“Inception” – 2010. Dir. Christopher Nolan

With Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Pete Posthlewaite, with Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine.

“I love you but I can’t trust you anymore.” – Cobb

Christopher Nolan knows how to make a film. Not a movie, a film. He’s very unique in the way of transforming a film into a summer blockbuster. “Inception” is a riddle, a maze that imbeds itself into your mind. What I found very interesting about the film was the lack of character development and the suspension of the plot. Sure there is one, you can essentially follow it, but when the plot deviates into different story arcs, you’re lost within the film. You’re lost within a dream, within a dream, within a dream leaving you trying to understand what reality is.

The concept of technology used in the film is monumental. In the not so distant future there is a technology available to enter someone’s mind when they are asleep. This is how secrets, the deepest of secrets get stolen. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb who is the best “inceptor” there is. He works as an inception preventer, teaching people’s minds how to prevent an intruder like himself from stealing their secrets.

This is a complex concept, but at the same time it’s almost plausible. What gets really complex is how inception actually works. We’re told little but we’re shown quite a bit. I don’t want to get into it and spoil any plot elements, nor do I think I can formulate a concrete opinion without seeing the film again. Look, it was midnight, I had to be at work at seven this morning, I was tired and the air conditioning wasn’t really working in the theater. I sweat a lot, okay?

The ensemble cast is really worth your time here. The characters (aside from DiCaprio’s) aren’t developed at all. We know next to nothing about any of them. Watanabe is fucking wonderful as the quasi villainish Saito who kind of hires DiCaprio for an audition of his skills. He’s undoubtedly the best Japanese actor since Tishiro Mifune.

I’ve never, ever been a fan of Ellen Page. I can’t stand her. I think she’s an egotistical little tart who plays the same character in every film. Her in Inception, she’s slightly different – though she does display the rouge female character traits. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed her performance.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become something of an anomaly in these recent years. He’s turned the page hardcore from “Angels in the Outfield”. He looks really good in this film, with his three piece suit and slicked back hair, if he chooses his films right, he maybe the next Heath Ledger who was going to be the next Daniel Day-Lewis.

Marion Cotillard is the standout in the film where she plays Cobb’s wife. She is such an incredible actress – and ever since she won her Academy award she’s done nothing short of stepping up her game and finding the right roles for her. She’s not only adorable, but there is a second or two in the film where she gave me chills. She is such a rare actor – her command is unreal.

Tom Hardy is strange in the film. I’m not sure what his exact role was, but he mainly supplements for slight comedic relief. I wasn’t really thrilled by him, more numb than anything. It’ll be interesting to see him as Mad Max.

I love that Michael Caine was in the film because he’s Michael Caine and Nolan loves him. He’s really nothing special, but he’s still a treat none the less. I guess one can argue his importance to the plot, which he does have an important role with it, but he was in it to be in it.

Nolan alumni, Cillian Murphy shows up towards the climax of the film as the new “mark”. Pete Posthlewaite plays his father who is a very vague rich and powerful man. Doesn’t it seem like Posthlewaite and Nolan should have worked together before? I think so.

How in the FUCK did Tom Berenger get in this movie? I have no idea how, but I love it! Nolan continues to keep up his tradition of using an actor who hasn’t seen a theatrical release in a quite a while as a small and vital role in his films. Think Rutger Hauer in “Batman Begins”, Eric Roberts in “The Dark Knight” and now Tom Berenger in “Inception”. I love it!

Okay – so, Leonardo DiCaprio. The problem I have with him is this: his character Cobb mirrors that of Teddy Daniels for “Shutter Island” way too much. I don’t want to give away any plot details to the film, since most of you tend to go in “blind”. He really should have played one or the other. He just wasn’t believable as Cobb to me, roll your eyes, but Christian Bale would have been better. I’m not sold on DiCaprio. He’s way too prolific for me to accept any of his characters as authentic. I see an actor, who is in too many movies, not a colorful spectrum of characters. I don’t think DiCaprio is a great actor. He’s good, but not what everyone seems to think. And oh yes, the neck beard is back with a vengeance in “Inception”. Just fucking shave it off, or wear a fake. Shit’s getting real old.


I think I have a firm grasp on the dream within a dream within a dream concept. There are three, maybe even four levels of dream stages. I took two things away from the film, one that Saito was more than likely an architect as well. Some of the film took place in his “world”. The second was that the ending of the film was a dream that was built by Ellen Page’s character. She’s the only one who knew how Cobb’s totem worked. He explained it too her, and she’s the only one that had seen Cobb’s memories.

Did you ever notice how you never saw Cobb’s children’s faces until the end of the film? It played like his memory played, until they turned around and looked at Cobb. How could Cobb’s reality be a carbon copy of his dream? I feel that Page built his dream, made it into a reality so that Cobb could “live”. Remember that small scene when Cobb is shown the people who are plugged in to dream, just so they can live? That’s what I think happened to Cobb.


“Inception” is nothing less than a brilliant film that is more of a mind fuck than your ex boy/girlfriend. It’s an incredibly smart film without trying to be too smart. I understand a lot of the film, I really do, but I just didn’t care for some of it; yet Christopher Nolan has proved once again that he is the real deal. This film is so epic and brilliant; it’s truly a tremendous feat. He and Paul Thomas Anderson are the two most important filmmakers of our generation.

Rating: 10/10

“Revolutionary Road” – 2008. Dir. Sam Mendes

With Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Dylan Baker, and Michael Shannon.

“How do I know you didn’t try to flush our entire fucking family down the toilet?”

  • Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio)

The first ten minutes of “Revolutionary Road” are nice, it’s pleasant. It’s a nice little period piece (set in the 1950’s) where two young people meet, and fall madly in love. After that ten minute mark, the film takes a nose dive, and imbeds itself into your soul and will not let go of it.

The story is of a young couple who flea New York City and move into a middle class suburb where they buy a home on Revolutionary Road (amazing name) where they try to achieve the American Dream. They are miserably unhappy; they have nothing positive to look forward too. The children they have are only really seen as setbacks; an embargo that prevents them for living their lives to the fullest.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a shallow dreamer who aspires of having better things, who zigzags his way through life pretending to be something that he’s not – an idealist and refusing to see that he’s ordinary. Kate Winslet is his wife, on the outside she has the sheen of the “All American Girl”, the picture perfect housewife who takes out the garbage, who cooks, who cleans, and who caters to her husband. Inside she’s just as shallow and pathetic as she reaps the harvest she has sewn.

Kathy Bates is remarkable (something I never thought I would utter) as a real estate agent who sold this bright young couple their home, she’s also their neighbor and the veteran suburban housewife. It’s hard to put into words the emotions this film streams into our consciousness. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this – aside from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf”. The film reminds me much of a scene from Mendes’ earlier film “Road to Perdition”. Remember when Tom Hanks goes to deliver the man in the speakeasy a sealed note from Daniel Craig’s character? The jazz music is pounding, we can’t hear ourselves think. Everything in that small shitty office is vibrating to the music. No words are spoken. When the man opens the note and is the only one who sees the contents inside; the suspense builds tremendously between his eye contact with Hanks, we’re left squirming in our seat – that is how I felt the entire time while watching this film.

As if this film isn’t emotional exhausting enough, enter Michael Shannon who is Kathy Bates’ eccentric, brilliant and prophet of a son who can see only the truth, and sees what a complete joke this “American Dream” has become, he sees through its façade and sees all the pathetic weakness that everyone is feeling. I’ve known little of Michael Shannon and have only seen him in a few films, but he steals this film. Shannon is brilliant, he has a PhD in mathematics, well groomed and is one of the most threatening characters to the “American Dream” I have ever seen on screen. Michael Shannon could have played The Joker.

While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think of what a torturous undertaking it would be for Sam Mendes to direct his then wife Kate Winslet in such a psychologically painful film where you can’t figure out who the most despicable and heinous person is: DiCaprio or Winslet. Winslet gives one of her very best performances in this film, and DiCaprio gives his career finest. I also watched this thinking of all the “Titanic” fans, rushing to the theaters to see the new love story staring DiCaprio and Winslet with so much anticipation; Haha fuckers! Better luck next time.

With all this emotionally painful drama, and the beautiful shattering of the nostalgic “American Dream” which has been ram rodded down our throats since we were young, I found this movie to be boring at times, finding myself becoming emotionally dethatched from the characters, and checking to see how much time was left. This film shows us that our dreams and the achievement of happiness is like chasing a butterfly. You can run as fast as you can, be as strategic as possible and you’ll probably never catch it, but if you do catch that butterfly – it’s just a butterfly after all.

Review 7.5/10

“Gangs of New York” – 2003. Dir. Martin Scorsese

With Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Gary Lewis with Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson and Liam Neeson.

“You see this fucking knife? I’m going to teach you how to speak English with this fucking knife.”

  • Bill “the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

I need to get this off my chest now. Cameron Diaz is fucking awful in this film, Leonardo DiCaprio is miscast and I don’t know what Scorsese was thinking by casting Henry Thomas. Phew…I feel better now. That being said, “Gangs of New York” is Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece.

The film starts out bold. Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) is preparing his men for an epic battle with the Confederation of American Natives which is lead by Bill “the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) to see who controls the Five Points for good and all. Vallon and his men mount inside a rundown church, and meet outside in the Five Points (where all major roads meet to a town square). They stand outside in the dead of winter and stand idle – waiting for hell to unleash.

Men with top hats and blue sashes begin to slither out of buildings, and stand on the other side of the square. This is where we see Cutting, glass eye and all. What unleashes is a brutally violent battle. The battle sequence is one of the best filmed, being slowed down to 12 frames per second and queued up to Peter Gabriel’s ambient and eerie sounding “Signal to Noise”.

Men are screaming, ripping each others cheeks apart, and stabbing each other with dull and rusty blades. It’s a chaotic scene but our focus begins to turn to Cutting who is weaving through the crowd, blood lust is in his eye and his sights are set on Vallon. Cutting takes no prisoners; killing his own men who stand in his way just to get to Vallon.

He gets to Vallon and stabs him in the side, then in the stomach. The Priest falls and the battle is over. All the men halt. A young Amsterdam Vallon (played as an adult by DiCaprio) is taken to an orphanage and is to be sure to get “a good education” scowls Cutting.

Time passes and Amsterdam is then let out as an adult. He returns to the Five Points with a mission of revenge. He is slowly taken under the wing of Cutting and Amsterdam gets as close to him as possible so he can avenge the death of his father.

This is an extremely flawed film; I’ll be the first to admit that. There are a lot of things very wrong with it. I have always said that Colin Farrell would have be absolutely PERFECT as Amsterdam. My belief is that since Scorsese had been trying to make this film for decades, the studio would only green light the film if he had star appeal. As much of a great actor Day-Lewis is – he’s not a box office draw (for the masses anyway), so DiCaprio and Diaz were forced into the film for their box office appeal. But to be positive, this film did start a wonderful collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio (and to be negative – it’s starting to run its course). But don’t think for a second the collaboration is anywhere near as good as Scorsese/DeNiro or Scorsese/Keitel.

DiCaprio just doesn’t work. His shitty neck beard and pretty bad Irish accent are very distracting. Every scene he shares with Day-Lewis he’s completely overshadowed. The character that Diaz plays is a thief that has a special relationship with Cutting – so she’s given free reign and doesn’t owe him “tribute” – just sex.

The character of Jenny should have been turned into an older “street woman” and played by Jodie Foster. She could still have that relationship with Cutting, and also allow Amsterdam’s fixation with her as well – creating the jealously trap that happens. I think it would have added more maturity and weight to the film.

This is Day-Lewis’ film hands down. He carries the entire film on his back with the help of Neeson, Gleeson and Reilly (hey – remember when he used to be an actor?). The attention he commands from you is unreal. I’ve never seen an actor be able to do this with every single film he’s in. The guy is a fucking titan of cinema.

This is the film that combines all of Scorsese’s passions, everything he’s built his career on. It’s a period piece epic, it’s an antiwar film (the Civil War draft directly reflecting Vietnam), the setting is New York City (which Scorsese loves more than anything) and it’s about the birth of organized crime – or the mob if you will. The film is an ensemble film, which Scorsese is wonderful at crafting. This is an extremely personal film for Scorsese – as personal as “Mean Streets” or “The Last Temptation of Christ”. The guy had tried making this film since the 1970’s!

This film is vintage Scorsese. I haven’t felt this in a Scorsese film since “Gangs”. His use of steady cam, tracking shots, and slow motion just reminds us that he is the greatest living director. When Diaz is introduced into the film, it’s in a slow motion sequence that’s queued up to music – much like Sharron Stone in “Casino” – Scorsese is a master of his craft and I will battle each and every one of you to the death over “Gangs of New York” being his masterpiece.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is absolutely wonderful. My words can’t do his art justice. One of my dreams have always been to direct a film with Day-Lewis, but I can’t even imagine how intimidating such a thing would be. This is a guy who invests himself into his characters for the entire film. He’s not Daniel Day- Lewis, he’s Bill Cutting. He doesn’t speak with an English accent; he speaks with his thick New York accent on and off the screen. Anyone who can’t admire his passion, admire his skill is a fool.

Review 10/10

“Shutter Island” – 2010 Dir. Martin Scorsese

“Shutter Island” Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsly, Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimor, Jackie Earle Haley, John Carrol Lynch, with Ted Levine and Max von Sydow.

“Wouldn’t you agree – if you see a monster, you must stop it.”

Martin Scorsese’s new feature follows the story of two US Marshall’s embarking to the mysterious and well isolated Shutter Island, home of the criminally insane.  It’s 1952, the Third Reich has fallen, and there is a new and more inanimate threat to America’s way of life in the form of Communism.

DiCaprio (Scorsese’s new DeNiro) plays Teddy Daniels, a hard bent alcoholic, WW II vet who has a primal need for violence.  His new partner Chuck Aule (played brilliantly by Ruffalo) isn’t as hard bent, nor as violent.  Their assignment is to find a patient who escaped out of her cell, “it’s as if she evaporated through the walls” says Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley).

The men arrive on Shutter Island and are essentially stripped of all their legal power and jurisdiction due to the strict rules set by the Warden.  The island is creepy, and filled with eerie patients and orderlies.

Daniel’s see quick that something isn’t right on this island, that there is something very strange going on.  His hunch grows as he meets more patients, and doctors – especially Dr. Naehring – a German doctor who Daniel’s suspects is a former Nazi.  It is such a treat to see Sydow in a Scorsese film, it feels long over due that an actor of his prestige and callaber hasn’t worked with Scorsese before.

I saw this film with my friend Peyton and we figured out the ending about 45 minutes into the film.  The best part of “Shutter Island” is the acting, the supporting cast is amazing, and is one of the best ensemble acted films I have seen in a long, long time.  The problem that exists in “Shutter Island” is it isn’t a Scorsese film.  It has certain aspects and signatures of his previous body of work.  Basically the film was something he was hired to direct, it’s not a project that he sought out, and had been wanting to make.

I have a similar complaint with “The Departed” (although that is a much, much better film).  There are aspects of “The Departed” that feel like a Scorsese film, such as the opening voice over monologue with Nicholson and the use of “Gimme Shelter” – then later in the film the sex scene that is queued up to “Comfortably Numb” by Roger Waters and Van Morrison.  But it doesn’t feel personal enough to me.

To make my defense, I am the biggest Scorsese fan that I know.  I have seen his brilliant deep cuts, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, “Life Lessons”, “After Hours”, “Who’s That Knocking at My Door”.  “Shutter Island” is much like “Cape Fear” – a film genre that Scorsese isn’t a staple in.  They are both films that were made to make money, to be marketed to the masses (as was “The Departed” to a certain extent).  I feel that Scorsese hasn’t made a Scorsese film since “The Aviator” and prior to that one of his masterpieces, “Gangs of New York”.

The acting is brilliant in Island, but I am starting to get tired of DiCaprio.  I think the his best Scorsese performance was in “The Aviator” and I think he can be replaced in his other collaborations.  I have always thought that Collin Farrel would have been perfect to play Amsterdam in “Gangs of New York”.  DiCaprio has some very good scenes in the film, but other scene’s feel forced to me, they feel like he is trying to stretch himself too thin.

The absolute best scene in the film is a remarkable display of Ted Levine’s acting craft.  In a short jeep ride from the woods, back to the main compound on Shutter Island, Levine (who has three small scenes as the Warden of Shutter Island) talks to DiCaprio about violence.  He speaks metaphorically to Daniels about how both of them have a general desire and need to blood, how they have this genuine taste for blood.  Levine is haunting and scary in this scene, and gives a performance just as good as Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs” or Bosco in “Heat”.

The film is semi-worth seeing for the stellar acting ensemble, and for the visually haunting Shutter Island, with much homage shown to “The Shinning” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.  The scene’s of DiCaprio having flashbacks to WWII are where you can tell it’s a Scorsese picture.  It feels authentic – it feels great.

I long for Scorsese to make another personal film.  His next project has been said to be “The Invention of Hugo Cabert” a French childrens story.  Oh, and it’s supposed to be in 3D.  When is Scorsese going to make is long promised “Silence”, or “I Heard You Paint Houses” which is supposed to be his reteaming with DeNiro about a Irish hitman who is rumored to have killed Jimmy Hoffa.  What about his Sinatra biopic?  With “Sinatra” I am fearing he will once again force DiCaprio on us as Frank Sinatra.  I don’t think that would work, but I’ve been wrong before.

The “prestige” of “Shutter Island” let me down so much, once you get the rug pulled from underneath your feet, and you realize what the “twist” ending is – you’re going to love it, or your going to hate it.  After seeing the film, and thinking about it, I cannot even believe Martin Scorsese would have made a film such as this.  I’m not being harsh on this film, I just expect more from Scorsese.

Review: 6/10.