“Hocus Pocus” stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, and Vinessa Shaw. Released on July 16, 1993, the film is about a teenage boy who accidentally resurrects a trio of witches.
The film was directed by Kenny Ortega, who also directed films such as “Newsies”, “High School Musical”, and “Descendants”. Hold on to that witches brew, boys and girls, because I got another witch-related film to talk about, and it’s from Disney. This should be fun. Before he turned “High School Musical” and “Descendants” into cultural musical phenomenons, choreographer/director Kenny Ortega helmed two theatrical films for Disney, “Newsies” in 1992 and the main topic of my review, “Hocus Pocus” in 1993, with the latter being a straight-up fantasy-comedy instead of the usual musical film that Ortega is known for. The film was released during the summer season instead of Halloween in order to attract a lot of children that are off from school. Unfortunately, the strategy didn’t turn out as well as the studio hoped, mostly due to being overshadowed by another family film, “Free Willy”. In addition to being a commercial disappointment, it also received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics upon release. Years later, the film was rediscovered by audiences through annual airings on television, resulting in massive spikes in home video sales every Halloween season. It became a cult classic for Halloween fans later on. Given how popular it is, I thought it would be good for me to finally see what makes it a “classic” to begin with, especially since Disney is already developing a sequel to it for Disney+. I didn’t remember watching this film all the way through as I was growing up because of my focus towards other Halloween-related materials. With Halloween being today, I figured now would be the best time for me to experience this kid-friendly spook-fest from start to finish. With that in mind, let’s ride our brooms into the sky and see what I’ve been missing.
The story follows Max Dennison (Katz), a teenager who just moved from Los Angeles to Salem, Massachusetts with his parents and his younger sister Dani (Birch). While trick-or-treating with Dani, he encounters a mysterious cottage and inadvertently revives a trio of witches (known as the Sanderson sisters), who were hanged for their crimes 300 years ago. They placed a spell on themselves so that they will be resurrected during a full moon on All Hallows’ Eve when a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle. The sisters, Winnifred (Midler), Sarah (Parker), and Mary (Najimy), have the power to absorb a child’s youth and regain their own in order to live forever. In terms of them making themselves young for eternity, they’re the 90s interpretation of Mother Gothel from “Tangled”. With the help of his new friend Allison (Shaw) and an immortal black cat with a mysterious past (voiced by Jason Marsden), Max and Dani must find a way to send this villainous trio back to their graves once and for all before they harm any more children. This is another dark fantasy film from Disney that combines kid-friendly scares with a sense of fun and charm in its environment and the characters, which was something that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” did three months after it. What these two films have in common is that they’re both made by Disney, they’re both classified as cult classics, and they’re both part of a Halloween tradition for families who are in need of some spooky fun without giving the kids nightmares for weeks. What sets them apart, however, is that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is an animated masterpiece that has wonderful characters, fantastic visuals, memorable songs, and an engaging plot. “Hocus Pocus”, on the other hand, is a harmlessly hokey live-action horror comedy that features bland characters and a story that’s as thin as ice, but admittedly, it isn’t without its fair share of likable moments. I think what made “Hocus Pocus” such a Halloween classic for people is that even though the story was a bit of a mess (in terms of the characters and the direction it took), it had that type of appeal in its narrative that kept them from resisting its mesmerizing spell. The majority of that appeal has to do with the three main actresses: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. They are, without a doubt, the best parts of the film because of the energetic chemistry between them and the distinct personalities they brought to their characters, the Sanderson sisters. I also really liked the characters’ experiences with modern technology as well as the modern Halloween traditions, which brought out some pretty good laughs. Yes, they’re obviously the main villains in the film, but they’re the type of villains that you couldn’t help but love every time they’re onscreen. As for the main characters, which consists of Max, Dani, and Allison, that’s where the film fell flat for me. For the character of Max, the film was attempting to portray a fish-out-of-water story that has him struggling to fit in when he moved to Salem with his family and trying to impress Allison. It also displays the sibling relationship between Max and his little sister Dani. With those elements, the film had the opportunity to be a true Halloween classic. Problem is, it lacked the proper depth needed to make me care more about these characters, especially Max, who I thought was pretty mediocre in terms of character development. The young actors’ performances for these characters were also not as highly memorable as the main actresses, although Thora Birch was the most tolerable as Dani. On the plus side, it did feature a couple of well-known supporting actors, such as Jason Marsden, who is known for providing the official voice of Goofy’s son Max Goof, and Doug Jones, the actor responsible for portraying some of Guillermo del Toro’s most memorable creatures. Jones plays the zombified Billy Butcherson who is sent by Midler’s Winifred to catch the main characters, in case you’re wondering. Some of the visual effects held up fairly well for a film that’s made in the 1990s, especially the practical ones. The CGI for the cat’s facial expressions can be a bit weird at times. Fortunately, it didn’t get to the point where it looked jarring or dated.
Overall, “Hocus Pocus” still has its share of issues that prevented it from successfully casting its spell, but it also has its share of moments that made it an enjoyable Halloween treat in the first place. It’s easy for me to admit that it’s not a masterpiece when it comes to its story and the main characters. However, it did its job at being a harmless family film that was just made to entertain the young kids and their parents as well as the people who grew up with it. The chemistry between the three main actresses, its respectable amount of spooky charm, and its tolerable use of special effects are what kept this film going strong today and will continue to do so for many years to come. Here’s hoping that its legacy doesn’t get tarnished by its upcoming sequel.
“The Exorcist” stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, and Linda Blair. Released on December 26, 1973, the film has a mother teaming up with a couple of priests to rescue her daughter from a demon.
The film was directed by William Friedkin, who also directed films such as “Good Times”, “The French Connection”, “The Guardian”, “Rules of Engagement”, and “Killer Joe”. It is based on the 1971 novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote and produced the film. It’s that time of year again. The weather’s getting cold, the leaves are changing colors, and everyone is setting up their spooky decorations. That’s right, my friends, it is once again October, which means Halloween is just around the corner, which means I now have the urge to watch some of the creepiest films and shows that I could find on television, including the one that I’ve been waiting to talk about since the day I reached the age of 17. Horror films in general have been quite popular nowadays thanks to the involvement of producer Jason Blum and his production company, but some of them weren’t able to capture the spine-tingling spirit that the others accomplished back in the 1970s. Before we had the likes of Mike Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger haunting people’s nightmares, there was this one person that’s so terrifying, so nightmarish, and so disgusting that it gave people chills every time they think about them. That, my fellow readers, is a demon in a 12-year-old girl's body. If you thought that monsters and ghosts were scary, try having a supernatural demon control your actions. That will surely keep you awake for days. There are plenty of films that deal with demonic possessions, but none of them came close to the one that started the trend, William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist”, the film that made everyone peed their pants with fright and vomit all over the place. Despite a troublesome production and multiple concerns over its content, the film became a commercial success with multiple people waiting in long lines during the cold winter days to experience it either for the first time or more than once. I guess people wanted to celebrate the day after Christmas by watching a horror film that involves a possessed girl vomiting on a priest. I’m beginning to think that she’s not the only one who needed to be exorcised. Its success lead the film to become the first horror movie to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and spawn a franchise that consists of two sequels, two prequels, and a television series that lasted for two seasons. It also went on to become a horror classic among critics and audiences many years later and a major influence on pop culture. Now, here’s the thing about my experience with the film. I have heard a lot of great things about it, but I haven’t actually watched it from start to finish until now. Maybe I was too nervous or I just didn’t have the time to see it for myself. My mind works in mysterious ways. Since I got nothing to do this week, I figured now would be the best time for me to finally see if it actually deserves the title “horror classic”. Plus, it would give me the opportunity to review more horror classics later down the road. And now, without further ado, let’s get our freak on.
The story follows Chris MacNeil (Burstyn), a single mother who lives in Georgetown with her 12-year-old daughter Regan (Blair). Chris is working as an actress for a film helmed by her friend/associate Burke Dennings (MacGowran). One day, Regan begins to act strangely after coming into contact with a Ouija board, and by strangely, I mean using obscene language, speaking backwards, and having abnormal strength. After consulting a number of physicians, including Father Damien Karras (Miller), Chris later discovers that Regan is possessed by an ancient demon known as Pazuzu. With the help of a veteran Catholic priest Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow), Karras must perform an exorcism to rescue Regan before her soul is lost forever. I was hoping that I would watch it on one of the streaming services for free, but I wasn’t able to find it anywhere. So I decided to rely on one of the cable channels to view it. Despite having to suffer through a bunch of commercial breaks and edits made for television, my first experience with it was pretty much what I expected it to be. Creepy, but satisfying. Rather than being a straight-up horror film with jump scares and gore appearing every few minutes or so, “The Exorcist” comes across as a dialogue-driven supernatural drama that involves the characters’ perspectives of this frightening situation and happens to have horror elements in it. This could test the patience of those who wanted to get to the good stuff right away, especially since the film is two hours long, but it also gives the audience time to get to know the characters before they’re sent to face the demon in the finale. You have Chris and Regan whose relationship with one another changes after the latter becomes possessed, and you have Damien Karras who is struggling with his faith in God. The film was able to explore these characters and their relationships with each other in a tolerant and engaging matter without rushing into the scary stuff head-on, which was something that most supernatural horror films in recent years failed to accomplish. Now you may be wondering what caused this film to still have an everlasting impact on a lot of horror fans since its initial release. Was it the eerie atmosphere, the practical effects, the music, or the unnerving sequences? The answer is all of the above. William Friedkin proved to be a talented filmmaker when it comes to the quality, but he also proved that he can provide elements that are unsettling and realistic rather than cheesy and intolerable, such as the performances from the cast and its alarming sense of eerie and dread. Ellen Burstyn was fantastic in her role as Chris as she was able to deliver an uncomfortable, but fulfilling, range of emotions without coming off as laughable. Jason Miller and Max von Sydow also delivered some great performances as Karras and Merrin respectively. Linda Blair as Regan was also the best part of the cast because of her reactions while being possessed. Similar to Burstyn’s performance, Blair’s emotional range was both haunting and effective in terms of the film's tone. There were some sequences that still proved to be quite alarming as of today thanks to some convincing special effects and its atmosphere, such as the cerebral angiography scene and the exorcism sequence in the third act. If you have read the fact that people wound up fainting or vomiting after viewing those sequences, that’s how you know how shocking they were. When I watched the cerebral angiography sequence for the first time in its entirety, I didn’t feel sick or faint at all. All I felt was uneasiness and nothing else. I can understand that it’s unnecessary, but I can also understand that it adds to the disturbing tone that the film was going for. If you get queasy very easily, I would advise you to not watch that scene. I would also give props to the sound editing and Jack Nitzsche’s musical score for emphasizing the scares and the atmosphere. The sound effects, in particular, weren’t as technical as they were today, but that’s what made it so terrifying (and nostalgic) to begin with. Whether it’s the characters yelling in pain or the demon’s voice, the sound editing had a proper amount of creepiness that’ll get stuck in your brains for quite a while.
Overall, “The Exorcist” is an unnerving, yet riveting, experience that should be viewed by every horror fan in existence. The fact that it’s more dialogue-driven than scare-driven may test some people’s patience, but aside from that, it’s still an effective horror film that cares more about story and characters rather than having cheap jump scares appear every few minutes. The cast was great in their roles, Friedkin’s direction was impressive, and the scares were still effective to this day in terms of the practical effects and the atmosphere. It’s too bad that I wasn’t able to watch the uncut version of the film, but I have to take what I can get because I had been neglecting it for far too long and I really wanted to share my experience with you guys. Maybe someday I’ll take another look at it once it’s made available for free on one of the streaming services. Until then, the television version that I watched will have to do for now.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” stars Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman. Released on August 13, 2010, the film is about a slacker musician who must defeat his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes.
The film was directed by Edgar Wright, who also directed films such as “Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz”, “The World’s End”, and “Baby Driver”. It is based on the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. You want to know what it feels like to read a comic book, play a video game, and watch a music video at the same time while being high on drugs? Then have I got a film for you. Two months ago, I reviewed a film that is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, which is Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”. Today, I’m reviewing another film that is also celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and it’s something that I remember fondly. Back in the day, I usually go to the movies with my mother even though I was old enough to drive. Then one day at the mall, I convinced her that I would see it on my own at the built-in AMC theater while she does her errands, and the rest is history. That was the day that lead me to feel comfortable with navigating the cinema and pay for the tickets and snacks all by myself, and I got this film to thank for it. It also got me interested in Edgar Wright’s other works, so bonus points for that. Despite not being as successful as Wright and Universal Pictures had been hoping for in terms of the box office, the film went on to become a cult classic and became well-known by critics and audiences for its transmedia storytelling, which is combining many different techniques to form a compelling narrative. I believe that this is one of the films that I shared my thoughts on earlier on Facebook more than five years ago. You know, before I decided to make my blog. Now that I have my own website, I decided to give this one the proper review it deserves, and what better way to do that than during its tenth anniversary celebration? Like my other classic reviews, I will do my best to not give away any major spoilers in case you haven’t watched the film nor read the source material it’s based on.
The film tells the story of Scott Pilgrim (Cera). He’s a 22-year-old slacker who lives with his roommate Wallace Wells (Culkin) and plays for a garage band known as Sex Bob-Omb that consists of him and his friends Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and Kim Pine (Pill). He’s also dating Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a high-school student who’s also a “Scott-aholic”. One day, Scott takes an interest in Ramona Flowers (Winstead), a young woman who works as an Amazon delivery girl. In order to date Ramona, however, he must challenge and defeat her seven evil super-powered ex-boyfriends. Why did they have superpowers? I have no idea. He also attempts to help the band win a competition that is sponsored by record executive Gideon Graves (Schwartzman). In addition to combining action and comedy with romance, the film represents a narrative that uses visual elements and easter eggs from comic books, video games, and music videos to create a surreal and somehow irresistible experience that felt fresh and exciting. After a decade since its release, it still has that same appeal that will satisfy those who are curious as well as people who grew up reading comics and playing arcade games with their friends. This is a film that’s never afraid to have fun and be creative with its bizarre concept, and it’s all thanks to Edgar Wright’s superb sense of direction. Wright had a clever way of mixing the fundamentals of action and comedy with a substance that audiences can relate to, resulting in a blockbuster that’s both riveting and heartfelt. While the “romance” part can be a bit corny at times, it didn’t get to the point where it made the entire film unwatchable thanks to the chemistry between the cast. Its screenplay by Michael Bacall and Wright did well in showcasing the basics of teen awkwardness and its coming-of-age themes like taking responsibility for one’s own mistakes, learning to let things go, and of course, understanding the true meaning of love. I believe that people who either experienced that phase themselves or are experiencing it right now should be able to relate to its themes while they drown themselves in the sea of geek culture. The cast in the film did a great job with their performances, especially Cera and Winstead as Scott and Ramona respectively. I think there are some critics who had mixed feelings towards Cera’s performance, but honestly, I thought he nailed his character perfectly. Scott has a sense of awkwardness that makes himself likable and flawed and leads him to make some pretty dumb mistakes, mostly the ones that involve love. Michael Cera was able to successfully manifest this type of personality through his mannerisms and tone. I guess you can say that this is my favorite performance from him so far. Kieran Culkin also did really well with his role as Wallace Wells in terms of the humor, and the actors that portrayed the seven evil exes were some of the best parts of the film, especially Evans and Routh as Lucas Lee and Todd Ingram respectively. These actors knew how to have fun with their characters without taking themselves too seriously. The real cherry on top of the colorful sundae was the visual style and the soundtrack. Not only did the style offer a unique and dazzling perspective on the genre, but it also worked extremely well with the teen-related humor, the references from specific comic books and video games, and the nicely-choreographed action sequences. They made the film look like the holy grail of geek fandom. The visual effects looked amazing back when it first came out, and after rewatching it now, I’m glad to say that they haven’t aged a bit. My only concern is that some of the visuals may have a negative effect on people who have experiences with epilepsies, so if you’re one of them, proceed with caution. I also have to give props to the film’s amazing soundtrack for its mixture of rock music and video game music. Interesting fact: the film’s score was provided by Nigel Godrich, who is known for working with Radiohead as the band’s producer, which would explain why the film is so obsessed with rock and roll.
Overall, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is something that you have to see to believe. Not just for the story, the action, and the comedy, but for the uniqueness in its narrative. This is one of my favorite films of the 2010s because of what it brought to the experience. The visual style and the soundtrack are the two major things that made the film special in its own right, and they are backed up by its cast, Wright’s direction, and its themes. It still holds up well after a decade, and I hope it continues to hold up in the years to come and maybe inspire others to provide their own sense of imagination in their own narratives. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend that you do so.
“42” stars Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, André Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater, and Ryan Merriman. Released on April 12, 2013, the film follows the accomplishments of baseball player Jackie Robinson.
The film was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who also directed “Payback”, “A Knight’s Tale”, “The Order”, and “Legend”. For an occasion like this, I think now is the time for me to look at one of the films that honor some of the legends from the African American culture. One legend in particular had the courage to end racial segregation in the baseball community and inspire others to put more focus on racial equality, and his name was Jackie Robinson. Without him, the world of baseball wouldn’t be what it is today. There were at least a couple of attempts to adapt Robinson’s life story as a feature film. Spike Lee was originally attached to write and direct the project in 1995, and Robert Redford was set to produce it in 2004, but both of these attempts fell apart, resulting in Brian Helgeland taking over the helms in 2011 under the distribution deal with Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures. It was then released to the public two years later to positive reviews from critics and became a modest success at the box office, earning over $97 million worldwide against the production budget of $40 million. This was something that I was planning on revisiting for my blog for quite some time not just because of the “Black Lives Matter” scenario, but also because of how much I loved it. I remembered watching it for the first time with my sister in a sold-out theater and immediately recognized how well this story was told in a PG-13-rated manner. My sister and I enjoyed it so much that I wound up getting the film on Blu-ray. Plus, it was the film that introduced me to Chadwick Boseman, who went on to portray a couple more real-life historical figures like James Brown and Thurgood Marshall and join the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Panther after his success with “42”. Yeah, it was a good day for me to be a film lover. So, how does this sports biopic held up in my critical eyes? Let’s travel back to the 1940s and find out.
The story focuses on the life-changing career of Jackie Robinson (Boseman), a baseball player who is chosen by Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Ford) to play in the Major Leagues, resulting in him becoming the first African American player to play in the MLB (Major League Baseball). From playing with the Montreal Royals to leading the Dodgers to the World Series, Robinson faces several race-related challenges that happen on and off the baseball field. What makes Robinson such an iconic person is not just his undeniable talent in baseball, but also his personality. He didn’t let anyone bring him down with their racist remarks and their awful actions towards him. His acts of kindness and respect towards others showed the baseball community that generosity is the only path to victory and that everyone is equal regardless of their skin color. As I mentioned before, I loved every minute of “42” during my first viewing, mostly because of the cast and its inspiring storytelling. Those major things are what made it one of my favorite baseball movies of all time. Looking back at it now as a film critic, I can see that it’s not exactly a perfect sports biopic, but it still holds up well as an important and well-acted baseball drama that honors Robinson’s accomplishments. The only thing that kept it from being an A+ movie was its screenplay. On the one hand, the script has plenty of moments that offer some respectable dialogue and heartfelt drama. On the other hand, it didn’t exactly transcend beyond its genre tropes nor further explore its social commentary in an emotional light. People who wanted a Jackie Robinson biopic with stronger storytelling may feel a bit disappointed with this one, but if you don’t mind this flaw, there’s a good chance that you’ll find plenty to enjoy. I can understand that some of its mild sequences may become a problem for some viewers, but I think the reason why Brian Helgeland went with this direction was because he wanted to make the film accessible to people of all ages, especially kids. It’s important for children to learn this type of stuff. While the execution was far from perfect, the film is suitable enough to show to your kids without making them feel uncomfortable with its themes. What kept the film going for me in terms of storytelling was Helgeland’s direction. Despite missing some of its emotional beats, I thought he did a good job at balancing the film’s themes with some of its light-hearted moments, which goes to show that biopics don’t always need to be overly serious to be great. Sometimes, you just need the good moments to go along with the bad. You know, like life itself. The performances from the cast were also top-notch, most notably Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Boseman had that specific soul in his performance that made his character endearing, but also vulnerable. The film portrays Robinson as a person who enjoys playing the sport he loves, but is struggling to keep his cool around other people who were against him being in the same field as the white players. With all that talent Boseman had to play this type of character, it’s no wonder why he was chosen to sing several songs from James Brown and become a Marvel superhero. Harrison Ford also delivered one of his best performances in his career as Branch Rickey. His strict and scruffy voice was well-balanced with a character who wasn’t afraid to do the impossible despite the controversy he’ll wind up getting. I also want to point out the elephant in the room, which is Alan Tudyk as Phillies manager Ben Chapman. Tudyk’s performance was obviously respectable, but it was his character that I both appreciate and hate. Chapman served as an example of how society treats people of color during that time period in the most distasteful way possible, which I thought served the film’s purpose quite well. I am not kidding, once Chapman opens his big mouth, you will immediately despise him like he was the plague. I like what they did with this character from a critical perspective, but from my normal perspective, his actions made me want to smash his head in with a baseball bat. It’s like having a love/hate relationship with someone. You like them because of their appeal, but you also hate their attitude.
Overall, “42” is far from a grand slam, but it’s still an entertaining baseball drama that’s both inspirational and heartwarming. While its screenplay didn’t delve deep into its social commentary and Robinson’s personal life, the film was able to hit a couple of home runs thanks to its superb cast, Helgeland’s direction, and its heartfelt messages. It’s an endearing biopic that honors the struggles Robinson faced in his baseball career and the spirit of the sport itself. It’s understandable that the film didn’t exactly do anything special with the genre in terms of storytelling, but thankfully, it didn’t take away my love for it. I will always appreciate this film for its themes and the incredible talent from the cast regardless of what anybody says about it. For those who haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth checking out.
“Inception” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. Released on July 16, 2010, the film is about a thief who steals information from people’s dreams.
The film was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed films such as “Memento”, “Insomnia”, “Batman Begins”, and “Interstellar”. If you have the power to infiltrate people’s dreams, what would you do with it? This was the question that master filmmaker Christopher Nolan answered in his most ingenious and trippy film of the 2010s. Nolan was originally planning on working on it after the completion of “Insomnia”, but he later shelved it in order to gain more confidence with a project this complex and grand and instead went on to work on the two “Batman” films and the 2006 thriller “The Prestige”. Fast forward to the summer of 2010, where the film became a critical and commercial success and won four out of eight Academy Awards, including Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. It also became a major influence in popular culture in terms of its memorable sequences and its trailers using the popular “braam” sounds. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the sci-fi action classic and with Nolan’s upcoming film “Tenet” heading to theaters soon (hopefully), I decided to revisit it and see if it really is a filmgoer’s dream come true or if it’s actually an absolute nightmare when it comes to the complexity of its plot and themes. For those who still haven’t watched it, I will do my best to share my thoughts on the film without giving away any major spoilers, so that you can experience it for yourself someday.
The story centers on Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) and his partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt). They’re a group of professional thieves known as “extractors” who use experimental technology to invade their targets’ subconscious and extract information through a shared dream world, hence the term “extractors”. Dom runs into Mr. Saito (Watanabe), a businessman who promises to erase his criminal record by completing this request: implanting an idea into the subconscious of Robert Fischer (Murphy), the heir to his father’s business empire. With a team by his side, Cobb works to complete this dangerous mission while also dealing with his own personal demons in the process. Now, you may think that this plot is as simple as telling time, but it’s actually a complex and modern heist film that does two things: expand on the concept of dream vs. reality through dialogue and deliver a heart-pounding and visually striking thrill ride that every summer blockbuster is known for. With a runtime of two hours and 28 minutes, the film does take a while to get to the actual heist, but with its interesting characters and Nolan’s execution on the “dream vs. reality” scenario, getting through the first act didn’t feel like an absolute chore. Instead, it sets up this idea in a way that Nolan is known for: mixing together character-driven moments with the genre elements while keeping the pace consistent. Once the heist kicks into high gear, that’s when things get even more exhilarating. From its thrilling action sequences to its mind-bending visuals, the film is a trippy and invigorating experience that’s more intelligent than brainless. In other words, it still holds up as one of Christopher Nolan’s best-looking and intense blockbusters of his career. The cast did such a fantastic job with their performances, especially Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, who serves as the focus of one of the film’s themes, which is dealing with guilt. Throughout the film, Cobb has been haunted by the events that led his wife Mal (who is played marvelously by Marion Cotillard) to commit suicide, and those thoughts are affecting his job, which helps make the film’s high stakes much more serious. The way they handled this character arc was undoubtedly riveting without feeling forced. This is one of those moments where storytelling and character depth are just as important as the action set pieces and the visual effects. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, and Ellen Page were also great in their roles as Arthur, Saito, and Ariadne respectively as they insert enough interest in these characters to prevent them from being one-dimensional. The scope of the set pieces and the film’s mixture of practical effects and CGI play a big part in portraying some of the most memorable sequences in film history, including the Paris-folding sequence and the zero-gravity fight scene that takes place in one of the dreams. These things alone looked incredible ten years ago, and they still look incredible now. The sequences that I mentioned successfully portrayed how the dreams are affected by the real world and the characters without taking some easy shortcuts that most of the action blockbusters are known for. Another thing I want to mention is Hans Zimmer’s score, which still sounds great in my opinion. Zimmer definitely knows how to create music that matches the intensity and the scope of a specific film without making things too overwhelming or too underwhelming, and “Inception” is a well-deserved example of that. Give it a hear if you get the chance.
Overall, “Inception” is the type of experience that remarkably blends intelligent thrills with awe-inspiring visuals. Ten years after its official release, the film still remains as one of the best examples of what Christopher Nolan can do with a higher budget and his intriguing concept. The cast was great, Cobb’s character arc was well-executed, the visuals and the action looked stunning, and the story was complex, yet interesting, thanks to Nolan’s direction and screenplay. It can be a bit confusing at first, but once you fully understand its substance, I can assure you that you will be in for one heck of a treat. Here’s hoping that Nolan’s latest film “Tenet” will deliver that same experience as this one.