Reel Critics: 'Inception' a challenge for your brain and eyes

"Inception" is an amazing experience — a challenge for both brain and eye, as images fold upon each other like origami and defy gravity, time and space.

Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio) developed a method to extract secrets from people's minds by entering their dreams. He and his team (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy) are highly sought-after for corporate espionage. A client (Ken Watanabe) hires them for a unique assignment: to plant an idea in a competitor's mind that will become reality, or an "inception."

Dom, harboring secrets of his own, brings in a dream "architect" (Ellen Page) who also serves as narrator to help the audience understand what's happening.

And there's a lot going on. What follows cannot quite be defined and, much like our own dreams, our grasp of what takes place is fleeting.

Director/writer Christopher Nolan ("Memento," "The Dark Knight") has created another unique film with echoes of "2001," "The Matrix" and the James Bond series.

Although there's a love story at its core, "Inception" is curiously unemotional in spite of the excellent performances, including a haunting Marion Cotillard as Dom's wife. Yet it resonates, and for a brief moment at the finale, it seems to all make sense.

Like a good dream you want to revisit, I feel a need to see this movie again.

Lots of sorcery — not much magic

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is Jerry Bruckheimer's latest film powered by great special effects and not much else. Nicolas Cage is way too casual to be believable as Balthazar, an ancient sorcerer trained by the legendary Merlin. Young Jay Baruchel is way too weak and goofy to be credible as the apprentice wizard who is going to save the world from demonic forces.

His foolish personality and silly antics undermine the entire premise. Good thrillers create some feeling of tension and danger for the audience. You can't feel real tension when everything is played for laughs and all the action is completely predictable. Yet Jerry and his peers keep making these cookie-cutter fantasy films over and over again.

They all feature similar plot devices, characters and loud special effects. This one might as well be the next installment of "National Treasure" or "Prince of Persia." It has tons of comic-book action and crazy chase scenes we've all seen before. But second-rate acting, lame dialogue and a contrived plot will prevent this expensive effort from being the blockbuster Disney wanted. It might have some sorcery, but not nearly enough magic.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office.

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