Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Movie Review: Up in the Air

(For the radio version please click here).

It took a 31 year old to direct one of the most adult and topical films of the year. Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan, now has three feature films under his belt. “Thank You for Smoking”, a movie about a corporate tobacco public relations specialist, and “Juno”, a movie about a pregnant teen. They were sympathetic takes on marginalized lives. His third film continues the trend of asking us to care about people we are not suppose to care for.

“Up in the Air” follows the life of Ryan Bingham, who is portrayed by George Clooney. Mr. Bingham fires people for a living; a man who fires people because their own bosses are too chicken to do it themselves. And in our economic downturn, Ryan’s business is booming.

Years of firing people and hopping around the country have left Mr. Bingham with emotions of stone. He enjoys the insincere and forced friendliness afforded frequent fliers such as flight attendant greetings and hotel perks. Any interaction with lovers are likely soulless one night trysts in whatever Hilton brand hotel he happens to be in. When Mr. Bingham fires someone, externally, he is warm, sympathetic and hopeful. He is good at his job. But never do you think he gets sad at the destruction of these lives.

At first, the only discernable goal Mr. Bingham strives for is 10 million airline miles, a dedicated phone line to his air carrier, and a ride with the captain. Fortunately, two women crack his shell of impenetrable charm, and all of them change for the better - sort of. See, the unique talent of Mr. Reitman is turn the story of an emotionally cool frequent flying firing philanderer into a poignant commentary on our economy and an affirmation of roots, family, and love.

Anna Kendrick plays Natalie Keener, a young go-getter who’s business ideas threaten Mr. Bingham’s high flying ways. For me though, the real relevation is Vera Farmiga who plays a frequent flying female version of Bingham. They like each other enough to share flight schedules and arrange cross-country hook ups. Ms. Farmiga is excellent in a well written role; at turns funny, kind, empathetic, and ferocious. It’s a great role played by a great actress.

I beg you to see this film. My parents were in town over the holidays and looked after the kids. So my wife and I went to dinner and a movie. We chose “Up in the Air” over that other film. That other film, the one breaking all manner of box office records, is a technological marvel about nine foot tall aliens that will appeal to the 12 year old in us all. I can’t wait to see it. But please don’t ignore films like “Up in the Air”. It’s nuanced, topical, cohesive, adult, with great writing and acting, with minimal special effects, but plenty of visual charge. Make these movies successful so the 40 year old in us can have something to enjoy too.

“Up in the Air” is playing this weekend at Gross Alaska Cinema, downtown theater. This is Clint Farr, on a date with his wife (!), at the movies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Movie Review: The Princess and the Frog

(For the radio version, please click here).

Much has been made, and rightly so, of the fact The Princess and the Frog is the first Disney animated film to feature an African American princess. And I join the rest of the country in saying, “It’s about time.” Yet, my four year old daughter, sitting in my lap, was totally engrossed. She giggled at the Cajun firefly; she guffawed at the horn blowing gator; and she buried her face into my chest when shadowy demons were released into the bayou. My little one was unaware of anything different, or groundbreaking, or political about this film. She just loved it. That too, I think, predicts well for our future.

Beyond the leap forward for society, I have to ask if the movie is any good? Of course it is. It’s a great film. The Princess and the Frog takes place in a specific time and place, New Orleans and Bayou in the 1920s. The film’s heroine, Tiana, dreams to start a fine restaurant and her father’s strong wise words provides her a path to do so. The rest of the film is the journey to discover her and her father’s dream. The fact an amphibious Prince of indeterminate southern European country shows up as a love interest really is beside the point. And I like that.

Of course the movie glosses over the reality of 1920’s Louisiana. We believe an African American woman could really start a fine dining establishment. Disney has Disneyfied reality since Dumbo. It is a fantasy, so there’s nothing here to disappoint.

The film showcases a collection of New Orleans jazz and down and dirty bayou blues played as fuzzy facsimiles. That would be my one criticism I suppose. This movie could be a chance to introduce children to some of the best roots music this country has to offer. Instead we get a phoned in soundtrack from the master of bland, Randy Newman. He’s talented, but his zydeco is a little like Pat Boone playing Metallica.

I know, I know, it’s a kid’s movie. And it truly is a kid’s movie. There is some nuance and unexpected poignancy that will keep adults engaged. But really, it’s about the kids. Even if the music is mediocre, there is plenty of it, and there is enough slapstick and outrageousness to keep the kids hooting. Unlike the Pixar films, like Wall-E or Finding Nemo, the film is animated with traditional hand drawings. This so-called two-dimensional animation is beautiful, harkening back to the Disney films of your youth.

I don’t know if The Princess and the Frog is a two-dimensional classic like the Lion King or the Little Mermaid. It more reminded me of the pleasant experience of watching The Aristocats or 101 Dalmations. Nothing amazing, but very fun, very watch-able, and very worth your money. And as with any Disney animated film, this movie is best appreciated on the big screen with a bunch of little kids giggling and screaming in unison.

The Princess and the Frog plays this weekend at the Gross Alaska Glacier Cinemas. This is Clint Farr, not so alone with my four year old, at the movies.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Movie Review: It Might Get Loud

(For the radio version, please click here).

Air guitar is silly. I know this, yet in private, I shred my air axe. Do you strum your thigh, finger your palm, and weirdly jerk around, to the straining guitar of a good rock song, as if in a seizure? If so, then “It Might Get Loud” is for you.

Very roughly, “It Might Get Loud” is about a meeting of three guitar greats, Jack White of the White Stripes, The Edge of U2, and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. They discuss their early days, seminal music influences, and the moment they found themselves as artists over mere guitarists. On this simple framework the filmmakers hang cutaways to concert footage, old news reels, and even animation, to help us visualize their stories.

There is no storyline so much as free flow of anecdotes, air guitar (oh yes, Jimmy Page does awesome air guitar), and impromptu jams. There is not much context. You are not with any one guitarist too long before another narrative begins. It’s a little disconcerting, but covers a lot of territory, and is helpful in keeping the movie clipping along. The movie only settles down when the players stop talking and start playing.

Not much time is spent trying to convince you these guitarists are great. If you are unfamiliar with any of these performers (as I was with Jack White) it’s best, I think, to latch onto the story of the guitarist you are most familiar, and allow them to convince you the other two are worthy.

For me, it’s The Edge. I listened to U2’s the “Joshua Tree” for months and memorized every song. When the film shows U2 concert footage of “Where the Streets Have No Name” it hit me in the gut. If you’re a little older, maybe it’s Page and Zeppelin. And if you’re a little younger, maybe it’s Jack White. All the same, this film is about their, and our, love of authentic music, music that makes us pull over the car and listen, music that changes culture, illuminates our place in the world, and reconnects us to our roots.

Jack White comes across as a 14 year old prodigy who is sullen and resentful because no one appreciates his genius. The fact he is in his 30s and is recognized by millions makes him all the more obnoxious. Mr. White is not a sympathetic character. Yet, his passion is clear and his talent is considerable. And that’s the sign of a good documentary. It does not bathe Mr. White in a golden light. He’s kind of angry. And where I might not have him over for dinner, I will definitely be looking at his stuff on iTunes.

The elder, Jimmy Page, is a delight. There is a scene that depicts the love and respect Jack White and The Edge have for this man. The guitarists jam on some of their famous licks in the film. When it’s Page’s turn, the first riffs from “Whole Lotta Love” begin. Jack White picks up his guitar, reconsiders, sets it down, and just listens. The Edge never even bothered to pick it up. And for a blissful moment, the master plays. Jack White and the Edge beam like little boys.

“It Might Get Loud” plays at our beloved Gold Town Nickelodeon this weekend, Thursday through Sunday. This is Clint Farr, alone at the movies.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity

(Sorry no audio available yet)

“Paranormal Activity” ought to provide some lessons for Hollywood. You don’t need millions of dollars to craft an engaging film, nor do you need graphic depictions of violence and buckets of blood to horrify audiences. “Paranormal Activity” is minimalist filmmaking at its best; proving our imaginations conger more horror than celluloid. The movie demonstrates no amount of money replaces the fundamentals of cinematic storytelling: an original concept, a good script, better acting, and ruthless editing.

How this 11 thousand dollar movie became a 100 million dollar grossing behemoth is, itself, worthy of a movie that I hope to review some day. As it stands, this little movie is worth your money – depending on your tolerance for low budget filmmaking.

The director and screenwriter, Oren Peli, is smart enough to make the low budget a key plot point. A couple uses a single video camera to document a home’s strange bumps and noises. And that’s it. That’s the movie, a couple filming each other reacting to the strange things going on.

Many are comparing this film to the “Blaire Witch Project”, a jerky little film with a few decent scares. For me though, this film is better compared to the attacking sharks, and super low budget of “Open Water”. “Open Water” and “Paranormal Activity” are about more than just terror of an uncontrolled presence (say sharks or ghosts) but also how a loving couple deals with the pressure. These films depict how the couples support each other, blame each other, contribute and detract from a solution to their predicaments. This focus on the dynamic relationship between two lovers in an impossible situation elevates these films from mere shock-fests to, dare I say it, art.

“Paranormal Activity” is not a perfect film. There are a couple of scenes that drag and there are a couple of “frights” that are silly more than scary. There is a lot of hand held camera action, which can be a little jerky. If you are susceptible to car sickness, you may find yourself looking at your hands occasionally during the first thirty minutes. Once the tension begins to ratchet up though, I stopped noticing the camera work and started freaking out.

I love that there is little blood or graphic violence. The camera does not give us a surgical view of the bloodletting like some of the higher budget torture porn popular these days. This may have been a choice necessitated by the lack of a budget. But having your mind fill in the blanks is much more terrifying than what any cheap special effect could have produced. The lack of budget, the lack of blood, forces the filmmaker to use their imaginations to encourage us, in turn, to use our imaginations. Combine that with a wham-bang ending, and you’ve got yourself an effective little horror movie.

With decent acting and some choice bits of comedy to contrast and heighten the horror, I like this movie. My old creaky house is all the more freaky thanks to this film. Yeah, next time I check on that loud bang in the basement holding a bat and expired bear spray, I’ll be thinking, “Thanks Oren Peli. Thanks a lot”. Paranormal Activity plays this weekend a the Gross Alaska Glacier Cinemas. This is Clint Farr, alone, and freaked out, at the movies.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Movie Review: The Horse Boy

(For the radio version, please click here).

In The Horse Boy, we are introduced to Rowan straight away: a screaming child with bandaids over his eyelids from where he’s clawed himself, and soiled pants from an inability to be potty trained. We learn he is autistic.

We then meet the parents, Rupert Isaacson and Kristin Neff. Kristin teaches college psychology and Rupert writes books on traditional cultures, including traditional healing. They are people of means, with land, goats, and horses. They also exhibit an unanchored spirituality that allows them to approach their son’s illness from outside the strictures of western medicine and science.

That said, the film allows national autism experts to weigh in. We learn there is no single definition of autism. Rather, autism is a spectrum of behaviors from merely anti-social all the way to self-destructive, say from the Ph.D. physicist to the institutionalized. Autistics are united by an overriding ability to focus to the exclusion of all else. In Rowan’s case, the obsession is horses, all else includes self-inflicted pain and soiled pants.

Fortunately for Rowan, animals seem to like the boy. The only time he relaxes is on the back of a big, kind mare. Horses, then, are the needed gateway to a calmer child. Through his knowledge of traditional healers, Rupert discovers the shamans of Mongolia who use horses in their healing. And just like that, the family and a film crew are off to Mongolia.

Rupert is an exceedingly strong personality. He clearly loves his son. He desperately wants to do the right thing for his son. Yet, he’s just as desperately neds to be acknowledged for doing the right thing for his son. My gosh, he took a film crew to Mongolia. I couldn’t help but feel a mix of admiration and exasperation with this guy.

And in Kristin, you see her own mix of admiration and exasperation for the guy. All she really wants is for her son to be potty trained, so much so that she’s willing to horseback across Mongolia. Yet, she maintains a needed skepticism of the whole enterprise. Her tempered expectations and emotions contrast to Rupert’s whose moods ranged from soaring highs on Rowan’s good days to self-pitying lows on the bad days. It’s funny, the shamans suggest Rowan’s problems derive from Kristin’s mentally ill grandmother, but as I watched Rupert I thought: bipolar?

But I left this film not thinnking about mental illness, or Rowan, his mom, or even Rupert. By movie’s end I realized the film is about the unknowable, the mysterious. What do we know about the healing power of a parent’s love? For that matter, what do we know of the healing power of a horse, or a shaman? So whether from the mare, the parents, or the twitching fingers of a Mongolian reindeer herding shaman, all we know is by film’s end a child changes and the parents smile.

Of course, not to be too cynical, the child better change or all that money for the film crew and travel would’ve been wasted. So see, this film really is mysterious.

The Horse Boy plays this weekend, starting Thursday night, at our beloved Gold Town Nickelodeon. Frankly, I was fascinated. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Movie Review:Where the Wild Things Are

(For the radio version, please click here).

‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is about a truism a lot of us forget when we fondly remember our youth. Childhood can suck. Maybe mom was working, or dad wasn’t around; your big sister stopped hanging out with you, or nobody listened to your stories; or perhaps your playmates were just as selfish and emotionally stunted as you were – leading to lots of fights. The monsters in this film, emanating from Max’s mind are surrogates, perhaps, to his own personality traits and capture the intensity of the age - the intense friendships, the intense loyalty, and the intense betrayal when promises are broken. Cinematically the film captures the intense sensory experiences of a child’s mind not yet dulled by an education, a job, or any of the numbing repetitions and rituals of adulthood. The setting, the seamless special effects, the dialogue, the monsters are the mind of a 10 year old.

I admit I was terrified to see this film. I nearly cried when I saw the trailer. I mean, it’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’! The book left an indelible mark on me. The monsters looked just like the ones in the book. I dreamed of those monsters as a child, especially their yellow eyes. And Spike Jonze as the director; he directed ‘Three Kings’ and ‘Being John Malkovich’, two of my favorite films. So I allowed myself to have high expectations, but I know better. See, I subscribe to the tenant that the root of all unhappiness is unmet expectations. Better, really, to not have any expectations and be pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately, the film did not meet my high, high expectations. Be assured, this film will be studied by film schools. The film is pitch perfect for what it is trying to do. But I was supposed to cry - darn it - and pretend I wasn’t by rubbing my eyes like I’m tired. So, why in this masterpiece, a film of rare beauty, did I not care?

In analyzing my detachment, it occurred to me that I simply didn’t like the boy, Max. When a single character carries a film, they have to be captivating; captivatingly sinister or heroic or even normal. Max exhibits, in the language of academic professional educators, oppositional defiant disorder. In the language of us simpler folk, he’s a brat - a brat who bites the shoulder of his hard working mom. This is not captivating.

Go see the film anyway, but I recommend not bringing children. For a movie based on a children’s book about a child’s mind, it’s not really child friendly. The themes of forgiveness and a mom’s love, and navigating the emotional minefield of a child’s self-centered world would probably go over the heads of most kids under ten anyway. Besides, as I’ve said, Max was a brat. I’m not sure you would want your child to, in the language of academic professional educators, model Max’s behavior. By not having a kid you can focus on the amazing writing and acting that captures so precisely the trauma and troubles of childhood. In many ways, this is the most adult film I’ve seen this year.

I give ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ three and a half stars. It is playing this weekend at Gross Alaska Glacier Cinema in the Valley. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Movie Review: Jennifer's Body

(For the radio version, please click here).

Now, how to justify seeing Megan’s – I mean Jennifer’s - Body to the public radio audience, and my wife? There has to be something socially redeemable about a horror film starring Megan Fox, the Angelina Jolie of the coming decade, in ridiculously tight clothes.  Here goes.

Hollywood is a male dominated industry.  Female screenwriters are rare. Female directors are rare. A movie written and directed by women, like Jennifer’s Body, is something akin to a meteor strike. Now a little on horror films and females. This contradicts my expectations, but horror film audiences are already primarily female. It’s what the data shows. I think horror films tend have a misogynistic undercurrent where barely clothed women are helpless confronting a faceless, murdering, male, monster. But that may not be exactly true. Film scholars point out horror films pioneered a powerful formula of female empowerment. Often, after unspeakable and graphic horrors, the last person standing is female. Think Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween or Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens franchise. "Film scholar”. Now that's a job to go to college for.

So imagine this formula, already popular with women, in the hands of two women. What is different? For one, the monster isn’t male, but a hormonally enraged sexpot. Having just recently seen 500 Days of Summer, I kept expecting Hall and Oats ‘Maneater’ to play. But perhaps that would’ve been overselling the metaphor.

I was excited to see another film by the screenwriter Diablo Cody. Ms. Cody won an Oscar for Juno and has a firm bead drawn on the angst and humiliations born by teens, particularly female teens. Her teenagers are fully fleshed, so to speak, human beings. Her caricatures, the jock, the Goth, the cheerleader and her awkward best friend, are only starting points.  Cody Diablo is proving to be the John Hughes of our time.

Ms. Cody’s dialogue is unexpectedly funny. Witticisms bubble out during intense bloody scenes. The quirk level is so high the movie is hard to define. Is it horror? A comedy? Drama?  You can’t quite get comfortable with the film’s direction.  It either drives you crazy or sucks you in.

A background story providing an occult rationale for all the evil-doings is thin. Fortunately, the need to explain what’s going on isn’t really needed and the movie is compelling when it focuses on the best friends forever relationship between Fox’s Jennifer Check and Amanda Seyfried’s Needy Lesnicky.  It is a potent mixture of love and jealousy, affection and insecurity.

The film’s revelation is not Megan Fox as Jennifer, though she delivers the goods. It is Amanda Seyfried’s portrayal of the suffering friend.  Ms. Seyfried’s Needy worships Jennifer, loves her boyfriend, and in the dawning realization of what she must do, provides a convincing note of sadness in the mayhem.

Jennifer’s Body is a bloody film that earns its ‘R’ rating. But this isn’t a stupid film, not by a long shot.  I give it three stars. It plays this weekend at Gross Alaska Glacier Cinema in the Valley. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Movie Review: In the Loop

(Sorry, no radio version)

“In the Loop” depicts the build up to a US led invasion of a Middle East country that is analogous, but not exactly, like the build up to the US invasion of Iraq. This film takes place in the days before a UN resolution allows a war and is told from the British perspective.

The movie’s premise is that the build up to war was assisted, or even caused, by mid-level bureaucrats and their assistants. Basically, people more interested in keeping their jobs than doing the right thing.  It’s as if the inevitability of war was the result of laziness, complacency, and the promulgation of bad intelligence to please the president and prime minister. Any hiccups of moral indignation were quickly squelched with the promise of a destroyed career. Neither the bosses nor their assistants fair well. It’s an interesting premise, but I’m not sure I’m buying it. 

Did I mention this was a comedy?

And as a comedy, it is an excellent film.  It begins with a mid-level cabinet minister, played by a sheepish Tom Hollander, providing an honest opinion to the press on the “unforseeableness” of war.  His statement is not in line with official British policy. As such, his honesty is rewarded with a visit from the Director of Communications played by Peter Capaldi. Capaldi’s character, Malcom Tucker, is the highlight of the film as an imaginatively and voluminously profane panther chewing the hide of those who dare cross him; with a Scot’s brogue no less.  Normally, I believe cursing is rather lazy.  But if you can imagine Scotty finally going “R” rated with Kirk after asking for more power one time too many, you get the idea.

The dialougue is rat-a-tat-tat perfect and biting; a joy for those who love language and good writing in film. The performances are equal to the writing - funny, quick, and clever showcasing a boat load of Brit-wit. Some American standouts include James Gandolfini as a dove-ish general, Mimi Kennedy as an administration official with a toothache.  The movie is shot in a quasi-documentary style and feels as if Ricky Gervais wrote and directed it as his “war movie” follow up to his BBC version of “The Office”. And if you knew how much I love Ricky Gervais, that is high praise indeed. I give “In the Loop” three stars

“In the Loop” is playing this weekend at the Gold Town Nickelodeon at 7 and 9:15 PM on Friday and Saturday, and 4 and 7 PM on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

(For the radio version, please click here).

You should see ‘500 Days of Summer’ for a lot of reasons: terrific performance, smart script, and clever soundtrack, but I’m going to start with talking about one small cinematic pet peeve - The Speech, with a capital ‘S’.  I’m surprised because this movie seemed too smart for such a thing; disappointed because NOBODY GIVES SPEECHES.  I understand the need to suspend disbelief. I understand the desire for a scene of cathartic release. But if you are trying to depict a realistic moment, you don’t orate. In my list of cinematic pet peeves, The Speech is a big one (along with self-congratulatory applause at the end of a film and terminal illnesses) but don’t let that keep you from seeing this film.

I like films that highlight a truth previously unexplored. ‘500 Days of Summer’ explores how some people warp space-time such that things just work out for them.  This manifests in many ways: perhaps it’s the average looking high school girl all the boys love; or the scholar athlete who writes poems, turns down dates, and is a quick healer; or the guy who runs into famous people no matter where he goes, even on a train in the Russian steppe.  Their lives are effortless. They get what they want and get away with it.

They are rare, but we’ve all known a few. This phenomenon is not on display much in pop culture, except maybe Kramer. In ‘500 Days of Summer’, this person is Summer Finn. She is portrayed by Zooey Deschanel. If you’ve seen Ms. Deschanel in movies like ‘Almost Famous’, you know she has a charismatic screen presence not common in young actors.  She is just smart enough, cute enough, and quirky enough to pull off a great performance. And through her performance, you understand why Tom Hansen, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has a massive crush on her; an infatuation he plays like he’s carrying around an oxen yoke for enormous oxen.  Sad and dejected when not in Summer’s good graces, buoyant when things are good, Mr. Gordon-Levitt manages to portray a sensitive male without making him a complete pushover. 

Ms. Deschanel and Mr. Gordon-Levitt also sing in the film and appear on the soundtrack. Music is an integral part of the film’s plot and a song is nearly always playing.  From The Smiths to Hall and Oats, the music tells the story just as much as the script. This is a rare and pleasant change from the norm when music is added after a film is shot to manufacture an emotional response to a given scene.  

‘500 Days of Summer’ was written and directed by men, and is about unrequited love.  But in a rare twist of the formula, rather than the women being affected by a coolly unreachable man who “teaches” her something, it’s the man who is thrown for a loop by the woman. The movie does not objectify women so much as idolize them. It’s a movie in the tradition of ‘Say Anything’ or ‘Sideways’ and squarely targets the sensitive male and the women who tolerate them.  Being thickly mired in the sensitive male demographic, I love this movie. I give it 3.5 stars. So buy the ticket, buy the soundtrack, and dive into Zooey Deschanel’s impossibly big and blue eyes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

(To hear the radio version, please click here).

Tarantino movies are glorifications of morally complicated and wounded badasses who can take care of themselves – with many exacting revenge upon their tormentors. His latest, Inglorious Basterds, is no exception.

Now, morally complicated does not necessarily mean the characters are sitting around discussing the implications of their actions – though they certainly did that in Pulp Fiction.  The soldiers in Inglorious Basterds are not saddled by such considerations.  They’re killers, Jewish Nazi killers, continuing a movie trend of portraying Jews as aggressors rather than victims (Munich, Defiance, Don’t Mess with the Zohan), Tarantino reimagines a WWII where a crack group of Jewish-American soldiers are set behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied France where they proceed to kill every Nazi they see.

Now understand, this movie rewrites history and does it unapologetically.  It’s a fantasy of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve-s.  To me, it’s not unlike Rambo going back to Vietnam (had only the gubn’t stayed out of the soldiers way), or a group of highschoolers fighting back Russian and Cuban armies in Red Dawn (Americans know how to fight right out of the womb!), except it addresses, my god the cajones on Quentin, the holocaust.   It’s pop culture’s way, I suppose, of dealing with the greatest crime against humanity in the history of humanity. Perhaps we could’ve shortened the holocaust and ended the Third Reich if only we had set upon the Gerries a group of killer American Jews under the guidance of a part Apache Tennessee Mountain man.  If only.

Another thing about Tarantino’s films, and it’s nothing new, it’s something we already know, but warrants a repeat. His films are very, very violent. And the violence is depicted very, very graphically. His target for abuse this time out - foreheads.  On many instances, when you expect the camera to pull away (like the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs), it doesn’t.  So be forewarned.

But really, it’s not the violence itself that sets Quentin’s movies apart. It’s the promise of violence that hangs over every quotable conversation. And boy, are there conversations. 15 minute long conversations.  The opening scene in the French countryside and a scene depicting a spy rendezvous in a bar are particularly noteworthy.  The thing is, you know the conversation is going to go downhill. You know it isn’t going to end well.  You just don’t know when.  It is an exquisite tension that can make the most mundane of chats fraught with danger. Only Tarantino does this; only Tarantino can keep you on the edge of your seat watching a person drink milk.

The performances are outstanding all the way around.  The standout, the one to watch at Oscar time, is Christopher Waltz, as the SS officer in charge of rounding up the Jews in France. It is as chilling a depiction of gleeful evil I’ve ever scene.  Also on the screen for all too short of a time is German actor Til Schweiger’s who portrays former SS soldier Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz. I won’t tell you why so much as he left the movie with me wanting more. Mélanie Laurent plays a Jewish cinema owner in Paris with pain and intelligence. Tarantino loves his women characters and, given his type of movie, provides good meaty roles and great direction for his female players.  I wish the other action movie directors in male dominated Hollywood would take note - though calling this film an action film is like calling the Space Shuttle a water rocket.

If you have the stomach for it, I highly recommend Inglorious Basterds. I’ll give it 3.5 out of 4 stars. It’s playing at the Glacier Cinema at 4 and 7:30PM.