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Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan has outdone himself yet again...
16 July 2010
I walked into the theater knowing relatively nothing about this film, and I walked out...knowing even less. From the moment it begins to the moment it ends, you will be wondering what is going on. These initial questions are simply because those trailers we've been watching all year have hardly prepared us for what is about to happen. Most of us just buy a ticket on our faith in either Christopher Nolan or Leonardo DiCaprio. (In my case: both.) As the movie progresses, your questions grow deeper, more layered, just as the dreams you are viewing excavate the furthest reaches of the unconscious. It's an absolute ride, and in IMAX, it's astounding.

It's easy to see how this is the product of Nolan's work in Memento. It deals with the same issues of our narrator's reliability and questions of reality. Both main characters have a tragic self-awareness that seems like a plus in the beginning of the movie, but by the end, you'll wonder if what they trusted to be true and what you trusted to be true is even true at all. Like the dreams themselves, the plot lines and characters begin to fall apart, but our Architect, Christopher Nolan, is the one pulling the strings. This is a film that moves beyond its medium and pulls you in. I'd almost say it breaks the fourth wall without even trying to.

It goes without saying that the special effects are one of the highlights of Inception. This will probably be The Matrix of our time, but in a much subtler way. As Dom says, "It's only when you wake up that you realize there was something strange." This strangeness is embraced and pulled throughout the film. However, the mazes, infinite staircases, and alternate realities these special effects create are not limited to just providing an aesthetic wonder, but they serve to symbolically reinforce many of the main issues of the film. The paradox of an infinite staircase will be itching your brain for a few hours after you finish watching.

The performances are pitch perfect. I initially thought that the characters were a bit one- dimensional and not incredibly developed. Don't be alarmed though. Nolan hasn't lost the touch that created his Batman and his Joker. I believe there are deliberate reasons for this lack of background, which will surely feed into the theorists that will begin sprouting all over the internet after this weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard provide the emotional and narrative center of the film. Being the Oscar winning and nominated actors they are, these roles are played beautifully. It's as if they don't even realize they're the ones we're all focused on.

I would've given this a 10/10 if it weren't for the excessive use of Hans Zimmer's music. I'm a major fan of Zimmer's work, but I believe music in a film is instrumental when trying to give your audience some sort of cathartic release. At the moment I needed that from the score, it had already been playing non-stop for an hour, so it really made no difference in my emotional response. That's my only complaint, but I'm a film score nerd so don't worry about it.

I'll end this now before I start confusing myself even more. It's a privilege, though, to see an auteur like Christopher Nolan working today, using the summer blockbuster as his medium. You'll leave the theater feeling as if you just "witnessed" something.
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Spider-Man 3 (2007)
I'm so sorry, Spidey...
6 May 2007
As I was walking down the stairs and out of the theater, I was trying as hard as I could to pull a smile out of my face. My friends tensely asked if I liked it, I said "Yes, of course!!" They nodded weakly in response. On the way home, I kept thinking to myself. "You liked it! C'mon! It's Spiderman!" Now, it's two days later, the euphoria of waiting for Spidey to come out has subsided, and I've begun to look at this flick a bit more (shall I say it?) critically.

It's plain to see that Sam Raimi is a fantastic director. He knows when to do what and realizes that he is making a superhero movie, which is why the Spider-man movies have done so well. It's not like the recent Batman and Superman who try to hide the fact that they're just fun superhero films. Raimi knows his material and embraces it. The effects were astounding as usual. Spiderman's one-on-one fight with the Sandman and the crane scene being the major highlights. I thought these features would outbalance the weaker spots of the film, but unfortunately they did not.

As far as acting goes, I'm surprised to say that Topher Grace stole the show. I remember how outraged everyone was when he was chosen, but obviously someone knew what they were doing when they let him on as Venom. James Franco and Kirsten Dunst played their usual selves (I can't help but think of Dunst dreaming of getting back to work with Sofia Coppola while doing these films). However, Tobey Maguire REALLY disappointed me. I've always thought he was so great at Spidey, which is undeniable in the first two films and even in this one...when he has his red suit on. Maguire is a one note actor, at least as far as Spidey goes. He just could not pull off the black suit; he wasn't good at being bad. Then came the horrific bridge scene with MJ. Along with most other people I've talked to, my entire theater erupted in laughter when he started crying. It was just...sad...and not in the way the writers intended it.

Speaking of the writing, I hate to be beating a dead horse, but c'mon: 3 villains, Sandman's background, trouble with MJ, Harry's changing attitudes, 2 different Spidermans, competition at the Bugle, Gwen Stacy, etc. It was just WAY TOO MUCH! Even if you had four hours, it's just too much to cram into the audience in one sitting. The great thing about Spiderman 2 (the best of the trilogy) is how focused it was. You had the inner struggle, the villain and his relationship with MJ. There it was! Beautifully filmed and written. From the first 15 minutes of Spiderman 3, I knew that all these parallel story lines were going to crash within the next two hours. The sequence that shows how far they've fallen from part two is the whole emo/hair in the eyes/eyeliner/oh so cool "bad" Spiderman scenes. The first few minutes of this was funny in the same way that the "Raindrops are Falling on my Head" scene in part two was great, but this time they stretched a good thing way too far. This whole sequence is what sticks in my mind and refuses to let me think that the film was just as great as the rest.

I tried to like it! I really did! I just can't fool myself any longer. Some critics like Peter Travers for Rolling Stone are saying that we can let this one slide because it's Spiderman, but I couldn't disagree more. Spiderman 3 missed the mark and, deep down inside, we all know it.
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