Tag Archives: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Stuck In The ‘Looper’ With You

In 1985, Robert Zemeckis became the “talk of the town” when he, along with Universal Studios, released a mainstream summer flick that was simply titled ‘Back to the Future.’ It had teen heart-throb Michael J. Fox, a catchy song by Huey Lewis and The News, and special-effects that were totally ahead of its time. What people expected to be a fun, “popcorn” movie, ended up becoming a fully fledged pop-culture phenomena. And sure, I am a little biased; ‘Back to the Future’ is one of my favorite movies of all time (check out our ‘Top 10 Lists’ link at the top of your page), but I really do think that when it comes to science fiction, humor, excitement, entertainment, and making the perfect ‘time-travel’ movie, ‘Back to the Future’ nails it.

I only write the above paragraph of geeky fan-boy praise to bring this up; in my mind, ever since the ‘Back to the Future’ franchise was wrapped up, the ‘time travel’ movie has really been done to death, often producing less than stellar results. I always hope that I’ll walk out with the same magic that Zemeckis gave me, but I usually end up burying my head in my hands, asking ‘Hello? McFly?’

Every once in awhile, you’ll get a ‘Groundhog Day’ or ’12 Monkeys’, which give you hope that a good time jumper movie is still possible; but for every good one, there is about 10 bad ones out there; ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’, ‘Terminator’ 3 and 4, ‘The Time Machine (2002)’, ‘The Butterfly Effect’, ‘Clockstoppers’ (I must abandon my nostalgia and be objective on this one), ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (don’t try to prove to me that this is a good movie. It’s garbage. Watch it again, I promise it doesn’t hold up over time), and I could go on… for a while. I get it, I understand that there is the difference between a time travel movie that is serious and one that is a comedy, but goodness, why does your time travel movie have to be eulogy or completely idiotic? ‘Donnie Darko’ makes you want to jump off your own roof, and ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ makes you want to flee from the theater.

It’s the list of sub-par movies above that make you want to look up to the heavens and thank somebody when a movie like ‘Looper’ comes around. Not only is it a great work of sci-fi, taking a totally different angle on an overdone concept, but ‘Looper’ is also one of the most wildly entertaining, thought provoking, unique, and thrilling movies you can spend your money on. And when I say thrilling, I mean the ‘adrenaline shot to your aortic valve’ kind of thrilling.

The film is titled ‘Looper,’ but it is also the profession of our central character. The year is 2044, and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper; and what does that mean? Well, here’s where it starts to get complicated. You see, in 2044, time travel has yet to be invented, but in thirty years time travel does exist, and although it is illegal, the mob uses this technology to send their enemies back in time. When their targets arrive, a looper is already waiting for them with a loaded gun, and kills the hooded victims on sight.

This is how the racket works if you’re a looper; you kill the victims that are sent from future, receiving payment in bars of silver for every kill, until one day your future-self appears in front of you. Doing what you’re trained to do, you kill the target on sight, effectively killing your future-self. “This is called ‘closing your loop’.” This is how these future mobsters end your contract, making it as though you never existed in the first place. When you ‘close your loop’, you’re given a lottery-sized pay day and an early retirement. You also get 30 more years to live until, of course, you are sent back in time to be killed, by yourself.

Our story really gets rolling when our “hero,” Joe, lets his target get away. Normally, this would just be a minor problem, except the man that escaped is Joe, from the future (played wonderfully by Bruce Willis). Now, present Joe is trying to hunt and kill his future self, future Joe is trying to change the future, and Joe’s employers are trying to wipe the both of them, present and future, off the map.

Watch future Joe escape! Click here!

Sadly, this is really all that I want to summarize about the plot of ‘Looper’. So much of this movie really depends on the element of surprise and experiencing all of the mind-bending twists and turns, and as always, I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone.

Now, don’t let the schematics of ‘Looper’ scare you off. Although it takes a few moments to get into it, the action quickly gets rolling and the logic of it all begins to make sense, and the pay-off for this one is huge. It is clear that storytelling is the primary objective for up-and-coming director Rian Johnson, and this objective was reached and then some. I haven’t read the screenplay first hand, but I’m sure that ‘Looper’ is nothing short of a writing gem (Johnson also being the writer of the script.)

Another decision that I think really set this movie apart was the choice to have two separate actors play the same character, the present and future Joe. Although criticized by some, I one-hundred percent support Johnson’s decision to rely on the acting abilities of Gordon-Levitt and Willis to bring this character to life.

Using a very clever make-up job, JGL takes on an entirely different face, and an entirely different persona for that matter. In ‘Looper’, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really pushed to go beyond his usual character and create a frustratingly neutral, and often unlikable young man. The more I think about it, the character of young Joe really establishes the reality of ‘Looper’; the reality that there are no good guys, and there are no bad guys. Every person in this story has their own motives, their own desires that they are desperate to defend. Maybe that’s what makes this film so flippin’ exciting.

On the flip-side, Willis’ take on Joe is nothing short of marvelous. He takes the groundwork that his younger co-star has given him, and builds a character that is both determined and sorrowful. In one particular scene, where the two Joeys sit down to chat for the first time, Willis brings the movie to a total halt by being the energy behind a commanding bit of dialogue. In all seriousness, this scene, which take place in a vacant country diner, may be the best thing you watch on a screen this year. Don’t miss it.

The best advice I can give you; Go to your local RedBox, Blockbuster, Netflix, or On-Demand provider and check out ‘Looper’ on December 31, when its released on DVD and Blu-Ray. If you hate it, I’ll refund your money myself. Just call my secretary, and they’ll iron out the details.

My Note: Looper is as unique as it is entertaining. You’ll want to go back in time just to see it again.

My Grade: A

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Summer Movie Slam: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

“But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely… A legend, Mr. Wayne.”

Liam Neeson speaks these lines at the opening of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins.’ When Nolan reopened the book on the classic character, ‘Batman Begins’ first tells us the story of Bruce Wayne. Born into a life of privilege, Bruce was given loving parents that gave him an example of goodness; but, while still a young boy, his family was gunned-down in the street. Driven by anger and a desire for justice, Bruce flees his city of Gotham in search for an answer. Years later, he finds himself in a Chinese prison, still ferociously fighting his fellow captives. It is here that Bruce is offered a path; to become a incorruptible symbol of true justice. He returns to Gotham where he chooses to pursue a life of battling criminals, not as Bruce Wayne, but as the masked-hero Batman.

In ‘The Dark Knight’, Batman must face his greatest challenge yet; the rampaging, senseless killer that calls himself The Joker. Motivated only by his desire to “watch the world burn,” The Joker throws Gotham into a state of chaos. But Batman is not alone. His is aided by Police Commissioner Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent. Together, the triumvirate battles against the violence of a maniac, we watch as an “unstoppable force meets an immovable object,” and although our heroes succeed in capturing the villain, it was not achieved without considerable loss. Harvey Dent, Gotham’s white knight, was driven into madness and dies after going on a murderous rampage. Refusing to let evil win, the Batman takes the fall for Dent’s crimes. They raise Harvey Dent as a hero in order to invoke change in their city, casting out Batman as an outlaw; Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon must keep the secrets of what really happened that night.

Christopher Nolan closes his story of Batman in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ with a finale that is both modern epic and complex drama, giving us a third act that does not disappoint those that have fallen in love with Nolan’s Gotham. Not only does this film meet the impossibly high standards that were set before it, but it found even more ways to wow us with spectacular filmmaking.

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ takes place 8 years after the events of Harvey Dent’s death. Our hero, Bruce Wayne (played again by Christian Bale), has become a recluse, claiming that he has hung up the cowl and cape for the last time. Gotham is at peace because of Commissioner Gordon’s newly empowered police force, but this calm remains based on a lie. The weak foundations that our heroes built are waiting to be shaken up.

Selina Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway) foreshadows the events to come in a slow dance with Bruce. “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and so leave so little for the rest of us.”

The storm hits Gotham in the form of a new evil; a masked mercenary named Bane (played by Tom Hardy). Intimidating in size, and frightening in mission, Bane claims that he is “Gotham’s reckoning” and a symbol of the “borrowed time” that the city has been living on. Bane has one mission; “We will destroy Gotham.” When told of the evil that is rising in the city, Bruce Wayne must do what is required of him; The Batman must come back.

What follows is an amazing, action packed, and purposeful movie. Once this thing gets going, and it does take some time to get going, it cannot be stopped. We are swept up in the story of our hero as we wait for the fate of Gotham City. It’s really a movie that I didn’t want to end. Fantastic in scale and satisfying in finality.

With this new superhero installment, we are also presented with an array of new and influential characters. Anne Hathaway gives her performance as Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, with intensity and sharp attitude, giving us a woman who often crosses the line between right and wrong. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (one of my personal favorite actors) plays John Blake, a virtuous young police officer who shares the Batman’s devotion to justice, and who becomes a character of great importance to the story of Gotham City. And then there’s Miranda Tate (played by Marion Cotillard), a beautiful ally that Bruce can find friendship in, so much so that Bruce eventually trusts her with the running of Wayne Enterprises.

The introduction and establishment of these new faces might begin as a burdensome task, but in the end I was so glad that the Nolan brothers took as much time as he did to place these characters into the foreground of the story. Each one of them has great amount of purpose in ‘Rises’, and are vital to the conclusion of the film.

Writing a review for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is honestly a difficult task, because I see it as being a film of great depth that has so much lying underneath the ice, and like the character of Batman itself, it is much more than a man in a mask. But this is simply the marking trait of Christopher Nolan’s films; it inspires discussion, thought, and challenges the way that we see things. I can’t think of any other director working today that can accomplish the mass appeal of a blockbuster-smash as well as the intelligence to tell a deep story; the ability to please movie goers of all kinds. Not only does Nolan accomplish this with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, it has now become the norm for all of his films, making him a man among boys. He hasn’t made a bad movie. Ever. Just think about that. Who else can say that?

I could write an essay just simply on the themes that are presented to the audience in this film, incredibly daunting themes such as resistance, perseverance, righteousness in the face of evil, and the sacrifice that it takes to do make what is right. We see that sometimes fear is necessary to do the impossible. ‘Rises’ also presents us with heroes that have made mistakes, that are not perfect, but are willing to do what it takes in order to set things right. Most of the film is dark, but at the end of it all, its this darkness that makes the light at the end of the tunnel so much brighter. All of this, in a movie about a guy in a bat costume. Who’d of thunk it?

In my mind, the best thing about ‘Rises’ is the ending, which I will not describe in detail here (trying to be respectful of those who are avoiding spoilers). What I will say is that the conclusion of Nolan’s last Batman movie makes it not just about the struggle against a madman, but the establishment of a legend. The film is on a mission to fulfill the promises of the first two movies and make Batman transcendent, bigger than just vigilante, and a symbol that was tested through trials. Not only to the people of Gotham, but also to the audience, this character has truly become more than just a myth. And no matter what happens in the end, the Dark Knight will rise as a hero, one way or another.

Now for the burning question; is ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ better than the film that preceded it? My answer is no, but I still maintain that it did not have to be better, and I don’t think those involved were trying to make a better movie than ‘The Dark Knight.’ One thing that was obvious to me when I sat in the theater was how different this movie was from the previous two. It wanted to say something new, something meaningful. Nolan’s purpose was to tell the last chapter of Bruce Wayne’s story, to give a powerful conclusion these films. In doing so, he established these three movies as being one of the best film trilogies of all time.

My Note: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is a great ending to an unforgettable saga.

My Grade: A

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