Friday, September 30, 2011


Dreams within dreams within dreams. . . . In Inception, Dom Cobb is a thief.  He can break into your dreams and steal your secrets.  Questionable science, I know, but that's why they call it science fiction.  He is master of this art, and has a reputation as a sort of corporate dream raider.  When a client hires him not to steal a dream, but to plant ideas in a dreamer's dream, he takes the art to a whole new level.  It's all pretty far fetched, as the characters interact in dreams, essentially sharing one dream.  I had heard that Inception was confusing to follow with the interweaving dreams, but I didn't find it as confusing as silly.
This scene in a tumbling hotel was visually fantastic.
The special effects are pretty impressive.  It turns out that if your in the dream of someone riding in a van, and the van hits a rough road or gets rolled over, the world of the dream does likewise.  This presented challenges for the filmmakers, but some stunning visuals for the viewer.  Further, it seems that time passes slower in a dream, exponentially slower in a dream within a dream within a dream.  That makes for some interesting strategizing. 

The story of Inception is pretty interesting, with Cobb's family dynamics driving his work, and the victim's family dynamics playing into the job.  But the star of the movie is the special effects and the occasionally mind-bending dream-within-dream reality or unreality.  Like I said, it's not that confusing, but if you step out for a minute for popcorn, you might come back lost.

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The American

If I'm going to be held in suspense, I'd like to know at some point what I'm in suspense for.  And if there's a movie about hired killers, I'd rather the story fit in the context of larger issues (international struggles, conflicts between powerful but corrupt businessmen, revenge), not some internecine squabbles among the killers themselves.  Sadly, The American, with its meticulous, plodding exposition, delivers the latter.
Jack/Edward's client checking out his handiwork.
This movie was pretty cool in its timelessness.  It seemed like it could have been made decades ago.  Most of the movie is set in a tiny, remote Italian village, which looks like it could have been unchanged for centuries.  Jack, or Edward, depending who he's talking to, makes specialty weapons for assassins, and tells his handler this is his last job.  He doesn't know how true that is.  A bit of romance with a local prostitute, a bit of soul searching with the local priest he befriends, and a bit of suspense as we wonder who the target is makes for a decent, but not great movie.

Bottom line, 2 stars.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


This is a pretty cute movie.  Anyone who has ever struggled to fit in can relate to Ricardo, who goes to a new school and wants to be in the "in crowd."  His efforts are futile until he happens to mention to some boys that he has some Playboy magazines that he'll share with them.  With high hopes of seeing some skin pics, the boys welcome him into his circle.  Ricardo's problem is that it's a total lie; he doesn't have any magazines and has no idea how to get them!  But the lie is enough to establish friendships and the boys become fast friends, learning much about each other and themselves.
Ricardo's in heaven when the girl of his dreams stays after school to help him with his work.
1981 doesn't deliver anything profound, but it captures the travails of middle school in the context of the 1980s in an entertaining way.  Anyone who ever lusted after a Walkman, played Coleco games, or had a Star Wars bedspread will enjoy the nostalgia trip. 

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mal Dia Para Pescar (Bad Day to Go Fishing)

Bad Day to Go Fishing has an endearing quality to it.  We meet the over-sized but lovable Jacob van Oppen, who once held the title "the strongest man on Earth," and his charmingly sleazy promoter and manager, "Prince" Orsini (it's never quite clear what he is the prince of. . . .) as they travel around South America setting up wrestling matches and exhibitions in small towns.  Armed with a scrapbook full of reports of Jacob's laurels and feats, Orsini tries to raise funds for challenge matches, offering $1000 for anyone who can stay in the ring with Jacob for 3 minutes.  As Orsini fishes for the right challenger (i.e., someone who's willing to throw the fight for a cut), his relationship with Jacob deteriorates, Jacob questions this lifestyle, and a pregnant young wife who thinks her husband can beat Jacob challenges their scheme.
Jacob and Orsini promoting the upcoming "fight."
I found myself embracing these characters, as well as the small-town life depicted.  Anyone whose glory days are past, athletic or otherwise, can relate to both Jacob and Orsini, who clearly had some notoriety and wealth at one time.  As it turns out, the actor who plays Jacob, Finnish strong man Jouko Ahola, was actually the "World's Strongest Man" in 1997 and 1999.  (See his web site here.)  So I guess a real-life strongest man on Earth, when his glory days are gone by, stars in a movie about a strongest man on Earth whose glory days have gone by.

This is a decent, enjoyable movie with likable characters and a strong finish. 

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

Friday, September 9, 2011


What would you do if you came home and a burglar was hiding under your bed?  Call the police or sit down and wait for him to come out?  In Eldorado, Yvan chooses to wait, the befriend the burglar and give him a ride to his parents' house.  Elie, the burglar, is a junkie, supposedly trying to get clean.  Neither one of these guys have anything better to do, so they might as well take a road trip together.  This was not a terrible movie, but it wasn't very interesting and didn't have much point.  There are some funny moments, but mostly Eldorado was a waste of time. 

Bottom line, 1 star.