Blog Archives

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: **

Advertisements

Gangs of New York (2002)

I took the father, now I’ll take the son.

— Bill the Butcher

I have been meaning to watch Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, but I didn’t want to devote the time to it. When I saw the “Top Five Irish Films” on Matt’s site, CyniCritics, I thought I would visit this movie. It stirred up controversy when it was campaign to pick up any of its ten Oscar nominations in 2002 when it something happened to make it shut out in every single category. I felt bad that it went home empty-handed. Looking at it now, I kinda see why.

Taking place during Civil War era New York City, the film focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man returning back to his old stomping ground at the Five Points. where sixteen years earlier, he witnessed his father, Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), the leader of the Dead Rabbits get killed by a rival gang leader, the head of the Natives, William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

An old friend of his, Johnny (Henry Thomas) tells about the disintegration of the city. The name “Dead Rabbits” was never spoken of again. The members of the Dead Rabbits integrated into the Natives. The city has been divided with no clear leader to rise up against Bill and his regime. The climate of the city is ripe with tension from the Natives having boatloads of Irishman coming to the city, blacks being somewhat free and Abraham Lincoln being vilified as a traitor.

After the duo loots a house where rival fire bridges are fighting to see who would put out the fire, they bump into Bill. Bill doesn’t know anything about the son of Priest Vallon coming back, even though his gang sent him away to Hellgate: House of Reform. Every year, Bill pays tribute to the anniversary of killing Priest in a ritual every year, which he relays to his new protégé, Amsterdam that he lets him run his shady dealings.

Amsterdam tries to live out the adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” As an assassin tried to kill Bill, Amsterdam stops him for succeeding in what he wanted to do. They become closer. When an ally betrays Amsterdam, he is forced to regroup the old gang to rise up against Bill.

I know that Scorsese wanted to make a movie that chronicle the shaping of New York City the way that is today. I get it, but I thought this movie did not get the point across. I did not care about any of the characters. It was a typical revenge story set in the 19th century. I spent almost three hours of buildup to get premature ejaculation. What I mean by that is that I thought the big showdown was anti-climatic. Shit. It was literally two minutes. What a disappointment.

Judgment: Have you read my last paragraph?

Rating: **1/2

Blood Diamond (2006)

In America, it’s bling bling. But out here it’s bling bang.

— Danny Archer

Blood Diamond was a movie that I intentionally stayed away from when it was released in 2006 ,because of the overt political message that slapping you upside the head with it. I did see the ending of the movie when I was flipping the channels one day. If I saw the ending that liked it, I should see the rest of it. The movie is an unflinching look at a war zone, but the message is heavy handed.

Taking place in Sierra Leone circa 1999, the story mainly focused on a civil war between the people over the control of diamond fields there. Many people have died, even though no one of them has actually seen a diamond. Ambassador Walker (Stephen Collins) tells a panel that the Africans have been killing themselves over precious resources for years. Now they have turned to diamonds as their next source of strife. The blood diamonds are purchased for weapons that made the civil war drag on. He wants to prohibit the purchase of conflict diamonds. The US makes up the majority of diamond sales.

A fisherman, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou) walks with his only son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) from school, when he sees a bunch of soldiers from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) gunning down men, women and children in their village of Shenge. Solomon tries to save his family from the ongoing massacre, but he is captured while they escape. The reason behind the shooting is that the rebels don’t the people to vote to change the way things were. Solomon is sent as labor to mine diamonds. While at the mines, Solomon finds a 100 carat light pink diamond. He buries it, but it caught when the Sierra Leone troops attack rebels and captures alike. Shoot first, ask questions later. He is taken for being rebel in their eyes.

A Rhodesian diamond smuggler, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) pretends to be with National Geographic to cross into Liberia with the conflict diamonds placed inside the necks of goats. He is doing this assignment for Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo) that is working the large diamond exporters, Rudolf Van De Kaap (Marius Weyers) and Rupert Simmons (Michael Sheen) to supply the money for the never-ending conflict. (Getting confusing for you. I should.)

Archer is promptly arrested and taken to the same prison with Solomon is held. The person that captured Solomon, Captain Poison (David Harewood) announces to everyone including Danny that he buried the diamond. Danny is bailed out by his friend, Nabil (Jimi Mistry) to convince Coetzee, Van De Kaap and Simmons to split the cost of the pink diamond Solomon has found.

At a local bar, Danny meets a journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly). She tries to get information about Van De Kaap. How are the diamonds being exported from Liberia where there are not diamond mines? She wants his help to expose Van De Kaap and Simmons for their wheeling and dealing; names, dates, and number accounts of buyers of the conflict diamonds to take them down.

When Solomon is bailed out, he tries to find his family at various refugee camps. They are nowhere to be found. Still on the run, another group of rebels have taken Dia from his family. He is beaten and brainwashed into being a part of the child soldiers by Captain Poison.

Danny tracks down Solomon to find the location of the diamond that he buried. Split the cost of the diamond fifty/fifty to help get Solomon his family back and Danny enough money to pay off Colonel. They enlist the help of Maddy to ensure that they succeed in finding his family and recovering the diamond.

I have heard about the dealing with conflict diamonds prior to watching this movie. I didn’t know the extent of what was going on at the time. Here is another example as why the Western world doesn’t care about Africans. Just like what was dramatized in Hotel Rwanda and The Last King of Scotland. Massive atrocities have been happening and nobody did a damn thing to stop it. It’s still happening. I do hate it when the point is donkey-punching me every five minutes. We get it, Ed Zwick!

The movie is long for such a heavy subject. I thought some of the sequences dragged a bit too long. The romance plotline between Maddy and Danny was completely trite. Why does that need to be in there? Why is it every time that Solomon is about to get killed a militia comes in to wipe out everything moving? He survives.

This film was nominated for five Oscars including Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Hounsou. I thought they were good, but I didn’t think it was worthy of recognition in my opinion.

Judgment: There is a good story under all the political red tape.

Rating: ****

Shutter Island (2010)

I wonder, is it better to live like a monster, or die a good man?

— Teddy Daniels

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie Shutter Island, which stands as the 197th movie on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb, has been getting a bad rap since its studio, Paramount decide to move the release date of the movie from October 2009 to February 2010, because it couldn’t afford the Oscar campaign for the picture. I call bullshit on that. This could mean certain death for a film not being remember a whole year from now. This is the fourth collaboration of Scorsese and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though the movie is highly predictable, I still enjoyed the majority of the ride.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, former WWII soldier/U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel by boat to Shutter Island, which is a home of Ashcliffe, the prison for the criminally insane. They are met by Deputy Marshal McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) who them that they have to surrender their firearms. They take a tour of the complex which has separate wards for men, women prisoners and an old Civil War era, Building C that houses the most dangerous criminals.

The team meets the head psychiatrist of the institution; Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) to investigate the disappearance of a patient that mysteriously escaped from her cell, who killed her kids, Rachel Solando. She is loose somewhere on the island, because there is no way for her to escape the island without drowning.

Searching through her cell, Teddy fines a piece of paper in her room that has “The law of 4. Who is 67?” scribbled on it. In order to try to find out the circumstances surrounding the escapee, Teddy and Chuck want to interview the staff. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) doesn’t want the investigators to rummage through the staffs personal files. Teddy wants to leave immediately.

The more time that Teddy spends on the island he has flashbacks of an incident when he was a soldier in WWII liberating a Dachau concentration camp or his life with her wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) that was killed years earlier.

A massive hurricane hits the island and the prisoners try to escape the island, Teddy comes to realization when Rachel is found that they are 66 patients on the island, but Rachel implies there is a 67th patient. Who is that patient?

I thought the performances were very good, especially DiCaprio, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.

I thought that the score was unnecessary in the beginning segments of the film. I guess, Scorsese wanted to set the mood. It was ear deafening. The biggest problem of the movie is the twist. Watching the trailers lately, they talk about the twist ending. The twist you could predict thirty minutes into the movie. I wasn’t a surprise at all, but I was half right about it. There was another sharp turn that I didn’t see coming.

Judgment: This movie was mess with your mind until the very end.

Rating: ****

The Departed (2006)

departed

When I was growing up, they would say you could become cops or criminals. But what I’m saying is this. When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

— Frank Costello

The winner of Best Pictures in 2006, The Departed won four Oscars including, Best Director for Martin Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. It currently at the time of this posting #52 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB.

I have not watched this movie in its entirety before last night. I tried to watch it one time a couple of months ago when it was on the cable. I was so annoyed by the overwhelming Bostonian accents that I shut it off. I don’t know why, but I have a hang up with the Bostonian accent. It bugs the hell out of me.

This movie was the American remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller, Infernal Affairs that I haven’t seen yet.

The plot revolves around two cadets, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). Costingan is recruited to go undercover by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) to help take down crime boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

Sullivan is secretly working for Costello who help raise him from when he was a little boy.

As the two men go deeper with “Who is the rat?” and “Who is the mole?”, revelations come out that lead to tragic consequences.

I have seen some of Martin Scorsese’s movies. I don’t think that this movie is his finest work. I have some issues with Jack Nicholson’s laughable characterization, the quick cuts, the convenient plot twists that I saw from mile away, the last shot of the film and numerous others.

I was bored during the first hour of this 2 1/2 hour opus. A whole bunch of talking that needed to trimmed are jettisoned all together. When the plot twist that happens at the hour mark, then I was invested in the film. It was uneven to me.

Judgment: If you want to see smart characters, a head shot extravaganza and Jack Nicholson’s hilarious performance, I would suggest this film.

Rating: ****

Revolutionary Road (2008)


Based on the Richard Yates’ novel of the same name, director Sam Mendes has a mini-reunion with former Titanic alums, Kathy Bates, Leonardo DiCaprio and his wife, Kate Winslet to bring Revolutionary Road to the screen.

The action takes place primarily in the 1955 Connecticut household of Frank and April Wheeler (DiCaprio, Winslet) whose marriage is imploding from the inside out.

In the first moments of the movie, you see the jilted husband and wife have a verbal onslaught at the side of road that comes out of nowhere. Frank wants to confront his problems with the marriage and April doesn’t want to hear it.

April feels trapped in “Donna Reed” mindset of falling in love, get married, stay at home and take care of the kids. She doesn’t want that. Frank doesn’t want to be in a loveless marriage where he has to go a mindless job to take care of a family that he doesn’t want.

Kathy Bates plays Helen Givings, a realtor that sold their house to the Wheelers. She asks April that her mentally disturbed son, John (Michael Shannon) was being released from the loony bin, could meet the Wheelers.

Wanting to escape from their lives, April suggests to Frank that they would pack up and move to France. They tell their friends, Shep and Milly Campbell (David Harbour, Kathryn Hahn) about their plans. They looks stupefied at the suggestion.

This movie is the complete antithesis of “Titanic”. There is no love lost with the couple. Their fights are epic, raw, and brutally honest. Even John has the same mindset as the Wheelers when he calls them out on their transparent facade.

I would just like to know. With their endless squabbles, where were the kids when they happen? Are they always at the sitters?

I thought this movie was on the same lines of The Hours or Far From Heaven. Dealing with the tragedy of the American way of life in the 1950s. What is happening behind closed doors is out on the forefront.

A solid film from Sam Mendes. Check it out.

My rating: *** 1/2 stars.

%d bloggers like this: