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Notes from the back row

Long, hot summer



It's been a disappointing summer for movies. Last week I caught myself pay-per-viewing 17 Again just for something to watch (and I gotta say I've been hard on Zac Efron in the past but he carries that movie).

Blockbuster season at the theatres this year has been a lot of hype with very little payoff, until now. August is really shaping up and saving the summer with the kick-ass alien movie District 9 opening last week and Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds set to hit screens this Friday.

Quentin Tarantino is a movie dork who makes movies for other movie dorks, and his love for cinema usually manifests itself in countless homages to genres and films - from Samurai flicks to the French New Wave. This time around he tackles the war epic and Inglourious Basterds is 152 minutes of stylized drama crafted with fetishistic precision and care. Don't let the trailers fool you, this is not a balls-out action film where an elite unit of Jewish Americans headed by a chin-jutting Brad Pitt run around Nazi-occupied France scalping Germans and bashing people's heads in with bats (although, there is definitely some of that).

Ingluorious Basterds is not a war film about huge military operations and battles. Tarantino hardboils it down into a series of tense dramatic situations punctuated by very personal acts of extreme violence.

And, of course, shitloads of snappy dialogue - Tarantino flicks are "talkies" in the truest sense of the word. But unlike Death Proof , where much of the dialogue was idle boasting and geeky film in-jokes, this time around the dialogue is meaningful, suspenseful and touches on the real emotion of war, with words as weapons.

From the first chapter (there are five in total) where a milk-drinking, Jew-hunting, evil Nazi colonel played by Christoph Waltz sweet-talks a good hearted French farmer into giving up the Jews he is hiding under the floorboards, all the way through to the stunning cinematic climax of burning revenge, the dialogue in Basterds is tense and fantastic.

Of course, some people have complained that the characters are unrealistic, that Tarantino strays from history too much, that his movie is too cartoony, etc, etc. I'm gonna have to say balls to that. For one thing, from Jackie Brown to Kill Bill and to Basterds , Tarantino provides the strongest female characters in Hollywood today. And sure, Quentin makes movies about movies but he's damn good at it and, almost always, the people in the movie are damn good as well. (The superb multinational casting in Basterds is fantastic and Tarantino uses music perfectly again, but the real star of this film is the script and cinema itself). If you like movies, you'll love this movie.

Also opening Friday is Shorts directed by Quentin's old buddy and the king of Do-It-Yourself filmmaking Robert Rodriguez, who wrote, directed, scored, shot, edited and coordinated all the special effects on this flick about a magical rainbow rock that can make wishes come true and CGI effects that bounce all over the screen. There's a hint of social commentary in there about our dependence on technology but overall this kiddie fare will appeal to adults even less than Spy Kids did. Hopefully Rodriguez goes back to more mature movies soon.

August keeps chugging along next week with Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 but until then computer-literate movie fans can go online and check out the video where Quentin Tarantino lists his favourite 20 movies made since 1992. With a few surprises ( Speed) and a bit of insight (not enough) Tarantino dishes up the goods on what makes him stoked. No Zac Efron flicks in there, but the entire video is up at

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