Looper (2012)

looperposter462012Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Xu Qing, Tracie Thoms

Directed by Rian Johnson

Expectations: Extremely high (but I should say that those expectations come completely from others’ reactions. I never saw a trailer or anything.)

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Looper has a lot of great ideas, but they’re crushed under the weight of the film’s negative aspects. I had fun with it, no doubt, but by the last 20 minutes of the film I was literally clawing at my chair, frantically wishing the film would end. I do respect the way it ultimately ended, although I could’ve done without the minute or so of strained slo-mo that was supposed to really drive the emotional impact home. Ugh. But I’m getting ahead of myself by already talking about the ending. Hold on… let me go back in time.

[All systems go in 3… 2… 1…] [We have time travel ignition.]

My expectations for Looper were absolutely through the roof. This is always a bad way to see a movie, especially one from a director I’m not on the fanboy train for. Rian Johnson has only made three features, but around the Internet his début film, Brick, is seemingly only talked about in hushed, hallowed tones. Since I saw it before I started this website, and I don’t plan on watching it again, let me just say that I hated Brick. Neo-noir, schmeo-noir. Sorry, Brick fans. And that’s very close to how I feel about Looper, except that I kind of liked this one when I wasn’t completely frustrated with it.

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Quick Takes: Fast Food Nation, Spy Kids, Cannibal!: The Musical

Fast Food Nation (2006)

Starring Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Ashley Johnson, Bobby Cannavale, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Paul Dano, Luis Guzmán, Avril Lavigne
Directed by Richard Linklater

Visually appealing, Fast Food Nation does its best to adapt a non-fiction bestseller to a fictional film. It doesn’t necessarily work, as character dialogue is filled with lines from the book or scenes are specifically built around a piece of factual information instead of a traditional narrative conflict. It’s a very strange and unique film in this way, and one that ends up being pretty boring for someone like me that has read both Fast Food Nation and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. It served more to remind me of key moments in both, instead of actively engaging me.

Spy Kids (2001)

Starring Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Carla Gugino, Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Teri Hatcher, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Robert Patrick
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Initially I saw Spy Kids close to its original DVD release and thought it wasn’t that great. A few months ago I watched Rodriguez’s most recent kid’s movie, Shorts, and loved it to pieces, making me re-evaluate his offerings for younger viewers. Upon a re-watch, Spy Kids is excellent over-the-top fun, packing in more gadgets and spy intrigue than the last few Bond films combined. The first half is nearly perfect, but it all sort of unravels as it goes. Despite this adult problem I had, the film succeeds in funneling espionage action into a fun romp of a kid’s film. Recommended, especially if you have kids.

Cannibal!: The Musical (1993)

Starring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Dian Bachar, Toddy Walters, Jason McHugh, John Hegel, Ian Hardin, Stan Brakhage, Robert Muratore, Edward Henwood, Andrew Kemler, Maseo Maki
Directed by Trey Parker

Made while attending college, Cannibal!: The Musical is an astoundingly professional production. Attempting to tell the story of real-life accused cannibalist Alferd Packer, Trey Parker and Matt Stone craft a funny and enjoyable black comedy with well-written songs and a great sense of the absurd. I expected quite the gorefest as this was picked up and released by Troma, but instead it’s mostly a comedic musical with touches of graphic violence thrown in for good measure.  When it does get violent, the low-budget FX are incredibly effective, especially the tongue-ripping and the axe to the face! Recommended to fans of Parker/Stone comedies fo sho.

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