Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Often Dream of Trains: Josh's Inception Review

I saw Inception last night with Ancker and the Lord. Ancker hated it. But he likes Firefly, so I didn't expect him to appreciate anything more sophisticated than an actor in a trenchcoat walking towards the camera away from a slow motion explosion. Pete Postlethwaite had a small part in the last movie I saw with them. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in the Rise of Cobra, which I also saw with them. I don't know why these actors are following us around like this. But that's okay. They were pretty good

Before the film start we first saw a couple previews for some terrible movies.

The Green Hornet: Pineapple Express II! No link for this stinker!

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps:
Starring Michael Douglas, the human from the Transformer's movie...and Sally Sparrow from Doctor Who! Yay!

I like the idea of sequels set a generation later. (I also chuckled at the cell phone gag) It's really kind of a neat concept. Reminds me a little of the Limey, where footage of a movie where Terrance Stamp appeared as a younger man is used for flashbacks.

: Oh noes! Will the most famous racehorse in the history of the sport and the only racehorse 99% of people can name be a winner or wind up as glue?! Fred Thompson, former Senator and presidential candidate is featured, and I can't help but think this is a step down for him. It would be a step down for me. This film marks Jame Cromwell's 5000th appearance of the year.

Red: Bruce Willis enters his fourth decade of complaining about getting too old for this shit with Red, where he plays a retired black ops agent, On one hand, old people are boring and smell strange, on the other, it has Mary Louise Parker.

The air conditioning in this theater was set very high and I was getting chilly by the times the previews ended. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring a coat and I felt so smart about this that I'm mentioning it here.

And then the movie started. I'll keep this mostly spoiler free, but I'll be touching on some things that occur later in the movie, so read further at your own peril.

I didn't much care for Leonardo DiCaprio when I first saw him. I remember after seeing What's Eating Gilbert Grape, I already had a negative impression of him, and said something like "Well, DiCaprio gave a good performance there. Of course, for him, the role wasn't much of a stretch." He kind of grew on me, though, and my first thought of him in "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" was that "Hey, he's pretty good here, too," and that kind of evolved into "Wow, maybe the poorly remembered early performance by which I was judging him was an aberration, and he really is a really talented actor."

Also, Wikipedia says that he called his grandmother "Oma", which is what Lily calls Jen's mom, so bonus points there. And I'm sure one of the most famous celebrities in the world relieved to know he has my approval.

And Ellen Page was here, no longer my Indie Ingenue. There will be no more roles opposite J.K. Simmons. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Cillian Murphy gave a superb performance. You may remember him from the Scarecrow in Nolan's Batman films or as Jim in 28 Days Later, the zombiest zombie movie that ever zombied.

Also featured: Ken Watanabe, America's go-to goateed Asian actor! (I'm personally partial to Yuen Wah, but he never got much of a following over here)

Large portions of the movie are set in Paris, but we never have a big set piece with the Eiffel Tower. Despite what Hollywood believes, Paris is not a concentric circle of flats with one window facing the tower. I don't know that I've ever seen that kind of restraint in a movie, and it's an automatic +2 stars.

That said, the beautiful aerial shots of the various cities reminded me of Katsuhiro Otomo's elaborate cityscapes.

It had some nice foreshadowing, with a throwaway line about not liking trains. I caught this because I took five pages of notes.


You know, like normal people do.

The Freefall fight was awesome and apparently Joseph Gordon-Levitt did his own stunts, so go him! I know that Nolan eschewed CG for his earlier flicks and while it had to be unavoidable for some scenes, I wonder how many of the FX shots were non-CG. (I just don't wonder about this so much that I'm inclined to look up this readily available information on my own.)

The assault on the arctic fortress and the pursuit by machine gunners on skis made me think the scene would conclude with our heroes leaping into open air to their apparent doom, only to be saved by a union jack parachute opening out of their backpacks. This didn't happen, but rappelling down a mountain to race an oncoming avalanche is even more awesome.

I'm looking forward to the RiffTrax version when the hecklers will sing "Poor, Poor Pitiful me," when certain characters commit suicide by train, "I Lay my head on the railroad tracks and wait for the Double E, but the railroad don't run no more. Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me."

Overall, it was great. It reminded me a little of the Zelazny novella He Who Shapes (later expanded into The Dream Master), but less than I thought it might. Mostly because of the similar subject matter. It reminded me somewhat of the Matrix as well, but I think he was working hard to avoid these comparisons.

Dreams don't interest me as much as they used to, but I'm still very interested in the way we come to believe the things we do. I read an interesting piece on the anchoring effect just yesterday. I've talked once or twice about how the schema that Lily develops as a child will grow into the way she sees the world as an adult, and I'm always interested in the society of mind, to steal a phrase from Marvin Minsky and one of the reasons from why Eric is awesome from an upcoming post.

The whole "mythology" of the piece appealed to me. It's nice to see a stand-alone sci-fi property that's not an adaptation of a comic or an revival of something from the 80s. I liked that the dream world worked by its own logic. I loved the concept of totems. I was thrilled when Arthur mentioned the concept of the Penrose Stairs by name! I even liked the ending. I can't think of anything that I'd change, except to maybe expand on ideas introduced in the movie, but that would turn an already lengthy film into Cinématon.

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