REVIEW: “The Cold Light of Day”

Cold Light posterAbout a quarter of the way through “The Cold Light of Day” I was really wondering why everyone had been so hard on the film. I was already preparing for my defense of the movie and the ribbing I would be getting for it. But then things changed. Bruce Willis disappears, Henry Cavill takes center stage, and the bottom falls out. Now I usually don’t like to dwell too long on a movie’s bad points but sometimes you just can’t avoid it. Especially when the entire movie takes a nose dive right before your very eyes. Things definitely go bad here and the movie erases nearly every bit of promise it offers early on.

The idea of the movie is sound enough. Will Shaw (Cavill) arrives in Spain where he plans to spend the week with his vacationing family. We quickly learn that Will doesn’t have the best relationship with his father (Bruce Willis) and the tension between the two is evident. But Will doesn’t make things easy. He sulks and mopes and spends more time on his cell phone checking on his business in San Francisco. This self-centered immaturity pops up throughout the film. I mean even later, when Will is supposed to be ‘a new man’, his character reminds me of a 14-year old with some of the things he does.

The group takes a sailboat off the coast for a day, but Will and his father have a huge argument leading Will to swim into town to get supplies and cool off. When he gets back to the beach to he notices that the boat is gone. He walks the beaches searching until he finds it in a cove. Nobody is on board and it appears there was a struggle. Neither the police or American Embassy are willing to help and Will begins to find out some interesting things about his father. I don’t want to give away any of the few surprises (and I mean very few) this movie has so let’s just say he ends up with a host of people chasing him through Madrid while he tries to find a way to save his family.

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One of the biggest problems with “The Cold Light of Day” is that things get so blasted silly. The film takes so many convenient, out of the blue turns and the characters do some of the most idiotic things. Sigourney Weaver, a talented and accomplished actress, enters the picture and you would think she would be a stabilizing force. Not so! Her character is as cheesy and corny as they come and I often found myself just shaking my head at her flailing attempts at tough guy dialogue. Her character’s angle as well as several other aspects of the story are completely predictable which cuts into any of the suspense the film was hoping for. And any type of plot that happens to catch you by surprise still feels totally contrived.

None of this is helped by Henry Cavill. If I may be unapologetically blunt for a moment, Cavill is absolutely awful here. Now to be fair it doesn’t help that he’s given such boneheaded dialogue. But his performance even sinks below that. Cavill is at his best when he’s sprinting through the streets, jumping over cars, and ducking for cover (and he does a ton of that). But once he’s asked to say a line or show some emotion, well lets just say I’m suddenly a little worried about the upcoming “Man of Steel” movie.

Now this movie features some good camera work and it’s shot in some gorgeous locations. I absolutely loved seeing the sights of Madrid as the movie moves from one part of the city to another. I enjoyed the first third of the film and thought it opened itself up nicely. It also moves at a good crisp pace and at 90 minutes it doesn’t drag things out longer than it should. But the pluses don’t absolve the movie of its clear transgressions and as it moves forward things completely fall apart. I remember when I first saw the trailer for this film. I thought it had a lot of potential. It did. Unfortunately the movie wastes practically all of it.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

5 Phenomenal Movie Helicopter Scenes

movie_theatre - Phenom 5As goofy as this probably sounds, I love a good helicopter scene. I know it’s weird but I’ve been amazed at some of the great moments in movies that involve helicopters. In fact, you can sometimes find fantastic helicopter scenes in movies that aren’t necessarily that good. In light of that I’ve decided we would have some fun in this week’s Phenomenal 5. I’ve picked out 5 outstanding helicopter movie scenes that range from iconic to absolutely insane. Now considering how often helicopters have made their ways into movies it would be silly to call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 helicopter scenes are certainly phenomenal.

#5 – “LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD”

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“Live Free or Die Hard”

I doubt anyone will ever call 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard” the best film of the “Die Hard” series. But while it didn’t live up to the previous three movies, it was a fun flick and considerably better than the more recent franchise killer. Perhaps the coolest scene in the movie involves an incredible helicopter sequence. On their way to FBI headquarters, John McClane and his witness are ambushed by an attack helicopter in downtown New York. They are eventually flushed out of a tunnel but McClane always leaves his mark. He not only escapes the tunnel but he launches his car into the hovering chopper. BOOM! Insanely over the top but also insanely awesome.

#4 – “RAMBO III”

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“Rambo III”

It’s pretty safe to say that John Rambo loves helicopters. There are three or four great Rambo chopper scenes that could easily make this list. But I went with a wild and intense sequence from “Rambo III”. In this installment of the testosterone-driven Stallone franchise Rambo tackles the Soviet occupied Afghanistan. While at a village with some Afghan freedom fighters, two Russian attack choppers attack. Armed with rockets and machine guns, the choppers decimate the village and the people there. Rambo dodges explosions and bullets until he reaches a mounted machine gun on top of a hill. In typical Rambo fashion he swings the turret and starts firing on an approaching chopper. It blows to bits sending the other chopper packing. 80s cheese no doubt but I love it.

#3 – “THE DARK KNIGHT”

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“The Dark Knight”

For me, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is the best superhero movie ever made. A key ingredient to its tremendous success was the performance of Heath ledger as the Joker. The Joker’s advantage came from always being a step ahead of the Gotham Police. That was never more evident than in a scene where a police convoy is transporting Harvey Dent. Anticipating a police chopper escort, the Joker has his men fire cables from one high rise building to the other across the street. The chopper snags one of the cables which sends it careening into the side of the building and eventually crashing down in front of the convoy. It’s just one part of a truly incredible sequence.

#2 – “APOCALYPSE NOW”

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“Apocalypse Now”

I may not hold Francis Ford Coppola’s beloved 1979 war picture “Apocalypse Now” in as high regard as many do, but I do recognize some of the great moments it gives us. Maybe the most well known scene in the film comes after Martin Sheen runs into Robert Duvall’s wacky, surf-loving Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. Kilgore leads his air calvary helicopter squadron in an attack on a Vietcong base based on nothing more than the fine surfing conditions in that area. The helicopter attack amid napalm drops and “Ride of the Valkyries” is for me the film’s most memorable scene. But it’s Coppola’s camera that makes it so good. His sweeping shots and perfectly framed chaos create one of the most visually stunning war sequences. This scene also leads to one of the most iconic film quotes in history – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. How could this scene not be on this list?

#1 – “28 WEEKS LATER”

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“28 Weeks Later”

Whenever I think of helicopter scenes in cinema my mind will always gravitate to the inventive, over-the-top, and down right nutty chopper sequence in “28 Weeks Later”. I won’t get into the whole “are the Rage virus victims zombies” debate, but they’re close enough for me. In the movies we’ve seen zombies killed in a variety of ways but never as they are here. I don’t want to spoil anything but let’s just say that our survivors are discovered hiding in the tall grass of a field by a huge ravenous group of snarling infected who instantly come running for them. But a friendly chopper steps in and boy does it take care of business. Pilot Harold Perrineau dips the nose of his helicopter to where his swirling blades are mere feet from the ground. You guessed it, he flies that thing right through the horde. Limbs fly, blood splatters, and heads roll in this graphic zombie/infected slaughter sequence. I still remember my first reaction when seeing it.

So there you have it. These are five phenomenal helicopter movie scenes that I love. But what about you? See something I missed? Please take time to share your favorites below.

REVIEW: “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

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One of my great joys growing up was reading the G.I. Joe comic book series. The action figures, the vehicles, the cartoon series – G.I. Joe equaled big money in the late 80s and early 90s. But my favorite remained the comic book. I read it for around 100 issues and I loved the way it treated its characters, their relationships, and their storylines. So imagine my frustration when “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” hit the big screen in 2009. It was a movie ripe with potential but full of crap. The shoddy acting, the overt political correctness, and the ridiculous story supplied enough reasons to dislike the film. But for me its biggest vice was the butchering of the characters that I’ve loved since my childhood. Whether it was poor research or poor creative decisions, I don’t know. But I do know I despised that movie.

Four years have passed and now Paramount Studios have given us a sequel, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”. This time around they dangle Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis like a carrot in front of a horse, trying to convince us that this movie aims to be better. Well, actually it is better but I’m not sure that’s saying much. One thing that stood out was that it did attempt to be a little more faithful to the comic book source material than the previous movie. There are several tips of the hat and even a side story straight from the pages of the print series. Unfortunately the side story will make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn’t read it and this leads to the biggest problem with this entire project – the lame and often times amateurish writing.

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The movie picks up shortly after the events of the first film. Zartan is masquerading as the President of the United States while Cobra Commander and Destro are in some sort of cryogenic stasis in an underground government prison. But Cobra has a bigger plan at work that of course includes world domination and extinguishing the G.I. Joe team. Meanwhile, the Joes are out doing what they do, thwarting terrorist attacks, retrieving stolen nuclear warheads – you know, standard Joe stuff.

Duke (Channing Tatum) is back and he’s the man in charge. He shares a bromance with his best friend and team heavy machine gunner Roadblock (Johnson). We also get the seemingly loose cannon Flint (D.J. Cotrona) although they completely abandon his loose cannon angle. Then there’s the gorgeous but able Lady Jaye (played by the gorgeous and occasionally able Adrianne Palicki). And of course there’s the super cool and personal favorite Joe of mine Snake-Eyes (Ray Park). After the team is decimated by a Cobra attack sanctioned by the bogus president, the few surviving Joes are forced underground where they must put together a plan to expose Cobra and avenge the death of their comrades.

The movie is really just a series of action set pieces linked together by a few strands of plot. But did anyone honestly go into a G.I. Joe movie expecting anything deep? The story is adequate enough to move this action-oriented film along. It’s when the story tries to branch out into side stories that things begin to get messy. The most obvious example is a side story dealing with Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, and the events of their connected pasts. As a fan of the comic series I smiled as I remembered reading this story from the books. But in terms of this movie, its incorporation into the main story is horribly done. It comes completely out of the blue and instead of gelling with the main narrative, it violently collides with it. There’s no sense of place and there’s no real connection at all.

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The poor writing also shows itself in some of the character’s underwritten subplots and in some of the corniest dialogue you’ll hear all year. Some of the jokes and attempts at humor are nothing short of cringe-worthy. There were times, particularly in the first half of the film, where these lines felt so awkward and disingenuous. Then there was the macho military banter, again mostly in the first half of the film, that was so incredibly silly and fake. It’s hard to imagine anyone putting this on paper and thinking it sounds good. It’s also hard to take any of these characters seriously while you’re constantly face palming due to the goofy dialogue! Thankfully a lot of this subsides as the movie goes on.

As with many of this year’s movies we’ve seen so far and that are on the way, the action is the big focus. It’s pretty relentless so be prepared to be bombarded with bullets, blades, and explosions. For me, this was the film’s strong point. I thought the action sequences in the first film did nothing to save it from its serious flaws. The action sequences in this film are actually pretty good and they did help me get past some of this movie’s shortcomings. They also translated well in 3D, something that was a pleasant surprise considering my usual dislike for the technology. But like other movies with such heavy dependence on CGI, things sometimes feel too synthetic. There’s a wildly entertaining ninja showdown on the face of a huge mountain. But as fun as it is, it’s still hurt by its absurdity and obvious computer generated visuals. The action is also helped and sometimes hurt by Jon Chu’s direction. Now I was happy to see a new director on board after the first debacle. But I’m hard-pressed to believe that a director known for the “Step Up” series and “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” was the best choice.

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The Rock is intended to be the big draw here and while he’s big on charisma, he’s not when it comes to emotion. But is that just something that comes with casting him or was he handcuffed by the material he’s given? Another draw was Bruce Willis but this is clearly a check cashing role for him. His short screen time adds a few mild snickers and he serves as a plot hole filler (kind of) but that’s about it. Tatum is as forgettable as usual but again the material does him no favors. I think Jonathan Pryce may be the most fun actor to watch in the film. He plays around and has fun as both the president and Zartan posing as the president.

So after all of that what’s my conclusion on “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”? Is it as awful as I anticipated? Nope, not even close. Is at a good movie? I don’t think I can go there either. Let me just say it’s a better movie than its predecessor and at times can be entertaining. I enjoyed the attempt to add a pinch of realism to the story and I liked some of the money moments such as Snake-Eyes vs Storm Shadow. But in the end “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” seems content to be a better movie rather than a really good one. Granted it’s aimed at an audience made up of teen boys and nostalgic men and it’ll score some points there. But nostalgia only carries me so far.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

“A Good Day to Die Hard” – 2 STARS

DIE HARD POSTER

Going into “A Good Day to Die Hard” (a.k.a. “Die Hard 5”), I knew that I would be the guy that would take a stand against the barrage of negative reviews from critics and fellow movie blogging buddies. I was prepared to respond to those who have berated the film or labeled it a major disappointment. I was ready to let everyone know why the current 16% Rotten Tomatoes score was misguided and wrong. But I ran into a problem. I was ready and prepared to defend this film. Unfortunately I can’t. If it weren’t for the title I would have never known this was a “Die Hard” picture. “A Good Day to Die Hard” is missing almost ever signature feature and clever nuance that has made this franchise great.

There are several things that have set this franchise apart from other action films. You have the fiery personality of its wisecracking lead character. You have strong, well-defined, charismatic villains. You have solid side characters that fit perfectly in John McClane’s chaotic world. You’ll have a hard time finding a trace of any of these things in “A Good Day to Die Hard” and for me the problems all start with the writing and direction. Skip Woods wrote the screenplay which explains a lot. His last two writing credits were for the terrible “X-Men Orgins: Wolverine” and the even bigger train wreck “The A-Team”. John Moore directs and while he’s received some box office success, his resume is filled with forgettable films. Put these two together and apparently this is what we get.

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The story is simple and pretty generic. John McClane (Willis) heads to Moscow after receiving news that his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been put in prison. John finds out that his son is a CIA field operative and they both find themselves in the middle of a deadly terrorist plot. A lot of the movie is spent with Willis and Courtney bouncing lazy, ham-fisted lines off each other. I grew tired of Jack’s constant whining and John is now a self-reflecting softie. This gets into one of my biggest problems with this movie. This isn’t the John McClane of the other “Die Hard” pictures. We see very little of his signature spunk and in-your-face attitude. I kept waiting for him to go off on one of the bad guys McClane style but it never happened. In fact, the closest we get to seeing that is when he punches out a motorist for getting in his face. Not one of the terrorists – a civilian!

For me, if you take away McClane’s charisma and attitude you’ve already lost a lot. Apparently Moore thought that having Willis yell and scream here and there would be enough. Not even close! But to make matters worse, McClane’s great smart-alecky humor is decimated by Woods’ poor dialogue. So many times the one-liners land with a thud and they feel cheap and artificial. He does deliver a handful of lines that did make me laugh, but nothing close to the number of great quotes from the previous movies.

It also doesn’t help that he lacks a clear and present villain to go back and forth with. Instead of showing us the bad guy and then allowing McClane to fight his way to him, this film tries to play out like a thriller by throwing several twists in along the way. That’s fine except this is “Die Hard” and this is a significant departure from the structure of the other films. The story itself isn’t terrible and they do try and make some pretty cool historical connections. But it all plays out to be pretty basic stuff and doesn’t stick nearly as well as the other movies, even 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard”.

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But what about the action? I mean the action is the franchise’s bread and butter right? Does it manage to save the movie. Well, yes and no. There are a couple of unbelievable action set pieces even though they seem to grow more and more unimpressive as the film moves on. Perhaps the greatest scene in the film involves a huge car chase through the heavy traffic in Moscow. The sequence has some amazing stunts but it also has an unforgivable problem. It features some of the most frustrating camerawork and editing that I have ever seen in an action film. I am not a fan of the herky-jerky handheld camera craze. Here it’s amplified x10! It’s a long scene but the quick edits rarely leave the camera on a shot for more than a second. And the few times the camera does follow a shot it’s constantly shaking or moving from one place to another. Not only does it make things indecipherable but it basically ruined the scene for me.

I know this may be simplistic thinking especially from a pseudo-critic like me, but how can you mess up when you have such a tried and true formula to use? It may not sound like it but I did find some entertainment in “A Good Day to Die Hard”. I did think there were elements to the story that were pretty cool and there were some good action moments. I also can’t help but feel a little nostalgic when it comes to John McClane. But that’s also why this one stings. This film doesn’t do the movie or the character justice. The tag team of bad writing and bad direction sink this ship and it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Some are saying it’s time to bury this franchise. No way! I want McClane to go out right. So I hope they do another movie. Just don’t let Skip Woods and John Moore anywhere near it!

Interested in another 80’s action star’s comeback? Check out my review of Schwarzenegger’s “The Last Stand”.

TOP 5 SUPPORTING ACTOR PERFORMANCES OF 2012

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Yesterday it was the ladies, today it’s the men. Today I’m listing the Top 5 Supporting Actor Performances from 2012. This category was a very strong one and I had a tougher time narrowing this field to five than any other. I think you’ll notice that there is such a wide range of performances on this list. There are good guys, bad guys, and some guys you just can’t figure out. But everyone gives a wonderful performance and deserve the recognition. So enough rambling. Here are the 5 Best Supporting Actor Performances (according to me)…

#5 – TOM HIDDLESTON (“The Avengers”)

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This is certainly not an Academy-like pick but it’s a worthy one. I love Tom Hiddleston and he could easily appear in two spots on this list. He was fabulous in “The Deep Blue Sea” but I’m going with the flashier and definitely more explosive performance from “The Avengers“. When Hiddleston is on screen as the mischievous villain Loki you can’t take your eyes off him. His conniving smiles, his devilish arrogance, and his way with words make the character one of the most entrancing villain you’ll see. I love the performance and I’m making up for where the Academy dropped the ball.

#4 – BRUCE WILLIS (“Moonrise Kingdom”)

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Writer and director extraordinaire Wes Anderson quite possibly writes some of the most quirkiest characters in cinema history and I love them. “Moonrise Kingdom” has a couple of great characters and performances that could have made this list but I’m going with Bruce Willis. He plays a small community police captain with his own bit of baggage. Willis melds perfectly into Anderson’s accentuated world. He brings some great laughs as well as some pretty heartfelt moments. Willis gets it all right and even his funky blonde hairpiece works to perfection.

#3 – DWIGHT HENRY (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)

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It’s hard to believe that this was Dwight Henry’s first real acting gig. His performance as an ill-equipped and ill-tempered father in the poverty-stricken New Orleans delta was outstanding. Henry owned a bakery before landing this role but you would never know it. He brings such a boisterousness and volatility to the character that is essential to making everything work. At times you want to punch him in the face. Other times you want to cry for him. Henry has made a big splash with his first role and hopefully more people will now get to experience it in “Beasts of the Southern Wild“.

#2 – GUY PEARCE (“Lawless”)

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I don’t think there is a role that Guy Pearce can’t handle. In “Lawless” he plays a rather twisted special deputy sent to the hills of Franklin County, Virginia to put a kink in the moonshiner rings. Pearce has an absolute blast with the role and shows it through his creepy appearance and violent temperment. Several of his scenes stand out including his initial face-off with Tom Hardy. Pearce gives us a true villain and you hate him without any question. I loved this performance and it was one of my favorite bits of supporting work of the year.

#1 – MICHAEL FASSBENDER (“Prometheus”)

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Michael Fassbender has become one of cinema’s best actors and I knew from the opening moments of “Prometheus” that I was in for a real treat. In the movie he plays an android named David and throughout the film we are trying to figure him out. Fassbender’s emotionless demeanor and cryptic forms of speech make him impossible to read and I loved watching him slither in the background of many of the scenes. This was a unique and pivotal role in the movie and Fassbender handles it with ease. I know some have had issues with “Prometheus” but how can you not love his performance.

So there are the 5 Top Supporting Actor Performances for 2012. What are your thoughts on the category? Where did I go wrong? Tommorow it’s back to the ladies as I unveil my Top 5 Lead Actress Performances.

REVIEW: “Looper”


Time travel is one of those fun and intriguing concepts that has found its way into every movie genre. Obviously there is time travel in science fiction films, but it can also be found in the horror, action, drama, comedy, and even romance genres. So there’s an apparent attraction to the idea of time travel and its been explored in a variety of different ways. Therefore the real challenge for a filmmaker is to take this familiar subject and give us something new and fresh – something we haven’t seen before. I’m thrilled to say that’s exactly what writer and director Rian Johnson has done with his mind bending sci-fi action film “Looper”.

As you can guess, “Looper” takes place in the not-to-distant future. Time travel has been realized but by the year 2074 it has been outlawed. The crime syndicates illegally use time travel as a means of executing and disposing of targets, something that has grown increasingly difficult to do in their time. That’s where loopers come in. They are mob killers who execute the targets sent from the future, collect the silver bars sent with the target as their reward, and then dispose of the bodies – no mess and no connections to the mob. Loopers operate out of Kansas City in the year 2044 and are headed by a mobster named Abe (Jeff Daniels). In fact, we learn that Abe is essentially running the entire city.

Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of Abe’s most trusted loopers. He’s efficient and by-the-books. But soon Joe is faced with what’s called “closing the loop” – the syndicate’s version of retirement. You see, the looper will be sent the future version of the himself to be executed. No party or shiny plaque. Just a hefty payment in gold bars and a release from their contract. “Good-bye” and enjoy the next 30 years. As we hear in the movie, the looper job doesn’t attract the most forward thinking people. Joe is surprised and unprepared when his latest target turns out to be himself only 30-years older and bald (Bruce Willis). He makes the biggest mistake a looper can make – he hesitates and old Joe jumps him, knocks him out, and then escapes. Soon young Joe has the mob hot on his trail as he’s trying to “make things right” by catching up with and killing old Joe. But old Joe has a mission of his own which really turns everything on its head.

The first half of the movie focuses more on the loopers, on introducing us to Johnson’s world, and setting up Gordon-Levitt’s character. A huge part of any movie like this, especially when dealing with time travel, is creating a believability to what you’re presenting. In other words, we need to buy into what we’re being shown. The concept behind this Rian Johnson futuristic concoction is brilliant and a breath of fresh cinematic air. What’s even more impressive is how well it’s realized on screen. He doesn’t overdo his futuristic landscape so I never felt too disconnected from this world. But there is some cool technology and Johnson clearly has fun with some of it including his ugly green energy dependent cars and the bad cell phone reception. But the city itself is a dirty and unpleasant place filled with poverty and drug use – just what you would expect from a mob-led city.

The second half of the movie takes a slight change in direction. Much of it takes part on a farm outside of town owned by a single mother Sara (Emily Blunt who exchanges her English accent for a country girl one) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Young Joe’s search for old Joe leads him to the farm where he hopes to find shelter from the syndicate and clues to what his older self is up to. But he quickly learns that there’s more to this farm family than meets the eye. These scenes add some authentic emotional punch to the film. But Johnson also uses this part of the movie to open up several new doors which add more and more layers to the already challenging story. Of course there were a couple of times where I had to stop and process what I had just seen, but I really liked these different directions and as a whole, the complex yet miraculously cohesive script is constructed with such intelligence and precision so that I never felt lost nor did I feel the material ever bogged down.

It’s also worth mentioning the spectacular visuals and no-holds-barred action sequences. It doesn’t take long to recognize Johnson’s skill with framing shots and moving his camera. He uses several unconventional techniques which give the move a unique look. We get several close-ups where Johnson wants the expressions of his characters to tell the story. He also often times places his camera at ground level giving us the feeling we are looking up at them. This is very effective particularly during the buildup to a couple of key action scenes. Speaking of the action, it is incredibly done. It’s a brutal and violent mix of sci-fi and 1980’s gun-blazing action and both work extremely well. Johnson doesn’t skimp on the blood but it feels right at home in this picture.

I also have to talk about the acting. The performances in “Looper” are solid throughout with some being Oscar caliber in my opinion. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to prove that he’s a top Hollywood talent. Here he’s armed with heavy makeup, a prosthetic nose, and a Bruce Willis smirk. The funny thing is he channels Willis perfectly from his slouch to his expressions, all while giving a very different performance than Willis. And speaking of Willis, he is excellent here. What stood out was the range that he shows in this performance. For instance there are scenes where he’s a cranky codger, an emotional wreck, and laugh out loud funny. But there were also scenes that reminded me of John McClane from Die Hard – steadily yelling while his machine gun pumps loads of lead. Emily Blunt is fantastic as always, Jeff Daniels just eats up his lines, and Paul Dano plays the same measly, wormy character that he always plays. Then there is young Pierce Gagnon who is phenomenal. He’s such a tender presence but his performance goes well beyond that standard cute kid role. He’s given a lot to do and he really stands out.

I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I really liked “Looper”. But it’s not a perfect movie. While the story is intensely original and thoroughly engaging, there are a few plot holes as well as some pointless throw away scenes in the first half of the movie. For example early on we see young Joe has a relationship with a prostitute. He appears to be quite fond of her even though she’s only in a couple of scenes, one of which seems to be there strictly to add some pointless content to the film. This time could have been spent better elsewhere. I also couldn’t help but ask the question – what type of crime organization would actually hire Paul Dano’s character to be a looper? His performance is fine but I had a hard time believing in him. That said, he did provide us with one of the films very best sequences. I’ll just leave it at that.

I could go on and on about “Looper” but let me just sum it up by saying that it’s the most ambitious and imaginative movie I’ve seen all year. It’s smart and audacious and Rian Johnson actually pulls it all off. It’s completely unpredictable and no matter how hard you try, you never catch up with it. It’s always one step ahead of you. “Looper” takes the familiar device of time travel to new places through a brilliantly original concept. Johnson lays out that concept clearly for the audience. Then he takes it, shakes it, twists it, and contorts it and then challenges the audience to keep up. He dabbles in different genres and themes, examines societies, questions morality, and asks us to take it all in and process it. That’s something I’m happy to do especially when the movie is this good.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS