Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, plus music and Brazilian films
INCEPTION: If you can make it through the first 15-20 minutes, you'll be OK. They're the most elusive in this intricate enigma of a movie. Leonardo DiCaprio comes to on a beach. He steals from a safe, but did he get blank pages or confidential documents? He's in somebody else’s dream, but it starts collapsing. Is it a dream with in a dream and how can he conduct himself when he’s in there? In fact, how did he get in there? Christopher Nolan did this to us once before with his mysterious Memento before making the straightforward super hit The Dark Knight. In a second act he goes overboard with exposition and then finally gets to the heart of this thriller, an intricately planned heist, of sorts. DiCaprio assembles a team, including a chemist, a forger, a right-hand man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a psychology student/maze designer (Ellen Page) to invade the dreams of the heir to an energy corporation. At the request of a competitor, they want to plant an idea--that’s the inception—to inspire him break up his conglomerate. Yes, these are industrial spies we’re watching.
DiCaprio is beset by guilt as he works and his deceased wife (played by Marion Cotillard) enters his dreams at inopportune times. That, and his desire to get back home to his two children, adds a touch of sentiment to this mostly cool and dispassionate film. Enjoy the puzzle though and the amazing action sequences and special effects. My favorite was DiCaprio’s demonstration of how to manipulate a dream. He causes a Paris street to fold up overhead, buildings, moving traffic and all. A climactic sequence has the team operating on three levels of a dream simultaneously. They’re in a van, in an elevator, and in a gunfight on an avalanche-prone mountain (filmed in Alberta) all at the same time. It’s not a masterpiece but it is well-acted and wonderfully visualized. Just remember to pay attention. Even Ellen Page has to ask at one point: “Who’s subconscious are we going into, exactly.”
Trivia: Page and Cotillard were both up for Best Actress Oscars two years ago. Cotillard won. (At theatres all over, including The Park, Dunbar, Rio and Scotiabank). 4 out of 5
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT: Families are changing so we’re going to get more films like this. Not many as good though, as well-observed, as well-acted and as accurate in depicting how real people behave. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a comfortable lesbian couple whose lives are thrown off balance by a man (Mark Ruffalo). Their teenage children bring him around because as a sperm donor years before, he is their father, sort of.
There’s an awkward but friendly enough first dinner and subsequent encounters gradually reveal some major differences (he’s a university drop out, now running an organic market garden; Bening is a high-achieving control freak) but also some similarities (they’re both Joni Mitchell fans). These comparisons are done with easy-going humor and a great deal of humanity. Developments come at a nicely comfortable pace. Moore, the passive and under-achieving one in the house, awakens, both professionally and otherwise, when she’s around him. Bening and Moore, who earlier had a hot sex scene as they were watching some gay porn, argue about him just as any couple might. Lisa Cholodenko, who wrote and directed, wisely doesn’t turn these two into angels or the film to advocating a life-style. Nor does she write artificial personality changes for her characters. A mean-spirited speech near the end was just waiting to come out. It’s an honest film. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE: In Fantasia, Mickey Mouse gets the mops moving and brings on a flood. That 9-minute sequence is the inspiration for this fantasy adventure. It's even recreated in live action as Jay Baruchel tries out some socerer moves before's he's ready and Nicolas Cage has to rescue him. For the record, the film does not reach back to the Goethe poem that originated the vignette. To expand the story, it reaches much further back. According to this fanciful concoction, the wizard Merlin had three apprentices. Now, 1,300 years later, they're battling for the future of the world, and by some sort of hidden law of the movies, it all takes place in New York City. Morgana Le Fay is locked up in a wooden doll.
Horvath (Alfred Molina) wants to release her. Balthazar (Cage) has to stop him by finding and training a more powerful wizard, The Prime Merlinean. He keys on a geeky college student played by Montreal's Baruchel. They banter pleasantly, Cage steers clear of his manic ways and Molina has a great time again as a grinning villain. Add in loads of special effects and you've got a fun ride without a hint of emotional involvement to slow you down. Kid stuff. It opened Wednesday to a disappointing early box office. (Oakridge, Tinseltown and several suburban theatres) 2 1/2 out of 5
BRAZILIAN FILM FESTIVAL: After Thursday night’s gala opening, the Portuguese-language fare from South America’s largest country continues through the weekend, at the VanCity Theatre. Two that I’ve seen so far are both worth catching.
LULA, THE SON OF BRAZIL is a biopic about the early life of the current President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He’s the newest icon for left-leaning political types in Latin America. The film shows the extreme poverty of his childhood, his abusive father, his mother’s struggle to keep the family together, up to his later rise in the union movement. It’s as straight-forward as a TV movie and a probably too one-sided. A good introduction, though. (3 out of 5)
TAMBORO is billed as an exploration of major environmental issues but is far more than that. It calls on city people to get to know and interact with the Amazon region and recognize that indigenous people aren’t in the past, but alive and thriving today.
The alternatives are those crime ridden shanty towns in the cities. The film shows both worlds through stunning images, flashy editing and radical politics in song. The director’s work was long banned by previous right-wing governments. He collected these scenes over decades of filming but didn’t live to see it win two big awards (one for its flashy editing) at the Rio International Film Festival. (3 ½ out of 5)
Check out showtimes and all the other titles at http://www.viff.org/theatre/. Click on 3rd Brazilian Film Festival down the right side.
A MUSIC DOUBLE BILL: If you need more after this weekend's folk festival, the VanCity Theatre has one repeat and one debut. They run Monday to Wednesday.
LEONARD COHEN: LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT, 1970: Political types tore down the fences. Jimi Hendrix worked up the crowd with a powerhouse performance. Then, Leonard Cohen had to follow that and somehow he settled the crowd down with terrific versions of So Long Marianne, The Stranger and others plus the admonition that although they were a large nation, they didn't yet deserve their own land. (3 ½ out of 5)
THE SOCALLED MOVIE: Josh Dolgin is a Montreal musician who has fused funk, klezmer and hip-hop, records CDs and posts You-Tube videos all under the name "Socalled". This lively documentary from the National Film Board let's him explain his roots and his philosophy. "I'm like the Mahatma Ghandi of hip-hop," he asserts to say he's not into divisive subjects like politics or religion. A boat cruise and a trip to Babi Yar in the Ukraine is part of his parallel interest in Jewish history. Inspired by Bach, Salvador Dali and James Brown, he is driven to try anything because "you only get one shot". So the world's funkiest man plays trombone in his band and a klezmer virtusoso and a rapper join for a show at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. The crowds love it. He's also into cartooning, magic tricks and rediscovering forgotten entertainers like Irving Fields whose several albums include "Bagels and Bongos." Wacky stuff. (3 out of 5)
NOTE: These images were supplied by the studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.