Tag Archive: Bruce Willis


Looper Bends Time and Perspective

There’s that old question that everyone encounters at some point: “If you met Adolf Hitler as a child or young man, but you knew what was coming, would you kill him?”

In part, this film poses such a question. Yet it explores the idea that the future may not be predetermined; what if, after all, you instead did something that would change Hitler’s future forever? The movie further speculates whether a person could off his older, time-traveling self, even if the younger self were a paid assassin to begin with.  If time travel were possible, this kind of thinking could blow your mind, right?

It’s all pretty existential, but Looper poses these and other classic conundrums in a fresh and extremely entertaining manner.  As always, the very idea of time travel and its inherent possibilities of paradoxes and loopholes are mind-boggling enough. But this movie also features plenty of shooting, suspense, chases, mutilation, and stuff blowing up (after all, Bruce Willis is in the film).

I’ve liked this film’s star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, since his days as the hippy-alien kid on Third Rock from the Sun, and I am thrilled to see what an actor’s actor he has become. In Looper, he plays Joe, an assassin who kills people sent to the past by organized criminals thirty years in the future, where time travel has been invented but immediately outlawed. Thus, the criminals have the few, hidden time machines that exist. Their past-era assassins are called loopers, and when the mob wants to retire them, they find their older selves and send them back, with a final payoff, to be permanently retired by their younger selves. Then the younger self is able to spend his remaining thirty years spending his money. But once in a while, a looper just can’t shoot himself, and in this way, a fellow looper learns (from his older self) and tells Joe that there is a very scary and all-powerful mob boss in the future who is retiring all the loopers rapidly. What other dangers does this big kahuna pose?

On top of all that, some people in this “present” (about thirty years from now) have developed a mutation of being mildly kinetic. This mutation plays into the plot twist that emerges on top of the young-Joe-killing-old-Joe conflict.

In addition to a beautifully understated performance by Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt shines as a mother living with her son (the amazing young actor Pierce Gagnon) on an isolated farm. It is Joe’s involvement with Sara and Cid that leads to the ultimate questions of right, wrong, and all the gray areas between.

The director, Rian Johnson, also directed the inventive films Brick (2005), also starring Gordon-Levitt, and The Brothers Bloom (2008), starring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weisz. Looper also features a terrific performance by Jeff Daniels as the “present day” looper-wranger. It all makes for a thrilling and emotionally fraught tale that’s well worth the price of admission!

It was a short and busy month, so I wasn’t able to watch as many films as I’d like.

Yes, even with the Oscars … in which I was supremely disappointed.  The statuettes were awarded pretty fairly, I thought, but the ceremony itself was for sh*t. Truly. The hosts were awful (and I like them both otherwise, so I won’t use a stronger expletive), the montages were uninspired, and the presentation of the lifetime achievements was abysmal. I have always had the Pollyanna attitude to see the annual Academy Awards gala as a magical night of dreams come true in recognition of film-making achievement.  But the suits and marketing execs are taking all the fun out of it, and this year I finally found myself siding with my infinitely more cynical friends who have poo-pooed the Oscars for years. So, I’ll just cross my fingers that next year it gets better again.

In the meantime, the few films I did see in the past month were memorable, for the most part. Here are some more movies to add to the February report card.

Film Grade Comment
The King’s Speech(2010)  A-
Now we know this film won the Best Picture Academy Award … and one for Best Actor, and Writing, and Directing. It is a very well-made film, but I personally did not think it was the bee’s knees of this year’s crop of nominees.  But that does not detract from the fact that this movie is very much worth seeing, with superb performances from Colin Firth and especially (I thought) Geoffrey Rush. It would be an A or even an A+ were it not for the sterilized and sorely detail-lacking snapshot of the challenging era in which it takes place.
RED(2010)  B-
RED stands for “Retired Extremely Dangerous,” and the REDsters are Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren. With a stellar cast like that (plus Mary-Louise Parker), I expected more.  There are some terrific gags, lots of things blowing up, and a bunch of shoot-outs – but incredibly the story still drags, and the sometimes the camera lingers on the “knowing expressions” of the characters … ugh.  I believe the treacly feel is due to the directing, which makes sense with Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife) at the helm.
Animal Kingdom(2010)  B+
If you don’t mind watching the ultimate trailer-trash-living-turned-murderous, this Aussie gem is the epitome of gritty thrillers. Marvelously menacing and memorable performances from the entire “criminal family” as well as good-guy cop Guy Pierce. The movie plods a bit in some places, and the demeanors of the characters – while appropriate – make it a bit difficult to relate to them. But upon reflection, it’s a film that crawls under your skin and makes an impression.

As always, let me know what you though of these flicks, if you saw them!

The last three films I watched, that’s what.

Love in the Middle of a Murder Mystery

The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos, 2009) is an Argentinian murder mystery with superb performances, wit, and poignancy.

Twenty-five years after the rape and murder of a young woman, Benjamín Espósito (Ricardo Darín) cannot stop thinking about it. He was the court deputy who reluctantly investigated it, tangled it up with his own personal dilemma of being in love with his superior, Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), and now is writing a book about it, obsessed with figuring what really happened back then.

This is a smart and interestingly paced film, with mood swings of various emotions running through it like waves.  The love story might be maudlin without the murder case; the revelation in the mystery of what happened to the killer would be darkly grotesque without the multi-decade romance. It all works together, in no small part thanks to the wonderful talent of Darín, who reminds me a bit (in looks and demeanor) of one of my all-time favorite actors, Alan Rickman.

This film would make a terrific double-feature with another film of Darín’s movies, The Nine Queens (2000), or the French film Tell No One (2006).

A

The Many Faces of Bob Dylan

I’m Not There (2007) is a film about Bob Dylan, but it’s also a film about the last forty years of Americana.

This is a beautifully shot and scored and highly creative film that is enjoyable on its own merits, not just for fans of Bob Dylan. I’ve never been much of a fan of Dylan’s music (save a few select songs he wrote and even fewer that he actually recorded). Regardless of whether one is a fan or not, it goes without saying that Dylan has been an important figure in music and more widely in the realm of art reflecting social consciousness. His life and personality also have spun a notable tale.

Unfortunately, if one knows nothing about Dylan’s life, much of this film will be pretty unintelligible. Rather than a typical linear biography, this is a film of impressions, playing on the different phases of Dylan’s life and eventually weaving a fascinating look into his psyche and soul. It reflects on actual events in Dylan’s life, so the requisite for these allusions is that you know about those events. It needs not be a deep knowledge — just read a brief biography somewhere online, and you should get what you need to enjoy the film.

The acting is superb, the cinematography is brilliant, the score is perfect, and everything works in wonderful balance in a film that EASILY could have become a pretentious mess. Six different actors (plus narrator Kris Kristofferson) play different facets of Dylan throughout his life — the young musician with an old soul, the brooding folk singer, the husband and father, the touring troubadour, and so on — and all do a fantastic job. My personal favorites were then-14-year-old Marcus Carl Franklin (Lackawanna Blues), Ben Winshaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), and of course Cate Blanchett, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actress. (Or, should that have been actor?)  Oddly enough, my least favorite portrayals were turned in by the reliable Christian Bale and the typically more creative Heath Ledger. But taken together, the interwoven stories are magical and thought-provoking.

A

Blow It Up, Blow It All UP!

The Expendables (2010) is one of the year’s understandable glut of forays into antigovernment macho vigilantism. It is also a powerhouse of he-man action and wrestling stars all in one place.  Finally, it manages to blow up more buildings (and cars, and even heads) and churn out more physical carnage than The Losers, The A-Team, and Kick-Ass combined. It’s a perfect movie to watch when you’re pissed off at the world and need some vicarious violence.

Silvester Stallone directs and stars, and the cast includes Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, and Eric Roberts. There’s even an appearance by the Governator, Arnold Schwartzenegger. It spawns the best line in the film as he stalks out and Stallone says, “Awe, he just wants to be president.”

Other than that, the plot is paper thin, with holes these warriors could drive a truck through, and … well, let’s not even talk about acting. When the best actor on set is Jason Statham (I’m not counting the ten seconds that Bruce Willis spent on screen), I think we get the picture. Alas, this is not supposed to be a deep film.

It’s a lot of fun, though, if you do like action flicks. The fight between Lundgren and Li alone is worth the price of a rental. But I’d suggest seeing this on a screen larger than 32 inches — the explosions just need the room to bloom!

C

Hello!  *waves hand frantically*

Wow, I haven’t written in forever.  Sorry!  My excuse is that I’ve had crazy piles of work and have been dealing with crazy people.  Crazy. Oh, all right – maybe it’s just me that’s crazy.  Nuf said.

In any case, let’s catch up!  My favorite way to catch up, naturally, is to talk about movies.  Oh, I’ll throw in some books this time too – just for good measure.

Playing with Live Grenades and Big Guns

The Losers (based on the comic series by Andy Diggle) is a testosterone-fest, a good old action flick in which the men are real men, and the women are too. I went to see it on a rainy Saturday when my mind was pretty much an exhausted blank, so it was perfect. The story line is neither complicated nor fascinating. It’s the movie you make when the Mission: Impossible franchise and The A-Team are already taken. But it’s a whole lot of fun to watch!

The five guys who call themselves “The Losers” are a squad of special ops soldiers who get sold out by Max, a phantom power-monger in charge of, oh, everything. Yada yada yada, they make it out alive and they come back for revenge. It’s pretty formulaic. A few not-so-shocking twists are thrown in – Aisha (Zoe Saldana) turning out to be someone other than they think, Max (Jason Patric) having a deadly agenda, and Roque (Idris Elba) turning against his boys.     Continue reading

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