Archive for Joseph Gordon-Levitt

LOOPER (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Bruce Willis Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Crime Films, LL Soares Reviews, Science Fiction, Suspense, The Future, The Mob, Time Travel with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by knifefighter

By L.L. Soares

(SCENE 1: Somewhere in the future. L.L. SOARES has a bag over his head and jumps into a weird pod-like machine. He’s out of breath from escaping from a bunch of thugs and pulls the sack off his head just as the machine activates and sends him hurtling through time…)

(SCENE 2: MICHAEL ARRUDA stands in the middle of a field, holding a large gun. In front of him is a tarp spread out on the ground. He looks at his pocket watch to confirm the time)

(Suddenly, LS appears on the tarp. MA lifts his gun, then stops)

LS: Michael, it’s me. I know I look older, but it’s L.L.

MA: I don’t understand. I was supposed to shoot whoever came back from the future…

LS: Well, you can’t shoot me. Then there won’t be any more Cinema Knife Fight column. Right?

MA (hesitates): I guess so. But I have my orders.

LS: Screw your orders. (he gets up and walks toward MA). I’m here to review the new movie LOOPER, have you seen it yet?

MA: No, I haven’t. Did you come from the future to tell me about it?

LS: Yes, exactly. (points to his gun) So we’re cool, right?

MA: Yeah (puts down the gun)

LS: Sucker! (pulls out a gun from his waistband and plugs MA)

(As LS laughs, we go back to the future, where LS enters a pod, out of breath, and pulls that sack off his head again. The machine activates, and we spiral down a corridor of time)

LS: Uh oh. I think I got trapped in a time warp this time. My karma has finally caught up with me.

(Looks at audience)

Well, looks like I’ve got some time on my hands. Might as well do that LOOPER review I mentioned earlier.

LOOPER a clever science fiction film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. I actually wasn’t all that excited about it going in. It looked like just another gimmicky sci-fi film, and I felt like I’d seen the whole story based on the trailer. But thankfully, I was wrong. For once, I was surprised and LOOPER was much better than I expected.

The story is told from the point of view of Joe (Gordon-Levitt) who explains that he is a Looper. In the future (30 years from now, to be specific), time travel is illegal, but it’s used by organized crime. Also, due to various tagging methods, it is also near impossible to get rid of a body after killing someone in the future. So the gangsters of the future use time travel to kill two birds with one stone. They’ve sent an emissary to our time named Abe (Jeff Daniels) to set things up. He recruits people to be assassins called Loopers. Victims from the future are sent back in time, the Loopers shoot them and then dispose of the bodies. And it seems to be a very effective way to get rid of unwanted people.

Except every once in a while someone finds that the person they’ve been hired to kill is him or herself, sent from the future to “close the loop.” It’s then that they’re given a big payday and forced to retire, knowing that in 30 years, they’re going to die.

Get it?

Joe’s doing quite well. He’s got money, girls and lots of some weird drug he applies with eyedrops and that keeps him happy. Then one day he goes out in the abandoned field where he kills his victims, and comes face to face with an older version of himself, who he calls Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Old Joe isn’t bound and his head isn’t covered, like most of the victims. He is able to keep from getting shot—since he knows what his younger self is going to do—and cold cocks Joe. When Joe wakes up, Old Joe is long gone and he’s in a world of trouble with his bosses. If he doesn’t track Old Joe down and get rid of him, all hell is going to break loose. But Joe’s superiors are going to think he let his older self go on purpose (some guys just can’t bring themselves to kill their older selves when faced with the prospect), so he’s going to have elude them, too, while he tries to set things straight.

Oh yeah, there’s another subplot in the mix. Aside from Loopers, there’s also a group of evolved people called TKs (as in telekinetics). Most of them can’t do much more than float quarters with their minds, but there’s some guy in the future called the Rainmaker, who can do a lot more than that, and he’s taking over the crime gangs. Which is why so many loopers lately have been coming face to face with their older selves and being forced to close the loop.

That’s the background stuff. But LOOPER is so much more than just a concept. It’s about characters – characters who are pretty well fleshed out for a big budget gimmicky science fiction movie with an A-list cast. This isn’t your average futuristic crime movie. LOOPER is smart, well-written, and well acted.

Aside from Gordon-Levitt (who just seems to get better and better in each movie I see him in) and Willis (people in the audience were actually cheering during any scene where Willis got ahold of a gun), there’s also Emily Blunt as a woman who takes the wounded Joe in after he’s ambushed by his fellow loopers. Her name is Sara and she takes care of a little boy named Cid, who is a lot more important to the story than he first seems. Blunt is excellent here, and Pierce Gagnon is really good as little Cid, who seems smart and inquisitive sometimes and other times is just plain scary.

The rest of the cast is solid and includes Paul Dano, Piper Perabo and the always reliable Jeff Daniels (as I mentioned before).

The movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson  Johnson also made the very interesting “high school noir” flick BRICK (2005), also starring Gordon-Levitt (and it’s so odd, it’s worth checking out), and directed episodes of AMC’s BREAKING BAD and the short-lived FX series TERRIERS. He’s made a compelling little movie with LOOPER and I think he’s going to be someone worth watching in the future.

Because one of the stars is Bruce Willis, and it involves his character being sent here from the future, I guess comparisons to Terry Gilliam’s TWLEVE MONKEYS (1995) are unavoidable, but the stories are very different. They do, however, share the fact that they’re above-average for Hollywood sci-fi films.

I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was smart and riveting throughout, and it even had a dark humor to it at times. I thought Gordon-Levitt and Willis were terrific here (there’s even one scene where Willis grabs a gun and goes on a rampage in the bad guys’ lair that reminded me a lot of Chan-wook Park’s OLDBOY, 2003).

I give LOOPER, four knives.

(LS is still spinning through time, when he suddenly lands on top of that tarp, in the middle of a field again. MICHAEL ARRUDA stands before him, aiming a gun)

LS: Michael, it’s me. I know I look older, but don’t shoot. It’s L.L.

MA: I feel like we’ve done this before.

LS: Put the gun down. You can’t shoot me. Then there won’t be a Cinema Knife Fight column anymore.

MA (hesitates): Why do I have such a hard time trusting you?

(CLOSE-UP of LS’s eyes, pleading)


© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives LOOPER  ~FOUR knives (out of five).



Posted in 2011, Based on a True Story, Comedies, Dark Comedies, Kelly Laymon Reviews, R-Rated Comedy with tags , , , , on October 5, 2011 by knifefighter

50/50 is 100%
Movie Review by Kelly Laymon

50/50 begins with a healthy young Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) taking a morning run through the streets of Seattle, getting ready for work alongside his artist girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), then getting picked up for work by his childhood buddy and Seattle public radio station co-worker Kyle (Seth Rogen). Along the way, Adam makes a comment about an appointment with a doctor after work.

If you’ve seen or heard any talk show of any kind on over the past couple of weeks, there’s a decent chance that you’ve seen Rogen and Gordon-Levitt interviewed about this project. And perhaps they’ve had Rogen’s buddy, comedy writer Will Reiser, with them. Reiser wrote this script, which Rogen produced, about their experience when Resier was diagnosed with a rare tumor on his spine and Rogen was the real-life inappropriate friend who didn’t know the right things to say or do.

Upon learning of his diagnosis, Adam (the character based on Reiser) begins chemotherapy and starts seeing a psychiatrist. The scenes with his chemotherapy pals, played by older fellas and great character actors Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer, are real highlights. And, unfortunately, given movie formulas, you just know one of the two old timers won’t make it. His psychiatrist-in-training, Katherine, is played by Anna Kendrick. She is currently working on her dissertation and Adam is her third patient. Ever. Katherine seems like she could be the twin sister of Kendrick’s perky, inexperienced, naïve, by-the-book, super-professional character from UP IN THE AIR (2009).

Bryce Dallas Howard has the unfortunate role of “The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Really Sign On For This Cancer Stuff,” though it becomes clear that there were problems before the diagnosis. Anjelica Huston rounds out the central characters as Adam’s worried-about-everything mother who is also dealing with Adam’s Alzheimer’s-riddled father.

Folks my age grew up with Gordon-Levitt on 3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN (NBC, 1996-2001), but over the last few years, he’s really gained some adult street cred. Though I enjoyed his showy, zero gravity, dream fight sequences in INCEPTION (2010), my big favorite was 500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009). And I love when a child actor that I watched and liked makes good as an adult. (See Jason Bateman and Neil Patrick Harris.)

It’s hard to write this without acknowledging that the set-up for 50/50 is, at least on the surface, reminiscent of FUNNY PEOPLE (2009). I doubt this would even be in any of our brains if not for the Seth Rogen connection. If Seth Rogen had not produced 50/50 and, say, Joel McHale was in the Kyle role, these few sentences would not have been written. But this is Rogen’s second buddy-of-a-rare-cancer-patient film in the past two years. And he made Patrick Swayze jokes in both films.

However, the two films could not be more different. And I say this as a fan of both. The two films were very personal for the people involved, but in different ways. FUNNY PEOPLE was writer-director Judd Apatow’s love letter to the world of stand-up comedy and the twisted friendships within. The cancer diagnosis was secondary to the comics, almost an afterthought, as if a film about stand-up comics needed something “serious” thrown in to add weight. In the case of 50/50, Rogen and Reiser wanted to tell the story of what they actually experienced when this happened to them a few years back. The cancer in 50/50 isn’t a set up for something else. That IS the story.

50/50 contained only one little annoying film cliché that I’m really tired of: the insensitive doctor who uses Big Science Words and doesn’t speak to patients like normal people. Maybe doctors ARE that way. I don’t know. It’s like a requirement in movies about illnesses. In 50/50, at least that scene was right at the beginning and it was short.

It’s been nice to see Rogen grow up a bit, with both FUNNY PEOPLE and 50/50. Many comedic actors are just as good with drama and dark humor as they are standard comedy. As much as I enjoy the classic Bill Murray and Steve Martin comedies, I equally enjoy that they’ve grown up with me. I love the serious and semi-serious Bill Murray of the past ten years or so in movies like BROKEN FLOWERS (2005), LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003), the Wes Anderson films, etc.. (Though you could say it started with ED WOOD (1994).) The same goes for Steve Martin. I’d much rather see him in more films like SHOPGIRL (2005) or IT’S COMPLICATED (2009), rather than another one of those PINK PANTHER flicks.

The laughs and emotions are genuine in 50/50. Nothing feels forced. And the friendship between Adam and Kyle is believable. You buy that these guys have been buddies for years. I could get into the sappy and emotional side of the film, but I’d need a bottle of wine to “go there”. I’ll just say there were people in the theatre blubbering through the chuckles. Which is an amusing segue to end on a higher note…I was carded at the box office when I went to buy my ticket on Friday morning. I’ve only been carded once and that was for KILL BILL PART 1 (2003). Of all of the nasty R-rated comedies I’ve seen with nudity and graphic simulated sex and everything else you could name, THIS is the one I get carded at? I don’t even think they showed boobs during the one mild sex scene.

I guess I’m like Kyle. I’m not good with illness, death, and emotions, and rely on humor. I’d have to go with four and a half knives.

© Copyright 2011 by Kelly Laymon

Kelly Laymon gives 50/50 four and a half knives!