Monthly Archives: July 2010

Inception – A Dream Come True…or Maybe Implanted

Sooo, that pretty much sums up Inception. Not quite sure what happened? Me either—I just felt like some lyric poetry might help obfuscate the plot in the same way the movie does. But don’t get me wrong, I love lyric poetry. It sounds amazing and looks cool, and when I understand it–which, thanks to being an English major, I often do (brushes off shoulder)–I feel like I’ve gotten even more out of it because it was a bit of a mind fuck. All that is to say: Inception is confusing, but in all the best ways. At the end, you’re left with an image that leaves everything up for debate, and if you have a fun group of friends, debate it you will.

Christopher Nolan manages to do something very impressive with this movie. Somehow, he is able to simultaneously achieve greatness in multiple genres. It’s right up there at the top of the twisty, psychological genre with Memento (one of Nolan’s other great films), Mulholland Drive, American Psycho and the like. It doesn’t tie up nearly as neatly as something like The Usual Suspects, but somehow it’s also very easy to follow, for Nolan works in plenty of explanation of his world in a way that doesn’t feel pedantic.  By having Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team explain everything to the team’s dream architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), we’re allowed to learn the mechanics of shared dreaming right along with her. There may be some unexplained bits, but I didn’t catch most of those until a second viewing, giving this movie a great deal of both initial enjoyment and rewatchability.

Besides just messing with your brain, Inception is a great action flick. One of the fight scenes takes place in zero gravity and is absolutely mind-blowing. I couldn’t keep myself from gasping, whispering “whoa,” and generally annoying the people around me—it was so cool. Amazing that Nolan can invent new ways to astonish despite all the movies that have come before. The action, for the most part, is handled very well. The effects are stunning and made even more impressive because the reason for their existence is so well-explained.  Sometimes, the film drags because so many different things are happening at once, but it’s well worth it, for at the cost of rapid-fire action, we gain a very interesting character arc. To tie down the story with something relatable, we get Dom Cobb’s relationship with his wife. His guilt surrounding her death haunts him, and his subconscious version of her constantly works to subvert his goals, at times almost costing the characters their lives. Action, an interesting character-based story, and mind-blowing psychological experiences all in one! Definitely worth ten bucks.

But that’s not all! One of my favorite things about Inception is its commentary on movies. Everything about this film is meta. There are dreams within dreams within dreams, and much of the film is actually talking about itself. At one point, Cobb explains to Ariadne that in order to tell if you’re in a dream, you simply need to try to remember how you got to where you are. In dreams, we apparently start in the middle and never know what came just before. This is also true of movies. We cut from scene to scene, leaving out much of the travel. In fact, the very scene I’m talking about starts with the two characters in a café, and the audience is not in the slightest bit disturbed by how they might have gotten there. Also, through the power of dreams, the film is able to have action scenes in whatever settings they want. Basically, each dream is a movie. Cobb tells Ariadne that dream architecture is incredible because you can build cities that have never existed. Her job is virtually that of a director, screenwriter, and CGI artist in one. Creating movies is creating a dreamworld, but instead of making a world for one dreamer, Hollywood makes worlds for a worldwide audience. In fact, to watch Inception is to experience inception, for everyone who has seen the movie has had the idea of implanting ideas in people implanted in them. Trippy, right?

This movie is well acted, well written, and well directed. Rarely am I so far out on the edge of my seat, and rarely does my brain work so furiously. Go see it. Go see it soon. And then go see it again.


Written by Russ Nickel


Filed under Review

The Inception Trilogy!

Christopher Nolan is far too classy to discuss this himself, but the powers that be at Warner Bros. are undoubtedly racing furiously to figure out how to milk everything they can out of the creative masterpiece that is Inception. Since all lucrative film epics come in threes, I decided it would be fun to speculate on the ways we can expect our fond memories of this movie to be bastardized in the years to come.

Inception II: Deception

Three years after the events in Inception, Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is a happy single father working as a dream researcher. But someone doesn’t want the world’s greatest dream thief out of the game that easily. They kidnap his children and blackmail him into doing one last job: to convince Miles (Michael Caine) to release the patent on his invention, a dream machine that can connect all of mankind’s subconscious to a collective limbo. But is any of it real? Or is Cobb in a dream of his own devising? Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt return as a dream-hopping super spy couple with a dark secret.

Inception III: Conception

Cobb (DiCaprio) averted disaster and saved his family in the last film, but he has unwittingly released a startling new technology on the world: the ability to enter dreams wirelessly. Now dream hoppers everywhere are gearing up subconscious armies for all-out war. Everyone wants control of the dream-world, and Cobb’s mind is ground zero for the battle. Cobb, Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) and Ariadne (Alexis Bledel) have the ability to stop it, but the dream world isn’t enough this time. With the help of energy tycoon Saito (Chow Yun-Fat), they have to find the dream hoppers in the real world, and bring them to justice.

This would bring the whole series to a nice, explosive conclusion. But of course, that’s never enough…

Inception IV: Reception (Written and directed by Brett Ratner)

Cobb (Hayden Christensen) is the Chief of Dream Police, the organization that regulates “Heaven”, the shared psychic space between all of humanity.  During a routine sweep of an unconstructed area, Cobb is contacted by an alien consciousness with dream-constructing powers unlike anything he’s ever experienced. How will mankind respond to these creatures from outer space visiting their dreams? Are they benevolent, or will they brainwash everyone on Earth in their sleep? Will Ariadne and Arthur’s marriage go off without a hitch? Does any of this make any sense? No one knows!


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The Last Airbender – Worst Film of All Time!

Let’s start with the basics. The Last Airbender has absolutely no redeeming qualities. None! And believe me, I searched. This is coming from someone who loves G.I. Joe—I don’t really need quality drama in movies, but I do need something. Even hot girls and explosions are usually enough to entertain my rather muddled brain, but nooo, Shyamalan wouldn’t even give me those.

First, there’s no comprehensible plot. Somewhere, mired in the murky depths of this disaster is a tale about a young child, Aang, who, after being trapped in a ball of ice for a century, is both the last airbender and the Avatar, a chosen one who maintains peace. Through an uninteresting series of events, he befriends Katara, a waterbender, and her brother Sokka. They go around and do some stuff, and Aang tries to display some emotions. There’s some evil firebenders, including a banished prince with mercurial motivations, but Aang eventually defeats a small portion of them.

In all honesty though, the characters mostly just wander from location to location simply announcing their intentions. For example, here’s a painfully close to direct quote: Sokka: “Aang, should we go from town to town freeing people and therefore starting a rebellion?” Aang: “Yes, we should.” The characters proceed to do this so-called freeing, but we don’t really get to see it, and it never comes into play ever again. Ever! There’s not really much of an overarching goal for our heroes, so it’s hard to determine why they’re doing what they’re doing, and we can’t really foresee the repercussions of their actions, so every scene is pretty much tension free. The only real objective they have is to defeat those evil firebenders, and our merry crew comes painfully short of achieving even that.

Rather than show us scenes that either explain what’s happening, develop characters, or even just look cool, Shyamalan chooses to include a narrator who simply skips over important bits. “We arrived at the city and soon the princess and my brother became close friends.” Then again, maybe this was Shyamalan’s best choice. He probably realized the acting was so atrocious that there’d be no way Sokka and Princess Yue could possibly have any chemistry. Their only scene together before  (there’s really nothing to spoil so I won’t put a spoiler alert—just don’t see this movie) her death is really just a way to get across more exposition. Sokka: “My grandma would say your hair is odd.” Princess Yue: “I would tell her that it is odd because THREE MINUTES OF EXPOSITION.” I have to commend Seychelle Gabriel though. Her death scene is somehow touching, or at least, I was impressed at how close to touching she was able to make it. It feels sort of silly to have her tell Sokka that she’ll miss him more than he’ll ever know when we’ve never even seen them speak, especially when we’d only met her ten minutes before and our meeting was just some narration, but then again I guess Katara did tell us that they became “friends” and we all know what that means. Somehow, I still wasn’t buying it. Anyway, after the movie, we all agreed that her 1 minute in the limelight was the best part of the whole thing.

Plot and acting aside, the movie still could have been great. Sure I’d rather have those two things, but if Michael Bay has taught us anything, it’s that if you throw in gorgeous special effects, giant explosions, and hot girls, you have a recipe for success. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, this sad excuse for cinema lacked all three. The effects were lousy and, more importantly, relatively rare. Maybe the princess was hot, but these kids are all, well, kids (at least they’re supposed to be), so I can’t really talk about it without wanting to cleanse myself. Or at least pretending that I want to cleanse myself so that society will accept me. This movie advertised itself as an awesome fantasy epic filled with special-effects-driven action. Cool action that was a battle of the elements, something we don’t see too often. Instead, there were under two minutes of action in the entire film, give or take. TWO MINUTES!!! If they just cut most of the horrible exposition away and turned it into action, this would be a fun, albeit non-oscar-worthy movie. Did the bad guy have a cool death? Psh, no way. Four random waterbenders we’ve never seen before lift him into the air and drop him. Cooool. Did Aang do something awesome and unexpected at the end? Psh. He’d just learned to bend water, and a dragon spirit told him to use his new bending power and show the firebenders water, so it came as very little surprise when Aang made a giant wave to destroy scare away the enemies. That’s right. They simply flee when they see the wave. Ahhh, scary! Side note: I know it’s part of the show, but I don’t understand how the firebenders are so powerful when wind dissipates fire, earth blocks fire, and water douses fire. I mean, it’s clearly the worst element.

On another side note, the teaser trailer where Aang is blowing out candles when faced with an oncoming army of thousands of ships was what made me want to see this movie in the first place. “Wow!” I thought. “However will he get out of this situation? I can’t wait to see.” Too bad I’ll never get to see because it never comes up. They fooled me!

Finally, one last example to, err, exemplify what makes this movie so bad: At the very beginning, the words “Book One: Water” flash on the screen, and it wasn’t until about ¾ of the way through the movie that anyone I went with finally decided that we weren’t going to see all the books in one movie. The plot was so beyond us, or maybe below us, that we still thought they might wrap up books 2 and 3 in about 15 minutes, you know, montage style, or, more likely, in a beautiful piece of narration: “And so Aang mastered both earth and fire, thus defeating everyone. The end.” If this makes enough money to spawn sequels that I have to go watch, I’m going to cry myself to sleep. It made it into my bottom 10 movies list.

So please, if for some god-forsaken reason you have to watch The Last Airbender, do yourself a favor and go on a good old fashioned regular bender before you submit yourself to this.

.5/5 stars

Alignment: Unbearable Crap

Written by Russ Nickel


Filed under Review


/* The best movie set (at least partially) in each U.S. state, or maybe my favorite one, or maybe the one that best captures the spirit of that state. Or, when I haven’t seen any movie from that state, the one that’s supposedly the best. What have you. */

// Happy birthday, America.

Alabama :: Forrest Gump

Alaska :: Into the Wild

Arizona :: Little Miss Sunshine

Arkansas :: Sling Blade

California :: Pulp Fiction

Colorado :: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

Connecticut :: Amistad

Delaware :: Fight Club

District of Columbia :: Minority Report

Florida :: Adaptation.

Georgia :: Gone with the Wind

Hawaii :: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Idaho :: My Own Private Idaho

Illinois :: High Fidelity

Indiana :: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Iowa :: Field of Dreams

Kansas :: Superman

Kentucky :: The Insider

Louisiana :: The Green Mile

Maine :: The Shawshank Redemption

Maryland :: Twelve Monkeys

Massachusetts :: Jaws

Michigan :: True Romance

Minnesota :: A Simple Plan

Mississippi :: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Missouri :: The Day After

Montana :: Star Trek: First Contact

Nebraska :: Boys Don’t Cry

Nevada :: The Godfather, Part II

New Hampshire :: What About Bob?

New Jersey :: Clerks

New Mexico :: Independence Day

New York :: The Godfather

North Carolina :: Cold Mountain

North Dakota :: Fargo

Ohio :: Traffic

Oklahoma :: Thelma and Louise

Oregon :: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Pennsylvania :: Rocky

Rhode Island :: Dumb and Dumber

South Carolina :: The Patriot

South Dakota :: North by Northwest

Tennessee :: The Client

Texas :: No Country for Old Men

Utah :: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Vermont :: Dead Poets Society

Virginia :: The Bourne Identity

West Virginia :: Donnie Darko

Washington :: 10 Things I Hate About You

Wisconsin :: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Wyoming :: Unforgiven

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Welcome to The Nickel Screen! Like ‘the silver screen,’ only a similar transition metal instead. Named after our founder Russ Nickel and established in July 2010, The Nickel Screen endeavors to bring you the most intriguing*, most provocative*, and wittiest* commentary on the arts* of motion pictures, television, and entertainment.

Written by a crack squad of three screenwriters out of the San Francisco Bay Area, 5¢S will undoubtedly be your next home page, provided you are a compulsive list-maker with a penchant for disputing heatedly the irrelevant opinions of others.

*Results may vary.

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