Archive for Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

“Just Another Saturday Night”

Marv (Mickey Rourke) regains consciousness on a highway overlooking The Projects, surrounded by several dead young men and a crashed police car, and with no memory of how he got there. He retraces his steps, recalling that since it’s Saturday, he watched Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) dance at Kadie’s Saloon. Stepping outside, he encounters four rich frat boys burning a homeless man alive. When Marv intervenes, the leader of the frat boys shoots him in the arm, calling him “Bernini Boy,” which Marv mishears as “Bernie.” They flee; Marv follows, stealing a police car on the way, which he crashes into their car, leading to his blackout and memory loss. He follows the two surviving frat boys into The Projects, the neighborhood where he grew up. With the assistance of the deadly residents lurking in the shadows, he dispatches the frat boys. He questions the leader about being called “Bernini Boy” and learns that it is the brand of coat he is wearing. After slitting the boy’s throat, he considers his coat and realizes he can’t remember how he acquired it.

“The Long Bad Night (Part I)”

Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a cocky young gambler, arrives in Sin City and heads to Kadie’s place, where he immediately hits the jackpot on multiple slot machines. Taking a young waitress, Marcie (Julia Garner), with him as a good luck charm, he buys into the backroom poker game led by the all-powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). Johnny repeatedly wins in the high-stakes game, and cleans the senator out. One other player, the corrupt police lieutenant Liebowitz (Jude Ciccolella), warns him to flee the city, but instead Johnny takes Marcie out for a night on the town. He walks her home when Roark’s goons suddenly attack him. He fights them off and tells Marcie to meet him at a hotel before he is escorted into the Senator’s waiting limousine. In payment for the humiliation he suffered at the card game, Roark takes back his money and uses a pair of pliers to break the fingers of Johnny’s playing hand. They toss him from the car, and the Senator shoots Johnny in the leg. Roark then reveals that he recognized Johnny as his illegitimate son. However, he remarks that he only considered his dead son Roark Jr. his flesh and blood. He leaves Johnny alive, preferring to let him suffer, and Johnny swears revenge.

“A Dame to Kill For”

Years before “The Big Fat Kill”, Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) attempts to put his violent past behind him, working as a private detective and leading a life of complete sobriety, struggling daily to refuse his inner demons. After saving the life of Sally (Juno Temple), a hooker who is nearly murdered by her businessman lover (Ray Liotta), he receives an unexpected phone call from his former lover, Ava Lord (Eva Green), who left Dwight four years prior for a wealthy tycoon, Damien Lord (Marton Csokas). She begs him to meet her at Kadie’s saloon, and despite his embittered feelings, he agrees. When Ava arrives, she begs forgiveness for leaving him, and implies she is afraid for her life before her massive chauffeur, Manute (Dennis Haysbert), arrives to escort her home. Unable to get her out of his mind, Dwight sneaks into Damien Lord’s estate, where he observes Ava swimming, but is caught and beaten. Dwight is returned home, where a nude Ava waits for him. He tries to throw her out, but can’t resist her and they make love. She tells him that Damien and Manute torture her physically and mentally, and she knows Damien will kill her soon. Manute arrives and viciously beats a naked Dwight, sending him out the window with a single punch.

Determined to rescue Ava, Dwight recruits Marv to help him, and they mount an assault on Lord’s compound. Marv attacks Manute, putting him in traction and tearing out his eye. Dwight confronts Damien Lord, who denies Ava’s accusations, and an enraged Dwight beats him to death. As he reacts in horror, Ava appears and shoots Dwight several times, taunting him and thanking him for helping her murder her husband and take over his fortune. She shoots him in the face and forces him to fall out of a window, where Marv rescues him and takes him to Old Town. Dwight’s old flame, Gail (Rosario Dawson), recognizes him and saves his life. With the help of Gail and the deadly assassin Miho (Jamie Chung), Dwight undergoes reconstructive surgery on his face and plots his revenge.

Meanwhile, two detectives, Mort (Christopher Meloni) and Bob (Jeremy Piven), investigate Damien’s death. Ava claims Dwight was an obsessive ex-lover, and he killed her husband in a jealous rage. Bob is skeptical but Ava seduces Mort, who believes her every word. They begin an affair and Ava pressures him to find and kill Dwight. When Mort, obsessed with Ava, attempts to track Dwight down in Old Town (an action that would break the truce between the police and the prostitutes), Bob attempts to stop him. An enraged Mort shoots Bob in the face, then commits suicide afterward. Out of options, Ava reluctantly partners with the mob boss Wallenquist (Stacy Keach).

Dwight (with his reconstructed new face), accompanied by Gail and Miho, poses as Wallenquist’s man from Texas. Inside Ava’s estate, however, Manute sees past the new face and captures Dwight. Gail and Miho strike from Dwight’s car, and Dwight shoots Manute with a hidden .45 he had up his left sleeve. Six bullets fail to kill him, and Manute aims shakily at Dwight as Ava unexpectedly grabs one of Manute’s guns, shooting Manute several times. She attempts to convince Dwight to pair with her, and that the pain he suffered revealed his true intentions, but Dwight shoots her mid-kiss, and she dies in his arms.

“The Long Bad Night (Part II)”

Johnny visits an unlicensed doctor, Kroenig (Christopher Lloyd), who shoots up heroin before trading his services for Johnny’s last $40 and his shoes. Realizing he left Marcie unprotected, Johnny rushes to his hotel but finds the Senator waiting for him, along with Marcie’s dismembered head and hands. Again, the senator lets him go. Intent on taking down Roark, Johnny scrounges a dollar from a sympathetic waitress (Lady Gaga) which he uses to regain enough money playing slots to buy his way into Roark’s game the following night. Playing a card shark’s con, Johnny folds his first few hands, allowing Roark to taunt him about his dead mother. He once again cons Roark into going all in, then reveals his winning hand. Johnny taunts his father, reminding him that tonight’s story of how the same man beat him twice will follow him for the rest of his life. His vengeance completed, Johnny smiles resignedly, a single tear running down his face as Roark shoots him in the head, commanding his men to get rid of the body.

“Nancy’s Last Dance”

Four years after “That Yellow Bastard”,” Nancy Callahan is in a deep depression over John Hartigan’s death. She is obsessed with getting revenge on Senator Roark for having driven Hartigan to kill himself. As she wallows in despair, the ghost of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) watches over her, unable to reach her but still attempting to help. On the same night that Johnny joins the backroom poker game, Nancy attempts to shoot Roark from the stage of Kadie’s, but she can’t bring herself to pull the trigger.

Nancy hallucinates a visit from Roark, and shortly thereafter cuts her hair and smashes a mirror, using its shards to cut her face. She decides to get Marv to help her kill Roark by showing him the scars and making him believe that Roark was responsible. As they step out of the club, they meet a motorcycle gang there to shoot up the place. Marv kills two but leaves their leader for Nancy to finish off. The pair mount an assault on Roark’s compound: Marv slaughters Roark’s bodyguards while Nancy picks off the guards with a crossbow. Marv is wounded, but Nancy continues on alone to confront Roark. Roark shoots her first in the side, then the leg, and is about to finish her off. Suddenly, Hartigan’s ghost appears in the mirror—startling Roark long enough for Nancy to recover and kill him.

REVIEW:

What say we return to the streets of Basin City with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For? It has been a few years since the first film and there are two things that immediately pop into my head. What took so long and why now? I’m sure as I watch this film other queries will arise, so let’s see if this is worth staying in on a humid summer Wednesday night, shall we?

What is this about?

Cornering the market on sex and blackmail, Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) matches rich men with prostitutes before snapping their photographs and selling the pictures to their wives — but he’d give anything to go legit.

What did I like?

Goddess. I am a straight, red-blooded, male, so it should come as no surprise that I found Eva Green to be extremely attractive in her segment of this film. However, it takes some guts to spend most of the time in various states of undress. With a body like hers, though, can you blame her? If they ever do a movie on the Greek/Roman gods, she needs to be cast, or at least considered for the role of Venus/Aphrodite. Now, putting aside her most perfect body, the segment itself is the most fleshed out part of the film, hence the reason it is the title’s namesake, I’d imagine. I was enthralled watching, waiting to see what other kind of treachery, deceit, murder, and whatnot would transpire.

Violence. In Sin City, there was quite a bit of violence. People were shot, decapitated, maimed, etc, all in the glorious, and unique, black and white aesthetic this film uses. Keeping with that motif, the filmmakers kept it going this time, rather than falling in the trap of making this look like a “regular” flick and, because of this, the violence contained in this picture appears to have that much more of an impact.

Connective tissue. Nearly 10 years ago, the original film was released. Unless you are one of those people who watches it on a loop and has every line memorized, then it is a sure bet that you don’t have the events fresh in your mind. Thankfully, the filmmakers kept this in mind and threw in some flashbacks and reminders for us. So many times, films that are released many years after the original just assume we remember everything, which is rarely the case!

What didn’t I like?

Indestructible. It was brought to my attention that one of the major characters, Marv, is nigh indestructible. What’s wrong with that? Well, the same thing that the current society has with Superman. He comes off as too powerful, even when he shows signs of humanity. There is also the little fact that Marv’s indestructibility is never explained. He just…is.

Identity crisis. In a bit of confusion regarding the timeline of these two films, we get a prequel to the character of Dwight McCarthy, Manute, Olde Town, etc. My issue with this has to do with casting. They chose to cast Josh Brolin as Dwight on the grounds that this guy had his face changed. When it comes to the face changing, the only difference is that he has a different hairstyle. I don’t know why Clive Owen chose not to return, but it would have been nice to have him take over the role with the face change.

Paternity. One of the things that got on my last nerve was how every chance he got, Roark mentioned his son being killed. Once or twice was enough, but this was just too much. Doubling down on this idea, it should be noted that the “yellow bastard” is all over his office. There is no way we can forget!

Final thoughts on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For? Many people didn’t seem to like this film for some reason. Perhaps it is the bad taste left in their mouth from knock off films such as The Spirit. I think I have become a fan of this film…perhaps even more than the original (I need to go back and watch that again, before I can say for sure). There isn’t a flowing narrative that connects all the stories together as in the first one, and I feel that is the major negative, but for the most part, this is a solid flick. Do I recommend it? Yes, very highly!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Don Jon

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Italian American Jon Martello is a modern day Don Juan, with a short list of things he cares about: “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn”. He has an active sex life, but is more satisfied by pornography.

On a night out with his two best friends, Jon sees Barbara Sugarman (Johansson), and although she finds him interesting he fails to pick her up for a one-night stand. He finds her on Facebook, and asks her to lunch. The attraction is mutual, but Barbara insists on a traditional long-term courtship, which proceeds for over a month without sex. She encourages him to take night classes to get an office job outside the service industry, and Jon indulges her love for romance movies, which he usually dismisses as unrealistic fantasy. They meet each other’s families and Jon’s parents immediately love her.

Finally, the two have sex, but Jon is still dissatisfied. He admits the sex was decent and her body was perfect, but still felt something was missing. He gets up, while Barbara sleeps, to watch pornography. Barbara catches him and is shocked that he would do such a thing. Jon denies that he watches pornography and claims it was a sick joke emailed to him by a friend.

Their relationship resumes, with Jon continuing to watch pornography, but doing so primarily outside his apartment, where Barbara is often around. He is caught watching a video on his cell phone before a class by Esther (Moore), a middle-aged woman who attempts to apologize for an earlier awkward incident in which Jon encountered her weeping by herself at the college. Jon politely brushes her off. Barbara continues to assert control over him, insisting that cleaning his own apartment—a task Jon finds personally satisfying—is not manly. One night she looks at the browser history on his computer, confronts him with proof that he has been continuing to compulsively watch pornography, and ends their relationship.

Jon tries to return to his old lifestyle, but it’s not the same. Esther continues to reach out to Jon, trying to offer him the benefit of her experience. She reveals to Jon that the reason why he doesn’t seem to have the same fun he has watching pornography while having sex, is because pornography is a one-sided affair, and if he wants to have sex that’s better than pornography, he has to be willing to lose himself to another person, and she has to be willing to lose herself to him, calling it “a two-way street.” She lends him an erotic video that she believes has a more realistic depiction of sexual relations. He responds by initiating a sexual encounter in her parked car. She persuades him to try masturbating without pornography, but he is unable to. She invites him to her home, where she reveals that her husband and son had died in a car crash 14 months before. She counsels him further about the need for sex to be a mutual experience, and with her, Jon finally has an emotional connection sex that doesn’t leave him restless to watch pornography.

Jon’s weekly confessional tallying his one-night stands and pornography sessions is replaced by one in which he proudly reports abstinence from pornography and just the one instance of fornication, which he describes as being more like making love. He tells his parents about the break-up with Barbara, and they are devastated. His sister breaks her silence, saying that Barbara never cared about Jon, and was using him to live out her romance movie fantasy.

Jon asks to meet with Barbara and apologizes for lying to her about the pornography. Barbara says she asked one thing of him, and he failed. Jon replies she asked many things of him, and just couldn’t keep up with her expectations. She says goodbye, and tells him to never contact her again.

Jon takes Esther as his girlfriend, and even though neither has any interest in getting married anytime soon, and denies he is love, but believes he really understands her and they can get emotionally lost in each other.

REVIEW:

Well, it would seem that this weekend is dedicated to first time directors. Earlier this week, I watched Sidney Poitier’s directorial debut, Buck and the Preacher and tonight I have the chance to watch Lake Bell’s debut with In a World… Now, it is time for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut, Don Jon. I really have some high hopes for this film, but I am also a bit reticent because I honestly don’t remember anyone showering this with praise and accolades.

What is this about?

Jon Martello’s romantic exploits are legendary among his friends, but his obsession with online porn saps his enthusiasm for real sex. As he searches for intimacy — or avoids it — Jon meets two women with vital lessons to teach him.

What did I like?

Scarlett. Guys, as hot as well think and know Scarlett Johansson is, that is nothing compared to the level she achieves in this picture. Her hotness level is ratcheted up x10! There is a scene with her and Gordon-Levitt grinding against a door that is sure to have you squirming in your seat or running to take a cold shower. On top of that, she gives a pretty decent performance as a Jersey girl type.

Movies. Johansson’s character has a thing for romantic comedies, while Levitt is all about the porn. Seems like they would be the worst couple possible, right? I won’t spoil that, but there is a scene when they have a fight and it is brought up how romantic comedies are more or less porn for women. If you really think about it, that’s true. I know very few members of the female species who don’t go gaga for those films. Here’s the kicker, though. She jumped all over his case for watching porn, yet when it came to her romantic comedies, nothing was said. Can we say double standard? Perhaps, and I’m glad that the film said what we’ve all been scared to say.

Silent Monica. Remember in Kevin Smith, as Silent Bob, wouldn’t talk for the entire film? Then, out of nowhere, somewhere near the film’s end, he would spout off some words of wisdom that help the lead character. Clerks is perhaps the best example of this, but pretty much any of the Viewaskew films will work. Keeping that train of though, Brie Larson’s character does nothing throughout the whole film but text (much like every other teenager in the world). She’s attached to the phone at the dinner table and in church, but the last time we see her, the phone is mysteriously missing. I guess without it, she felt she needed to say something, and offered Levitt’s character some advice and insight.

What didn’t I like?

Looks aren’t everything. Scarlett Johansson may be super hot, but her attitude in this film pretty much nullifies that. Well, I shouldn’t say attitude, but rather her views. I’ve already mentioned the porn stuff, but for some reason, she has a hang-up with a guy cleaning his own place. I really don’t see what the big deal with that is, and think there is something in her past that wasn’t explained. Don’t even get me started on her snooping in his computer. What was she hoping to find by looking in his history? What happened to trust?

Stereotype. To an extent, I was loving the stereotypical Italian family that Levitt chose to give his character, but as the gag went on and on and on, it wore thinner and thinner. Do all Italian families eat pasta, specifically spaghetti, every night? Why do they not wear shirts at the table? Are wife beater t-shirts mandatory? I half expected to find out that they were part of the mob as some subplot. Again, the gag isn’t bad, it just wore thin because of how much they kept coming back to it.

Growth. At the beginning of the film, Levitt’s character is obsessed with porn, saying that it is better than the “real thing”. By film’s end, he doesn’t really change his tune, even he has found a kindred spirit (though they aren’t “together”). It seems to me that there should have been some kind of character growth, but maybe that would be too ironically romantic comedy. Personally, I’m ok with him not growing. Some people are just set in their ways, but it would have been nice if he would have acknowledged his attempt to change, and why he tried, as well as why it didn’t work.

On the surface, Don Jon appears to be a film that is sure to offend those with delicate sensibilities who can’t take a joke. Truth is, though, this is a well thought out, funny comedy. Someone said it was a more entertaining version of Shame, but I would go one further and say it is like a mixture of that and (500) Days of Summer (which also starred Levitt). Obviously, this is not a film you can show your whole family. The scenes and themes are just not for everyone. It is more of a date flick, I suppose. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! I’ enjoyed this little film more than I expected to. If Levitt can continue to churn out enjoyable flicks like this, then he is on the fast track to becoming my new favorite director. Give this one a shot, sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Lincoln

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Lincoln recounts President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts, during January 1865, to obtain passage for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in the United States House of Representatives, which would formally abolish slavery in the country.

Expecting the Civil War to end within a month but concerned that his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation may be discarded by the courts once the war has concluded and the 13th Amendment defeated by the returning slave states, Lincoln feels it is imperative to pass the amendment by the end of January, thus removing any possibility that slaves who have already been freed may be re-enslaved. The Radical Republicans fear the amendment will merely be defeated by some who wish to delay its passage; the support of the amendment by Republicans in the border states is not yet assured either, since they prioritize the issue of ending the war. Even if all of them are ultimately brought on board, the amendment will still require the support of several Democratic congressmen if it is to pass. With dozens of Democrats having just become lame ducks after losing their re-election campaigns in the fall of 1864, some of Lincoln’s advisors believe that he should wait until the new Republican-heavy Congress is seated, presumably giving the amendment an easier road to passage. Lincoln, however, remains adamant about having the amendment in place and the issue of slavery settled before the war is concluded and the southern states readmitted into the Union.

Lincoln’s hopes for passage of the amendment rely upon the support of the Republican Party founder Francis Preston Blair, the only one whose influence can ensure that all members of the western and border state conservative Republican faction will back the amendment. With Union victory in the Civil War seeming highly likely and greatly anticipated, but not yet a fully accomplished fact, Blair is keen to end the hostilities as soon as possible. Therefore, in return for his support, Blair insists that Lincoln allow him to immediately engage the Confederate government in peace negotiations. This is a complication to Lincoln’s amendment efforts since he knows that a significant portion of the support he has garnered for the amendment is from the Radical Republican faction for whom a negotiated peace that leaves slavery intact is anathema. If there seems to be a realistic possibility of ending the war even without guaranteeing the end of slavery, the needed support for the amendment from the more conservative wing (which does not favor abolition) will certainly fall away. Unable to proceed without Blair’s support, however, Lincoln reluctantly authorizes Blair’s mission.

In the meantime, Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward work on the issue of securing the necessary Democratic votes for the amendment. Lincoln suggests that they concentrate on the lame duck Democrats, as they have already lost re-election and thus will feel free to vote as they please, rather than having to worry about how their vote will affect a future re-election campaign. Since those members also will soon be in need of employment and Lincoln will have many federal jobs to fill as he begins his second term, he sees this as a tool he can use to his advantage. Though Lincoln and Seward are unwilling to offer direct monetary bribes to the Democrats, they authorize agents to quietly go about contacting Democratic congressmen with offers of federal jobs in exchange for their voting in favor of the amendment.

With Confederate envoys ready to meet with Lincoln, he instructs them to be kept out of Washington, as the amendment approaches a vote on the House floor. At the moment of truth, Thaddeus Stevens decides to moderate his statements about racial equality to help the amendment’s chances of passage. A rumor circulates that there are Confederate representatives in Washington ready to discuss peace, prompting both Democrats and conservative Republicans to advocate postponing the vote on the amendment. Lincoln explicitly denies that such envoys are in or will be in the city — technically a truthful statement, since he had ordered them to be kept away — and the vote proceeds, narrowly passing by a margin of two votes. When Lincoln subsequently meets with the Confederates, he tells them that slavery cannot be restored as the North is united for ratification of the amendment, and that several of the southern states’ reconstructed legislatures would also vote to ratify.

After the amendment’s passage, the film’s narrative shifts forward two months, portraying Lincoln’s visit to the battlefield at Petersburg, Virginia, where he exchanges a few words with General Grant. Shortly thereafter, Grant receives General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, Lincoln is in a meeting with members of his cabinet, discussing possible future measures to enfranchise blacks, when he is reminded that Mrs. Lincoln is waiting to take them to their evening at Ford’s Theatre.

That night, while Tad Lincoln is viewing Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp at Grover’s Theater, a man announces that the President has been shot. The next morning his physician pronounces him dead. The film concludes with a flashback to Lincoln delivering his second inaugural address

REVIEW:

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most popular presidents. We had fun seeing him as a vampire hunter, now it is time to have a bit of a history lesson with Lincoln. For such an iconic figure, did this film do him justice?

What is this about?

Director Steven Spielberg takes on the towering legacy of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his stewardship of the Union during the Civil War years. The biographical saga also reveals the conflicts within Lincoln’s cabinet regarding the war and abolition.

What did I like?

Acting. Often time, you will hear me complaining about how films of yesteryear had actors who actually knew how to act, while today’s films are populated by so-called actors who get by on their looks, rather than talent. With this film, that is not the case. I cannot remember the last time I saw a film that had such complete performances from everyone in the cast. The great performances has restored my faith in today’s actors, let me tell you.

History to life. If you saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then you may have noticed that they took the legend that is Abraham Lincoln and made him a man…when he isn’t fighting vampires. This film does the same thing. It doesn’t try to put Lincoln on the high pedestal we hold him to today, but shows him as a flawed man dealing with the politics of Washington, same as any president from Washington to Obama.

Just as needed. Tommy Lee Jones’ character was just what this film needed. In typical Tommy Lee Jones fashion, he not only gave a great performance, but also threw in some comic relief. Not necessarily ha ha funny, but through his mannerisms and sayings. I guess the Academy took notice, because they nominated him for Best Supporting Actor.

What didn’t I like?

Talking. Going back to the old days of film, when everything wasn’t about explosions and CGI is something that I am a huge proponent of. However, this film literally is nothing but talking. Nearly 3 hours of talking, debating, talking while crying, and more talking. Having said that, I’m not sure what else could really happen. The film is focused on the passing of the 13th amendment and all the politicking behind it. Not exactly subject matter than lends itself to exciting action.

Mrs. Lincoln. I love Sally Field. Until recently, it seemed as if she would never age. I wasn’t a fan of her as Mrs. Lincoln, though. I”m not sure if it is because of her, or because it felt like they brought her in just to have a major female in the film. That isn’t to take anything away from Mary Todd Lincoln, just felt as if she didn’t really belong.

Lincoln is the kind of biopic that doesn’t skirt around the truth or make up stories just to make it a blockbuster. This is the kind of film that will encourage to go do some research on Lincoln, the 13th Amendment, the political parties, and everything else that you see in this film. Every bit of praise this film has received is well-earned. While it isn’t necessarily the most interesting of pictures, it is hands down one of the best that I’ve seen in quite some time. I highly recommend you see this before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Looper

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the year 2044, 25-year-old Joseph Simmons (Gordon-Levitt), works for a mafia company in Kansas City as a “looper”. Led by a man sent from the future named Abe (Daniels), loopers kill and dispose of victims sent back in time from 2074, and are paid by employers with bars of silver attached to the target. Additionally, when a looper is retired, the looper’s future self is sent back in time exactly thirty years as a routine target, but with a gold bar payment; this event is referred to as “closing the loop”, and, similarly to routine hits, carries serious consequences if not carried out.

One night, Seth (Dano), Joe’s friend and a fellow looper, visits him in a panic; on the verge of closing his own loop, Seth’s future self (Brennan) warned him of a mysterious character called the Rainmaker, who overran the future crime bosses and was retiring all of the loopers’ contracts in 2074, resulting in numerous premature looper deaths. Hesitating, Seth unintentionally allowed his future self to escape, and is being hunted by his employers for failing to close his own loop. Joe hides Seth in his apartment and is taken to Abe; under threat of losing half of all his silver, Joe reluctantly tells Abe where he hid Seth. Mutilating the young version of Seth, Abe scares the future Seth into returning by violently damaging his past self’s body; upon returning, however, the future Seth is killed to close his loop.

When Joe closes his own loop, he shoots his older self (Willis) without hesitation, as his head is sacked and is therefore initially unidentifiable. He retires to Shanghai, China where he later falls in love and marries. After his 30 years pass, Joe is taken from his home to be sent back to 2044 to close the loop, only for his wife to be accidentally killed in the process. Fighting and killing his captors as a result, Joe returns to 2044 unmasked and unbound, allowing him to surprise his younger self and avoid death. Later meeting his younger self, old Joe explains he still returned to 2044 to kill the Rainmaker as a child. Young Joe, still trying to close his loop, ends up in a struggle trying to kill old Joe. Stealing a map containing coordinates and a code from old Joe, young Joe then flees when Kid Blue (Segan) and Abe’s men appear with the intent to kill them.

Young Joe, following the map, reaches a farm house owned by Sara (Blunt) and her son Cid (Gagnon). When Joe shows Sara the map, Sara recognizes the code as Cid’s birthday along with the zip code of the hospital he was born in, prompting Joe to discover old Joe is going to kill the three children that could become the Rainmaker. Joe then decides to wait at the farm for the arrival of his older self, and becomes close to Sara. Joe soon learns that Sara is a telekinetic, and that Cid was raised by Sara’s sister for most of his life until she was accidentally killed by Cid. One morning, they are attacked by one of Abe’s thugs named Jesse (Dillahunt), who is killed when Cid falls into a rage and lets out a large telekinetic blast. Cid’s extraordinary telekinetic powers – which are far more powerful than any other mutant’s – cause Joe to realize that he is the Rainmaker; however, the realization radically changes old Joe’s memories, tipping him off that Cid is the Rainmaker. Before old Joe can act, however, Kid Blue captures him.

Escaping capture, old Joe kills Abe and his gang, and heads for Sara’s house. Kid Blue, reaching the farm, is fought and killed by young Joe; concurrently, old Joe pursues Sara and Cid into the farm cane fields where he maims Cid, resulting in Cid causing a telekinetic blast. Before Cid can kill old Joe, Sara calms and reassures him to stop his telekinetic rage; then telling Cid to run, Sara stands in old Joe’s path to stop him shooting Cid. Young Joe realizes that his older self will shoot Sara and enrage Cid, perpetuating the creation of the Rainmaker rather than preventing it. Unable to stop his older self, and knowing it’s his last chance to stop the Rainmaker, young Joe instead shoots himself; by doing so, he erases his future self through suicide, saving Sara and potentially preventing Cid from becoming the Rainmaker.

REVIEW:

In the future, are we destined to become so violent a society that we send people back in time to be killed, including ourselves? This is a question that was going through the back of my head as I was watching Looper.

What is this about?

In the year 2042, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, a hired assassin for the mob who kills people sent from the future. But what will he do when the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination?

What did I like?

Future. Truthfully, I don’t believe this would have worked in modern-day. We all know that if they would have thrown that time travel thing in there, someone would be screaming how unrealistic it is and all that junk. The future setting works and allows the film room to breathe and get creative, which I really liked. It shows that someone out there in Hollywood still has a functioning imagination, rather than just the ability to steal something from a book or in the past.

Make-up. No one is going to accuse Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis of having anything to do with each other, but the make-up artists here do as good a job of making Willis looks like an older version of Gordon-Levitt, and vice versa. The two men also have to use their actual acting talent by taking over certain mannerisms of each other, in an attempt to make their performances believable. For me, it worked, but for some other, it may not come off as believable.

Plot. The idea that mafia level assassins in the future are using time travel to send their targets back in time to be killed is an interesting one to me and I can’t really tell you why. I guess it is just because of the way they do it and the whole “closing the loop”. I’m curious why they use something as crude as a blunderbuss to off their targets.

Time travel. If you’ve seen any time travel movie, read any book about the subject, or what have you, then you know trying to keep up with all the rules, what a person can and cannot do, etc. is maddening. Willis covers this in his meeting with Gordon-Levitt at the diner. Let me just say that the diner reminds me of another Willis film where he met his younger (and older) self, The Kid. Anyway, it initially seems like Willis is brushing the question off, which he is, but he is really making sure that this film doesn’t become one about time travel, but rather the characters.

What didn’t I like?

Divergent. At a point fairly on, the film does some kind of switching timelines where the Joe we have been watching since the film started becomes old Joe, the other old Joe is killed, and we get a new young Joe. For the purposes of this film, I guess it works, but this is a cerebral film and one would think we have enough to think about other than divergent timelines and figuring out who’s who.

Kid. About halfway through the film, we switch from focusing on the loopers, to a sob story from old Joe and how he has to stop the Rainmaker because he killed his wife. First off, that little boy didn’t resonate with me and I almost wished Willis had killed him. Second, what was the point of casting Emily Blunt in the role of the mother and having her slum it out there on the farm. If this was an Oscar contender flick, I’d say alright, but let’s face it, that isn’t what this is. They could have either found another actress better suited for this role, or put her in setting better suited for her talents. Finally, I feel like the film wanted to get a little deeper into the whole telekinetic mutation that this kid has, especially since it is so strong with him, but doesn’t, either because of time or for fear that it’ll veer off into X-Men territory.

Length. I kind of get the feeling that they could have shaved a good 10-15 minutes out of this and it wouldn’t have hurt it all. As a matter of fact, it may very well have made it a better picture. To me, it felt like they were dragging things out for no real good reason. I appreciate the attempt to flesh out some characters and all that, but when it is obvious the film is coming to an end, just let it end.

I really did like Looper. Many people had this as one of the top films of 2012 and someone even had it at #1! For me, it wasn’t that great, but I can see why everyone went ga-ga over this picture. It isn’t very often we get a good, original, sci-fi thriller and the twist at the end is one that you really won’t expect. Give this one a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Premium Rush

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is not shown in chronological order, and contains numerous flash-forward and flash-back cuts, indicated with an overlaid digital clock showing the time advancing rapidly forward/backward to the next scene. In chronological order the events are:

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a New York City bicycle messenger alongside his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). Her roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung), delivers $50,000 that she has saved for two years to Mr. Leung (Henry O), a Chinese hawaladar, in exchange for a ticket that she must deliver to Sister Chen, buying a place for Nima’s son and mother in one of Sister Chen’s ships that smuggle people from China to the United States.

Mr. Lin, a local loan shark, learns of the ticket and how whoever returns it to Mr. Leung can collect Nima’s money. He then approaches Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a gambling-addicted NYPD officer who owes him money, offering to clear Monday’s debt if Monday gets him the ticket. Monday begins searching for Nima, who decides to hire Wilee to deliver the envelope with the ticket to Sister Chen at 7 P.M. After Wilee leaves, Nima is confronted by Monday, who coerces her into revealing that Wilee has the ticket and handing over the delivery receipt. After Monday leaves, Vanessa finds Nima, and learns the contents of the envelope.

Monday catches up with Wilee before he leaves the campus where Nima lives and threatens him for the ticket. Wilee escapes and heads to the police station to report Monday, only to find out he’s a police officer, and hides in the bathroom, where he opens the envelope and finds the ticket.

After he escapes the station, Wilee angrily tells his dispatcher, Raj (Aasif Mandvi), that he is returning the package so that someone else can drop it off. Returning to Nima’s college, Wilee leaves the envelope, which is picked up by his rival, Manny (Wolé Parks). Before Manny picks it up, however, Monday calls the dispatch to redirect the delivery to a different address.

As he is about to leave the college after returning the envelope, Wilee runs into Nima. He confronts her about the ticket, and she reveals the truth. Guilt-ridden, Wilee tries to catch up to Manny, who refuses to give Wilee his drop. They race each other and in the process, are chased by a bike cop who had earlier tried to arrest Wilee. As they approach Monday’s location, the bike cop tackles Manny out of his bike and arrests him. Vanessa, who learns of Monday’s trickery and races over to warn Manny, appears, grabs Manny’s bag and gives it to Wilee.

As they were about to escape, however, Wilee is run over by an oncoming taxi. He is put in an ambulance with Monday, while his damaged bike is taken to an impound lot, with the envelope hidden in the handlebars. Monday beats Wilee into offering to give Monday the envelope in exchange for his bike.

Wilee tells Monday that the envelope is in Manny’s bag, and Monday leaves to search it, while Wilee meets with Vanessa in the impound lot. She gives him the envelope, which she had retrieved, and he escapes on a stolen bike. Monday, realizing Wilee has tricked him, pursues Wilee to Sister Chen’s place. Wilee’s stolen bike breaks and he steals the bike belonging to the cop who chased him throughout the movie. Meanwhile, Nima calls Mr. Leung for help. He deploys his enforcer, the Sudoku Man, to help her.

As Wilee reaches Chinatown, he is confronted by Monday, who is threatening to kill him. However, Vanessa arrives with other messengers, dispatched by Raj, and delays Monday, giving Wilee time to deliver the ticket to Sister Chen, who calls the Captain of her ship and tells him to allow Nima’s family inside. Outside, Monday is confronted by the Sudoku Man, who shoots him in the head and leaves. Nima arrives, after a phone call from her mother confirming that they got on the ship, and meets with Wilee and Vanessa.

REVIEW:

A movie about bike messengers in New York City. Who on Earth would actually find that interesting? Apparently, quite a few people. Premium Rush went on to do pretty decent business when it was released, though I do think many, including myself, looked over it because of its subject material and when it was released.

What is this about?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a New York City bike messenger whose routine “premium rush” run turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan after a dirty cop (Michael Shannon) becomes desperate to get his hands on the package.

What did I like?

Adrenaline. There is no way you can sell a film like this without amping up the action. The film does exactly that by showcasing some truly exciting bike chases through the crowded streets of NYC. There is nothing like some fast paced action to make you forget about the bad taste the last film you watched put in your mouth.

Bad guy. I still tired of cops being the bad guys, but in this case where Michael Shannon is playing one that just got into some gambling debt, I let it slide. Shannon is great in this role, as he brings the crazy, almost cartoonishness to this bad guy turn. Add in his naturally crazy eyes, and you have the makings for a truly memorably villain.

Last act. I can’t get over how fast this film flies. The pacing is great, but the last act is masterfully awesome! With almost nonstop movement, as well as breakneck bike riding, and the triumphant resolution to the plot, it is the perfect way to bring things to a satisfying conclusion.

What didn’t I like?

Rival. It makes perfect sense that our hero has a rival. I’m perfectly fine with that but, it seems to be that it might have worked better if said rival had been part of the nefarious plot to pilfer this package, especially since he actually had it in his possession! I’m no screenwriter, but doesn’t it seem like that would be a great twist?

Triangle. Maybe it was just me, but this love triangle that they had going on wasn’t working, especially in this one scene where Manny suddenly tells (the insanely hot) Vanessa that it was a good thing she broke up with Wilee. WTF?!? First off, how do you just come out of nowhere with that, and secondly, why are all up in her business?

Character development. With all the fast paced action and impressive bike riding skills and stunts going on, you would think they’d have taken a few minutes to flesh out the characters. As it is, the audience has no connection to any of them, save for maybe some sympathy for the so-called victim, but that’s only because she had to leave her baby in China and they weren’t allowing her to bring him here. That kind of sad story is sure to bring about some kind of feelings amongst the audience.

Premium Rush is one of the surprise films of 2012. It was very-well written, acted, and received, though it may still have ended up overlooked. That being said, I totally enjoyed it, despite a few fairly minor flaws. Do I recommend it? Sure, I mean, come on! How often can you say that you’ve watched an exciting movie about bike messengers?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Dark Knight Rises

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City is in a state of peace. Under powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner James Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organized crime. However, he still feels guilty about the cover-up of Harvey Dent’s crimes. He plans to admit to the conspiracy at a function celebrating Dent, but decides that the city is not ready to hear the truth. While following a lead in the abduction of a congressman from the function, Gordon’s speech falls into the hands of Bane. Gordon is shot in the process, and he promotes patrol officer John Blake to detective, allowing Blake to report directly to him.

As Batman has disappeared from Gotham City, so too has Bruce Wayne, locking himself inside Wayne Manor. Wayne Enterprises is crumbling after he invested in a clean energy project designed to harness fusion power, but shut the project down after learning that the core could be modified to become a nuclear weapon. Both Blake — who has deduced Batman’s identity — and Gordon implore Bruce to return as Batman, but Alfred Pennyworth objects out of concern for Bruce’s future and resigns in a failed attempt to dissuade him.

Bane stages an attack on the stock exchange and uses a stolen set of Bruce’s fingerprints to place a number of risky investments in his name, bankrupting Bruce and forcing him to relinquish control of Wayne Enterprises. Correctly suspecting that his business rival, John Daggett, has employed Bane to aid in this aggressive take-over of his company, Bruce entrusts businesswoman Miranda Tate to keep full control out of Daggett’s hands. Bane, however, has other plans, and kills Daggett to take control of his infrastructure.

Following a trail left by cat burglar Selina Kyle, Batman confronts Bane, who says that he has assumed the leadership of the League of Shadows following the death of Ra’s al Ghul. Bane reveals that he was using Daggett’s construction firms to stage a heist on Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Science Division. He steals three Tumblers before crippling Batman and detaining him in a prison from which escape is virtually impossible. The other inmates relate the story of the only person to ever successfully escape from the prison: a child driven by necessity and the sheer force of will, said to be the child of Ra’s al Ghul, leading Batman to believe that this child became Bane.

Bane lures the vast majority of Gotham’s police force underground and sets off a chain of explosions across the city, trapping the officers and turning Gotham City into an isolated city-state. Any attempt to leave the city will result in the detonation of the Wayne Enterprises fusion core, which has been converted into a bomb. Bane publicly reveals the cover-up of Dent’s death, and releases the prisoners locked up under the Dent Act. The rich and powerful are dragged from their homes and put before a show trial presided over by Jonathan Crane. After an attempt to sneak Special Forces soldiers into the city fails, the government blockades Gotham and the city further regresses into a state of anarchy.

Meanwhile, Bruce recovers from his injuries and retrains himself to be Batman. He successfully escapes Bane’s prison to return to Gotham, enlisting Selina, Blake, Miranda, Gordon and Lucius Fox to help liberate the city and stop the fusion bomb before it grows too unstable and explodes. Batman confronts and subdues Bane, but is betrayed and stabbed by Miranda as she reveals herself to be Talia al Ghul. It was she who escaped the prison as a child, before returning with her father and the League of Shadows to rescue Bane, the one person who aided her escape. Talia plans to complete her father’s work in destroying Gotham, while exacting personal vengeance against Bruce for Ra’s death.

Gordon successfully cuts off the bomb’s ability to be remotely detonated while Selina kills Bane, allowing Batman to chase Talia. He tries to force her to take the bomb to the fusion chamber where it can be stabilized, but she remotely floods the chamber. Batman shoots her truck off the road and Talia dies in the resulting crash, confident that the bomb cannot be stopped. Using a helicopter developed by Fox, Batman hauls the bomb beyond the city limits, where it detonates over the ocean and presumably kills him.

In the aftermath of the explosion, Batman is praised as a sacrificial hero and Bruce is believed dead as a casualty of riots. As his estate is divided up, Lucius is shown completing work on the Bat, realizing that Batman may have escaped the detonation after all due to the fact the autopilot was fixed by Bruce many months before. Alfred is also shown holidaying in Italy, where he sees Bruce and Selina having coffee together at a nearby table. It is also revealed that Blake’s legal first name is Robin (comics), as he inherits the Batcave

REVIEW:

When The Dark Knight came out a few years back, everyone seemed to all but bow down and worship it because it was supposedly the best film ever made. I was one of the handful of people who didn’t seem to see it that way. A few friends have wondered if I am going into The Dark Knight Rises with similar disdain. The answer is no, but I do have my reservations.

Before I go any further, I feel I should make a statement about the tragedy that has befallen the small town of Aurora, CO, following the shooting. For those that don’t know, a gunman went in the theater to see this film, and opened fire, effectively killing and wounding quite a few people. I don’t know if this film had anything to do with this happening, but it truly is a shame that it happened. My heart is heavy and mourning for those affected by this tragedy.

So, what did I like?

3D. Or should I say lack of 3D? With seemingly every film released these days being released, made, and/or post converted to 3D, for the sole purpose of making more money, not a better film, mind you, I tip my hat to Christopher Nolan and his decision to not film this in 3D, nor did he cave in and convert it. There are plenty of scenes that may have looked great in 3D, but, at least for me, there hasn’t been anything to justify making that switch. I really can’t tell the difference, other than paying for some rented sunglasses!

Tone. I had one major complaint with the last film, and that it was a little too dark and serious for my taste, which is kind of ironic, since they used the Joker as the main villain. This film, though, lightens things up, and actually feels like a comic book film. Yes, it has moments that are dark, but as a whole, this is a more pleasant viewing experience.

Continuity. Film series these days seem to think about moving forward and making more and more money, but not many of them seem to remember things that went on in their universe. So, you can imagine my delight to see some moments from the previous films as the trilogy comes to climactic conclusion.

Cerebral. Christopher Nolan is no dummy, and neither are his films. He brings this level of cerebral thinking to a villain that, for the most part, isn’t really known for his brains, Bane. The complex plots he hatches are impressive, to say the least, just watch the opening scenes and you’ll be more than aware of what this guy can do.

Bane. Speaking of Bane,  I remember when he debuted in the comics and broke Batman’s back, which led to a replacement Batman for a while, but that’s neither here nor there. I was wondering if they were going to use that in the film, and they sort of did, but not to the full extent, I would have liked, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least it was in there, unlike the venom that pumps him up, for instance.

Catwoman. I love Anne Hathway. I have since the first time I saw her in The Princess Diaries. However, I”m not quite sure  she works as Catwoman. That being said, I give her all the credit in the world for making this her own character and not trying to be Julie Newmar, Halle Berry, Lee Meriwether Michelle Pfeiffer, or Eartha Kitt. While this may not be the most memorable Catwoman, she is the closest to the source material in the Nolan universe.

Talia. Marion Cotillard is a vision of loveliness and if you ever seen Talia al Ghul in the comics, then it isn’t very hard to see why she was chosen to play her. I’m not too crazy about how little she was used, but the misdirection was quite impressive. It sure had me fooled!

Action. The action in the flick is awesome, if I do say so myself. They really upped the ante. I literally got goosebumps when they are driving though the tunnel and all of a sudden the light go out and Batman takes out the crooks one by one. The fight with Bane, the chase scenes, oh…and the scene at the stadium. Awesometacular, but the final fight, that was a thing of beauty!

What didn’t I like?

Voices. First we have Christian Bale doing that raspy thing. It didn’t work in the last film, what the hell possessed him to think it would work this time? He really should have gotten the memo. Also in the category of bad voicing is Tom Hardy’s Bane. When the first trailer was released his voice was a raspy and a little hard to understand, but it worked. For some reason, someone decided to change it and give him this Sean Connery-type voice that doesn’t really work. It comes off as cartoonish as Batman’s voice did annoying.

Batsuit. We’re in the third film, you’d think by now the Batsuit would look like something more than some kind of exoskeleton by now. The part that sticks out to me the most, though, is the next. Something didn’t quite look right, I think it was something to do with the neck piece and the way the cowl is made. It gives the illusion that Batman is a sort of bobblehead.

Alfred. He’s only in about 10% of the film, but that whole time he’s bitching and moaning about how he doesn’t want Bruce to be Batman anymore, and then leaves. WTF?!? Why in tarnation did the decide to make Alfred such a whiny little bitch? He’s never been one of those characters that kicks some ass, obviously, but he’s loyal and unquestioning. This just goes against everything Alfred stands for!

Too much Wayne. So, it is eight years after the events of the last film, and Bruce Wayne has hung up the cape and cowl. That’s fine, he has to get back to being Batman. Bane breaks him…same kind of thing. Somewhere in there, though, shouldn’t someone have thought there was a little bit too much Bruce Wayne? No one is interested in Batman because of Bruce Wayne. We got his story in Batman Begins, and that was enough. While I’m thinking about it, how is it that he can grow a fully stylized beard in a desert prison, yet it wasn’t that long ago, when he was in Tibet, that he had a full on, scruffy, shaggy beard.

Villains. In all the Batman films, there has been at least one villain that is a strong presence, be it the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Ra’s al Ghul, Mr. Freeze, etc. However, I found that Bane, while physically imposing and such, he just didn’t come off as strong enough to carry the film. Catwoman and Talia were nothing more than villainesses with a purpose, but nothing more. Considering how much they shoved Catwoman down our throats during the whole marketing campaign, I was expecting more.

Ending. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but there is a character reference that just makes you wonder, wouldn’t it have been better to have it happen earlier on in the film, or maybe even at the end of the last film, rather than the last thing you see before the credits roll.

The Dark Knight Rises has apparently pissed some people off that have said anything negative about it. Why else would Rotten Tomatoes have shut down the comment section of their review of this film. Luckily, I don’t have much negative to say about this film. All my complaints are minor. I really did enjoy this film and think it may very well be the best Batman film since Batman (1989). Definitely a fitting end to the trilogy. Sure, some people are going to be disappointed, but that’s because they hold the last film to such impossibly, unwarranted high standards. I highly recommend this film and think you should get off that couch right now and go see it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Inception

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and along with his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) perform illegal corporate espionage by entering the subconscious minds of their targets, using two-level “dream within a dream” strategies to “extract” valuable information. Each of the “extractors” carries a “totem”, a personalized small object whose behavior is unpredictable to anyone except to the totem’s owner, to determine if they are within another person’s dream. Cobb’s totem is a spinning top which spins perpetually in the dream state. Cobb struggles with memories of his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) that manifest within the dream and try to sabotage his efforts.

Cobb is approached by the wealthy Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) asking them to perform the act of “inception”, planting an idea within the person’s subconscious mind. Saito wishes to break up the vast energy empire of his competitor, the ailing Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite), by suggesting this idea to his son Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) who will inherit the empire when his father dies. Should Cobb succeed, Saito promises to use his influence to clear Cobb of the murder charges for his wife’s death, allowing Cobb to re-enter the United States and reunite with his children. Cobb assembles his team: Eames (Tom Hardy), an identity forger; Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist who concocts the powerful sedative needed to stabilize the layers of the shared dream; and Ariadne (Ellen Page), a young student architect tasked with designing the labyrinth of the dream landscapes. While planning the inception, Ariadne learns of the guilt Cobb struggles with from Mal’s suicide and his separation from his children when he fled the country as a fugitive.

The job is set into motion when Maurice Fischer dies and his son accompanies his father’s body from Sydney to Los Angeles. During the flight, Cobb sedates Fischer, and the team bring him into a three-level shared dream. At each stage, the member of the team who is “creating” the dream remains while the other team members fall asleep within the dream to travel further down into Fischer’s subconscious. The dreamers will then ride a synchronized system of “kicks” (a car diving off a bridge, a falling elevator, and a collapsing building) back up the levels to wake up to reality. In the first level, Yusuf’s dream of a rainy city, the team successfully abducts Fischer, but the team is attacked by Fischer’s militarized subconscious projections, which have been trained to hunt and kill extractors. Saito is mortally wounded during the shoot-out, but due to the strength of Yusuf’s sedative, dying in the dream will send them into limbo, a deep subconscious level where they may lose their grip on reality and be trapped indefinitely.

Eames takes the appearance of Fischer’s godfather Peter Browning (Tom Berenger) to suggest that he reconsider his opinion of his father’s will. Yusuf remains on the first level driving a van through the streets, while the remaining characters enter Arthur’s dream, taking place in a corporate hotel. Cobb turns Fischer against Browning and persuades him to join the team as Arthur runs point, and they descend to the third dream level, a snowy mountain fortress dreamed by Eames, which Fischer is told represents Browning’s subconscious. Yusuf’s evasive driving on the first level manifests as distorted gravity effects on the second and an avalanche on the third.

Saito succumbs to his wounds, and Cobb’s projection of Mal sabotages the plan by shooting Fischer dead.[11] Cobb and Ariadne elect to enter limbo to find Fischer and Saito. There, Cobb confronts his projection of Mal, who tries to convince him to stay with her and his kids in limbo. Cobb refuses and confesses that he was responsible for Mal’s suicide: to help her escape from limbo during a shared dream experience, he inspired in her the idea that her world wasn’t real. Once she had returned to reality, she became convinced that she was still dreaming and needed to die in order to wake up. Through his confession, Cobb attains catharsis and chooses to remain in limbo to search for Saito; Eames defibrillates Fischer to bring him back up to the third-level mountain fortress, where he enters a safe room and discovers and accepts the idea to split up his father’s business empire.

Leaving Cobb behind, the team members escape by riding the kicks back up the levels of the dream. Cobb eventually finds an elderly Saito who has been waiting in limbo for decades in dream time (just a few hours in real time), and the two help each other to remember their arrangement. The team awakens on the flight; Saito arranges for Cobb to get through U.S. customs, and he goes home to reunite with his children. Cobb uses his spinning top to test reality but is distracted by his children before he sees the result.

REVIEW:

 I’ve actually received quite a few inquiries as to why/when am I going to review Inception. Well, here it is.

Let me say this first, I am no fan of Christopher Nolan. While everyone else seems to worship the ground this guy walks on, I think he’s overrated and his pictures are just an excuse for him to show the world how messed up he is psychologically. Having said that, I did rather enjoy this picture, much more than The Dark Knight.

Don’t even bother asking me what the film is about because I couldn’t tell you without causing mass confusion. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. As someone said about this picture, it is one of those films that makes you think from beginning to end…especially the end.

It is no secret that I prefer films that require little to no thought. For me, they are just more enjoyable. I watch movies as an escape. That’s what they were initially made for, anyway. However, a film like this is a welcome departure from the norm for me every now and then.

Nolan prefers his films to be rooted in reality, so the only way he coul feasibly get away with rolling a city on itself (you see part of this happening in the trailer), is to have this happen in someone’s dreams, where anything can happen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t necessarily go around turning cities upside down like that in my dreams, but whatever.

So, Leonardo DiCaprio is apparently working for some mysterious benefactors and has gained this skill of manipulating people’s thoughts through dreams. This leads the viewer to wonder what part of the film is “real” and what is dream, much in the same way the first couple of films in The Matrix trilogy had you wondering.

I really liked this notion of more or less implanting thoughts through dreams, but one has to wonder…has it already been done? Maybe I’ve gone into your dreams and told you to read this post? Maybe you told me to write this? Who knows?

As with any film of this nature nowadays, they have to insert the drama. This comes in the form of Marion Cotillard’s character, Mal, who apparently committed suicide and inadvertently framed Leonardo DiCaprio for it. Now, she “haunts” his subconscious and causes trouble for him and his team.

This is not a film filled with nothing but subconscious mumbo jumbo. There actually is a lot more action here than I expected. This actually helps move the film along at a brisk pace, because without it, this picture could very well have fallen into the category of “will this never end” boredom!

Each of the cast is great. I think this is one of the few DiCaprio films that I actually liked him in (Titanic was all about Kate Winslet).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt really surprised me with this very serious, buttoned up role as Arthur. Something we’re not used to seeing from him. Of course, the same thing could have been said about him in G.I. Joe:Rise of Cobra, right?

If there was a weak link, it had to be Ellen Page. Once again, she’s playing the same role we’ve seen her do a million times before, that of the rebellious youth who wants to do her own thing. She seriously needs to try something different.

Nolan also brought in his usuals, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine. I half expected to see Christian Bale turn up somewhere, but then again, it looks like Murphy was trying to be Bale.

What did I think of Inception? Well, I’m not gushing over it the way everyone else seems to be, but I did rather enjoy it. I’m just not into these types of films, I guess. I mean, had there been more action and not so much exposition and unnecessary drama, not to mention a shorter runtime, I might have loved it. Still, I would highly recommend that you see this film. I will say it was one of the best films of 2010.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars