Movie Review: Thrown for a Loop

My beloved wife and I sat down this weekend to catch a few movies. The cold front moved in and high winds and icy temperatures kept us pinned down, so we took to Vudu video service and dished up a few we thought we’d enjoy.

The one we picked for Friday night was Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, with a side dish of Emily Blunt thrown in.

LooperLooper is a throw back movie. Oh, I know it’s sci-fi and future-set and all of that, but the fact is, this is an old fashioned noir movie. No gumshoe in a zoot suit, but plenty o’ guys gettin’ a trimmin’ from th’ boss. Smoky bars and nightclubs, dames and dopes galore.

In the future, time travel is only thirty years away. It’s outlawed, which means only outlaws time travel. To eradicate their enemies, people disappear in the future, materialize in the past, are assassinated by Loopers, and their bodies are disposed of. Clean. Simple. Untraceable. And when the assassin has worn out his usefulness, the mob “closes his loop” – which means he is kidnapped and sent to the past to be eradicated by … himself.

It’s a clever premise. And it’s well written, well acted and even though it suffers from some of the same problems any causality loop plot device brings with it, the movie is in many ways riveting. Since he left Third Rock from the Sun, I haven’t seen much out of Gordon-Levitt, but he does a decent job in this one. Willis I never appreciate, but my wife and I both felt a snide chuckle escape at certain times.

Think about it: What would you say to yourself thirty years in the past? If I could meet myself thirty years ago, I’d have so much to say. Problem is, I probably wouldn’t listen to myself. Not even to myself. And I wouldn’t much like me either. Heck, I don’t like me now.

So Looper has some moments of real charm, and is a story worth sitting through. Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, it misses and violates some of its own rules. But it was an entertaining ride, and wasn’t quite as dystopian as I initially thought.

Overall, I gave Looper four stars on Vudu’s rating service. It was really fun, and I’m glad I saw it. I’m also glad I only paid five bucks to see it.

Then again, that’s usually the case for me.

What did you do this weekend?

-jdt-

Movie Review: Hereafter

Over the weekend, my loving wife and I sat down to watch a movie. We chose Hereafter, starring Matt Damon and a bunch of other people I’d never heard of. And that guy who used to be in the Pepsi “Brown-‘n’-Bubbly” commercials and was in The Ghost Whisperer. Remember him? (His name’s Jay Mohr, if that helps you. It wouldn’t help me, I can say that.)

hereafter-movie-image-0It’s about a series of events which lead to the lives of George Lonegal, a gifted psychic, and Marie Lelay, a French journalist and newscaster, intersecting. George only needs to touch someone for a moment or two (ala The Dead Zone, IIRC) to get a “connection” with them. And that means a link to their dead loved ones, who will then speak to the person via George (which is more like The Ghost Whisperer or Medium than a psychic, isn’t it?).

Sometimes things are exactly what they should be. The person is told they’re forgiven, or they hear the encouragement to pursue something they couldn’t before, or they hear they’re going to be all right.

Other times, though, George has to deliver a shocking blow. Something deep and hidden, something the person receiving the reading didn’t want anyone – including George – to know. And despite warnings from George, and despite his insistence that he doesn’t do that anymore, he doesn’t want to do that anymore, they just keep coming to him. Especially after his brother Billy (Jay Mohr) can’t take the hint and keep his big mouth closed. See, Billy wants George to go back into the “business” of being a psychic. But George doesn’t want anything to do with that. He just wants to live his life – a normal, regular-guy, I-drive-a-forklift-in-a-sugar-factory normal.

And as for Marie Lelay (Cecile De France), well, she’s got an interesting story. She was a hot commodity, a famous journalist and newscaster on the rise, with many bright options in her future. But on December 26, 2004, her life changed forever. And on the encouragement of her boyfriend/producer, she steps aside to write a book and take some time to deal with what happened to her. But that turns out to be both a horrible mistake – and a blessing in the long run.

There’s a third story about Marcus, a twin with brother Jason, who lives a tragic life with a drug-addicted mother and social services breathing down their neck. When tragedy strikes, Marcus goes on a quest to find someone – anyone – who can help him deal with his loss. His final destination will lead him to George.

Hereafter is interesting on a few fronts. First, because Clint Eastwood also wrote the original music for the movie. Second, because the whole thing is backstory, pretty much. It’s like the entire movie is set up for the final act, rather than the first act being set up for the rest of the movie. (That’s not actually true, if analyzed correctly, but the movie can be viewed that way easily.)

Most of the movie is comprised of stories which lead each of the characters on a journey that brings them to the same place, for vastly different reasons. A very interesting format.

I felt it dragged a little at 2:09, but honestly, this isn’t a movie with much for pace. It has to unfold. And I was interested most of the time. Most.

I gave it four stars. Well acted, well written, but a bit slower than it had to be. I think some celluloid could have been saved and still gotten the movie across. Then again, I’m working for a living instead of making movies, so what do I know?

Before we closed out of Vudu, we rated Hereafter 4 stars. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re into paranormal movies more about character than ghosts, this is your ticket.

Enjoy.

-jdt-

Back at It

Well, today it’s back on my head. Know that joke? Sure you do, it’s been around forever.

Today, I return to work for the first time since 12/21/2012. I’ve not been at my employer’s building since last year. It’s been a great, great vacation, even if I didn’t do as much non-work-related stuff as I’d liked.

I watched a lot of computer programming videos to prepare to conquer Appmageddon. That’s right, I still haven’t done that. And I feel much better equipped to take it on now than I was before vacation. I guess the decision to watch those videos was a good one after all. But still, I wish it didn’t have to be that way. Maybe next year it won’t have to be that way.

Then, when I wasn’t watching computer programming videos, I watched a lot of movies. I mean, a lot of movies. And most of them were pretty entertaining. Every time I asked my loving spouse whether I should watch a movie, the answer was always “Yes, you should.” I love ya, babe, and thanks. I had a great time.

While I wasn’t watching a movie or computer programming video, I was hanging out with the kids. Awesome, awesome time there. LOVED that. And yes, through it all, I worked less than two hours total, and relaxed my backside off. Oh, and I gained a little weight too. (Nobody’s perfect, right?)

So, all in all, a great vacation, but now it’s back to the grindstone. Hope you all had a very happy holiday season, and I’ll talk to you again soon.

Exsanguination Proclamation

Late Wednesday night, my loving wife and I sat down to watch a relatively new movie. We’ve really been enjoying Vudu video service, though not the cost associated with movie rental. Still, we’ve been ‘round the horn on the Netflix offerings and haven’t had our fancy tickled much. There are a few DVD rentals we’re looking forward to, but they’re still a way off yet. And since we’d like to see something more current, we have to look elsewhere once in a while.

We settled on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as our choice for the late show. And what a good choice it turned out to be! My love is not a fan of the horror genre, and we certainly don’t like what’s been happening with vampires of late (you know, vampires being sexy and suave and charming rather than the blood-sucking demons of hell), but we thought we’d give it a try and see what we could see.

It was a fun romp. Abraham Lincoln loses his mother as a boy and his father reneged on a debt he owed his employer. The employer threatens the Lincolns with other ways to extract the debt. And from there, the story is off and running.

I’ve heard the novel upon which the movie is based – the author was also the screen writer, by the way – was slow-developing and required patience to stay with it. Not so the film, however. From the outset there’s a lot of movement and the story kept the audience entertained throughout. There was just enough real history thrown in to make the movie fun, and enough artistic license to bring a smile. And of course, the vampires were evil, scary, and vicious. Abe wasn’t as honest as we might’ve learned in school, and he was a mean man with an axe. Before it was all over with, the steampunk version of Lincoln is a new kind of action figure, and my wife and I both left the movie behind with smiles on our faces and wishes we could somehow get the kids to watch with us.

I recommend AL:VH for pure entertainment value, and while the very nature of the film leaves you with foreknowledge of the ending, it’s still a lot of fun. The effects weren’t bad, the story was pretty good, and so was the acting. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars, and would see it again (when it’s free, of course) given the chance.

Hop over to either Vudu or (I think) Amazon Instant Video service for a peek. It’s more than worth $3.99 (and I think I paid $4.99 for the HD version). I think you’ll like it.

Tonight, I check out Outcast on Netflix. Something of a werewolf offering, if memory of the trailer serves.

If I don’t talk to you beforehand – and I won’t – have a very happy New Year, and God bless you all.

-JDT-

A “Splice” of Life

Because my darling loves me, she allowed me to watch one of my silly horror movies the other night. Unable to find anything to really float my boat, and believing full-heartedly she wouldn’t enjoy anything I chose anyway, I settled on Splice, a Sci-Fi/Horror entry from 2011 starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley.

Splice is a take on the classic Frankenstein tale. Elsa and Clive, two scientists bent on the creation and harvesting of medicinal proteins from new, spliced organisms, have created life. They believe they can boost the discovery and output by adding in a bit of – wait for it! – human DNA to the mix. Their first two organisms, named Fred and Ginger, are already producing the protein in their slug-like carcasses, but it can’t be harvested in any serious quantities while the organisms still live. And the pharmaceutical company paying for it all, who own the patents on those two little slime bags, are eager to move on to the chemical synthesis of the protein. So…they’re going to convert the lab to a chem lab and get the ball rolling that direction.

Elsa and Clive decide to defy the ruling of their benefactors and add human DNA to the mix anyway. Along with several other animal genes, they splice (see what I did there?) themselves a new creation, and guess what? It’s alive.

Don’t expect to see any Jacob’s Ladders or Tesla coils in this one. It’s all subtlety and CGI in this one, and the sex scenes actually have a point. Splice turned out to be kind of a nice one, not because it wasn’t predictable – it was painfully so – but because it had some interesting creep-factor moments. Some of them involved those sex scenes. The CGI wasn’t bad, not terribly, and the story was… well, let’s just say the story could’ve been handled better, but could also have been much worse. Over all, I rated it three and half out of five stars, and while it had moments, some of them were dropped irreparably, especially in the final act.

But if you’ve got three bucks laying around, and you don’t have anything better to do (which wouldn’t be hard to come up with, really), then you might spend an evening with Splice.

What’s the worst that could happen?