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Never Let Me Go Movie Review

Never Let Me Go Movie Review

Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go is likely to be in the conversation for several awards come Oscar season.  This ambitious and eloquent piece features excellent acting, restrained and beautiful direction that pairs with a challenging and touching story, which results in strong entertainment for the thinker in all of us.

Carey Mulligan stars as Kathy H., serving as both as a narrator to the film and lead to a story that will level you in its depth of cruel emotion.  Kathy falls in love with Tommy, back during their childhood at the boarding school Hailsham where she, Tommy and Ruth form an uncommon bond that will last a lifetime.

Hailsham is an odd place that confines its students to restricted areas, features routines of discipline and doesn’t take kindly to outsiders.  When newcomer Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) is assigned to teach, she opens the students eyes and openly questions how the school is run, resulting in her ultimate dismissal.  But what she unveils is an extinction level event for the story that has unfolded to that point in the film.  The balance of the film takes us deeper into the lives of the three students and their love for one another as they discover more about Hailsham, their relationships and their depths of their souls.

This is an incredible love story and while that portion of the film is not unique, it is told in an original fashion with a wildly unique backdrop.  There is poetry in Alex Garland’s script and Isihiguro’s story that is beautifully rendered on screen by Romanek and his fine cast.

Never Let Me Go's characters are always on the outside looking in.

While Mulligan is the standout star, new Spiderman to be Andrew Garfield compels as an off-kilter boy and Keira Knightley’s jealous sexpot is well-rounded.  Romanek’s delicate direction allows the actors to shine and elevates the sometimes bleak material to poetic, artistic expression.  The young actors who play the stars in their younger years, often insignificant, almost throwaway roles, really have an opportunity to flesh out their characters and generally look strikingly similar to their grown counterparts.  Expert casting here.

Romanek, who hasn’t directed since the failed Robin Williams’ creep-fest One Hour Photo, returns with a vengeance here, capturing all the poetry the story can handle while letting the actors perform naturally.  His shifting use of color strikes a strong counterbalance to the material, effectively easing the audience into the painful state where the characters reside.  This is mature filmmaking that will be in year-end awards discussions of some sort; I am confident in that.

The film has elements of science fiction and fantasy, but is deeply rooted in human emotion and interaction.  Kathy, Ruth and Tommy have complicated relationships within their seemingly simple and direct existences.  The overall message is that our time on earth is precious and whom we spend that time with is of paramount importance.  The film also offers up several questions to the viewer that might be revealed through its source material, Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel of the same name.

All in all, Never Let Me Go is not an easy film to digest.  Its neither mainstream nor particularly uplifting, but it is both compelling and thought-provoking and well worthy of your attention.  If they ever left, this serves notice that independent films are back – in a big way.

Posted in 3 Nests, Featured, Reviews3 Comments

Jack Goes Boating Movie Review

Jack Goes Boating Movie Review

In a city as vast and populated as New York, the new film Jack Goes Boating is a small story centered around four locals. Adapted from a play of the same name, the film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as the titular Jack, a single man who keeps to himself in the basement of his Uncle’s house.  It’s apparent that Jack struggles to connect with people (a potential social disorder of some sort?), but he maintains one close friendship with his co-worker Clyde.

Jack and Clyde are limousine drivers mired in the routine of their work for years. While Jack comforts himself with the positive vibes of reggae music, Clyde is the self-medicating type who has a wife to go home to.

The story begins with Clyde and his wife attempting to set-up their respective co-workers Jack and Connie on a blind date. Both potential date partners seem ambivalent but acquiesce just the same.  There are hints at likely trauma in both Connie and Jack’s pasts, and they carry that forth into their odd but endearing interactions with one another.  Still, their relationship is only half the story.

Clyde’s burgeoning friendship with Jack is approached with a mentor and pupil mentality of sorts with Clyde leading Jack in an adult version of the birds and bees. This is emphasized while Clyde is attempting to hold together a tenuous marriage at home.  What unfolds is an interesting story about friendship, a tender love story, betrayal, and even strength where you sometimes least expect it. This also shows the growth of a man when he is encouraged to engage.

Hate to disappoint you, but 'Jack Goes Boating' not "motor-boating."

There are several laughs throughout, but the brilliance of Hoffman’s directorial debut is that the laughs are often in the awkward pauses between the characters rather than in the bizarre things that they sometimes say or the peculiar ways they express themselves.  Sometimes you suppose that Jack and Connie simply are afraid to say what they feel, and then one (usually Connie) will say something that floors you.  Good stuff.  The only drawback here is that you can see the story unfolding with the inevitable ending developing from a mile away.

The mini-dreadlocked Jack is the lead character but really equal time is devoted to the four main actors who carry virtually every frame of film. TV veteran John Ortiz’s Clyde makes an impression as a charismatic man with issues that are hidden beneath a harder, jovial exterior. Hoffman and Ortiz are co-founders of the LAByrinth Theater in New York and their easy real-life friendship leads to an uncommon chemistry on the big screen. I anticipate Ortiz’s work will steadily increase from such valued screen time in this role.

Amy Ryan continues to show she deserves more work by tackling the challenging role of Connie and convincing us that she exists on every level.  Part paranoid and tortured, the other part gentle and loving; you waste no time believing that Connie and Jack couldn’t share a relationship despite their obvious deficiencies.

This is a mature work that is definitely not mainstream but completely worthy of an audience, particularly for fans of independent cinema or quirky relationship comedies.  While the drama of how it all turns out is rarely in doubt, its still an enjoyable journey to get there, and that is what matters most here.

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Twelve Movies From The Last Five Years That I Wanted To Like But Didn’t – Part Two of Two

Twelve Movies From The Last Five Years That I Wanted To Like But Didn’t – Part Two of Two

I left one movie off my previous post from 2007, which was my Part One list of Twelve Movies From The Last Five Years That I Wanted To Like But Didn’t.  Remaining are the movies from 2008 and 2009 that made (or didn’t make, if you look at it that way) the cut.

2007 continued

American Gangster

Common = Gangster in RIdley Scott's American Gangster.

This movie was built up to be pretty big in the minds of those that love a gangster film.  You have Denzel, Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott directing, a Jay-Z-laden soundtrack, and comparisons to the classic film Scarface, then…ehhh.  The movie was just okay. It wasn’t along the same lines of the Pacino/DePalma classic, it didn’t really move me, nothing about it was very memorable, even though it was a solid film.  It was just another movie and that was disappointing. I still haven’t seen it since.

2008 – Be Kind, Rewind & Blindness

Be Kind, Rewind

Be Kind featured Mos Def and Jack Black, an odd and intriguing pairing, mixed with the directing talents of Michel Gondry, and the result was one of the weakest movies of the year.  Mos was almost impossible to watch (to listen to him), the lo-fi film recreation storyline should have been a lot more fun, and it really amounted to a schlocky, underwhelming piece, that made me further question the talents of those involved, and have highly soured me on Gondry as a director. He has to earn back the good will that he built with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I don’t know that he is up to the task.

Blindness

This turned out to be the biggest rip-off ending in a film that I have seen in years.  With Fernando Meirelles helming one of my favorite films of the past decade and a high-ranking personal favorite of all-time in the amazing City of God, this was an opportunity to see him take the next huge step as a director and reap the rewards that fans of City of God wanted for him. (Fernando, feel free to mix in a Lil’ Dice cameo).  Instead, he didn’t take advantage.  The movie kept your attention (though not easily) for the duration and then yanked the rug out from beneath your feet in a horrendous ending.  I don’t know that I will ever forgive him.  BTW, Fernando, call me – because in truth I don’t remember the ending, I just know I absolutely hated it.

2009 – Bronson, Watchmen, The Hangover & Public Enemies

Bronson

Tom Hardy was Bronson, pre-Inception.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s film built up as A Clockwork Orange type of film, but was nothing more than a weird, sordid tale about a guy, told in an odd, and rather uninspiring way.  I was very high for the film before I saw it only to be incredibly let down. It was actually hard to make it through. I know it was based on a true story, but it didn’t redeem it at all for me. I hoped for a lot more.

Watchmen

This was a film that had a great trailer. Normally I wouldn’t have had much interest in a film like this, but it was built up to be perhaps one of the biggest movies ever, and landed with a rather resounding thud.  This wasn’t a horrible work, but if you counter it with a movie like The Dark Knight which more than matched the hype, it only exaggerated the difference of what this film might have been.  I think Zack Snyder may be able to become an interesting director, but he also might be the next Michael Bay. At this point, the meter is swinging in the “Bay” direction. Not good.

The Hangover

I don’t like comedies. Rarely, do they ever live up to my expectations, which are, I don’t know, how do I say this, to….laugh during the movie.  Is that too much to ask?  Absolutely. I chuckled two to three times during the film.  That does not a good movie make, nor is it worthy of being the biggest comedy of all-time.  This movie exemplifies how different the tastes of mainstream America and mine are.  I envy you, mainstream audiences.  To derive enjoyment from such average work must be nice. I wish I was as easily entertained, but alas, I am not. I’d rather be hung over, than watch The Hangover.  It was not believable, nor very fun.

Public Enemies

I have to include this movie on the list, because we did a dedication week to Michael Mann here on The Film Nest, and I (essentially) had breakfast with the man a few months ago. I was hoping for another movie along the lines of his previous actioners such as Heat and Collateral.  This did not match that.  I don’t think that this is a bad movie by any means, it just wasn’t great, and I thought it had the potential to be that.

Casting Johnny Depp (a feminine man in a masculine role) was the starting point of this heading down the wrong path.  The action was ordinary and you didn’t care enough about the characters to engage in the story.  It was a movie you simply watched but didn’t interact with. For that, it makes the disappointing list.  And Michael, next time we are at breakfast, easy with the staring at me brother, I’m just trying to eat and mind my own business.  Don’t use me for your script inspiration – unless of course, you really, really needed it.

I hope all movies I see are entertaining, but the odds are stacked wildly against me.  In the next five years, if I lower my expectations, perhaps there won’t be a need to compile such a list. I’m counting on you Hollywood, to bail me out.  If not, my pen (or keyboard in this case) is ready. Good luck.

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Twelve Movies From The Last Five Years That I Wanted To Like But Didn’t – Part One of Two

Twelve Movies From The Last Five Years That I Wanted To Like But Didn’t – Part One of Two

Twelve Movies From The Last Five Years That I Wanted To Like But Didn’t – Part One of Two

Right off the bat, I don’t want the title of the article to be misleading.  In my eyes, it’s a given that you want to like every movie you see.  That’s the reason you pay money to go to the theater or take the time to rent and watch a movie.  Sure there are some movies that you have low expectations (or no expectations) for and end up being pleasantly surprised. But what I am concerned about here are movies that I was looking forward to seeing and came away disappointed.  These are, as the title states, movies that I wanted to like but ultimately didn’t (or I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as I had hoped to).

This is an entirely subjective list.  I understand that.  I’ll say right off the top that these are not movies that I saw that were ruined by a particular experience taking place either – i.e., a bad movie-going experience where teens are talking all the time (one of the reasons I prefer to see films in an empty theater usually, and often by myself) or your dog just went to the vet and the bill was $1,000 and you tried to watch a movie to cheer up, unsuccessfully. These are simply movies that I wanted to be better.

I should also specify that these aren’t the worst movies I saw in a given year; these just didn’t live up to my expectations.  There is a reason I have learned to temper my expectations for movies throughout the years, and it is because of film viewing experiences such as these. Note: Movies are from 2006-2010, hence, the 5-year window.

2006

Clerks II & The Fountain

Clerks II is kind of a given, considering the classic that Kevin Smith’s original Clerks is.  As far as I am concerned, his whole career has been a struggle to live up to the expectations he set with that film.  (That being said, while still a classic, even Clerks is incredibly flawed upon repeated viewings).  Still, the sequel was ridiculous and over-the-top where the poor acting stood out more.  He should have went back to B&W film stock and shot that for $100,000 to force everyone to become more creative.  I know that’s a tall task, but still, adding Rosario Dawson didn’t help. This was one of the worst movies I saw that year.

The Fountain suffers a similar fate for a different reason.  While not an awful movie, director Darren Aronofsky was coming off his incredible Requiem For A Dream (6 years earlier, but still), and you had two reasonably big stars (Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz) and a big budget.  I expected so much more from this bizarre fantasy film. It just didn’t do it for me (and I don’t think I am alone here).

2007

Death Proof, The Darjeeling Limited & Transformers

Noticing a theme here already? I am.  These are all movies from directors I like (or want to) and the movies failed to move me.  Quentin Tarantino made three of my favorite films in years past with the triumvirate of Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction (particularly P.F.) and Reservoir Dogs. Then he wasted his (and my) time making this schlock.  I know its supposed to look cheesy, and aside from the purposely edited film stock that made the film look like a true B-level movie, the acting and story were just weak.

This was a pointless exercise to me.  I know that this is not the most popular opinion among film (nerds) fans and Tarantino backers, but I call people out when they deserve it. He redeemed himself with Inglorious Basterds, so there.

Transformers is just devastating for personal reasons. Making it a kid’s film (robots hiding behind the house from parents? Really?) was tantamount to heresy for me.  I need to see Megatron as a size defying Gun and not a plane.  All of the robots had virtually the exact same voice save for Peter Cullen’s distinctive Optimus Prime.  This made it hard to care about any of them much. Where was Starscream’s high-pitched whine? I needed it.

On the positive side, the effects were cool, but not enough to save the film for me.  I can live with the human element (though its not easy), with the love story and all, but while most of my friends enjoyed it (the last time I saw a movie in a rather large group), I was not down.  I have yet to see it’s sequel either. Michael Bay should finally go darker with the next film (like Christopher Nolan’s Batman/Dark Knight) and then we might have something to work with.

The Darjeeling Limited began to show Wes Anderson’s time in the spotlight was fading.  I still enjoyed his previous effort, 2004’s Life Aquatic, and Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums are great movies, but Darjeeling did little for me.  You have the Wilson brothers and add in Jason Schwarztman, I expect so much more.  One particular moment, a J.Schwartz ad-libbed hand lick was the only redeeming thing in this movie.  I was highly disappointed with the art-house hero on this one.

Semi-redeemed himself with Fantastic Mr. Fox, but the jury is now out on Anderson.  Wish I could say the same thing for M.Night Shyamalan, but its no longer out on him. He just sucks now.

Part Two with the other movies will come soon enough. Stay tuned and share your comments on this so far. Thanks.

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Latest Movie Rentals / Movies Seen From My Netflix Queue

Latest Movie Rentals / Movies Seen From My Netflix Queue

Since there are as many slow days from a quality news standpoint in this industry as there are, I figured I would go ahead and do a recap of some of the movies I have recently seen from my Netflix queue.  These will just be quick shots, mini-reviews of these dvd rentals; just my feelings on the films I have seen.  I’ll try to update a post like this every so often, once I have enough to report on.  Maybe every month or two, something along those lines. Just work with me on this, cool?  I’ll even throw in my Netflix rating, based on their 5-star system.  Not the same system I use here, so my official The Film Nest ratings might be different.  Anyway, here are the latest movie rentals I have seen from my Netflix queue.

Brooklyn’s Finest

 

Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes in Brooklyn's Finest.

 

This is a movie I was really excited about upon first hearing about it, but then mediocre reviews led me to skip it in theaters.  (This is a common theme with many of my Netflix movies BTW.)  Nevertheless, the movie didn’t do it for me.  I was hoping for a mini-New Jack City or Training Day, but while in some ways it came off as Training Day 2, with Ethan Hawke still there, I’ve never been a huge Richard Gere fan, though he was fine here.  Visually the film was good looking, it just didn’t have any emotional resonance and the script was a bit jumbled.  Essentially a talking head movie, when I was hoping for something more action oriented.  The suspense was there, but something was just missing.  2 stars of 5

The Wolfman

Benicio really didn’t need much make-up to become the Wolfman, based on the original film.  Cheesy graphics didn’t help this.  The film had a strange tone.  Really, Emily Blunt’s character is going to fall for the Wolfman even though her husband/fiancee just died?  Silly really.  There wasn’t enough rhyme or reason to why certain things were the way they were in the film.  Hopkins was actually tolerable as Wolfman senior, but this was just a poor effort overall.  1 star/5

Edge of Darkness

 

Mel Gibson dreams of Oksana's fate. Just kidding. I think.

 

Mel Gibson’s return to the big screen before we heard the recent tapes from dude’s personal life.  He is thrashed, but again, I was down with seeing him return to his action roots.  Unfortunately, this was far too much if a talky to ever get too involved.  Where was the action? This was basically him investigating the entire time.  Disappointed.  The best part was (spoiler!) when that chick got killed by a car when exiting Mel’s vehicle. That was cool.  2 stars/5

Shutter Island

I’d already seen it in theaters, so you can see what I felt about it right here.  Very good movie.

The Book of Eli

Denzel and the Hughes Brothers sounded like an intriguing combination.  The look of the film was cool, with the washed out film stock.  I actually liked this about as much as I expected to.  I didn’t find the spiritual elements too overwhelming and actually thought that the end of the movie was pretty cool.  Maybe a little unrealistic for Denzel to care about the Mila Kunis character enough to worry about her the way he did, but it made for a decent film.  3 stars/5

Un Prophete (A Prophet)

This was a bit of an unexpected movie in terms of the way it played out.  It is set nearly entirely in prison, on the inside.  Not what I was expecting from a story about the rise of a kid into a gangster, baller.  Still, it was unique, a little gritty and pretty cool direction.  I was overall pleased.  If you can handle the foreign aspect of the film, I recommend it.  It was a little graphic in its violence and had some weird undertones with the ghost hanging around as much as he did, but still a nice work.  4 stars/5

The Burning Plain

I’ll watch a lot of Charlize Theron since I respect here so much as an actress.  This movie qualifies as one I wouldn’t otherwise have seen.  Catching Charlize naked was enough to make me finish the film.  Unfortunately, it all takes place the first five minutes of the movie.  Still, the story was interesting, if a little uneven.  I was down with the youngsters forbidden love storyline.  This was one of those full circle sort of films.  Not enough to recommend it highly though.  2 stars/5

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell

 

Bad acting is the law in I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell.

 

I expected this to be unwatchable and it essentially was.  Its a guy movie through and through and yet it plays the happy-ending card at the end.  Completely lame, with marginal acting, an unbelievable story in some ways (that was supposedly based on true events); I am just shocked I actually sat through it all. A rare movie I watched during daylight hours just to finish the film.  Highly unrewarding in every way. 1 star/5

District 9 (Note: o.g. review not mine)

Saw it already last year and liked it enough to re-watch it. Not quite as good the second time through, but still an original story. Check it if you are a sci-fi fan. 4 stars/5

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Comic-Con Movies: Win, Lose or Draw

Comic-Con Movies: Win, Lose or Draw

Every year, Comic-Con in San Diego is one of the biggest events for studios to unleash the latest in upcoming films.  The event has grown from a pequeno little event for comic book fans to an industry extravaganza where studios and stars come out to hype the latest in films, whether they are in production, have wrapped, or are still at the very early planning stages.  Various announcements are made with regards to casting (the big one this year was with regards to Mark Ruffalo’s replacement of Edward Norton as the Hulk in The Avengers upcoming movie) and general hoopla, panels and parties are held. It all sounds so, well, like so much hype.  I have never attended.

That being said, I still try to keep you abreast of the most significant of happenings there.  Usually, those are an announcement or two and some footage in regards to trailers.  Last year, there was probably a little more info, due to Avatar having a presence, but there are still some interesting pieces to report on from this year.

I have read a few things on what the “results” of this years event are.  By results, I mean, what films came out ahead, what got left behind, or what stayed about the same on the expectation meter.  So, I give you win, lose or draw from Comic-con, primarily based on the piece done by Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times.  I will add my own thoughts based on what his takes are of the events proceedings with regards to films we are ready to see, this year or next, and maybe in a case or two, even 2012.

The Winners:

Cowboys & Aliens

This makes sense given that Jon Favreau has been known to be incredibly fan friendly and interactive at Comic-Con (and other events for that matter).  He can do no wrong in fans eyes, given the popularity and success of both his Iron Man films.  Additionally, bringing Harrison Ford out for a public display during the Cowboys & Aliens panel, only served to heighten the experience.  That being said, this 2011 movie is one of the farthest from release/earliest stages of production, of about any film that was discussed at Comic-Con. SZ said bringing Ford out is “precisely the kind of Comic-Con moment that’s long forgotten when a film finally comes out.”  I couldn’t agree more, but this is off to a good start.

The Expendables

This was kind of being looked at as a potentially nice action film, a trip down memory lane for all the big names involved, but Sylvester Stallone‘s movie gained the most goodwill from the event it sounds like.  SZ says “Comic-Con has sealed its fate: “The Expendables” (“Explodables?”) is destined to open big.”  I am not surprised by this, when Sly rolls out several other cast members for a butt-kicking good time.  But to me, the film may not offer enough to get me excited. I am still on the fence as to whether this will be a cheesy good time or just a boring clunker with big names.  If I had to put my money on it, it would be both.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

This is one of those movies that visually looks wholly original, which is a good thing.  Fans ate up the media blitz at Comic-con.  Whether that will translate into box-office success remains a question mark though.  This seems similar to Kick-Ass which generated buzz in San Diego last year, only to see middling (small) box office results.  Star Michael Cera is the x-factor; a make or break film in a sense I believe.

Draw:

Let Me In

This is a remake of an underseen Swedish “horror” film from two years ago, Let The Right One In.  It seems as if fans basically want the same movie, but in English, if this is to work.  I think positioning the film in the horror genre means it needs to deliver more jumps and scares than the original, which actually was more of a character vampire piece.  I am curious to see how this goes.  I liked the original enough to have an interest, but will US audiences as a whole feel the same? SZ saw this one as a potentially slightly positive churning film.

Sucker Punch

Director Zack Snyder‘s 300 and Watchmen earned him hype for this female-centric film.  Rolling out a half-dozen cast members was only going to work in the film’s favor for this event.  But whether or not the movie will draw women (or enough men) remains to be seen.  Watchmen was a disappointment on release, so I can’t help but think that Sucker Punch, even with its lower expectations, won’t wow at the turnstiles.  Hmmm.

Tron: Legacy

Hype was already pretty high for this one, so #sdcc did nothing to diminish that.  It will be interesting to see if the old generation of cult fans for the original turn out for the new spin from Disney.  The footage didn’t wow me, but I still expect this to be well-received.  SZ says it is “well-positioned” as a December release this year.  Probably so.

The Losers:

Thor

This has been one of those films that continues to look like a failure thus far and Comic-Con’s presentation didn’t do enough to sway that opinion, here or there, it seems.  SZ says “it was impossible not to hear the dissenting voices questioning, perhaps fairly, the histrionic costume-drama of the exposition and the generic explosions that followed. For some reason we have a feeling these voices will only grow louder.” This one just has looked generic to me thus far, but it is Marvel so there is still hope that this will turn in the right direction in the next year before its release.  I remain skeptical though.

The Green Hornet

I read elsewhere a piece on the question of what director Michel Gondry had done to warrant such fanboy lust.  After reading the piece and thinking about it myself, I had to concur.  I mean, he has done some great things visually in commercials, and I really enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but honestly, his resume beyond that film as a director is pretty bad.  A list of movies you’d like to like, but didn’t.  Ditto for star Seth Rogen in my book.  A fresh face in Knocked Up, has really turned into a one-trick pony incapable of being a lead and carrying a film on his own.  Add that to the fact this is supposed to be an action movie, and I can’t help but think this will bomb.  SZ says “The panel was vexed by the same problem as the trailer: the inability to choose, or find the right space, between comedy and the more serious business of superhero mythology. This one made few inroads at Comic-Con.”  Not a good sign.

Share your thoughts on what films on this list you are excited about and which maybe, you are not as thrilled about.  I’m listening.

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Inception Movie Review

Inception Movie Review

Inception is an amazing movie.  There is no sense in moving forward with a full review without first getting that out of the way.  Christopher Nolan and his team, with a cast that is led by the sterling Leonardo DiCaprio, have made a complex, innovative, and compelling film that will be talked about for years to come, let alone is an early awards season favorite.  It is likely the best film that I have seen in the last five years and perhaps longer.  Yes, it is that good.

Now that the superlatives are out of the way, let me tell you a bit about the film that has been hyped on the internet for at least a year.  Inception is a difficult film to define, which will leave you questioning the events you have seen from start to finish.  The idea of inception, is the concept of planting an idea in someone’s mind, in order to make that idea a reality within the individual.  It may sound complex, and it is, but it also is very compelling.

In the film, DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb is a master at entering people’s dream states and stealing their ideas for various uses.  Cobb has a team of rogues that include Arthur (the continually maturing Joseph Gordon Levitt of 500 Days of Summer fame), Tom Hardy’s (Bronson and RocknRolla) impersonator Eames and the rookie architect Ariadne (Juno’s Ellen Page).  The team’s members are all capable of interacting with one another within a dream state.

While Cobb has largely been a stealer of ideas, with the concept of inception, his goal is to plant an strong idea in Robert Fischer’s (Cillian Murphy) mind, as a favor (paid) to billionaire Saito (Ken Watanabe), so that Tom will regain his freedom and be able to return to the United States and see his children.  Cobb has been living on the lam internationally since he was forced from the US upon an accusation that he killed his wife (Marion Cotillard).

Entering the mind is a challenging art as the mind has defense mechanisms built in to defend itself against theft, which is played out in the film in various forms as well.  That is the essential groundwork one can know, in order to grasp the basic principles of what will take place in the movie.  Almost anything else would be considered a spoiler; a slippery slope as it is.  That being said, the journey that Nolan’s Inception takes you on is an incredibly immersing and creative one.

The visual effects are top notch, the creativity involved truly makes a dream world come to life unlike any film I can recall witnessing.  Physics and time rules are tossed out the window (trains travel down the middle of the street, building are bent, gravity shifts – all at a moments notice), and similar to being in a dream, things happen seemingly at random until the “kick”, which is a reference to being jolted awake.

Most everyone knows the feeling of falling from a cliff in their dream and bouncing awake on their bed. Inception takes that fundamental feeling and explains how it happens.

The movie is an incredible thing to witness.  You are taken on a journey across continents, torrential weather changes, shape shifting worlds where houses float and stairs end and begin as you create them in your mind.  Throw that on top of the strong acting and incredible direction.  If you thought The Dark Knight or Memento was Nolan’s strongest point, you can now cast such thoughts aside.

Inception is the clear-cut leader in the awards race for best picture, director and technical achievement at this juncture, if nothing else.  The Oscars, Golden Globes and others will be hard pressed to find a yet to be released film to top it.  A tall statement in July I understand, but one I believe will hold true nevertheless. Inception combines the striking visuals and mind bending concepts of a film like The Matrix, the action of the Bourne trilogy, with the emotional core of a film like Slumdog Millionaire and rolls them into one challenging whole. Inception is a film that demands repeated viewings and philosophical discussions for those truly trying to discern specific answers to it, but even those who leave their minds at the door can enter into a dreamlike state and just take it all in.

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Knight-and-day

Knight and Day Movie Review Starring Tom Cruise

Knight and Day is a difficult movie to define.  It is equal parts screwball comedy and action with elements of romance and espionage thriller sprinkled in.  Director James Mangold aims to let the audience in on the fun directly and the results are a mixed bag.

Knight and Day Sees A Return to Form for Star Tom Cruise

On one hand, you have two stars with genuine chemistry between them.  Tom Cruise movies used to be an event, but his star has dimmed a bit in recent years.  Here he plays rogue CIA agent Roy Miller, a man who has fallen out of favor with the agency over what has been deemed to be behavior contradictory to the best interests of the organization.  Cameron Diaz is everyday girl June Havens, an innocent bystander who gets caught up in the web of intrigue as an unknown pawn between Miller and the CIA agents who are tracking him.

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz fire away in Knight and Day.

A third group of sinister types are also in pursuit of Miller, for he is deemed to control a prototype energy battery that is as small as a normal AA Duracell, but can power an entire city with its efficiency.  Miller has the battery and everyone else wants it, so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.  Whose hands are truly wrong, becomes the twist beyond the action in figuring out this cat and mouse game.

Cameron Diaz Lends Notable Star Wattage to the Cast of Knight and Day

Cruise leaves a trail of bodies in his wake in broad daylight, so believability must be thrown out the door right away, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from the film’s effectiveness or lack thereof.  Mangold opens the film in an airport, and from plane to train to automobile destruction follows in this Bond-esqe actioner.

Cruise and Diaz run/ride with the bulls in Knight and Day.

Miller is a wild card with a good heart (it seems) but Havens can never know for sure.  While June gets swept up as a kidnapped pawn of sorts, it is unclear as to why she is along for the ride.  However, her feelings and desire for fun certainly play a part in that.  But what sane woman would want to entrench herself with a potentially unstable CIA operative who literally leaves dozens of bodies dead littered around her on multiple occasions?  Such is the type of film we are dealing with.

Director James Mangold Might Have Been the Wrong Call to Lead Knight and Day

It’s a messy and inconsistent script that follows its leads through several continents and locations that cause the whole enterprise to tumble.   Mangold, who made his name with dramatic films like Girl, Intterupted and Walk The Line, might not have been the right choice to helm here.  It is unclear whether the lo-tech digital enhancements are merely there to aid in the whole feeling of cheesiness or if they are simply a result of an insufficient post-production budget.  One may never know or care.

Knight and Day is not a bad film experience, but it’s not a strong one either.  It is actually a decent time at the movies if you check your sense of reality at the door.  Mangold’s film is geared toward the date-going crowd, which it marginally satisfies, without breaking any significant ground in the process.  It is a unique film for this day and age, in some ways it feels like a throwback to the Cannonball Run days, but it just isn’t as successful in its execution as one would hope for.  See it if interested, pass if on the fringe.

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