Weekend Forecast for August 21-23, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
August 21, 2009
It's a rare end-of-summer treat, as one...no, wait, two of genre filmmaking's masters return to the big screen this weekend. Admittedly one isn't quite in the genre you'd first think, but he's a master nonetheless. While their two films try to dominate the box office, two others that feel like throwaways try to beg for scraps.
Quentin Tarantino returns to the business of artful gore with Inglourious Basterds, a film set in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Brad Pitt heads up a secret company of Jewish soldiers dropped behind enemy lines and tasked to be as brutal as possible in the killing of Germans, in the hopes of terrifying them into abandoning the war. Hey, good luck with that.
Let loose on this idea, Tarantino does his level best to produce one of the goriest and most over-the-top war epics, while mixing in his trademark verbose dialogue. Much like with Kill Bill (both of them), Tarantino seems to be working comfortably in the area of pastiche, and combining his influences into a blender, by way of commenting on them. More than any other filmmaker, Tarantino has consistently been able to deconstruct past movies and recontextualize the important parts into crackerjack entertainment.
After the box office failure that was the Grindhouse experiment, Tarantino's gone a bit more conventional this time, or at least, what passes for conventional with him. Pitt's the main recognizable face, though Diane Kruger, BJ Novak and Samm Levine (and Mike Myers in a brief supporting role that's being hidden away in deference to his status as box office poison) will probably be familiar to a lot of people. In a fairly strange decision, fellow director Eli Roth, he of Hostel and Cabin Fever, takes the lead role as the most sadistic of the soldiers in the troupe. There's a lot banking on recognition of Tarantino's presence, and on just how much Brad Pitt is involved in the movie.
Six and seven years ago, the Kill Bill movies opened to the low- and mid-20s before fizzling out a bit. It feels like Basterds is a slightly more accessible movie than the Japanophile/spaghetti western homage that was those two films, even if adding a comedic aspect to Nazis in World War II still feels a bit risqué. Opening in over 3,100 venues, Inglourious Basterds looks set for about $29 million this weekend.
In what I'm assuming is a bizarre coincidence, Tarantino's frequent collaborator Robert Rodriguez also debuts a film this week, though it's safe to say the crossover audience between Basterds and Rodriguez's film Shorts will be minimal at best.
Returning to the kids' adventure world, where he so thoroughly flourished with the Spy Kids movies that he turned into $100 million films almost literally in his garage, Shorts centers around a group of boys that discover a brightly colored rock that grants wishes, and the chaos that ensues therein. It's a comedic romp that's aiming at the eight to 14 set with broadly written action and some rather top-notch effects for a kids film.