Notes from the back row 

Immaculate inception

The Village 8 is opening Inception this week and word on the street (or at least the internet) is that it's the best film of the summer if not the year.

Christopher Nolan directs. If that name sounds familiar it's because he's the guy who saved Hollywood a couple years back with The Dark Knight, crafting a serious Oscar-contender out of a comic book film.

With Inception, Nolan's distinct style has evolved to a point where much of the film takes place in the world of the human mind. It's a basic heist-movie structure set in a reality where people can enter each other's dreams and steal secrets from them - or implant them.

Leo DiCaprio stars as a brooding master of intellectual espionage with some serious issues of his own, who gets hired to implant an idea into the dreams of some young industrialist billionaire. Implanting ideas in the dream world, which has multiple layers - you can dream within your dreams - is far more tricky than just jumping in and jacking some secrets, so Leo has to assemble a crack team of dream warriors the help him make the implanted idea seem original and organic to the dreamer. And of course there's always the danger of getting stuck in there.

If it sounds cerebral that's because it is. Nolan's films, even his blockbusters, have never been simple eye candy and explosions and the English-American director is notorious for using disoriented, non-linear chronology to build, and deconstruct, puzzles for his viewers. This time is no different.

Boasting a knock-out cast of A-list actors, DiCaprio's "dream team" includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) as his point man,  British actor Tom Hardy as the master of disguise, Ellen Page (Juno) as the newbie who gets a lot of shit explained to her (thankfully), Dileep Rao (Avatar) as the sedative master (to keep people dreaming) and French stunner Marion Collitard as the dead wife who keeps popping in and wreaking havoc in the dreams DiCaprio is sneaking around in.

Of the lot, Ellen Page seems the most out of place but even so Nolan allows his secondary characters to be much more than their job descriptions. Collitard is especially haunting and DiCaprio carries the picture like the star he is.

Certainly, Inception is not perfect. The 148 minute running time is a little long and some viewers will have trouble with all the Kubrickian multi-layered psychological hoo-haa going on but this is a flick that will only be better on the second viewing. In any case it's refreshing to see a picture like this come out of the Hollywood system. Is Inception the best of the year? I don't know - Salt opens next week and it's hard to beat any film with Angelina Jolie, especially one where she's kicking the hell out of people.

But let's not get ahead of things. The Village 8 is also opening The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a Disney-made kiddy-flick from the team responsible for the National Treasure movies.

Say what you want about Nic Cage but he's never boring and this time he gets laughs (intentional and unintentional) playing a wizard who has to school a dorky Jay Baruchel in the magical arts just in time to save the world from a bunch of mustache twirling bad guys.  The Sorcerer's Apprentice is not a great movie but it is based on the same old poem as that Mickey Mouse wizard scene in Fantasia and at least it will introduce a new generation of 10-year-olds to the wackiness that is Nic Cage. Now you can go rent your kid Bad Lieutenant: New Orleans or Leaving Las Vegas and win a parent-of-the-year award. 

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