Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

hooligans_ver3I don’t like to write about movies unless they really move me, to the good or to the ill.

So which one is this?

Let’s just say that you might want to include a barf bag next to your popcorn if you choose to risk it with this dog of a movie.

Elijah Wood plays a journalism student at Harvard who gets set up to take a drug bust fall by his wealthy and powerfully connected roommate. Knowing that the depth of his “friend’s” pockets would make any challenge of the charges fruitless, and encouraged along by a $10,000 cash payoff, Elijah takes the money and the fall, gets expelled, and uses the money to travel to London to visit his sister’s family.

So far so good. But London is where the trouble starts, for the plot and for the movie.

Marc Warren, who plays Elijah’s sister’s husband, has never met Elijah, but because of his surprise visit, there is conflict with plans he had for a romantic evening with his wife. Problem is solved when his brother shows up, whom he convinces to show Elijah around, but warns him NOT to take him to the football game, and the reason why is also the cause of this movie being so aggravatingly stupid.

The reason why?

Well, you know those movies where two brothers come of age in a criminal gang, only to have one go straight and get out?  It’s kinda like that, only the world of criminal gangs is dangerous. The world in this movie is just a football game. *sigh*

Wait – I’m sorry. It’s the “violent underworld of football hooliganism.” – imbd.com

Oh! The danger! The intrigue!

Not really. Not at all, actually.

And that’s my beef with this movie. It tries so hard to make something out of nothing, and fails miserably.

Charlie Hunnam, who plays Marc’s brother, is the leader of a football team fan gang, or as it’s called in the movie, a “firm.” Yeah, calling it that doesn’t make it any more meaningful, though calling it a “flaccid” might.

So, what it is that these hopeless dullards do on a regular basis is beat the crap out of the members of other firms, because, well… they’re the enemy, apparently. At least on the day that their team competes with the other firm’s team.

Evidently, no one told these brick heads that professional sports are only a metaphor for war, NOT actual war.


And that’s why, for me, the movie cannot possibly work. I can’t step inside that world and take it seriously because I won’t buy what it’s selling. I won’t believe that these nitwits are fighting for anything meaningful (because they’re not), and believing that is required for the movie to work at all. They’re not fighting for anything meaningful because it’s a football game! A fiction! And we’re supposed to believe that these chowder heads are fighting for reputation or honor? Rubbish!

ugly mugsThere they are, after the game, firms from both teams squaring off in a back alley, stupid thugs with ugly mugs, going at it hammer, tongs, bricks and boards. It’s an orgy of ignorance, really.

I’m sorry, but if that’s what your society has degraded into, then I think it’s time to throw it onto the trash heap of history and forget it. The quicker the better.

In all fairness the U.S. is little better – in fact, its a surprise there’s not more sports related violence here. But the U.K. has us beat – the violence there is organized!

It’s not lost on me that this violence is entirely intended by our controllers. They want professional sports to be a substitute for war. They want people to take it that seriously. They are fully aware that the frustrations of wage-slavery need to be regularly vented, or else sooner or later dead bankers will be hanging from the street lamps.

Ahhhh, dead bankers. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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Olympus_Has_Fallen_posterI’m sure you’ve heard of this movie by now, if not seen it. I haven’t seen it myself yet, but was tipped off to the plot of it by Dahboo77 on Youtube.

The plot of the movie is basically that terrorist elements attack and capture the White House, code named Olympus, thus, Olympus Has Fallen. I won’t even go into all the ancient Greece symbolism here – there’s just not time for it, but they love to use that stuff.

The point of interest here is this: the terrorists are – hold onto your seat – Korean. Specifically, North Korean. Really? Yes, really.

Seems odd, doesn’t it? Seems like an odd choice to me on where a “successful” attack against D.C. would come from. And just in time too, because now everyone has a dose of conditioning to view North Koreans as “terrorists,” because they attacked the White House in that movie. And if you think that some Americans are not too dim to miss this glaring attempt to sway their opinions, then you would be dead wrong. And check out that burning flag in the poster – are they trying to tell us something about the future of our country?

It’s amazing to me how thin the veil is becoming nowadays – A little over one month is short lead time for psychological conditioning through a movie, but hey, maybe they don’t have much time anymore for planning ahead, and people’s memories aren’t what they used to be – not to mention attention spans.

The release date of this movie (3/22) was also an important date that a lot of people were watching for a significant event. Nothing happened, other than the release of this movie. But maybe that was enough, considering current events as they are. As for the date, there’s many connections that make it significant, but the most important is it’s connection to Skull & Bones, a notorious secret society that Papa and Jr Bush were members of, as well as Bush’s cousin, the illustrious John Kerry. Thick as thieves, these.250px-Bones_logo

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Now we enter into the second half of the movie. We’ve been introduced to the whole looper concept, seen the degradation of the assassin’s lifestyle, and watched Joe move on into the life he lived in Asia after retiring himself the first time. Here the movie returns to the past when young Joe and old Joe are simultaneously running from the Gat Men working for their boss, Abe (played by Jeff Daniels).

It turns out that young Joe fell onto a car after slipping off the fire escape, and is pulled to safety by old Joe, who watched the whole thing happen while cursing his younger self’s ignorance for returning to his apartment instead of running like he’d been told.

Man, could I have used an older, wiser version of myself at certain crossroads of my life to advise me what to do… Where is my aged doppelganger?

But young Joe is impetuous, and has little respect for old Joe’s opinions, as evidenced by the scene at the diner, which is where they meet up again after young Joe carves the message into his young arm, and old Joe sees the healed scar on his old arm mysteriously appear – one of the most interesting components of the time travel concept in this movie. This diner interlude is broken up when a gang of Gat Men appear, and old Joe manages to escape while young Joe is helping his previous associates to fire on him, until he too needs beat-feet when their attention turns to him.

But young Joe has a clue to help him find his older, crustier self again: a scrap torn from a map that old Joe had. Before beaming himself back in time, old Joe had received a lead on the Rainmaker – a string of digits, which turns out to be the Rainmaker’s birth date and the code of the hospital he was born in. After researching hospital records, he finds out there were three children born on that particular day in that particular hospital, and so has plans to kill all three to be sure the Rainmaker is dispatched. Young Joe ends up, coincidentally of course, at the home of the future arch-criminal himself, which is also the last mark to be targeted by old Joe.

To be sure, this is not one of Bruce’s best performances. First, he looks like a putz, and the blame lies squarely in the hair department. When Johnson transitions from young Joe to old, it’s a bit too abrupt and unconvincing. He simply gives young Joe longer hair to indicate the passage of time, then jumps to Willis with the same length of hair but gray and mangy, and then has it fall out by degrees until he’s left with the doo that, so far, Willis has been careful to avoid in movies but the one which would be his natural state without shaving his head – bald on top, fur around the sides; the dreaded Monk’s Tonsure, or Toilet Seat (shiny on top, shit underneath). And secondly, his acting is a bit bland at times, especially in the scene where he breaks down after killing the first boy. It just didn’t convince me – but then again, he’s a soulless assassin, so what do you expect? True sincerity?

Meanwhile, young Joe is detoxing from his addiction at the farm of the actual target, tended to by the boy’s reluctant mother. When he recovers, he soon learns that the boy, Cid, is gifted in intelligence, probably at genius level. The mother is what the movie describes as a TK, for telekinesis. Apparently, mutations have occured in human DNA leading to limited TK powers – exemplified in the movie by several people levitating quarters above their palms. The mother, Sara, goes one better – a zippo. This is to prep the viewer for what Cid will do later, although what he is capable of doing is an evolutionary leap in comparison. After a brief scene alluding to his power when he gets angry at Sara, he demonstrates it full-blown when he first levitates a Gat Man who came snooping around, and then obliterates him along with the inside of the house. Initially, young Joe is horrified by what the boy can do and sets out behind him when Cid runs from the house in order to kill him, but the boy is repentant, and Joe relents. Johnson actually does a fine job of balancing Cid’s anger and destructive powers with his innocence – he’s not a criminal yet, and Johnson makes that point clear.

Sara, understanding the true danger facing them now, grabs Cid and flees in her truck. Old Joe – on foot – sees them coming, starts firing at them, and Cid in his fear flips and crashes the truck with his powers. They crawl out and start fleeing across an open field, with old Joe firing at them. Shortly after, young Joe catches up to the scene on foot, but he is too far behind to stop old Joe with his shotgun. Old Joe is relentless, and young Joe knows that he won’t stop until he kills Cid, Sara, or both. Then old Joe fires off a shot that rips through the boy’s jaw.

Furious now, the boy raises a whirlwind of cane detritus as well as old Joe and his mother into the air. Johnson shines here, as he deftly handles the contrasts. First the gale is quieted, and then you hear Sara speaking calmly to her son: “It’s OK Baby. It’s OK. I love you. Calm down. Please. Mommy loves you.” And it works. Cid drops them, and Sara rushes in to comfort him. Old Joe promptly gets up and starts firing again.

Sara is trying to block old Joe’s line of sight and thus protect her son, and as old Joe draws a bead on her, young Joe delivers the best line of the whole movie:

Then I saw it. I saw a mom who would die for her son. A man who would kill for his wife. A boy angry and alone, laid out in front of him, the bad path. I saw it. And the path was a circle. So I changed it.

He raises the barrel of the shotgun to his own chest, and fires. Old Joe blinks out. Cid and Sara are saved.

Besides the time travel blunders, Johnson has really pulled off a movie that should, in my opinion, become a classic in the sci-fi genre. It has what so few sci-fi movies have been able to include together – great intellectual elements with a strong moral lesson as well. One relies on the other. If young Joe hadn’t witnessed firsthand the obsession and selfish greed of his older counterpart (made possible by the intellectual component of time travel), he wouldn’t have awakened to the idea that greater things than self were at work in life. Rather than only self-service for the rest of his life unceasingly, he chose self-sacrifice to change the course and make a difference. Good on you, Johnson. Well done.

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looperHow’s this for an opening scene?

A lone man is sitting in an open field. Before him lies a white tarpaulin. While listening to headphones and practicing French, he keeps checking his antique pocket watch. After a few moments, he checks his watch one last time, stands, and aims his shotgun before him at waist-level. Instantly, out of nowhere, a kneeling man appears before him on the tarp, bound and hooded. He shoots him dead.

Time travel, he narrates, has not been invented yet. But in 30 years, it will have been.

So starts this post-apocalyptic, future-based, sci-fi thriller. Whew – that’s a lot of hyphens.

I decided to review this movie because it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a long, long time. But it’s not without a few glaring imperfections.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this movie stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. It is set in Kansas, year 2044. Signs of a previous economic collapse are everywhere, but it doesn’t go overboard focusing on this fact in the way the abysmally depressing movie “The Road” did. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a character named, appropriately, Joe. He works in 2044 as an assassin for crime bosses who live 30 years in the future. Because of technological body-tagging and the difficulty of disposing of bodies in the year 2074, they utilize recently discovered (and quickly outlawed) time travel technology to “zap” bodies back in time where they can be dispatched and incinerated – bodies which, at least in that prior time, don’t exist. In return the assassins receive two silver bars per job, which the crime bosses strap to the backs of their victims.

A looper’s life quickly devolves into an endless, empty cycle of blowing away marks, collecting their silver payments, hitting up with eye-drop narcotics before partying hard, then doing it all over again. Eventually though,  a looper will discover a large gold payout attached to the back of the mark they’ve just killed, indicating that they have just “closed their loop.” This means that they’ve just killed their older, future self, and can now take that golden umbrella and live comfortably for the next thirty years, until, apparently, they are sent back to be killed by themselves again, which would technically mean that they never closed their loop. Sigh. Here is where we encounter the biggest, smelliest Stanley Steamer that Johnson plops into this otherwise intelligent and thought-provoking film. More on that later.

For now, lets continue with young Joe. With unassailable deadpan style and a face reminiscent of De Niro (check out the desk scene between Joe and the Gat Men’s boss Abe), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (seriously… a man with a hyphenated name?) delivers this role with acumen. He has a hard job in this movie. It’s not easy to play a character that has little moral integrity and still maintain a viewer’s investment. But he does just that (plus he redeems himself at the end). He kills strangers for a living, a good living, in a time when most people are living as scavengers. He rats out his best friend and fellow assassin Seth to protect his stash of silver (Judas anyone?). And, he argues against his future self in a diner, saying “I can’t let you walk away from this diner alive. This is my life now. You had yours already, so why don’t you do what old men do, and die!” Nice, right?

Here’s a guy that cannot even befriend himself. Ah well, many of us suffer the same imperfection, and maybe that’s why we can forgive him.

When he meets old Joe (Willis), he pauses because old Joe’s hood is not on when he appears. They look into each other’s eyes, then old Joe turns around before taking the shotgun blast into the gold bars on his back, saving him. Before young Joe can reload, old Joe knocks him out and steals his truck, leaving a note with his younger self to get out of the city, to run. But young Joe is, well, young, not to mention naive, and so he doesn’t run. He goes straight back to his apartment, where an altercation takes place with the Gat Men looking for him because he did what is called “letting your looper run.” That’s a big no-no in looper land, apparently.

That’s what Joe’s friend Seth did. Although his looper (himself) was hooded when he appeared, he was singing the song his mother used to sing to comfort him as a child. He unmasked his older self, who told him about a new crime boss in the future, called the Rainmaker, a mysterious figure who was taking over all the regional cities and closing all the loops. That news will become important later.

Anyway, as young Joe is trying to evade the Gat Men sent to his apartment to kill him and is hanging from the fire escape, his handhold slips and he falls. Fade to black.

Cut to the field. Same field as before, only this time, when old Joe appears, he is head-sacked and young Joe promptly blows him to kingdom come. Then he finds the gold, and realizes he just killed his old-man self. He shrugs it off, grabs the gold, and then the film begins an annotated sequence documenting the next thirty years of his life. He goes to Asia, spends down all of his gold and silver, then takes up working as an assassin again before suddenly turning into Bruce Willis (with really bad hair), and meeting the Asian woman of his dreams, who cleans him up, gets him off drugs, and makes a decent human being out of him (finally!).

Okay – so I ask you Rian Johnson: what time is this? This scene that you cut to after the fire escape scene?

As far as I can discern, this scene is in the past, when young Joe supposedly closed his loop the first time (which of course he didn’t, as discussed before – actually it’s the crime syndicate’s fault – they keep sending their loopers back in time after the loop was supposedly closed – duh). So, when watching the movie from the start, we are assuming that we are watching young Joe’s first time to encounter himself, but apparently we are not – it’s the second time, because after old Joe comes back, he is coming back from the life experience we watch unfold after the scene cuts from young Joe’s fall from the fire escape back to the field, where he actually kills his old self, then goes on to live the life the movie portrays in Asia. Thoroughly confused yet? Bear with me – technical details like this matter with sci-fi.

So the first scene is  old Joe’s second “loop,” the second scene the first. Gee, thanks Johnson. As if the concept of time travel weren’t confusing enough. Plop. Big Stanley Steamer.

As far as I can tell, there is only ever one young Joe. The loop starts when an older self is sent back in time and two are in the same time simultaneously,  and that loop is either continued or closed. In the first go around, young Joe kills old Joe, then sets out to live his life in Asia. Then he gets apprehended by the henchmen of the Rainmaker, taken to the time machine, whereby he overtakes his handlers, and sends himself back in time to the field (the first field scene shown). Why does he send himself back? Because the henchmen killed his wife when they apprehended him, and he wants to go back in time and kill the Rainmaker as a child, thereby changing the future and saving his wife. And herein lies another big pooper that Johnson never addresses: since there is no time machine in 2044 with which to send himself back again to the future and live with his wife, then what is the point of it all? Oh, the humanity!!

If Johnson wanted to avoid confusion, which he clearly did not, then he just would have had an assassin experience one loop, get killed by himself in the past, then the original assassin in the past would just live out the rest of that life to die at some point IN THE FUTURE! But alas, that would be far too simple. And clear. Or, to make it even clearer, never have the assassins loop themselves in the first place. No need. But then you wouldn’t have the fantastic scene at the diner, where old Joe and young Joe sit down and have a heart to heart chat, or scolding, as was the case in this movie. And you wouldn’t have the final, amazing scene at the end, either.

Speaking of the diner scene: I know that Johnson was aware of these glaring inconsistencies as he spoke through the character of old Joe, when he says “I don’t want to talk about time travel shit, because if we start talkin’ about it then we’re gonna be here all day talkin’ about it, making diagrams with straws.” Then, when pressed on the issue of time travel by young Joe, he slams his fist down onto the table and yells “It doesn’t matter!” Oh yes it does, Mr. Johnson. It does matter. Sometimes writing requires mental effort. Go figure.

Alright – this review has become as confusing as Johnson’s take on time travel. The second half will have to wait until the next post!

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