Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reviews: Looper / Sinister

In this current cinematic age of reboots, remakes and general rehashing of story ideas, coming up with an original concept for a movie is a rare achievement.  A truly unique and unconventional concept comes around every once in a while.  We last saw it with Christopher Nolan in 2010 when Inception was released and thankfully we get to experience it again in 2012 thanks to Rian Johnson.  Looper is a sci-fi time travelling masterpiece that takes elements from previous works and molds them into a truly original film-going experience for the audience.

Johnson's Looper introduces us to a group of criminals who use time travel (which is outlawed in the future) to send certain individuals back in time to be murdered by "Loopers".  The Loopers are responsible for shooting the individuals upon arrival and getting rid of their bodies.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a Looper who ends up face to face with his future self, played by Bruce Willis.  Joe is supposed to kill himself to "close his loop" but Willis' Joe ends up escaping and the rest of the film focuses on the dynamic between the two versions of Joe and a sinister threat from the future.  Johnson uses elements of time travel to show cause and effect between the two versions of Joe.  Whatever happens to Joe in the present instantly affects the older future-version of Joe.  The clever time-travel dynamics make this film so interesting to watch.  The plot makes you think but is never over your head.

What makes this movie work so well is the dynamic performances from Willis and Gordon-Levitt that make you really believe that they are the same person, just in different times in their lives.  Kudos to the makeup and prosthetics team as well for making Gordon-Levitt's face into a believable younger version of Willis' mug.  Emily Blunt chips in with a believable turn as Joe's love interest.  I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but there is a kid in this film that is a key character, played by Pierce Gagnon.  Gagnon's performance as a child actor is essential to the success of the overall movie.  He does not come across as whiny or annoying at all and gives his character the proper level of authenticity.  I feel if another child was cast in this role, the movie would have derailed towards the final third of the story.  The ending of the film makes you think about the choices that Joe has to make in his life.  I thought it was the perfect capper on a cerebral and inventive action film.

Looper is an extremely well-paced and engaging movie that pushes the envelope in time-travel creativity.  I cannot recommend this movie enough and I have to give it my third 5 out of 5 rating for 2012, putting it right up there with Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus as one of the best films of the year.  Go see it right now!

Another movie I saw this week was Sinister, a middling horror movie directed by Scott Derrickson using a mix of live-action scares combined with found-footage.  Ethan Hawke plays the lead role as Ellison Oswalt, a struggling novelist who is looking to write his next horror-story masterpiece.  Unfortunately, the paranormal events he is writing about are also terrorizing him and his family.

This film had some good buzz so I was excited to see it first-hand, however there isn't really anything memorable about the film.  There are some disturbing scenes throughout (including some seriously creepy scenes with kids in harms-way), but I just didn't find myself engrossed in the story to care that much.

The effects are so-so and the use of found footage is well integrated into the story but it's something we've seen time and time again.  Hawke is solid as usual but the supporting cast is below average, especially the annoying and forgettable performance by the unknown (and rightfully so) Juliet Rylance as Hawke's wife.  I was disappointed by Sinister and can only give it 2.5 out of 5 JRs.  Wait for the rental on this one.

Lots of good movies coming out soon including Skyfall and Lincoln.  I also might take the kids to see Wreck-It Ralph (Disney's latest digital animation creation about video games).

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