This week at the movies, we’ve got Nazi killers (Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds, starring Brad Pitt), a magic rock (Shorts, starring William H. Macy and Leslie Mann), unemployment blues (Post Grad, starring Alexis Bledel and Michael Keaton), and extreme sports (X Games 3D: The Movie. What do the critics have to say?
Historians may have plenty of quibbles with Quentin Tarantino’s wild and wooly take on World War II. However, critics have fewer reservations on Inglourious Basterds, calling it an audacious, bravura piece of pulpy pop filmmaking. Brad Pitt stars as the leader of a group of Jewish soldiers who terrorize the Nazis and plot a brilliant plan to put an end to the Third Reich. Meanwhile, a German officer (Christopher Waltz) is hot on the Basterds’ trail. The pundits say Basterds may not be Tarantino at his peak, but it’s perhaps his most loving tribute to cinephilia yet, as well as a bracing, tense exercise in over-the-top action. Like most of Tarantino’s directorial efforts, Inglourious Basterds is Certified Fresh.
Director Robert Rodriguez has seamlessly moved between the worlds of violent adult-themed film (Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado) and more family-oriented fare (the Spy Kids franchise). After working with Quentin Tarantino on 2007’s B-movie tribute Grindhouse, Rodriguez returns this week with another whimsical children’s film, Shorts. In Shorts, an 11-year-old boy named Toe Thompson happens upon a magical rainbow-colored rock that grants wishes to anyone that holds it, and after it falls into the hands of the neighborhood grown-ups, Toe and his friends must band together to save the town from chaos. So far, while some critics have noted the film’s hyperkinetic pace and imaginative premise as strengths, others fail to see any underlying charm and feel the director’s enthusiasm is wasted. (Be sure to check out our interview with Rodriguez from Comic-Con, in which he talks about his own son’s involvement in the project.)
At a time when college graduates are having a tough time finding work, Post Grad seemingly benefits from timeliness. Unfortunately, critics say the film is less about our current economic situation and more about shopworn romantic comedy conventions. Alexis Bledel stars as a grad that has been beaten out of her dream job by her college rival, so she moves back in with her parents — and finds herself torn between two dudes. The pundits say Post Grad is listless and dull, squandering a solid cast that includes Jane Lynch, Michael Keaton, and Carol Burnett on a script that lacks much insight into the heady days of post-collegiate life, and worse, one that is woefully short on laughs.
When the X Games held its first annual competition nearly 15 years ago, some dismissed it as a novelty act, while others clearly foresaw its potential to explode worldwide. Now a legitimate sporting event, the extreme sports exhibition has spawned several similar competitions and garnered coverage from the likes of ESPN and ABC Sports, so it’s only natural that the next step would be a feature-length documentary in 3D. X-Games 3D: The Movie mashes together a string of impossible stunts from the various events, sound bites from the biggest names, and a narrative voiceover by Emile Hirsch, but early critical response has been negative overall. Most are saying the film plays out like an extended commercial for the event, offering little beyond what one might find in a typical broadcast of the X-Games besides the novelty of 3D, and its appeal may extend no further than its built-in fans.
Also opening this week in limited release: