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Henrietta Post
  • Movie Man: 'Inception' is dazzling, smart, thrilling

  • You’ve probably heard a lot about “Inception” this year, and for good reason. It made a fortune at the box office, got solid reviews and, come next month, is a sure bet for a Best Picture nomination.

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  • You’ve probably heard a lot about “Inception” this year, and for good reason. It made a fortune at the box office, got solid reviews and, come next month, is a sure bet for a Best Picture nomination.
    No one is predicting it will actually win, of course — a science-fiction action flick about dream thieves doesn’t stand a chance against serious fare like “The Social Network” or “The King’s Speech.” But while “Inception” might not be an Oscar winner, it’s something much rarer: It’s a movie that satisfies on every level.
    Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the man behind such mind-benders as “Memento” and “The Prestige” (and a little movie you might have heard of called “The Dark Knight”), “Inception” imagines a world exactly like ours except for one subtle difference: It’s possible (though tricky) to enter someone else’s dreams and steal their ideas. Our heroes, led by Leonardo DiCaprio, are experts at this sort of corporate espionage. But, as the movie kicks into gear, they’ve been hired to do something much more difficult than steal an idea. They’ve been hired to plant one.
    On one level (and “Inception” is nothing if not a movie with many levels), this is a classic heist movie, one where a master criminal gets the old gang together for one last job. It’s “Oceans 11,” only instead of taking place in Vegas, it takes place in someone’s head. There’s the usual lineup of the new kid, the hot head, the skeptical sidekick, the quirky genius and the rich guy financing the whole affair. It’s probably the only heist movie, though, where the criminals spend the entire heist comfortably sleeping on a first class flight from Sydney to L.A.
    Of course, on another level, this is an action movie with some pretty spectacular scenes. There are gunfights, car chases and an attack on an icy fortress (that, admittedly, goes on a bit long). There’s also a wild battle in a hotel hallway where gravity has gone out of whack. Like “The Matrix” used the idea of a virtual world to bend the laws of physics, “Inception” uses dreams. There’s a reason the trailers for “Inception” included all that footage of Joseph Gordon-Levitt floating around the hotel room — it looks spectacular.
    And, in the strange world of the movie, it makes perfect sense. That’s because the science-fiction level of the story is subtle, but firmly established. When DiCaprio explains the rules of dreams to new kid Ellen Page, he’s really explaining them to us, making the complex ideas easy to grasp. He discusses how time passes more slowly in dreams and how “the kick” — that feeling you’re falling — is what wakes you up. Those feel logical, because we’ve experienced them in our own dreams.
    Page 2 of 3 - It’s when Nolan explores dreams within dreams — and dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams — that things get really interesting.
    Which brings me to the deepest level of “Inception.” Thievery, action and sci-fi aside, “Inception” is a very emotional movie, one that explores issues of faith and belief, love and loss. DiCaprio lost his wife in a dream-based disaster that bled into the real world, and her disturbing presence (played by Oscar winner Marion Cotillard) shows up throughout the movie. It turns out that “Inception” isn’t really a movie about planting an idea, it’s a movie about an idea that was planted a long time ago.
    And by the end of the movie, when all those dream levels — all moving at different speeds, mind you — cross the thematic levels of the movie, it’s something to see. So few movies — let alone big-budget, summer blockbusters — challenge audiences that its breathtaking when one finally does. And trust me, “Inception” does just that — on multiple levels.
    I saw it once in the theater and just watched it again on Blu-ray. I liked it even better the second time, mostly because I knew about the big picture and could focus on how brilliantly Nolan (and his cast and crew) put it all together.
    Like I said at the beginning, a movie like this is a rare thing indeed. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I might worry I was dreaming myself.
    Will Pfeifer writes about DVDs for the Register Star on Saturdays. Contact him at wpfeifer@rrstar.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movieman/
    Make room in your collection
    Some DVDs out Tuesday
    “The A-Team”: Is the strangest thing about this movie that Liam Neeson — Oscar nominee for “Schindler’s List” — is playing “Hannibal” Smith, or that the oft-mocked TV series got turned into a movie at all?
    “The Town”: Ben Affleck directed and stars in this critically-acclaimed drama about a gang of Boston bank robbers. Lending support are Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) and Jon Hamm (“Mad Men.”)
    “The Other Guys”: Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell play a couple of desk jockey cops who get called into action when their more flamboyant fellow officers (Samuel Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) are sidelined. Comedy, of course, ensues.
    “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole”: What do you get when you combine a popular book series, computer-generated owls and Zack Snyder, the director of “300” and “Watchmen”? I’m not sure, but I saw the result in the theater, and whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Exit Through the Gift Shop”: This documentary examines the world of outlaw artists, like England’s Banksy and Shepard Fairey (creator of the Obama “Hope” poster), then filters it through an amateur filmmaker and would-be artist who may or may not be real. In the end, it’s hard to be sure.
    “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”: This documentary about the ground-breaking comedian got excellent reviews during its theatrical run. And yes, the title is a pun on her never-ending plastic surgery.
    “24: The Complete Series”: Why not put on a pot of coffee, get comfortable and watch all eight seasons in one straight shot? It’ll only take a week and a day — and heck, that’s what Jack Bauer would do.
    And CDs
    Michael Jackson, “Michael”: He’s no longer with us, but he’s still releasing albums. And thus, Michael Jackson follows the same profitable career track as Elvis Presley, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
    R. Kelly, “Love Letter”: Remember when R. Kelly was in all that weird legal trouble? I guess that’s all behind him now.
    Kandi, “Kandi Koated”: If you have to use your name in the title of your album, this is the way to do it.
    Elvis Crespo, “Indestructible”: Is there room in the recording business for another guy named Elvis?
    Phish, “Alpine Valley 2010”: Yes, this was recorded at nearby Alpine Valley Music Theatre just up the road in East Troy, Wis. Maybe you were at the show!
    Perry Como, “Complete Christmas Collection”: Slip on your cardigan and slip in this two-disc set of Christmas songs from Mr. Relaxation himself.
     — Will Pfeifer
    Sources: thedigitalbits.com, tophitsonline.com
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