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Inception (2010)

What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.

— Dominic Cobb

Inception is one of my most anticipated films of the summer. I was worried that this movie was hyped up too much for me to enjoy fully enjoy it. It is currently the #3 Movie of All Time on IMDb. That scares me, because the same thing happened with The Dark Knight. I did not see the theatrical trailer, read any reviews or look at the promos for this movie. I wanted to go into this movie fresh with no bias whatsoever. All I thought about when I saw this movie was making it a drinking game, hearing the word “dream” uttered.

This mind-bending movie is about how complex the human mind can truly be when an extractor Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has the ability to go into people minds. He’s sorta like a mental bodyguard that provides security for his clients’ important secrets, but he ultimately steals from them.

He is outsmarted by a shady businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe) who wants to use Dom and his associates to penetrate the mind of his rival’s son, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). In return for his participation, Saito will reunite Dom with the family that he abandoned when his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard) kills herself to make it look like he did it.

Dom puts together his team together with his researcher that creates a dossier on their mark, Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), his shifter to trick the subject to be any person in the dream, Eames (Tom Hardy) and the chemist who will inject the team with a special sedative that will allow them to sleep, Yusuf (Dileep Rao).

They need an architect which is essentially a person that could create and keep up the façade of delving into a person’s mind. Dom goes to his former professor; Miles (Michael Caine) to enlist a person that could be as good as him sense his memories about Mal easily distract him. Miles suggests Ariadne (Ellen Page), who is quickly tested about discerning what reality is and what is not.

On an international flight after Fischer’s father, Maurice (Pete Postlethwaite) dies, the team drugs Fischer. When the team goes into Fischer’s mind, they didn’t realize that his mind would be heavily fortified with a projected army that could threaten their mission and their only way to wake up.

What can I say about this movie? I understand that Nolan wanted to make a cinematic version of M.C. Escher painting about how the mind play tricks on you. I thought I was tricked. At first, I didn’t know what the hell was going on. When Ellen Page’s character came in, she was like the audience who is trying to understand this world she knows nothing about. The endless exposition doesn’t help matters when random characters try to tell you about the human psyche. It’s like you are sitting in a long boring lecture in college.

My brain broke with this movie. I could not follow it worth a damn. I wanted to follow along, but I got lost somewhere in the first hour of this 2 ½ hour opus. I tried to focus on Dom’s guilt over his wife’s death. That went away. Next, I tried to focus on the action with seemed like it came out of The Matrix with a tinge of a Lionel Ritchie video thrown in there. Lastly, I tried to hold on to the ending which is ambiguous and up to your personal interpretation. If you know that the ending is coming, it’s not fun.

This film is not fun or cool. If it was something like Primer about a dialogue that went over my head, but was still cool, I would understand. I was yawning in this movie. I lowered my expectations with this movie because of the hype that The Prestige got and I hated that movie. I think this movie tried to be too ambitious. I got nothing out of it.

The whole idea of going into people’s minds sounds good on paper, but onscreen you’re like, “Who gives a fuck about the different levels of the mind.” The whole reasoning behind the inception mission was petty and selfish. I believe Christopher Nolan created this movie for himself to enjoy. It seems that he has to dumb it down for the audience with endless amounts of exposition. It seems arrogant and condescending. I’m insulted by the notion. I expected more.

Judgment: This movie is like a Rubik Cube that never gets solved. Don’t bother trying.

Rating: **

Mysterious Skin (2004)

I hate it when they look like Tarzan but sound like Jane.

–Neil

The genesis of me watching writer/director Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin was that I was in a forum and people were talking about Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance in that movie. It had me intrigued to see it with his career going up with his Golden Globe nominated performance in (500) Days of Summer and being in Inception, which I plan to see. Hearing that this movie was tough to watch is an understatement, it was painfully derivative that I pity the actors in this movie.

The movie revolves around two boys Brian Lackey (George Webster) and Neil McCormick (Chase Ellison) beginning in 1981, when they were nine. Brian is an ordinary dorky kid with Jeffery Dahmer glasses that suffers from nightmares, frequent nosebleeds and constant blackouts. He doesn’t know why they are happening. I wasn’t until one night when he is with his mom (Lisa Long) and sister, Deborah (Rachael Nastassja Kraft) are visited by a UFO on their roof.

Neil is the complete opposite. He comes from a broke home with his mother (Elisabeth Shue) is going out with different guys every night. Neil finds himself attracted to the Marlboro Man types that his mom brings home. When his mom enlists Neil into pee-wee baseball, Neil becomes infatuated with the Coach (Bill Sage). The feeling is mutual when Neil becomes the star player of the team. He is invited to the Coach’s house where he grooms and seduces Neil.

Brian, now Brady Corbet, grows up to be a bright young man, but he is haunted by his experience when he was younger. He wants to find answers to questions that he seeks. Looking at the television one day on a program called “World of Mystery”; Brian watched the story of Avalyn Friesen (Mary Lynn Rajskub) who recounted her experience being abducted. He tries to seek her out to bond over their shared experiences.

Neil, now Joseph Gordon Levitt, grows up to be a hustler for older men which doesn’t sit too well with his childhood friend, Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg) who is constantly worried about his safety and his health sleeping with random men who pick him up. Neil’s other gay friend, Eric (Jeffrey Licon) has a little crush on him, but he knows nothing with happen between them because Neil is focused on making money. It seems like these two stories are different, but it intersects in the most mundane way possible.

I am baffled about the praise that has been bestowed upon this movie. It’s ranked in the movie seventies on IMDb and Metacritic. Personally, I was pissed off at the movie for perpetuating gay stereotypes. Being a gay man myself, I hate it when a kid is molested or raped, they turn out gay. That is not always the case. For some reason, they have to be a hustler craving for male attention.

I am pissed off at the “mystery” of this movie. There is no mystery. I knew what was going to happen before it did. It was like the director was talking down to the audience. I was not swept up by the narrative to care about the obvious ending. Sure, it was sad and disgusting, but I was not happy with the movie. Neil is not the brightest bulb in the pack, but he should have some common sense about the Johns he brings home. He’s not the greatest hustler ever. I don’t know why guys went for him. Wasn’t it because he looked like a prepubescent kid?

The whole storyline with Brian was completely one side and poorly done. I thought the movie was about Neil’s journey. He is on the poster and everything. I thought Neil was toying with the audience with his voice-overs, but it was suppose to be integral to the ending of the movie.

Judgment: I cannot recommend this movie. If you want to see a movie this subject done better, I would suggest L.I.E.

Rating: *1/2

Shadowboxer (2005)

Feeling protected is very seductive.

— Rose

After I saw the trailer for Helen Mirren’s upcoming flick, Red, I thought I was seeing the other movie that plays an assassin. Lee Daniel’s directorial début film, Shadowboxer has some controversy with a scene with Stephen Dorff going full frontal in the movie. Trust me, I saw the pictures and video. Excuse me for going off topic. I knew very little about this movie, except it was about assassins and that’s all I should have known about it.

Mirren plays an aging assassin, Rose that has terminal cancer. The type of cancer was not discussed.  Her companion, Mikey (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) tries to comfort her as she knows that her time is running out. She begins to talk about God, heaven and the afterlife when she receives her last mission from their wheelchair bound handler, Andrew (Tom Pasch). The mission is to take out the wife of a fellow hitman, Clayton (Stephen Dorff).

Clayton conveniently goes on a trip for the hit to happen. Rose and Mikey gain access to the house and take out the bodyguards that are protecting Clayton’s wife, Vicki (Vanessa Ferlito). In the back bedroom, Vicki is talking on the phone with her girlfriend, Neisha (Macy Gray) who tells her to be careful about the company she is keeping. She doesn’t like Clayton at all and not afraid to say it.

After getting off the phone, Vicki noticed that it is eerily quiet.  Rose stealthily comes into the room for the intention to kill her, but she realizes that Vicki is pregnant. She has a change of heart to not shoot this woman. The trauma of the ordeal causes Vicki to go into labor. Rose decides to deliver the baby with the reluctant help of Mikey who thinks that they should finish the job.

After delivering the baby, Rose decides to take the mother and child with them in hiding. Before they do so, she summons Dr. Don (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to come and look at the twosome. He brings along his crack addicted girlfriend, ironically named Precious, played by Mo’Nique, who is jealous of his strange relationship with Rose.

As Rose unofficially retires, she decides to take Vicki and the baby out of the city and into a suburban life, trying to be like a blended family. The strange turn of events does not sit too well with Mikey, being a father figure to a kid that they were hired to kill.

Being that this was Daniel’s first film, I could see that he tried too hard to make a good movie here. It tried to be grand with the musical choices of classical music going into rap music. There were scenes of saturated lights and falling leaves that came straight out of a feminine hygiene commercial. The tone seems off with an assassin story with a family drama and the “comic relief”, which was the lush Neisha. I did not like her in this role. Her voice drove me crazy. I have never been so happy to see a character die in all my life.

As I stated earlier, there is a lot of obvious symbolism here with the older woman, Rose is dying and she wanted to save a woman that is about to bring new life into the world, Vicki. It’s not very subtle. The abundance of crosses is not lost on me about life and death. How do we live our lives and how it all ends? Is there a Heaven or Hell? Will we be remembered after we are gone? Yeah, I get it.

It seems that the movie tried to be a different take on the typical assassin movie, but it ended up being horribly predictable at the end.

Judgment: Google the interesting scenes to save you from sitting through this movie.

Rating: **

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

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People don’t realize this, but loneliness is underrated.

— Tom

(500) Days of Summer is director Marc Webb’s first long length feature film dealing with not just “any another love story, but a story about love.” Missing out on the special screening for this movie two earlier, I eagerly anticipated watching this.

Critics have been praising this movie since Sundance this year. It has a Metacritic score of 76 and being currently #115 of the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb list. Does it deserve to have such high praise? Yes, for the most part.

Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a hapless greeting card writer that is taken with his new co-worker, Summer (Zooey Deschanel). He is the ultimate hopeless romantic that completely falls hard for Summer. Summer cannot reciprocate Tom’s feelings. She wants to keep him at a distance. Tom believe in love and Summer thinks that the word is bullshit.

Summer only wants to be “friends” with Tom, but Tom wants more than that. He wants Summer to be “his girlfriend”, “the one”, “his everything”, “his love.” Summer cannot give him that. She continually breaks his heart every chance that she gets.

The story is told as a broken narrative. You start with the end of the relationship and flash back to them meeting for the first time and everything in between. Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber shows the audience the ups and downs, the joyous moments and the painful ones as well. This movie does not shy away from the tough parts that make you want to turn away from the screen.

There is one perfect sequence that is so true, so real that I will break your heart. Watch out for it.

Anybody that has been in a relationship will relate greatly to this movie. Everybody knows what it is like to be attracted to a person, waiting to see if they feel the same way. When is the best time to say “I love you”? How long does it take to fully commit to that person? What happens with you fall out of love? Do you want to get back with them? What if the feelings changed over time? There are endless questions that have to be asked in a relationship.

Let’s say that this movie is not perfect. The narration by Richard McGonagle bothers me greatly. We don’t need a narrator telling us the life story of Tom and Summer. It’s unnecessary. The beginning sequences were a little rocky to start, borderline boring.

Whenever Tom has a problem with Summer, he goes to seek the advice of his tween sister, Rachel (Chloe Moretz), who has all the answers for him.  Say what? What does a thirteen year old girl know about an adult relationship. No kid could be that astute.

There are some vignettes that took me out of the film. Cannot discuss them without spoiling the movie.

Judgment: Do not watch this movie with your significant other.

Rating: ****1/2

Brick (2005)

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Maybe I’ll just sit here and bleed at you.

— Brendan Frye

I heard about Rian Johnson’s first feature film, Brick,  from multiple people saying that it was the best movie that they have ever seen. I will not name names, but I have to pose this question: What’s the big fucking deal?

I watched the opening sequence to his latest movie, The Brothers Bloom on Hulu on I loved it. I wondered, what the hell happened?

The movie stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as Brendan Fye, the “detective” in this 1940s film noir transplanted in high school in the present. He discovers his girlfriend, Emily’s (Emilie de Ravin) body. He tries to find the culprit who did it.

When I first started the movie, I had an inkling about what the movie was about; The lens flare, the “Dawson Creek” style dialogue, the Dutch angles, etc.

I had no fucking idea what was going on. You have people that are my age (late 20s) playing high schoolers. Come on! Really? It’s just pathetic.

The characters were uninteresting as was the situations that Brendan found himself in. Why was he in the same clothes throughout the movie? This movie went above and beyond normal human comprehension.

I’m not saying that the movie was awful. It was boring. It tries to hard to be great cinema. It fails on every single level.

Judgment: If you want to be mind raped by a film, see this movie.

Rating: **

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