Sunday, July 25, 2010



Ok, today I definitely saw Inception in its entirety. This means the theatre showing it last week (GSC Midvalley, Malaysia) did cut it randomly, hence ruining the movie. I advise anyone to avoid that particular establishment, or else you'll be duped into spending 10 bucks on an incomplete movie.

Now that I've seen the whole film, it makes sense. Mostly. The parts that didn't make sense to me do bug me, but that doesn't diminish the movie by a whole lot. I would say this is not Nolan's best movie. However, it's still very remarkably put together and is the best film I've seen so far this year. The story while complex, is pretty straightforward (unlike Memento which required a ton of brain stack space). The following review is extremely spoilerific, so stop reading now and go see the film if you haven't yet (I highly recommend it).

Inception is a heist movie, but instead of money or things our dodgy protagonists steal ideas and thoughts from within dreams. The main character is Dominic Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio), an "extractor" who specialises in pulling secrets from the mind via a shared dream state. This state is achieved with a technology developed by the military in the near future, and is used by extractors to invade the dreams of corporate moguls and perform industrial espionage. Cobb is a man on the run from the law, for he is wanted for the apparent murder of his wife.

Cobb is aided by his team, which includes a point man named Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who researches a target, an architect who thinks up the worlds for the dreamer to inhabit, and other accomplices to help with arranging a covert shared dreaming session where the subject is caught unawares. Inside a dream, a dreamer populates it with people that are 'projections of his or her subconscious'. These 'projections' can attack an invader, if they're not careful. In the universe of Inception, important people are trained to defend their mind using their subconscious, making things tough for the extraction team. Also, Cobb is haunted by memories of his late wife (Marion Cottilard); she appears in his dreams and messes with his job, making things even harder for our idea thieves.

After a failed extraction attempt on a Japanese business tycoon named Saito (Ken Watanabe), the team is offered a job by Saito to do a job for him. Instead of stealing an idea, he wants Cobb to plant an idea into a man named Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) the son of a business rival. Fischer is heir to his ailing father's company, and he would soon inherit it. Saito needs to make him break the company apart, so he would no longer have a powerful competitor. In return, Saito offers to fix all of Cobb's legal problems (he is a powerful rich man after all).

Cobb accepts, and he assembles a team, which would have a few new members. He is introduced to a brilliant young student named Ariadne (Ellen Page) by his old mentor Miles (Michael Caine), who loves the idea of creating worlds in dreams. There is a breathtaking dream sequence where Ariadne folds the world on a whim. She literally folds it. CG is used sparingly in Nolan movies; but when he does use it, it's very spectacular.

Next, Cobb looks for a 'forger', a man who can shift appearances inside a dream. The forger he's looking for is named Eames (Tom Hardy), who leads him to a chemist named Yusuf (Dileep Rao). To plant an idea inside someone's head, the dream team has to create multiple nested layers of dreams (dreams inside dreams). The chemist would make a sedative that is strong enough to keep the target under deep sleep so this can work.

So the team finds out Fischer rides long distance flights regularly, and all they have to do is get onboard with him and drug him to get into a shared dream state uninterrupted. Saito arranges for the flight by buying the whole airline and setting up the cabin so the plan can proceed.

Once the dream begins, things get weird as the characters go down deeper into nested dreams. We get to see weird architecture, freight trains appearing out of nowhere in the city, strange weather, gravity going in all directions, and other stuff you can only find in dreams. This brings up comparisons to the Matrix, but Nolan doesn't copy the visual imagery (which is now cliche), but instead the dream physics has its own unique look and feel.

The movie wins solidly on visuals, which isn't just amazing but also incredibly stylish. The acting is top notch from a very strong cast, and the story is great. Nolan is a storyteller who likes playing with the narrative's structure, and it plays out well here. However there are plot devices that don't really make sense, even if they might be internally consistent. In the movie, there is a place called 'limbo' where the mind enters if a person is killed in a dream where he or she is heavily sedated. In the climax of the movie, Saito and Fischer are killed and end up there, so Cobb and Ariadne decide to go to limbo to look for them. This is achieved simply by using the dream machine again. Why can they do this? Is 'limbo' some global layer so it is shared by default? I'm sure I'm just nitpicking, but I find the presence of jarring fridge logic annoying in an otherwise consistent plot.

In summary, Inception is one fine movie. It wasn't really a huge intellectual puzzle like I expected, but still engaging enough to rise above the other movies that have been released this year. Go see it!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

This Belongs In A Museum

There's a Lego shop in The Gardens, somewhere in KL. The shop is called Brickboy Toys and they had these awesome displays.

It belongs in a museum!

Indiana Jones' brick-pixellated head.

Look, a dragon!

No idea what this is.

The medieval marketplace, the set I wish I had enough parts to build. It'd be great for photo storytelling.

A distressed damsel being forced to walk the plank on a pirate ship.

Part of a Lego town diorama.

More bits of diorama.

I wish I had the space and parts to build something like this.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Google Devfest Malaysia 2010

I've never been to a Google devfest, so when they had one in KL I had to go check it out. They had some great speakers: Daniels Lee, Patrick Chanezon, Timothy Jordan and Bob Aman. There were talks about Google Maps, Google App Engine (which was why I was interested to go), Google Buzz and social networking stuff. The internet service provided at Technology Park Malaysia was awful, and not even the speakers had reliable internet connections. Despite this, the Googlers managed to put on a good show anyway.

This was the Google Maps talk.

From left is my friend, Patrick Chanezon, myself and Han-son Toh (the Malaysian Google country consultant).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Am Not Sure If I Saw Inception

I have been anticipating Inception for many months now, and I got to see it today. It opens in Malaysia a day ahead of the States, so I guess most of my readers probably haven't seen it yet. I wanted this post to be a review of the film, but I can't do it because I strongly suspect that the screening I went to at Midvalley Megamall in PJ was heavily butchered. However I can't confirm or deny this until I have corroborated my experience with other folks.

As it stands, the movie was very interesting, both visually and conceptually. Visually it has parts that look and feel like an M.C. Escher painting brought to life. Conceptually, this a Matrix-like movie but with an extra layer of subtlety alongside the spectacular special effects. However, it feels like it was very badly edited and was missing entire reels of footage. If in fact I was watching the actual final cut of the film, I did not understand what happened,especially near the end. I do however have some theories:

  1. The movie is as terrific as the critics say but something is wrong with me (maybe I am too dumb to appreciate it).

  2. Christopher Nolan has completely lost his magic film-making skills.

  3. The Malaysian censorship board has once again gone crazy scissor-happy and made random edits for no discernible reason.

  4. The cinema operators cut the movie at random points for time to maximise screenings (hence profits).

The first reason is possible, the second is unlikely, the third is also possible but I strongly suspect it's the fourth reason that made my viewing experience so terrible.

I guess I can't say anything else about the movie now, because you can't do an honest review without seeing the final intended edit. Therefore, I'll sadly skip the review for Inception on this blog (for now).

A final word; throughout the film I was constantly reminded of nested virtual machines.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Film News In Brief

Here are a few film news items I've talked about previously on my blog, some of which are old news now but I felt compelled to mention them anyway in case there is that one person out there who reads only this website for film news and need closure:

  1. The new karate kid remake movie is out for a while and has had generally positive reviews, despite the fact that it sounded like a horrible idea when I first heard about it. In fact, it still sounds like a horrible idea to me, so I never went to see it. Maybe I'll catch it on DVD someday, who knows.

  2. Guillermo Del Toro is no longer directing The Hobbit, and the film itself has spiralled into development hell. Peter Jackson himself might be directing it, if only it had any hope at all of being filmed. The latest news is that Sir Ian McKellen has threatened to walk out on the production if it's not greenlit soon. What a sad situation.

  3. Christopher Nolan's Inception has had early reviews, and the buzz indicates it's as awesome as we hoped it'd be.

  4. A crazy wild rumour has surfaced on the internet that Russell T. Davies is producing a Doctor Who theatrical film, with Johnny Depp as the first choice to play the Doctor. Luckily this is just a rumour and not real news, for if it were real I'd be throwing things at the screen right about now. I know Depp is supposed to be a fine actor, but he just isn't The Doctor. My irrational fanboyism dictates that I must hate the idea.

  5. Andrew Garfield has been cast as Spider-Man in the new upcoming unnecessary reboot of the franchise. I can't say if this is good or bad, but he seems like an okay actor. Fun fact: He was in the Daleks In Manhattan two-parter episode of Doctor Who.