August 21st, 2009

THE STORY OF CHINESE GODS (1976) *

Don’t ask me why the fuck I watched this stupid ass cartoon movie.  (Okay, if you must know it was on that 10 Pack of Fake Bruce Lee movies I recently picked up.)  This is one of the weirdest cartoons I’ve ever seen.  You know, one day China may end up owning the US lock, stock, and barrel, but that won’t matter because they don’t know shit when it comes to cartoons.

 

A “cruel despot” rules China with an iron fist, much to the chagrin of the titular Chinese Gods.  To help influence a little good in the world, they send down this Obi-Wan Kenobi looking motherfucker from heaven who likes to fish a lot.  The bad demons of China don’t cotton to this guy so they send the “4 Kings of Evil” to fuck shit up.  Luckily, Bruce Lee shows up sporting a third eye to karate chop them all while doing his patented WAAing and WOOing shit.  When that doesn’t stop the 4 Kings, he shoots laser beams out of his third eye.  When all else fails, he challenges the villains to a shape-shifting magic duel ripped off wholesale from The Sword in the Stone to save the day.

 

You would think that any cartoon that contained giant snakes, spiders, centipedes, and Bruce Lee shooting laser beams out of his third eye would be pretty kick ass.  You’d be wrong though.  The Story of Chinese Gods is straight up some of the dumbest shit I’ve watched in a good long while.

 

You know, far be it from me to rag on anybody’s theological beliefs but these Chinese Gods are pretty pathetic.  Among said Gods are a guy who turns into a bird, another whose eyeballs bulge out and turn into binoculars, a snake tossing horned midget, and a cannibalistic demon woman.  (Okay maybe that last one is kinda cool.)  Are these really the motherfuckers Chinese people are praying to when they're burning incense?

 

Some of this nonsense may have been tolerable had the animation been any damn good.  The animation in this movie makes Belle and Sebastian look like WALL-E.  Seriously. 

 

And here’s something that befuddled the fuck out of me:  Who is the intended audience is for this thing?  It’s not really aimed at kids because it’s pretty bloody (hearts get cut out and heads get decapitated) but it probably won’t appeal to the Anime crowd either because there’s no graphic nudity to make it worth a damn. 

 

If this movie is any kind of indication of what the real Chinese Gods are all about, become an atheist. 

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009) ****

Quentin Tarantino is without a doubt one of my favorite filmmakers of all time.  Inglourious Basterds is further proof why the man kicks cinematic ass.  I wouldn’t put it on the same plane as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs but I liked it more than the Kill Bills and Jackie Brown.

 

If you’ve seen the previews, you already know that Brad Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine; the hillbilly leader of the titular group of Jewish-American soldiers who run rampant around France scalping Nazis during WWII.  That’s just a small part of the puzzle though.  It’s also about a young Jewish theater owner named Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent) who plans on doing away with some Nazis her own self.  We also get to know a sexy double agent/movie star (Diane Krueger) too.  They all have their sights on bringing down the infamous SS officer nicknamed “The Jew Hunter” (Christoph Waltz) who just so happens to be attending the world premiere of the Nazi’s latest propaganda film, which is conveniently being held at… you guessed it, Shoshanna’s theater.

 

Inglourious Basterds doesn’t play with time like Tarantino’s other films (save for a few brief flashbacks that is).  It moves from A to B confidently.  It takes its sweet time to get there but you’ll never be bored throughout the film’s 153 minutes.  There’s always something in the film to savor.

 

First, let’s talk dialogue.  QT’s superb dialogue for the Basterds is his best since Pulp Fiction.  Pitt’s character gets the showiest and most fun dialogue but The Jew Hunter gets some deliciously wicked lines too. 

 

Then, there are the performances.  Everybody brings their A game.  Pitt gives his best performance since Fight Club and steals every scene he’s in.  Hostel director Eli Roth also does some great stuff with his limited screen time as well.  The dude who owns the movie though is Waltz.  This guy is one greasy, despicable Nazi.  I can’t wait to see him play a Bond villain.  He’d rock.

 

I think what I loved most was the film’s structure.  Tarantino usually starts a scene with two people sitting at a table talking in subtitles.  Then, they politely agree to speak in English.  This shift in dialects is accompanied with some sort of tension that is felt throughout the rest of the conversation.  Finally, as the suspense escalates, there is an eruption of orgasmic violence that paints the room red.  Tarantino repeats this set-up with a couple variations again and again, and each time it’s surprising and exhilarating.

 

I also have to give it up to Tarantino for bringing the funny.  After Kill Bill 2 and Death Proof, I thought the man forgot how to make his eccentric dialogue funny.  My doubts are no more.  Pitt’s rants are hilarious and you can tell he’s really relishing saying his lines.  Also, I have to say that the scene where he tries to speak Italian made me laugh harder than I have at the movies all year.

 

Some people are gonna be turned off by this movie though.  One reason is because only a small portion of the film is devoted to the Basterds killing Nazis.  Some people are gonna bitch that they should’ve been the main characters.  I disagree.  The Basterds are a vital part to the story but the plot is much larger and encompasses more than just them.  When Pitt DOES come on screen, it’s well worth the wait.  It’s like a treat for the audience. 

 

I also think some people are going to have a hard time swallowing the ending.  Yes, it breaks the Goofy Meter, I admit that.  What makes the ending so awesome though is that it solidifies the fact that this is a revenge fantasy movie and not an out and out men-on-a-mission movie the previews have lead you to think it is.  Like the film-within-a-film, “Nation’s Pride”, Inglourious Basterds is a propaganda movie taken to the extreme level.  It’s also a Hell of a fun ride.

 

In a summer of so-so blockbusters, finally we get a movie that delivers on its promise.  And then some.

 

Inglourious Basterds is now Number 1 with a bullet (make that ten thousand bullets) on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of the Year List, scalping the previous titleholder Chocolate.