Looper Review – Futuristic Felon


Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels


Release date: September 28th, 2012

Distributors: TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict

Country: USA

Running time: 118 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: Levitt’s cold yet charismatic assassin.

Worst part: An over abundance of slimy henchmen.

Imagine this possibility; you are handsomely paid to kill the scum of a futuristic crime-filled world, but your superiors decide to flip your life upside down and inside out. This is the premise of the fun sci-fi action flick Looper. The idea of meeting your future self has always been an alarming thought, what would you ask them? Or even more intriguing; How could it effect the future? Looper recovers quickly from plot flaws to create a largely satisfying and breezy character study of an assassin gaining a parallel identity and quickly losing time.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Joe explains that time travel has not been invented in his world of 2044, but it will have been in the future. Slick, leather clad assassins known as Loopers are a vital part of major crime syndicates using time travel to eradicate people from 2072, completing assassinations when their targets arrive in the past. When the mob have finished with said hired assassins, they ‘close the loop’; making Loopers kill their older selves for a satisfying reward. Joe’s life is livened with strip clubs, riches and drugs, but still wants out of his murderous existence. When his time is up however, his older self (Bruce Willis) escapes his execution. For younger Joe this is Bad news! Now hunted by his mobster superiors, younger Joe must escape their clutches, while protecting farm girl Sara and her son from his older self.

Bruce Willis.

Bruce Willis.

The second collaboration between director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) and superstar Joseph Gordon Levitt brings weight to a genre previously considered to have run out of originality. Time travel is a major staple of the genre. Influenced by entertaining ideas of time travel from films like the Back to the Future series, The Terminator and 12 Monkeys, Looper finds its own sense of style while paying homage to classic 80’s sci-fi cinema. The film delivers on its intriguing premise, ceasing the ongoing number of underwhelming action flicks this year. ‘What if?’ is the film’s most important question, as the characters delve too far into their own motivations and soon struggle to see beyond them. Levitt’s Joe is a smooth character pushing himself to the edge. His repetitive lifestyle seems fun to the average Joe (no pun intended) but he becomes adamant on a life away from a technicolor drug trip. Willis’ older Joe is given a considerable amount of depth. His affect on his younger self creates a profound exploration of how one’s future can change with the pull of a trigger. The witty script works to Willis’ effect, creating instant chemistry with Levitt from their first dialogue sequence. Looper slows down to a considerable extent when Blunt’s single mother and her son are brought into the film. The plot switches from the chase to Joe’s interaction with country life, diverting from the breakneck pace of the first half to focus too much on Joe’s new way out. 

“I don’t want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.” (Older Joe (Bruce Willis), Looper).

Emily Blunt.

Emily Blunt.

The chemistry between Levitt and Blunt however proves why they are two of 2012’s hardest working actors, with English actress Blunt fitting into the country girl role with a convincing American drawl. Levitt, despite having to work around annoyingly distracting prosthetic make up, captures Willis’ mannerisms while creating a gritty interpretation of the cliche assassin character. While Jeff Daniels (the half of Dumb and Dumber who isn’t Jim Carrey) proves to be one of the best character actors in the business, with his intense performance adding to his already stellar year on screen after TV series The Newsroom. This neo-noir exploration of the ‘professional assassin on the run’ story is also grounded by creatively shot and violent action set pieces along with a techno score, subverting the monotony of modern action films. The style of Johnson’s biggest flick to date is heavily focused on the works of Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan. Not reaching the glittery, lurid and clean visuals of Total Recall and In Time (thankfully), its grounding in a dirty, third world environment is a chilling reminder of a slipping economy desperate to avoid gangster control. The use of dark colours and stylised costuming creates a believably contrasting and enviable world in which the wealthy try as hard as possible to avoid the grime-covered and brutal poor.

Certainly, Looper exists to boost Johnson and Levitt’s careers from indie to mainstream. Playing with interesting sci-fi concepts, this projects succeeds in taking us on a long, lost thrill-ride. In addition, with Willis back in full force, more movies like this need to be made.

Verdict: A mind bending and energetic sci-fi actioner.

Reel Life – Domino (2005)


Director: Tony Scott

Writer: Richard Kelly

Stars: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Jacqueline Bisset


Release date: October 14th, 2005

Distributor: New Line Cinema, Metropolitan Filmexport

Countries: US, France

Running time: 127 minutes


 

 

1½/5

Best part: A gravely Rourke.

Worst part: The Hyper-hyper-hyper-kinetic style.

Acclaimed director Tony Scott defined the era of the loud, artistic action set piece with his smash hit Top Gun. Since then however his style has overpowered several of his productions. This still might have been acceptable if it didn’t reach the point of being completely overbearing. Domino is however the last straw, with every frame a clear call for better editing and cinematography needed from the once great action filmmaker.

Following the supposedly true story of bounty hunter Domino Harvey, she never becomes interesting, mostly due to her brash nature. The tough chick persona is OTT in many regards, down to flashy tattoos, blond emo-fringe, male clothing and piercings draping her near skeleton-like frame. The story is told through her current drug trip, during an interrogation with a sassy interrogator (Lucy Liu). Sure, being on an actual drug trip might be enjoyable, but we are subjected to a non-stop flood of quick cuts, shaking cameras, lens flares and overlapping images.

She is joined by a convoy of followers, including two fellow bounty hunters (Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez) involved in all counts of murder, extortion and pot smoking. For bounty hunters, they sure do live an unsubtle life. For some reason they agree to be followed around by a camera crew filming a strange new reality show, tracking the whereabouts of America’s most dangerous offenders. This ridiculous subplot, featuring a phony near-cameo performance from Christopher Walken, is one of many ideas trying to bring pathos to this ultra-dumb super trooper story.

If you were one of the biggest criminals in America, why would you want to be so blatantly identified anyway? If these characters had any common sense they might have thought ahead. Scott does however manage to pull of gunfights with stylish choreography and chilling sound effects with technical precision. Every bullet is fired with a loud ring, particularly effective during a horrifyingly violent scene of operation in the back of a bus.

Verdict: A messy and irritating crime-thriller.

Resident Evil: Retribution – Overworked Corpse


Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

Stars: Mila Jovovich, Sienna Guillroy, Michelle Rodriguez, Bingbing Li


Release date: September 14th, 2012

Distributor: Screen Gems

Country: USA

Running time: 96 minutes


 1/5

Best part: Its tech-savvy visuals.

Worst part: The acting. Yeesh!

It’s 1968. A filmmaker by the name of George A. Romero has a dream of making the big time in Hollywood. He creates an idea for a new monster to unleash upon terrified audiences. Night of the Living Dead, the first true iteration of the ‘zombie’ is born. 44 years later, his legacy has led to one of the most immortal series’ of our time. That’s not a good thing in this case, as the Resident Evil saga has more than officially outstayed its welcome.

Mila Jovovich.

Mila Jovovich.

It’s fifth instalment can be described simply as a watered down Romero zombie flick for the iPhone generation. Tearing apart every seemingly interesting opportunity, what is left is merely a shadow of the fun 2002 original and some mildly entertaining sequels.The plot of Resident Evil: Retribution is as frustrating as teaching a child how to solve a rubik’s cube; it’s messy, tedious and forces you to give up after 10 minutes. The moustache twirling baddie-spitting organisation known as ‘Umbrella’ is once again interfering with failed test subject and spandex-clad warrior queen Alice (Mila Jovovich). Recoiling from the events of previous instalments, her capture leads to a series of simulated obstacles, each more trying than the last. Alice, a collection of allies and her fragmented mind must defend themselves against the horde of undead creatures and the vicious Red Queen.

Michelle Rodriguez.

Michelle Rodriguez.

Based on the hugely successful series of video games (now up to no. 6), the relentless and blood-curdling antics of the games far outweigh anything put forth by Jovovich and her hack-director husband Paul W.S Anderson. Anderson (known for such ‘classics’ as Alien vs. Predator, The 2008 Death Race remake and last year’s silly re-imagining of The Three Musketeers) places his lack of filmmaking prowess in full view (along with his wife’s naughty bits). A man clearly interested in the alluring aspects of video game creation over the basics of film production and script writing, his mindset for direction works like a stoner with a sudden rush of ideas for the next great invention. If you missed the last few instalments, everything is unnecessarily explained in minute detail, hopefully getting audiences to revisit the better points of this undead nightmare (specifically Resident Evil: Extinction). This series is clearly his baby, and he intends to prove that with every idea based on a simple “I love this element from the game, we’ll throw that in here!”. Sadly for him Resident Evil: Retribution fails on every level. The fun, violent, techno-action allure from the original becomes sanitised in a film filled with bright lights, simulations and an over abundance of touch screens. The elements of video game story and characterisation have never worked on film, nor will they if Anderson keeps his filthy hands on every adaptation. 

“Waiting for a written invitation?” (Alice (Mila Jovovich), Resident Evil: Retribution).

Jovovich & Li Bingbing

Jovovich & Li Bingbing.

Resident Evil: Retribution suffers from repetitive story and action beats, ripped not only from better parts of this series but from completely different movies. Alice’s simulated memories turn her life into the most basic of video games. The elements of surprise, suspense, original action/chase sequences and character interactions are ruined with every contrivance and predictable jump scare hastily thrown in. She wakes up in Dawn of the Dead, Sucker Punch, Aliens, Escape from New York and finally The Terminator, as Anderson once again reveals to have a lack of original thought. Though not surprising given his mindless filmography. All the ‘W.S Anderson’ touches are thrown in for good measure. Long hallways with on-coming obstacles, creatures leap over and over again at the screen, silly special effect-laden set pieces and charisma-less characters are part of the ensemble of bad decisions in this cliche ridden extravaganza. Even his action style, although fun in rare moments here, is a bland hybrid of John Woo’s hyper-violent gun play and Zack Snyder’s slo-mo. The performances from Anderson regulars don’t help much either. Without a suitable reason for bringing in characters from previous instalments, Michelle Rodriguez (Resident Evil), Oded Fehr (R.E: Apocalypse and Extinction) and Sienna Guillroy (R.E: Apocalypse) provide nothing but clones devoid of personality. While Jovovich, despite looking good in black spandex, is all but sinking with this ship.

Despite Paul W. S. Anderson commitment to his own creation, Resident Evil: Retribution marks the beginning of the end for the franchise. Thanks to the nightmarish acting, derivative style, and bland story, this corpse should be put out of its mystery!

Verdict: This undead series should rest in peace.

Moonrise Kingdom Review – Young Lover’s Yonder


Director: Wes Anderson

Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Stars: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis


Release Date: May 25th, 2012

Distributor: Focus Features

Country: USA

Running time: 94 minutes

4/5

Best part: The engaging performances.

Worst part: The irritable supporting characters.

Bravely holding up the peace sign in protest against modernity and establishment, Moonrise Kingdom could be seen as this generation’s Easy Rider. A big statement to make for sure, but its quirky tone and important discussion of free love and youth are held onto with a fond emotional resonance and artistic beauty.

Jared Gilman & Kara Hayward.

Jared Gilman & Kara Hayward.

Its 1965, America is a transitional state and its youth are easily impressionable to the evolving tapestries of temptation and rebellion. Violent and socially awkward Suzy (Kara Hayward) finds her soul mate with the equally strange and detested Sam (Jared Gilman). They run away from home to the island of New Penzance, isolated from the throes of a bland American life. The parents and local authorities are made aware of their indiscretions and become determined to keep them apart, but a physical and emotional escape from their confines has forever drawn them into the realm of forbidden desires. Along the way, our heroes  run into several peculiar townsfolk and obstacles as their relationship reaches new peaks and troughs. In addition, with the town looking high and low for our cute couple, we look on as people from all different walks of life become bitten by the same bug that recently struck our two leads.  Guided by Sam’s boy scout savvy, the forest-dwelling existences may just pull their friends and well-wishers out of their tedious existences.

Edward Norton.

Edward Norton.

Forbidden desires, love and loss bring this anti-American prophecy to life through the vision of acclaimed director Wes Anderson. Anderson, known for his niche fan base and strange dramedies such as The Royal Tenenbaums and  Rushmore, has created his most concentrated work yet with Moonrise Kingdom. Everything on-screen glows as every frame is a reminder of this acclaimed auteur and his peculiar vision in a modern filmmaking era. The Anderson tropes are all in full effect; precocious children, dysfunctional families, a 70’s aesthetic and uncomfortable themes provide just the tip of the knife, piercing the heart of any viewer taking in this touching and cheerful dramedy. Based in a storybook like setting, his messages are surely based on his childhood in an era of free love and inhibitions dancing in the wind. The film speaks to the modern and adult viewer about valuable contrasting issues. Society, family, age and politics are all questioned as the film breaks down more than just the fourth wall. Looking into the camera at characters off screen, tracking and panning across settings through limited angles, abstract imagery, spit screen dialogue sequences and cutesy geographical narration from Bob Balaban’s gnome-like character question the comfort, voyeurism and staged representations of modernity and order. Moonrise Kingdom is one of art house sensibility, constantly creating delicate cutesy moments out of the darker side of life.

“I always wished I was an orphan. Most of my favorite characters are. I think your lives are more special.” (Suzy (Kara Hayward), Moonrise Kingdom).

Norton, Bruce Willis & Tilda Swinton.

Norton, Bruce Willis & Tilda Swinton.

The child characters are a part of us in one way or another. We go through their strange yet spiritually enlightening journey, knowing how and when their changing bodies and personalities will soon affect each other. First experiences, with concerning issues such as sex and violence, may catastrophically destroy their innocence. We witness however the pair shuffling through the bases, in the hope they find their own slice of Valhalla in an era of war and hatred. The adult characters sadly add little more than thematic representations and roadblocks to this hippie-era love story. With the boy scouts representing the army at the height of the Vietnam War, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel as scout leaders are suitably charming yet lack moral depth. The film is delightfully based on children learning by doing, displaying not that parents are wrong for their treatment of children, but should give them a chance to grow by themselves. Despite both child character’s anti-social and even masochistic tendencies, including piercing ears with fish hooks and brutally attacking boy scouts, delectable performances from Hayward and Gilman illustrate the joys of living discovered through adventure.

Moonrise Kingdom, marking Anderson’s spectacular return to form, is a rich, hearty dramedy with something to say. Talking about life, love, and inhibition, the movie comes from a significant place close to Anderson’s heart.

Verdict: A sweet and quirky coming of age tale.