October 9th, 2012


Once you get past the rather unlikely premise, "Looper" is an effective action drama with good character interaction between Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "Joe," the Looper of the title, and Emily Blunt as "Sara" a woman whose life becomes entangled with Joe's convoluted timeline. They are well supported by Bruce Willis, as Joe's future self, and Jeff Daniels as "Abe" the gangster from the future who runs the Loopers and his gang of "gat men," such as the hapless "Kid Blue" (Noah Segan).

Most of the story takes place in 2042. New Orleans stands in for a depressingly plausible urban dystopia, where the only people who seem to have new cars or money are the gangsters, including the Loopers. The Loopers live a hedonistic lifestyle of drugs, drinking, and women between assassinations, storing up pelf in the form of silver bars toward the day their devil's bargain with the uptime mob comes to its end. You see, not only do they kill and dispose of people that the 2072 gangsters make disappear by sending back in time, they also agree to kill their future selves when the mob has no more need for them, receiving a golden payoff they get to enjoy until the end comes, thirty years hence.

Abe and his gat men exist to enforce the Looper's contracts, sometimes in imaginative and horrifying ways. Of course, things go wrong when "Old Joe" (Willis), who's smarter and tougher than the average Looper, breaks the cycle and embarks on his own horrifying plan to preserve some of his future by changing his past--with or without the cooperation of his younger self.

Although there are significant logic holes, again, once it's running the plot is engaging and, as Georgie noted, has some actual suspense, since the time-travel elements make the ultimate outcome uncertain, and we really could not see the end coming.

I was quite amused by the flashback (flashforward?) sequence setting out Joe's metamorphosis into Old Joe. After having received his payoff, he takes Abe's advice and moves to Shanghai. After having burned through his money, he goes back to a life of crime, becoming a John Woo/Jet Li style killer. (Evidently, the mob's concern about hiding bodies doesn't apply to everyone--.) This gives him the skills and toughness to beat his uptime kidnappers and the downtime gat men at their own game.

(We almost didn't go to see this movie. The minimal local promotion consisted of print ads only showing Gordon-Levitt and Willis wielding their guns, which lead me to believe it was going to be a "Die Hard" type shootout film. People's comments on the internet made me aware that there was a science-fiction element. Of course, being a Willis vehicle, there is one obligatory huge gunfight, but it's mercifully short and relatively low on gore.)

Ultimately, it's an interesting and engaging film that doesn't stint on the dire consequences of misusing time travel, without being as hopeless as, say "Twelve Monkeys," which was about the last good time travel movie, and, ironically, also starred Bruce Willis--. Not for kids, since there's nudity, lots of foul language, and intense violence.

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Milwaukee Film Festival: "The Princess Bride"

Due to work and my rehearsal/performance schedule we weren't going to get to many of this year's Milwaukee Film Festival offerings, but did decide to make time to get to the Oct. 6th showing of "The Princess Bride," which celebrated 25 years since the debut of this unique film. Georgie and I had both read the novel prior to the film's opening and went to see it eagerly. We've loved it ever since, and were glad to have the opportunity to see it on the big screen again.

It's worth noting that the Milwaukee Film Festival, now, I believe in it's third incarnation (at least), seems to be running smoothly. On-line ticket purchase worked well, and they had lots of enthusiastic volunteers in evidence at the Oriental Theatre when we were there.

"The Princess Bride" is one of those movies that is practically perfect as it is, for what it is. Adapted from his own novel by William Goldman, one of Hollywood's finest screenwriters, it could hardly fail, but one might have wondered how well a film based on a send-up of Sabatini-esque sentimental adventure novels would have done. For those of us who loved those kind of novels and movies, it is a charming and cherished homage.

I'm struck by how many phrases from the movie have entered at least our personal vocabularies: "As you wish." "Inconceivable!" "I am not left-handed." "Get used to disappointment!" "Never match wits with a Scilian when death is on the line!" "Iocaine powder." "Only mostly dead." "Have fun stormin' da castle!" "Rodents of unusual size." "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." (and variations, such as, "Hello, my name is Batman--.") "The Dread Pirate Roberts." "Mawaiage." And of course, "True Love."

I class the film as "practically perfect," since I know some people don't find the Peter Falk/Fred Savage framing scenes congenial, but I found them to be less intrusive than on prior viewings. Also, there's the insipid theme song, which, having re-heard, I have a hard time getting out of my head, but these are minor flaws.

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