Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chris Nolan's Inception: Utterly Mind Blowing

Where do I even begin to write my through-the-roof raving review of Inception without sounding downright obscene?

Christopher Nolan is currently responsible for my multiple mental orgasms. I’ve officially considered this one night at the movies the equivalent of one night of beyond overwhelming sex. And Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy are the perfect people to have at the orgy.

It was raining wildly in Metro Manila while I watched this, the wind was howling and rattling the windows, the man on the radio said not to go out unless you really have to. Nevertheless, I was foolhardy enough to brave it all to make it to the IMAX for the press screening of Inception, which I put on the top of my list of movies I was most excited to see in 2010. I can now say it is the most innovative piece of filmmaking I’ve seen in over ten years.

In a big time film industry up to its neck in franchises, sequels, remakes, formula products—it is makes me so incredibly happy to see a big movie break the mold, take a risk and be original, brave and brilliant. The action in the film takes place in the mind, in the world of dreams, where ideas are planted and the subconscious has the potential to become a volatile playground.

Leonardo Di Caprio is Dom Cobb—a most unusual kind of thief—he enters your dreams and takes your ideas. Now he is faced with the challenge posed by his client Saito (Ken Watanabe): the implanting of an idea in someone’s mind. In this case, it’s heir to an empire Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy.)

Moving through the mindscape requires a team: In addition to Cobb, there’s The Pointman aka the control center played by (Gordon-Levitt), The Architect who designs the “maze” of the dream (Page), and The Forger who takes on various personas in the dreamworld (Hardy).

I already thought Leonardo DiCaprio was thoroughly impressive in Shutter Island but his performance in Inception is downright perfect. It’s as if he made his incredible work with Scorsese in that film look like practice. Yes, he is that good here. I am ready to call him the best actor of his generation. If he were anything shy of perfect then we in the audience wouldn’t take to this magnificent construct of Nolan’s like the proverbial fish to water.

Each role in the ensemble is just absolutely nailed in a rare instance of outstanding cinematic alchemy and thespic clockwork.

Inception is exhilarating, imaginative, thought provoking and utterly mind blowing. I now wonder how long I’ll have to wait before another film and another filmmaker astonishes and thrills me this way. Six stars out of five.

Inception opens today in Metro Manila. Inception: The IMAX Experience screens at MoA.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Predators" One Ups the Original

Robert Rodriguez rocks my world once again. Granted it was Nimrod Antal (he did a few independent films and two previous Hollywood films—Armored and Vacancy) who directed “Predators,” it is producer Robert Rodriguez whose name appears above the title on the poster.

I’ve been a fan of Robert Rodriguez ever since I watched his classic “El Mariachi” in 1992. The production and selling of this film became the subject of the book “Rebel Without A Crew: Or How A 23 Year Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became A Hollywood Player.”

Since then, he went on to make Desperado, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, From Dusk Til Dawn, Sin City and Planet Terror (among others).

I have never been impressed by the Predator franchise—from the original with Arnold Schwarzenneger to the even worse sequels “Predator 2” and the Alien vs. Predator series (remember that horrendous tagline? Whoever wins, we lose.)

Not having taken to the Schwarzenneger-Stallone alpha male action movies of the 80’s I found the first one rather unexciting, and the rest ridiculous.

Obviously, having Troublemaker Studios get their nasty fingerprints on this one was reason enough for me to want to see it. Not only did I enjoy it much more than the first one, I actually enjoyed it more than I did James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Six people ruthless and skilled in the art of dealing death and one physician (Topher Grace) find themselves mysteriously parachuted down to hostile, alien terrain. It’s hunting season again, and guess who’s come to dinner and guess who’s got to scamper?

The de facto leader of the group of seven is a mercenary named Royce (Adrien Brody)—don’t expect him to be the hero with even a sliver of a bleeding heart. His survival and killing instincts are there: one only walks with him only if one is useful---bear no illusions.

And is it really a Robert Rodriguez film without dear cousin and friend Danny Trejo? Trejo appears as Cuchillo (notice how Rodriguez often likes to give him names Razor Eddie, Razor Charlie, Machete and Navajas—for bladed instruments) a drug cartel enforcer. He’s always a welcome sight—a familiar fingerprint in the world of Troublemaker.

As with many of the films bearing the stamp of Troublemaker, this film’s ambition is to deliver the action packed goods with the requisite grotesque looking lethal aliens with the extended fanged mandibles, neon green blood, human bad-asses, cool looking guns, and other manner of vicious and foul looking carnivorous creatures.

While the characters would certainly not make the 100 Most Lovable People on the planet list, you do end up caring about their fate and root for them as they try to outwit, outlast and outplay the bigger, stronger, uglier and stealthier foes.

All this, without taking itself too seriously.

And yes Nimrod pulled through but I cannot help but offer another high five to Robert and Troublemaker for another piece of rock and roll filmmaking.

Predators opens today in Metro Manila