Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)

"Reality" is a relative concept in Christopher Nolan's Inception.
Inception is the film that avid film buffs have been waiting for; a film to remember 2010 by. As one, I have been bitterly disappointed and frustrated by the consistent flow of poor quality, underachieving blockbusters released by Hollywood so far this year. In a business that is now dominated by franchises (although Toy Story 3 was exceptional), it is always refreshing to see a wholly original idea that actually respects the intelligence of its audience. With the exception of Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (which was similarly complex and thought-provoking) and Pixar's latest master work Toy Story 3, 2010 thus far has been a very disappointing year for film.

Inception's success at the box office is not a surprise when we recognize the success of Christopher Nolan's previous film, The Dark Knight (2008). The truth is, Nolan is yet to make a bad film (though in my opinion The Prestige is his weakest) and following the critical success of The Dark Knight and a series of intriguing trailers, Inception promised to be even better. It stands as Nolan's masterpiece, a stunningly complex work of artistic genius and one of the finest films of the last decade of cinema.

To fully grasp the concepts that concisely define the plot of Inception it will likely take more than a single viewing, but some definitions are obvious upon the first viewing. This is the work of a man dedicated to his craft and driven by perfection. Having ironed out the faults that have plagued his earlier films, most notably the 'too-smart-for its-own-good' premise of The Prestige (2006), and the wallow into cliche during the concluding third of The Dark Knight, Inception avoids even such minor negatives. The screenplay itself should warrant another Oscar nomination for Nolan, but technically, it is also near flawless. I have heard the film described as The Matrix meeting 007, and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind meets Jason Bourne, but really it is incomparable. Many of the sequences are filmed like a dream, featuring a vibrant otherworldly luminosity, and works to create that subtle confusion between what is a dream and what is reality.

Cobb, when he is explaining the concept of dreaming to Ariadne, recognizes that humans barely remember how their dreams begin, but are just immersed in the world. The film begins this way, with Cobb washed up on a beach, captured and dragged into a dining room where an elderly gentleman sits with his back to the camera. We do not know how he arrived here, and seemingly nor does Cobb. The film then jumps to what appears to be another dream sequence, which shows Cobb working an extraction mission. The origins are revealed later, but the way the scene is lit also hints at a dream. Many of the sequences in the film begin like this, but as we become wise to the mission and the processes of extraction and inception throughout the film, we begin to think we can differentiate between what we perceive to be reality and dream, and I think Nolan does a fantastic job in making that process relatively simple for the audience. Of course, much of what we perceive during the film is left open to personal interpretation, which is also Nolan's intention. Many of the strange feelings that accompany dreams are examined in Inception, such as the seemingly infinite extension of time during dreaming and that feeling of free-falling that often jolts us awake.

The plot revolves around Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who is hired to enter the subconscious dream-state of wealthy corporate businessmen and extract information when the mind is at its most vulnerable, that ultimately reveals their ideas to rivals, who then pay accordingly for the information. As a result of this work, Cobb has been exiled from the United States, both for his illegal thieving, and also under suspicion that he was directly involved with the death of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), who committed suicide after falsely believing she was still living a dream, requiring to kill herself in order to wake up. Cobb seeks to be reunited with his children back home, who are under the watch of his father-in-law (Michael Caine). As I discussed earlier, the film opens with Cobb and his partner Arthur (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) trying to extract information from a powerful business mogul Mr Saito (Ken Watanabe). Cobb poses as the leader of Saito's subconscious security to aid him in a defense against the most skilled extractors who may want to access Saito's secrets. Saito considers their proposal and leaves the room, which prompts Arthur to believe that he is aware of their plot.

Cobb breaks into the safe and steals the documents, but his projection of Mal, who knows how to navigate his subconscious and sabotage his missions, interrupts by revealing the plot to Saito and shoots and awakens Arthur. The dream begins to collapse and Cobb awakens to join the others in a safe house hidden from an angry mob that threatens their position. Saito recognizes that they are all still dreaming when he discovers that the carpet in this room is made of a different material to the real one. Recognizing the mission failure, Cobb, Arthur and Nash (the architect for the mission) wake on the train where the plot is staged and decide to depart separately. They are soon approached again by Saito, who reveals that he had been aware of their attempt to steal his secrets and that it had been an audition for possible future work together. If Cobb could assemble a team capable of a successful inception (the planting of an idea into the subconscious of a target as opposed to theft), Cobb is promised freedom from his exile and any charges to his name revoked.

He assembles a team of experts, including himself and Arthur, Ariadne (Ellen Page) as the architect of the dream world, Eames (Tom Hardy) as the forger capable of shifting identities within the dream state, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) as the chemist who creates the powerful sedatives capable of allowing the team to share and operate in multiple levels of dreaming. The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the son of the dying rival of Saito, Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlewaithe). With the ownership of the company to be soon left solely to Robert, the team's assignment is to plant the idea in his head to dismantle his father's monopoly that threatens to run Saito out of business. On a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, the team joins Fischer as he accompanies the body of his father home and through the injection of a strong sedative concocted by Yusuf, make him the subject of a shared dream.

Yusuf hosts the first dream, which is a rainy inner city district. After abducting Fischer, the team is attacked by endless patrols of armed mercenaries, which function as a militarized subconscious acting as antibodies to destroy the invasion of the team and foreign idea they intend to plant. To enable the team to successfully complete the inception and leave the dream space, a 'kick' (or a feeling of free-falling) within the embedded dream must be staged to return the team to the previous dream level and ultimately reality. Normally, killing a member of the team within the dream would allow them to awake, but solely for this mission will result in their isolation into limbo, unable to differentiate between what is a dream and what is reality. Once the team discovers that the former method is in place, conflict ensues and consensus is to abort the mission immediately.

Eames assumes the role of Peter Browning (played by Tom Berenger), Maurice Fischer's closest adviser and Godfather to Robert, to cloud Browning's motives in Fischer's subconscious. Browning reveals that Maurice had left a will for his son in the safe in his office instructing that he dismantle the company, and that the combination should exist in his subconscious, he just isn't aware of it yet. The interrogation is interrupted by the mercenaries. Yusuf drives the team through the city in a white van, battling the slick roads and pursuing mercenaries, allowing the team the time to inject themselves with the sedatives and move into the next dream state, a classy hotel hosted by Arthur. In this state Cobb adopts the role of Mr Charles, who poses as the head of Fischer's subconscious security, making Fischer aware of the strangeness of his 'reality' and conning him into assisting him with the defense against his own subconscious. They force Fischer to believe that he has been kidnapped and is traveling in a van, a plan orchestrated by Browning. They suggest they go deeper into Browning's subconscious to find out his motives with the learning the combination and taking control of the company.

Inside of a hotel room, the team enters the next dream sequence (in fact the next level of Fischer's subconscious). This is a snowy mountain hospital facility that Fischer must infiltrate to reveal the embedded idea. Fisher works with Saito to infiltrate the facility, while Eames distracts the seemingly infinite attacking mercenaries. Saito dies of his injuries experienced in the first dream level, and Fischer is shot and killed by Mal, who once again sabotages the mission. Ariadne and Cobb follow Fischer into limbo in an attempt to kick him back to the facility to ensure the successful inception. Eames remains behind and scatters charges for the final kick. In limbo they find Mal who tries to convince Cobb to stay with her by taunting him about his perception of reality, and that she is the only thing that is real. Ariadne kicks back Fischer, who awakens and opens the vault to find his father dying in a bed. He concludes that his father would be disappointed if he turned into him, and decides to dismantle the empire. In limbo, Cobb decides to remain and search for Saito to bring him back, and misses the kick. Eames blows the charges causing the facility to be destroyed, while Arthur (in zero gravity) has moved all his colleagues into a lift and places charges that cause the lift to rise from the impact, while the van, which has been free falling from the bridge, finally hits the water. The activity within the different dream levels is masterfully edited together and the extension of time present in the lower dream levels is fused together to create cohesive linearity. The trio of kicks causes all of the team to awaken on the plane.

The conclusion is intentionally ambiguous. Cobb tracks down Saito, who is incredibly old, to remind him that he is stuck in Limbo and that his perceived reality is in fact a dream. Saito remembers their agreement, and recognizes the top found on Cobb. It is assumed that Saito shoots them both, and with the timer now ended and the sedative worn off, this causes them to wake back in reality on the plane. Saito calls his customs contact and Cobb is allowed to enter the United States, where he is greeted by his father-in-law and taken home to see his children. But if Saito shoots just himself, then Limbo would be solely in control of Cobb. Remaining in this dream state, his world could be transformed into his perfect reality, free of pursuit from the authority and granted freedom to see his children. This is confirmed if the top keeps spinning at the conclusion, while it signifies reality if it topples. This is left completely to the audience to decide, but i establish it is the former theory.

Another somewhat plausible theory is that the entire film is a dream, and that Cobb is attempting to perform inception on himself while in one of the dream dens revealed by Yusuf. The entire film is a plot to free himself of the guilt he feels because of the death of his wife, and to be able to see the faces of his children again, he creates a scenario that requires him to control and alter his subconscious. The team are his projections assigned to assist him with his personal inception. One of the most interesting theories, and I'm not sure if this was Nolan's intention, is the idea that the film is about the film making process itself and that each of the characters represents a piece of the puzzle. For example, Saito is the studio funding the project, Cobb is the leader and the director, Ariadne is the architect and the screenwriter and Eames is the actor within.

The cast is brilliantly assembled, and features some striking performances. Leo is as solid as always as his performance effortlessly balances a figure capable of confident leadership but clouded by a heartbreaking emotional vulnerability at his core. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page are two of the best young stars in the business and their diverse skills shine through here. Ken Watanabe, as usual, is great, and Tom Hardy (whose recent breakthrough performance in Bronson has drawn comparisons to Ed Norton) has lots of fun, and shines through as the hero here. Mario Cotillard, whose luminous beauty is unrivaled, also gives a powerful performance. Time was taken by Nolan to ensure that the characters were interestingly conceived and then impeccably cast. I can't fault this cast, and even wily veteran Michael Caine effortlessly extends his wisdom.

I really loved the incredibly calculated deconstruction of the time image that succeeds in being both meticulously crafted to enable such an enormous scope to this ingenious concept, while at the same time valuing the intelligence of the audience and allowing them to deconstruct the plot concisely. It is never too smart for its own good. The action is intense and thrilling, and the dream levels possess such an originality. Technically, it is flawless, especially Hans Zimmer's score, which is amazing, and one of the greatest film scores I have ever experienced. The cinematography by Wally Pfister is stunning and Lee Smith should have the editing Oscar wrapped up already. It demands and rewards on multiple viewings, and it is one of the most engrossing cinema experiences since There Will be Blood (2007).

My Rating: 5 Stars (A)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Top 25 Favorite Albums of the 80's

1. Remain in Light - Talking Heads (1980)

2. Master of Puppets - Metallica (1986)

3. Meat is Murder - The Smiths (1985)

4. The Queen is Dead - The Smiths (1986)

5. Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth (1988)

6. Closer - Joy Division (1980)

7. Rain Dogs - Tom Waits (1985)

8. Disintegration - The Cure (1989)

9. Ride the Lightning - Metallica (1984)

10. Double Nickels on the Dime - Minutemen (1984)

11. Doolittle - Pixies (1989)

12. The Joshua Tree - U2 (1987)

13. Pornography - The Cure (1982)

14. The Smiths - The Smiths (1984)

15. ...And Justice for All - Metallica (1988)

16. Powerslave - Iron Maiden (1984)

17. Faith - The Cure (1981)

18. Seventeen Seconds - The Cure (1980)

19. Strangeways, Here We Come - The Smiths (1987)

20. The Colour of Spring - Talk Talk (1986)

21. Surfer Rosa - Pixies (1988)

22. Boy - U2 (1983)

23. I'm Your Man - Leonard Cohen (1988)

24. Swordfishtrombones - Tom Waits (1983)

25. Number of the Beast - Iron Maiden (1982)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Leo DiCaprio

Leo is the man. Has not put a foot wrong in the last decade and has become one of the most successful leading men in contemporary Hollywood since his revival in 2002. Shouldered against Daniel Day-Lewis, his performance in the disappointing Gangs of New York was greatly overshadowed, but in Catch me if You Can he received a Golden Globe nomination. He received an Oscar nomination for The Aviator (2004), and Blood Diamond (2006) and should have won Best Supporting Actor for The Departed (2006). Following Ridley Scott's Body of Lies, he features in Sam Mendes Revolutionary Road (2008) and receives another GG nom. Then in 2010, he has featured in two of the years best films, Shutter Island and now Inception, where the former should give him a fourth Oscar nomination. Impressive!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Thurs 22nd marks the release of Inception in Australian cinemas. Already released in the States, Christopher Nolans' most recent directorial project has received some very positive reviews. Following the success of The Dark Knight, it would have been tough to match it's box office might. But, as usual, having attracted an awesome cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, Inception is set to be a lingering success story in Australian cinemas. Currently sitting on 9.3/10 on, and 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, it promises to be a quality film also. I am seeing it tomorrow evening in Gold Class. Review to come shortly. Happy viewing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Best Films of 2010 (To Date)

2010 has so far been one of the weakest years of cinema in memory and the future months don't seem to be offering too much either. It has been full of awful blockbusters generating sub-par box office results. 2010 will now forever be remembered as the year of Inception. Which, after a second viewing I will likely claim to be the best film released since There Will be Blood in 2007. I unfortunately missed How to Train Your Dragon, which I was told was one of Dreamwork's greatest projects, but here are the best films I have seen in an Australian cinema in 2010 to date.

8. Kick Ass (Matthew Vaughn) - 3 Stars

7. Iron Man 2 (John Favreau) - 3 1/2 Stars

6. I am Love (Luca Guadagnino) - 4 Stars

5. Animal Kingdon (David Michod) - 4 Stars

4. The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan Jose Campanella) - 4 1/2 Stars

3. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese) - 4 1/2 Stars

2. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich) - 4 1/2 Stars

1. Inception (Christopher Nolan) - 5 Stars

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review: El secreto de sus ojos [The Secret in Their Eyes] (Juan Jose Campanella, 2009)

El secreto de sus ojos [The Secret in Their Eyes], which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film at the 2009 Academy Awards, is an Argentinian crime thriller based on Eduardo Sacheri's novel, La pregunta de sus ojos [The Question in Their Eyes] and directed by Juan Jose Campanella. It was also awarded the Goya Award for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film of 2009. Set in 1999, the events of the film are told via flashback as Argentinian Federal Justice Agent, Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) begins to write a novel documenting his 1974 investigation into the brutal rape and murder of Liliana Colotto. Benjamin, his alcoholic assistant Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), and his young Department Chief, Irene (Soledad Villamil) are at first irritated for having to cover the case, but when he visits the scene of the crime he is immediately struck by the brutality of the murder. Benjamin's obsession with finding the truth behind the murder is strengthened by his attitude towards the widowed husband, Ricardo Moralles (Pablo Rago). At first he is deeply saddened by the man's loss but his quest begins out of a respect for the man as he recognizes his eternal love for his deceased wife, as he sits alone at the train station after working at his bank job, seeking out the murderer. Benjamin later sees this love mirrored in his own feelings for Irene. Both seeking closure for Moralles, and to find a way to express his own desires, he promises to track down the killer and bring him to justice via a life sentence. The relationships between Benjamin and these three figures are brilliantly crafted and are truly the heart of the film.

I thought the first third of the film, though interesting and developmental, moved a bit slow. But it was very successful in establishing that when Benjamin and Irene meet, it is after 25 years apart, and the eternal bond that had connected them when they worked together still existed. Now retired, he comes to her with the idea of his novel hoping that she could use her position to market the novel. As they discuss their memory of the events, the film jumps back to the period of their younger selves, immersed in the case. Benjamin's first real lead emerges when he examines a series of photographs of Liliana and recognizes a suspicious young man (revealed to be Isidoro Gomez) looking at the victim in multiple photos. Disturbed by the man's sadistic gaze and convinced that he may be involved, Benjamin tracks him to a home in Buenos Aires, where he and Sandoval steal letters sent by Gomez to his mother. In a brilliant sequence, Sandoval, with the assistance from some of his friends at the local bar, decipher some of the names in the letters and deduce that Gomez' passion is football and that he supports a Buenos Aires side known as Racing Club.
The film becomes very interesting during an outstanding sequence at the Racing Club football game, and the intensity continues for the remainder of the film. This five minute continuous take begins with an overhead shot of the distant stadium, alive with activity. The camera zooms in, floats across the field, over the game in process and finds Benjamin standing in the crowd. He and Sandoval are combing the crowd in search of Gomez and the camera brilliantly follows their movements as the push through the dense tribe of supporters only to mistake an innocent for Gomez. Shortly later, Benjamin spots and grabs Gomez but the impact of a Racing Club goal sends the mass of supporters into a frenzy and Gomez makes his escape. Jolted by the movement, the camera is also thrown briefly askew. As Benjamin regains his balance, so does the camera and the pair, with the assistance of some police officers, chase Gomez through the lower stadium tunnels. The camera, maneuvered by hand, tracks the men in their pursuit, cautiously circles Gomez as he evades capture and then pursues him again as he runs onto the field before being knocked down by a player, and arrested. Amidst a large scale location, this is an intense, heart-pounding sequence featuring one of the most stunning continuous shots since the release of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (2006). With Gomez in custody, Benjamin and Irene conduct a mostly illegal interrogation without the presence of Gomez' attorney. They manage to taunt him into a confession, and he is served a life sentence.
But 12 months later Benjamin receives a call from Moralles, who has spotted a man resembling Gomez on the television. It is revealed that amidst the current political violence between rival Government Parties, Gomez had been set to work as a hit man for the Peronist party. There seemed to be unrest at every level of the justice system with rivals willing to betray one another, even going to the lengths of releasing convicted criminals and grooming them into professional assassins to keep rivals in check and eliminate opponents. Benjamin felt that these atrocities should be recorded in history, hence his decision to recount the events in the form of a novel. Once he discovers Sandoval has been murdered in his home, Benjamin runs from a blossoming romance with Irene and retires to the country in exile.

The films' final scenes are set in 1999 as Benjamin, still plagued by the memory of the murdered woman, and Moralles' pain at the realization that the justice Benjamin had promised him was not served, plans to write a novel recounting the events. He visits Irene with his proposal, and she becomes both open to the idea, and finally a future life for them together. He also visits Moralles, similarly living in exile. He had never remarried and it is obvious that he is still hurt by the events of the past. Moralles rouses Benjamin when he ponders as to the whereabouts of Gomez and tells him of his novel, instructing him to leave it all in the past. The final shocking realizations are brilliantly relayed to the audience. Benjamin is processing all the events in his head and we see these through a series of short, quick-cut montages of flashbacks to key quotes and incidents, but from a different perspective than earlier. As the audience you are processing the revelation just as Benjamin is, but at the time we can't differentiate between his creation of a fresh scenario as a result of over thinking, and the actual truth. But still, we begin to question everything we have seen and that even after 25 years, we start to believe that there was more to this case than the initial investigation revealed. The final moments are brilliant, and I left the cinema very satisfied. It was one of the more absorbing films I have seen this year, and while I am surprised it beat Micahel Haneke's Da Weiss Bande (The White Ribbon) to the prize of Best Foreign Film, it deserves commendation.

The film has an abundance of themes running throughout. It is essentially a crime thriller personally told by a man who becomes emotionally involved, but it doesn't really take the time to closely examine the political struggles at the time, but narrowed it's direction to Gomez' story, the man linked to the murder. It can also be described as a romance as many of the characters are bonded by unbreakable feelings of love and affection. Moralles' love for his deceased wife is recognized in his eyes by Benjamin, who shares a similar gaze for Irene. It is heartbreaking to see Benjamin leaving on the train only for Irene to realize that she loves him too and attempt to chase the train down. The characters are beautifully constructed, and their complex relationships each played an important role in how we reacted to the drama. What I really liked about the screenplay is that it didn't indulge in shocking twists nor make them the center of the drama. The doubts of Benjamin were realized through a montage, and it wasn't a sudden epiphany that unlocked the truth, but it had been years of obsession and repressed regret. It was smartly constructed and the dialogue consistently absorbing. All the performances are uniformly outstanding, especially Ricardo Darin, a long-time friend and collaborator with Juan Jose Campanella, whose assured direction ensured that the film was patiently timed. While it took a while for the real drama to unfold, the early sequences calmly introduced and observed the development of the characters, and the flashbacks were thoughtfully cut into the present. The football game was a jolting event that really changed the pace of the film and it is worth checking out for this scene alone. The hand-held was a brilliant experiment that worked really well in this scene, but much of the film consisted of beautifully illuminated steady cam shots that focused on the faces of the characters and were so essential in capturing their emotions that played such an important role in the development of their relationships within the film. I really enjoyed El secreto de sus ojos and I think it is one of the best releases in Australian cinemas in 2010 to date. Definitely recommended!

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Short Reviews: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
A quirky and unforgettable comedy-drama about the three gifted Tenenbaum siblings whose once bright futures are tormented in their adolescent years by the absence of their father, Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and a series of familial betrayals and disappointments. Years later as his troubled children return to their mother's home for direction, and when news travels that his ex-wife Ethelene (Anjelica Houston) plans to marry her business associate Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), Royal schemes up an unlikely reunion with his family, with both hilarious and heartbreaking consequences.
Chas (Ben Stiller) was once a business genius, who's impressive early earnings were stolen by his father, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a talented playwright, and Richie (Luke Wilson) was a tennis pro and promising artist. Following the death of his wife in a plane crash, Chas has become extremely overprotective of his two sons, Ari and Uzi, and fearing that their house is unsafe, moves in temporarily with his mother. Following a breakdown that prematurely ended his tennis career, Richie is traveling the world on a cruise ship, writing often to his good friend Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) and his sister. Margot has become a recluse who sits in her bathtub for hours a day watching television, mostly ignoring her Neurologist husband Raleigh St. Clare, which leads to his suspicions that she no longer loves him and is having an affair. The film is an adaptation of a fictional novel comprised of a series of vignettes or chapters outlining different periods of their lives, and it is referred to at different intervals throughout. There is such a complex attention to little detailed oddities which re-appear throughout the film. The matching jumpsuits worn by Chas and his sons, the dalmatian mice, and the unusual paintings in Eli's apartment are just some of the more memorable examples. As is the usual case in a Wes Anderson's film, the score featuring songs by The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, Paul Simon and Nick Drake, and various compositions by Mark Mothersbaugh is simply wonderful.

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
I think this is my favorite film by Wes. True to his earlier films, this will not appeal to everyone, but maintains his quirky style that has led to his cult popularity and critical success. But the film feels so relaxed, for most of the time, that it is hard not to take some enjoyment and inspiration from this tale. Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson are perfectly cast as the trio of odd brothers, Peter, Jack and Francis, seeking a spiritual journey via train through India, in an attempt to re-unite with their estranged mother. A short film preceding the main feature, Hotel Chevalier, also directed by Wes Anderson and starring Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman provides the background to Jack's character as his ex-girlfriend shows up unexpectedly to his Paris hotel room and they spend the night together, before Jack meets his brother on the train through India in the feature.
Each of the brothers carries identical suitcases, seem to have the same addiction towards painkillers and cough medicine and individually possess odd traits (namely Brody's use of his father's sunglasses, Schwartzman's bare feet throughout the entire film, and Wilson's head full of bandages). The cinematography is incredible, the use of colour overwhelming and the score perfect. An intelligent, well written, satisfying film that deserves to be seen.

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My film and television odyssey in July

This has been so far another extremely busy month and I have managed to only see Toy Story 3 (for the second time) and a festival screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also I haven't been tempted to see anything at Event because of some very poor quality releases at the Box Office. Predators is intriguing as I enjoyed Arnie's original, but felt inclined to forget the horrible sequel with Danny Glover and the subsequent Alien Vs Predator flicks. I'll check it out for a bit of fun. I have been told it is a mindless action flick that knows exactly who it's target audience is, and at times captures the brilliance of the original, while remaining clear of the mediocrity which plagues the most recent films in the Alien/Predator franchise. Most of my free time has been spent on HBO's The Sopranos, a show I had never had time to see, nor had the energy to get absorbed into. It will take quite a commitment to complete all 6 seasons, but so far it is just superbly crafted drama. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is one of the greatest television characters in history, and both the brutality of his business interests and his sensitive domestic life is wonderfully balanced. I am looking forward to future episodes, and will likely be donating all my free time to the show. July is looking to be a quiet month on the blogging stage, but i'll be back soon with some fresh reviews.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

100 Sensational Albums

Here are 100 albums that I define as anthems for my life. Spanning every musical genre, I can highly recommend every single one of these albums to almost anyone. I am currently obsessed with Pitchfork, where I have actually learned about a lot of these albums, and to salute them, I am going to give each album a rating out of 10.0

Rubber Soul - The Beatles (1965) 9.5

Revolver - The Beatles (1966) 10.0

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles (1967) 9.8

The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground (1967) 9.2

Songs of Leonard Cohen - Leonard Cohen (1967) 8.6

Forever Changes - Love (1967) 10.0

The Doors - The Doors (1967) 10.0

Strange Days - The Doors (1967) 9.0

Safe as Milk - Captain Beefheart (1967) 8.4

Hot Rats - Frank Zappa (1969) 10.0

Abbey Road - The Beatles (1969) 10.0

Five Leaves Left - Nick Drake (1969) 8.6

Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart (1969) 8.7

In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson (1969) 9.3

Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround (Part 1) - The Kinks (1970) 8.6

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970) 9.0

Paranoid - Black Sabbath (1970) 10.0

Morrison Hotel - The Doors (1970) 8.3

Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zepellin (1971) 8.6

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - David Bowie (1972) 9.4

The Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd (1973) 10.0

Red - King Crimson (1974) - 8.8

Another Green World - Brian Eno (1975) 8.6

Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd (1975) 9.5

Marquee Moon - Television (1977) 9.4

Low - David Bowie (1977) 9.0

Animals - Pink Floyd (1977) 9.0

London Calling - The Clash (1979) 9.1

Entertainment! - Gang of Four (1979) 8.9

Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division (1979) 9.7

Remain in Light - Talking Heads (1980) 10.0

Closer - Joy Division (1980) 9.2

Seventeen Seconds (1980) 8.4

Faith - The Cure (1981) 8.5

Pornography - The Cure (1982) 8.6

The Number of the Beast - Iron Maiden (1982) 8.2

Double Nickels on the Dime - Minutemen (1984) 9.0

Ride the Lightning - Metallica (1984) 9.4

Powerslave - Iron Maiden (1984) 9.0

The Smiths - The Smiths (1984) 9.0

Rain Dogs - Tom Waits (1985) 9.1

Meat is Murder - The Smiths (1985) 9.6

The Queen is Dead - The Smiths (1986) 9.5

Master of Puppets - Metallica (1986) 10.0

The Color of Spring - Talk Talk (1986) 8.3

Strangeways, Here We Come - The Smiths (1987) 8.6

The Joshua Tree - U2 (1987) 8.9

Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth (1988) 9.8

...And Justice for All - Metallica (1988) 8.9

I'm Your Man - Leonard Cohen (1988) 8.3

Doolitle - Pixies (1989) 8.7

Disintegration - The Cure (1989) 9.2

Nowhere - Ride (1990) 8.8

Bossanova - Pixies (1990) 8.8

Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991) 9.0

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991) 8.9

Nevermind - Nirvana (1991) 9.1

Achtung Baby - U2 (1991) 8.7

Ten - Pearl Jam (1991) 9.5

Spiderland - Slint (1991) 9.1

Metallica - Metallica (1991) 8.9

Automatic for the People - R.E.M (1992) 9.0

Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted (1992) 9.3

Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine (1992) 8.8

Superunknown - Soundgarden (1994) 9.1

Endtroducing - DJ Shadow (1996) 9.4

Odelay - Beck (1996) 8.0

Aenima - Tool (1996) 10.0

OK Computer - Radiohead (1997) 10.0

Built to Spill - Perfect from Now On (1997) 8.9

The Lonesome Crowded West - Modest Mouse (1997) 9.6

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel (1998) 9.8

F#A# - Godspeed You Black Emperor! (1998) 8.4

Mezzanine - Massive Attack (1998) 9.0

Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999) 9.5

I See a Darkness - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (1999) 9.6

Summerteeth - Wilco (1999) 8.8

Agaetis Byrjun - Sigur Ros (1999) 8.1

The Soft Bulletin - The Flaming Lips (1999) 8.9

Emergency and I - The Dismemberment Plan (1999) 8.1

Kid A - Radiohead (2000) 8.2

Since I Left You - The Avalanches (2000) 8.9

The Moon and Antarctica - Modest Mouse (2000) 9.9

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven - Godspeed You Black Emperor (2000) 9.2

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips (2002) 9.5

Songs for the Deaf - Queens of the Stone Age (2002) 8.5

Turn on the Bright Lights - Interpol (2002) 8.8

Chutes Too Narrow - The Shins (2003) 8.7

Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand (2004) 8.4

Good News for People Who Love Bad News - Modest Mouse (2004) 8.0

Funeral - The Arcade Fire (2004) 10.0

Madvillainy - Madvillain (2004) 9.2

Pockets - Karate (2004) 8.5

Illinois - Sufjan Stevens (2005) 9.1

Make Me Love You - Pivot (2005) 8.6

Neon Bible - The Arcade Fire (2007) 8.8

In Rainbows - Radiohead (2007) 9.2

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008) 8.7

Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear (2009) 9.1

Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective (2009) 8.5