An Exceptionally “Inceptional” Masterpiece
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Now, Inception is more than just a leap of faith for filmmaker Christopher Nolan.
With its elements about powerful ideas, dreaming in a dream, and dreaming inside other people’s dreams, Inception is one entertainingly hard-core, multi-layered mindbender. This motion picture masterpiece is one of the strongest science-fiction concepts to come in a long time. Nolan and his production team construct a breathtakingly audacious blockbuster narrative while not leaving the intelligent and more demanding film lovers behind.
Inception is nothing less than astounding. It dreams big, dreams deep, and creates challenging dreams to engage the wide-eyed dreamy viewers. In doing so, the film’s own thin line separating dream space and reality innovatively creates such a well-mounted story. It carefully blends the conscious and subconscious in various levels. It balances philosophical ideas and narrative tension within a labyrinthine plot that engages in various forms, degrees and intensities.
Whether for its visceral popcorn thrills, elegantly laid out action sequences, boldness and restraint, this ambitious film knows how to manipulate its thematic fetishes and its complicated narrative structure.
Like its own theme, Inception taps into the subconscious of each viewer in its relatively comprehensible way. Orchestrated by a crafting hand of a director who knows what he wants and how to make things happen, even the most obscure details get digested as the film cinematically sells its conceptual and emotional investments. It’s bold, intense, exhilarating, engaging, and impressive. It is complex yet coherent. It’s something that can benefit repeated viewings and feed the viewer with something new or different each time. Preposterous, yet ingeniously done, it offers such an entertaining ride. It serves as a popcorn flick, too!
While it is ambiguous enough to lead to conflicting opinions, the main purpose of the film is to engage the intellect about its theme and concept, not just merely figuring out which one is real, which one is a dream. While additional viewings are needed to personally provide a more solid analysis and opinion about the film’s ending, it seems more like the filmmaker crafts this opus in a way that there is no concrete interpretation to dictate to each and everyone that something is or is not.
The various elements, symbolisms, characterizations, and dialogues are carefully planted in a way that they work together to let the audience go beyond the need to figure out a twist or find out the “truth” behind the main story. Like how actual dreams are, Inception is open to different interpretations. And it does so without making specific aspects of it bug its quality down. It works in higher levels of film viewing that it touches something beyond a film viewer’s surface thinking, quite different from how s/he would typically treat other movies. And this is what makes Inception seem quite different from the usual. It is endlessly elliptical and it works in many facets. It allows its tagline “Your mind is the scene of the crime” validate itself; while its grand provisions for a visual feast keep up with the more palpable sense of its thrilling ride.
Inception isn’t perfect. Yet, its weak points are unquestionably shadowed by its brilliant and meandering machinations. The film splurges and invests in its concept, story, script, visuals, sound, emotions, and intellect, in accordance to how the film language can intangibly bring out all its cinematic ideas and values across.
Like Leonardo diCaprio’s character Cobb, Nolan is a meticulously skilled extractor and an architect of deep and provoking thoughts. He is a sly narrative tactician who juggles at big ideas and make people think about his idea. He takes the audience to a pleasurable trip through varying mental labyrinths filled with elegant dreamscapes and genuine human drama. It has a sort of paradoxical architecture of its own as Nolan offers a clockwork-precise showmanship in every scene. By the film’s ending, he impressively allows the characters to wake up from their dreams to figure out what’s real. Yet, whether for his film’s characters or for his film audience, things doesn’t really end there…
Inception is a rare movie project that can be enjoyed on a superficial and/or progressively deeper level of viewing. It uncannily fascinates the audience as the story moves further into the challenging layers of the subconscious mind. It is a work of a visionary. For all its high production values and budget requirements, this is the kind of film that the big movie studios should support more often.
July 24th, 2010
, Film Review
, Films I Like
, Hollywood Films
, Love Story
, Sci Fi/Cyberspace
Toys to Infinity and Beyond
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Like the first two films, Toy Story 3 simply captures you with emotional magic in film form. Entertaining, well-crafted, and emotional, this third film of the historical animated film franchise is powered by fun, fueled by intellect, and driven by heart. It is a fitting finale for a Pixar animated trilogy perfected in tone, delivery, timing, humor, and drama. Its charm goes to infinity and beyond.
Toy Story 3 Photo Slideshow courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
List of the New Toy Story Characters Featured in Toy Story 3
List of the Toy Story Classic Characters Appearing in Toy Story 3
This film can bring you back the old memories of your toys and literally wonder where they are now. Whether tears come out from your spectator eyes or not, its ending offers an undoubtedly heart-wrenching moment that grabs the child in you. And this can simply be described as “cinematic magic.” By taking a bunch of animated toys teaching people about the mystery of human lives and struggling through it, Toy Story 3 becomes a sentimental journey with a heartfelt mix of sugar and spice. Every scene is delightfully engaging and there is so much to be absorbed without straining its theme and story. The gags are all set in the right places until the film wraps up with an enchanting finale.
The well-embraced Pixar tradition of a short film preceding the main feature attraction is nothing but clever and enchanting. Day and Night directed by Teddy Newton, also the voice behind the toy character Chatter Telephone, is a masterpiece on its own and it perfectly complements Toy Story 3.
This third motion picture from the franchise comes full circle. It’s a rare sequel that clearly endures the test of time. Like its theme and story, it mixes joy and sweet sadness for the complicated choices about staying in the comfort zone and embracing change. It emphasizes the relationship between toys and a child’s imagination. It’s about the inevitable moments of having to leave some things behind. It’s about the feeling of abandonment that comes with age and passage of time. And it’s about accepting how changes in life can sometimes be harsh and unfavorable.
Toy Story 3 has a basic plot and a simple, straightforward story orientation. What makes it stand out from the rest? The filmmakers know what they want, they know what they’re doing, and they know how to do things with utmost sincerity. It has such a simple formula, yet the delicate combination of the various aspects of film production goes beyond being objective and quantitative. The challenge in reaching such level of cinematic marvel requires careful choices and bull’s-eye decisions for the script, choice of shots, animation requirements, audio requirements, and voice performances. It’s a candid story that delves about living life, feeling outdated, getting misunderstood, and facing things beyond your control. It answers the question about what happens when “playtime” is over in a figurative and emotional way that is surprising, self-realizing, and considerably hurting while still being gently comforting.
While it celebrates consumerism with its many brands and product placements, the genius in Pixar impressively manages to keep the film’s innocent pleasures of imagination. Toy Story 3 succeeds beyond its glossy and gleaming pixels both in 2D and 3D. It has a valuable script with animated characters as real as a child’s sense of wonder. It balances rollicking adventure, wrenching pathos, and brilliant humor in an exceptional package. Exuding with enough emotional resonance, it creatively ties up the first two films at a very suitable time: without having to rush things as how the mainstream filmmaking bible dictates it (think of how studios rush sequels for the sake of commercialism). It took years and years until the new technology now enables 3D films and how this era showcases a new age of toys to add up to the Toy Story collection. Even the actual voice behind the little Andy character of the past now renders his voice as a grown up young adult himself.
This third worthy installment kicks off with a brief playful sequence of breathtaking mastery, evocative detail, wonderful camera work, all aptly resolved in a true little boy’s eyes. It impressively opens up with a scene that reminds people of what Toy Story really offered more than a decade ago. And as the fun treats of the film progresses, it carefully blends the moments of sadness and ache that come along as life shifts towards another direction. On a lighter note, there is an appreciation for Pixar’s brilliance in making a nice, long gag reel side by side its closing credits. Aside from bringing a satisfyingly intelligent but fun resolution to the movie, it offers additional time to wipe away those tears before the screening finishes.
Pixar’s now trademark of “ingenuous storytelling” serves up yet another exceptional animated treat that doesn’t surpass its predecessors, but simply continues its virtuous tradition. The studio simply knows how to tell a brilliant story in an animated movie format without resorting to brainless gimmicks and cheap sentiments. It winds up its way gently towards its serious themes without grabbing desperately on them.
With inspired homage to jailbreak movies, director Lee Unkrich presents a thoughtful story about regret for the past and fear of the future. It’s nothing but worthy to mention much of the people behind this masterwork: writers Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich; producer Darla K. Anderson and executive producer John Lasseter; music composer Randy Newman; and the very long list of animators, production artists, and film crew who made the film what it is. As a clever piece of storytelling magic, this family-friendly movie illustrates a natural progression melding with ease in many levels of thematic resplendence.
On the technical side, Toy Story 3 lives up to the expectations. The characters design and animation are spectacularly detailed and well rendered. From Barbie and Ken’s robotic moves to the almost palpable strawberry smell of Lotso as how this gets established in the film, this emotional cinematic treat employs technical wizardry in par with its storytelling. The cinematography and production design are so vivid and fitting in every sequence and scene.
The vocal performances coming from a mix of the old cast and the newcomers create such powerfully emotional characters. Whether a major or minor role, each one really brings his/her character to life. Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear lead the pack of toy characters with such brilliance. Buzz’s Spanish mode is a hysterically fun treat. Aside from these two best buddies of the franchise, the audience shall remember such iconic performances from the many human and toy characters. To mention some: John Morris as Andy; Joan Cusack as Jessie; Ned Beatty as Lotso; Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head; Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head; Jodi Benson as Barbie; Michael Keaton as Ken; Wallace Shawn as Rex; John Ratzenberger as Hamm; Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants; Jeff Pidgeon as Aliens; Blake Clark as Slinky Dog; Emily Hahn as Bonnie; Jeff Garlin as Buttercup; Bonnie Hunt as Dolly; John Cygan as Twitch; Whoopi Goldberg as Stretch; Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s Mom; Bud Luckey as Chuckles; Beatrice Miller as Molly; Javier Fernandez Pena as the Spanish Buzz; and Lori Alan as Bonnie’s Mom.
There is so much to absorb in this animated opus for a viewer of any age. Watching it over and over again further makes a strong bond between the film and its viewer. Best advice: Buy the Toy Story Blu-ray collection once it hits the market. Such a release is truly worthy of anyone’s collection. It doesn’t sell just with merely crappy marketing materials and bonus features. It’s the actual film that hits every button from laughter to tears, from adventure to realizations, from audio-visual flair to earnestness. It’s “magically deep, sweet, painful, and real.”
Like its characters, the Toy Story films are to be treasured forever.
July 8th, 2010
, Film Review
, Films I Like
, Hollywood Films
Bull’s Eye Action But Miles of Missed Storytelling
By Rianne Hill Soriano
May 24th, 2010
Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is a sweeping epic complete with spectacle and pageantry; yet, it collapses into an epic cliché. With its elaborate plotting unable to live up to the roaring fires and engaging fights, it merely lingers around like a topnotch archer drinking buckets of mead, then expectedly fails to hit the crucial mark. At the least, it hits the edge of the target through its noteworthy performances and production values.
It could have been a tighter cinematic offer instead of being a two and a half-hour story of a few hits and lots of misses. The action part is considerably fine, but the drama part fails. While there are a few intelligent and bull’s eye moments between the talented Russell Crowe as Robin Longstride/Robin Hood and her equally talented partner Cate Blanchett as Marion Loxley that work, the very essence of this Robin Hood story has a lot of dead spaces and pointless name-checking. Its salvation is how it manages to keep the action up and running within its well-mounted set pieces; thus, making it a “beautiful bore” to some, a “just fine” compromise to casual moviegoers and Robin Hood aficionados, or a “just another hollow adaptation” to the rest who felt they got robbed money from movie tickets.
Scott’s spin on the classic Robin Hood yarn turns the familiar old English legend into a serious gritty and grubby lesson in 13th century British history. This time, he and his usual Oscar-winning crewmates turn the familiar swashbuckling bandit of Sherwood Forest into a serious story focusing on the man behind the legend. It works like a sort of a prequel on how the legend came to be. It attempts to explain the earlier life of Robin Hood by stripping away the fantasy from the myth and making his story more like a societal lesson and a historical exposition. It seems to aim higher than all these, but it lacks the needed depth to transcend the intended character study into a more valuable piece of cinematic work.
Robin Hood is filtered through all the trademark requirements of a summer blockbuster. It has good cuts, camera movements and engaging sound. Scott is at his best with the action sequences; yet, he is unable to put enough dimensionality to the characters, amidst the solid acting performances. The robust script from Brian Helgeland has a sense of struggle in it. The climactic battle sequence is another technical saving grace amidst some overstuffed and ill-conceived moments.
On the positive side, the sense of epic sweep and detailed grounding of the film’s intentions make the uneven pacing work on a basic entertainment level. John Mathieson’s cinematography effectively relives the medieval setting and English countryside feel. The wealth of well-researched period details from production designer Arthur Max keeps the movie appealing.
The film has a strong ensemble that lodges well within the Middle Age setting. The cast of veteran actors and actresses including the supporting cast Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley, William Hurt as William Marshal and Mark Strong as Godfrey maintain the serious mood befitting the director’s treatment. However, some scenes tend to inappropriately have accents wandering all over England.
For its specific merits, Robin Hood is one entertaining material. This story about the English philanthropic outlaw is still a watchable fare to the non-demanding viewers. It is technically a handsomely made movie that reworks the traditional characters of the legend into the world of real people. Its production reins over the story, though. And if not for the “too much of this and not enough of that” issue, the solid performances, rousing action sequences and impressive style could have made it a much interesting piece of cinematic wonder.
, Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit
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