Time-travel flick 'Looper' is a wild, thrilling ride
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Sony Pictures' 'Looper'
Published Friday, September 28, 2012 7:24AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 28, 2012 7:28AM EDT
Richard’s Review: 4 1/2 stars
The movie “Looper” looks at what happens when the older and younger versions of the same person end up in the same time. Of course, anyone who has seen an episode of “Star Trek” can tell you it is bad for the space–time continuum mojo.
In the twisting, turning world of “Looper” time travel doesn’t exist -- at least not yet. Set just a few years from now, the film is the story of “loopers,” people who execute criminals from the future. Told you it was mind-bendy.
Thirty years in the future time travel is illegal. The only people who use it are criminal organizations when they need to get rid of someone. Chip implanting has made the disposal of bodies difficult, so they send undesirables back to the past to get rid of them.
Joe (played Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an experienced looper -- or present-day trigger man. He slowly stashes his pay so one day he can retire and live in France. But Joe doesn’t count on his loop being closed by the Rainmaker, a crime lord from the future. That move sends his future self, Old Joe (Bruce Willis), to present day to be executed. When Joe hesitates Old Joe gets away and sets in motion a chase to determine the fate of not just one, but both Joes.
As the younger Joe Gordon-Levitt has a fake nose and an uncanny knack for the cadences of Willis’s voice. Willis is Willis, but he’s a world-weary man here who wears each of the 30 years in their age gap on his face and in his bearing.
Both actors hand in solid performances, as does Emily Blunt as a protective mother whose son (Pierce Gagnon) is on Old Joe’s hit list. Ditto for Jeff Daniels, who takes a break from “The Newsroom” to play the looper boss.
But ideas, not the actors, are the real stars of this movie. “Looper” harkens back to sci-fi that is about concepts rather than space ships. The film isn’t airtight, but what time-travel movie is?
The crime bosses of the future could have saved a lot of trouble by killing people themselves and sending the bodies back to be disposed of, but where’s the fun in that? We need the two Joes in one place to get this story started. What happens after that is what makes things interesting in this film.
Director and writer Rian Johnson uses the sci-fi premise to allow the character of Joe in both forms to examine his life in the past, present and future, and discover what’s really important to him. It’s humanist science fiction that values people over special effects.
It’s also a wildly entertaining chase movie, with enough sci-fi to keep the left side of your brain engaged and the right side thrilled by the chase sequences.
Richard’s Review: 3 stars
When I was a kid I had a Halloween joke book packed with gems like, “What do skeletons say before they begin dining? Bone appetite!” I pulled that book out every October, but hadn’t thought about it in years -- until I saw “Hotel Transylvania,” the new animated kid’s movie starring the voice of Adam Sandler as Dracula. It seems I wasn’t the only one with a well-loved Halloween joke book. A bagel with scream-cheese, anyone?
In the world of “Hotel Transylvania” Dracula is a single father. This bat-chelor is so desperate to keep his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), away from the human world that he builds a hotel for monsters far away from living, breathing people.
With the slogan, “Human Free Since 1898,” he caters to guests right out of Universal Pictures’ heyday -- Murray the Mummy (voice of CeeLo Green), Frankenstein (Kevin James) and Griffin, the Invisible Man (David Spade). Every year on Mavis’ birthday they all gather to throw a fang-dango of a party, but on her 118th birthday she’s behaving like a spoiled bat (see what I did there?).
Mavis wants to leave the hotel and see the world, but her dad won’t allow it. However, when a young traveller brings some life to the hotel of the undead Mavis gets a glimpse into the lives of humans.
Like my joke book, (here’s another sample: “What type of coffee do vampires prefer? Decoffinated!”), “Hotel Transylvania” leans toward the silly rather than scary. Unlike “ParaNorman,” another recent horror themed movie for kids, this flick won’t give little ones any nightmares. The only people it might make a little batty are parents who’ll have to listen to jokes like, “Invisible Man! Nice to see you!” I thought those lines were funny… but then you already know how I feel about jokes like, “Who is a vampire likely to fall in love with? The girl necks door!”
The top-notch animation is stylized and colourful, with cute creatures that should catch youngsters’ eyes.
“Hotel Transylvania” is a ghoul movie for kids. It’s family-friendly and, like Baron Frankenstein, will leave you in stitches.
Richard’s Review: 2 1/2 stars
What do you get when you mix equal parts “Glee” with “Mean Girls” with a side order of “Bring it On?” You get the musical goulash “Pitch Perfect,” a school comedy combo that offers up singing, cliques, a “riff off” and vomit jokes.
In an effort to make friends Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly joins The Bellas, a straight-laced college campus all-girl a capella group, only to end up performing a “songs about sex” medley highlighting Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Along the way she learns to open up, love “The Breakfast Club” and deal with the group’s “a capolitics.”
Midway through “Pitch Perfect” Jesse (Skylar Astin), Beca’s tuneful love interest, says, “Not liking movies is like not liking puppies.” I’m not going to suggest that not liking this movie means you don’t like puppies, but this film tries its best to be cuddly, lovable and scratch their furry belly.
There are barf gags, which pick up where the food poisoning scene from “Bridesmaids” left off. But there’s also female bonding, a romance and musical numbers galore.
Therein lies the problem with this film. The cast, led by American sweetheart Kendrick and Australian Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy, are immensely watchable. It’s funny, charming and occasionally odd (during one bonding scene Lilly, played by Hana Mae Lee, confesses to eating her twin in the womb). Unfortunately, between The Bellas and their male counterparts The Treblemakers the music is the least interesting part of the movie.Imagine Bobby McFerrin wannabes for 90 minutes.
Luckily “Pitch Perfect” banks some goodwill on the strength of the performances. Even so, the presentation of “oral magic” feels more like, as one character says, “an elephant dart to the public’s face.”
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Richard’s Review: 4 stars
On the surface “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” seems like another John Hughes story about square pegs trying to fit in round holes. Based on a popular junior adult novel, it uses one of the building blocks of teen drama -- the friendless teen trying to navigate high school in his freshman year -- as a starting point. But it layers in equal amounts of teen angst and exuberance before the final class bell rings.
The wallflower of the title is Charlie (Logan Lerman), a troubled boy entering the first year of high school. Shunned by the cool kids he attaches himself to Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), two free-spirited seniors who take him under their wing.
Patrick is a flamboyant gay teen, prone to grand pronouncements and dressing up like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s” Fran ‘N Furter. Sam is a damaged but sweet girl with a past.
Along with a gaggle of misfit friends like Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), the rich kid whop passes herself off as a punk rock Buddhist, Sam and Patrick introduce Charlie to his first party (“This is what fun looks like!”), his first kiss and first love. Along with all these firsts comes confusion, which, for Charlie, isn’t a first.
Director Stephen Chbosky has done a great job of portraying the time in a teen’s life when making a mixed tape for a girl spoke louder than words. It’s hard to know when the film is supposed to be set -- the music ranges from late seventies to late eighties, played on vinyl, cassettes and CDs. But the mix of music establishes a timeless feel for the film, suggesting that these songs are simply the sound of teen angst, which doesn’t change, no matter the time or place.
The movie benefits greatly from a skilled cast of young people. Lerman, probably best known as D'Artagnan in the recent “Three Musketeers” reboot, brings a sweet befuddlement to the role that masks the hurt that has shaped his young life.
Watson leaves Hermione at home to play Sam, a wise-beyond-her years girl who makes simple mistakes.
The showiest role, however, belongs to Miller who has cornered the market on playing troubled teens after his memorable performance in last year’s film, “The Trouble with Kevin.” He is flamboyant without being campy, tough and frail simultaneously.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has more substance than most movies based on young adult novels, and is an affecting story of friendship, loss and redemption. Also, any movie that uses David Bowie’s “Heroes” as a recurring theme can’t be all bad.