Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: David Jensen

Focus (2015)

All it takes is a few really good-looking people to make you forget about your Rolex.

Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) is a seasoned vet at the art of conning people. He’s been in it for so long, however, that he feels like maybe it’s about time that he starts to settle down and focus on the bigger picture: Actual life. But such is the problem with the life of a con man – you can’t be trusted, which, as a result, means you can’t trust anyone else. It’s pretty sad, but at least you have a lot of money. This all begins to change for Nicky when he meets young, bright, bubbly and downright beautiful grifter, Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie), who wants Nicky to teach her the tricks and the trade of pulling off the perfect con. Nicky has no problem with this, because he believes Jess is smart enough and more than capable, but has one major problem: He may be in love with her. Which isn’t just bad for business, but bad for him, as a person. And Jess may feel the same way, but the two never fully know until it’s all too late.

Movies about con men, women, people, etc., all suffer the same problems: They’re fun, flashy and twisty, but sometimes, they get a bit too over-the-heads and can end up becoming a convoluted mess that doesn’t fully add up. One of the rare exceptions to this rule is the classic-caper, the Sting, which definitely helped get through some of its slower-patches with its attention to detail and character, but still had enough twists and turns to fuel us up when we needed it the most, but never overdid it either. It wasn’t the large bed, nor was it the small one – it was the one, slap-dab in the middle that was just right.

How could say "no" to that face? Hot damn!

How could say “no” to that face? Hot damn!

Focus is not one of these movies, and yet, I have a hard time complaining about it much.

For one, it’s a very exciting movie. It’s quick, light-on-its-feet and hardly ever slows down, even when the characters do get to talking about their emotions and so on and so forth. Even then, though, these moments are still neat to watch and pay attention to, because you never quite know whether one is actually being themselves because they want to actually be genuine for once, or if they’re just putting up an act so that they can get what it is that they want. This actually happens during a couple of instances in this film, and it helps speed things along smoothly enough to where we’re not nit-picking every single mistake, or contrivance this movie makes up. Because, trust me, there are plenty to be had here.

There’s one sequence that takes place during the Super Bowl that’s not only the most memorable of the whole movie, but features some of the more tense sequences I’ve seen in something that doesn’t include much gun-play, car-chases, or violence, for that matter. What happens is that we see Smith’s character, Nicky, constantly throw down bets just to have a ball at the game, because he’s with Robbie’s character and, like most women (apparently), she doesn’t give a lick about the sport of football. The bets start off nice, sweet, and playful, like any good two pals would do, but then, once another party walks in on the betting-pool and realizes that they can have some fun while spending plenty of dimes, then the bets get more extreme, the money gets larger, and eventually, we’re left having no clue where the hell this is going to go, why, and who is going to be on the receiving-end of this bet.

I won’t say much more about it, except that it’s the most excitement I’ve had during a movie in quite some time and that’s because it’s unpredictable. Most movies of this nature definitely strive for that, but instead, seem so tailor-made to make sure that everybody has a big, happy smile leaving, so therefore, they’re going to get the pleasing solution to whatever problem may come into the protagonist’s way. Here, it’s never fully clear whether we’re going to get the happy ending, or the sad, dark, and depressing one.

And because of that, Focus hardly loses an ounce of steam. Even if, you know, there’s plenty that goes on here in it that seems to be wildly unbelievable and over-the-top, that it ever happening, or being as intricately planned-out as it is made out to be, hardly ever rings true. But that just shows you what can happen when you make your movie as fun and as exciting as this: You can have some of the biggest, widest, most gaping plot-holes ever seen on the face of the planet, and if you allow us, the audience, to laugh, enjoy ourselves, and come close to even crying, then don’t worry, all is well.

For the most part, that is.

Stop looking so fresh, Will Smith.

Stop looking so fresh, Will Smith…….

But where the movie really racks up the points in winning us over is with the pitch perfect casting of both Will Smith and soon-to-be-star Margot Robbie, in the leading roles. Though the age-gap between the two is nearly 22 years, that didn’t bother me as much here, as it does with some of Woody Allen’s movies, because the two have surefire chemistry that barely hits a false note. Sure, you could make the argument that even when the age-difference between the two spouses in Woody Allen’s movie hit almost 30, they can still seem believable and understandable because of good chemistry between the two, but here, it didn’t seem as creepy. Or, at least, the movie didn’t have it written-out to be that way.

For instance, once we see these two together, automatically, you can tell that there’s some sort of spark between the two. It could be all made-up for the con; it could be genuine attraction; or, it could be love. Whatever it is, Robbie and Smith seemed like they really enjoyed working with one another both in front of, as well as behind the camera, because every opportunity they have to make some bit of this feel heartfelt, they go for it. Even if you know Smith’s character is just messing around with Robbie’s to get her to do what he wants for a con, or whatever, there’s still a small feeling that he actually wants to be with her. As unlikely as that may be.

Which is to say, yes, Will Smith does wonders with a role that, quite frankly, could have been so corny and forgettable, had it been played by most other movie stars. But Smith, giving it all he’s got, fits into this role so perfectly that you believe him both as the calm, cool and confident smooth-talker that’s able to get through any con with the use of his fast-working brain, as well as a guy who sincerely wants to settle down in life and possibly even get out of the conning business, just for that reason alone. There’s a heart to this character that makes him worth watching, and it’s where Smith’s performance really takes hold.

But the one who really walks away with this one, is the fiery, the hot, and the engaging woman who is Margot Robbie. Most may know Robbie from the Wolf of Wall Street and while that’s a solid highlight of what she can do, here, as Jess Barrett, she is constantly taking this movie over. Not only does she use her unbelievably lovely good-looks to her advantage to get what she wants, but she too, just like Smith’s character, feels like an actual person that wants everything there is to offer in life. Sure, she wants to con people and make some money in the process of living that life of hers, but at the end of the day, she still wants to have a husband, a family, and even possibly, a life that she can feel safe and comfortable with living.

See, con men – they’re like you or I. Just with a lot more cash lying around.

Consensus: The twists and turns can sometimes border on ridiculous, but Focus always keeps its cool by depending on the engagingly fun and frothy chemistry between Smith and Robbie, while also giving them a fun movie to work all their sly moves in.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Another successful night at the bars for Will Smith. Of which I bet he has plenty.

Another successful night at the bars for Will Smith. Of which I bet he has plenty.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Black or White (2015)

Better title – Drunk or Drug-Addict.

After the recent, tragic death of his wife, Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) is left grieving, with nothing more than a bunch of booze and a grand-daughter named Eloise (Jillian Estell) that he has to take care of all on his own. That wouldn’t be such a rough task, if Elliot could just put down the bottle for a second, but wouldn’t you know it? Elliot not only has a problem that he can’t fix himself, but is incapable of allowing anybody else to fix it for him. But still, he treats Eloise with kindness, love and respect – like all pop-pops should. There should be no problem with that, except for the fact that Eloise’s other grand-mother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), wants her to spend more time at her place; something Elliot is not quite a fan of due to the “economic environment” that they surround themselves with. Not to mention that Elliot isn’t on good terms with Eloise’s father, aka, Rowena’s son (Andre Holland). Rowena wants to be around her grand-daughter more and decides that it’s time to take the situation to court, where her lawyer brother (Anthony Mackie) will try and push the case more towards Elliot’s racist-tactics, even if they aren’t there to begin with.

She's happy with him.

She’s happy with him.

It would seem a little risky for someone like writer/director Mike Binder (meaning, someone who is white), to tackle a film that deals with racial injustices and the certain stereotypes each race sets out for the other. That’s not to say Binder himself shouldn’t make a movie that deals with these issues, but considering the type of tension going around our society currently, to say anything bad about any race whatsoever, let alone African Americans, it would almost seem like a death-warrant. Sometimes, these movies need to be made, and other times, they don’t.

In this case, Black or White did not need to be made. Which isn’t to say because it criticizes certain aspects to black people’s culture (because it definitely criticizes white people as well), but it’s because it so clearly is trying not to offend anyone, of any particular race, gender, or belief, that it tip-toes its way back to the starting line and feels like it’s playing it all way too safe. Now, I didn’t need a totally scathing-outlook on white, or black cultures; however, what I did need was a compelling story that was willing to take charge with the points it wanted to make and actually saw them through. More or less, Binder presents them, alludes to them on certain occasions, but hardly ever takes that extra mile to actually address them in a way that would bring forth some discussion or any bit of controversy to what he’s saying.

There’s an elephant in the room throughout all of Black or White (which is racial-relations and who is right, and who is wrong), and Binder seems to constantly avoid going further and further in-depth about it.

But that’s not to say all of Black or White is poorly-done, because it seems like whenever Binder focuses on the actual story itself, he has a clear head of what he wants to say and how. Normally, this means that Binder’s trying to say Kevin Costner’s character, Elliot, while not perfect or fully-equipped to be the father that this little girl need or deserves, he’s still trying and that’s all that matters. And because of that certain element to his character, Costner is allowed to dig deep into what makes this character tick, and just get by in this world. It’s a shame that the movie constantly wants to have Costner’s character drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage in nearly every scene, because when he doesn’t seem to be too tuned-up on the hair of the dog that bit him, Elliot seems like a genuinely sweet, kind man.

However, too often than not, Binder uses Elliot as the butt of his own joke; the same joke where everybody says he looks, acts, and talks like a drunk, which is true, because he is. It’s hardly ever funny, and not because alcoholism is something not to be joked around about, but because the way it’s done here feels so obvious and tacked-on. In fact, there’s many moments where Binder’s film never makes a clear decision of whether it wants to be a comedy, or a drama. Certain lines a character says, while may speak some heartfelt truth, sort of comes off as a joke that Binder is using to lighten-up the mood when everything else here seems to be getting too hot, heavy and dramatic for the crowd watching in their seats.

Most of these moments come from Octavia Spencer’s Rowena, who I not only found incredibly grating to listen to, but came off as something of a caricature after awhile of what Binder imagines most black men and women’s momma’s to be. Rowena is constantly hootin’, hollerin’, and forgetting to hold her tongue when she knows she should and is always sticking up for her boy, even though she knows he’s not the right fit to be a father in the first place. The film actually references this and shows that Rowena does not in fact want to take Eloise away from Elliot in the first place, but much rather perform a dual-custody type of situation, however, she still treats him like she can’t trust him at all with her baby-girl and wants nothing more than to win this case, and kick the dirt right up in his face. It’s actually quite strange how she acts towards him, both before, during, and after the case, and it’s a shame that Spencer is thrown through such a haywire-of-a-role.

She's happy with her.

She’s happy with her.

She clearly deserves better. As does everybody else in here.

But what it all comes down to with this movie, meaning, the only reason to see this movie for any reason whatsoever, is Costner’s performance. He reveals certain shades, dimensions and aspects to this character that maybe weren’t at all even alluded to in the original-script, but Costner is somehow able to bring to the table. If you want a better example of this, check out one of his final scenes in the courtroom by the end, where he makes it clear that every action he made, for himself and for Eloise, was specifically out of love and adoration, and not out of spite. The movie wants us to see this character as something of a troubled human-being that deserves to at least give up his reigns as Eloise’s sole-provider, but for me, what I saw was, yes, a troubled-man, but one who clearly had the best intentions with everything he did, and everything that he planned on doing. He’s like many men I know in my life, most importantly, my own father.

Such a shame he didn’t get a better movie. Sorry, dad. I mean, Kev. Yeah, Kevin Costner’s not my dad.

Just disregard all that.

Consensus: Writer/director Mike Binder is dealing with some interesting issues in Black or White, but never seems to express them in a thought-provoking way that doesn’t feel preachy, or over-the-top, even if it does get by a tad bit on a great performance from Kevin Costner.

4.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So why can't we all just get along, folks?!?!

So why can’t we all just get along, folks?!?!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Best of Me (2014)

Funny how true love always seems to come around while on the verge of dying.

After an explosion on a rig that nearly kills him, Dawson Cole (James Marsden) catches wind of news that his mentor of sorts (Gerald McRaney) has tragically passed away. With this, Dawson decides it’s time to head back home and see what needs to be taken care in the estate. While he’s doing this, an old-love of his, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), is doing the same. Which would be great if they wanted to catch up and be cool with one another, however, considering where they last left things, that can’t seem to happen. But because the recently-deceased wishes was for them to see if they can be friends again, they decide to give it a try and with this, we get to see, through flashbacks, how they got so acquainted with one another in the first place and where exactly they went wrong in the process. Which begs the question: Are they too damaged to get back together one last time for all? Or, are they just beginning on another romance of theirs that they can make into something serious? Oh, the melodrama!

Here we go again, people – another year, another Nicholas Sparks film adaptation. And as most of you may know, I for one do not take kindly to these movies; they’re poorly-done and yet, still make so much money because young teenage girls can’t seem to get the fact that hardly any of these movies are good. Sure, the Notebook was serviceable at best, but other than that rarest-of-rare example, there’s not much else to write home about.

In fact, the only times that these movies are at least watchable, at that, is when they’re absolutely crazy and over-the-top that it doesn’t matter how manipulative and corny the final-product turns out to be. As long as you’re having fun with it, that’s all that matters. Safe Haven showed small signs of this, as well as the Lucky One, but regardless, those movies are still terrible. Like I said before, there’s some fun to be had in how ridiculous they can get, but for the most part, they’re just a bunch of overly-sappy, rather boring romantic-melodramas that not even some housewives can get through.

Is there really any need for the shirt to be off?

Is there really any need for the shirt to be off?

And trust me, I live with one and she hates these pieces of garbage!

Which is what brings me to the Best of Me, yet again, another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, but with a slight twist: the two lovers here are actually a bit older than we’re used to seeing with these adaptations. Usually, Sparks’ adaptations like to appeal to a young-ish crowd, so therefore, they include two hot, young, in-the-moment stars to ring in the dough, but here, the story is a bit different in that the two stars this movie is being advertised with having, are older and definitely not huge stars to begin with. No offense to either James Marsden or Michelle Monaghan (who actually receives top-billing, thankfully), but they’re not the sorts of movie stars that I could see ranking #1 at the box-office, with or without the Nicholas Sparks name attached.

All that said, it’s sad to see them in something like this because, unsurprisingly, they do both try and do succeed in making this material seem genuine. They have a nice chemistry together that is challenging and believable, which is probably a testament to how talented these two pros are. But, as one could imagine happening, even they eventually succumb to the beast of this movie’s script and just how terrible it is.

But most of what makes this movie so bad isn’t the script and how horrendous it is (although it’s definitely a key-factor), it’s the non-stop flashbacks that this movie uses to enhance the emotions of this story, and just constantly annoyed me everytime it showed up. Some of that has to do with how hackneyed the dialogue is between all of these teens, but most of it has to do with the fact that they cast someone who looks like Luke Bracey, in a role that’s supposed to be a younger-version of a James Marsden character. Seriously, look at the two and tell me if you can see one bit of a similarity in how they look.

Not one?

Well, don’t worry, because you’re totally not alone. See, rather than actually searching the landscape and finding a person that looks somewhat like a young-ish James Marsden, the creators here make it seem like they had enough money and time to get a young-stud like Luke Bracey and just decided to cast him in the role, regardless of if he shared any similarities in terms of look or personality with Marsden. This isn’t just a glaring problem with the movie, but it’s constantly distracting because you never for one second believe that one would eventually grow up to be the other. It’s like they’re two different characters, who just so happen to share the same name.

Nicholas Sparks' view of what a grizzled, ex-convict looks like.

Nicholas Sparks’ view of what a grizzled, ex-convict looks like.

Which is to say that had Bracey not been playing the same character as Marsden’s, the performance probably would have been viewed better, but sadly, that is not the case. Even though he tries to make us believe in him as this Dawson character, he can’t help but seem like just another one of those bumble, redneck-like characters. But you know, this time, has a heart of gold. Haven’t seen that before, I’ll tell ya!

Thankfully though, Monaghan and the one playing a younger-version of her character, Liana Liberato, are better-off; not because they actually look the least bit alike, but because the personalities of the two characters match and make you believe that one could actually grow up to be the other. That said, Liberato is probably the most memorable part of this movie because she makes a young gal like Amanda, not just seem like she could fall in love with somebody as troubled as Dawson, but because she actually seems like a young kid. She’s reckless, spirited, and lets her emotions get the best of her – a true-to-form, high school girl.

But it’s just a shame that it all had to get wasted in something that doesn’t once feel “honest”, or even “believable”.

Consensus: Like most of Sparks’ other adaptations, the Best of Me is sap-tastic in every which way, meaning that those who usually love this kind of stuff, will continue to do so, whereas everybody else, just cringes and laughs away.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"James, take my hand. AND WE OFF TO NEVA NEVA LAND!! BOOM!!"

“James, take my hand. AND WE OFF TO NEVA NEVA LAND!! BOOM!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

No matter how grand or wonderful your life is, you still end up shitting your pants. Message of the day, everyone.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born on the Day the Great War (WWI) ended. That was supposed to be lucky day to be born on but this was an unlucky case because Button was born old, week and dyeing. Benjamin is now living his life in reverse and dealing with the hard ships that have to occur with such an unfortunate circumstance as this.

Watching this movie almost 5 years after I originally saw it really has me thinking, “Did I really just love this movie because I wasn’t that cinematically-inclined yet? Or, was it just that I loved this movie because it was a good movie?”. Those thoughts go through my head, each and every single time I even bother watching/reviewing a flick that I saw so long ago, way before I even thought about this website. Some of them turn-out to be the great story that I once remembered them as being, and others, well, thanks to my knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong with a movie, make me realize that I had plenty of years to grab a hold of my movie-knowing mind. Somehow, this movie, is somewhere right in the middle and I have yet to make-up my mind. Oh well, hopefully I will by the end of this loooooooooong review.

The reason why I put such a strain on the word, “long”, was because that is exactly what this flick is and to be honest: it doesn’t have to be. This is adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for a bunch of source-material that probably equaled up to about 10-to-15 minutes full of reading-time, you would think that a simple story wouldn’t need to be told in over 3-hours. The story of a man that ages backwards and has all of these experiences in life, meets all of these people, and has a love that lasts generation-after-generation, does seem like it needs to be told in it’s own, epic-way, but this is a bit too much of a push. However, as long as this flick may be, you still can’t forget that this is a beautiful tale of growing old, falling in love, and above all, living life to the fullest. Yeah, it’s corny, but what makes it so strange is that the message is brought-out by David Fincher. Yes, THAT David Fincher.

There's Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

There’s Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

It is quite surreal to see a story that’s so much about the human-spirit and always turning lemons into lemonade, directed by the guy who’s brought us some of the sickest stories in the past decade or so, but that’s what makes it so unique as well. Fincher has never, ever came close to touching material like this and at times, you’ll just think that it’s an attempt for him to make some cash and make a passion-project of sorts for himself, but you’ll begin to notice, there are still a whole bunch of Fincher’s trademarks. Everybody and anybody who has ever seen this movie always says the same damn thing, “It’s like Forrest Gump, but the guy’s older”. To be fair, that is a very true and realistic observation, one that I can’t contend with, mainly because the same writer of that flick (Eric Roth), is the same writer here but what makes the tales so different, is how one is all about sunshine and light at the end of the tunnels, this movie is more about how life starts and ends the same way: you start out as nothing, and in the end, you are still nothing. Anybody that has ever known you, will be the only ones and it’s a matter of whether or not you made an impact on their life is what really counts.

It’s a really depressing idea, especially when you put it side-by-side with something like, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, but it’s also more realistic and that’s why I applaud Fincher here, not just for stepping-out of his comfort-zone, but for being able to step-out and make the best type of movie he can. The story spans over generations and as long and dragging as it may be, it is always entertaining to see the type of stuff this man goes through, what he learns from certain experiences, and how it makes him a full and total human-being. Yes, there is always that known-factor that the guy is going to die at the end, but then again, isn’t that how life actually plays-out? Thanks, David Fincher! You’re always the type of guy I can depend on to remind me that life is great and all, but in the end, we just float away into the air. Happy hugs all-around!

Somehow, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

In a way, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

Where I still feel like this flick hits a problem in, is that it does begin to run-out of steam by about the third-to-last-act and I think that’s mainly because Fincher, as well as all of us, knows what has to be done, what has to be said, and what needs to come of this story. We all anticipate the time to when Benjamin eventually starts to get so young and so tiny, that he can’t remember anything that has happened in his life and is just continuing to shrink-up into this little guy, that is eventually going to die any day now. It’s so sad to watch and as much of as an emotional-impact it may have on you because you’ve gotten so used to this character and all his stories, it is slightly redundant and almost feels like Fincher really needs to shoot somebody or decapitate somebody, you know, just to spice things up. I can totally tell that Fincher was running a little wild on the inside, but at least he made it interesting and entertaining for us, in the meantime.

What probably distracts people the most from this story, is how much time and effort was put in to the make-up and special-effects for these characters and their surroundings. Since Benjamin is aging backwards, we get to see him when he’s old as hell and looks like a turd on the side of the road, to the point of where he looks like Pitt from Meet Joe Black. It’s mesmerizing to just stare-at, not just because they make Pitt look as handsome as ever and Blanchett as sexy and glorious as she’s ever been, but because it’s almost seamless and never seems like a gimmick. Movies like these that simply just depend on changing-up a person’s look or style through neat-o special-effects, usually kills a movie and features no substance, but thankfully, the movie features both the neat-0 special-effects that help make us believe more in this story, as well as having a story that is worth believing in and actually getting involved with. Still, it’s great to see Pitt and Blanchett back in their younger, golden days, even if it all by a computer. Damn you technology!

You'd still take him to bed. Don't even bother fibbing.

You’d still take him to bed. Don’t even bother fibbing.

Speaking of the Blanchett and Pitt, both make Daisy and Benjamin a lovely couple that is worth staying-for, no matter how uncommon the relationship they have may actually be. Blanchett is a joy to watch as Daisy, especially when she goes through her younger days as a free-willing, energetic dancer in her prime from NYC, and we get to see that charm and beauty come out of Blanchett’s acting-prowess that can sometimes go away when she takes crap scripts. I was a bit surprised to see that she didn’t get a nomination for her work here, but hey, I guess the Academy felt like they had to give the nomination to Taraji P. Henson, the caretaker of the old person’s home who finds Benjamin and takes of him, up until he’s an old, but yet, young-looking man. Henson is so charming and fun to watch in this movie that it’s a real shame she hasn’t been able to do anything that’s really worth buzzing-about. The girl’s got spark to her, and that shows through every scene she has.

Brad Pitt, though, is the real star of the show and milks this Benjamin Button’s simpleness almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like he can go any longer, but however, he can. Pitt is great as Benjamin Button because he’s so kind, so simple, so polite, so regular, and so bright-sided about the world he lives in, that’s it almost way too easy to mark him as another caricature that ends-up taking some happiness out of his disability, but it’s not, and that’s all because Pitt won’t allow it. The guy doesn’t show many emotions throughout the whole flick (and that was the intention), but it feels real and honest, mostly because Pitt and Fincher, together, have painted a portrait of a guy that loves life and all those who inhabit it. Pit’s great to watch and the chemistry and love he has with Blanchett in this movie, never for a second, felt unrealistic or schmaltzy. It was as every bit as epic and heartfelt as I once remembered, and that will always stick in my mind when I think of this flick.

Consensus: Adapting a short story into a near-3-hour movie, is a bit of a stretch, especially when you have a flick that spans over decades-upon-decades, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a beautiful, endearing, and heartfelt story that looks at life through the eyes of a person who has a very strange one, despite him being played by the ultra-handsome, and ultra-powerful Brad Pitt.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Looper (2012)

Don’t we all want to be John McClane in the future?

The film revolves around a mobster (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) working for a crime syndicate in the near-future. He, along with other so-called Loopers, kill people sent from the future by their boss. Things get complicated when he recognizes one victim as his future self (Bruce Willis) and lets him escape.

Writer/director Rian Johnson‘s debut, Brick, was one of the biggest surprises in a film that I have ever seen. I went into it, expecting a crime-thriller, which is exactly what I got, but with a new twist on it that made it seem cooler and a lot more different from anything else I have ever seen prior to that. That’s why when I heard about Johnson tackling the sci-fi genre, I had no doubts whatsoever in my mind that it would be nothing short of original and different. Thankfully, that’s exactly what I got.

Most people that see the trailers for this flick will automatically get stuck in their head that it’s another confusing, sci-fi movie about time-travel. In a way, it is a sci-fi movie about time-travel, but it’s more of a twist on the crime and gangster genre than anything else. But even saying that it’s a crime and gangster genre movie is selling it short, because trust me people, this is not something you have seen before. You think you know the premise, you think you know how it’s going to play-out, and you think you know where it’s going to go, but trust me, you don’t know nothing yet and I think that’s where the fun in Johnson’s writing and directing comes from.

Anytime this movie ever seems like it’s going to go straight for the genre conventions, somehow, Johnson pulls himself straight-back from that and offers us a surprise that we were not expecting in the least-bit and even adds another secret twist/idea to the story that we didn’t already have in front of us before. This story, for some, will probably be as confusing as the meaning behind 2001, but if pay attention, if you stay with this story, and you stay with these characters, then nothing will go wrong for you at all. This is also one of those stories that I can’t go on and on about too much because the less you know about it going in, the better for you as you’re most likely going to get slapped in the face many of times with a bunch of happenings you weren’t expecting.

Johnson obviously loves having this bigger-budget and takes every great use of it with a slick look that reminded me a lot of Kubrick film, but not too much to the point of where it’s distracting, and also gave me a future that just seemed gritty and dirty, rather than over-stylized and filled with technology to the brim. There’s also a lot of sweet and stylized action scenes that will totally grab you out of nowhere, and just release you in the coolest way possible. However, it should be noted that as much action as there may be in this flick, this is not a pure, old-fashioned action flick per-se. Instead, the story takes this big twist about somewhere in the middle where things start to get a little slow, start to get a little bit more dramatic, and start to get a little talky, but it wasn’t a bad thing at all because Johnson seems like he has that perfect spark for snappy and fun dialogue that always seems interesting, no matter where these peeps may be getting at.

However, if there is a problem that I had with this change of pace half-way through the film, it’s that the characters just never came through for me. Yes, you do feel some of their sympathy throughout the film, and yes, Johnson lets them all have their different arcs but there was just that missing ingredient that wasn’t there and made me almost feel as if I was losing some sort of heart for this flick. JGL’s story (which is practically Willis’ as well), really made me root for him but the times where death was staring him straight-down in the eyes, I didn’t really know what to do or feel. The guy starts the film off as a total dickhead, just doing drugs, killing people, and stealing money, but then gets a conscience at the end and it just didn’t work for me, nor did it work for Willis’ side of the character either. Maybe I’m a heartless fool, I don’t know. But what I do know is that these characters just never really had me reaching out to them and it really bummed me out when it was all said and done.

Despite this problem with the characters, the people who play them are better than ever. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been on such a winning-streak by now that it almost seems obvious to say he kills it once again in this role, but he really does. Right when you take a first-glance at him, you’ll notice that JGL is playing a darker, more evil character than we’re used to seeing him play before and it really makes us wonder what we got ourselves into, especially since his make-up is less than subtle. However, you do get over it after awhile and just realize that this is another chance for JGL to bring out some real character emotions, and bring out a character that could really have us feeling for him when it’s all said and done. As for his “supposed” Willis impersonation, it’s not really what you think. In a way, JGL is doing certain channels of Willis and his trademarks, but it’s never to the point of where it comes off as a Frank Caliendo impression or anything. It feels real and that’s just another sign that JGL can do no wrong. Trust me, already forgot about Premium Rush.

As for Bruce Willis himself, the guy does an awesome job in a gritter and meaner role than we have seen from him in the longest time and it’s a welcome back to form for the guy because it’s been awhile. What most people will be surprised about is how Willis and JGL don’t really spend all that much time together in the film. All of their scenes take place with them rarely being near one another, and the only time where they actually do come in-contact for the first, and only real time, is this magnificent diner scene that reminded me of Heat in a way. Where Johnson goes with both of these characters though, is what really intrigued me because instead of having Willis be some, old, crotchety mentor to JGL’s young dude ways, it’s sort of the other way around where we see a guy with some level of humanity and heart, and another that just seems to have lost it after all of this time in crime and killing.

Another cast-member/character that people will be mainly surprised about is Emily Blunt as Sara, the gun-toting, tough farmer-chick that JGL hangs with for a little while. Some will be surprised to see Blunt in such a rough and ragged role for a gal that has been in many rom-coms as of late, but the surprise is well-deserved considering this girl really seems like she has something to her that works and really takes us by storm. Her character has an arc that didn’t really make me cry or love her character any more than I already did, but I like how Blunt made this character one that you feel could kick somebody’s ass when she had to, yet, still be very vulnerable at times, as well. It’s a performance that shows she’s got more to her than just looking pretty and being witty, and I look forward to seeing what type of direction this role takes her career in now.

Consensus: Though it’s not as emotionally-stimulating as some may, or may not be expecting, Looper is still very original and different in it’s own way of story-telling, character-development, and it’s numerous plot twists that really make you wonder just what the hell is going to happen at the end of this story.

8.5/10=Matinee!! 

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