Everyone is different. I don’t like mazes, puzzles, Rubik’s Cube, or most of Christopher Nolan’s films. He delights in creating cinematic puzzles but I always sense the wheels turning, instead of getting caught up in the action. Obviously he has the imagination to devise ingenious premises and the skill to bring them to life, but halfway through Inception, which runs close to two-and-a-half hours, my mind started to wander. Instead of being pulled into his world I felt myself drifting away from it.
The movie starts out promisingly enough. In a kind of companion piece to Shutter Island, Leonardo DiCaprio is cast as a man who is haunted by things he has planted in his own fertile imagination. The subject of the movie is—
If you know that this film comes from the team that gave you National Treasure, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect: a larger-than-life action yarn with special effects and a sense of humor. It isn’t my favorite kind of entertainment, but there’s a good reason Jerry Bruckheimer is successful: he (mostly) makes movies people pay money to see. Director Jon Turteltaub and a team of writers are clearly in sync with the producer’s m.o.
Jay Baruchel plays the science-nerd hero of the story, who’s had an unrequited crush on a cute blond girl since he was 10 (as we learn in a prologue). That’s when he first encountered a sorcerer, played by Nicolas Cage. Ten years later, the events foretold—
Director Lee Unkrich says that when he embarked on this film he watched every movie he could find with a “3” in its title, hoping to find a good one he could use as a role model. He came up empty-handed. Perhaps that’s one reason he and his colleagues at Pixar put so much effort into this sequel—to validate its existence. It’s that work ethic, along with creativity and seemingly boundless imagination, that makes Toy Story 3 so good.
In today’s risk-averse movie business, we’re seeing more remakes than ever, including retreads of films that don’t seem that old (to some of us). After a screening of the new Karate Kid I asked a couple of ten-year-old boys if they knew the 1984 movie, and they did, thanks to DVDs and cable TV reruns. Interestingly enough, neither one wanted to compare one version with the other: they like them both. I do, too.
The original Karate Kid, written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John Avildsen (in the same mold as his first smash hit, Rocky), was a shamelessly manipulative but well-told story, perfectly cast, with Ralph Macchio as a boy who needs to learn how to defend himself and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita as his unlikely mentor in martial arts, Mr. Miyagi. (In real life, Macchio told me the other night, Morita “couldn’t touch his toes.”)
That premise is the only tangent that connects the 1984 hit and its new incarnation, written by Christopher Murphey and directed by Dutch ex-pat Harald Zwart, whose previous American credits include—
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