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Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

There once was a song, I’m sure you’re all familiar with it. The verse went something like, “What once was lost, now is found.” Such is my life as a fan of film. The once was, a man who loved to explore the filmscape in search of random treasures, treading through the mire of filth that once happens upon in such a search, and enjoying every smelly kernel of the trip. That film fan was lost though. He became swamped, overwhelmed with the act of keeping up and worrying about things he shouldn’t, such of fans and stats. Said man took a hiatus; he left to find himself, to locate that fan that once lay within him that he celebrated daily. The hunt took some time, but that film fan of old, now is found. The film fan stumbled upon a time where he could once again sit and enjoy a movie because the poster looked cool, of the cast impressive. He apologized to his circle of friends, hoped they would welcome him back and maybe he settled back in, things would go back to the way they once were. Let’s hope the reunion goes better for our intrepid film fan than it did for Yul Perkins in “Hit & Run”.

In my time away, I’d seen trailers for “Hit & Run”. It looked weird; I mean, it featured Bradley Cooper in White Man Dreads! That’s certainly an attention grabber. It also had a cast that caught my eye. I’ve long been fan of Kristen Bell since her days on “Veronica Mars” and Dax Sheppard’s always been hilarious. Knowing that they are real life ‘life partners’ as well, the idea of them working together on screen was a draw. The plot seemed odd enough to be something different, Dax Sheppard plays a former getaway driver who is in witness protection after ratting out is former gang, then falls in love with Kristen Bell in is newly adopted town. Her job situation lands her an interview in L.A., the very town that Dax is sworn to stay out of for his own safety. Thankfully, the contrived setup and stellar supporting cast combined to make a road movie that was at the same time hilarious, rather engrossing and a bit action packed. Really, it all fit together to make a really good story.

As I said, I’ve always found Dax Sheppard to be a solid actor. He’s proven his comedy chops in flicks like “Idiocracy” and he’s proven his more dramatic side on TV’s “Parenthood”. Here in “Hit & Run” he manages to put together a solid character that has a few facets to it. You know he’s done something wrong, yet you still find yourself cheering for him throughout the film. At times, you feel sorry for him and at others, you’re confident he’s going to win the day. He makes a character that’s easy for we the viewers to connect with, which is essential for this type of film. Kristen Bell plays well off of Sheppard. She’s sweet and innocent and you can understand where her frustrations come from when they arrive. You’re engaged throughout her and Sheppard’s ups and downs. Despite Bell’s solid performance though, you find yourself sticking with the film for Sheppard. Seeing as he directed the film, in addition to starring in it, it’s nice to see him stand out so well.

While the main plot of “Hit and Run” was its solid and true story telling, what made this movie so enjoyable for me was the supporting cast. With out this crew, the hilarity of the movie would not rank so high. Tom Arnold, believe it or not, is a scene stealer. His moments are all over the top, but honestly, what would you expect from Tom? Watching him ghost ride his mini van while discharging his fire arm was enough to bring out some loud laughter. When you find out after this fact that he’s actually a US Marshall? Even better. There are some other stalwarts that show up here, such as Kristen Chenowith and Sean Hayes, all of which are great in the short scenes they show up for, helping to round out the movie quite well. Seeing Bradley Cooper play against his stereo type was a nice change. Though his performance was nothing particularly mind blowing, it was a nice change from Mr. Hunky Leading man.

In the end? “Hit & Run” was easy to dismiss form the trailers alone, and I don’t think it fared very well in the box office. The marketing push was short, so I’m not surprised if most readers hear about it and say, “Oh, I remember that flick, Bradley Cooper in dreads…” Thanks to Neflix streaming though, you can go back and give it a watch and I think you’ll find it well worth your time.

So for now, your long lost film blogger bids you a fond adieu. He can’t really say if he’s back full time, or even regularly. He can say that he’s starting to feel his oats once again and that the time away has done him well. The landscape of movie geekdom looks mysterious and new once again, instead of stale and frustrating as it once was. If you’re feeling froggy, he’ll be happy to have your company on the journey once again.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

In the wake of myself trying to make changes for the better, I’ve taken to waking up at obscene hours of the morning and riding the exercise bike. To help pass that time, I’ve been chewing through TV series on Netflix. So far, I’ve gone through the second season of “Supernatural” which was quite a bit of fun, but after copious amounts of word of mouth on my various forums and on my twitter stream, I decided to check out the first season of “The Killing” on a lark.

Man am I glad I did!

Of the many things I heard about the show, little of it had to do with the plot itself. I really had no idea what I was in for when I hit play on the first episode. I’ve heard many comparisons to “Twin Peaks” which lead me to believe we’d be seeing a lot of weird and trippy stuff but that wasn’t the case. The show IS reminiscent of “Twin Peaks”, but that comparison is due to the show’s structure rather than bizarre antics. The entire first season follows the murder investigation of a teenage girl named Rosie who was found brutally assaulted. From there, we watch as this long over arching story unfolds and intertwines the lives of at least four different groups; Detective Li nden and her partner Holder. Rosie’s parents who are understandably devastated by the turn of events. A young teacher that was influential in Rosie’s life. And finally, a politician running for Mayor of Seattle, who’s campaign is oddly roped in to the ongoing murder case.

To put it bluntly; I find the show captivating. The dreary landscape of Seattle is captured pretty masterfully to give the show an underlying current of gloom and doom. This is a great fit as the story is full of gloom and doom. Adding to the depth of the show is the fantastic character development that is going on. Our main character, Detective Sarah Linden is struggling with the case as much as she is struggling with her personal life. You feel that she IS a good detective though, so it’s not inept ability that has kept her from solving the case thus far. Even her partner Holden has an air of mystery around him, knowing that he’s come from the undercover narcotics division and has a shady manner about him.

The plight of Rosie’s parents, played by Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes, is downright heart breaking at times. They’ve captured the sense of exasperation that you would expect to come with a family who’s had the floor ripped out from beneath them. Sexton who comes from a shady past wants to use his old ways to find closure, but can’t bring himself to do it. Forbes wants to care for and help with her family, but can’t bring herself out of her deep depression. As a parent, this side of the story is very very effective and helps to make for some gripping moments.

Really, now that I think about it, it’s the great character arches that make “The Killing” shine. The plot is straight forward as far as murder mysteries go; nothing crazy or out of the ordinary here. It’s the fact that that they peel back a new layer each and every episode on each and every character revealing just a bit more that brings you back each time. Just fantastic story telling all around.

There is not much in the way of gore here, so if you’re worried about a show called “The Killing” about a murder mystery being too oogey…it’s not very bad at all. In fact, while the events and the effects of said events are truly horrifying…I wouldn’t even label “The Killing” as horror. It’s a mystery/drama. Actually…it’s great TV. That should be enough to get you to watch.

It makes great viewing for my early hours on the exercise bike. When I’m not feeling quite up to getting back in the saddle at 5:30 AM, the promise of the next episode does help to motivate a bit!

Season 2 of the “The Killing” starts up on April 1st over on AMC. Probably not enough time to cram Season 1 in before then if you haven’t seen the show yet but trust me…you NEED to see Season 1 first before you dive in! You can count on me having Season 2 sitting on the DVR until I catch up!

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Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell


Sean Bean is “Sean Bean” in “Yay! Sean Bean is Wearing Armor and Swinging a Sword Again!”

One could argue that Sean Bean has gotten himself stereo typed here as of late. He’s been a Gondorian knight in “Lord of the Rings”, he’s Ned Freaking Stark in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and now, he’s the knight Ulrich in Christopher Smith’s 2010 feature “Black Death”. It’s pretty standard that if you need an older rugged looking dude to swing a sword about, Sean Bean’s your guy. As stereo types go; who really cares? Sean Bean is really freaking good at the whole knight in shining armor schtick and I for one, am happy to see him reprise the roll again and again!

more…

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Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

With strong praise coming from my friends over at Night of the Living Podcast I jumped on the chance to take in “Suck” when it became available on Netflix. They had talked the movie up quite a bit and I have a bad habit of letting my friends high enjoyment color my expectations. This time around it didn’t burn me. Thankfully, their kind words in Episode 208 were right on the money.

The Winners are on a tour of Canada and the US, hoping to gain fans and win a contract at their showcase gig at CMJ. The fans aren’t really swarming them though. Early on into their tour, the band’s bass player Jen gets invited to a party by a swishy looking goth bloke who happens to be a vampire. Guess what…Jen gets turned into a vampire! Surprising, huh?

Luckily for the rest of the band, once Jen gets vamped out, she starts to draw attention on stage. The fans start to pay attention and life on the road to CMJ starts to look a little better. Things get even better once the rest of the band members start joining the undead ranks, but all good things must come to end. Once the legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing shows up, their rocket to the top starts to fall apart in a hurry.

The key to enjoying “Suck”? Don’t take it seriously. The cast and screen writers don’t take it seriously at all and neither should you! This results in a fun little vampire satire that makes itself stand out from the standard fanged romance fare. Now, the movie does start out a little slow. It has a gradual build that pays off in the end. The story isn’t necessarily new and ground breaking, but it plays well to the setup. It’s your typical “deal with the devil” type of story that lends itself well to the rock and roll world of “Suck”. Trade the standard Satan with a vampire god in the guise of Alice Cooper and you have yourself an entertaining bit of story!

The main cast here is nothing really to get excited about. They do a fine job, you just haven’t heard of any of them most likely. You’ve heard of the supporting cast however. How about Dave Foley. Remember him? “Kids in the Hall”? He’s the band’s manager and he’s a smarmy and hilarious jack ass. Malcolm McDowell? Yah, he’s the enigmatic and hammy Van Helsing. A perfect fit, really. Even Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins show up as stereotypical rock type icons and to be honest, they’re pretty damn funny! Iggy Pop is a nice little philosophical stand out and Henry Rollins and his mullet-ed shock jock radio DJ is pretty damned hilarious.

The biggest problem about “Suck” is that it hit the market very close to another vampire comedy by the name of “Vampires Suck”. As you can see, it’s going to be pretty easy to confuse the two when you’re barely remembering this recommendation when walking through the video store. I’m here to tell you though, “Suck” is the better film. Given a chance, “Suck” delivers a ton of good laughs and some great cameos making for a memorable flick. Since the movie showed up on Instant Watch once week after it was released on DVD? You now have no reason not to watch it!

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Ah, the holidays. The perfect time to sit around with family and catch up on some flicks. Which was exactly what I did! This time around however, I set my dad up with access to my Netflix Instant account on his Nintendo Wii and well…he couldn’t be happier. Since dad’s an action sort of guy and I had yet to have seen the Boondock Saints, it seemed like a great way to break in the service for him. Turns out, that was a good hunch!

The Boondock Saints – I honestly can’t tell you why I put this movie off for so long. I think it suffered a bit from the “Lebowski” syndrome; I watched about 10 minutes once and just didn’t get it. So I shut it off. Much like the “Lebowski”, now that I got myself to sit through it once, I freaking loved it! Flanery and Reedus were both great and the movie had a healthy sense of humor as well as a nice little world built around it where these two could roll around Boston doling out their own sense of judgment.

What about Willem Dafoe you ask? The man is completely and utterly creepy and it shoes here in this movie. That’s what makes him such a great actor though! The way they introduced him as quirky at first and progressively made him spiral more and more into darkness and oddity was great.

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day – Now; I know a lot of die hard fans hated this sequel. For my viewing the morning after watching the first? I didn’t mind it at all. The story continued on well without feeling like a forced plot turn and the brothers were on par as normal. I would have hoped for more of Billy Connolly this time around, but you don’t always get what you want. On the other side of the coin, I myself enjoyed the inclusion of Julie Benz though her southern accent was a bit…grating. She copped off of Dafoe’s investigation style a bit too much as well and her flair for stiletto heels was a bit weird too. But, she did all right. She looked pretty great in her cowgirl duds too!

Assault on Precinct 13 – I’m a Carpenter fan. I think he has a lot of great flicks. Definitely some classics. “Assault of Precinct 13″ isn’t one of them however. I had seen the remake some time ago and I thought it was all right for an action movie. I always like to see the originals when I can for a good comparison and well…it just doesn’t add up for me. Mind you, the acting is okay and the plot is pretty close to the remake. My problems lie in the dreadfully slow pacing and what seems like tons of wasted time in scenes. In what feels like a full minute, we watch as Ethan Bishop saunters slowly down the sidewalk to his patrol car and then fumbles with his keys as he gets ready to start his shift. Next, we watch for what feels like minutes as he drives through the city. The movie is full of scenes like that that linger on for too long and feel like filler. For myself, this leads to disappointment and boredom which is never good in an action movie.

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Coming out in 1995, “Tales From the Hood” was a movie that flew under the radar for me. The early trailers for the movie made the stories packed within the anthology look weak with the urban themes being forced in to fit the tones of the ‘From the Hood’ moniker. Some fifteen years later, I’ve come to find out that the themes are heavily urban in flavor making a great setting for this group of fun stories.

Trying the four stories together is Clarence Williams III. Portraying an eccentric undertaker in a funeral home, he is confronted by three young thugs in search of ‘the shit’. As he stalls the three men, he shows them the various dark corners of his funeral home, each of which unlocks a different story that eventually seals the groups fate.

Ultimately, “Tales From the Hood” is quite a bit of fun. While it doesn’t’ do anything revolutionary to the genre, it is on par with many films of its kind, especially horror flicks that came out in the nineties. None of the stories are overly scary but they pack a good dark sense of humor and give a creepy vibe throughout. There is a good variety between the stories as well. The tale of a young boy with a powerful imagination is downright touching. Watching Corbin Bernson act like a racist pig rather disturbing, his fate well suited. The harsh reality that flashes through a dying murderers mind; unnerving. All of the shorts manage to push their point without taking themselves too seriously.

The best part of the entire movie is Clarence Williams, hands down. He’s campy. He’s over the top. He’s maniacal and has good comedic timing. He’s just all around entertaining and the glue that holds the whole thing together.

“Tales Form the Hood” isn’t going to show you anything new. It’s going to keep you around for the full runtime though and give you some laughs and some chills. I’d say it’s well worth throwing in the DVD player for a Halloween party and it won’t scare off your non-horror minded friends either!

Monday, October 11th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

This past weekend found me with some spare time on my hands. As you can tell by the cobwebs here around Cinema Fromage, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for movie watching, but I took the opportunity to dive back in head first and catch three movies I’ve been looking forward to seeing! After all, it’s time to start getting geared up for Halloween, right?

Since things have been slow around here lately, I’m going to kick things back into gear with a handful of capsule reviews!

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie – Italian Zombie flicks are always something special but to be completely honest; my experience with them has been pretty Fulci centric. It was a nice change to get outside of the heavy gore that those types of zombie flicks usually rely on and concentrate a bit more on the characters.

Speaking of the characters, they’re something special. George is a hippie but more importantly, he’s a complete and total ass. When he runs into Edna who is traveling the countryside after his motorcycle breaks down, you’re left wanting to bust him in the chops just to shut his demanding ass up. It’s that bad. This is counteracted though by Edna who is slightly dreamy and sweet played by Christine Galbo. She is quite lovely. Throw in Edna’s heroin addicted sister trapped in a country side manor and things get pretty zany.

The cool twist here is the source of infection. It’s a nice change and something a bit different from what was causing zombies in other movies in those days. Here we’re looking at a radioactive insect repellent that drives the denizens of the country side to become aggressive and violent. And though I said before that it’s a nice change from the typical super gory Fulci formula, there is still a good chunk of blood and guts going on here!

Psychomania – I’ve been dying to see “Psychomania” for a long time though I never worked too hard to find a copy. Thankfully, Turner Classic Movies made it nice and easy for me by showing the flick late Friday night. Here’s another confession; the reason I wanted to see “Psychomania”? Those motorcycle helmets are KICKIN’ RAD! I mean, look at that logo with the skull and the helmet! Isn’t that cool?

Anyways…

Yet another twist on the classic zombie formula, now we get into deals with the devil and cults and black magic. It sounds pretty off putting at first and as a standard horror flick, its pretty light in the scares department. Still a pretty captivating flick, simply because it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before! When we’re first introduced to the gang of young people terrorizing the country side, they seemed dark and mysterious and simply strange. Once the leader of the band of misfits Tom Latham goes home for the night, he transforms into some British Ultra-Mod type with his snazzy white turtleneck and high fashion living room decor. We’re talking Austin Powers here folks.

Despite the ‘yah baby yah’ tendencies, it’s still a good flick. Its look at the undead is pretty unique altogether, one that looks at an after life of causing mayhem free from death and consequence rather than feeding on flesh and brains. My one nit-picky 3am gripe about the movie? They buried Tom sitting on top of his bike. Dig the damn hole deeper, his head was still sticking out!

Cabin Fever 2 – I was never the biggest fan of Eli Roth’s original “Cabin Fever”. I didn’t’ hate it or anything. I just wasn’t into it as much as others seem to be. For “Cabin Fever 2″ I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, especially since I didn’t care for Ti West’s “House of the Devil” much at all! Turns out, I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would!

Plot wise, there’s nothing much new here. The disease has hit the water table that the local bottled water company draws its water from. So; same disease, new location. We have one Giussepe Andrews returning from the first flick as Deputy Wilson and that’s about it. He knows what’s going on when things start to go gooey around town. Now we have a high school outsider type played by “Deadgirl” lead Noah Segan and his hopeless crush on Alexi Wasser. Unfortunately for Noah, Alexi’s got an asshole boyfriend she’s in love with, so Noah doesn’t stand a chance. All of that is an aside to the main point of contention here which is…the disease is back, it’s going to culminate at the high school prom and things are going to get messy.

If you push back the standard run of the mill plot, you’re left with the gore being the main character of “Cabin Fever 2″. In that aspect, Ti West succeeds pretty well! There are a lot of moments that fit in well with the Eli Roth original. There’s body parts sliding off here and there, bloody vomit and some scenes involving genitalia that will make you cringe and look away from the TV. Considering that’s the whole point of the series? I’d call that a good thing!

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

2007′s “Knock Knock” has an admirable setup for a slasher flick. You have a group of spunky young teens who’s parents have a history in the town. You have a random someone knocking off kids with no recognizable order. You have a grizzled ex-cop that happens to be in town. A story of wrong doing in the past with someone likely out looking for revenge! All in all, it’s definitely a perfect slasher setup. It’s a proven theory, we’ve already seen it in “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween”.

The biggest thing holding “Knock Knock” back is the bottom of the barrel acting that permeates the flick from beginning to end. To say that the actors involved weren’t even interested is an understatement. Making matters worse, there are some casting choices going on here that are just downright…perplexing.

One of our main characters…well really he’s a boy named Uggi we’re led to believe is a main character, is the son of the Sheriff. Once we meet the Sheriff, he appears to be around two to four years older than his son Uggi. I’m assuming that’s his dad anyways; they mentioned his dad’s the Sheriff and he has a big patch on his shirt that says ‘SHERIFF’ just in case you didn’t pick up on the badges and the cowboy hat and stuff. Now the cop-dad? That was weird. Things got even more topsy-turvy when Detective Billie Vega shows up. Her first appearance is her arrival at a crime scene where a high school boy was pinned to his front door using ice picks. She steps out with her long curvy legs and stiletto heels taking up the entire camera. As she stands, the camera pans up to reveal her skirt resting above mid thigh and on up across her sheer blouse that hides nothing. I’m no prude; I can appreciate a stacked blonde dressed like a stripper as much as the next guy. She continues to show up in other near-trampy type outfits the rest of the movie. It’s never explained why she dresses as such and it really adds nothing to the character other than showing us all her parts. If that was their point, I appreciate it, but she really added nothing to this already dismal movie.

Sadly, these odd casting choices are truly the standouts of the film. Most of our gore is handled off screen in cutaways leaving us only the aftermath. With the bad acting, it was nigh impossible to connect to anybody in the film for any kind of remorse or sympathy. Actually, I take that back; there is one character, the mentally challenged janitor of the school that is tied into the history of events that is plaguing this small town and its horny teenagers. This guy, though I forget his name now, is the only character you can really sympathize for. He seems pretty harmless and enjoys his tie dyed shirts and such. Naturally, everybody in town is going to automatically pin things on him because he’s not like everybody else. There may have been something in there about our mysterious stranger trying to disguise himself as our lovable janitor but I can’t really say. Everything becomes a bit muddled and confusing about thirty minutes in.

When you hear the “Knock Knock” at your door, don’t even bother getting out of your chair.

If you’re feeling brave though, this one’s available on Netflix Instant Watch. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya though!

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Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

These days it’s easy to get caught up in the slew of new release screeners that happen across my desk. So easy in fact that before long you realize you’re watching new movie after new movie, which makes the movies that you loved so much from the 70′s and 80′s become a distant memory . You distance yourself from these types of flicks as your work grows more and more in the public eye and before long, it’s been a good long while since you’re written up a good oldie-moldy.

Thanks to my decision to sign up for Netflix once again, I find myself in a great position. New releases in the middle of this scorching summer have slowed down quite a bit and now I have the stellar streaming service from Netflix at hand! Sure, they don’t have the entire movie catalog available to stream, but they are chock full of those old cheese fest’s that I love so much!

Initially upon looking through the Netflix streaming catalog, I was overwhelmed by the number of TV choices available to me. I don’t watch a lot of TV when it originally airs, but I’m always down for a binge session or two! Thankfully, that obsession only lasted for a few days. Today, I decided it had been far too long since I watched a movie (Almost a week and a half now, holy crap!) so I remedied that problem with 1984′s “Dreamscape” starring a young Dennis Quaid!

I’ve seen the film of psychologists and telekinetic heavyweights with feathered hair teaming up to tackle nightmares before. I’d say I’ve only seen it once though and the last time may well have been a good twenty years ago. I knew the basics of what the film was about and what I remembered liking about the movie, but not much of the details. I dove in not expecting much and was surprised to find a science fiction flick that held up fairly well over the past twenty six years! Let’s not forget the fact that the movie had a pretty stellar cast as well!

Once the movie got rolling, it soon became obvious that the highlight of “Dreamscape” truly is the cast. Sure, Dennis Quaid has his moments which are probably far behind him now. In the 80′s though, he was an all right guy. He wasn’t the real draw here though. No, what we have here is a sci-fi flick with powerhouses such as Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer, not to mention David Patrick Kelley looking all cleaned up after his stint in “The Warriors” and a young Kate Capshaw! (Say what you will about how she ruined “Indy 4″, the lady was a looker in the early 80′s!) Granted, none of these fine thespians were turning in the role of their careers here, but they were having fun with it. The fun translated to some entertaining movie watching.

Even the plot of “Dreamscape” was pretty out there for 1984 and it was a great fantastical setting for a science fiction flick. Everyone of us have thought at some time or another about wishing for a way to save that bizzarro dream that woke us up the night before as the memory fades fast. The idea of being to willingly put yourself into another’s dream to combat their nightmares or even the dreamer themselves was felt like something straight out of comic books! Today we have Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” moving in to cement “Dreamscape” as a vague recollection of our pasts, but “Dreamscape” did it first and in 1984 no less! Yes, the effects were hokey and so were the fashions but it was still a good time.

“Dreamscape” was brought back to my fore brain by a recent episode of Smodcast where Kevin Smith mentioned the film in comparison to the commercials of “Inception”. I myself haven’t seen the movie and to be honest, I think it’s going to be great! So don’t think I’m pulling a stodgy old fart schtick saying that there’s no way the new could outweigh the original! (To be honest, I don’t even know if they’re similar!) All I’m saying is that “Dreamscape” treads similar ground. For a an early 80′s schlock fest? It’s really not such a bad flick that outside of its dated effects, remains a decent story today! If you’re fired up for the dream logic of “Inception”? Throw “Dreamscape” in your instant watch queue, it’ll be fun!