Sunday, July 25, 2010

The summer flicks report

I've managed to see three of the big summer blockbusters within the past few weeks -- Knight and Day, Salt and Inception -- and I've gotta say: I'm not blown away.

First was Knight and Day, the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz action/comedy/romance flick about a super-spy who's on the run while trying to clear his unfairly besmirched name (Cruise, of course!), and the comely, hapless woman who gets drawn into his adventure (Diaz, of course!). That was actually my favorite of the three: Fun action sequences, good performances by the sunny stars, and a fairly straightforward plot that didn't stretch credibility farther than your typical big-budget action thriller does. Ir was two hours of mindless, enjoyable entertainment. I'd give it a B+.

Then I saw Salt (caught it at a free screening the other night, lucky me) -- which, for the two people on the planet who haven't heard anything about this one, stars Angelina Jolie as a super-spy who's on the run while trying to clear her unfairly besmirched name (are we sensing a pattern here?). It certainly is a non-stop shot of adrenaline: The poor woman barely gets a chance to breathe between narrow escapes, setting off bombs, narrow escapes, car crashes, narrow escapes, hand-to-hand combat with squads of cops and agents, narrow escapes, being beaten up, narrow escapes, revenge killings, narrow escapes, etc. Phew! I'm exhausted just describing it -- just as I was, watching it. But what I wasn't doing was buying it. It's all just a lot of bombast, misdirection and pouty lips to disguise a thin, thin premise that doesn't hold up well under any kind of scrutiny. Regardless, I'm sure it's going to kill at the box office if the rave reviews from fellow film screeners and critics alike are any indication. My rating: a C+.

Last was Inception, the latest mind-bending offering from hot "auteur" Christopher Nolan. This is a dense, murky, sci-fi thriller about a group of dream "thieves" on a mission to implant the seed of an idea in someone's mind. And, if the excessively sycophantic reviews are to be believed, this is one of the best movies of the year. It certainly looks good, with some extremely cool special effects and a gorgeous cast headed up by Leonardo DiCaprio. And the premise -- the ability to insert yourself into other people's dreams, and steal vital information from their minds during this vulnerable state -- is intriguing. And granted, a generous suspension of disbelief is always necessary when it comes to viewing -- and enjoying -- this type of film. OK, done: I'll buy that it's possible to steal mental info from someone who is dreaming.

Unfortunately, Inception doesn't stick to its own internal logic, with HUGE gaps in credibility based on the rules set forth within the plot line. Also, sorry -- but the big emotional storyline involving DiCaprio and his lost love just didn't do it for me. The film left me emotionally uninvolved -- and therefore, in spots, bored. But apparently I'm way in the minority on this, and Inception is sure to do box-office gangbusters, just like Nolan's last offering The Dark Knight (which I wasn't too crazy about either, frankly). For me, Inception rates a C+ also.

All in all, a pretty typical summer's worth of big-budget offerings!

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