Film Reviews 7: “Inception”, “Cemetery Junction”, “The Prestige” and 12 others…

primer Shane Carruth time machine travel sundance 2

This season: “American Pie 3”, “Cemetery Junction”, “Dersu Uzala”, “Extract”, “Four Lions”, “Heavenly Creatures”, “I Love You, Man”, “Inception”, “Kickass”, “Oedipus Wrecks”, “Paranormal Activity”, “The Prestige”, “Primer” (pictured above), “Vanilla Sky” and “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton”.

This volume, the average rating is 5.03/10, with the choice film being “Heavenly Creatures”. Follow @halfacanyon for more.


American Pie 3
(2003) – 2/10

Director: Jesse Dylan
Writer: Adam Herz
Starring: The whole goddamn gang again

american pie 3

My non-existent younger brother loves it.


Cemetery Junction
(2010) – 6/10

Directors/Writers: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Starring: Christian Cooke, Felicity Jones, Jack Doolan

cemetery gates ricky gervais felicity jones

Ricky Gervais joins the dots, but doesn’t do the dance.


Dersu Uzala
(1975) – 7/10

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Yuri Nagibin, Vladimir Arsenyev (novel)
Starring: Maxim Munzuk, Yury Solomin

dersu uzala akira kurosawa

The plot is of a hunter brought to the city when he is too old to fend for himself in the wilderness, but most of the film is flashbacks of expeditions in Siberia. I was lucky enough to watch this in the cinema, and witnessing the simple shots of a tranquil wilderness is a more immersive experience than wearing 3D glasses. Although it probably doesn’t beat being in Sibera.


Extract
(2009) – 6/10

Director/Writer: Mike Judge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig

extract mike judge jason bateman mila kunis

Mike Judge has no shame and heavily recycles “Office Space”, adding a ridiculous plot hook of Jason Bateman paying someone to sleep with his wife, so that he’ll feel less guilty about committing adultery. Luckily, “Office Space” is an excellent source to recycle, and doesn’t belong in any ordinary red bin.


Four Lions
(2010) – 7.5/10

Director: Chris Morris
Writers: Chris Morris, Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Arsher Ali, Adeel Akhtar

four lions chris morris chicken terrorist

A film of three acts, in which the first two are a series of sketches involving terrorists making mistakes (not just the mistake of being a terrorist), which is a joke that gets tired very quickly, like an old-fashioned clown chasing a bus. However, Chris Morris more than makes amends with a superb final act where finally everything works; pathos and humour collide, forming sparks.


Heavenly Creatures
(1994) – 8/10

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet

heavenly creatures

Not angels, but people from Hollywood.

This is based on a true story of two children who are separated because of fears they are developing a lesbian relationship, which lead to the murder of one of their mothers. They didn’t have to go to prison for very long, which demonstrates that having an imagination can lead to murder, and you can get away with it if you start from a young age.

Have you ever killed a man?


I Love You, Man
(2009) – 5/10

Director: John Hamburg
Writers: Jon Hamm…burg, Larry Leven
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel

i love you man paul rudd jason segel

Paul Rudd can make anything just about watchable.


Inception
(2010) – 6/10

Director/Writer: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon Levitt

inception spinning top thing

When Christopher Nolan has breakfast, he chooses to eat cereal. You see an empty bowl, with bits of cornflake in the bowl, and droplets of milk that couldn’t be scooped by the spoon. There are flakes around his mouth. He picks the bowl up and goes to the kitchen. There is a flashback to him buying the cereal in the supermarket, except he stumbles because it reminds him of his dead wife. An additional timeline is thrown in that shows him eating a fried breakfast, and clearing up a bowl of cornflakes eaten by his twin brother. It turns out that Christopher Nolan never ate the cereal.

Inception has received mostly ‘love’ or ‘hate’ reactions since being released four days ago, but I think it’s merely an okay film from a talented writer/director. The praise for its intricacy and action scenes seem to ignore that isn’t nearly as smart as Memento or The Prestige, nor as exciting as The Dark Knight. It is, however, a lukewarm mixture of Nolan’s trademarks, which makes sense given that he worked on the script for ten years.

Just as in Memento and The Prestige, Inception plays about with the narrative by having three timelines running alongside each other. There seems to be little purpose beyond attempting to make the film’s concept harder to grasp. He isn’t satisfied with making an intelligent film that doesn’t dumb itself down for the mainstream, but chooses to make it confusing. Why? So the audience will find Inception more rewarding when they piece everything together. But this isn’t particularly smart, because any narrative film would have the same effect if it isn’t presented in chronological order.

PS If a dream-world Mal isn’t good enough for him, why would dream-world kids be any better? And why would he pick a moment after Mal died, not before? Doesn’t he want his fake children to be brought up with a fake mother?

PPS Who dreams like that?


Kickass
(2010) – 6.5/10

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, whoever did the comic
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage

kickass matthew vaugh chloe grace moretz aaron taylor johnson

The best bits are whenever the 11-year-old swears. Maybe I do want children when I’m older.


Paranormal Activity
(2009) – 6/10

Director/Writer: Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

paranormal activity 2009

You’re watching Paranormal Activity in the dark, home alone and it’s coming to a scary part. You know something’s about to happen, but you can’t bear to watch. All of a sudden, external forces switch the lights on, turn the television off, and a poltergeist makes you a mug of hot chocolate. Are you afraid?


The Prestige
(2006) – 2/10

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Priest (novel)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, David Bowie

the prestige david bowie tesla

Almost a masterpiece. Utterly compelling from the first minute to the very end. It was so thought provoking that I did that thing real film critics do – I watched “The Prestige” again two days after, to truly soak everything in.

So why the low rating? Reason: the three most disappointing endings to any film I’ve ever seen, all in one.

1. The dying speech about the audience knowing all along is clichéd, unbearably unnatural, and also wrong because…

2. …despite the heavy hints, nobody truly believed Christian Bale had a twin. Upon second viewing, there’s a hint every few minutes, but, even then, Nolan provides such an unsatisfactory deux-ex-machina that I would have preferred an open ending of mystery. Also, it’s startling that Rebecca Hall, or anyone, took so long to realise that the weird looking man who spends 24 hours a day hanging out with Christian Bale is just Christian Bale with a wig and false beard. I suppose that’s not as disappointing as finding out that…

3. …this tense psychological masterpiece is actually a sci-fi flick. Thank you, Christopher Nolan, as I’m sure your three-step guide to magic is meant to be how you tricked the audience, but there was no prestige because I never believed the same film reappeared at the end – not even your unnecessary timeline trickery can make me think that.


Primer
(2004) – 4/10

Director/Writer: Shane Carruth
Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan

primer Shane Carruth time machine travel sundance

Exhibited: the least interesting manner to use a time machine.


Vanilla Sky
(2001) – 1.5/10

Director: Cameron Crowe
Writers: Cameron Crowe, Alejandro Amenábar Mateo Gil (original screenplay)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee

vanilla sky tom cruise penelope cruz cameron crowe

After producing “Singles”, “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous”, Juan wonders how he could make something as hair-wretching as “Elizabethtown”. The answer: “Vanilla Sky” was made in-between, and is the worst parts of a Christopher Nolan movie, but without the intelligence or tense scenes before the inevitable disappointment. Just because this film almost sounds like ‘vanilla ice cream’ doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable in any manner.


Win a Date with Tad Hamilton
(2004) – 3/10

Director: Robert Luketic
Writer: Victor Levin
Starring: Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace, Josh Duhamel, Nathan Lane

win a date with tad hamilton kate bosworth topher grace

The least convincing love-triangle since the last time you spent a minute in an elevator with two strangers who you never saw again.

Follow @halfacanyon for more. Unfollow @halfacanyon for less.

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About Nick Chen

26-year-old journalist who's written for places like Total Film, Sight & Sound, Little White Lies, Complex, SFX Magazine, Dazed and Confused, Grolsch Film Works, London Calling, Vice, and a bunch of other places. Why pencils have razors. Based on a book. Screenwriter. Buzz word. London. Twitter: @halfacanyon. Feeling pullovered apart by clothes horses. Lesser known Olsen brother. Multiple instances of words misused contemporaneously.
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