WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Set in occupied France during the waning days of World War II Inglourious Basterds jumps back and forth between different storylines over the course of several chapters before bringing them together for one intense utterly preposterous climax.
The “Basterds” of the film’s title refers to an elite group of Jewish-American soldiers assembled by Lt. Aldo Raine a no-nonsense descendent of Southern moonshiners whose assignment for his troops is simple: Each of them is tasked with gathering the scalps of 100 dead Nazi soldiers before the war is over. With each shocking act of retribution the Basterds perform word spreads of their savagery and by the time they arrive in occupied France their reputation is known to every enemy soldier.
Meanwhile Shosanna Dreyfus a French Jew who narrowly escaped the Gestapo death squad that murdered her immediate family has relocated to Paris and established a new identity as the owner of a local cinema. As Nazi patrols blanket the city she toils quietly under an assumed name awaiting the day when her own chance at retribution will come.
The destinies of Shosanna and the Basterds converge when Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels decides to hold the premiere of his latest propaganda film Nation’s Pride at Shosanna’s theater. With the aid of Bridget von Hammersmark a German film star secretly working as a double agent the Allies learn that no less than the entire Nazi High Command including Hitler will be in attendance. Confronted with the opportunity to deliver their unique brand of justice to the Fuhrer himself and end the war in one fell swoop the Basterds concoct a bold scheme to infiltrate the premiere rig the theater with dynamite and incinerate its inhabitants with one massive explosion.
WHO’S IN IT?
Always known for his unconventional approach to casting Inglourious Basterds director Quentin Tarantino assembled a characteristically eclectic group of actors for his latest effort mixing veterans with newcomers Americans with Europeans and superstars with virtual unknowns. Sporting a ridiculous mustache and an even more ridiculous Southern accent Brad Pitt leads the pack in the role of Aldo Raine while horror director Eli Roth (Hostel I and II) makes his acting debut as Raine’s sadistic right-hand man Sgt. Donny Donowitz. Other notable Basterds include B.J. Novak (The Office) Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks) Paul Rust (I Love You Beth Cooper) and Omar Doom (Grindhouse).
It’s the cast’s European players who really distinguish Inglourious Basterds. German-born National Treasure star Diane Kruger makes the perfect 1940s matinee idol as the turncoat von Hammersmark while Irish-bred Michael Fassbender (Jonah Hex) oozes with old-school English haughtiness as her charming British co-conspirator Lt. Archie Hicox. Making an impressive English-language debut in Basterds as the quietly seething Shosanna is the luminous French star Melanie Laurent.
Rising above all of them with a truly Oscar-worthy performance is Austrian actor Christoph Waltz. Waltz is a revelation (to American audiences at least) as Col. Hans Landa the highly eccentric and brutally efficient leader of Nazi security efforts in France. Alternately hilarious and terrifying Waltz’s Landa is easily the most compelling big-screen villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. Lest we forget Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his performance. (Waltz for his part already snagged the best-actor prize at Cannes earlier this year.)
Nobody executes dramatic shifts in tone more effectively and powerfully than Tarantino and Inglourious Basterds transitions breathlessly between moments of high tension and high comedy brutal carnage and lighthearted whimsy — all of which are peppered with the director’s distinctive dialogue and trademark wit. The film is easily his best work since 1994's Pulp Fiction.
At over two-and-a-half hours there are moments when the pacing of Inglourious Basterds seriously drags. Tarantino is above all else an actor’s director and there are times that he becomes so enamored with a performance that he’ll allow a scene to extend well beyond the point that its resolution has become a foregone conclusion. How such an obviously ADD-addled guy like Tarantino can exhibit such disdain for brevity is beyond my comprehension.
WHERE ARE THE BASTERDS?
Contrary to the film’s ad campaign the Basterds are actually minor players in the storyline. Only Pitt and Roth are given a substantial amount of dialogue; Novak and the others have only a line or two — if they speak at all.
I won’t give anything away but suffice it to say that Inglourious Basterds’ storyline features a decidedly revisionist take on the events of World War II. Obviously historical accuracy wasn’t a priority for Tarantino — and it probably shouldn’t be for the viewer either.
Creating a scent on screen has long been thought to be impossible—but Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is an above-average effort triggering the raw emotions from smell without the gimmicks of 1950's Smell-O-Vision. Based on the best-selling novel by Patrick Suskind Perfume focuses on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) a weird dude who was born into filth and poverty amid the guts and vomit of an open-air French fish market. Although he has no human scent of his own Grenouille’s world-class sense of smell is able to penetrate people's skin—and he’s attracted to the female scent. Not in a sexual way mind you; he wants only to bottle it. When Grenouille meets fallen (but still legendary) perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) the younger sets out to titrate the most elusive perfume known to man: A woman's pheromones. Problem is women won't stay long enough so Grenoiulle can capture their scent and the young man ends up killing them. When Grenoiulle kills a powerful merchant's (Alan Rickman) daughter his execution is planned for a public square. Whishaw is the real star here but playing Grenouille may have proven a challenge for the young British actor since the character is beloved by fans of the best-selling novel. Whishaw is forced to go mute and inert as Grenoiulle his intensity focused inward with quiet gazes and mysterious intensity arousing doubt and fear. Grenouille is a man handsome in his youth but ultimately one we despise--or at least someone we wouldn’t want to hang out with. And for a change of pace a powdered rosy-cheeked Hoffman comes up smelling roses in this period thriller. As Baldini in costume flair the two-time Oscar winner does something quite different no longer just the colorful supporting player he’s been playing in light dramas such as Finding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction. Baldini isn't one of Hoffman's best roles as Whishaw owns this film but it's a fun performance which pays attention to the actor’s pronounced proboscis. Rickman of Harry Potter fame is an enraged vengeful father. Natch. Perfume is director Tom Tykwer's first major commercial film since his 1998's go-go thriller Run Lola Run--and as a thriller Perfume is built around solid dialogue-driven scenes notably between Grenouille and Baldini. Apparently 57-year-old German writer Patrick Suskind refused for years to give up the rights to his book but producer Bernd Eichinger—the guy behind The Neverending Story's precocious 1980's futurism—finally won out. Nuggets of Suskind’s literary wisdom only enhance the movie's continuity and realism scattered incrementally to remind us we're watching an intelligently conceived film. Perfume is unwieldy at 147 minutes however a bit fatty and unnecessary at the film's cost. Sometimes that happens with novel adaptations especially one as popular as Perfume. In fact the film ends with an unusually bizarre orgy with hundreds of naked people writhing in hormone-driven ecstasy. What smells so lovely Mr. Tykwer?
P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan follows J.M. Barrie's story almost to the letter. A girl on the brink of womanhood Wendy Darling (newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood) loves telling her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) stories of dastardly pirates as they sit in their nursery under the watchful eye of their St. Bernard Nana. Her 19th-century Londoner parents however believe the time has come for the young girl to grow up especially her father. Then a cheeky wild-haired boy named Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) flies through the nursery window one night with his trusted yet jealousy-prone fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier) telling Wendy he can take her to a place full of adventure where no one ever has to grow up. She readily accepts the offer and with a few happy thoughts some fairy dust and her two brothers in tow she flies off to Neverland. (Not the ranch…the real place.) Once there Wendy encounters mermaids Indians and the Lost Boys (who refer to her as "mother") and gets the whole pirate experience in Peter's ongoing feud with arch-nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs). But Wendy soon becomes conflicted because on the one hand she likes hangin' with hottie Peter but on the other she misses her mother. She decides it's probably best to go back and grow up but in her hurry to leave she ends up in Hook's clutches. A rescue ensues. Swords clash ticking crocodiles are fed and fairies are saved as our clever fly boy zooms Wendy and company back to London on a giant pirate ship. But does he stay and grow up himself? Hell no he's a Toys 'R Us kid forever!
All the kid actors in Peter Pan are highly watchable and appealing with angelic faces peaches-and-cream complexions and pouty cherry lips. This is the first time Peter is being played by a real-life boy a fact much hyped by the filmmakers and 12-year-old Sumpter (Frailty) does his best to live up to the expectations. (He's soon to be swoon-worthy material for sure.) He's got a mischievous gleam in his eye and a great sly smile but he really lights up when he's looking into Wendy's adorable face. Hurd-Wood the first-time actress who plays the spirited girl earned her role after a long and involved casting process it's well deserved; she fits the typical English-girl profile perfectly and gets the hang of her craft quickly infusing the character with a natural cheerful energy. It's also refreshing to see the young actors play up Wendy and Peter's feelings of first love which prior films always hinted at but never fully realized. Isaacs in a dual role as the firm-but-loving Mr. Darling and the frightening comical lonely charming needy reprehensible Captain Hook draws on his experience at playing exquisitely awful baddies (The Patriot Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and really sinks his claws into Hook. In a stand out supporting role French actress Sagnier (Swimming Pool) is really fantastic as the vivacious non-speaking Tinkerbell portraying the fairy's conflicted emotions with a silent-film over-the-top technique.
Director/writer P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) and his team try to distinguish their film from the other Peter Pans of the world by using all the technical and special effects wizardry at their disposal. Hogan says his Peter Pan is the way its author Barrie intended to be when he wrote it as a play over a 100 years ago--full of fantasy and wonder. In a way he's right and production designer Roger Ford and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar take his vision and run with it giving audiences a very lush Neverland with waterfalls fluffy pink clouds crystal-blue waters and a gorgeous fairy world. But despite the bells and whistles there really isn't anything original and different in this Pan. Even its look at the dark side of Neverland has been done in Steven Spielberg's 1991 semi-sequel Hook which showed the dangers of Neverland. In this version lives really are at stake and the pirates are not cute and fun. Even the mermaids are mysterious and malevolent with scary faces and murderous intentions a far cry from the beautiful if somewhat mean-spirited creatures of the 1953 classic Disney animated adaptation another inescapable influence on the audience. When the crocodile draws near for example tick-tocking away the croc's signature tune from the Disney film comes immediately to mind. People may love those Disney films for those cutesy catchy songs but Peter Pan really is a good story. Heck it's a great story. But it's just been done.
It's 1918 in Munich and Germany has just suffered the humiliating defeat of the Great War. Max Rothman (John Cusack) a once-promising artist has returned from the war minus an arm and unable to paint. But he is a wealthy man one of vision and generous spirit and he opens what becomes a successful gallery in the hopes of furthering the talents of others and exploring emerging trends in art. His personal life in a cultured and assimilated Jewish family is less settled as he juggles responsibilities as husband father and son and indulges in the pleasures of Liselore his mistress. At one of his gallery openings Max meets the young Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor) also a war vet and painter. But Hitler as artist is frustrated and unrecognized; he's a bitter and destitute loner without friends family or money. In other words he's ready to blame his failures and misery on others so why not the Jews? In spite of their differences Hitler and Rothman grow friendlier if not friendly. Rothman's artistic tastes veer toward the avant-garde and Hitler's toward traditionalism but they share common views about the recent war. Rothman is game so he takes Hitler's work on consignment. But while appreciating Hitler's sketches he ultimately rejects the work. Falling under the influence of an anti-Semitic army captain Hitler learns he's skilled at oratory. Instinctively knowing how to play to a crowd and tapping into his own fury he wins over an audience of anti-Semites with anti-Jewish rhetoric at a beer hall meeting. Having experienced both rejection and acceptance Hitler pursues an obvious course.
John Cusack is terrific as the wealthy Jewish gallery owner who befriends struggling artist Adolph Hitler. Noah Taylor as Hitler however delivers an overwrought performance that veers upon caricature striking some false notes. Not that Australian actor Taylor had an easy job of delivering the young Fuhrer but he plays the part too forced too mannered too theatrical. The role is thankless but surely some actor perhaps in the hands of another director might have delivered the goods. Other performances are fine including Leelee Sobieski as Max's mistress and vet actress Janet Suzman as his mother.
Writer-director Menno Meyjes who adapted The Color Purple for Steven Spielberg makes his directorial debut here. While Meyjes coaxes more than serviceable performances from his actors especially Cusack other decisions no doubt made by the filmmaker are questionable. Production values are solid but some aesthetic choices fall short especially the film's highly stylized sets that are more otherworldly than 1918 Munich. Meyjes gives us apocryphal sets like the artists' vast loft that is more 21st than 20th century that distance us from rather than immerse us in an interesting story suggested by history. Meyjes deserves much credit for daring to explore the psychology and circumstances that might have contributed to his pathology evil and power over the masses.
You watch them on TV every week, you call them by their characters' names, and you even know their idiosyncracies by heart. But do you have any idea of what the cast on "Friends" is really like?
Well, read on to find out.
Here're our top tab picks of the week.
’Friends’ Unmasked A Globe exclusive, apparently. The tab got insider dirt on the titular friends on "Friends," and -- in so many words -- they are as follows: David Schwimmer is an egocentric control freak; Jennifer Aniston always messes up her lines; Lisa Kudrow is moody and vicious; Matthew Perry loves eating; Matt LeBlanc is actually very professional; and lastly, Courteney Cox Arquette is surprisingly goofy.
Calista Flockhart’s New Love Decide for yourself: While Star reports the "Ally McBeal" starlet is currently dating "Law & Order" actor Jesse L. Martin, the National Enquirer on the other hand is saying that Flockhart’s, like, totally flipping for comic Garry Shandling. Janet Jackson
Miss Jackson’s New Love In the vein of the last item: Star is saying that Janet Jackson is secretly dating rocker Lenny Kravitz while the Enquirer -- perhaps being a rival publication and all -- is reporting that she’s actually seeing rapper Q-Tip.
The Latest on Kathie Lee Gifford More contradictory reports: According to Star’s sources, Gifford is at a junction in her life where she’s ready for some serious changes and her contemplating leaving husband Frank is one of them. But the Enquirer is apparently saying that the only thing the talk show hostess is leaving in regard to her whole family, no less, is the country -- so that she and her hubby can regroup and also to allow her the time to seek plastic surgery. Hugh Jackman
White Witch Schools "X-Men" on Movie Career Star reveals that Hugh Jackman, the actor who plays hairy Wolverine in "X-Men," has always been in the know when it comes to his fledging career. The tab says that a young Jackman -- only 23 years of age at the time – had a brief encounter with a "white witch" who foretold his future success. But no, the tab doesn’t explain what a "white witch" is.
LeAnn Rimes De-Stresses Just Like Millions of Americans We’ll let the words from Star’s source speak for themselves. "When LeAnn’s stressed, she goes shopping. She’ll go out for ice cream and come back with a dozen pair of shoes and a credit card bill for $2,000," an insider told the tab. ‘Nuff said.
Getting a Piece of the Fuhrer Go figure: The Globe reports that relatives of Adolf Hitler are thinking of filing a lawsuit that will seek to recover royalties from the dictator’s anti-semitic book "Mein Kampf" among other properties.