Review # 162
Director – John Huston
Cast – Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max von Sydwo, Pele, Maurice Roëves, Tim Pigott-Smith, Julian Curry
There is a lot of cross over between sports films and POW films. Sports films invariably feature an under dog team who are disadvantaged in some way (Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, Bad News Bears) playing the arrogant douche-bag team. And of course, POW films inevitably pit the good ol’ Allies against “The Huns” or “The Japs”. To combine the two was either a stroke of genius or an awful idea. The problem with Victory! is that it isn’t sure which of those options got decided on. It’s luke warm, and thus will be spat out, as the saying goes.
Plot-wise, a German officer (Max von Sydow) decides to challenge the prisoners under his watch to a game of soccer, POW’s vs. guards. Once the German higher-ups hear about this they decide it will be a great propaganda move, and decide to allow Colby (Michael Caine) to round up the best soccer players held as captives in Europe, and form a team to play the German national team in Paris. Meanwhile, Hatch (Sylvester Stallone) plans an escape to occur during the halftime of the game, aided by the local Resistance.
The movie is of two minds – there is the rather carefree, fun sports movie firstly. This is the movie that Michael Caine heads. It is interesting, fun, and a touch cheeky. Stallone heads the other side – the side that deals with the Resistance, escaping POW’s, and dangerous escapes. These topics (and the associated tones) don’t necessarily clash… but somehow they found a way. To make it worse the team decides halfway through the game to not even escape, rendering half of the movie pointless. Then to top it all off we have a ridiculous ending that is vague, un-earned, and that panders embarrassingly badly to Stallone. It has to be seen to be believed. My jaw literally dropped.
Plus the DVD print was awful. (Which brings to mind the famous joke “The portions were awful, and so small.)
Now that I’ve bitched about the ending, I must admit that the beginning had me along for the ride. We see Caine training his team, and Pele showing off his bicycle kick. Max von Sydow has a great role as the kindly but firm German head-of-camp, and the interplay between he and Caine is nice. Stallone has a subplot about his awful soccer skills that mostly works, but it would have worked better if Stallone had been content to let the movie be an ensemble piece, too. Really, the whole movie would have worked better. You can practically hear him off-screen, getting himself more screen time. But come on… did he really need a romantic interest here? Did he need to save the game in slow motion?
On the other hand you have to admire him though. We never saw Schwarzenegger trying to go so far out of his comfort zone. I’ve always admires Stallone for that… he knew what he did well, but didn’t mind trying out something new once in a while. Let’s see Chuck Norris lose 40 pounds to work with a director like John Huston. No siree, bob!
Victory! is a movie that more or less fails, despite a decent first half and a surprisingly kinetic soccer game at the end. There are quite a few British actors in the background who would become standby’s of UK film; people like Tim Piggot-Smith and Maurice Roëves. Julian Curry even makes an appearance, and it’s great to see the actor known mostly for the excellent Rumpole of the Bailey series get some work.
But unfortunately the movie can’t find the right tone, miscasts Stallone horribly, and hands us a ludicrous ending. So much for that!
Victory! on other websites:
Director – Christopher Nolan
Cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Dileep Rao, Pete Postelthwaite, Lukas Haas
Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to his mega-successful The Dark Knight is a large and convoluted film, stuffed full of plot twists, flashbacks, and back peddling. It’s ideas are refreshingly original, and the usual Nolan trademarks are trotted forward. Many have hailed it as a masterpiece, but I have to say that I think it is overrated. It is a good film certainly, but there is always danger in giving in to hype. To do so works the film up in the prospective viewers mind, inevitably leading to a feeling of being let down.
Inception tells the story of Cobb, who deals with stealing ideas and knowledge from people’s minds. However he is hired to implant an idea in the mind of a young CEO, played by Cillian Murphy. This process is called inception, and is very hard to do, and is largely theoretical. Cobb and a few of his nefarious friends attempt to do this, fighting shaky dream structure and hostile “subconscious security.”
The movie is too tangled for its own good, but many of the ideas that we are presented with are very cool. There is the concept of setting up dreams within dreams within dreams, time going slower in each level, the whole idea of setting someone up to think they thought of an idea themselves through dreams… these were all wonderful to watch unfold. It did, however, take a while to get to the unfolding, I must say. The first roughly 45 minutes of the film were very disjointed. This resolved itself by the end of the first act, but then towards the climax of the movie, set within one of the myriad dream worlds being traversed by Leo and Co., it started to get tangled again.
As for the infamous final shot… Well, let me just say we are presented with two possibilities. The camera cuts to black before either happens, and we are left to guess which option occurs. We are given a hint as to what might have happened, but nothing definitive is shown. If one thing happened (what was hinted at) then the movie ended wonderfully, perfectly complementing the optimistic ending. However, if the second thing happened… well it changed the entire movie, or at least the last half, and will require several trips online hunting through forums to understand what it could mean. This is extremely frustrating, and could easily have been solved if Nolan had shown what would happen. The way he did it was lazy, cheap, and felt thrown in as a possible final twist.
The action is (with the exception of a couple of astounding sequences) fairly average. Nolan has never had a flair for action, and what we get here is decent, but nothing more. When we go to a Nolan movie, we go for the new ideas, the twists on genres long considered stagnant, the fresh thoughts. We don’t get enough of that here, and what it is replaced with is really vague exposition and complexity disguised as sophistication.
A quick word on the casting, which is excellent. Leonardo DiCaprio is perhaps getting a bit typecast as an anguished career man, but he does well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt more than holds his own against Leo, and Marion Cotillard does what she can with an underwritten part. The standout for me though was Tom Hardy as a loose, smart, and sarcastic man who doesn’t get along with Gordon-Levitt. His humor was dry and funny, and he is convincing as a gun-toting action hero. I found the roles underwritten in general, but the actors are of such good quality that they carry it along.
Inception‘s unique vision and intriguing premise is threatened by its over-complicated plotting and overdone emotionality. However the acting is good and the material is compelling. It certainly is not a masterpiece, but it is a pretty solid movie. Nolan’s best movie remains The Prestige, but this will do for Nolan fans, and even to the general public, as long as they’re willing to have to think about it a bit.
“Inception” on other websites:
UPCOMING MOVIES – Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan has more geek cred now than Nintendo, Tolkein, and Stan Lee put together. Naturally every movie he puts out (until he loses said cred, of course) will be hyped no end, and will be eagerly anticipated. Needless to say, ever since the first poster for Inception (left, which many have criticized for its extreme resemblance to a certain Dark Knight poster), the buzz around the movie has increased exponentially, especially because of the extreme secrecy Nolan is keeping around the film’s details. More information is being released however, with both a new poster and two trailers, the first of which is only a teaser. You will find links to the two trailers below.
First of all “Holy Cast, Batman!” Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caine, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy,
Ken Watanabe, Marion Cottilard, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger and Lukas Haas are all featured here. Many of them have received their own character posters as well (which are just stunning). Those can be seen here. My personal fav’s are the ones of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Point Man”), Cillian Murphy (“The Mark”) and Tom Hardy (“The Forger”).
The following plot snopsis is from IMDB.
Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in an original sci-fi action movie that travels around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved.
Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming. This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime.”
Eh!? Eh!? Pretty sweet sounding, eh? (He said, sounding more and more “fanboyish” by the moment…)
The music in the trailers have been singled out for praise already. It is not the work of Hans Zimmer (though it certainly has his electro-orchestra vibe), but the work of an “up-and-comer” named Zach Hemsey (his blog is here). The brassy, electronic, and throaty blast, underscored by crescendos and fervent basses and cellos is tense and full of anticipation. It’s also a bit repetitive but that can be forgiven for its original sound.
The trailers are full of men in suits, and I can’t help wonder if that is a touch of Nolan, who is known to wear suits all the time. Whatever reason, it produces a great effect. Guys in suits look so much more… capable, than anyone else. And that shot with the suited Joseph Gordon-Levitt (I think its him) spinning the bodies in the zero-gravity sequence is chilling. It’s the suit I’m telling you…
Which brings us to the dream sequences that we see. Spinning corridors, water everywhere, a cityscape turning in on itself… this is some freaky stuff. I can’t wait to see how they will work within the plot of the movie.
All in all I think we can all admit to being a little psyched to see this movie. It has a stellar cast, a director who has done some great things (but still has his best ahead of him I’m sure), a thrilling idea at its core, and a budget large enough to accomplish that vision. July the 16th can not come soon enough!
Have anything to say? Are you excited for this or not? Either way, feel free to comment!
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