The summer movie season is closing with a flurry: Recent weeks have given us such diverse, worthwhile fare as Funny People, The Girl from Monaco, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, (500) Days of Summer, Ponyo, District 9 and the best film of the year so far, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker.
Add to that a couple of well-received art-house offerings opening this week, Tulpan and Soul Power, and it’s been a nice finale to a summer laden with lame retreads (Transformers, G.I. Joe, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Land of the Lost, among others), a sprinkling of under-the-radar gems (Moon, Every Little Step, The Limits of Control, Tyson and Food, Inc.), two decent high-profile crowd-pleasers (Star Trek and Public Enemies), an entertaining genre detour (Drag Me to Hell), one genuine disappointment (Bruno) and one bona-fide sleeper hit (The Hangover). (For more on the summer of ’09, check Jen Lee’s roundup here.)
And, of course, this week also includes the unveiling of the most anticipated film of the summer for many, Quentin Tarantino’s long-gestating Inglourious Basterds. While it now seems a long way off from the cultural-defining heydey of QT’s Pulp Fiction — a twentysomething co-worker recently admitted she’s never seen it — the guy still gets film buffs' juices flowing like no other American filmmaker currently drawing breath.
For reasons that are still baffling to me, Miramax failed to provide any sort of advanced local screening of Basterds, which puts me in the same position I was in when I salivated for Pulp Fiction back in the day: civilian fanboy. That’s right, I’ll be just one of the QT faithful taking in the movie during its opening weekend. Ironically (or not), I wouldn't want to experience it any other way.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS — From idiot-savant casting decisions to the unseemly mixture of humor with the subject of Jews and Nazis, Quentin Tarantino proves willing to go where few others would dare, gratuitously throwing every random thought and film reference into this World War II epic. (See full-length review on page here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: B
POST GRAD — Vicky Jenson’s first full-length non-animated directorial effort — she previously co-directed Shrek and Shark Tale — isn’t sure if it wants to be a romantic coming-of-age tale or a kooky family comedy. The result is a genre mash-up that halfheartedly apes everything from The Family Stone and the Vacation movies to Reality Bites and Say Anything. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (PG-13.) Grade: C-
SHORTS — Prolific writer/director Robert Rodriquez (from Spy Kids to Sin City) continues his genre-hopping with another family-friendly tale, this one about a suburban boy who finds a colorful rock that grants wishes. The curious cast includes William H. Macy, James Spader, Leslie Mann, Kat Dennings and Jon Cryer. (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated PG.) Review coming soon
SOUL POWER — Soul Power is a vital documentary about “Zaire ’74,” a three-day concert, preceding the famous Ali/Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match in Kinsasha, Zaire, where great musical acts like Celia Cruz, the Fania All Stars, James Brown, The Spinners and B.B. King performed under a banner intended to popularize Zaire president Mobutu Sese Seko. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens Friday at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Not Rated.) Grade: B
TULPAN — Director Sergey Dvortsevoy's Tulpan is a poignant story about Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov), a Kazakh soldier who returns from a duty in the Russian Navy to his family's remote, bucolic life on the southern steppe. Tulpan is a neorealist film of exquisite beauty and eloquence that captures the life-and-death demands of a seemingly alien landscape. (Read full review here.) (Opens Friday at Mariemont Theatre.) — CS (Not Rated.) Grade: A
X-GAMES 3D: THE MOVIE — The 3-D craze hits the X-Games in this ESPN-pimped sports doc featuring a host of sponsor-laden dudes on various bikes and boards, including Shaun White and Tony Hawk. X-Games 3D, directed by ESPN veteran Steve Lawrence, will grace theaters one week only. (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated PG.)