paw can already see where this story is headed.  However, the story is not told in a linear fashion.  Much like the game Chapters that is played at SAK Comedy Lab, Shorts is a series of chapters to a story that have been jumbled up.  The execution of this style came off better than anticipated and I give Rodriguez credit for trying it.  The other thing I give him credit for is not putting all of the jokes in the trailer, including some nice wordplay with character names.

Is it predictable?  yes

Is it lame at times? yes

Will this be on constant repeat in DVD players? Yes

My advice:  Take the kids one afternoon and relax – remember what you wish for may not be exactly what you had in mind…

Inglorious Basterds

There are some directors that invoke immediate responses from movie-goers, good and bad.  Quentin Tarantino is one of those directors.  Over the years, people have tried to reconcile the director with the bad actor, as well as try to determine what the underlying genius is that others talk about.  One thing that all can agree on is that he LOVES movies; I doubt that there is a bigger fan of cinema among directors today (or past) that idolize the craft the way he does.  It is this love that generates a number of the genre-driven pieces we have seen from him.

All of his movies have certain mileposts:

  • A strong female character or a female character wronged – the exception is Reservoir Dogs, which had no women.
  • Some homage to the 70s – music, look of the film, actors, story
  • VIOLENCE – lots and lots of bloodshed; the kind that would make Freddy go “That may be over the top”.  I am convinced that if Tarantino did not have directing as a career then he would be America’s biggest mass murder – so much rage for such a small man.

Watching his movies requires some planning.  The experience is always heightened by going when all of his extreme fans are going.  It creates a buzz in the air and allows you to get in the mood for a rollercoaster ride.

Basterds, as a movie, reminds of an improv game played at SAK Comedy Lab called Narrative Collage.  In this game, the focus shifts from character to character as each story is told until all of the stories intertwine.  In Basterds, we have three main characters to focus on:

  • Shoshanna – the wronged female character
  • Aldo – Brad Pitt’s commando leader
  • Hans Landa – the villain and ultimately the glue that holds this movie together.

There are many other characters, but they serve one of these three stories.  What unfolds is not so much a movie, but an episodic show.  Most episodes stand without support, while others do nothing but lengthen the time (2 1/2 hours).  Some quibble at the “revisionist” history, which shows that they miss the point.  This is a movie about what ifs.  Who cares if it is not historically accurate?  Additionally, there is the usual dark humor scattered throughout the dialog, creating laughter at horrific sights.

So what didn’t I like?

  • Accents – if you can’t do an accent, then don’t do it.  Pitt’s was awful, even as an exaggeration
  • Lulls – the middle is too slow – cut some dialog, add some action – we did not need Mike Meyers as a British General…
  • Use the Basterds – if you title the movie after them, then have them doing stuff longer than 30 minutes; most of their scenes were in the trailers…

My advice:  Go see it on the big screen if you are a fan; otherwise catch it via cheaper alternatives while you “have a glass of that delicious milk…”

Public Enemies

There are some genres that audiences will flock to, regardless of how many movies Hollywood makes.  For me, one of those genres is the mobster/gangster movie.  Throw in Johnny Depp and it is a good bet I will check it out.

Public Enemies is based on John Dillinger’s adult life.  When it starts, we see him at the peak of his bank-robbing days.  What follows is a fairly decent movie that tracks his tragic fall.  The movie has a gritty look and you feel rooted in reality.  The only downside is that the pacing was a bit slow at times.  The casting was good and the story delivered on its promises.

My advice:  Check it out one afternoon during a matinee – it is not the typical summer action flick…

The Brothers Bloom

Lisa wrote a good review of this movie back in May (check it out), and I agree with a lot of the points she has.

Overall, I liked this movie and had fun watching it.  Adrien Brody was brooding and emo as ever, but it was Mark Ruffalo’s performance I enjoyed the most.  For once, he was not the “nice guy next door”.  He and Bang Bang made the movie fun amidst some heavier storylines.

My advice:  Check it out when it hits DVD – which should be soon…

John Hughes, 1950 – 2009


One of the unfortunate tasks of this site is to write obituaries for those that had an impact on movies that have passed on.  This is one that is tough for me…

I was born in 1970, which means my middle-school and high-school years took place in the heart of the 80s.  Sure, we had Spielberg and Lucas doing their thing, but it was John Hughes that made the movies most relatable to me.  My first date was to go see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  The Breakfast Club showed me that kids are kids, period.  Some Kind of Wonderful showed me that we are all fools when it comes to teen love.  Nate and Hayes was my mom’s favorite pirate movie and made us watch it several times.

No one has come close to what he did with his movies: defining the high school generation….

However, the moose now says that this chapter is now closed…..Hughes……Hughes……