Film Friday: ‘Inglourious Basterds’ & ‘In The Loop’

by W. Andrew Powell

Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds

Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds

Opening in theatres this weekend, Quentin Tarantino‘s doubiously spelled Inglourious Basterds debuts alongside the political satire of In The Loop, and the far out family comedy, Shorts.

Inglourious Basterds
The years seem to pass quickly between director Quentin Tarantino’s projects. After all, it’s been over two years since he debuted the dark, somewhat campy grindhouse film, Death Proof, and it’s been five years since Kill Bill, Vol. 2 came out. Actually, truth be told, Tarantino may be a highly touted director, but since 1992 he’s only released seven films, and that includes Kill Bill in two parts.

In Tarantino’s latest blood-soaked film, Brad Pitt stars as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, the leader of a group of Jewish soldiers sent into Germany to kill Nazis and take down Hitler and his Third Reich. Meanwhile in France, a woman named Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) bears witness to the execution of her family by a Nazi leader and vows revenge, planning to find a way to kill Hitler by herself.

With these two converging story arcs, the Basterds and Shosanna fight their way toward their shared goal with the hopes of being the one to change the course of the war, and get even.

On the surface, the plot sounds thin, but as with all of his films, Quentin Tarantino wrote the screenplay, which is always a good sign. Tarantino crafts some intriguing tales, made all the better because he knows how to take a simple story and twist it into something mesmerizing. He is also a master of dialogue, working miracles with his characters through the most random subject matter. The only trouble, which also seems common throughout his scripts, is that he often gets a little too complicated with his story arcs, needlessly drawing out unnecessary elements of the story.

Rewriting the history books, Inglourious Basterds is a film that critic Peter Howell of the Toronto Star called “wish-fulfilment fantasy” where the bad guys get what they deserve. At the same time though, Howell noted that “the film is less violent than the bloodthirsty ads suggest, and also less so than Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga.”

The film is receiving top-notch reviews from the majority of critics, with Alonso Duralde of MSNBC summing the film up best: “Even if you wish Tarantino would calm down a bit and rely more on his considerable skills at straightforward storytelling, this World War II saga is undeniably suspenseful, violent and entertaining.”

Also opening this week…

In The Loop
Tom Hollander and James Gandolfini star in this politically charged comedy about the heavy topic of the war in the Middle East. Using satire to make a point, the film has Hollander playing a British Secretary of State who mistakenly gives American officials fodder to campaign for war, while those against the war try to back out of the corner they have been painted in to.

Backed by many positive reviews, In The Loop is a solidly funny, intriguing film that has a great cast, and was directed by the very talented, aspiring feature film director, Armando Iannucci.

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune praised the film in his review, saying it “plays as if flaming chunks of The Office crash-landed simultaneously onto the sets of Yes, Minister and The West Wing.”

In this farcical family comedy set in the everyday boring world of your average suburb, an 11-year-old finds himself the proud owner of a magical rock that grants unlimited wishes. The problem is that wishes gone awry are taking over the neighbourhood, and once the adults start trying to get their hands on the stone, things start getting really weird.

Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, who also made the Spy Kids movies, Shorts looks like a far out hit, although not every critic is happy with the film. has an average rating of 53 out of 100, and the New York Post and Boston Globe both rated the film below 40 on that scale. Historically though, most critics aren’t so hot at picking good family-friendly fare, because they are generally a little too hard on movies made for kids.

Which brings us to Justin Chang’s review for Variety, one of the few positive reviewers who wrote that the film is “More zippy, diverting fun from Robert Rodriguez’s family filmmaking factory.”

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