Certainly the most inventive movie of the year, a front-runner for the best-picture Oscar, "Inception" is a fascinating world of interconnected puzzles and dreams. The Christopher Nolan film - a sci-fi caper thriller - is also visually stunning.
What it adds up to - your guess is probably better than mine, but the ride is enough fun that even if you're mystified by Nolan's ultimate intentions, you'll go along with him. A goateed Leonardo DiCaprio is Cobb, an international thief. Not your usual thief, an "extractor." He puts himself to sleep to enter the dreams of another person, then searches for what he's there to steal and escapes before they wake up. We see how he does it early on.
But then the head of a major Japanese energy company, Saito (Ken Watanabe), wants a bigger trick, hiring Cobb not simply to steal something out of someone's head but to plant an idea in the dreamer so he believes that it is his own. He wants Cobb to induce a rival's son (Cillian Murphy), whose father (Pete Postlethwaite) is dying, to break up the company he is about to inherit.
Cobb then assembles his top-notch team, including a dream architect, Ariadne (Ellen Page), who creates interior worlds the dreamer believes are real; a forger, Eames (Tom Hardy), who can impersonate anyone in a dream; a chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), who can take the dreamers and crew to deeper levels of sleep; and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), sort of a dream manager, who makes sure everything comes off like clockwork.
The one sticking point is Cobb's dead wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), who haunts him and keeps showing up unexpectedly with a gun or knife, causing problems. Occasionally, he visits her in the basement of his mind.
Considering how often dreams are the subject of films, they rarely turn out well - Hitchcock and Bunuel were the masters. "Inception" is another welcomed exception, even if you spend much of it wondering what dream you're in. The Blu-ray DVD helps sort things out - somewhat. There is an extensive making-of-the-documentary feature, and a segment called "Dreams: The Cinema of the Subconcious," in which Gordon-Levitt and scientists look at the cutting edge of dream research. It's something for your imagination.
More adventures with Shrek
"Shrek Forever After" is clever and entertaining enough, though somehow the unjolly green giant schtick is wearing a bit thin.
In the fourth and everyone swears final installment of the "Shrek" franchise, our hero (voiced by Mike Myers) and his wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are parents, but Shrek yearns for one day when he can return to the carefree bachelor slob he was.
It's the be-careful-what-you-wish-for syndrome, as he is tricked into signing a contract with Brother Grimm's villain Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn). Suddenly, he's plunged into a reverse Far Far Away, dark and twisted, where even his friends - Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) - don't recognize him and neither does Fiona, who is leader of the ogre rebellion against Rumpelstiltskin, who has taken over the kingdom.
In this "It's a Wonderful Life"-inspired animated film, there is an escape clause, of course. Shrek has to get Fiona to kiss him willingly within a day. Bet he makes it, anyone?
Like the other films, "Shrek Forever After" traffics in slick, hip jokes, pop-culture references and pop songs like the Carpenters' "Top of the World" and the Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot." The franchise may not have gone out at the top of its game, but it is pretty enjoyable seeing the gang in this family-friendly film.
Keep in mind
In the vivid and at times harrowing documentary "Restrepo," filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington spent a year with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically important valleys and shows the surreal combination of grueling labor and deadly firefights against the Taliban.
The documentary "Lennon NYC," which recently aired on PBS, examines the ex-Beatle John Lennon's life in New York City in the last decade of his life. It deals both with the low points and triumphs, including his recording of "Double Fantasy," which was made shortly before he was assassinated. It also shows his love for the Big Apple.