Reviews in Short

By Cole Smithey

Inglourious Basterds. Quentin Tarantino has matured as an auteur, even if he’s just as prone as ever to creating funny sequences of cinematic revelry just for sport. There’s a virtuosic use of character, dialogue, suspense and surprise in each of this film’s five chapters. A tense opening sequence sets Tarantino’s darkly comic, yet heavily dramatic, tone. Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (diabolically played by Christoph Waltz) and his small group of soldiers visit the remote farmhouse of Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet), who is suspected of hiding Jews. A polite battle of wits and willpower plays out with a savory, cinematic drama that is astounding in its precise execution. The following section introduces Tennesseean Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who indoctrinates his elite squad of Nazi scalpers with a speech spun of richly humored narrative gold. The following four chapters build on one another toward a kind of World War II fantasy climax that is cathartic as it is bittersweet for its inevitable collateral damage. Loosely inspired by Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 B-movie, "Inglourious Basterds" (purposely misspelled) is like a fivecourse meal created by one of the world’s best chefs. Rated R. 152 mins. (A )

Taking Woodstock. Ang Lee’s clumsy adaptation of Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte’s book "Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Lift" can’t decide if it wants to be a comedy, a drama or reflection on a small town community transformed by a cultural happening. Demetri Martin steps lightly around his closeted character, Elliot Teichberg, who lives with his parents at their ramshackle motel in the Catskills. Intent on protecting his parents from bankruptcy, Elliot seeks out music producer Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) after hearing that an adjacent town has lost its permit to host his music and arts festival. Biting off considerably more than he, his parents and his community can chew isn’t so much of a problem for Elliot as it is a mild storm to be weathered so that he can grow into the person that he needs to be. Unforgivable is the film’s neglect of the musical element that any movie about Woodstock should necessarily have. There are flashes of inspiration here, but nothing to sustain a feature film’s worth of narrative import. (Focus Features) Rated R. 120 mins. (C)

The Time Traveler’s Wife. Adapted from Audrey Niffenegger’s novel, this sci-fi romance plays so loose with the parameters it lays out for Eric Bana’s uncontrollable time traveling in the role of Henry DeTamble that it’s like watching half a movie twice. Henry suffers from a bizarre genetic condition that causes him to disappear for years at a time. His true love, Clare (Rachel McAdams), waits patiently for him, working away as an artist in Chicago. All we know about Henry’s vanishing act is that he always arrives at his new time and place naked and is thus prone to committing desperate acts of theft. Somehow, Henry begins showing up around Clare long enough to get married and provide a house for them to live in through a stroke of time-traveling manipulation. McAdams and Bana are easy enough on the eyes to distract from the script’s Grand Canyon-sized plot holes. (Warner Brothers) Rated PG-13. 107 mins. (C-)

District 9. In spite of its waning efforts toward fulfilling a challenging allegory about the treatment of immigrant aliens, "District 9" settles into a gritty, spectacle filled, sci-fi movie that borrows liberally from films like "Robocop," "The Fly," "Alien Nation" and even "Cat People." In a smog-filled 2010, a few million alien refugees have been stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the last 20-years, while their gigantic, inoperable spaceship permanently hovers in the sky. The aliens have been imprisoned inside an internment camp set up by a corporation called Multi-National United. Interested primarily in capitalizing on the alien weaponry that humans are unable to operate, MNU orchestrates a plan to relocate the aliens and installs Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) to obtain alien signatures for the illegal eviction while searching for their weapons. Produced by Peter Jackson (the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy), and directed by hotshot upstart Neill Blomkamp, "District 9" is a politically charged, sci-fi thriller that makes "Terminator Salvation" pale by comparison. (Sony) Rated R. 112 mins. (B )

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