Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” – Review by Michael McVey
Originally Published in The Irish Emigrant, July 19, 2010
With the huge global success of The Dark Knight, filmmaker Christopher Nolan was given carte blanche to develop his next project for Warner Bros Studios. The result: this summer’s Inception, is an intricately plotted heist/epic set in the world of dreams. Most studio films with enormous budgets ($150 mil!) are designed to play for broad audiences, using recycled plots and characters. Nolan has delivered an unusual and welcome challenge to the status quo. Inception is thrilling, different.
It features a terrific ensemble cast lead by Leonardo DiCaprio, leading both his dream team and audiences through a labyrinthine plot. Inception expands on the visual stateliness Nolan has developed in his other unconventionally structured films, such as Memento, Insomnia, and The Prestige. We get many staples of big budget, tent-pole fare: Action set-pieces, explosions, grand special effects, big movie stars with killer wardrobe. And while it is entertaining, this movie stands out among the studio releases for having a bit more on its mind than explosions. This is a film that challenges audiences, yet is still watchable even if you get lost along the way. Though I’ve only seen it once, I suspect this movie gets better every time you see it. Nolan focuses many of his cinematic tropes on the nature of reality, perception and the power of the mind – as it is the ideas that are the true stars of Inception. I just wonder how he explained the plot to those Warner Bros studio execs!
Here’s the trailer we’ve all been watching over and over. This my wind up being the best, if not most watched trailer of the year. If you’ve seen the movie and dug the score, then you’re gonna love the second video.
Update: I saw Inception three times in July, once mit Bronwyn und Stefan. I taped their thoughts the next evening. Stefan is very passionate about his views. Video taken during Boston’s Annual Shakespeare in the Park – 2010. We were chilling for Othello, starring Seth Gilliam, aka Carter from “The Wire.”
Review by Michael McVey
Originally published in The Irish Emigrant, July 12th, 2010
Oscar-winner Adrien Brody packs on the muscle and the firepower in Predators, a lean and mean sequel to the space hunter franchise. 1987’s Predator starred two United States governors AND Apollo Creed, one of the few men to beat Rocky Balboa in the ring. It is a towering 80’s classic, ranking among the most entertaining films of that decade. Followed by a goofball gore-fest sequel and a couple of lame Aliens vs. Predators crossovers, the franchise devolved into limp rehash. 23 years later, producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimród Antal present us with a worthy successor to the original. Recapturing the tense fun of the initial slam-bang outing, Predators is a violent, testosterone-fueled action picture that delivers what the other sequels failed to: excitement! This pulpy, sci-fi tale finds a new group of human warriors hunted by the Predators. With some terse direction and a great new batch of characters/alien-fodder, this sequel is a terrific B-movie blaster. It’s fun to watch Brody growl out his dialogue, the supporting cast is terrific, it’s enjoyably gory, and best of all, composer John Debney pays proper homage to Alan Silvestri’s great original score. For fans, that alone is worth the price of admission.
What are you waiting for? Get to da CHOPPA!
Five Minutes of Heaven
By Michael McVey
Originally Published in the Irish Emigrant, August 31, 2009
“Trouble with me is I’ve got all the wrong feelings.” – Joe Griffin
There is a moment in Five Minutes of Heaven when the main character, Joe, is presented with a choice: He can open a door and confront his brother’s murderer – a man who waits willingly for him, three decades after committing the act. Or, Joe can exit out another door, avoiding the possibility becoming a murderer himself, but continuing to live with unbearable anger and guilt imparted to him those 30 years ago. And while the plot of the new film Five Minutes of Heaven may be driven by choices like this, the film itself is really about consequences.
The story begins in 1975 Northern Ireland. The film quickly establishes a sense of time and place by using powerful, and violent archival footage. It transitions into a fictional narrative based on a true account – the killing of Catholic teenager Jim Griffin by 16-year-old Protestant Alistair Little. The murder is made all the more shocking, as it is witnessed by Jim’s younger brother, Joe Griffin.
We cut to present day Ireland, where Griffin and Little are grown men, both en route to a television shoot. Little (Liam Neeson) spent 12 years in prison for his crime and, since his release, has been a tireless proponent of a reconciliation program, designed to help those who’ve committed violent crimes take responsibility for their past. Griffin (James Nesbitt) has since married and raised a family, but is deeply scarred by the murder. We sense his bloodlust brimming below the surface. As the TV crew plans to record the meeting, we get more than a “slight” sense that this looming confrontation may not go well.
Guy Hibbert’s script is an interesting construct – the film’s first act deals with real-life events and characters, and then proposes a fictional “what-if” scenario for the confrontation. The real life Griffin and Little have never actually met, though they gave the filmmakers their consent for this fictional narrative. Bringing an outsider’s perspective to the material, German director Oliver Hirschbiegel took particular pains not to judge the politics of the characters, while still acknowledging the complexity of the conflict. We are presented with several questions…Why do we dehumanize our enemies? How does violence affect families? Is primal instinct stronger than principle?
The filmmakers cast actors James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson against their actual backgrounds – Nesbitt was raised in the Coleraine area of Northern Ireland, and Neeson in Ballymena, County Antrim. Both actors create sincere portraits of men dealing with the consequences of violent acts. Nesbitt injects several humorous touches into his moving portrayal of the anxiety-plagued Griffin. Using voice-over, the film’s excellent sound editing weaves in and out of Nesbitt’s internal dialogue, adding extra dimensions to his performance. Neeson’s gravitas are put to good use, particularly during an interview scene (shot in one long take) that reveals deep seated guilt and uncertainty. Both lead actors create believable characterizations, steering the film away from the pitfalls of heavy-handed symbolism.
Five Minutes of Heaven is disciplined in revealing information to the viewer, and with naturalistic lighting and handheld photography, it succeeds in maintaining a realistic tension throughout. Several touches of humor add levity when needed, including a few well placed barbs at the television industry’s “sensitivity” to its subject matter. While Griffin and Little seem destined to confront each other, the outcome’s uncertainty is played for maximum effect.
The film is straightforward and dialogue heavy, but that is not a criticism. The lead performances by Nesbitt and Neeson, the intensity of the scenario, and the insight of the screenplay make for a compelling drama. Without offering any earth-shattering revelations or solutions, Five Minutes of Heaven makes convincing arguments for reconciliation, using the simplest and purest of reasons.
By Michael McVey
This is why I go to the movies. Co-writer and director Neill Blomkamp’s debut film is an outstanding amalgam of documentary-style realism,thought-provoking constructs, and lots of hardcore, bloody action. Independently produced by Peter Jackson, the film delivers these elements in the guise of science fiction. And like all great sci-fi, the world of District 9 is a prism through which we see our own selves today.
The premise: 28 years ago, an alien ship arrives suddenly over Johannesburg, South Africa. Despite having advanced technology, the alien inhabitants are malnourished refuges, like worker bees without a queen. Unable to return home, they are met with open hostility from a fearful populace and segregated from human society in a crime-ridden slum called District 9…
The filmmakers make bold choices with casting, languages, locations, narrative structure – all of which succeed in creating something truly original. We feel the world the characters inhabit,just as we feel the characters plight, right up to the jaw-dropping, killer climax.
While not perfect (and definitely not for all tastes), this is an incredibly entertaining film. It features first-rate FX, liberal doses of intense action, and it has a lot on its mind – it is great in the way “Mad Max” and “Aliens” are great. This may end up being my favorite film of the year.