22 July 2010: Catching up — movies

How to Train Your Dragon movie wallpaper

On Sunday, 18 July 2010, I met Thomas K.Y. in Burlington, Mass., to screen Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending technothriller Inception. Like Memento, Dark City, and The Matrix, the cyberpunk heist flick examines the nature of identity, perception, and reality. Inception has a strong cast and some nice set-piece action scenes inspired by James Bond films, but it lacks emotional resonance or the surreal vision of movies with similar themes, such as What Dreams May Come.

Inception is certainly more intelligently written than the blockbuster Avatar, but I didn’t find it to feel as fresh a speculative fiction mashup as last year’s District 9. At the same time, I didn’t find the layered plot to be as confusing as some viewers claimed. I’d give Inception, which is rated PG-13 for violence, a 7.5 out of 10, a B+, or three out of five stars.

So far, this summer’s films have been relatively lackluster, with the usual Hollywood recycling of ideas through sequels and remakes. There have been some lively debates online about the best years for genre movies, and I’m partial to 1982, which is when I came of age cinematically. It’s hard to believe that it has been 30 years since the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, each generation will have its own favorites, as I was reminded by my younger co-workers at a TT staff lunch yesterday at Waltham’s Elephant Walk, a Franco-Cambodian restaurant.

This year, I’ve already passed on seeing the horror remake of The Wolf Man, the video game adaptation Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, comic book Western Jonah Hex, and the live-action adaption of a beloved fantasy anime TV series (Avatar:) The Last Airbender (which is getting a spin-off) in theaters because of mixed and poor reviews.

I wasn’t especially interested in Tim Burton’s twist on Alice in Wonderland, the A-Team remake, or computer-animated sequels Shrek Forever After and Toy Story 3, but I’m sure that I’ll eventually see them and Despicable Me, thanks to nieces and nephews. I’d rather see modern supernatural film The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, imperial Roman dramas Agora and Centurion, and the fantasy Legend of the Guardians, but time will tell.