Archive for July, 2010

Nolan’s mindbending thriller is a cinematic masterpiece

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on July 15, 2010 by Steve Mesa

With movies such as the mystery-in-reverse Memento and The Dark Knight, writer-director Christopher Nolan has established himself as one of the premiere storytellers of his generation with his latest film, Inception.
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a professional thief whose job entails of stealing ideas and secrets within the dreams of his target.
This rare ability has made him a must-hire in the seedy world of corporate espionage, but this has caused him to become an international fugitive and preventing him to return to United States to see his children.
Cobb’s new client, Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe), offers him one last job and if it is done successfully, Cobb’s past will be wiped clean and he will be able to go home.
The job involves “inception”, which is the concept of planting an idea in a person’s subconscious with that person being Saito’s corporate rival (Cillian Murphy).
With this last job, Cobb assembles his team which includes his right-hand man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), (Tom Hardy) a man (Tom Hardy) who is “the forger” because he can morph into another person’s identity and an architect (Ellen Page) who literally design and the build the world of the target’s dreams.
While this may not be Nolan’s most accessible film like his last film The Dark Knight, but this is one of his best films that happens to be a visual and intellectual cinematic experience. Inception may require a little bit of brain power to comprehend what is happening, but there are enough entertaining elements to satisfy moviegoers.
Nolan seems to be influenced by Michael Mann and James Bond with a city shootout sequence that is reminiscent of Mann’s Heat and there are shades of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service/The Spy Who Loved Me that features Cobb and his team in a race against time on a snowy mountaintop surrounded by assassins in skis and snowmobiles.
Films like Duplicity involved corporate espionage where rival corporations will do anything to take down their competition. Nolan takes this concept and places it as the base for the film to start on and add the concept of dream sharing and having multiple people inhabit the same dream.
There are terms like “totems” and “kicks” that are riddled in the story that may be confusing for some moviegoers, but there are also useful methods that are practiced in the film and they are explained in a scene where Cobb introduces Ariadne to the team. The film also gets into the idea of having a dream within a dream within a dream is fascinating, especially when this concept is played out in the finale of Inception, where the editing cuts back and forth within three different settings.
Following his tremendous performance in Martin Scorsese’s latest film Shutter Island, Leonardo DiCaprio delivers another great performance as a tortured and tragic character that is haunted by his own subconscious on his latest mission in the form of his ex-wife played by Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard. Despite having a small role, Cotillard is quite effective as Dom’s wife and the femme fatale of the film. DiCaprio and Cotillard compliment each other with their performances to tell a tale of a doomed love story.
The rest of the ensemble are just as effective as Dom recruits a variety of different personalities to surround himself with in order to complete the mission just like the Ocean films. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page are great in their respective roles, but Tom Hardy really brings humor to this tension-filled and serious film.
Inception employs several fascinating special effects that include Gordon-Levitt walking on walls and ceilings while fighting a bad guy, DiCaprio and Page having a calm conversation with explosions going off around them and the city of Paris folding in on to itself.
Inception is the best movie of the year so far as it takes you inside the world of dreams unlike any movies you have seen before. DiCaprio’s performance, Nolan’s direction and the film’s special effects all deserve Oscar nomination as this film is a contender for next year’s Best Picture category.
INCEPTION: 5 stars out of 5

Swedish murder mystery takes a cue after Hitchcock classics

Posted in Reviews on July 14, 2010 by Steve Mesa

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the big-screen adaptation of the second installment in the popular Millennium trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson and stars Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, the main protagonists from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Since the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) has been residing on the Caribbean islands for the past year and a half.

Lisbeth leaves the Caribbean when she hears of a sex-trafficking ring involving corrupt Swedish political figures and brings her back to her hometown of Stockholm in order to investigate.

Lisbeth’s acquaintance from the first film, Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist), is the publisher of Millennium magazine and he is also investigating the same case.

When Lisbeth goes on the run after being linked to a series of murder, Mikael instigates his own investigation to clear her name, which reveals a government conspiracy that is linked to Lisbeth’s mysterious past.

The first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, made its South Florida debut at this year’s Miami International Film Festival and it is currently available on DVD. Moviegoers should see the first film in order to understand the events that lead up to the second film.

The only problem that I have with this film is that there are too many side characters to follow. The story is also a little complicated for moviegoers who may not be familiar with Larsson’s work or with Tattoo.

Unlike Tattoo, where Lisbeth and Mikeal teamed up together to catch a serial killer and spend significant time together throughout the film, Fire keeps them apart for the majority of the movie with each character having their own motives into why and how they started investigating the big sex-trafficking case.

As the movie progresses, there are certain flashback scenes revealing to the audience how Lisbeth became who she is mentally through the physical and sexual abuse she endured in her life.

The pace of the story and the running time of this film are a lot tighter than the previous film. The developments that occur in the story of the film come quickly and avoid any unnecessary subplots to keep the character distracted.

While Tattoo was more of a murder mystery, Fire is more in the vein of classic Alfred Hitchcock films like The 39 Steps and it borrows a little bit of elements from the Bourne franchise where the main protagonist is on the run and needs to clear his name of a crime he’s falsely accused of committing.

The action in The Girl Who Played with Fire is very subdued in terms of the gunplay, fights and car chase sequences that occur.

The action scenes are more realistic unlike the usual over-the-top action films like The Matrix and Bad Boys films. The fight sequence that takes place in a barn between a boxer and a muscular blonde villain in the film looks as realistic as a no-holds-barred brawl would be.

The Girl Who Played with Fire is a great film and follow-up to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which borrows certain elements from classic Hitchcock films and has realistic action sequences unlike the mainstream action films.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE: 4.5 stars out of 5

Cyrus gives audiences another taste of Reilly and Hill on-screen chemistry

Posted in Reviews with tags , on July 9, 2010 by Steve Mesa

Moviegoers got a glimpse of the chemistry between John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill in 2007’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, but with this month’s Cyrus, the pair star alongside Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei and Oscar-nominee Catherine Keener and the result is a success.

John (Reilly) is a down-on-his-luck divorcee who reluctantly accepts the invitation offered by his ex-wife/best friend Jamie (Keener) and her fiancé Tim (Matt Walsh) to join them at a party, where he meets Molly (Tomei). A relationship blooms between John and Molly that always ends with her leaving his house early. One day, he follows her and lurks outside her house where he is greeted by Cyrus (Hill), Molly’s 21-year-old son who still lives at home and does not like the idea of Molly and John’s relationship.

If anyone is not familiar with the work of Jay and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Baghead), Cyrus is a great way to introduce them to moviegoers with the help of a great cast and funny and many awkward comedic moments.

The Duplass Brothers’ third film manages to fuse the elements of improvisational comedy and uncomfortable humor to tell a story of middle-age romance. The Duplass brothers’ are directors who like to take advantage of their character’s awkward moments.

As one of the best character actors in Hollywood, John C. Reilly manages to balance comedy and drama with his role as a lovable loser in Cyrus.

Whether he is trying to woo women at a party in a drunken stupor or confronting Cyrus to not mess up his ex-wife’s wedding, you cannot help but root for him to overcome Cyrus’ attempts at sabotage.

Marisa Tomei brings a certain quality to the film as a woman who feels split in two by feeling she needs to share relationships with John and Cyrus. Jonah Hill’s role as Cyrus is his best and most complex performance because it’s different than his roles in Get Him to the Greek and Superbad. Hilll nails the attitude of the character that borders between bratty and psychotic when it comes to his mother.

Reilly, Hill and Tomei are brilliantly cast in their roles. From the first moment they meet, Reilly and Tomei have great chemistry together that makes it believable that these two adults are meant to be soul mates. Reilly and Hill are also great together because it feels like they are picking up where they left off from their small moments they shared in Walk Hard with each performer sharing hate for one another’s character, which develops slowly but surely.

The story is not predictable, but the comedy in the first two acts slowly progresses as the movie. Cyrus gets a bit more serious and dramatic towards the end of the movie that seems out of place for a movie that has the audience laughing the entire time.

Cyrus is a funny film that really stands out from other comedies that have come out this year with the casting of terrific actors, their chemistry together and many humorous moments. However, the cinematography is a bit jarring at times and the serious moments towards the end of the movie don’t transition well from the funny beginning.
CYRUS: 4 stars out of 5