Posts Tagged ‘christopher nolan’

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Dunkirk (2017)

July 26, 2017

Starring: Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: This is not “the best film of Christopher Nolan’s career” or “one of the best war films ever” like many critics have made it out to be – it’s not even as good as last year’s Hacksaw Ridge, which hit me right in the feels. I’m shocked at how well received Dunkirk has been because it is absolutely hollow. Dunkirk made me feel nothing. Nolan is still a master at making beautiful films – Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises were both very easy on the eyes – but this is now the third straight film of his where I’ve left the theater thinking “eh” because of his writing.

Set during World War II in the city of Dunkirk, France, Allied forces are trapped on the beach and surrounded by German troops. The story has three different timelines: one takes place over a week following a group of soldiers on the beach, a second takes place over a single day following a man and two kids from the British Empire on a boat headed towards Dunkirk to help out, and a third takes place over the course of an hour, in the air, following a couple of pilots in dogfighters. The problem with these intertwining stories is we are completely immersed into the action, from the very first scene, and there is virtually no character development so you never really care about what happens to anyone or what is at stake. Maybe just knowing this is a true story and a number of real people were in a similar situation is enough to make some people feel something, but watching a movie, following certain characters, I want to feel something about them – and I never did.

Mark Rylance does a very fine job as the ordinary British man that sails into battle and his story is definitely the most interesting. In contrast, Tom Hardy plays one of the pilots and that entire story arc is completely devoid of any investment from the audience. How can you possibly care about someone when you can’t understand a single line of dialogue they say the entire film? That’s another issue I had with Dunkirk. Even though everyone is speaking English, subtitles felt like a requirement, particularly during the flight scenes – the sounds of the jets are so loud you can’t hear anything that is being said. While that might be authentic, the audience isn’t equipped with a headset like the pilots are. I suppose Harry Styles does a fine job as one of the soldiers on the ground, but again, I wasn’t invested in his story and even though the script follows a select group of soldiers it isn’t particularly easy to tell them apart, especially since I wasn’t familiar with the actors.

So yeah, Dunkirk is visually great, as all Nolan’s films have been, but the script falls short. Even though the movie is riveting and Hans Zimmer’s score adds lots of tension, the script doesn’t invest you in the story and there is simply no emotional payoff. Maybe I will change my mind when I watch it again but I can’t say I’m exactly excited about a second viewing. I appear to be in the minority in not loving this film, so take this review with a grain of salt and go see it for yourself, but I can promise this much: there is no way my wife, a casual film watcher, would have enjoyed Dunkirk.

Replay Value: I didn’t love Interstellar or The Dark Knight Rises the first time I watched them but I did see them again. I think a second viewing of Dunkirk would be more laborious, however.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: I would be appalled if Dunkirk was the film that finally got Nolan an Oscar statue, but the praise being heaped on it makes it a pretty strong contender for things like Best Picture and Best Director. I would have no problem with Dunkirk being nominated for Best Cinematography or and visual categories though.

Grade: 5/10 (watchable)

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July Movie/Music Preview

June 30, 2017

Anticipation Meter
6 – Epic
5 – Very High
4 – Strong
3 – Moderate
2 – Low
1 – Nonexistent

As I noted last month, I’m going to make these previews a bit more succinct – no more box office predictions.

MOVIES

Spider-Man: Homecoming (7th) – One of the most popular superheroes of all-time finally comes home to Marvel Studios. Tom Holland and his new Spider-Man had a great small appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, blending in seamlessly with the rest of Marvel’s Avengers and setting the tone for a much younger and mouthy Spidey. Early reviews for this film have been stellar, with plenty of stuff like “best Spider-Man movie ever” and “one of the best Marvel films yet” being tossed around. I love the casting of Michael Keaton as The Vulture. I expect this movie to be hilarious and lots of fun – it has long been one of my most anticipated 2017 releases. Anticipation Meter – 5

A Ghost Story (7th) – Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in a movie about a deceased husband returning as a ghost in a white bed sheet. The cast here is strong enough to garner my interest, but the director’s last film was Pete’s Dragon, so… Anticipation Meter – 2.5

War for the Planet of the Apes (14th) – The Planet of the Apes franchise has had an incredibly strong reboot thanks to a phenomenal motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis, a great lead character in Caesar, and some very good screenplays. The first two films in this trilogy were wonderful and early word is this third entry is right on par. Anticipation Meter – 4

Wish Upon (14th) – Joey King stars as a teenage girl that receives a music box that grants her wishes to be wealthy, popular and desired – and then the people closest to her start dying. I like horror movies, but I haven’t seen or heard anything about this one that has made me want to see it. Anticipation Meter – 1

Dunkirk (21st) – Christopher Nolan’s latest film focuses on the Allied troops that were trapped in the French city of Dunkirk during World War II. Nolan regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy are joined by Kenneth Branagh and Oscar winner Mark Rylance. After Inception, Nolan was easily my favorite filmmaker, but his last two movies, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar were relatively disappointing. I’m not a huge fan of the war genre and the footage I’ve seen of Dunkirk doesn’t have me particularly amped, but Chris Nolan is still on my short list of favorite directors so I’m cautiously optimistic. Anticipation Meter – 3

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (21st) – I don’t know much about this comic book adaptation from Luc Besson, the director of The Professional and The Fifth Element, but it looks visually ambitious. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are the stars in this sci-fi space adventure. The trailers I’ve seen look interesting enough and it seems like a movie that should be seen in theaters if you’re going to watch it. Anticipation Meter – 3

Girls Trip (21st) – R-rated comedy starring Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Tiffany Haddish about a group of lifelong friends that travel to New Orleans and get into various high jinks. Sounds like another version of The Hangover and a pass to me. Anticipation Meter – 1

Atomic Blonde (28th) – You’d think a movie that has Charlize Theron playing a secret agent that’s kicking ass and making out with another woman in its trailer would be an easy sell, but I feel like I’ve seen the whole story already – the trailers have been playing in front of basically every film I’ve seen in the past two months. I will probably skip this unless it gets strong reviews. Anticipation Meter – 2

The Emoji Movie (28th) – Huh? How is this even happening? I’m not surprised though – everything’s exploitable these days. I just watched the trailer and it looks cut from the same cloth as Pixar’s Toy Story and Inside Out in that it creates a secret universe for inanimate/intangible objects – in this case, the emojis in our cell phones. On the surface, it looks like a kid’s movie made for kids, so it remains to be seen if it will have the heart and soul that can appeal to adults like the best animated features do. I’ve been surprised before though (i.e. The Lego Movie). Anticipation Meter – 1.5

MUSIC

Jay-Z4:44 (7th) – Technically, this is out already, but rumor has it that it will be widely available next Friday and that will likely be the first time that I hear it. Initially, I was skeptical: I hadn’t heard much from Jay recently that moved the meter, so a new album seemed like it could easily disappoint. However, word is this is pretty spectacular and is one of Jay’s most personal albums ever. At worst, Jay-Z is a top five rapper ever and there are very good arguments to be made that he’s #1, so any new album from him is a must listen, and early rave reviews have increased my excitement. The Ruler’s back! Anticipation Meter – 5

There’s a 21 Savage (7th) album coming out in July, but I can’t say I’m a fan. The only other names I recognize are Lana Del Ray (14th), Coldplay (21st), and Arcade Fire (28th), none of which I care about. Sounds like a good month to catch up on all the music I didn’t get a chance to digest in June.

Notable Netflix Additions

Best In Show (1st)

The Mighty Ducks (1st)

E.T. (1st)

Punch Drunk Love (1st)

Titanic (1st)

Castlevania, Season One (7th) – Haven’t looked into this at all, but love the concept.

Lion (9th)

Friends From College, Season One – interesting cast, featuring Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Savage, Cobie Smulders.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – kind of a big deal

Lastly, Netflix will be removing all Futurama content tomorrow which is some seriously disappointing news.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

December 19, 2016

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director: Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight)

Bottom Line: It’s taken me nearly four years to come to terms with this film. Back in 2012, leading up to The Dark Knight Rises‘ release, my expectations were through the roof and unrealistic – and yet they weren’t. I had similar feelings about The Dark Knight and somehow Christopher Nolan managed to exceed my impossible expectations by making what is still what I consider to be the best superhero film ever – a film so good it changed how The Oscars approached the Best Picture category, increasing the number of films that could be nominated in the future.

But when I walked out of The Dark Knight Rises all I felt was a tremendous amount of disappointment. I was thrown by the fact the film took place eight years after The Dark Knight. It seemed like Batman was barely in the movie, which was fine in Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne is discovering his calling, but I wanted more Dark Knight in this. I suspected that Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were secretly cast as Talia Al’Ghul and Robin, respectively, long before the film’s release, so even though the Nolans do a good job of misdirecting, I wasn’t surprised in the least when the true identities were revealed. Finally, I hated the fact that Bruce Wayne becomes a shut in because his friend/love interest Rachel died. Let me get this straight: the man that pushes himself to the brink of human capabilities to protect his city from the kind of people that murdered his parents is going to disappear from society and whittle away in his mansion because his girlfriend died? For eight years?! During his peak crime-fighting years?! Uh, no. That’s not Batman. It’s such a departure from the character of Bruce Wayne that it’s difficult to shake.

But it’s been four years since The Dark Knight Rises came out and I’ve seen it a few times since then, including as recently as a week ago and well, it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s quite good. I mean there are some flaws – as previously noted – plus some intense magical rope healing (huh?), but I actually really enjoyed this last viewing of it. It  wraps up Christopher Nolan’s trilogy in great fashion, bringing the League Of Shadows back into the mix and allowing Bruce to move on with his life, while allowing The Batman to remain a symbol of hope in Gotham. I can live with the lack of Batman on screen in the film now too. It fits the story. Christopher Nolan has been more interested in making great films than in making a good superhero movie and he continues to approach his Dark Knight series in that fashion with this movie. It’s an incredibly bleak film, but the big theme is hope – first crushing it and then rising up from the abyss to overcome. Batman doesn’t need to be on screen because he’s retired when the film starts and then he’s beaten to a pulp in the middle of it – and that makes his ultimate return that much more powerful.

I absolutely loved Tom Hardy’s Bane. Heath Ledger’s Joker was always going to be impossible to match, but Bane is a GREAT villain in this film. There are some corny moments, like making Talia Al’Ghul a love interest, but Bane is mostly just awesome. I love the mask. I love the physique.  I love the way Hardy delivers his dialogue – and there’s plenty of great Bane quotes in the movie: “Peace time has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you!” – “Do you feel in charge?” – “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it.” And many more! He’s smart. He’s ruthless. He’s a physical beast. You believe an out of shape Batman would stand no chance and you wonder how Batman can match him, even when he’s back in peak form. I would have loved to see what Nolan did with The Riddler or even Hugo Strange, but I’m totally satisfied with how he handled Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

Okay, so it wasn’t surprising that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is revealed to be “Robin,” plus the character isn’t Dick Grayson or any other familiar name that takes up the Robin mantle, but Gordon-Levitt’s Detective John Blake was a great addition to this story. When everyone else has given up on Batman, this orphan turned police officer knows his true identity and pushes Bruce back into action. Plus he gets to say some great lines like “We know what’s down there, sir: the police commissioner.” He may not be Dick Grayson and his parents weren’t murdered at the circus, but it’s clear that the Nolans understand the essence of the character.

I listened to Hans Zimmer’s score many times before I saw the movie, which is pretty weird actually. You can sort of paint a picture of how things are going to unfold by listening to the score in sequential order. I mean that’s how obsessed with this movie I was. I just couldn’t resist the temptation. So when I heard the music that was playing during the scene where Batman was flying the bomb out over the bay, you get the feeling that someone important is going to die. It was just a bizarre feeling watching the movie having heard all the music already and having an idea what was going to happen. I won’t ever do it again. With that said, I love the score. Zimmer does a fantastic job of adding adrenaline to the film, especially during Bane’s reign of terror.

A few weeks ago, The Dark Knight Rises was omitted from my top 10 of 2012 list, while films like 21 Jump Street and Skyfall were still ahead of it. Having revisited the movie and deciding I’m actually quite happy with it, it now ranks in my top six of the year. The film has solid acting from its ensemble cast (Bale’s Bat-voice excluded), a great villain, a top notch score, a bunch of dialogue I love, and it looks fantastic – plus it’s a very fitting end to the vision Nolan had for his Bat-franchise. It’s one of the best trilogies of all-time, right up there with The Lord Of The Rings and the original Star Wars movies. When you talk about the best superhero movies ever, Nolan’s Batman movies will always be some of the first ones mentioned, but really, this series has produced multiple great films – not just great for a superhero movie – but some of the best films ever made.

Replay Value: It has grown on me a ton and I can always watch Batman movies.
Sequel Potential: They wrapped this trilogy up just fine, but the Batman character has been revived for DC’s new cinematic universe.
Oscar Potential: The film was totally blanked for both Oscar and Golden Globe noms, which seems a bit unfair as some of the technical aspects and the score are deserving of consideration.

Grade: 7.5/10 (highly enjoyable/must see)

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Man Of Steel (2013)

June 21, 2013

Starring: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder (Watchmen trilogy, 300, Sucker Punchy)

Quick Thoughts: What a spectacle. That was my first thought leaving the theater after watching Man Of Steel, which was probably my most anticipated film this summer. Director Zack Snyder can handle action. We know that much and those looking for a Superman that finally kicks some real ass, you’ll get it here. There’s plenty of super fights, massive property destruction, and a finale that is almost overwhelmingly heavy on action. It was enough to make me want to go back and see it in IMAX 3D.

Man Of Steel almost feels like you’re watching two films. The first half of the movie feels much like producer Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins while the second half plays out, well, like a Zack Snyder film. Much like Begins the first half of Man Of Steel switches between scenes of Clark Kent dealing with his unnatural abilities as a child and discovering himself as an adult. Unlike Begins, where you become quite invested in Bruce Wayne’s story, Man Of Steel seems a bit slow and I was pretty eager to move along to the Superman stuff. Also, the sequence on Krypton, in particular, is overly long and a bit confusing. The second half of the film feels a lot like an alien invasion movie. I kept thinking of Independence Day during the second act.

It’s interesting that DC took such a realistic approach with Superman right after The Dark Knight trilogy finished. Certainly, Snyder’s Superman would fit comfortably into Nolan’s Batman universe. Nolan has stated that he is finished with Batman, however, and Man Of Steel is supposed to be the first step towards an eventual Justice League movie; one that will likely feature a rebooted Batman. It’s all quite a mess and as a massive fan of DC Comics, I have to say I’m concerned.

Regardless, even with my ridiculous expectations for Man Of Steel, I’m pretty satisfied with the finished product. Henry Cavill is perfect as Superman, General Zod and crew are formidable first opponents, the action is amazing, and Russell Crowe is great as Jor-El. David Goyer took some liberties with the Superman mythos–notably on how Lois Lane and Superman first meet and Superman’s morality–but I thought these were handled delicately and actually made sense for modern (and more realistic) versions of the characters. Lois Lane is an investigative journalist, after all, and it’s always been pretty unbelievable that no one can figure out that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same. With all the pressure from the crazy success of The Avengers and Marvel’s ridiculously smart blueprint for creating their cinematic universe, I’m nervous about DC trying to match it by rushing into a Justice League movie, but even so, I’m looking forward to Man Of Steel 2

Replay Value: I’m anxious to see it again in IMAX 3D.
Sequel Potential: Release date already announced and this character will eventually show up in a Justice League movie.
Oscar Potential: Maybe some visual effects and sound recognition.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 56% Audience: 82%
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10

Recommendation: The critics are way off on this one. 2006’s Superman Returns is a 75% and sucks. Man Of Steel blows it away and I think even the critics would agree with that. I’ll admit it didn’t meet my expectations, but this is still an above average superhero film and a great reintroduction of the Superman character.

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The Dark Knight Rises: An Epic Month Of Gambling

February 2, 2012

“Allow me to reintroduce myself: my name is…”

When filmmaker Christopher Nolan revealed the final installment in his Batman trilogy was going to be called The Dark Knight Rises I wasn’t an instant fan of the name. Several months later, I can’t imagine a better one now that I’ve adopted his film’s title as my own personal mantra for 2012. For whatever reason–the girl I was recently dating would say ego–I felt like I needed a poker nickname. I mean, all the top notch card pros have one, right? What if I blow up someday? Make a TV final table? Are people going to know me as Mike Coombs? My friends in real life don’t even call me that. Maccent? Retired. Mac? Not good enough! So I made it a goal in December to figure out a proper nickname, even going as far as asking for help on Facebook. Bat-Mac? Cute, Mom, but this is grown man business. Birdcage? LOOOOOOOOOL. Nice needle, Ethan. The Serial Killer? Kinda dark, bro. How about Mac The Ripper then? Why yes…excellent. I actually ran with that for a couple weeks and even had a few people referring to me by it. Looking back, I can’t help but think what a tragic mistake that would have been. Then my buddy Vince started calling me The Dark Knight and after some initial resistance on my part, it all started to make perfect sense. My obsession with all things Batman is well-known, as is my complete inability to sleep at night, mostly due to a tireless work ethic when it comes to playing cards; much like Bruce Wayne constantly sacrifices his own personal well-being for the sake of Gotham City, I put my poker career before anything else, even my own health. No, seriously, I played over 220 hours of poker last month. Holy mackarel, Batman, I AM THE DARK KNIGHT.

The designation couldn’t have come at a better time. I was fresh off my first Royal Flush Jackpot and had completely turned my life around, a story you can read in this post. Since officially donning the cape and the cowl, I’ve been on the most ridiculous heater of my life. January 2012 was easily the best month of gambling I’ve had since summer of 2005 and quite possibly my most lucrative month of all-time. To put things in perspective, I had a solid 2011; for someone that had a good day job most of the year and only played small stakes poker, I turned a pretty serious gambling profit for the year. I made $348 less in January alone than I did all of last year combined. If you include the wages I get paid for propping the poker game at All-Star Lanes (and I don’t), then I’ve already made more money gambling in 2012 than I did in 2011. Sick.

I previously noted my life-changing turning point in the post I linked in that last paragraph. The run I’ve been on since that day has been completely absurd. I don’t know if the day’s events lit a fire under my ass or if karma has been rewarding me for having to put up with a bunch of nonsense, but I’ve been CRUSHING ever since. I hit that Royal Flush Jackpot on the 7th, then between January 13th and January 21st, I finished 2nd or better in 5 of 8 tournaments for a $1043 profit, including a 6-way chop @ Freddie’s $110 buy-in tournament that I had to share with a backer (45%) and my running partner (10%). I started propping for All-Star Lanes on January 13th and demolished the game all month long. In 100 hours, I profited $2,476 and that doesn’t include my hourly wage. I decided not to clock on one night so that I could earn hours for their freeroll and hit the All-Star Strike for $375, a jackpot I would not have been eligible for if I was working. I finished the month with seven straight winning sessions. I won $812 in match play bets on the black jack table. I randomly decided to play a day session on the last day of the month (I always play at night) and crushed the game for +$500. I hit every draw I had and I made it hurt. Everything just seemed to be going my way in January.

Well… almost everything. I’m sure some people were getting pretty sick of my run good and I can’t say it hasn’t been getting to my head. I mean, I’ve felt like I could walk on water and do no wrong at times, but I can assure you, I did not have a perfect month. I played my first $8-$16 session of the year at Parkers this past month and had my worst losing day in well over a year (-$636). To make matters worse, I usually sell half my action in that game, but that night I decided to take a shot and I felted over three racks without ever winning a hand. BRUTAL. This past week, I got shutout in Clearwater’s Poker Series. I lost almost $960 in buy-ins, despite having respectable finishes of 9th in the $250 NLHE event and 12th in the $250 H.O.R.S.E. event. A decent showing, but with such a pathetic turnout for the series I didn’t make any money for my performance. In the one event that was worth going deep in, the $460 NLHE Main Event, I busted out just shy of making it to Day 2. Fortunately (for myself), I had solid backing for all those events and only lost about $400 of my own money. But the series left me still waiting for that first big event cash. I have now whiffed the six events total at the Pendleton Round-Up and the Clearwater Series in the past few months and it has me feeling like I have something serious to prove. I haven’t been to Clearwater in years and it’s kind of weird for me to go into a local card room and not have everyone know who I am. While anonymity can be to one’s advantage when it comes to poker, fuck it, I like the recognition. I don’t want to fly under the radar; fear and respect me or figure it out the hard way.

Despite those setbacks, January was an incredible month. That kind of success is unsustainable, but if I can maintain even half that win rate in the All-Star Lanes game, I’m going to have a monster 2012. It didn’t take long into February for me to be humbled. I was worried that as soon as the calendar flipped so might my doom switch and today was a spectacularly bad day. Not only did I run bad, but I admittedly played like shit and lost more than was necessary. Oh well, challenge accepted: I now have a decent-sized hole to dig myself out of for the month, but The Dark Knight always seems to find his way out of sticky situations. Will he turn this rough start into another profitable month or is this the start of the end? Stay tuned next month. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-channel.

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Inception – A Total Mind-Fuck Of A Good Time

July 28, 2010

I saw Inception for the second time tonight. Well, sort of… I went with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago and after 4-5 drinks we headed to the theater and I was disappointed to find the movie already in progress. Not a good look for a film I knew was going to have a pretty tough story. Anyways, after about thirty minutes and several shared looks of confusion, we decided it was time to walk out. Drunk or not, I couldn’t believe I actually stepped out on a Chris Nolan film. Without question, he’s been my favorite director over the past half decade.

Deep in my heart I knew something was amiss and with all the critical acclaim, word of mouth, and the filmmaker’s background, it was time to give Inception another shot. I thought we had been about 15-20 minutes late the first time I went to see it, but after it took 90 minutes for me to recognize a scene from the movie, I realized we had walked into the wrong theater altogether. I guess that’s what happens when you try to point two drunk people in the right direction. Give us five minutes in the concession line and we’re going into the first theater we see that says Inception above it.

With sober eyes and a fresh start from the beginning, I’m in awe of this movie. From a writing standpoint, my mind is completely blown. The complexity of Nolan’s story is immense; I’m not going to pretend I understood everything that was happening, but the general story line is understandable and the difficulty of the script is going to provide for multiple enjoyable viewings in order to comprehend everything that’s going on. Not a lot of filmmaker’s would be able to make this movie, let alone turn it into a summer blockbuster, but not many people have the clout that The Dark Knight director has. Maybe I underestimate the intelligence of the general public, but I’m genuinely surprised that this movie has made $142 million in ten days and currently sits at #3 on IMDB’s top 250 all-time list. That gives Nolan three films in the top 30 and 5 in the top 110 of all-time and this guy only has six major releases under his belt.

While the story in this movie is what really captivated me, the camera work and special effects are a work of art themselves. People walk on walls and upside down, huge landscapes collapse upon each other, and large pieces of scenery are moved with a touch or a simple thought. The cinematography is also stunning as we are given several long shots of beautiful scenery.

The acting in this movie is kind of an afterthought and I thought everyone was solid. Nolan always casts well and usually keeps a close circle of actors he trusts around him. When he does branch out, he has a tendency to invoke stellar performances (think Heath Ledger as The Joker). I’m not sure we have any award-worthy performances here, but the entire cast does a great job. Nothing really needs to be said about Leonardo DiCaprio. I honestly think he might be the best actor of my generation. I think Ellen Page gets an unfair amount of flak, but I recognize her as one of the best young actresses and this movie does nothing to disprove my theory. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is someone that has really shocked me over the past year. The first time he made me go “hmmm” was in last year’s campy G.I. Joe, where he was nearly unrecognizable and a ton of fun as Cobra Commander. I saw the vastly overlooked (500) Days Of Summer earlier this year and that was the performance that made me realize this kid was legit. His work in Inception is just another step in the right direction of what looks to be a somewhat surprisingly promising career as a serious actor.

Inception is INSANE. I recommend you buy all your concessions before the movie starts and that you clear your bladder repeatedly ahead of time because this is the type of film where you could get lost if you step out for five minutes. The story is crazy, the acting is solid, and the visuals are stunning. Easily the best movie I’ve seen this year and it’s a film that will leave you thinking about it for a long time after, eager to see it again so you can get the full concept.

Second Helping (spoilers): I figured Inception needed to be seen at least twice within a close time frame. Chris Nolan seems to have that affect. The first time I watched Memento, as soon as it finished, I started it over and watched it again. I’ve never done that with a movie, before or since. I might have if I had seen Inception on DVD for the first time. The story was a lot easier to follow the second time through and you are able to pick up on a lot of things you couldn’t the first time. It’s a bit frustrating seeing it for a second time with someone seeing it for the first time. I kept looking at my friend throughout the movie and I really didn’t feel like she was having the same experience I was. I kept asking questions and getting the wrong answers. During the climax, after another failed oral exam, I started announcing to her what level of dream they were in every time they cut scenes. Finally, she got it, but after the movie her overall vibe was “it was okay,” which is an unacceptable response.

I read somewhere speculation that Cobb’s totem wasn’t the spinner because that was his wife’s. That much was true, but after spending the entire second viewing looking for a possible totem for him, I found nothing. There’s also been speculation about the very end of the movie. Is he still dreaming? The scene closes with the top still spinning, which leaves open the option that he was indeed dreaming. I’m not buying it. If you can follow the different levels of dreaming, you can identify what appears to be the “conscious level” for all the characters… and during this “conscious level” we have seen Cobb spin the top and watch it fall. Unless we are being hoodwinked by fancy film-editing, and somewhere between Cobb getting off the plane and coming home to his children someone has put him back into a dream state, then that top at the end of the movie eventually falls… we just don’t get to see it because Chris Nolan can be a bastard like that.

A great movie a second time through and I think the director’s commentary on the DVD will be one of the most anticipated of all-time, which probably means Nolan won’t do one. Give us a great Batman 3 and we’ll forgive you anyway, Chris.

Grade: A
Viewings 2
Replay Value: A must-own DVD requiring repeated viewings
Oscar Watch: I can’t imagine anything edging this out for Best Original Screenplay. Nolan will also get a Best Director nod. Eight months into 2010 and this has to be the favorite to WIN Best Picture, but with most Oscar Bait movies coming out in the fall/winter, that is subject to change. Regardless, with ten nominees now for the Oscar, Inception will still be up for the award. I’m sure we’ll see noms for cinematography, art direction, sound mixing, editing, sound editing, score, and visual effects. This movie is that huge. I don’t think anyone is a cinch for any acting nominations, but DiCaprio is always a contender and Gordon-Levitt, Marion Colliard, and Ellen Page might all have long shots in the supporting categories.
Nudity Alert: None