Tag Archives: movies

Review: Inception (2010)

Credit: Warner Bros Pictures / Stephen Vaughan

Inception is Christopher Nolan’s first original screenplay since his debut Following. His latest science fiction venture draws fascination from the elusive concept of entering lucid dreams.

Leonardo Dicaprio plays Dom Cobb, a skilled thief who specialises in extracting secrets from his victims’ subconscious. His new mission sees him trespass into the dreams of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to plant notions in the young heir’s head, with help from the best in the espionage business.

This highly original premise allows Nolan to envision a whole new world, bending not only the mind but rules of science. It makes for a highly complex puzzle that may not be easy to grasp, but that very nature is what makes for a compelling watch.

Layers fall upon layers with admirable ease in a tale of both beauty on the surface and underlying ingenuity. What could have easily ended up as a muddle is instead, an impressive display of masterful storytelling.

Director Christopher Nolan executes a complex idea perfectly, balancing blockbuster heist action with an intelligent narrative. Like what Quentin Tarantino once said about himself, Christopher Nolan does not believe that the audience is lower than him.

So he gives us the rare opportunity to delve deep into his wondrous world and engage in the intrigue of its notions. Its sheer magnitude awes, but Inception is more than a yarn of twists. At its core, the story is closer to heart with thematic exploration of guilt, romance, and redemption.

Trapped by past misgivings, Cobb’s reluctance to let go endangers the team’s mission and lives. Dicaprio captures every thread of his inner turmoil. Turning in an equally emotional performance is his mark Robert, whose material fulfilment lacks from a lacking relationship with his father.

The rest of the cast does not lack in staying power despite less prominence. Their strong performances confidently back Nolan’s immense ambition. No doubt many years in the making, Inception is a beautiful dream realised. Diving into the subconscious workings of the human mind has never been as grand as one of his best works to date.


Review: Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Oren Peli

A year ago, I saw the original Paranormal Activity and enjoyed it. Natural acting boded well for a film that depended on its documentary style. While the idea was nothing new, its realism brought across the intended terror. The characters were also considerably well-written, with bits of unpretentious humour to boot.

Drawing parallels to a typical home, the story is enough to deter you from waking for a midnight trip to the bathroom. As a result, the tense suspense felt reasonably believable. It was no Exorcist, of course, but it did surpass the similar cinematography (or rather, the lack of it) in The Blair Witch Project (Sorry, Blair Witch fans).

Upon second watch, Paranormal Activity feels plainer. An angry Bear Jew is possibly much scarier than all 90 minutes of an empty and predictable plot. There is nothing particularly threatening about a trite demon who opens and closes doors for reasons undisclosed. No one really knows what it is doing during the night, with knocking noises unexplained yet again.

Just like every other box office success, a sequel is now in place. The 2 minute trailer shows how much they will be leeching on the success of the previous film, and how unnecessary it will be. Every second is filled with questions: What is going on in the writing room?

Paranormal Activity 2 seems like a poor excuse to use a tiny budget for minimal story-telling efforts, solely leveraging on our irrational fear of horror in real life and deceiving us into placing more hope in a lacklustre ghost tale.


Review: Prince of Persia (2010)

Prince Of Persia
Credit: Disney Enterprises Inc. / Andrew Cooper

In Prince of Persia‘s opening credits, the name ‘David Belle’ appeared. This District 13 fan with two thumbs got excited for imminent parkour. An abundance of free running did follow to my delight. Sadly, no amount of excitement in plot compared.

The quest of fugitive prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an exceptionally dull one – to retrieve a special dagger capable of reversing time. Such a skeletal story suffices for a video game, but barely does for a film. How many would wish they had the dagger, so they can save themselves a good two hours.

Pace is its biggest flaw, in what would otherwise be a great action piece. Fight choreography is not the forefront action I wished it could have been. The essence of free running is lost, as impressive stunt work is made to look like rushed, exaggerated effects.

Due to the uneven pacing issue, characterisation also suffers. Men are lost or absent, sooner than we get to know them. We rush through the simple incident of how Dastan becomes royalty without royal blood, which is hardly believable. Neither do we learn much about the Hassassins, beyond their purpose of being a villainous plot device.

Ultimately forgettable, the temporary fun can still make for good entertainment, though a warning to the casual gamers would be fair – the movie could spoil its end for you.


Review: The Descent Part II (2009)

The Descent: Part II
Credit: Lionsgate / Oliver Upton

Sarah Carter (Shauna Macdonald), the sole survivor of a cave expedition accident, is forced to return to the scene of the crime in search of the other missing girls. Only that it was never an accident, even if no one believes her.

The Descent: Part II is a direct sequel that nobody asked for, without the strengths of the previous film. From expository dialogue to weak characterisation, it struggles with typical clichés and falls back on poor imitations of its predecessor.

While first-time director Jon Harris makes clear attempts at an effective atmosphere, there are rarely any real moments of thrills in the slow-moving b-movie. After all, blood for the sake of blood gets old quickly, especially for a horror veteran.

On at least four counts, a crawler predictably jumps from within the dark. Jump scares strung together do not a horror film make, much less those within expectations.

Pacing issues meant the plot barely progresses even if the hour has. Seemingly forced into existence, The Descent sequel suffers the usual problems of part-twos in the genre – lazy plot lines that borders on illogical, and the thorough lack of originality that fails to entertain.


Review: Shutter Island (2010)

Frequent collaborators Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio have delivered an impressive melange of masterpieces. From Boston-set crime drama The Departed to real-life biography The Aviator, their varied body of works finds unity in reverberating realism and powerful performances.

The team-up greets excitement as they take on Dennis Lehane’s neo-noir Shutter Island. The titular remote enclave seats the hospital for the criminally insane, where US Marshals Teddy Daniels (Dicaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) investigate the disappearance of a patient.

They soon uncover a more sinister conspiracy at work as covert experiments take place at the ominous lighthouse. As with asylum-set thrillers, the threat of lobotomies or the mere prevalence of surgical contraptions never fail to unease. Secret wards reinforce claustrophobia on an isolated island, made ominous by the cold and grey of the aged fort.

Horror draws an intimate connection to the past of Teddy Daniels, who seems to struggle under the weight of his past. The death of his wife is as intriguing as it is, evocative. His interspersing war-time visions contribute anxiety, multiplying clues shroud the mystery in thickened fog. Tension fills the air as haunting imagery contorts reality.

Unrestrained in its bleak darkness, Shutter Island surrounds its residents with a lasting sense of paranoia. All of which pays off in its steady pace towards a powerful end, harrowing in a single line.


Review: Kick-Ass (2010)

Credit: Lionsgate / Daniel Smith

At some point in our lives, we all want to be a superhero. All everyday people need is an overnight spark of brilliance, or idiocy, to ignite their inner vigilante. Dave Lizewski makes it happen and finds his alter-ego in Kick-ass, though the true superhero seems to be Lizewski himself.

Soon, he finds out he isn’t alone and fiction pours onto the streets with suit against suit in blood-splattered battles. It isn’t all glory, as the inexperienced crime fighters get their fair share of battle scars. The band of teens are as clueless as the young ones often are, and as believable as heroes get. These heroes (and villains) are not bred-hybrids or experimentations-gone-wrong, but real people donning suits in the real world.

Enter Macready’s feisty little girl Hit-Girl, played by a hilarious and incredibly foul-mouthed Chloe Grace Moretz. The constant scene stealer may leave your jaw hanging, but hell does she make an impression. The youngest of the crew exhausts the lexicon of every possible curse and swear, and doesn’t forget to get the job done.

The stylised but graphic violence slashes its way through sharp comebacks in the form of witty one-liners. The humour ensues in witty monologues, interspersed with an amount of pop culture references that will make Quentin Tarantino proud.

All the things I’d never do. Like learn to drive or see what me and Katie’s kids would look like or find out what happened on Lost. And if you’re reassuring yourself that I’m going to make it through this since I’m talking to you now, quit being such a smart-ass! Hell dude, you never seen Sin City? Sunset Boulevard? American Beauty?

– Dave Lizewski

Kick-ass is vulgar, over-the-top, and well, pretty kick-ass. In the recent stream of dark serious Hollywood superhero flicks, the (sort of) light-hearted fun entertainment is definitely a welcome change.

If you enjoyed this, queue Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs the World on your list. Then again if you prefer your comic-book violence without the gore, Iron Man 2 (with RDJ, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell) is up next. There will be dancing.