Friday, September 25, 2009


By: Judson Rusk

The Tim Burton produced 9 was on my list of “must see” films for the summer. Of course, my local theater didn’t get 9 (not to be confused with Nine, a musical coming out this winter with Daniel Day-Lewis and Fergie), but instead we got Inglourious Basterds. And we all know how I feel about that. So after I moved down to Washington for college, going to see 9 was near the top of my priorities list. We I got to see it last week, and I was kind of underwhelmed.

Under no circumstances would I say that 9 is a bad movie. And maybe “underwhelmed” is also the wrong word. It was just a drastically far different movie that I was expecting, and not for the better I think. Now, with that in mind, I’ve been putting off writing this review for a while now for the soul reason that I couldn’t figure out how to describe what it was that I was expecting. I’ve got something for you now, but I’m still not completely satisfied with it, but I’ve got nothing better. If that changes, I’ll let you know. So here it goes…

I think I was expecting 9 to be more of a dark version of Toy Story. Needless to say, it wasn’t. I was expecting a movie with a lot of character development, a defined villain, and a clear beginning, middle, and end. 9 let me down on all of these things. But here’s my problem, none of them let me down ENOUGH to make me really dislike the film. I have nothing huge to rant about. I have no funny little tid bits of the movie to poke at. I have no extreme dislike for any of the characters, I’m just….meh.

9 begins with sack boy #9 waking up next do a dead scientist, and deciding to go out for a morning stroll. He meets another sack boy, 2, and after a brief conversation, a giant monster appears, knocks 9 on his ass and carries 2 away to some unknown location. From this point on we meet the other sack people, including 1, the chief of the survivalist colony, and 8, his personal body guard. When 9 arrives at the colony (they never call it that in the movie, that’s just what I’ve dubbed it in my head) the movie takes a turn towards a very common cliché. The daring young hero goes against the corrupt leader to venture into the belly of the beast to attempt a daring rescue. It felt like the start of the climactic end of the film, except we were only about 10 minutes into it. And I guess that could be my biggest complaint about the whole thing. From this point on, the entire film made me feel as if I was watching the end sequence; an end sequence that went on for the entire film (literally this time, not metaphorically like The Return of the King).

In most films, by the time you reach this particular end sequence, you have already come to know all the characters and have become fairly familiar with the central conflict in the film, but we hadn’t. With Pixar really dominating the animated feature film world at the moment, I believe that I might be a little bit spoiled. Pixar has animated features down to a science to the point where in WALL-E, the main character doesn’t even talk, and yet we still come to feel like we know him very well. That’s because Pixar is incredible at character development. Most all their films follow a 3 act system. In act one they introduce and build all the characters with a brief introduction to the main conflict. Act two puts that conflict into effect. And finally act three is the resolution. They use this formula over and over again because it works. But 9 didn’t have this. It was a very brief act one and a very long act three. Consistently through this whole movie I had the same feeling that I get when I walk into the middle of a movie that I’ve never seen before half way through, and just watch how it plays out with no real idea of who the characters were or why they were doing what they were doing.

This, in turn, created another problem for me. I have no sympathy for when a character died because, I simply didn’t know them. So how could I care? It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if only one or maybe two characters died, but this movie kills off main characters faster than George R. R. Martin. The one I cared the most about was when 5 died, and even then all that went through my mind was “Oh no. 5 died. That sucks,…kind of. I guess. Meh.” And at one point in the film we see the dramatic return of 7. Woo hoo, right? Well, it would have been if we had ever seen her before. The film obviously wants you to feel like “Oh thank god, 7 is back.” Except, it was more like “Who the hell is that? Was she missing?” If you didn’t catch on by now, the point I’m trying to make here is that this movie had really terrible character development. It was hands down the weakest point of the entire film (aside from not actually putting in that Coheed and Cambria song from the trailer).

The end of this movie, where only 7 and 9 (not to be confused with 7of9 from Star Trek) are left standing really bothered me for a reason that I think only Mitch will be able to fully appreciate. And I apologize to anyone else in advance for the reference that I’m about to throw out here. After the mechanical nightmare has been taken care of once and for all, all of the fallen characters from throughout the film come back and ascend into the sky in a green and somewhat transparent flurry. It reminded me heavily of that X-Files episode where Mulder figures out that his sister was turned into starlight by the “walk ins.” This instantly made me dislike the scene because of my deep seeded hatred for that particular episode of X-Files. I know that was kind of a off topic side note, but I feel that it had to be said.

So anyway, again, 9 was not a bad film. But I was disappointed with it just because I never felt like I was truly engaged or ever actually fully understood what was going on. For those of you who wanted to see it but still haven’t gotten the chance, I would still recommend going to see it. I can fully accept that this is definitely one film that deserves you to make your own opinion. And after you made said opinion, make sure to send it my way. I’d like to know what you think.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds
By: Judson Rusk

I am a Tarantino fan to the bloody bitter end. I defended the Grindhouse until I was blue in the face and it will be a disgusting shame if Reservoir Dogs doesn’t go down as one of the greatest films of it’s generation. I was even a fan of Kill Bill (yes, I’m that devoted). Inglourious Basterds was Tarantino’s triumphant return to the big screen since Kill Bill (not counting Death Proof of course, which most people try to forget), but I couldn’t really say that I was super excited.

1994’s Pulp Fiction is often considered to be Tarantino’s masterpiece. He perfected his unique directing style of making films that are 98% talk with 2% of “hyper-violence.” But the talk is gripping and the story is engrossing and very enjoyable, if you ask me. But the reason that I wasn’t excited for this movie as much as I would have been back in high school was because of his last attempt, Death Proof. Although I like the movie, it definitely started to show that Tarantino’s perfect balance of talk and violence was starting to shift to an uncomfortable new location. Too much of boring talk, not enough action to keep the audience waiting for more. And Inglouious Basterds took that slight shift, and made it a dramatic, in-your-face, exposé of boredom and over-anticipation.

I disliked this movie and don’t think it deserves a quarter of the praise and box office that it is getting. Some may argue the “Stephen Colbert” train of thought and say that it obviously can’t be that bad because the marketplace is saying otherwise. It is true that Basterds is looking more and more like it’s going to take over Pulp Fiction as Tarantino’s highest grossing movie. But I think that the view that the general public has on Tarantino at this point is “it’s much better than the last couple films he’s made.” And that justifies it in people’s minds to think that this movie is incredible. But really it is that opinion right there that is the real problem. If we keep thinking like that, we will lose sight of what a Tarantino movie can be, and should be. I dare you to watch Reservoir Dogs and Basterds back to back and still be able to look someone in the eye and tell them that those two films are on the same level. I dare you.

My co-worker said it best. This movie was not made to be a single movie and drove a good story. But rather it was a vehicle for a specific purpose. The problem was that they couldn’t figure out what the purpose was. It was a vehicle to plaster Eli Roth’s name and face around and try to give him a “bad-ass” aura because apparently after Tarantino put his name in front of Hostel, Roth has to return the favor by killing Hitler and making a spectacle about it…for cinematic sake, of course. This movie was also just a vehicle for Diane Kruger to do a roll in German. Oh yeah! By the way…I don’t mind movies in subtitles. Not at all. As long as that movie has a good reason to be in subtitles. Das Boot is one of the single greatest films ever made, but the English dubbed version blows hard. You have to watch it in subtitles to even appreciate it. But this movie…dear god. The subtitles were SO unnecessary. We know that it takes place in Germany/France. If the whole movie was in English with no subtitles, we could safely assume that it was probably REALLY happening in French or German. And don’t even dare tell me that it wouldn’t work because I’ve seen Valkyrie. So screw you if you say otherwise. This movie BLATENTLY swings from German to French to English just because they can.

“We’ve been speaking in French this whole time, but would you like to change to German?”

“Sure! But why?”

“Because we can!”

“Great! Please notice how good of an actor I am! I can speak not one, but TWO languages!”

“Two?! Really?! How about English now?”

“Great idea boy wonder!”

“Now listen to me speak English with this wonderful accent because…….” Screw it. I’m done writing this.

But aside from that, it was a vehicle to fulfill Brad Pitt’s urge to work with every director on Earth. That apparently took precedence over keeping the characters believable in context. They wrote Pitt’s character to fit Pitt, which created the problem that the character himself stuck out like Obama at a clan rally. This is the exact same thing that can be said for Roth’s character, “The Bear Jew.” Which, by the way, that nickname is never explained nor does it make any sort of sense whatsoever.

The Bear Jew deserves his own paragraph. What a retarded character. I know that most of my friends who have seen this movie rave about how awesome he was. That is not correct. He wasn’t a deep character. He wasn’t even an interesting character. It was a build up that took about 7 times longer than the actual scene it was building up to, which was a letdown of an abusive and personally destructive manner. It was very much the same feeling that you would receive if you were pretty sure that you were going to get a new iPhone for your birthday. And when you open up the iPhone size box, it’s actually just empty, and then some guy in a gorilla mask and clown costume comes out of the closet and kicks you in the balls as hard as any hybrid clown-gorilla man can. And then your girlfriend leaves you for said clown-gorilla man. Actually, on second thought, that sounds pretty awesome. If that is what had happened instead of what I actually had to watch, I would be writing a very different review right now. Because what did happen was Eli Roth took his SWEET ASS TIME coming out of apparently the longest tunnel in France in order to say two lines to finally lead us to about 6 seconds of him hitting a Nazi with a bat. Aaaaaaaaannnnd……scene! Well that was sweet. Is there gum stuck to my shoe? Did I leave my keys in my car? I wonder if there is any ice cream at home. Is that dude down there wearing a gorilla mask? Oh shit! I forgot I’m watching a movie…

This movie would have been insanely better if it was about 40 minutes shorter. And for all the hype, the “Basterds” really weren’t the focus of the movie. In fact, they were secondary at best. Now, I do have to say that this wasn’t the worse film I’ve seen all summer. Not even close. That honor would have to fall to either Transformers 2 or G.I. Joe (with the exception of S. Darko which is the worst film ever made). In the end, I was mostly just bored rather than disappointed or angry so there isn’t too much of a rant built up inside of me. It did have some redeeming qualities and some good twists. The ending would have been brilliant if it hadn’t been for the “Basterds,” and the character of the Jew Hunter was actually pretty cool. The opening scene of this film is gripping, fairly emotional, and very very well done. Unfortunately is pretty much downhill from there.

In conclusion, this movie wasn’t a travesty of a film like G.I. Joe and it wasn’t as bad of a letdown as Terminator, but it still wasn’t good. It was a mediocre movie that was made for wrong reasons. I hope Tarantino will come back someday with something as awesome and Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, even Jackie Brown for the matter. But for right now, I will just kindly try to forget that I’ve actually seen this movie.