Looper

Sony Pictures

Rated R for profanity, sexuality, nudity, drug use and graphic violence.

Hitman Turns Fugitive In Riveting Time-Travel Thriller

Dateline: Kansas City, 2042, which is where we find 25-year-old Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gainfully employed as a novel type of hitman called a “looper.” The grisly line of work basically involves waiting at a designated clearing in a cornfield for the delivery of a blindfolded kidnap victim involuntarily teleported back in time.

As soon as each person spontaneously materializes, Joe blows them away on the spot with a big blunderbuss before incinerating the body to eliminate the evidence. This modernistic equivalent of filling cement shoes has become the mob’s preferred method of assassination since loopers can commit the perfect crime by killing people who technically don’t even exist yet.

Despite the great pay, Joe’s job has one major drawback, which is that he will eventually be expected to close his own loop by shooting his future self (Bruce Willis) dead in the killing field. In the interim, he copes with the prospect of committing suicide via drugs and denial, getting high while making plans to retire to France that ostensibly amount to an exercise in futility.

The moment of truth arrives the fateful day he finally finds himself face-to-face with his 55-year-old alter ego. However, Joe is unable to pull the trigger, a failing which doesn’t sit well with his short-fused boss (Jeff Daniels) who immediately dispatches an army of thugs to finish off both fugitives.

That is the absorbing premise of Looper, a riveting sci-fi thriller directed by Rian Johnson. The movie marks the third collaboration between him and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a reteaming lending credence to the age-old maxim: third time’s a charm.

The picture’s inscrutable script is as confounding as Chris Nolan’s Memento, and visually the production is rather reminiscent of the best of Steven Spielberg. Again and again, just when you think you’ve unraveled the convoluted plot, the story takes yet another intriguing turn into uncharted waters.

Great performances abound here, starting with Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the same character. Also deserving of accolades in substantial support roles are Paul Dano, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo and Jeff Daniels.

A mind-bending masterpiece that’s a must for more cerebral fans of the time-travel genre.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 118 minutes

 

Hotel Transylvania

Sony Pictures

Rated PG for action, rude humor and scary images.

Mortal Courts Dracula’s Overprotected Daughter In Animated Romantic Comedy

I know it’s a little early in the season, but if you’re ready for a Halloween-themed flick that’s going to be lot of fun for the whole family, have I got a cartoon for you. More romantic and funny than spooky and spine-tingling, Hotel Transylvania is a tenderhearted tale that milks most of its mirth by turning a basic scary movie convention on its head.

For, the picture unfolds from the point-of-view of Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) and a beleaguered brotherhood of peace-loving creatures who have not only been unfairly-demonized as monsters but are actually more afraid of humans than we are of them. Who knew? Victims of bad press and paranoia, they naturally shy away from making any contact with humans.

After his wife’s untimely demise at the hands of an angry mob, an understandably overprotective Dracula restricted his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), to the safe confines of the family’s hilltop mansion, far removed from any prejudiced townsfolk armed with torches and pitchforks. Inside that protective bubble, “Daddy’s Little Ghoul” was raised on misleading nursery rhymes in which all the evil villains were people.

Figuring his fellow social outcasts might also enjoy a sanctuary of tranquility safe from humanity, Dracula transforms his sprawling estate into the Hotel Transylvania, a swanky, five-stake (à la “five-star”) resort catering strictly to fellow monsters. The plot thickens when he lowers the drawbridge over the moat to the castle to welcome his friends to celebrate Mavis’ birthday.

A hiker who just stumbled upon the place slips in alongside Frankenstein (Kevin James), The Mummy (CeeLo Green), The Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz), The Invisible Man (David Spade) and the other invited guests. Jonathan (Andy Samberg) may be a mere mortal, but the clueless party crasher’s just the right age to appreciate the blossoming beauty of a rebellious teen vampire with raging hormones.

It’s cross-species love at first sight, much to the chagrin of an exasperated Count Dracula whose desperate efforts to discourage his suddenly-defiant daughter prove futile. His cries of “You’re barely out of your training fangs!” and “There are so many eligible monsters!” fall on deaf ears, as Mavis opts instead to heed her late mother’s sage suggestion that “A zing comes along only once in a life.”

A tyke-friendly, Halloween adventure teaching a universal message of tolerance via the oft-repeated maxim that monsters are people, too!

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 91 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening September 28, 2012

Won’t Back Down (PG for mature themes and mild epithets). Fact-based, female empowerment saga, set in Pittsburgh, about a jaded teacher (Viola Davis) and a frustrated single mom (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who join forces to turn around an underperforming public school. A-list cast includes Ving Rhames, Academy Award-winner Holly Hunter (for The Piano), and Oscar-nominees Rosie Perez (for Fearless) and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (for Secrets & Lies).

American Autumn (Unrated). Occupation Wall Street-inspired documentary speculating about what the world would look like if capitalism were replaced by an economic system that put human need above corporate greed.

 

BearCity 2: The Proposal (Unrated). Homoerotic sequel reunites the hirsute, gay gang from Manhattan in Provincetown, Massachusetts for a wild, week-long bachelor party in anticipation of two pals’ (Joe Conti and Gerald McCullouch) same-sex wedding. With Kevin Smith, Kathy Najimy and Richard Riehle.

 

Bringing Up Bobby (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and drug use). Famke Janssen makes her writing and directorial debut with this dysfunctional family comedy about a European con artist (Milla Jovovich) on the run from the law who settles with her son (Spencer List) in Oklahoma hoping to escape her shady past. Co-starring Bill Pullman, Marcia Cross and Rory Cochrane.

 

Headshot (Unrated). Revenge thriller, set in Thailand, about an honest cop (Nopachai Chaiyanam) who turns vigilante after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Plot thickens when he’s shot in the head and emerges from a coma seeing the world upside down. With Sirin Horwang, Chanokporn Sayoungkul and Apisit Opasaimlikit. (In Thai with subtitles)

 

The Hole (PG-13 for violence, profanity and frightening images). Haunted house horror flick about a single mom (Teri Polo) who moves with her kids (Nathan Gamble and Chris Massoglia) from New York City to a new home in the country only to unwittingly open a gateway to hell when they unlock a hatch over a bottomless hole in the basement. With Haley Bennett, Bruce Dern and Quinn Lord.

 

My Life As Abraham Lincoln (Unrated). Surreal, dark comedy about a blushing bride (Caroline Luft) whose life spirals out of control after she murders her fiancé (Trevor Nelson) on their wedding day. With Gerry Birnbach, Jennifer Lynn Malloy and Wendy Taylor.

 

The Other Dream Team (Unrated). Hoops documentary recounting the unlikely triumph of the Lithuanian Men’s Basketball Team at the 1992 Olympics with help from the Grateful Dead. Featuring Bill Walton, Chris Mullin and Mickey Hart.

 

Pitch Perfect (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and drug use). Musical comedy about a college freshman (Anna Kendrick) who overhauls the repertoire of her all-girl singing group in preparation for a big showdown on campus with an all-male rival ensemble in an a cappella competition. Featuring Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson and Skylar Astin.

 

Six Million And One (Unrated). Holocaust documentary about four siblings who undertake a journey of discovery to Gunskirchen concentration camp after finding a diary among their late father’s personal effects detailing the host of horrors he had witnessed while interned there. (In Hebrew, English and German with subtitles)

 

Solomon Kane (R for pervasive violence). 16th century tale of redemption about a mercenary killing machine for the Royal Family (James Purefoy) who has a change of heart after an encounter with an emissary of the Devil (Ian Whyte). With Max Von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite and Mark O’Neal. (In English and Arabic with subtitles)

 

Vulgaria (Unrated). Raunchy sex romp revolving around a cash-strapped film producer (Chapman To) who decides to try to pay off his debts by shooting a remake of a classic skin flick casting an aging porn star (Shaw Yin Yin) in the starring role. With Hiro Hayama, Ronald Cheung, Dada Chan and Suet Lam. (In Cantonese with subtitles)

 

The Waiting Room (Unrated). Safety net documentary offering an intimate peek at the state of affairs at Oakland, California’s Highland Hospital, a struggling, healthcare facility catering to a community comprised of mostly uninsured patients.

 

The Yakuza And The Mermaid (Unrated). Romantic fantasy about a novelist with writer’s block (Peter Hertsgaard) who wills his characters to life, including a vicious gangster (Takumi Mitobe) and a fetching femme fatale (Georgiana Avram) he proceeds to woo. With Ikuko Ikari, Jennifer Lynn Malloy and Caroline Luft.

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