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by Keiron Self INCEPTION ****

Dir: Christopher Nolan (12A, 142 mins) After making billion-dollar blockbuster The Dark Knight, writer/director Christopher Nolan could practically make anything he wanted. Returning to an original idea he had way before the caped crusader made him bankable, Nolan re-enters dark, mind-bending storytelling with this dream heist. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a ‘subconscious security expert’ – a man who can enter the minds of the rich and powerful and implant ideas into their dreamscapes. Sounds very highbrow/ludi- crous, but the concept is brought to dazzling life by Nolan as DiCaprio embarks on a series of mind-bending ‘inceptions’. Anything can happen within these dream lands, hence mindboggling punch-ups in rotating rooms, cities that fold in on themselves, and mind-shattering explosions. Amidst all the trickery and gobsmacking imagery, DiCaprio recruits classy actors Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tom Hardy to join his team of dream thieves. Michael Caine cameos as a mentor, Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe are businessmen targets and Marion Cotillard plays Dicaprio’s dead wife. Nothing is as it seems throughout, making this the summer’s most chal- lenging, original blockbuster. Prepare to have your dreams raided. Opens July 16

TOY STORY 3 **** Dir: Lee Unkrich (U, 103 mins) Toy Story created a phenomenon: the CGI toon. What is commonplace in the cinema today was groundbreaking 15 years ago, and with its combination of win- ning storytelling, humour and heart, Toy Story became the benchmark by which all subsequent CGI toons were judged. Toy Story 2 was another triumph and now, 11 years later, comes the third 3D instalment. Can it possibly match up to its forebears? Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toys have been given to a day centre, as Andy is leaving home for college. The kids there don’t play nice – all sticky fingers and unnecessary violence – prompting an escape plan. They are helped by some new toys: Barbie’s beau Ken, voiced brilliantly by Michael Keaton (“I am not a girl’s toy!”), Mr Pricklepants, a thespian hedgehog voiced by Timothy Dalton, and Lots’o’Hugging Bear voiced by Ned Beatty. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and the original voice cast reprise their roles, and the wit and sentiment is till heavily in evidence. Randy Newman is back on scoring duties and the director of Finding Nemo is at the helm. This will be the CGI film of the summer and another feather in Pixar’s cap. To infinity and beyond! Opens July 23

THE KARATE KID ** Dir: Harald Zwart (PG, 90 mins)

Ah, the 80s. A time now to be revisted/plundered by Holly- wood as they try to squeeze cash out of the parents who lived through the era now with their own kids. The Karate Kid didn’t really need to be remade, and this retread offers little apart from some exotic Chinese locations and Jackie Chan. Also he’s taught kung fu. So, er, Jaden Smith (son of Will) plays Dre, a street smart kid forced to move to China due to his mother’s work. Once there and in school he falls for his classmate, Mei Ying, much to the disgust of the class bully. After a school scuffle ends in humiliation, school janitor and Kung Fu Master Jackie Chan takes Smith Jnr under his wing, teaching him the ways of kung fu via endless training montages, and of course the bullies get a pasting. Chan is a likeable wise master and provides the film’s highlights, but otherwise this lacks the original’s charm. Cynical marketing ploy anyone? Opens July 16

PREDATORS **** Dir: Nimrod Antal (15, 109 mins) After the disastrous Aliens Vs Predator films, it looks as if the Predator franchise will be well served by this down and dirty actioner from the pen of action supremo Robert Rodriguez. The film stars a group of dangerous and nasty individuals, amongst them mercenary Adrien Brody (looking significantly more buff than in The Pianist), Laurence Fishburne, Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo and Alice Braga. They find themselves in a strange jungle. It soon becomes clear, however, that they are in fact on another planet, and have been captured and put on a game reserve to be hunted by Predators for sport. Much bloody chasing ensues. A step up from the urban setting of Predator 2 and a world away from the awful Alien Vs Predator movies, Predators aims to be the Aliens of the franchise. It’s a simple premise executed with flashy panache by director Antal, with Rodriguez’s hand on the script to ensure it pleases the fanboys. Opens July 8

THE REBOUND *** Dir: Bart Freundlich (15, 95 mins) Catherine Zeta Jones: remember her? After a notable absence for the world of fluffy romantic comedies, she returns with a fluffy romantic comedy. Essentially an age gap romance, this benefits from having the tables turned, Zeta Jones is the older woman recovering from a breakup with her cheating husband, while Justin Bartha from The Hangover is her toy boy, also broken-hearted after his French girlfriend dumps him once she has her green card. So far, so so. There are, however, plenty of lowbrow gags that work amidst the schmaltz, Zeta Jones is likeable with Bartha, and there is a fantastic cameo from Art Garfunkel as Bartha’s dad. It’s hardly groundbreaking and tries to tug too much at the heartstrings, but remains amusing and engaging throughout, with director Bart Freundlich keeping the froth along with the funny. Opens July 30

ALSO RELEASED: HEARTBREAKER (12A) French romantic comedy starring Johnny Depp’s missus Vanessa Paradis. Joe le Taxi, il mange bar un soda. LYMELIFE (15) Great comedy drama with a fab turn from Alec Baldwin in this slice of family strife set in the 70s. WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE (15) Documentary about The Doors. Apparently they were, like, mad. Johnny Depp shows his appreciation. LONDON RIVER (12A) Brenda Blethyn stars in this terrorism drama. BLUE BEARD (PG) French take on the fairytale with ho-hum turquoise

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