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A Heist of Dreams

July 19, 2010 2 comments

Inception

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, and Pete Postlethwaite

Directed by: Christoper Nolan

Written by: Christopher Nolan

Every once in a while a movie comes along that helps redefine what we can expect at the cinema when we sit down and watch a film.  Last year that movie was Avatar, which helped change the way that we think of 3-D films and of course since then perhaps only one or two other movies have gotten what it was that made Avatar such a great 3-D movie.  This year the movie that will make you stop and realize just how great cinema is and how much it is an art-form is the unexpected hit from Christopher Nolan: Inception.   Inception is the classic heist film, but you wouldn’t know it is a heist movie going into it because well it’s not like anything you have ever imagined or seen before.  While watching it I couldn’t help but want to be in this world where entering others dreams was possible, where we could go in and change things and get things from within their reality for those that are seeking them.

Inception doesn’t just make you sit and think about what is going on while you’re watching it, but it also makes you forget that you’re even watching a movie in a theater surrounded by others because every second is captivating.   Even when nothing much is really happening Nolan manages to put interesting moments on the screen.   This is after all the man who made The Dark Knight and Momento.  Nolan knows how to make us think while watching his films but he also knows how to make it an enjoyable ride from beginning to end.   That is what he achieves the most with Inception is it a perfect ride from beginning to end? No, but it is so close that you won’t even notice the small subtle flaws while watching the movie.  The real thing about this movie is it makes you think after the credits start rolling, it makes you wonder….that is what the best movies always do.

Our dreams are powerful, in them we become who we want to be, and do things that are never possible.   There are moments in Inception that truly do feel like  a dream, there are sequences in the film that make you wonder why do we dream and what do our dreams mean.  On top of that there are some excellent action pieces in the movie, some amazing special effects that help pull you into this world that Nolan created.  There is even a sequence in the film with slow motion movement and battles that bests the sequences in The Matrix, not a sequence, EVERY sequence, its something that the Wachowski brothers would never have thought of doing in a million years and it just makes you want to see the movie again and again.

More after the trailer…but be warned spoilers follow heavily if you don’t want to know what Inception is about or what happens in it do not read.

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Inception begins in the dream, some would argue that this is where the movie is the entire time from beginning to end, some argue that this is just a bookend to help draw us into the movie.   Neither is wrong, and on that note neither is right.    Nolan stated many times that he left the movie open to interpretation on purpose, he wants us to think while sitting there watching the movie.   The opening sequences make you wonder what is going on, it’s not that its hard to follow its just that you don’t know the rules of this world that Nolan has created yet.  Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) helps us by sort of explaining things quickly while in the room, but basically at first we are left to wonder what is going on.   There is  a sequence here in the beginning with Cobb and Saito  that makes us realize that we’re not really in reality but in a dream within a dream and then finally we get to witness reality.

Nolan doesn’t shove a lot of things in our faces, he doesn’t make us wonder how is this possible or how does it work.  Instead he just sets the rules quickly of how it works.  Someone somewhere discovered shared dreaming and now it’s started to spread and has become a way for men like Cobb and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to make a living by slipping others into their dream reality and using it to twist them and get them to reveal their secrets.   The dream world is created by the architect and only they have control of it yet the dreamer is the one that they are seeking to draw information out of so the architect has to be careful not to make the world unreal.    All of this is explained to us but it’s never forced down our throats in a way that we cannot digest.  That is the pure genius of the movie, it works on this level because it doesn’t say: this is possible and this is how its possible.  It just assumes that we understand the first rule and leaves the second part up in the air.  You see its not importnat how it is possible….its just important that we believe it is possible.

We quickly learn that Saito (Ken Watanabe) wants to use Cobb and Arthur to help him, not steal a secret but implant a thought instead.  This is what the movie is about: Inception or the creation of a thought that was not in someone’s head before but now needs to be.   They say that Inception is impossible but Cobb of course believes that it is possible, we begin to learn quickly that Cobb is perhaps not the most stable of men.    He agrees to help Saito and that is when things really start to get twisted because they need to hire a team, a team of experts.  They get a group of men that they have used before and then there is the new one, the start-up the young protegé: Ariadne (Ellen Page) who becomes the new Architect.

There is a sequence in the movie when Ariadne is just learning how to use her ability in the dream world that is truly amazing, it’s when she knows that she’s dreaming and she starts to mess with the world in such a way that everyone in Cobb’s subconscious starts to question her being there and think of her as threatening.   That is the most important rule that you learn: every living person in the dream is in fact a part of the subconscious of the dreamer, not the architect but the one that is dreaming the dream that the architect designed for them.  This rule becomes important once the heist starts because it’s the only way that they manage to actually succeed in what they are trying to do.

Cobb has a twisted and deep story, he’s a tortured father who lost his wife we learn quickly that they dreamed together, a dream so deep that they spent an entire life together within the dream.   In the world of dreams things happen much faster than in real life, if you sleep for an hour you can dream weeks and days even depending on how deep you are in the dream.   In one such place Cobb and his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) spent and entire lifetime together, but when they awoke she was not the same even though he tried to bring her back she was different and Cobb forever blamed himself for what happened to her.   Because of this Mal appears in Cobb’s dreams even when he’s not the dreamer.   She’s a powerful influence on him and its slowly driving Cobb towards the edge in his conscious mind.   Ariadne is the only one who is aware of how deeply Mal has effected Cobb and that’s because she sneaks into his dream one night and learns just how deep his obsession with his wife has gone.

We don’t learn much about the others, it’s mainly the story of Cobb, Ariadne, Mal, Saito, and Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy).   These are the characters that we learn the most about, and there is nothing really wrong with that for they drive the story the most.   Murphy is really good in this movie as Robert Fischer, in fact I think this is probably his best performance ever even better than what he did in 28 Days Later.   People over look Cillian Murphy a lot I wish that he wasn’t over looked because he is a very good young actor.  Fischer is interesting because he’s not some weak spoiled child that doesn’t like his father, in fact he is the exact opposite a child who loves his father but his father never really loved him.

In Fischer’s first dream level we learn that there is such thing as security, rich people like Fischer are aware of what can happen to them in the world of Inception and thus are trained to make their subconscious mind realize when it’s dreaming and thus defend against those that have invaded the dream.    This becomes very important as we get deeper into the dream, but it is one of the things that doesn’t live up the potential in all of the way.    In this part of the dream though we learn that you can also change how you look if you’re good enough at disguises such as Eames (Tom Hardy).   Here he disguises himself as Browning (Tom Berenger) who is Fischer’s father’s best friend and also most loyal employee.   Things get crazy from here on out, if it wasn’t already insane enough with them in one dream they work it so that they slip into a second dream.

In this dream Cobb convinces Fischer that he is in fact the head of his in the head security and is working with him to stop those that have invaded his head, this works to their advantage as they slip into the third level of the dream.   It’s the fact that things in the real world or higher dream worlds actually do effect the dream world as well, the shifting of the van that Yusuf (Dileep Rao) is driving actually affects the deeper dream world in the hotel.  The numbers that Fischer picks in the higher dream actually effect the lower two levels of his subconscious mind to the point that they are used over and over again.   It is here in the hotel that Arthur has three really cool sequences dealing with gravity and the loss of such a thing when the van first flips over while he is fighting a group of men and then the second time when gravity is lost as the van heads towards the lake below the bridge.

I cannot describe these sequences they have to be seen, but both of them are so well done that it makes you want to see them again.   At the same time in the deeper dream Fischer gets shot and actually “dies” though you don’t really die in the dream, you just slip further into your subconscious (when sedated when not you just wake up) into a place known as limbo.   It is here that we go in the last few minutes of the movie, here in limbo we see the world that Cobb and Mal created and everything comes head long into a conclusion that you won’t believe until you actually see it.    At the end once everyone has been pulled from the dream and Cobb is heading home it all seems to real to be true, the one phone call to make the things that were keeping him from going home, the arrival at his parents house to see his two kids who look just as they did in his dream.

It all seems too much like a dream, but is it a dream?  Does Cobb never wake up from his dream?  Was he dreaming all along throughout the entire movie?   Or did he wake up and he’s now back in the real world and the spinning top is actually going to topple just after the credits roll?   I can’t tell you what to think, I can only tell you that I believe he woke and is back in the real world, I believe that they pulled off Inception and that Cobb finally has his life back, why do I believe this? Because I like to believe that he made it back and in the end that’s what I believe, it might not be what you believe and that is the genius of Inception it’s all about our perceptions on what happens, it never forces its own perception on us, but instead lets us decide for ourselves…..

What they Did right: The dream sequences are amazing, the special effects are real and never invading.  The plot is pure and simple a heist movie within a dream movie that is also science fiction but you’d never really guess it was while watching it.  The characters are believable and the action is tight and deeply thought out as you would expect from the man who brought us Dark Knight.

What they did wrong: The only real fault I had with the film was that the whole three layers of the dream were not long enough or complex enough for all of the work that went into setting it up.   It is true that they went in thinking that they were just cracking his mind and implanting but not expecting security, still I would have loved to have seen more of those dreams than what was there…..maybe I’m just being selfish wanting a 3 hour movie?

Overall: 99/100

A must see, one of the best movies ever made plain and simple.  This one has become one of my top favorites of all time a film that I could watch over and over again and not only never get bored but always see something new as well each time I watch it….

Gaming News for 5/13/2010

Overlord in Mass Effect

Coming in June Mass Effect 2 will be getting its next premium ( paid DLC) download add-on entitled Overlord.   The content is set to add numerous hours over five different levels all taking place on the same planet, it’s about an enemy AI that  is taking over the planet though no further details on the content have been revealed, gamerzines did learn that no new playable characters will introduced with this DLC or any future DLC which means that Kasumi will be the last character added to the group.   I haven’t played the Kasumi DLC yet but plan to get around to it sometime soon.

Mass Effect 2 was a great game and it improved on everything that was wrong with the first game.   I liked how each planet you landed on had its own dynamic look and feel to it.  Although I did sort of miss the driving sections from the first game.  Really though I didn’t miss the elevator conversations.    The new DLC will be less linear than previous DLC and more importantly it is obvious that Bioware has more DLC plans in the future for this game, which is a great thing because it makes me want to play the game and keep playing it.   I am contemplating another run through once Overlord comes out in June.

Here is the Gamerzine article if you want to take a gander.

Play a Darkspawn

The new DLC coming for Dragon Age:Origins called The DarkSpawn Chronicles has a hands-on over at GameSpot today.   THey have actually got their hands on the DLC and what you do in it is play as a darkspawn during the final campaign in the original game.   You play as a darkspawn general who has given some free-will by the arch-demon.

You play a darkspawn general, a hurlock vanguard, described by Bartel as “a new type of darkspawn given a measure of free will by the archdemon.” It’s the archdemon–that is, the dragon that leads the darkspawn horde–that telepathically issues your orders to take the city. Your party comprises various disposable thralls: darkspawn units recruited on the battlefield with your vanguard’s instant recruitment ability. Blight wolves, hurlocks, genlocks, and ogres are up for grabs, as well as stealthy shrieks and fireball-hurling emissaries. It’s the same four-character party setup as previously, but rather than swapping out one member for a more useful unit, you execute the unfortunate conscript.

This sounds interesting, getting to see the final battle from the other side is always cool, even though you know that side looses and you’ll probably die or something at the end of the story.   There rest of the hands on is over at GameSpot.

Sony rolls with the Coasters

Sony Pictures has signed a deal with the makers of the Rollercoaster Tycoon makers to make a movie based after the game series.   Its going to be  blend of CGI/Live-Action and well it sounds interesting oh uh cool no umm awesome boring and trite.  What is the deal with these games into movies lately….RollerCoaster Tycoon…sounds about as interesting as a Monopoly movie or a Nintendogs movie.  Or how about if we make a Sims the movie oh wait they’re already making it!   Sometimes these kinds of ideas don’t get off the ground and here is hoping that this one doesn’t get off of the ground.

Lets see what Sony Pictures has to say to The Hollywood Reporter:

Sony Pictures Animation has pre-emptively picked up rights to the Atari video game “Rollercoaster Tycoon.” Harald Zwart is spearheading the development of the big-screen adaptation as a possible directing project and will executive produce.  David Ronn and Jay Scherick, who penned the upcoming Kevin James comedy “The Zookeeper,” are attached to write what will be a live-action/CGI hybrid.

The “Tycoon” franchise, created by Chris Sawyer, is a popular series of computer games that simulate a combination of designing roller coasters and amusement park management. Each game challenges players with open-ended amusement park management and development while allowing them to construct and customize their own unique roller coasters.

The series of games have been very popular over the years even introducing others like Zoo Tycoon.    The idea behind the game of creating nad manging a park seems like a horrible idea for a movie….but hey maybe it’ll be the next Shrek Open Season.

Movie News for 5/12/2010

May 12, 2010 1 comment

Its a slow Movie News day…..

First Trailer: The Adjustment Bureau

Coming out September 17th is a movie that I had heard nothing about until today called The Adjustment Bureau , the movie stars Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Daniel Dae Kim (Lost), and Terrance Stamp (Kal-El’s dad in Smallville, oh and Zod in Superman II).   The movie is based loosely on the short story The Adjustment Team from Phillip K. Dick and the premise is interesting.  It’s the story of a politician (Damon) who meets a ballerina (Blunt) by accident and the two of them begin a relationship together, so far it sounds like a mildly entertaining romance story.   This is where things get crazy, you see he wasn’t supposed to be in a relationship with her, instead the two of them were supposed to cross paths once and that’s it.

Behind the scenes is a group of men known as the Adjustment Bureau who watch the world and make things happen as they are supposed to happen.   Basically its kind of like Dark City if you’ve ever seen it.  These men seem to have some kind of power over the world that is outside of our own, another way to compare them is to the men in black with bald heads in Fringe who watch important events as they happen to ensure that they happen as they are supposed to.    The movie has an interesting premise but I can see why it was pushed from July to September after viewing the trailer…another Dark City this is not…

Monsterpocalypse Burton Style

Rumors are flying around the net about the Dreamworks movie Monsterpocalypse, from AICN to SlashFilm and JoBlo they’re all talking about the coming Monster style Apocalypse and I could care less, but I’ll post the story anyways because of two reasons: first its a slow slow news day for movies, and secondly Tim Burton is at least in talks to work on the movie.   In my humble opinion Burton’s style has always been classic and great to watch but lately it’s been the same thing over and over again almost as if Burton himself is afraid to try something different because no one will go to see it.   He almost always casts Johnny Depp and a few other people in every movie that he does and it’s always the same thing from beginning to end…frankly its getting old.   There is a chance though that Monsterpocalypse could be a change for Burton.

The movie would be based off of the miniatures game of the same name which frankly until today I had never heard of because really whose playing with miniatures these days?    It seems as if board games are the one untapped market now for Hollywood so why not let’s make some miniature games movies, some milton bradly games movies, hell let’s go all out for it and make a movie based on the game Hungry Hungry Hippos!!!   Uh wait…umm please if anyone in Hollywood or who inspires to be a Hollywood writer read this…I am joking don’t do it!!!

Final Dead Note

It appears as if George A. Romero wants to make two more Zombie movies before you know the whole Zombie thing fades away again for another ten years or so.      Slashfilm has the entire article about it if you want to take a look personally I am tired of Zombie movies from Romero as most all of them have overly bad acting….and little plot other than See Zombie Kill it!  I much prefer movies like ZombieLand or the 28 Days Later series where there is some real story telling going on along with zombie killing.

Movie News for 5/6/2010

The Last Airbender

The final poster for the soon to be released (July 2nd) The Last Airbender has been released today exclusively over at Slashfilm.  It’s a pretty impressive poster and so far the trailers have all been pretty good as well.   I am looking forward to this one because I enjoyed the cartoon series on Nickelodeon when it aired and always thought it would make a good movie.    The only thing about this that I am hesitant on is M. Night Shyamalan’s involvement with the project.  His last few movies have all had deep problems associated with his scripts not with direction, and that could be the saving grace with this new movie.   If it ends up being  a good movie I hope it does well because word is out that it is the first in a planned trilogy so I doubt it closes out the main story line.

In case you haven’t seen it yet here is a trailer for the Last Airbender:

Super 8

From Slashfilm as well comes more about the upcoming J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg movie Super 8.  J.J. will be directing the entire movie and despite former speculation Super 8 is not in fact the sequel to Cloverfield.   From the article I found these things interesting:

  1. It takes place in 1979- one year after I was born…yes I do realize this shows my age!
  2. It will be released next summer- so next summer we’ll get a new J.J. Abrams movie from Amblin picture
  3. It is designed to be like the old Steven Spielberg movies from the eighties with science fiction elements and other such things that J.J. seems to like a lot.

It’s a shame that it’s not a sequel to Cloverfield in a way, but also its a good thing that it isn’t because while I think a sequel would be cool it’s not really necessary.   Oh and the logo for this story…yeah its a Super 8 Motel sign I hope you noticed before I spoiled it for ya!

Mission Impossible 4 release set!

The next installment in Tom Cruise’s action-fest globe trotting series Mission Impossible 4 has been officially announced.  originally planned to come out in the summer of 2011 the movie has now been moved to December of the same year by Paramount no doubt this is why Super 8 (see story above) has taken the slot that was originally slated for MI:4.    In case you don’t know MI:4 is being worked on by Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams though he is not attached to Direct Cruise is still attached to play main man Ethan Hunt.    It was rumored at first that the story might be a relaunch like the batman series but in the end it turns out that Tom Cruise is ready to play Ethan at least once more.  I enjoyed the third Mission Impossible mainly because J.J. Abrams directed it and he has a great flair for style especially in action movies.

That’s it for now folks…pretty slow news day for movies in general….

One…Two…Freddy’s Coming For You

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

A poster for Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Starring: Jackie Earl Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, and Connie Britton

Directed by: Samuel Bayer

Written by: Wesely Strick, Eric Heisserer

Before getting into the meat of the new movie and what it did right but also what it did wrong and how I feel about the overall product let me give you a little bit of history.  I have been a Freddy Kruger fan since the eighties when I was a kid myself who was fascinated with horror movies, Freddy was the first real horror villain with a voice, he taunted you, scared the hell out of you and did it all because he wanted to kill you but also mess with your mind while doing it.   I loved the entire series, yes even the very campy Dream Child and Freddy’s Dead.   I loved them all because Robert Englund did Freddy and he did him really good…so good you forgot that he was a child-molesting psychopath.   This was also the greatest fault with the original movies…it was glossed over quickly and gone after the first movie.  Still I love the original movies and always will.

Now onto the new one, I went into A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) expecting something similar to the Friday the 13th relaunch, a story that sort of doesn’t really tell the story of Freddy because you already know it.  That’s not what they did at all.   Like the original the parents in this one are mostly missing except for a few key scenes, and like the original one there is a girl named Nancy.   That’s pretty much where the similarities end besides a few scenes that are homages to the original movie.  Warning if you haven’t seen the movie spoilers follow.

The opening is a little confusing and hard to understand, we meet Dean first and it’s already in the middle of a dream, the dream sequences are the best things in this movie, they are actually better than the original ones, more fluid and organic like.  That’s the point of Nightmare the dreams and how Freddy messes with your mind.  Dean you see has already been dreaming about Freddy or as he says the main with the claws.    Dean gets killed very quickly and in a gruesome way leading to a funeral where his girlfriend Kris sees a picture with in it and even has a dream of herself as a young girl.

Kris is having the same dreams it turns out, of the man with the four blades, as is her former boyfriend who might still be a boyfriend now and so is Nancy who in the first part is under used but not in a bad way.    Things move quickly in the movie which is also good, I have to say that two scenes with Kris in them are wonderful, the first being the one in the class room, this one is truly wonderfully done, and Freddy has some good lines in this movie that come off more as the ones in the original first movie did, he’s using what he says to get into your head and to mess with you.

The thing that the first Nightmare on Elm Street in the 1980’s did really well and this one does as well is the dream sequences.   Kris’s scene in the attic here I wasn’t even aware that it was a dream until the light went out but then I realized she was probably dreaming.   I haven’t gone into Freddy yet in this re-imagining and how he looks.   The original Freddy Kruger was gruesome looking but this new one is disturbing on a whole new level.   He truly looks like a burn victim and that adds to the story in new ways.During a dream the world can be as dark as Freddy wants it to be.

Kris is killed in gruesome manner shortly later and then her boyfriend Jessie is killed as well shortly after that while in Jail which brings us to the stories two main character: Nancy Holbrook and Quentin Smith, both of who are having the same dreams of Freddy and even learn his name through dream sequences of their own.   This is where the original and this new remake take on totally different tones.   Whereas in the original the parents of the town burned Freddy because he was a child rapist/murder but didn’t actually do any harm to the main characters but are killing them because of what their parents did to him.  In this one Freddy was a caretaker at a preschool who abused the students at that school who eventually told their parents about it and thus Freddy was killed.  Freddy blames the kids for getting him killed and for a second you also believe that maybe he didn’t do any of the abusing.

Nightmare doesn’t shy away from the fact that Freddy was a child rapist or killer, though he doesn’t kill any it was only a matter of time before he would.   The kids that have all died were all kids that told their parents on Freddy or were at the school at the same time that he died, and Freddy’s favorite, Nancy of course.   This is where things really start to make this movie better than the original.   There is no arguing with parents that Freddy is real and in their dreams, in fact there is very few parental interaction because the kids are all well off and have cars of their own though their parents don’t approve with what they are doing.

In the end Nancy and Quentin learn the truth about what Freddy did and they confront him in one final show down which is really well done, he’s pulled out into the real world just as in the original and he dies in a gruesome way that leaves little doubt that he is dead especially after they burn him.   Then in good old classic Freddy manner he shows up at the end quickly and shockingly.

The reason why I like this movie is simple, it is Freddy as he was in the first movie scary, rarely speaking but when he did it was to mess with your head.   There were no jokes, no funny silly games just Freddy in his dark manner.    The acting besides Jackie Earl Haley  is passable, but then again in the original it was passable as well not great.

I have read a lot of reviews for this movie over the weekend, some say its disturbing, some say that Freddy is just a rapist with no real scary things about him.  Others say it’s a horrible movie and that it brings shame to the orginal that it is based loosely on.    These people bother me…they are remembering the original one through foggy glasses of nostalgia not through any real viewing of the movie.   The original is not filled with great acting and the originals story is good but this one is every bit as good.

In the end what I wanted I got.  I wanted three things from this movie, Freddy back to how he was in the first movie, Great dream sequences, and a good origin story.   I got all of these and a little bit more, this movie goes on my DVD shelf when it comes out and the real shame is this movie could have resurrected the Slasher Film genre but no one really seems to want to see Slasher films anymore, they just want movies like Saw or Paranormal Activity both really good movies and series in their own rights but not slasher films.   I wanted this to be the start of a new Freddy and Jackie Earl does every bit as good as Robert Englund at playing the iconic burned dream killer.

What they did right: Freddy was done every bit as right as I imagined he could be done.   The dreams are wonderful and disturbing at times.  The background of Freddy is not glossed over but really given meat this time.

What they did wrong: The acting of the main characters other than Nancy is a little disjointed at times, this Nancy actually does as good of a job as the orignal Nancy.  The others especially Kris and Jessie just appear to be there to get killed although I didn’t mind Kris’s legs.

Overall: 91/100

It does a lot right, it’s just about as good as the original and I could watch it more than once without growing bored, in fact I am pretty sure I’ll be seeing it again eventually.   If you haven’t seen it already and you think that it won’t be any good you’re wrong, its a good movie just don’t go in expecting it to be the next coming like so many other reviewers are.   Hell the original one wasn’t the first coming….it was just a slasher flick with a really iconic villain and this one is the same just retold more modern style.