2010 Movies

Black Swan

 I like a good mind f*ck every now and then. You know what I mean. Something that leaves you asking, what just happened?  Black Swan was a bewitching film, both stunning and unsettling in its narrative. Natalie Portman (Brothers) was a revelation. At times I wanted to console her character Nina Sayers; other times I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her.  I know that “Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is already taken, but it aptly describes Black Swan.

Portman as the aforementioned Nina is an emotionally frigid, socially sheltered perfectionist and ballerina. Yeah. She’s got issues.  Despite her obvious emotional frailties, I found Nina oddly endearing.  She was sympathetic, even when her actions belied something more sinister.  Let me back up for a second.  The movie begins from the inner sanctum of the ballet.  Nina has been named as a replacement for an aging ballerina as lead dancer, or Swan Queen, in an adaptation of Swan Lake.  Director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is the man whose job is to extract the most from his dancers, both physically and emotionally.  It is the latter aspect that eludes Nina.  She has mastered the technique but is unable to tap into an inner sense of abandon.  Her emotional repression is furthered by a domineering mother, played by Barbara Hershey.  Nina and her mother, a former ballerina herself, have a bizarre relationship.  She smothers Nina with inappropriate coddling and displays of affection.  Because of this stifling behavior, Nina hasn’t developed sexually or socially, and this shortcoming is reflected in her dancing.  She is unable to tap into a more visceral, sensual place because she lacks those experiences.  Thomas tries to get more out of her, but he is equal parts predator and teacher.  He encourages Nina to explore a darker side.  She has mastered the technique of the White Swan, who is pure and virginal, which mirrors her own character.  But the Swan Queen must be able to embody elements of the Black Swan as well.

The titular Black Swan is represented by Mila Kunis (The Book of Eli), as Lily.  Nina’s joy at being named Swan Queen is short-lived, when Lily shows up.  As a ballerina, Lily is Nina’s opposite.  She is dark and sensual, completely free when she dances.  This is what Thomas wants to see from her.  Desperate to please him and live up to her mother’s expectations, Nina’s fragile psyche begins to weaken.  She envies Lily, yet is intrigued by her.  Thomas encourages Nina to get in touch with her inner evil twin.  Specifically, he instructs her to touch herself when she goes home.  It is here that I must give it to Ms. Portman.  Because she did in fact follow his instruction, and it was an amazing scene.  That sounds perverted, but let me explain.  (Obviously) masturbating is an intensely personal act.  It was an uncomfortable scene for me to watch, because I felt like a voyeur.  That is a testament to Portman, because if it was hard for me to watch, imagine how hard it was to perform.

I don’t want to reveal too much more about the movie; but it was a sexy, scary experience that left me confounded. In a good way.  Director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) crafted a beautifully disturbing work of art that excited you one minute and scared the hell out of you the next.  I enjoyed the exposition of the ballet world as a competitive, draining atmosphere that can cause a fragile ego to disintegrate.  Nina is both infatuated with Lily and threatened by her.  Couple this with her tenuous grip on reality, and the possibilities are mind-bending, as Aronofsky deftly shows us.

As for Natalie Portman, she’s one hell of an actress.  She trained for this role for over a year, preparing as a real ballerina would.  She performed some very difficult sexual scenes, including one with Mila Kunis.  So much of the movie was focused on her, from the harsh, up close camera angles to the script that called for her to lay herself emotionally bare and vulnerable.  I applaud every aspect of her performance.  It was deeply moving and intricate in its psychological detail.  The movie had a dark and unsettling feeling that will linger with you for a bit.  If you don’t mind a little head rush, this is one to see.

The Tourist

Some ideas are good on paper, but when the scenario actually plays out – the result is disappointing. Like whoever thought of putting the peanut butter and the jelly in the jar together instead of keeping them separate.  That’s how I felt about the not-so-dynamic duo of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.  They certainly seem hot enough to melt the screen independently, so surely if they joined forces the result would be sizzling, right? Eh. Sometimes I think two like beings actually repel one another.  The Tourist may have been nice to look at, but it sure wasn’t fun to watch.

The Tourist is a stylish movie that does a good job of fooling you with pretty scenery, from the always lovely Jolie to the beautiful European setting.  However, once you get past the fancy façade, The Tourist falls flat.  Window dressing does not a good movie make.  Jolie stars as Elise, a mysterious woman who is introduced in the film as the glamorous subject of police surveillance.  We don’t know if she is an undercover officer or the criminal subject of an investigation.  We learn that she is meeting her lover, a man named Alexander Pierce.  Instead of showing up, Pierce leaves a note for her with specific instructions.  She is to pick a stranger with his same basic physical characteristics, and pretend that the stranger is him.  Ostensibly this is to throw her police followers off the trail.  We don’t know if she is in cahoots with Pierce in some criminal enterprise or if she’s just doing a job.  Enter Depp as Frank, the hapless American tourist who has the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When he stumbles upon the beautiful Elise, he protests only mildly that she seems to have the wrong guy.  The police aren’t the only ones interested in Pierce.  It seems that he stole a couple billion dollars from a gangster named Reginald Shaw, who of course will move heaven and earth to get it back.  Now everyone is after Pierce (Frank), including the police and Shaw.  The police learn early on that it’s a case of mistaken identity and that the tourist whom Elise has latched onto is an innocent American schoolteacher named Frank Tupelo, not a billionaire thief named Alexander Pierce.  At some point they become involved again because Elise can’t seem to get rid of Frank.  That’s right.  Initially she was all over him when she needed everyone to think that Frank was Pierce, but now she is trying to ditch him.  What I’ve described so far may sound intriguing, but let me spare you the trouble.  The Tourist never really found its identity; it was a mishmash of genres – none of which really worked.  The plot was a nonsensical cat and mouse story that underwhelmed me and left me feeling a bit cheated.  There was a continuous veiled attempt to ratchet up suspense, but the payoff was extremely disappointing.  Johnny Depp is always charming, and Angelina Jolie is breathtaking – but it takes more than star power to make a good movie.  I was left with more questions than answers.  Why does Frank go along with Elise so willingly, even after nearly getting killed?  Is Elise really Pierce’s girlfriend or was she undercover the entire time?  At one point the police actually abandon their investigation of Pierce because all he did was steal from a gangster and he has “good taste in women,” so really they should just tip their hat to him. What?

I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that two such talented actors were grossly misused, or the fact that they both signed up for this dud.  The Tourist has plenty of panache, but it was all flash and no substance.  If you want to watch a smart, sexy, well-paced caper type of film I suggest you dust off The Thomas Crown Affair, a movie that had a little substance to go with all the style.

For Colored Girls

Sometimes it’s best to go into a movie with no pre-conceived notions and no expectations.  Just be willing to absorb whatever is put in front of you.  That was my mindset when viewing For Colored Girls, the film adaptation of poet Ntozake Shange’s critically-acclaimed stage play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.  Originally performed in 1975, the play touched on powerful recurrent female themes, including rape, abortion, and domestic violence.  These are the issues that Tyler Perry is tasked with bringing to life in For Colored Girls, a movie with big shoes to fill.


Let me start by saying that Perry does a commendable job.  I have been underwhelmed by most of his offerings, the last of which was the dreadful Why Did I Get Married Too?  Here he had rich material with which to work, rather than his own musings and I think that made all the difference. I know that was the ultimate backhanded compliment, but I do hope that Perry has turned the proverbial corner and that For Colored Girls will be remembered as a new beginning for him as a director.  Although I came into the theater without having read Shange’s work or having seen a performance of her renowned play, I at least knew what to expect in terms of style. I knew that the movie was based on a series of poems, so I was prepared for the lyrical soliloquies when the characters periodically veered into expository monologues.  I suppose some viewers might view this as a pretentious trick, but you have to consider the source material.  The uninterrupted stream of consciousness was necessary to adequately portray each character’s pain and it made the movie seem more cohesive.


So now you know what the movie is about, but what is it REALLY about?  For me it was about finding the underlying strength innate in all of us, even when another person (i.e. your mother, your lover) or life in general seems hell-bent on destroying you.  Sometimes a person destroys you all at once.  We see this in the character portrayed by Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), when she is the victim of date rape.  Other times a person or thing can chip away at your psyche, destroying you bit by bit, slowly and over time.  This is exemplified in a few of the characters, most notably those portrayed by Kimberly Elise (The Great Debaters) and Thandie Newton (2012), who gave the two most powerful performances of the film.  Elise portrayed Crystal, a battered woman who remained steadfastly supportive of a man (Michael Ealy, Takers) who served his country bravely, but is now psychologically broken, suffering from some type of post traumatic stress and unable to find employment.  As we know (or should know), the ability to provide for his family is directly tied to a man’s feelings of adequacy.  Take that away and you may have some dark days ahead.  In the presence of his two young children, Ealy’s character is abusive and domineering, a drunken tyrant who turns to alcohol to assuage his feelings of worthlessness.  Instead of leaving an abusive partner whom she refuses to marry,Crystal remains in the relationship, with devastating consequences.  Kimberly Elise gives a heart-wrenching performance, but I think she needs to branch out more in the future.  The victim role is a fleshy one, but she has shown time and again that she can thrive in such a role.  It’s time to broaden your repertoire Ms. Elise; I’d like to see what else you’re capable of.


Turning to Thandie Newton, her character Tangie exemplified the manner in which women often look to sex to fill a void within.  Tangie has a rough exterior, but you realize that she uses sex as shield to paradoxically keep men at bay to avoid experiencing any real intimacy with them.  The last time she allowed herself to be vulnerable was probably during her childhood, when her mother forced her to get a back alley abortion after she was quite possibly impregnated by the father who molested her while her mother stood idly by.  Whoopi Goldberg played her mother, a religious zealot who favors Tangie’s younger sister Nyla.  Her favoritism drives a wedge between the two sisters, who already hail from a dysfunctional household.  Eventually through self-examination and a frank conversation with Phylicia Rashad’s character Gilda, a matronly caretaker of sorts, Tangie makes a breakthrough.


For Colored Girls was beautifully directed, and I must tip my hat to Mr. Perry.  He was given outstanding source material, but the vision you see on screen is his alone, and he should be credited for it.  As unflinching as I have been in my criticism of him in the past; I must be equally effusive in my praise of him now, although my praise is measured.  Each “colored” girl (actress) represents a color of the rainbow, and Perry used a subtle touch (for once) as he incorporated the corresponding colors throughout the movie.  I am also a big fan of the intersecting storyline format, which was employed here.  With the exception of Whoopi Goldberg, the others actresses gave wonderful performances, from Kerry Washington (Lakeview Terrace) to Loretta Devine (Crash).   For me personally, Whoopi’s performance did not resonate as much as the others.  I felt like I was looking at Whoopi, not a woman struggling with the aftermath of her own broken childhood while mothering two very different daughters.


Known for his one dimensional characters and storytelling, For Colored Girls was a marked departure from previous Tyler Perry movies.  I hope it is a sign of bigger and better things to come, and I hope that you go into the theater with an open mind.  If so, you will find a deeply moving, rich movie filled with layered performances.  Despite its somber tone, it was not too “heavy” or depressing, and it was not a “downer.”  I say try this gem on for size – you may like the fit after all.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

The American

The American is aptly titled.  The titular George Clooney is the sole domestic offering in this art-house flick.  More suited for a European audience, I believe this film will disappoint the average moviegoer.

The movie begins with an assassin named Jack (Clooney) inSweden.  He has just finished making love to a pretty young woman when they venture out for a walk across the snowy landscape.  Suddenly he comes under fire from an unseen sniper.  Jack shoots back, killing his attacker and another would-be assassin.  Leaving no witnesses, he also kills his lover as collateral damage.  This opening scene may lead you to believe that the movie was exciting and filled with action.  Instead, the next hour and change was a methodical, subdued look into the solitary existence of an assassin.

Under strict orders from his boss, Jack heads to a tiny Italian town to hide out and wait for instructions about the next job.  When he finally hears from The Boss, he’s told that he won’t even have to pull the trigger.  All he has to do is make the tool.  He meets with the client for whom he is making the tool, a female assassin with strict instructions.  While working on the weapon he befriends a local priest named Father Benedetto and falls in love with a beautiful prostitute he meets at a brothel.  Her name is Clara, and she shares the most intimate contact with Jack, who remains stoic with everyone else he encounters.  Jack’s days are spent ritually exercising, and occasionally venturing out into the town.  There was very little dialogue for an extended period of time in the movie.  For example, we spent several minutes watching Jack make the weapon.  I didn’t mind, but I could definitely see how some would find this boring.

I really shouldn’t recount any more of the plot, because it was secondary to the character.  The American was a character study of a lonely man in a reviled line of work, and the reticent but assured steps he takes towards withdrawing from the life he’s always known and opening himself to real love and a meaningful human connection.  It was a very slowly-paced film and not exciting by any stretch of the imagination.  There were some tense scenes, especially when another Swedish hitman finds Jack inItaly.  But the action was more understated, if that makes any sense.  The entire movie had a classy, subdued and very European feel.  We Americans tend to blow stuff up to get our point across.  The attention span is short.  For those reasons, I don’t think most people will appreciate the pacing or character development.  There were some suspenseful moments, as Jack tries to extricate himself from his employer while finishing this last job.  Although his final assignment seems to be a simple one, there is something amiss with his femme fatale client.  The movie kept me guessing as I watched the world from Jack’s perspective.  Always suspicious of what is lurking around the corner, startled by sudden noises and ready to react in an instant.  It is a deeply personal conversation with Father Benedetto that encourages Jack to close the door on his murderous past and begin anew with Clara, who also yearns for a life with meaning.

Upon further consideration, I really enjoyed The American.  Initially I was put off by its ending, after having sat through such prolonged periods of inactivity.  It was such a quiet movie, but I think its strength lies in its silence, as it magnified Jack’s solitude and lonely existence.  I applaud George Clooney for taking a risk.  He had to know that a movie like this wouldn’t be popular with American audiences (I know it is currently number 1, with a paltry 16 million – but that won’t last).  Maybe that’s why the studio did the old bait and switch with its advertising.  If you look at the movie poster for The American, you’d think Clooney was a 007 wannabe.  I’m sure many viewers expected a lot of action with him as a slick superspy.  These people will be disappointed.  But if you don’t have ADD, it’s worth checking out.  I enjoyed the understated quality of the movie, as well as Clooney’s nuanced performance.  It won’t please everyone, but The American was a very good film.


I’ll be the first to say that the younger generation doesn’t appreciate some of the finer things of the recent past, from film to music.  So when I heard a few comparisons of Takers to the Michael Mann classic Heat, I laughed out loud.  There’s no way a movie built around T.I. and Chris Brown can hold a candle to one featuring the likes of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro.  After seeing Takers for myself I haven’t changed my mind about that comparison, but I was pleasantly surprised that the movie exceeded my limited expectations.  Takers was a well-paced, intense movie that made the most of its cast and their capabilities.

Set in Los Angeles, the movie opens with a bank heist by a group of five men.  The men don’t enter the bank with guns blazing; rather they assemble on a vacant floor of the office building that houses the bank, preparing for the job there.  Clearly they’ve done their homework, right down to a brilliant escape plan.  The group is lead by Gordon and John, portrayed by Idris Elba (The Losers) and Paul Walker (Fast & Furious).  Chris Brown (This Christmas), Michael Ealy (Seven Pounds), and Hayden Christensen (Jumper) round out the cast.  They gather at a nearby location and divvy up the spoils, each departing in some sleek mode of transport.  As a unit, the group is cohesive and functions well, with each person knowing their role.  Ealy and Brown are brothers Jake and Jesse.  As A.J., Christensen handles the recon duties.  No reason is given for how and why this hodgepodge group of bandits decided to make their living by taking from others, but they ostensibly are very successful at what they do.  Each is impeccably dressed from head to toe, and their homes resemble those featured on MTV Cribs.  VIP treatment is what they expect.  They are cocky and daring, and life is good.

But things get interesting when a sixth member of the crew resurfaces.  Enter T.I. as Ghost, who is fresh off a 6 year bid in Chino.  He was busted while doing a job in ’04 with the gang, but kept his mouth shut.  He emerges from prison to find that his former love Lilly (Zoe Saldana, Avatar) has taken up with Jake, who has recently proposed after their successful bank heist.  Ghost also wants his share of the loot from the ’04 job.  His old mates aren’t exactly thrilled to see him, and they are even more skeptical when he wants to jump right into a new job.  Ghost wants to rob a few armored cars for about 30 million.  They would only have a few days to prepare.  They usually wait a year between jobs, but Ghost presses the issue and eventually greed takes over.  These guys are takers after all, as Gordon points out.  Their job is to take, so why not?  Although they pulled off the opening bank heist successfully, the takers have drawn the ire and attention of two police officers, played by Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez.  As Jack Welles, Dillon is smart and tough, but one step behind.  He spends most of the movie trying to piece it all together while side-stepping Internal Affairs.  The movie centers around the Takers’ ability to pull off the armored car heist while avoiding detection from law enforcement and keeping an eye on Ghost, whom they do not fully trust.

I would give Takers a strong 3 out of 4 stars.  The movie was not perfect.  Both T.I. and Chris Brown gave admirable performances, but I felt that their limited experience was evident in a few scenes and with the way they delivered their lines at times.  Also, the movie was a bit self-aware.  Clearly made for an MTV generation, Takers was all flash.  We get it, these guys are cool.  It worked for the most part because Idris Elba added some much needed heft to the movie.  I don’t know if it was his natural British accent or the fact that he was given a richer back story involving a drug-addicted sister (wonderfully played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste of Without a Trace), butElba’s presence really elevated the movie.  You’ll hear many women praise the movie because of its “eye candy,” but there were some good performances.  I think Michael Ealy, Idris Elba, and Hayden Christensen were best in their roles.  T.I. was amateurish at times, but he showed flashes of potential in his portrayal of Ghost as a greedy and vengeful nemesis.  Paul Walker is lovely to look at it, but sometimes I think he attended the Keanu Reeves school of acting.  His omnipresent surfer dude intonation is passable in a movie set inL.A., but he comes across as a one note actor most of the time.  Love you Paul!

All in all, Takers doesn’t revolutionize the caper genre, but it is a solid addition.  Slick and stylish, it is sure to please most moviegoers.  The acting was surprisingly up to par, and there were several thrilling scenes that permeated with suspense and tension.  You won’t be disappointed.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

Dinner for Schmucks

There is a fine line between stupid and funny. Some of the dumbest movies can be pretty funny. I put Hot Tub Time Machine in that category. Ridiculous premise, but a funny movie.

When I first saw the trailer for Dinner for Schmucks, featuring Steve Carrell (Date Night) and funny man du jour Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), I thought I’d be in for a treat. These guys are funny, and the idea of a dinner where the guests of honor are idiots seemed like an original and humorous concept. The dinner was funny. The problem is that the dinner comprised less than a third of the film. I don’t expect a two hour movie to be completely comprised of a dinner scene, but the rest of the movie fell horribly flat for me. It just wasn’t funny. People differ on the types of humor they enjoy. From slapstick, low-brow humor to self-deprecating subtlety, there are many ways to tickle to a funnybone. It’s too bad that Dinner for Schmucks couldn’t find a way to make me laugh. The movie frustrated me more than anything else.

Dinner for Schmucks is the story of Tim, a middling executive who finally has a chance to impress his boss if he can land a new client and fit in with the other brown-nosers who have managed to climb the corporate ladder faster than he. Part of fitting in involves attending an exclusive dinner at the home of his boss, where each guest is required to bring an “interesting person.” The winner is the person who brings the guest deemed most interesting. And by “most interesting,” I mean “biggest loser.” That’s a pretty mean thing to do, and at first Tim is reluctant to engage in such frat-boy antics. His girlfriend Julie is appalled that he would even consider it. When Tim literally runs into Carrell’s character Barry, all bets are off. Barry would be the perfect guest for the dinner. He looks like a total dweeb, and enjoys the odd hobby of stuffing mice and arranging them in little display exhibits. Sort of like this. Barry is divorced, works for the IRS, and has no friends to speak of. When Tim hits Barry with his car, he finds a way to invite him to the dinner. What follows is about one hour of crap, and very little of it is funny. The main chunk of the movie takes place over about 36 hours. Barry shows up to Tim’s apartment the day after meeting him, claiming that he thought the dinner was for that night. Tim explains that the dinner is the following night, but Barry manages to hang around, wreaking havoc. He’s a bumbling idiot with no social grace or interpersonal skills. While Tim is in another room, Barry responds to an instant message on his computer from a girl named Darla that Tim had a one night stand with a few years ago. Tim has a girlfriend and is not interested in Darla, but Barry invites her over to the apartment. When Tim finds out, he asks Barry to leave. On his way out Barry runs into Julie, who he has never seen before, but for some reason mistakes for Darla (who is en route to Tim’s place). Barry has managed to disrupt Tim’s relationship despite only having known him for about a day and a half. *sigh* I’ll spare you the story of how Barry also ruins Tim’s lunch with the big prospective client. He does all this BEFORE THE DINNER.

Dinner for Schmucks was exasperating and simply not funny, as much as I would have liked for it to have been. I chuckled a few times, but it wasn’t nearly as funny as some of Paul Rudd’s other movies, like I Love You Man or Role Models. Similarly, Zach Galifianakis as Barry’s boss was not enough to salvage the movie. One (arguably) good scene, the actual dinner, was also insufficient. I thought it was a completely disappointing movie that is sure to frustrate and bore. Three funny actors were wasted here. Check the numbers for next week, I’m sure that once word of mouth spreads, the movie will plummet from the top 5. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.


Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) is a genius. His name ought to be mentioned alongside some of the better filmmakers of this generation. Inception, his latest offering, only strengthens his already impressive resume. Undoubtedly you’ve seen the mysterious trailer with the foreboding score and amazing special effects. When I walked out of the theater I had a slight headache and a big smile. Nolan’s intricate script tested the limits of my cognitive abilities, but it was a great ride.

To all of my cynics out there: don’t be fooled by early superficial similarities to Shutter Island. Yes, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio having some psychological problems and being tormented by a past love. Inception is much deeper than that. The movie explores a world where corporate espionage meets Sigmund Freud. Ok that was a cheesy comparison, but the movie delves into the psychological ramifications of tampering with dreams. Dreams are where we find ourselves vulnerable and powerless to our subconscious. We are defenseless while dreaming, yet very susceptible to the power of suggestion. DiCaprio stars as Cobb, ringleader of a team of dream invaders commissioned by a wealthy Japanese businessman named Saito. Cobb and company are adept at extracting secrets from people’s dreams. They do this by attaching themselves to a device while sleeping. Saito is impressed with their skills but wants to take it a step further. Rather than extract information; he wants to implant it. This is called inception. A business competitor is on his deathbed, and the man’s son stands to inherit his empire. Saito wants the heir apparent to dissolve his father’s company after acquiring it. As compensation, he will call in a favor that will allow Cobb to return home to America. He has been exiled after his wife’s suicide, which the authorities believe to have been a murder committed at Cobb’s hands. Implanting a suggestion is more difficult. Subtlety is key, as the person must believe that the idea is entirely their own. Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) portrays Fischer, heir to the “throne” of Saito’s rival. He and Dad have a tumultuous relationship, and it will be difficult for Cobb to use the power of suggestion. It should be mentioned that when a dream is invaded, the sleeping host’s subconscious seeks to protect it by dispatching people kill to the intruder. Of course this is all a dream, so if you die in the dream, you simply wake up. No harm, no foul right? Not exactly. Cobb will have to pull out all the stops if the inception is going to be successful. He will have to use a dream within a dream. Within a dream. Did you catch that? That’s right, come even further down the rabbit hole with me; let’s stretch our imagination to the farthest recesses of our mind. This is why I left the theater with pulsating temples. I’ll run that back for you. Have you ever dreamt that you were dreaming? That’s a dream within a dream. Now imagine that you are dreaming that you are dreaming that you are dreaming. That’s 3 levels: a dream within a dream, within another dream. Whew!

I really don’t want to say another word about the movie for fear of completely spoiling it. The casting choices were just as perfect as the script. DiCaprio hasn’t had a misstep since…well, never. Suffice to say that we expect excellence from him, especially when he continues to pair with the most brilliant directors who give him the richest material. I also enjoyed J. Gordon-Levitt’s (500 Days of Summer) performance, as his character was the more cautious voice of reason in contrast to Cobb’s reckless impulsivity. Remember, Cobb has more to gain from Fischer’s inception than anyone else. Rounding out the cast is Ellen Page (Whip It), as “the architect.” She is tasked with designing the landscape of the dreamer’s world. She’s been a delight in every movie I’ve seen her in, and this was no exception. As Cobb’s conscience she tries to protect the rest of the team and help him forgive himself about his dead wife, who invades every dream as a symbol of his subconscious.

Every now and then a can’t-miss movie arrives that is so provocative and intriguing that it bears not only repeat viewing, but intense discussion as well. Inception was such a movie, stunning in its visual execution, layered in its complexity, and superbly acted by the players. Have I gushed enough? Inception was Incredible.