Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
It’s hard to know what to write about “Inception” as it’s certainly a film that one could easily spoil by describing it in too much detail. The basic premise is that certain skilled people are able to enter a subject’s mind during the dream phase of sleep and steal ideas or secrets. It’s an interesting concept given many of the current debates regarding intellectual property, especially from a strict libertarian perspective, often suggest that intangible things like ideas can’t be owned. But if that’s the case, why wait until the idea is out in the open? “Inception” portrays this dream-based version of theft as the ultimate in industrial espionage.
Writer/director Christopher Nolan has previously turned storytelling on its head in 2000’s “Memento” and delivered a multi-layered (perhaps overly so) plot in 2006’s “The Prestige.” And he has proven that he can be as showy and effects-oriented as anybody with the last two Batman movies, especially the excellent “The Dark Knight’ (2008). So the bar is high – but he sets that bar high for himself. It seems fair to say that “Inception” is the boldest and most ambitious film of the year so far and it manages to deliver on that promise. However, if anything, it didn’t seem quite as complicated as the previews had suggested.
What you get is a highly polished film set in a dream world that is easily manipulated by the dreamer (think of shifting physics in films like “Matrix”) with an excellent cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Ellen page (and enough other A-list actors to fill two or three more films). The plot is complex without being mind-bendingly so, and the characters are well crafted with clear motivations. It’s clearly one of the best films of the year but I still find myself in that marginal A- (rather than A) grade range for reasons that would be hard to explain without detracting from the experience. That said, go see it – it’s probably the most artfully and intricately crafted story of the summer, perhaps even the year. (Opens July 16)
Predators – Directed by Nimrod Antal. This is a pure genre movie of the simplest type. If you liked the original, this lives up to that standard and is a simpler and neater retelling of the concept than the previous sequels which muddied the waters with either gang wars or other aliens. Here an assorted group of folks with a certain penchant for killing find themselves shipped to an alien planet and used as game. What helps it avoid spiraling into lame territory is a solid cast that includes Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, and Topher Grace. If you expect to enjoy it, there’s little cause for disappointment.
Despicable Me – Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. A delightful animation that pits two despicable evil-doers (Steve Carell and Jason Segal) in a bid for the most despicable evil-doing. And all would remain purely despicable, except for the arrival of three adorable orphans who start out as a despicable plot device but begin to chip away at the defenses of one previously despicable heart. The worst thing I could say is that a little minion goes a long way – but this one is a fun, light ride, and pleasantly not despicable.
Sacramento Film & Music Festival – Sneak Preview
The 11th Annual Sacramento Film and Music Festival opens at The Crest Theater on Friday, July 23rd and continues through Sunday, August 1st. The opening night film, which follows a reception catered by festival sponsors Rubio’s, is a somewhat ironic selection. “Official Rejection” catalogs the difficulties involved with attempting to get a film accepted on the film festival circuit. The producer and central figure in the documentary, Scott Storm, will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.
Tuesday, July 27th is dedicated to more political content, with documentaries that focus on immigration and identity. Three short documentaries that all cover the immigrant experience were selected from the submission pool, all coincidentally made by students at either Stanford or Berkeley. “Iraq in the US” looks at Iraqi families who have been resettled as refugees, specifically in Sacramento. “New American Soldier” considers the circumstances of resident aliens who join the military, with all the associated risks, in order to qualify for citizenship. “Arpaio’s America” reflects the experiences of illegal aliens as they encounter the law enforcement community in Arizona. These three documentaries are followed by the feature length “Reel Injun” that examines how the Hollywood film industry has depicted Native Americans in film. The Tuesday program begins at 5 p.m. with food provided by Rubio’s and the films begin at 6 p.m. The entire evening of food and film is covered by a single $10 ticket.
In another special evening on Thursday, July 29th, the Festival premieres “Walking Dreams” about the work of Sacramento artist David Garibaldi. The screening is followed by a live performance and an auction of the work that is produced during that performance. The auction proceeds will benefit the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission through their non-profit Friends of the Arts Commission, and the Festival.
Full schedule and ticket information for these and over 20 other varied film programs can be found online at www.sacfilm.com.