Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Inglourious Basterds</em> or <em>Passing Strange</em>

<p>Quentin Tarantino's Nazi-killing fantasy <em>Inglourious Basterds</em> concerns a group of Jewish American soldiers, led by Brad Pitt, getting some ultraviolent payback on the Krauts. <a href="">Salon's Stephanie Zacharek says</a>, "Tarantino thinks big, and he's got balls. If that were enough to make a masterpiece, <em>Inglourious Basterds </em>would surely be one. But <em>Inglourious Basterds</em>, in addition to having already stirred controversy for its Jews vs. Nazis conceit, is <strong>unwieldy, long-winded, self-indulgently nutso and, in places, very, very boring. </strong></p><p></p>"It also caps off its two-and-a-half-hour run time with an extended finale – partially orchestrated to David Bowie's 'Cat People' theme song, no less – that I could watch again and again with pleasure. In other words, Tarantino has taken a huge leap and made a movie that doesn't fully work, which presents those of us who love his work, hate his work or love-hate his work – which should cover just about everybody – with a confounding question: <strong>Do we praise the leap, or shake our fists at the result?"</strong>

<p>As you may recall, we were batshit crazy in love with<em> <a href="">Passing Strange</a></em>, the hilarious, exhilarating rock musical about a young man's journey from bourgeois conformity to cosmopolitan discovery. <a href="">Spike Lee's documentary film version</a> of rock musical <em>Passing Strange</em> attempts to catch that theatrical lighting in a bottle, but having seen the show live three times, we have to admit to being somewhat underwhelmed. It's not Lee's fault; the film is well made, but it's still no substitute for the electricity that crackled through the Belasco Theatre during the production's too-brief run. </p><p></p><a href="">A.O. Scott at the Times</a>, on the other hand, didn't exactly love the Broadway production, but the film left him <strong>"blown away. </strong>Loose ends ceased to dangle; soft spots were smoothed away and slow passages tightened up. Some of this may lie in my own preference for the cognitive solitude of movie-watching over the self-conscious sociability of theatergoing, but Mr. Lee’s contribution, as well as that of the cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, should not be discounted.<p></p>"<em>Passing Strange</em> is less a collection of songs — though there are a few, most notably 'Keys (Marianna),' that stand out — than a single headlong piece of music. You might say a rock opera, if that phrase did not summon up spectacles of bloated self-importance entirely antithetical to the spirit of this show. <strong>A show not simply preserved by Mr. Lee’s camera, but brought, somehow, to its fullest, strangest, most electrifying realization."</strong>

<p>Set in West Germany in the 1970s, <em>The Baader Meinhof Complex</em> concerns that infamous group of <a href="">radical student guerrillas</a> and their decade-long spree of bank robberies, bombings, cop shootings, and judge assassinations. <a href="">Time Out's David Fear</a> writes, "Imagine if Hollywood decided to tell the story of 1960s revolutionary group the Weather Underground... Now pretend that the studio then assigns Michael Bay to the project and casts Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and Zac Efron as the young firebrands. Does this sound like a solid representation to you? That’s the equivalent of what this German film does... Even the casting of Teutonic cinema all-stars as lefty extremists wouldn’t be so bad if Edel didn’t have them running around like action heroes to a squealing guitar soundtrack. <strong>This isn’t revisionist history; it’s a key moment in political radicalism reduced to an empty pop-cultural posture."</strong></p>

<em>Five Minutes of Heaven</em> stars Liam Neeson as an Irish Protestant who, in 1975, fatally shot a Catholic dock worker in his home as he watched TV with his 11-year-old brother. The film takes place years later and centers on a televised meeting of reconciliation between the two, but the kid brother has revenge on his mind. <a href="">Manohla Dargis at the Times</a> calls it "a feature-length talkathon built on a sketchy premise, some unpersuasive psychology, a pinch of politics and strong star turns from Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt... Everyone has their own good reasons, as Jean Renoir puts it in <em>The Rules of the Game. </em>Alistair and Joe have their reasons, but too many seem to have been contrived for this movie."

<em>World's Greatest Dad</em>, written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, stars Robin Williams as a high-school teacher whose literary ambitions have earned him nothing but frustration. When his ingrate teenage son dies during an ill-fated act of autoeroticism, Williams finds inspiration ghost-writing a fake diary from the teen's perspective. <a href=",31967/">Nathan Rabin at the Onion</a> says it's "wickedly observant about the way the dead become blank canvasses upon which the grieving can project their fantasies, insecurities, and aspirations. <p></p>"Williams lends enormous pathos to a man whose literary dreams come true in the worst way imaginable; he now has the curious distinction of having starred in <em>Dead Poets Society </em>and the anti-<em>Dead Poets Society</em>. <strong>The film’s tonal shifts between vulgar comedy and heartfelt drama aren’t always smooth, but that doesn’t keep it from being simultaneously funny and deeply sad."</strong>

<p>Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, and James Spader are all collecting paychecks from <em>Shorts</em>, a fantasy-adventure from Robert Rodriguez about a magical "Rainbow Rock" that makes all the town's wishes come true, "from tiny aliens to giant boogers." Amy Biancolli <a href=";type=movies">at the San Francisco Chronicle says</a> that "for a movie about an all-powerful rock, it's actually a pretty good time... it's more of a burst pinata than a story, a wild, kinetic jumble of images, ideas and flying-candy-bar product placement that would offend if it weren't so forthright. Its nonlinear format and absurdist humor are more common in art-house programming than the usual PG ingesta, so don't expect to understand all, or indeed any, of the screenplay. <strong>It is designed to promote confusion rather than defray it. It is also designed to promote a related Nintendo DS video game."</strong></p>

<p>After premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, Mario Van Peebles's <em>Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchy Footed Mutha</em> opens at Cinema Village. <a href="">The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton</a> calls it a "homely home-video-art love-story curio, incorporating fragments of his 1982 stage musical <em>Waltz of the Stork</em>... The seventysomething star-writer-director plays the lead role from age 15 to 45, opposite actors who are, in every case, younger. This makes the scenes of teenaged sexual discovery particularly eyebrow-raising. Like practically everything in the movie, the device only really 'works' on a theoretical level, though it's transfixing for a time, in a slightly sad way... <strong>There's a temptation to 'give' this to Van Peebles, but any scene in which actors get to interact is deathly awkward, and 100 minutes should never feel this long."</strong></p>

<p>Based on a true story, <em>Fifty Dead Men Walking</em> takes place in the 1980s, during one of the most deadly periods of modern Irish civil conflict, and centers on 22-year-old Martin McGartland, a Catholic Irishman who was recruited by the British police to infiltrate and spy on the IRA. <a href=",31960/">Tasha Robinson at the Onion</a> says, "Much of the film follows McGartland as he sweats his way deeper into the organization, playing both sides of the fence and trying not to get caught... But the film doesn’t fully hit its stride until its third act, and McGartland never entirely comes into focus as a character. The screenplay is based on his memoir, but it features precious little insight into his motivations; his horror over IRA torture sessions and bombings seems real enough, but doesn’t explain why he chooses to risk his life, or side with an enemy that offers him more contempt than comfort...<strong>What makes <em>Fifty Dead Men </em>work is the story’s sheer moral complexity, which dares viewers to sympathize with anyone onscreen for more than a few minutes at a time."</strong></p>

<p>The title of <em>X Games 3D: The Movie</em> pretty much speaks for itself, and <a href="">the Village Voice's Tim Grierson</a> speaks for himself: "No one expects a film titled <em>X Games 3D: The Movie</em> to be <em>The Hurt Locker</em> of action-sports documentaries—i.e., a sober dissection of the adrenaline junkies who make their living executing death-defying stunts on skateboards and motorcycles—but still, director Steve Lawrence's glitzy infotainment raises the question, 'How much awesomeness can an audience take?' </p><p></p>Although the novelty of 3-D adds some drama to the contests, your snazzy glasses do nothing to block out the inanity that comes from the mouths of the participants, the play-by-play commentators, and narrator Emile Hirsch, who all endlessly remind us that action sports are about pushing boundaries and/or testing limits and/or living life on the edge. Since none of the on-camera subjects register as anything more than mass-marketed symbols of youthful rebellion, it's damn near impossible to care who wins. Not that it really matters—<strong>the real victor is the film's distributor, Disney, which conveniently owns ABC and ESPN, the two channels that broadcast the X Games every year. Synergy—now<em> that's</em> awesome!"</strong>

<p>Set in 1953, dramedy <em>My One and Only</em> stars Renée Zellweger, Chris Noth, and Kevin Bacon in a story about a woman who leaves her philandering band-leader husband and takes her two teen-aged sons across the country, searching for a new husband. <a href="">Stephen Holden at the Times</a> deems it "a good-natured screwball road film... <em>My One and Only</em> aspires to be a contemporary version of a Preston Sturges comedy. <strong>But for all its charm, this lighthearted travelogue is less an inquiry into the soul of America than an affectionate period piece set in economically leaner times</strong>, decades before communications technology revolutionized the concept of personal space. The movie conveys an older notion of the country as a land of open roads where you can thumb a ride: a place where you can still get romantically lost and found."</p>

<em>Post Grad </em>stars Alexis Bledel as an overachieving college graduate facing the tough realities of the so-called real wold. The Onion's <a href=",31965/">Keith Phipps says</a>, "It all leads up to a climactic soapbox-derby race, possibly because the filmmakers thought a pie-eating contest or a square-dance competition might provide too much excitement for the audience’s more delicate members... It’s not for lack of trying, but a when a film whose cast includes Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, Fred Armisen, Craig Robinson, Demetri Martin, and the now rarely seen Carol Burnett can’t scare up more than a smattering of laughs, <strong>the patient was never meant to live in the first place."</strong>

<p>Doug Pray’s documentary <em>Art &amp; Copy</em> explores advertising's "creative revolution" of the 1960s, when artists and writers gave the world such gifts as "Just Do It" and "Where's the Beef?" <a href="">Time Out's Keith Uhlich says</a> Pray "barely probes the troubling depths of these cultural signifiers and the people who created them. His film is less an illuminating examination than it is an act of myopic rehabilitation. It doesn’t matter how much garrulous delusion the subjects spout. Pray buys it wholesale and<strong> propagates the myth that there’s something to respect about getting inside people’s heads and rewiring them into mass-consumptive lemmings."</strong></p>

<p>This weekend at midnight the Sunshine screens Mel Brooks's 1987 sci-fi parody <em>Spaceballs</em>, starring Brooks, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, John Candy, Daphne Zuniga, George Wyner, Joan Rivers (voice), Dick Van Patten, John Hurt, and Jim J. Bullock.</p>

<p>The <a href="">IFC Center screens</a> the Coen Brothers' 1996 Oscar-winner <em>Fargo</em> this weekend at midnight.</p>