Archive for the Dreams Category

SUCKER PUNCH!

Posted in 2011, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Dreams, Fantasy Films, Highly Stylized Films, Hot Chick Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: SUCKER PUNCH (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: The skies above a World War I battlefield, filled with fighter planes and huge zeppelins. There are the sounds of gunfire and bombs exploding. A close-up on one of the zeppelins reveals MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are flying the giant airship.)

MA: Wow! What a view!

LS (Looking at magazine with scantily clad women battling soldier zombies on the cover): I’ll say!

MA: Put that away! We have a movie to review! (Swipes magazine from LS).

LS: Hey! I was just getting to the best part!

MA (looks at opened centerfold LS had been eyeing): I’ll say! Anyway, let’s get to today’s movie. I’ll start since you’re flying this thing

LS: Me? I thought you were flying it.

MA: I’m not flying it!

LS: Errr..maybe it’s flying itself?

MA: I hope not. I seem to remember something from history called the Hindenburg. Try to figure out how to fly it. I’ll start the review.

LS: Sure. There must be a manual around here somewhere.

MA: Today we’re reviewing SUCKER PUNCH (2011) , the new fantasy action movie from writer/director Zack Snyder, the man who brought us the ambitious superhero movie WATCHMEN (2009).

LS: I liked WATCHMEN a lot. Snyder also directed 300 (2006) and the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004). I thought those two movies were just so-so. (While looking for manual he discovers another magazine, this one with gorgeous busty babes battling a dragon on the cover. He grins ear to ear.)

MA: SUCKER PUNCH is a feast for the eyes, full of wild visuals like the one we’re flying through right now, a World War I battle scene with fighter planes and zeppelins filling the sky, and hot babes and soldier zombies battling it out on the ground below. However, the story SUCKER PUNCH tells is average at best, and the movie isn’t strong enough to succeed on the strength of its visuals alone, and so the final product is a mixed bag.

LS: The story is average? Did we see the same movie? I wasn’t aware there was an actual storyline at all in this movie! I must have missed something.

MA (sees LS looking at magazine): I’m not surprised.

The film gets off to a great start in an opening montage that shows Baby Doll (Emily Browning) and her little sister grieving over the death of their mother, and their evil Stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) attacks them, and in the fight the little sister is killed, and the Stepfather brings the nearly mute Baby Doll (from shock, perhaps?) to an institution for mentally disturbed women. This sequence plays like a music video, with lots of music and no dialogue, but it worked for me. It was a neat little piece of storytelling, a cool way to open the film.

LS: Are you kidding? I agree, the opening plays like a music video. But that’s not a good thing. I found it incredibly annoying that there was no dialogue at all throughout his section, and characters do things like move in slow motion as they run. It was just awful! I wanted to know more about this back story. I wanted to know more about what was going on. But it’s superficial and stylized to the point of being soulless. What this did for me was turn me off to the movie right from the beginning. I didn’t care about any of these characters.

MA: Wow. You’re harsh. We’re talking about the first five minutes of the movie here, not the entire thing. I thought it worked.

At the institution, the Stepfather arranges for Baby Doll to have a lobotomy (nice guy!) which will happen in a few days once the doctor arrives. There’s then a jarring transition in which we learn that Baby Doll’s not really in an institution at all, but in a  whorehouse, where the girls perform dances and entertain the guests. Baby Doll learns this from two of the women she meets there, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone).

Now, I don’t want to give anything way, but I didn’t buy this transition one bit, and I knew from the get go where this film was going, and so the ending wasn’t much of a surprise for me.

LS: There were supposed to be surprises in this movie? That’s funny, because I sure didn’t see them. Just about every aspect of this movie was completely predictable. I saw the trailer for this movie like 20 times before the movie came out. I thought it looked pretty lame. Turns out almost everything you need to know about the movie is in the trailer. And it’s nice and short. I could have skipped the movie entirely and still written my part of this review.

MA: I’m guessing you didn’t like this one?

Anyway, the girls’ pimp is Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), the man we saw as the orderly who arranged the lobotomy with the stepfather, and he’s a sufficiently slimy fellow, and there’s also Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) who serves as the girls’ madame. The whole thing plays like a dream, and nuff said, I guess.

LS: Wow, that sounds exactly like another movie we saw recently, INCEPTION. Yeah, the lame music video beginning was supposed to be the “real world,” then we get treated to the whorehouse stuff which is a dream, and the battle sequences which are dreams within dreams. The whole time I just wanted to wake up and see another another movie!

I like Gugino, though. She deserves better than this.

Another odd thing is that the setting is a whorehouse, and yet we see no signs of anyone having sex. Ever. Instead, the girls just do dances for the clients that we never get to see, either. The entire setting is a cheat. Of course the PG-13 rating doesn’t help matters. But why set a story in a whorehouse, if you’re going to keep it so sanitized?

MA: The gimmick in this one has Baby Doll, whenever she’s about to dance, close her eyes and at these times she finds herself in a fantasy world where she meets the Wise Man (Scott Glenn). He tells her that in order for her to escape, she must find five things—a map, fire, a knife, a key, and the fifth thing is a mystery . She’ll have to figure that out for herself later. Well, thanks dude! That was helpful!

Baby Doll then gets to fight three giant monster samurais, in what I thought was one of the movie’s best sequences.

LS: This is the one point where I thought the movie was going to deliver the goods. Carla Gugino as the Dance Instructor/Madame plays an old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape player. Music begins. It’s Bjork’s amazing song “Army of Me,” which if you’re familiar with it, is a powerful song that sets a real mood. Then Baby Doll is transported to a Buddhist temple, where she goes up against three giant monsters dressed as samurais. All of this was pretty cool. I was totally getting into it. Unfortunately, this is the only scene that really captured my imagination. The movie didn’t really start for me until this scene. Unfortunately, when the scene’s over, so is the best part of the movie. They should have just released this one scene and deleted the rest of the movie.

MA: SUCKER PUNCH is similar in structure to SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010), as both movies play out like a video game. In that one, Scott Pilgrim has to battle “seven evil exes” and here Baby Doll has to gain five items. The difference is SCOTT PILGRIM was a comedy and the screwball antics were easier to accept, because the film was loony. Here, it’s supposed to be a serious action movie, but with so much of the story based on complete dream-like fantasy, it’s hard to take seriously, and it doesn’t work as well.

LS: The difference is SCOTT PILGRIM had an actual story to it. It had developed characters. It used the video game aspects in an innovative way. I thought it was cleverly done. As for SUCKER PUNCH, it has no story, one-dimensional characters, and everything that happens is pretty predictable. They put a lot of money into SUCKER PUNCH’s visuals, and there are parts that look great, but they FORGOT TO BUY A DAMN SCRIPT!

MA: So, Baby Doll tells her friends about her plan to escape, and they agree to help her so they can all escape, and what happens is each time they go for an item in “real life” Baby Doll closes her eyes and they all enter the fantasy world of the Wise Man where he tells them how to get the item their looking for.

For example, the map they’re looking for is in Blue’s office, but in the fantasy world, they have to battle World War I soldier zombies to steal the map. When it comes time for the fire, they have to steal a cigarette lighter, but in the fantasy world, they must battle a dragon.

LS: Actually, whenever Baby Doll closes her eyes and goes into the battle sequences, she is supposed to be doing a provocative dance in the “whorehouse” reality that hypnotizes everyone who sees it. We never see her actually dance. I would have liked to see that at least once. Everyone goes on and on about how great a dancer she is – but we never see proof of this.

MA: That’s a good point. I figured we’d see her dance at least once, but nope!

So that’s how the movie goes, as the girls battle their way through these different set pieces to get the items they need to escape, and whether or not they ultimately make it of course is what the ending is all about.

Again, visually I loved SUCKER PUNCH, but its story needed a lot of work. I didn’t buy the “whorehouse” bit at all. It was so obviously dreamlike that you just knew where this film was going in terms of its revelations at the end.

LS: Another giveaway is that in the “real world” things are drab looking (but just as stylized), but in the whorehouse world, all of the girls are perfectly made-up and look like supermodels. Not once does a character smear her mascara or smudge her lipstick. In the battlefield, they’re even more stylized. Sure, they look great, but they also could have easily been replaced by CGI characters.

MA: And as much as I liked this film visually, I thought the battle sequences fell flat. I liked the first battle a lot, between Baby Doll and the three giant monster warriors. It was a really cool scene. But later, when the movie should have taken off, in the big World War I battle sequence, I was unimpressed. While this grand scope of battlefield images with the planes and zeppelins is certainly satisfying, I thought that the actual battle scenes between the babes and the zombies were mediocre and flat.

(A ZOMBIE SOLDIER pops up from behind some machinery)

ZOMBIE: Brains! Brains! I wish someone with brains had written this movie!

LS: When we see the giant samurai creatures, it’s all new to us. And it looks great. By the time we get to the other battles with other kinds of creatures, it’s old hat. And the battle scenes are repetitive and monotonous. When even the action gets boring, you know there’s a problem.

MA: Yes, the same can be said about the dragon sequence. While the dragon itself was very menacing and cool-looking, the actual battle was hardly exciting. So, director Zach Snyder gets a gold star for creating amazing and memorable images in this movie, but in terms of generating suspense he doesn’t do so well.

The one scene that I thought was really suspenseful was towards the end, when Blue Jones discovers that the girls are trying to escape and deals with them accordingly. This was a suspenseful, violent and dark scene, one that succeeded in making me feel that what was going on was real, but there weren’t many of these true scenes in the movie at all. As a total package, I liked WATCHMEN much better than SUCKER PUNCH.

LS: There’s no comparison. WATCHMEN was based on a legendary graphic novel and had a solid, well-developed story, and fleshed out characters. You cannot compare it to cinema bubblegum like SUCKER PUNCH.

MA: The story was just average. I liked the idea of Baby Doll entering the fantasy world, and I liked how it gave the film the excuse to do all these neat battle scenes, but the scenes weren’t as good as they could have been. The bigger problem with the story is that the reality Baby Doll is escaping from, the whorehouse, isn’t real. Had this part of the story remained rooted in reality, I would have bought into it much more. It was like a dream within a dream within a dream, and I’ve made it no secret that I don’t like dream plots.

(LEONARDO DICAPRIO runs through the room)

DICAPRIO: It’s a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream….(he disappears)

MA: The acting in this one was pretty much nonexistent. Like you said, these characters could have been all CGI created. They don’t really get a chance to do any real acting. Emily Browning is OK as Baby Doll, but she never wowed me. Abbie Cornish was OK as Sweet Pea. Cornish is also starring in LIMITLESS (2011) and I liked her better in that movie. I did like Jena Malone as Rocket, as she seemed to have more personality than the others.

LS: I think Jena Malone as Rocket was my favorite, too. She and Sweet Pea are the main characters after Baby Doll. Poor Amber (Jamie Chung) is given hardly anything to do. In the battle scenes she’s always flying a plane or stuck inside a robot. Disney Channel alum Vanessa Hudgens is also in it, as a brunette character named Blondie (how funny), and she’s the weakest of the girl characters. With her big hair and baby face, she looked like a little kid playing dress-up and didn’t really belong there. I wish they’d used someone better.

The girls in this movie, for the most part, are hot and are made up to be even hotter. Like I said, they look like a group of supermodels most of the time. They’re part of the reason the visuals work so well. But there’s no real depth to them. They’re predictable, stock characters.

Y’know, teenage girls running around like superheroes isn’t anything new. Japanese anime has been doing this for decades. And doing it with better stories.

MA: Oscar Isaac makes for a competent villain as Blue Jones, but through most of the movie he doesn’t do all that much. He doesn’t get to shine as a true bad guy until the end. Scott Glenn as the Wise Man could have played this dull role in his sleep, and at times it looks as if he just woke up, but it was still good to see him.

LS: I thought Oscar Isaac was actually pretty annoying as Blue. He never seemed menacing enough. He seemed like an underling who thinks he’s in charge. An irritating weasel. I kept expecting one of the girls to kill him off without much effort.

Scott Glenn is okay, but once again it’s a role that takes no effort. And he does look like he’s doing it in his sleep!

And don’t forget about Jon Hamm (Don Draper from the excellent AMC  TV series, MAD MEN). Here’s a great actor reduced to playing what are essentially cameo roles as someone called the “High Roller” in the whorehouse sequences (we see him in the audience once, but he has no dialogue and we don’t even really meet him) as well as the “Doctor” in the real world who performs lobotomies (and who has just a few lines of dialogue). What a complete waste of his talent!

MA: Gerard Plunkett as the Stepfather has minimal screen time and hardly any dialogue, but he sure makes a good evil bastard. I think he gave the best performance in the film, and he’s hardly in it at all.

LS: I wanted to know more about him, and about Baby Doll before she was brought to the asylum. I hated the opening montage/music video thing. I wanted some real character development, some real insight into what was going on, instead of the same old “by the numbers” version. We’ve seen all this before, so much so that Zack Snyder didn’t even have to use any effort in that part. And it could have been so much more effective. It’s like he didn’t want to bother with the effort developing things. He was too busy thinking up elaborate monsters for the battle sequences.

MA: SUCKER PUNCH is a mixed bag. Is it worth it seeing it on the big screen? Well, for its neat visuals, I’d have to say yes, it is worth seeing at the movies, but be forewarned, as a complete package it doesn’t hold up. It’s in desperate need of a much better story.

LS: Or any story at all.

MA: I give it two and a half knives.

LS: Man, are you generous.

MA: Well, I enjoyed the visuals a lot.

LS: Okay, here’s what’s good about the movie. The girls are hot. The battle scenes are visually interesting (well, mostly the first one with the samurais, but each of the battle sequences has something that stands out. I also liked the use of music. The use of that Bjork song as a centerpiece was inspired – it’s a good song and it fits its sequence perfectly – like a good music video….er…maybe that’s the problem. SUCKER PUNCH plays more like a big-budget string of music videos than a movie.

Overall, the choice of music is pretty good. We’ve got Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” performed by star Emily Browning (which wasn’t completely awful; she also sings a cover of The Smiths’ “Asleep”), The Stooges’ classic “Search and Destroy” covered by Skunk Anansie, Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” covered by Emiliana Torrini, and even Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac get into the act with a cover of Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug” during the closing credits. Some of the covers work, others don’t, but they’re all interesting choices. And thankfully they didn’t have someone sing a cover of the Bjork song – it’s the real deal. Hell, the soundtrack is more inspired than the movie is.

MA: I agree. I loved the soundtrack.

LS: But the thing is, SUCKER PUNCH is more like a series of music videos, and sequences from video games, than an actual coherent movie. And by the end, it just feels so predictable and pointless, you wonder why they ever bothered.

I give it one knife. I wanted to give it even less, because it was such a waste of time. But the visuals are well done, and look good on the big screen. I can’t imagine it would look as good on a television screen. But seriously, it’s not worth the price of a theater ticket to see it. Once you dig beneath the look of the movie, it has no substance. It’s a void. Even the things that are good about it aren’t strong enough to overshadow what’s bad about it. SUCKER PUNCH? It’s more like a love tap.

MA: Well, it sounds like we agree the visuals were superb, and while you found the story nonexistent, I found it average. All right, that about wraps things up. Have you found those zeppelin instructions yet?

LS: Yep. I have them right here.

MA: What does it say?

LS (reads): “To drive this zeppelin, you need to find five items—a map, a key—.”

MA (groans): No way!

LS: Screw this. I’m jumping!

MA: Hold on. I’m coming too. (The two of them strap on parachutes as missiles explode in the sky around their airship). All right everybody, we’ll see you next week with another review of another new movie!

(They jump from zeppelin as the dirigible explodes in a gigantic fireball. They parachute to the ground, landing safely in the arms of beautiful, busty babes.)

LS: I love this job!

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives SUCKER PUNCHtwo and a half knives

L.L. Soares gives SUCKER PUNCHone knife!

INCEPTION

Posted in 2010, Cinema Knife Fights, Dreams, Science Fiction with tags , , , , on July 26, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: INCEPTION
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

FADE IN

(THE SCENE is a hotel room. LL SOARES is stretched out on the bed, in a deep sleep. An IV needle is in his arm, providing anesthesia. Sexy blue women are dancing around the bed, dressed in string bikinis and holding baskets of fresh blueberries)

VOICE: WAKE UP!

(LS moans and stirs awake. The women are gone. So is the hotel room. He finds himself in a damp, dark cellar, with MICHAEL ARRUDA shining a flashlight in his face. LS looks down to see he is on a rotten old mattress on the floor)

LS: What the hell is going on here? How did I get down in this basement?

MA: We’re not really in a basement. It’s all a dream.

LS: Where are the smurfettes?

MA: I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’re here to review the new movie, INCEPTION. It’s your turn to start.

VOICE: WAKE UP!

(LS wakes to find himself in the back of a van going at top speed. MA is sitting beside him)

MA: Well, are you going to start the movie review or what?

LS: Are we still in a dream?

MA: Yes. This is a dream within a dream within a dream. Deal with it.

LS (Yawns): Okay. I didn’t realize I was so sleepy.

One thing about Christopher Nolan’s movies is, they’re smart. And INCEPTION is no exception. He’s always played around with the workings of the human mind, whether it was a short-term memory-deprived Guy Pearce in MEMENTO (2000) or Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as the truly insane Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT (2008). But this time, he’s even more blatant about it.

INCEPTION is about dreams. And it begins with a dream. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an “extractor.” It’s his job to go into people’s dreams and extract important information. Sometimes this is a consensual arrangement, but most times it is not. We’re talking kidnapping, sedation and violating people’s subconscious here, and Cobb is the best there is at what he does.

As the movie opens, we are in the mind of Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe), and Cobb is looking for certain confidential papers in a safe. But this isn’t your average heist. In the world of dreams, things are ramped up and a little bit off.  By the end of this particular romp, it turns out it was a test, and what Saito really wants is someone good enough to put something “inside” someone’s mind – rather than extracting it. This insertion of an outside idea into a person’s subconscious – with the intention of it growing there and the person truly believing the idea is theirs – is called “inception,” and it is incredibly hard to do, if not impossible. But Cobb is up for the challenge, and he doesn’t want money in return for his services. He just wants to be able to go home again.

MA:  (Yawns)

LS:  Am I boring you?

MA:  Honestly?  Yes, but don’t take it personally.  It’s not you.  It’s the movie.  Listening to your plot synopsis reminded me of how much this movie drove me to sleep.  You called this movie smart.  I think it was too smart for its own good.  Going inside people’s minds, inserting ideas, conducting tests inside people’s dreams, and this is all in the first few minutes.  It’s all so medical.  Too bad it’s not dramatic.

I just didn’t find any of it compelling.  But please, continue.  I’ll drink some coffee. (Pulls out a Giant Mug)

LS: His wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), was killed and Cobb was framed for her murder. This means he has not been able to go back to the United States, since he’s a fugitive from justice. He wants to see his children again. Saito tells him that he can solve Cobb’s dilemma, so he can go home, and  Cobb is willing to do anything to achieve that goal.

The truth about Mal’s death, and who framed Cobb, is one of the central mysteries of INCEPTION.

MA:  It’s not much of a mystery, but go on.

LS:  But the main show is the inception itself. Saito wants Cobb to insert a specific idea into the mind of his chief competitor, Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy, who was also the Scarecrow in Nolan’s BATMAN BEGINS [2005]), the heir to one of the largest energy companies in the world, due to the recent death of his father (Pete Postlethwaite).

MA:  Now there’s a compelling plot point, inserting an idea into the mind of a business competitor.  Now that’s exciting!  I haven’t been this interested since I read the fine print on that bank brochure the other day.

LS:  To get the job done, Cobb puts together a new team of dream thieves to help him. These include an “architect,” Ariadne (Ellen Page), who can create worlds inside dreams; a “forger,” Eames (Tom Hardy) who can take on the appearance of other people in the dreamworld; a “point man” to think strategically, no matter what is thrown at them, named Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt); and an anesthesiologist, named Yusef (Dileep Rao, who we also saw as Rham Das in Sam Raimi’s DRAG ME TO HELL).

MA: Rao was in AVATAR, too.

LS:  Soon after the team is hand-picked by Cobb, they dive into Fischer’s mind.

In order to “incept,” it entails going into dreams within dreams, and the more complex this movie gets, the more interesting it gets. We are talking about layers upon layers of dreams, and it gets pretty dicey at times.

I actually didn’t get into INCEPTION right away. The opening scenes just confused me at first.

MA:  I agree.  The opening was very confusing, and so for me the movie got off to a weak start, which surprised me, since I had high expectations for this one.

LS:  This wasn’t helped by the fact that the way DiCaprio says Mal’s name almost sounded like “Mom” early on (was this a ghost of his mother? We find out it’s his deceased wife who is turning up in his subconscious with more and more regularity). Also, I found Ken Watanabe’s accent hard to decipher at times (in a movie this complex, that can be problematic). But by the time Cobb starts to assemble his team and finds Ellen Page’s character, a student in Paris, things click, and the movie began to grow on me.

VOICE (singing): I love you. You love me. Oui Oui Oui Oui – Oui Oui Oui

(LS wakes up to find himself on the set of the BARNEY THE DINOSAUR  SHOW. BARNEY is wearing a beret and has a strong French accent. LS begins to scream)

BARNEY: What is zee matter, boys and girls?

VOICE: WAKE UP!

(LS wakes up to find himself in a former ski lodge, now turned into a fortress with guns and barbed wire):  What are we doing here?

MA:  I’m dreaming about an old James Bond movie.

LS:  You’re dreaming?  I thought this was my dream?

MA:  It was.  But now it’s mine.  Later it’ll be yours again.

LS:  I’m confused.

MA:  Welcome to the club.

LS: Actually, the movie is not as confusing as you’re making it out to be, but one gripe you and I have always had about movies like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is that directors have complete worlds at their disposal – dreams can do anything  – and yet they completely lack any kind of imagination. In INCEPTION, we get a taste of the pure adrenaline rush of playing god and creating new worlds, during Cobb’s “test” of Ariadne’s abilities. But it’s a temporary rush, since Cobb tells Ariadne that – during the real heist – the closer she sticks to the way real things look and work, the better. So she’s not even allowed to cut loose again!

MA:  I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t like movies about dreams, or at least they’re a hard sell for me.  Here’s the problem I have with them:   what happens in a dream isn’t compelling because— it’s a friggin dream!  Nothing that happens in it is real, and so when characters die, they don’t really die, they either wake up or in the case of this movie they enter a state of comatose limbo, whatever the hell that is.  I just can’t get into it.  I feel like I’m watching a story that really isn’t a story because it’s a dream.

And all the scenes in INCEPTION where one setting changes to another, and we see bizarre sights like trains roaring through streets, and vans taking forever to fall off a bridge, just come off as fantasy to me.  With little basis in reality, it’s not all that exciting for me, and by the end of the day, I’m just plain bored.

LS:  I don’t know. I thought the script was solid. So was the acting. I’m not a big Leo DiCaprio guy, but he won me over here in ways he didn’t in SHUTTER ISLAND (I thought he was good in that one, too, but the script ultimately defeated his attempts to make it work. There aren’t nearly as many problems with INCEPTION). Ellen Page is a stand-out and a scene-stealer. Everyone’s very good here, but the most underappreciated character is probably Arthur, who is actually quite intricate to everything that happens in this dream heist, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays him to a “T.”

MA:  I would disagree about the script, and although I thought this movie boasted a very strong cast, I’d have to say I didn’t find the acting all that hot either.

The script, written by director Christopher Nolan, tells a story that just never grabbed me.  It failed to hook me from the get-go, and it never really caught me later on either.  I mean, a story about a businessman trying to stop a competitor by hiring a team of experts to go inside his head and instill an idea into his subconscious seems to me like a monumental waste of time.  Isn’t there an easier way to get the job done?

And if you’re going to tell a story about people who can change events through dreams, wouldn’t you choose something a little more exciting than fixing a business deal?  I mean, if they fail, what’ s the worst that can happen?  A company gets bigger.  Ooooh!  Scary!!!  So, I thought the entire mission of this movie was hugely disappointing.

I was actually a little disappointed by DiCaprio’s performance.  Don’t get me wrong, he was okay, but he blew me away in films like THE DEPARTED (2006) and BLOOD DIAMOND (2006).  He didn’t blow me away here.

And his characters sure have problems with their wives.  Didn’t we see a similar plot point with his wife in SHUTTER ISLAND?  Granted, this one wasn’t quite as horrific, as it didn’t involve the killing of children, but the emotional places DiCaprio goes in INCEPTION could have been lifted from similar scenes in SHUTTER ISLAND.  Watching his angst, I was thinking I just saw this a few months ago.

LS: You’re right, there are similarities between the two films. But I think INCEPTION is the better movie.

MA: I thought Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were just okay, and I certainly didn’t think they were scene stealers here.  Film veterans Michael Caine and Pete Postlethwaite have hardly more than cameo appearances, and Tom Berenger has a few scenes, but he, too, does very little.  I liked Ken Watanabe as Saito, and I like Cillian Murphy a lot, and he’s very good here again, too.  But nobody stands out in this movie, which is a shame, because the cast is so darned strong.

LS:  If I have any problems with this movie at all, there are two of them. First, a lot of the time, the movie has a sterile feel to it.  Aside from DiCaprio, none of the characters really seem to have a strong emotional investment in what is going on.  There is also no erotic/sensual bond between Cobb and Mal – despite the fact that she is so important to him, so deeply entrenched in his mind – it’s a cold PG-13 relationship without any real sparks.

MA:  I would agree.  DiCaprio’s character is the only one we have some emotional attachment to, as he actually has a legitimate reason to be doing these things.  He’s trying to get back to his kids.  That’s a real reason to be taking all these risks.  The rest of the cast seem to be playing a video game or something. Here they are messing around with a person’s life through his dreams, and they seem to be having fun.  Weird.  And the flaw with DiCaprio’s character is his problems all seemed too familiar to me, because I’d just seen him fight similar familial demons in SHUTTER ISLAND.

To be honest, none of these characters did anything for me.  I cared for none of them, nor did I care about what happened to them, and so, ultimately, I didn’t care all that much for this movie.

LS:  My other problem is with the music. For the most part Hans Zimmer’s score becomes part of the overall story and you barely notice it. But toward the end, the music had too many flourishes and went way over the top – especially during key scenes without dialogue – in its effort to manipulate our emotions, when a more spare, spooky soundtrack would have been much more effective. I hate music that makes itself obvious and tries to control the way you feel. It’s a cheat, but it often works if you’re not conscious of it. Which is why Steven Spielberg does it so often, I suppose.

MA:  When I watched the trailer to INCEPTION, I thought the music was cool.  But you’re right, it’s used so much in the actual movie, especially the end, that it really becomes like noise after a while.

LS: I guess I liked this movie. It was smart and different. It could have used a bit more of a human touch, especially for the other team members. Only Ellen Page seems truly alive, after Leo. The rest are just cut-outs. I also wish they’d taken a lot more risks as far as delving into the darker aspects of Fischer’s subconscious – some non-PG-13 rated stuff would have been nice. INCEPTION just seems too controlled for a movie about dreams. And there are slow stretches. I give it three knives, because I know it’s a good, well-made movie. But I have to admit, on a personal level, it didn’t really thrill me. What about you?

MA:  Well, as you can tell by my comments so far, I didn’t like INCEPTION.  I had the exact opposite reaction to this one than I had last time with PREDATORS.  With that one, I went into it with no expectations, got hooked within the first few minutes, and never looked back.

I really expected to love INCEPTION, but this one surprised me by how much I didn’t like it.  It got off to a confusing start, got a little bit better as it went a long, but ultimately, never drew me in enough for me to be really into it.

One of the reasons I couldn’t get into this movie was its style distracted the hell out of me, and I’m not usually distracted by the visual style of a movie.  But scenes would jump from here to there, and then from there to here and back again.  I found Christopher Nolan’s style of storytelling confusing, distracting and, ultimately, uninspiring.  I was unable to relax and simply enjoy the movie.  Scenes seemed to be flying at me from everywhere and  nowhere.  I just didn’t find it a good way to tell a dramatic story.   As a result, I never really got to know the characters all that well, other than as shallow players in a big screen video game.

I also found the plot point of DiCaprio’s relationship with his wife redundant.  It just kept going on and on.  If I hear the phrase “We’re going to be together forever” one more time, I’ll scream!  It reached the point where it was rivaling “Who loves Bella more?” from the damned TWILIGHT movies!

Ultimately, INCEPTION is a special effects movie, and while there’s CGI effects galore, and they’re done well, this type of thing just doesn’t carry a movie for me.

I say it’s a special effects movie because its story, a plot about going into people’s dreams, is supposed to be hip and cool, especially with all kinds of neat dream jargon thrown in throughout, but it’s all too dream-like to hit me with any sense of reality.  The result is a story that is uninspiring and dull.

I give INCEPTION two knives.  I almost gave it one knife, but I’m giving it two because I liked the strong cast, even if their roles weren’t all that meaty.  Still, I was incredibly disappointed with this movie.  I expected much, much more.

VOICE: Wake up!

(MA wakes up in a tent. A strong wind is howling outside. Huddled in a sleeping bag nearby are Jacob Black, the werewolf from the TWILIGHT movies, and Bella Swan. Vampire Edward Cullen looks on, clearly startled by MA’s sudden appearance)

MA (horrified):  No way!  No friggin way!  Wake me the hell up already! WAKE ME UP!!

(LS chuckles somewhere off-screen)

FADE TO BLACK

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gave INCEPTION 2 knives

L.L. Soares gave INCEPTION 3 knives