Inception (Warner) – Christopher Nolan’s Inception, a caper film that heists dreams instead of treasure, is surely the most cerebral action thriller to become a blockbuster. It’s a genre film that reshuffles the rules and lays them out in a mind-bending pattern. Playing out on multiple planes of dream reality, it’s also another Nolan film to completely reimagine the world of cause and effect. But rather than tell a story, Nolan builds a construct and then plays within that construct. This script is more designed than written, the film constructed as much as directed, and that becomes all the more evident on repeat viewings.
I take a closer look at Inception at Parallax View, review the Roger Corman sets Big Bad Mama / Big Bad Mama II Double Feature (Shout! Factory) and Crazy Mama / The Lady In Red Double Feature (Shout! Factory) on my blog here, leaving Shrek Forever After (Dreamworks) for the good folks at MSN, though I do survey the box set Shrek: The Whole Story (DreamWorks) for MSN. As for the rest, read on…
Cronos (Criterion) – The feature debut of Guillermo del Toro is an alchemic twist on vampire lore and the costs of eternal life. Federico Luppi is a curio shop owner who stumbles upon a clockwork device that looks like some Quay Brothers creation and revives his fading energy while creating a drug-like addiction and a craving for blood. As the old man’s granddaughter plays angel to the devils of his addiction, a Howard Hughes-like millionaire recluse sends a henchman nephew (Ron Perlman) to retrieve the immortality device. Part melodrama, part morality play, part thriller, it’s as much Dorian Gray as Bram Stoker and features a weird, heady alchemic brew of antiquated clockwork mechanism, mutant organisms, demented villains driven by a greed for youth, and one man’s struggle for his soul. Cool, creepy, tempered with a clever gallows humor and anchored by a passion for life and love.
It’s been previously available on DVD, but of course Criterion remasters it from scratch for both DVD and the Blu-ray debut. Features the two commentary tracks from the 2003 DVD release—one by director Guillermo Del Toro (in English) and one by producers Alejandro Springal, Bertha Navarro (in Spanish with optional English subtitles) and Arthur H. Gorson (in English)—and the 5 minute archival interview featurette “Making Cronos With Federico Luppi” (in Spanish with English subtitles) illustrated with behind the scenes footage and film clips, and completes the set with new supplements. In a new interview with Guillermo del Toro, who is both passionate and articulate, he is frank about what he thinks didn’t work in the film (and how he learned from it) and describes his feature debut as his only true “lapsed Catholic movie.” There are also new interviews (circa 2009) with cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and star Ron Perlman (who del Toro subsequently cast in numerous films, including the starring role in the Hellboy features) and “Welcome to Bleak House,” a ten-minute vide tour guided tour through del Toro’s home, his way of introducing us to his influences, the closest thing to letting us into his mind, he explains, plus “Geometria,” a 1987 unreleased short horror film finished by del Toro for this release.
Restrepo (Virgil) – Journalist Sebastian Junger and cameraman Tim Hetherington imbed themselves in an American platoon stationed near the Pakistan border of Afghanistan and survey their life during a 15-month deployment. This documentary eschews politics for a portrait of men in war in the modern combat theater, where the tedium is interrupted by sudden attacks from a guerrilla enemy, and the focus is on the soldiers, mostly young American men thrust into alien world where diplomacy with the suspicious local villagers is as central for survival as combat skills. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Features deleted scenes, extended interviews with the soldiers, the creative short “Sleeping Soldiers, updates on the soldiers seen in the film and PSAs.
I also review Stéphane Brizé’s Mademoiselle Chambon (Kino) and the indie SF thriller Hunter Prey (Maya) for MSN, and I reviewed America Lost And Found: The BBS Story (Criterion), which debuts on DVD this week, on the blog last week when it hit Blu-ray.
Also new: Claudio Llosa’s The Milk Of Sorrow (Olive) from Peru, The Year of Getting to Know Us (E One) with Lucy Liu and Sharon Stone, Jaffa (Film Movement), the 1962 Escape From Zahrain (Olive) with Yul Brynner and Sal Mineo, and on the cult side is Disciples Of The 36th Chamber (Vivendi) with Gordon Liu and the giallo The Girl From Cortina (Mya).