You gotta love Quentin Tarantino.

The iconic writer/director always seems to be pushing the boundaries of cinema, challenging both himself and his audience.

He’s done it again with “Inglourious Basterds,” a highly ambitious and highly entertaining effort that takes the war drama and crushes it to pieces - reassembling a masterpiece that reinvents the familiar genre.

“Basterds” is divided into several scenes that tell the story of a group of Jewish-American soldiers, led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who wreak havoc scalping and brutally killing Nazis in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.

Their story intersects with the story of a young woman named Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), who witnesses the death of her family by a ruthless colonel named Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Several years later, Shosanna is running a movie theater in France, trying to avoid any conflict, only to get thrown right into the middle of everything when her theater is picked to hold a premiere of a German propaganda piece. With every major Nazi officer, including Hitler, expected to attend the event, Shosanna sets out to get her revenge.

While the film is set in World War II, using several familiar historical faces, this is pure fiction. Tarantino takes real-life situations and turns them upside down, creating a film that is a little bit spaghetti Western, a little bit Sam Peckinpah and a lot Tarantino (including an extended scene in a bar that ends with a “Reservoir Dogs”-like Mexican standoff).

While his direction is sharp, it’s Tarantino’s screenplay that really sizzles. The film gets off to a rousing start with a great exchange between Landa and a French farmer harboring Shosanna’s family that is among the best 30 minutes of cinema I’ve seen this year.

While Pitt is the star, and does have his moments, the film belongs to two people - Laurent and Waltz. Both are Oscar worthy, especially Waltz, whose mere presence in a scene creates doom and havoc.

I will concede that the final revenge may be a little too easy (and it will definitely offend any history buffs expecting a straight World War II piece) and I did have a little problem with some of Landa’s actions in the final moments, but this is a film that easily overcomes those flaws.

This isn’t “Pulp Fiction,” but Tarantino has delivered a film that is almost in the same league. It’s definitely one of the best films of 2009.

Also in theaters

While “Basterds” may be one of the best of 2009, there is no doubt that “The Hurt Locker” (A) clearly is.

After several weeks in larger markets, this thriller finally opens in Bowling Green this weekend and it is a film that is definitely worth seeking out - an edge-of-your-seat thriller, that also manages to have a heart and soul.

“Hurt Locker” tells the story of an elite Army bomb squad in Iraq. When the squad gets a new leader named William James (Jeremy Renner), there is plenty of tension as the squad tries to adapt to James’ rather gung ho style.

At first James is seen as reckless by his two subordinates, Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), but the more deadly the missions become, the more James’ true character comes into light, changing each man forever.

“Hurt Locker” is the kind of film that easily could have been a standard action film, but in the hands of director Kathryn Bigelow it is much more. Like “Basterds,” it begins in smashing fashion, with a sequence as tense as any in 2009, and doesn’t let up.

The action sequences alone are enough to make “Hurt Locker” a success, but the film goes deeper, painting a portrait of three soldiers with different views of their jobs that ultimately provides some insight into combat and the scars left behind long after the mission is over.

“The Hurt Locker” is rated R for war violence and language and opens Friday at Greenwood Mall 10.

— Hot Rods, fantasy football and 3-D horror flicks - yes, it’s another busy weekend for sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428 or visit his new blog at http://mcompton.wordpress.com. If you prefer a one-on-one conversation, e-mail mcompton@bgdailynews.com.