Tag: eli roth

Hostel


Hostel (2005)
★★★ / ★★★★

I think the goal of Eli Roth’s “Hostel” is to make the viewers so uncomfortable that somewhere during its descent to hell they find their heads pulling away from the screen without thinking about it. As ugly, gory, and violent as the film is, an argument can be made that it is true horror in a sense that it elicits a response so visceral and so powerful that by the end it leaves one enraged, drained, or wallowing in disquiet. I found it to be entertaining from beginning to end; the story is propelled with great energy combined with a “Look what I can do!” gall.

Those who consider only the surface of the picture will be quick to label the work as “torture porn.” I’m not so sure it qualifies. Consider the extended scene in which we find one of our three backpackers—Paxton (Jay Hernandez), Josh (Derek Richardson), and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson)—handcuffed to a chair. From the moment the physical torture begins, the camera fixates on his face. We are there with him the first time a drill punctures his skin, as he shrieks in pain, begs for help and to be released. If the purpose were to excite the viewer, the camera would have focused on the tormentor’s facial and body expressions throughout the ordeal. But no—physical suffering and desperate screaming are front and center. By framing the face just so, there is no escape; we are forced to sympathize with the doomed character.

The picture begins like a comedy—a stereotypical comedy surrounding two Americans (Hernandez, Richardson) and one Icelander (Gudjonsson) being boisterous, rude, always on the lookout for weed and women who wish to sleep with them. I was amused by their shenanigans because the performers do a good job in looking and sounding the part. They share chemistry, and what elevates the comedy is the precise phrasings, looks they give to one another, and timing in terms of when to go for hyperbole versus when to downplay. It is not until forty-five minutes into the picture when we finally encounter something especially gruesome.

There is a creative idea here. Rich folks from all over the world pay to torture and kill unsuspecting individuals. To be able to do whatever they wish to an American, it costs $25,000. Considering the film was released post 9/11, there is merit to claims that a) the movie is made for Americans and b) it wishes to make a statement about what Americans consider to be their place in the world following that tragic day. But I go further. I think the writer-director wants to show his American audience that we as a society are not blameless for 9/11.

Like the characters in this film, we go into other people’s countries and act like we own the place, sometimes forcing them to adopt our values and morality—a modern day invasion. To make that point is brave and Roth opens himself—as a filmmaker, as an American, or just any other person—for censure. And yet to do so is a very American thing to do. To criticize ourselves for what we are doing wrong is, in my eyes, patriotic. Clearly, there is substance in “Hostel” should one bother to wade through the warm blood, shredded organs, and fatty tissues.

Cabin Fever


Cabin Fever (2016)
★ / ★★★★

It couldn’t even get the gross-out leg shaving scene right.

Nearly a scene-by-scene recreation of Eli Roth’s horror-comedy of the same name, Travis Zariwny’s “Cabin Fever” is pointless, worthless, and a colossal waste of time. It exhibits no understanding of why the original works and, for some, like myself, why it holds up upon repeated viewings. One of the main reasons is the 2002 picture being rough around the edges. Clearly made with a limited budget, Roth, an ambitious writer-director at the time, is able to turn rather cheap-looking sets into a believable setting that is a cabin in the middle of the woods where flesh-eating bacteria has been working its way up the food chain.

Here, however, notice how the environment looks so sanitized, from the well-decorated interiors of the cabin to the freshly mowed lawns of the picture-perfect surrounding area. It does not fit the dark and foreboding mood of the film that just so happens to have comic moments due to the sheer ignorance or stupidity of the characters. Yes, the characters are meant to be one-dimensional and daft, but Randy Pearlstein’s script, for some reason, is not at all willing to skewer them. Instead, it wants us to like the characters without providing good reasons why we should care for them in the first place. The five friends are as boring as tap water (Gage Golightly, Matthew Doddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Dustin Ingram).

Its second failure is the lack of convincing gore. Let us focus on the famous leg-shaving scene, perhaps the most disgusting—and disturbing—moment in the original. Take note of how the scene in this film unfolds. It is often interrupted by an uninteresting action scene that is taking place outside. Instead of focusing on what is unfolding in the bathtub, distraction is thrown on our faces.

Notice how loud it is rather than settling in the quiet. It is only appropriate that we hear the flesh being ripped by the razor. Worse, take a close look at the leg; it looks so fake that it is offensive. Even the blood does not have the correct color or consistency. So, I suppose, the scene is supposed to be disturbing because of how horribly it is conceived and executed.

Forget that it is a remake for a second. Remakes happen. But just because a movie is supposed to be a modernized beat-for-beat duplication does not mean that ambition should be thrown out the window. On the contrary, the work must be so driven to surpass the original that we feel the filmmakers’ passions in our bones. This can be accomplished by presenting more details than what is necessary.

For instance, they could have made the scabs so realistic that it is actually interesting—instead of just stomach-churning—to inspect them with a magnifying glass. They could have used an extremely well-trained dog during the animal attacks instead of using an unconvincing mannequin. They could have taken more time in the editing room and noticed that random loud noises actually take away not only from the action but also from the dialogue that is barely there in the first place.

Clearly, the horror is in the details and “Cabin Fever” missed the memo. Nearly every moment is forced and half-baked, truly a struggle to sit through. Although the performances, too, leave a lot to be desired, strong performances can rarely save a disaster. Around the fifteen-minute mark I wondered, “Who is this for?”

I’m still waiting for an answer.

The Man with the Iron Fists


The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

After Gold Lion is betrayed by Silver Lion (Byron Mann), the son of the deceased, Zen Yi (Rick Yune), vows to get vengeance. Word has it that Silver Lion and his crew are making their way to Jungle Village to intercept the emperor’s gold from the Gemini Twins. Meanwhile, an Englishman named Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) arrives at the village and spends the night in a whorehouse managed by the elegant Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu).

“The Man with the Iron Fists,” based on the screenplay by RZA and Eli Roth, might have been a lot more fun if the writers had made a brave decision to excise the fat and amplify the gravity-defying action sequence ridiculousness. What could have been a seventy-minute film of non-stop adrenaline rush is consistently bogged down by a lame attempt of introducing background stories, particularly the title character (RZA)—who is not all that interesting in the first place.

At times the picture comes across as a dirtier, less elegant version of Yimou Zhang’s “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers.” This is a compliment because it strives to fuse eastern—kung fu—and western elements—typical editing and feel of hip-hop music videos—to create something rather original. The result is a mixed bag but I would rather watch something different that works only once in a while than something expected but offering nothing new. I felt the performers’ enthusiasm in playing their roles.

The standout is Crowe, playing a character who loves to have fun with women. On one level, I was surprised that Crowe actually signed up for this material. Many actors similar or equal to his caliber would likely have turned down the offer immediately or would not even have considered it. On another level, I admired how Crowe plays Jack without ever winking at the camera. His intensity is controlled, as if he were in a dramatic role, and so when the humor presented in the script takes center stage, it feels right.

I did not at all buy into RZA as neither a creator of deadly weapons nor as a man who wishes to start a new life with a prostitute (Jamie Chung). Unlike Crowe and Yune, he does not exude a high level of charisma. It is clear that he has to work harder to reach the same level of magnetism as his co-stars but he does not.

Some of the fight scenes are beautiful. I enjoyed the showdown in the brothel as well as the short-lived appearance of the Gemini Twins. Like the great kung fu films, the picture treats action sequences like a dance—here, a dirty and grimy dance. The pacing may be offbeat at times, but there is an undeniable energy to them so one cannot look away.

Directed by RZA, “The Man with the Iron Fists” offers a disappointing in story but is quite eye-catching. It would have benefited greatly if Roth and RZA played upon their strengths as visual storytellers and abstained from jamming down sentimental stories down our throats. This way, it might have spared us the occasional boredom.

Aftershock


Aftershock (2012)
★ / ★★★★

An American only known as “Gringo” (Eli Roth) goes with two guys, Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolás Martínez), across Chile to party in clubs, hook-up with women, and visit tourist areas. But when a massive earthquake interrupts their fun, not only must they find higher ground due to a tsunami warning, it turns out that convicts from a nearby prison have escaped.

The first thirty minutes of “Aftershock,” directed by Nicolás López, is essentially “junk” DNA, the set-up is devoid of energy and the longer we spend time listening to the characters speak or watching them in motion, the more we realize that they are unlikeable people with not much on their minds other than the next chance at pleasure. There is no reason to root for these people to live and so the tone is very cynical and not fun to watch. Disaster pictures can get away with being somewhat poorly written as long as it is enjoyable to see unfold. This one offers nothing to the imagination. It likes to show blood.

The cinematography looks cheap, dull, and flat. The events after the earthquake—which, by the way, looks like a five-year-old taking the camera for bumpy plane ride—look like they are shot in a studio. Low-budget, B-movie horror flicks in the ’80s that show wastelands are more visually exciting than what this movie offers. The debris and destruction appear superficial; we are much better off taking a tour in Universal Studios. At least there is excitement there.

There is no character, just caricatures. “Gringo” is supposed to be socially awkward because he is a father of a little girl. Ariel is a doormat, desperate to keep his girlfriend even though she has cheated on him… twice. Pollo is the rich, fat, spoiled brat. The women are treated like objects to be pursued. The exception is Monica (Andrea Osvárt) because she has a brain but she is often labeled as a party-pooper, a baby-sitter. None of them go through a semblance of an arc to try to get us to care.

A group of wild, tattooed prisoners are the main villains. They are not interesting. They are made to commit random acts of cruel violence because the screenplay forces them. I found the latter half disgusting, especially the scene which involves a woman getting shot in the back after she was raped and tries to walk away. It is one tasteless, nonsensical scene after another.

Are the writers, Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López, and Eli Roth, proud of their work? If they are, they have no reason to be. Let me put it this way: If this embarrassment were being sold on DVD for a penny, I would not buy it. I want to go up to the writers and ask what motivated them to create this trash. If the answer is something like “artistic expression” or “artistic integrity” then I will them directly that they are in the wrong business.

The Green Inferno


The Green Inferno (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

A group of young activists, led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy), go the jungles of Peru to protect an indigenous tribe from a company that wishes to eradicate them. This is because the land of interest offers plenty of natural resources ripe for the picking. After a seemingly successful mission, however, the small plane’s front engine malfunctions and so the plane begins its violent descent. Just as quickly, the tribe comes to collect the survivors. One of them is going to be served for lunch.

There is a right audience for movies like “The Green Inferno,” directed by Eli Roth, and, admittedly, I am included in that group. It is very bloody and unrelenting, often goes for shock value just because it can, and there is something about it that is highly watchable—especially scenes where the villages are allowed to speak in their nature tongue and the camera simply observes. However, it is not a potent horror picture.

It takes far too long to get to the gore. Although exposition is necessary in almost every story, establishing Justine’s (Lorenza Izzo) motivation in joining the activist group is executed in a dull and unintelligent manner. The screenplay by Guillermo Amoedo and Eli Roth touches upon the idea that there are dangers in uninformed activism, but it fails to provide the necessary layers to make a compelling argument. Thus, the first thirty minutes are a bore and I found myself wondering when it would finally deliver what I signed up for. That is, the body count and in-your-face cannibalism.

When it does get to what the film is really about—gratuitous graphic imagery—it is somewhat of a disappointment. The plane crash survivors spend too much time locked up in a cage instead of revving themselves up to fight for their lives. This is gamble—ultimately one that does not result in great rewards—because a clog is created in establishing characters who the audience would want to see to survive. While it is obvious that Justine is the protagonist, film may have been stronger if it had been more ambitious, creating doubt in our minds that she would make it through to the end.

In between arguments and horrified expressions, however, are moments when the camera simply watches a lifestyle. I enjoyed looking at the tribe, from their red paint or dye that covers their bodies to the type of piercings and jewelry they wear. I noticed that the higher one’s rank, a person tends to wear more decorations. This is why the children almost always look very similar. One may also notice how the tribespeople use their tools—like spears, horns, and bones—very often with forceful meaning. Using a real Peruvian tribe to act in the film works wonders because everything their characters do look natural. Because they are convincing, the horrific elements are amplified.

“The Green Inferno” does not break new ground but it does deliver—to an extent—the components that connoisseurs of this sub-genre are looking for: the bloodshed, the screams of agony, and the body count. What surprised me, however, is how beautifully the film is shot when the camera focuses on the tribe, their lifestyle, and their land. The tribe eating human body parts that had been torn into pieces has a comedic quality to them, too.

The Loved Ones


The Loved Ones (2009)
★ / ★★★★

Brent (Xavier Samuel) lost control of the wheel when a bloodied teen suddenly appeared in the middle of the road. His father on the front seat, the car crashed onto a tree after Brent attempted to avoid hitting the person. Six months later, we learned that Brent’s father passed because of the accident. Still in a state of grief, Brent took solace in dating Holly (Victoria Thaine), a classmate who recently received her driver’s license. It was the night of prom and prior to Brent meeting Holly in the parking lot, he was approached by the innocuous- and plain-looking Lola (Robin McLeavy) and asked him if he wanted to go to the dance with her. Since he already had plans with his girlfriend, he had no choice but to refuse the offer, a decision that could cost him his life. Written and directed by Sean Byrne, for all the horrifying images in “The Loved Ones,” it was thin in suspense and even thinner in horror because every so-called scare appealed to the idea of being hurt by an object wielded by another person, whether it be a nail, a hammer, a knife, a fork, or a power drill. For the majority of its duration, we were forced to watch Brent experience all sorts of physical torture as if the camera had chosen to stay one of those underground rooms in Eli Roth’s “Hostel” but without the cheeky sense of humor and eventual purging of anger and vengeance toward the end that felt sufficient or satisfying. Despite Brent’s chiseled good looks, he was mostly bland. The screenplay’s attempt to communicate Brent’s sadness was at times laughable as he was constantly shown listening to death metal music with his 70s hair placed just so as to remind us that even though he was supposed to be suffering, it was still a beautiful image. That dichotomy did not work for me because this film wasn’t a silly commercial nor was it a complex drama. It would have been simpler and more powerful to show the teenager at his rawest, so angry and so demolished by what had happened to his dad, it seemed that he no longer cared about living. One good scene, however, was when he went outside with his dog, he decided to climb a rock, hang onto it and close his eyes. It made me consider what he was thinking. Perhaps he imagined a parallel life that was better, an alternate reality where his father was still alive and he did not feel so responsible. Or perhaps he just wanted to feel a sense of danger as a reminder that he was still alive, that it was all right to want to move on even if the memory and repercussions of the accident would be lodged in his brain for as long as he lived. It was arguably the best scene in the film because drama and horror, not the torture kind, worked together and it asked us to consider what could be happening in our protagonist’s head. Regrettably, the film had to deliver the blood and the screaming which eventually made me apathetic because of its redundancy. The torment in the chair coupled with Jamie (Richard Wilson), Brent’s sex- and pot-obsessed friend, going to the prom with Mia (Jessica McNamee) was a toxic combination. Every time the camera switched to Jamie and Mia, the built-up tension was sucked out of the screen. While there was one piece that connected Mia and Jamie’s night out to what was happening to Brent, it was only one and, if anything, it only felt like a footnote. “The Loved Ones” made me question its purpose. A lot of horror films are made to entertain–with a few exceptions like Srdjan Spasojevic’s “Srpski film” that is simply an affront not only to our senses but also to the art of making movies. Although horror pictures may involve physical pain, they can be enjoyed for reasons such as characters who are smart and plucky that we want to see survive or even characters that are so stupid, we want them to experience a gruesome death so they would stop being so annoying. They can even be enjoyed for technical details like interesting camerawork or great use of lighting to amplify a certain mood. I wasn’t entertained by this because the torture was coupled with humiliation. I felt sad and sorry for Brent. I didn’t feel like the writer-director loved his main character enough, just another young body to be mutilated.

Hostel: Part III


Hostel: Part III (2011)
★ / ★★★★

Scott (Brian Hallisay) was about to be married in a week so Carter (Kip Pardue), the best man, decided to take his friend to Las Vegas, Palm Springs being their cover from Amy (Kelly Thiebaud), for a bachelor’s party with Justin (John Hensley) and Mike (Skyler Stone). As the four gambled, Kendra (Sarah Habel) and Nikki (Zulay Henao) eyed Scott from a distance and later informed them that there was a party way out from The Strip. As the hours passed by, Mike was eventually nowhere to be found. “Hostel: Part III,” written by Michael D. Weiss and directed by Scott Spiegel, was promising because of its surprising first scene involving a scraggly guy in his twenties (Chris Coy) who mistakenly entered an Eastern European couple’s hotel room and was invited to have a drink. While its predecessors were set in Slovakia, it should be noted that this installment took place in Las Vegas. In its own way, on purpose or otherwise, it created a challenge for itself. Since Eli Roth’s “Hostel” and “Hostel: Part II” were set in a foreign country, it was almost easier to identify with the characters, despite their seemingly innate lack of common sense, because of their nationality. There was an underlying statement about the xenophobia found in all of us when we are in a different country and hear people speak in a foreign tongue. In this picture, the Americans became the tormenters, so the protagonists had to have something special in order for us to root for them. They did not. While each had his own distinct personality and temperament, we knew nothing about them other than their quirks and what they told one another. Hence, when the twists in the screenplay finally arrived, I felt little to no emotional impact while watching it. Although the scenes involving torture were still grizzly and bloody, one of them involving bugs, they failed to encourage a visceral response from me. Perhaps it had something to do with the style of shooting scenes and the way they were put together. Instead of having drawn-out sequences designed to increase our dread as the characters became more confused about the whereabouts of their friends, there was more than a handful of scenes interrupted by manic cutting and aerial shots of the city. Furthermore, there tended to be more people in one shot which took away some of the feelings of isolation we were supposed to experience with the characters. There was one change that I thought was somewhat interesting. Instead of simply having a room with just a victim and his tormenter, people were actually allowed to watch from behind the glass. The spectators’ chairs had buttons that they could press if they chose to bet, for example, how many arrows it took to kill a person. The concept worked because it made sense in terms of the film’s setting. If “Hostel: Part III” was able to take that level of creativity and had been more consistent with it, it would have been a passable addition to the franchise. It was hinted that Elite Hunting had more branches, one located in Asia. With all the missing people because of this sadistic group (who liked to hunt Americans) one would think that the FBI or the CIA were more informed.

Hostel: Part II


Hostel: Part II (2007)
★ / ★★★★

Affluent Beth (Lauren German), debbie-downer Lorna (Heather Matarazzo), and brassy Whitney (Bijou Phillips), American art students in Italy, decided to go on a trip around Europe over the weekend for some relaxation. While on the train, one of the models (Vera Jordanova) they had the pleasure of sketching just hours prior recommended a gorgeous must-visit hot springs in Slovakia. It seemed too good to refuse so the trio happily accepted. Little did the girls know that just minutes after they checked into a hostel, there was an auction, held by Elite Hunting, a murder-for-profit group, in which rich men bid on women where the winner could do whatever he wanted with his winnings. Written and directed by Eli Roth, I give a little bit of credit to “Hostel: Part II” because it tried to do something different from its predecessor. Instead of focusing solely on the would-be victims, it actually spent some time with the men who wanted to experience something they’d never forget. Todd (Richard Burgi) was gung-ho about killing something with his hands while Stuart (Roger Bart) was more reluctant. The way Todd and Stuart talked about committing an act of unimaginable violence to another human being was disturbing because certain phrases they uttered, like a joke or a snide remark, reflected an underlying struggle in attempting to make their victims less human. For instance, while sitting in the car on their way to the torture factory, Stuart asked his friend if he thought what they were doing was sick. Todd answered the question as one would express strong dislike toward a certain type of food. Furthermore, the picture allowed us to peek inside the business. We saw the important figures who made the negotiations when something went wrong. We discovered some of the requirements stated in the contract if one chose to be a part of Elite Hunting. We also learned that certain rules were allowed to be broken for the right price. Although it had potential to be a good sequel because it strived to expand its universe, the film just wasn’t good enough. Because there weren’t enough scenes dedicated to Todd, Stuart, and their relationship with the business, watching it all unfold was like observing a drowning person: an occasional gasp of air came hand-in-hand with its desperation to keep afloat. For the sake of so-called suspense, the material had a natural tendency to relegate to the three girls trying to run away from the burly bad guys in leather yet we knew all along that they had no chance of outrunning them. That was a crucial difference between this film and its predecessor. Part of the fun of “Hostel” was we actually believed that Paxton (Jay Hernandez), who made an appearance here, was able to escape despite his odds. There was technique, tension, and, most importantly, humor, in the manner in which he had to camouflage with the environment to avoid being detected. In here, a character ran into the forest and we expected her to trip. And she did. Lastly, I was especially sickened with the scene in which an adult pointed his gun on several children’s heads. One of them was shot in the face. But for what? Some could argue that the adult intended to teach a lesson. I argue it was for mere shock value. It felt cheap. “Hostel: Part II” was plagued with boring protagonists and lackluster execution. I wanted to find dark humor in its extreme nature but I ended up just sitting in my chair, depressed with all that was happening.

Don’t Look Up


Don’t Look Up (2009)
★ / ★★★★

I can withstand a lot of bad movies but the really memorable ones are the movies that make me angry during and after I watch them. “Don’t Look Up,” directed by Fruit Chan, is a prime example. Marcus (Reshad Strik) was an aspiring filmmaker with psychic abilities. When he visited places with bad histories, which often involved a grizzly murder, he would receive visions and he would incorporate what he saw onto his script. While shooting a movie in Transylvania, his crew discovered an old footage of a prior film shot in their set. Soon “accidents” started to happen which led to a series of deaths until the film crew finally called it quits and left Marcus to deal with his demons. Everything about this picture was exaggerated. The acting was shockingly bad, the gore was gratuitous and unconvincing and the CGI was completely unnecessary. It was so bad, the movie tried to scare us with CGI flies. The last time I checked, CGI flies are not scary. It might have worked in Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” because that particular film had a nice balance of cheekiness and horror but “Don’t Look Up” desperately wanted to be taken seriously. Its desperate attempt to be liked left a bitter taste in my mouth. I did not appreciate its references to movies like the Takashi Shimizu’s “Ju-on” and Hideo Nakata’s “Ringu;” instead of paying homage, I felt like the movie was parasite and was an extremely unsatisfactory leftover. The horror did not work because it acted like it was above trying to tell a story that was interesting, involving and, most importantly, a story that made sense. I didn’t understand the connection between Marcus and his ill ex-girlfriend other than to serve as a stupid twist in the end (something along the lines of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” only lightyears less elegant). Eli Roth playing a director in the 1920s left me scratching my head. And there was no explanation why the girl was murdered back in the day and what the apparitions wanted to accomplish. A “seed” was involved which I thought was metaphorical at first but it turned out to be literal. It was just a mess and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to burn the DVD so the next person interested in watching it can use his or her precious time doing something else (perhaps read a book or volunteer at a homeless shelter). “Don’t Look Up” is a smogasboard of everything bad about modern independent horror movies that heavily rely on special and visual effects. I just don’t believe anyone in the world can actually enjoy it. I am at a loss with why it was released in the first place but I suppose connections can go pretty far. If I can prevent at least one person from watching this, I consider it a triumph.

Inglourious Basterds


Inglourious Basterds (2009)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Those who believe that Quentin Tarantino (“Resevoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” “Death Proof”) is slowly losing his touch when it comes to filmmaking and storytelling should watch this film. “Inglourious Basterds” essentially covers three groups of characters: Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his men’s (Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, B.J. Novak, Omar Doom) quest to hunt, scalp, and kill Nazis; the intimidating Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, a Nazi hunter who prefers to be categorized as a detective more than anything else and who happens to speak English, French, Italian, and German which proves to be quite useful; and Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus, who survived Waltz’ massacre three years ago and had plans of her own, along with her trusted friend Marcel (Jacky Ido), to avenge her family. Divided into five sublime chapters, at first the characters had nothing to do with each other. But as the picture went on they all collided, had very entertaining conversations and bloody violence, just as one could expect from a Tarantino motion picture.

I was surprised with how quickly the movie paced itself, considering that I needed to use the bathroom during the first thirty minutes. (I gulped down a lot of soda during the previews.) I couldn’t help but get so engaged with the dialogue because in some lines, the characters attach some sort of threat into their words or tone to the point where it made me feel like I was in the same room with them. Although this was a World War II picture to begin with, it became so much more than that. In the second half, it became about a project about the love for the cinema and using that as a template to put these very intense characters under one roof. What I noticed about this movie was that with each major character, Tarantino moved the camera to match the person’s idiosyncracies and intentions. Therefore, it became more than just a World War II picture with necessary violence. It became a personal character study where the characters became tangled in the intricacies of politics, bureaucracies, and their own morals (sometimes lack thereof). The way Tarantino played with the movie’s tone greatly impressed me (as I was in his other films). One minute I just feel like hiding behind my hands because either something very violent was about to happen or a character knew something the other character did not know and was about to get caught; the next minute I found myself laughing so hard (due to the comedy or relief, it was often difficult to tell) because a character did or said something hilarious.

I can definitely understand why the American mainstream could be disappointed with this movie. For one, pretty much half of the movie had subtitles. (I love subtitled films. Sometimes, I even watch movies spoken in English with subtitles.) They could find it challenging to read and pay attention to the images at the same time. Second, with its 153-minute running time, the audiences were asked to sit through extended dialogues with (from some blogger reviews I’ve read) “very little payoffs that only happened toward the end of each chapter”). As a person who loves long movies, I cannot disagree more because the payoffs happen as the lines were being said. It was the subtleties in each intonation and movement that really made this film that much better than typical summer movie flicks. It was intelligent, had great sense of build-up, very tense, and brutal. So, for me, those kinds of arguments that people brought up were simply a matter of acquired taste. Hey, I didn’t start off loving foreign films and long movies either. It took some time and when it finally clicked, my moviegoing experience became that much more rewarding.

I strongly believe that “Inglourious Basterds” is one of the best movies of summer 2009 (if not the best). The performances are top-notch, especially from Christoph Waltz who is already getting Oscar buzz (and deservedly so), the pacing was done skillfully, and best of all, it knew how and when to have fun. If it had taken itself too seriously, it probably would not have been as enjoyable, it would have simply been violent and heartless. I’m already looking forward to Tarantino’s next project.