Posts Tagged ‘michael caine

26
Jul
10

Does ‘Inception’ Make Nolan the New Morpheus

A heist movie of the subconscious.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. Directed by Christopher Nolan

A heist movie. A psychological thriller. One-hundred percent Christopher Nolan.

I’m going to be as unbiased as I can possibly be in reviewing this one. I’ve been a fan of Nolan’s work since “Memento,” (having watched it in theaters at least three times) and count him as one of the best current filmmakers, if not one of the best of all time. He is the psychological storytelling of Alfred Hitchcock mixed with the technical side of Ridley Scott.

What is “Inception?” That’s been the big question on everyone’s minds as the trailers haven’t shown or given away much. The truth is: they can’t. Explaining this film in under five minutes is like saying “Memento” is about a guy with memory problems or “The Prestige” is about two magicians trying to outdo the other. Yes, both quips are technically correct but lack the gravitas of what the films are truly about.

Leo DiCaprio is Dom Cobb, a man living on the edge of heightened paranoia and concern. What he does isn’t exactly legal -breaking into the thoughts and dreams of other individuals to steal their secrets- all the meanwhile trying to evade the Cobalt Group (for a job that apparently went wrong) and U.S. authorities for skipping country because of a misunderstanding in the regards to the death of his wife Mal (Cotillard). He’s caught between running from reality and the sadomasochism of his dream world where he returns repeatedly to the memories of being with his wife, their times together, her death, etc.

The “forward chronology” of the movie starts in what appears to be a dream -Saito (Watanabe) is holding something secret and Cobb and the gang have to extract his secret. Easier said than done. Cobb is able to retrieve the secret but not before Mal, the thorn inside his dream world, causes problems for him. Cobb then returns to an apartment where his team and Saito are at and Saito is not impressed until he finds that they’re in yet another dream. Cobb and Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) try getting out of Tokyo but not before Saito proposes a job: he wants the heir of an electrical conglomerate Robert Fischer, Jr. (Murphy) to disband the company en whole.

Therein lies the challenge: not extraction, but the inception of an idea. To make the guy whose head you’re inside BELIEVE that he came up with the idea himself. Arthur contends that it’s just not possible but Cobb believes, on the border of knowing, that it CAN be done. And the prize? Saito is powerful enough to get Cobb waived through immigration so he can see his children James and Phillipa again who are staying with his in-laws.

Speaking of which, he travels to Paris to meet with his father-in-law Miles (Caine) who taught him everything he knows about controlling dreams except for the heist business. Dom pleads for help for the quintessential “one last job”: he needs an architect, someone who can help design a dream world. He’s introduced to Ariadne (Page), who gets interested/addicted to the idea of building dream worlds on a larger scale and joins the team.

Rounding out the rest of the crew is the “chemist” Yusuf (Dileep Rao), the information/research/impersonator Eames (Tom Hardy), and “tourist” Saito. The chemist has a drug that will prolong the dream state, Eames does covert intel on the guy, and Saito is just there to watch it happen (or help make it happen). They conceive the idea of a three-layer dream to get into Fischer’s head and give him the idea that his father (Pete Postelthwaite) doesn’t want him following in his shoes and should disband the entire company. When Fischer’s father passes they have the perfect window of opprotunity – ten hours – to pull it off. Mission: Psychological is on…

But not without a few snags. Remember Mal? When everyone is dreaming there’s a shared state of consciousness and she often appears at inopportune moments causing a debilitating state for Dom. If that’s not enough Fischer has military “projections” (filler people in the dream world). Seems that bit of intel escaped Eames. Trouble comes in threes and after Saito is shot time is shortened and the stakes run high. Will Dom and company be able to plant the idea in the guy’s head? Will they even get to that point? Will Mal screw everything up? Will Cobb see his children again? Will any of them survive? And so forth.

I loved the movie. It begins like a dream – you don’t know where it really begins or why – and it ends on a note that makes you question all that you just watched. It’s smart, the cinematography (especially for the hallway fight scene) is great, and it’s one-hundred percent story. The camera becomes an invisible person of sorts and you’re strapped into your chair for the ride.

Some critics have hailed “Inception” as Nolan’s magnum opus. Roger Ebert cited that Nolan had been working on the script/story for ten years. I’m in agreement. Film students watching Nolan’s work could cite many of the themes in this movie are carried over from previous ones: the guy so in love with his wife that he cannot forget her (“Memento”), a father dying and his son having to come to terms not only with the death but of becoming heir to a giant corporation (“Batman Begins”), a man who will grow old and probably die alone (“Insomnia”) and being reunited with children (“The Prestige”). “Inception” takes all of these, and maybe a few more, and rolls them into one cinematic pill to swallow.

Nolan once talked about “Memento” saying that as the life of Leonard Shelby unraveled, so did his conscience while he was making the film. It makes you ask how you remember what you remember. “Inception” asks not only about memories but of the stuff we make up, whether it’s to set us free or imprison, and how do we deal with what’s going on. Dreams are more than our escape.

Not only did Nolan take some of his best tricks and throw them in, but his cast and crew are some he’s worked with before. Ken Watanabe was in “Batman Begins,” Cillian Murphy was in both, and Michael Caine has been in every Nolan film since “Batman Begins.”

Will the movie payoff in the long run? I would like to say yes but it’s a hard sell: a heist movie/ psychological thriller. It’s more intellectual than, say, “Inside Man.” The beginning is a bit slow and detached but once you’re into the movie you’re with every frame until the very end. As for the end itself there is no clear answer as to what really happens, but I have my theories.

My grade: A

If you’re interested in hardboiled thriller, check out the blog story “The Big Adios” at:

http://aidencobb.blogspot.com


25
Mar
09

Movies on DVD Review: The Italian Job (1969)

italian_job

 

THE definition for “cliffhanger.”

 

Starring Michael Caine, Noel Coward, and Benny Hill. Directed by Peter Collinson.

 

Note: the original, not the remake.

 

Charlie Croker (Caine) has just been released from prison. He’s met by his girlfriend Lorna (Margaret Blye) who picks him up in a stolen car (“Charlie, I just wanted you to come out in style, baby.”) Later he finds that an old partner Roger (Frank Jarvis) left a film for him to watch. On the film is the greatest heist idea of all: stealing $4 million from Turin. Charlie thinks it over and decides to do it for the money, and for England. Breaking back into the prison he informs Mr. Bridger (Coward), a fellow prisoner who has attained a king-like hold over the prison (the guy goes to the bathroom escorted by two guards who provide him with the current newspaper). Croker then takes the initiative to assemble a crew; albeit of miscreants (“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”). The plan: stage a traffic jam in Turin during a sports event and get out of the city with $4 million. The obstacles: aside from getting out of the city with the gold, the Mafia know about the plan and threaten him and his team. Croker and company are forced to speed up their plans for the gold and most importantly for the glory of England.

 

Forty years since and “The Italian Job” is still a fun movie. Michael Caine is great as Charlie Croker, a swingin’ Sixties convict. Coward eats up being the King of the Penal Colony. Benny Hill does a great job at being Professor Simon Peach, the resident “computer expert” who is into “big women.”

 

The movie itself can be divided into two parts: the buildup to the heist, and the chase. The buildup to the heist is the main humor of the movie: Croker’s motley crew practicing with the mini-Coops, Bridger’s reactions, and Charlie himself.

 

The second half, the car chase, is one of the coolest ever on film. The minis drive on sidewalks, through buildings, and even top of a building (you have to see it to believe it).

 

Overall, a fun little movie. A great way to spend a weekend afternoon, or pop it in on a weeknight. You’ll find yourself singing, “The Self Preservation Society.”

 

Of note, the DVD contains the deleted scene of the mini-Coopers driving around to the tune of Strauss’s “The Blue Danube.”

 

My grade: B+

 

 

14
Nov
08

Movies With (a) Vengeance

While it has been busy here at the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research proudly brings you

 

TOP TEN REVENGE MOVIES

 

once_upon_a_time_in_the_west“Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) – Charles Bronson stars as Harmonica, a man with a mysterious past who arrives in Flagstone, AZ. He walks into a situation involving a guy named Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and Jill (Claudia Cardinale), a woman whose family she married into had been murdered by Frank (Henry Fonda), a “gun for hire” via railroad tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti). To find out what Harmonica is doing there, and why he plays one, ya gotta catch this movie.

 

get_carter“Get Carter” (1971) – Jack Carter (Michael Caine) is a London mobster who finds out this his brother Frank had died. Carter believes his brother had been murdered and sets out to uncover the truth. As he delves deeper, other mob thugs close in as he finds that his niece was part of an amateur porn film and Frank was killed trying to protect her. Easily one of the most ruthless films ever made, and a great watch.

 

 

death_wish“Death Wish” (1974) – Charles Bronson is architect Paul Kersey. When his wife is Joanna (Hope Lange) is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted by muggers, Paul decides to deliver some vigilante justice. Based on the book by Brian Garfield, the movie spawned 4 sequels and was the inspiration for the movie, “The Brave One” (with Jodie Foster.

 

 

crow“The Crow” (1994) – Rockstar Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his wife are murdered in Detroit on Devil’s Night. A full year later Eric returns to the land of the living, having superhuman strength and invincibility, exacting revenge on the gang who murdered him and his wife. One of the best films that Brandon Lee did was unfortunately his last; a prop gun misfired, killing him.

 

 

braveheart“Braveheart” (1995) – William Wallace was a kid when the English murdered his father and 11 others. He went away and returned, vowing to push the English out of Scotland and earn independence for all Scots. Mel Gibson acted as well as directed this movie, loosely based on the life of the real William Wallace.

 

 

 

desperado“Desperado” (1995) – A sequel to “El Mariachi,” Robert Rodriguez directed the further adventure of a mariachi player with a guitar case full of guns. This time around, Antonio Banderas plays the main character, with Salma Hayek helping him exact revenge on Bucho. “I am looking for a man named Bucho. That’s all. But you had to do it the hard way.”

 

 

payback“Payback” (1999) – Based on the book, “The Hunter,” by Donald E. Westlake, Mel Gibson played Porter, a gangster shot and left for dead by his partner Val (Gregg Henry) and ex-wife Lynn (Deborah Unger). After the bullets are pulled out of his back, Porter is off and looking for his half of the money: $70,000. Blocking his path to the money are crooked cops, the Chinese Triads, and the leader of the Outfit (Kris Kristoferson), whom Val works for. This was originally made in 1967 as “Point Blank,” starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Carroll O’Connor, and John Vernon.

 

memento“Memento” (2000) – What if you were trying to get revenge on the guy who killed your wife and gave you brain damage, but you could only remember what happened for 6-15 minutes at a time before you forgot it? San Fran insurance investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pierce) finds himself with that problem in an indie film directed by Christopher Nolan. As the films goes from black and white, past to present, you’ll find yourself putting clues together and feeling a lot like Lenny. Also stars Joe Pantaliano

 

kill_bill1“Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2” (2003/2004) – Quentin Tarantino and star Uma Thurman concocted this 2-part movie about The Bride (Thurman), a woman left for dead after her wedding “rehearsal.” Waking up in a hospital 4 years later, she tracks down each of her assassins (fellow members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad), working her way to the master Bill (David Carradine). Fellow Vipers are Vivica Fox, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, and Michael Madsen.

 

bourne_supremacy1“The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) – The sequel to “The Bourne Identity” finds Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) living with his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente) in Goa, India. When an assassin tries killing Bourne, his girlfriend pays the price and Bourne comes out from hiding. Unfortunately, he’s being framed for crimes he didn’t commit. He now has to clear his name and piece together important fragments of his memory.

21
Jul
08

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

This one’s in a world all its own.

 

Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman. Directed by Christopher Nolan

 

The story: some time has passed in Gotham City since “Batman Begins.” Rachel Dawes (now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) is working with and dating head D.A. Harvey Dent (Eckhart). “The Batman” has been cleaning up the streets of Gotham, inspiring copycat fanboy crimefighters. The police (except for Gordon) aren’t sure what to make of Batman. The city’s crime bosses are dwindling block-by-block and are propositioned by a Hong Kong national named Lou to hold their money since the police are catching them one-by-one using irradiated money. Batman/Bruce Wayne is dealing with the copycats, Rachel being with Dent, and his internal struggle of being the “hero of Gotham City,” and the police.

 

Entering the scene is The Joker (Ledger in his final performance). Maniacal and scheming, he (in the words of Michael Caine) “just wants to watch the world burn.” Whatever he plans on doing the only person who knows the plan is him, and he’s not letting anyone in on it. Anyone.

 

That’s as much as I’m going to tell you about the story. There is so much going on in this film that to tell you anything else you may want to see it more or may want to see it less when this is the type of film that can’t entirely be presented on paper; it is truly an experience. The Nolan Brothers (Chris and Johnathan) have a nearly perfect script. The theme of “what is a hero?” resonates so much between Dent and Wayne; the “White Knight” and the “Dark Knight” of Gotham.

 

And everyone does as well as they had in “Batman Begins.” Gyllenhaal did a good job as Rachel Dawes. Some may prefer her to Katie Holmes but when it comes down to the line, the character is so small it doesn’t make a lot of difference who plays her.

 

And you, dear reader, are wanting to know my thoughts on Heath Ledger’s performance. I’ll be the first to say that I have never really followed him in too many movies; I’ve seen him do a part here or there, but that was about it. Saying that, the Joker that Ledger portrays is something else entirely. Any time he’s on the screen, the film’s tone suddenly shifts. If you didn’t know Ledger was playing the character, you wouldn’t have known it was Ledger.

 

As for Bale, this time around Batman is more menacing; lower, more whispering/gravelly voice and hatred in his eyes. “Batman Begins” was apparently a warm-up.

 

I’ll take a moment to talk about the Bat Pod (Bat Cycle). Before I saw “Batman Begins” I saw the “Tumbler”/Batmobile. I thought the design sucked. Watching it in “Batman Begins,” I was like, “Dude, where do I sign up for one of those?” Same thing applies to the Bat Pod. Once you see it on screen it’s way cooler.

 

I do have one complaint on the movie: The Scarecrow. So much time was spent in the first movie building up this villain who used a hallucinogenic compound to incite his terror. He gets a small scene in the beginning of the film where he gets captured along with a gang and Batman wannabes. A cameo for the sake of a cameo? I thought Nolan was above that.

 

Should you see this? It’s dark, brooding, but with clever action sequences. This movie is on a plane of existence of its own. Should you watch this just for Heath Ledger? Only if you get nothing from watching a Batman movie. Is this better than “Batman Begins?” It’s just as good. Who’s my favorite actor to play “The Joker?” No comment.

 

My grade: A