Hollywood has a difficult relationship with science fiction. Whether they're translating classic sci-fi stories into brainless action movies or too caught up in the otherworldly details there's always something they can't seem to get right about the imaginative genre.
Looper defies the odds by fleshing out a unique future world while honing in on a specific story with real people at the center — a balance that defined works by greats like Bradbury Asimov and Dick. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper an assassin for the mob bosses of the future who use illegal time travel to send back their targets for disposal. It's an easy lucrative life — one that affords him a party lifestyle of fancy cars and drops (drugs taken through the eye) albeit with the added knowledge of a definite grisly end. Eventually the mob "closes the loop" on its employees finding the Looper in the future and sending them back to be offed by… themselves. When it's Joe's turn to end his own life he's outsmarted his future self (Bruce Willis) escaping Joe's grasp. Driven to fulfill his duties as a Looper Joe goes on the hunt to kill himself.
Director Rian Johnson's Kansas City of 2044 feels appropriately lived in and extended from present day. When Joe's not blasting people away shrouded by the stalks of a cornfield he's dining on steak and eggs at a local diner. It's only the casual presence of hovercycles mutant telekinetics and the occasional visitor from the future that would give away the action of Looper isn't happening today. The realism gives Joe and the metropolis around him a necessary grit — there is danger and violence and pain in this world and when Johnson rouses up an action sequence there's something on the line.
Looper's greatest flaw is that it steps away from the confrontation between Young and Old Joe sending the two in different directions as they pursue answers to the film's spoilerific MacGuffin. On a farm away from the city Young Joe crosses paths with single mother Sara (Emily Blunt) who may hold the key to what Old Joe needs to survive. After being introduced to an ensemble of delightfully wicked characters — including Looper coordinator Abe (Jeff Daniels) Young Joe's sleazy coworker Seth (Paul Dano) and hotshot marksman Kid Blue (Noah Sagan) — plus Young Joe's stripper with a heart of gold confidant Suzie (Piper Perabo) Looper takes a sharp left turn leaving most of the cast in the dust. The interesting sci-fi mosaic slows down and enters a new chapter and it's rarely as engrossing as the first half.
When Willis and Gordon-Levitt are at odds Looper is simply magic. Nathan Johnson's industrial score pounds away as the two fight to stay alive all while grappling with the implications that come with glimpsing into your own future. One riveting sequence follows the timeline that played out before Old Joe tinkered with the space-time continuum a roller coaster through the years after the events of the film that see Gordon-Levitt evolve into Willis. The montage is a playground for Johnson's visual style. He never misses a beat.
For sci-fi nuts Looper corrects the past with an understanding of what makes the genre more than just an array of tropes and iconography. There are shaded characters duking it out in Looper's chaotic web of time travel logic and while their arcs fizzle out without much pay off they're a joy to watch.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Today, we're checking out The New Normal, which — in its premiere season — will determine whether or not Ryan Murphy has the magical television touch that can do no wrong.
Series Name: The New Normal
Premiere Date: Tuesday, Sept.11th at 9:30PM
Catchphrase Everyone Will Be Tweeting: "Abnormal IS the new normal!"
You'll Like It If...: You're a ride-or-die Murphy fan. Fans of Archie Bunker. Vanilla wafer cookie enthusiasts.
You'll Hate It If...: You're easily offended by decidedly un-PC humor.
Cast: Justin Bartha as David Murray, Andrew Rannells as Bryan Collins, Ellen Barkin as Nana aka Jane Forrest, Georgia King as Goldie Clemmons, NeNe Leakes as Rocky, and Bebe Wood as Shania Clemmons.
Synopsis: Set in sunny Los Angeles, the show tells the story of well-heeled gay couple David and Bryan (played by Bartha and Rannells, respectively) whose desire for a baby leads them to surrogate Goldie Clemmons (King), desperate for a life where she's finally in control. Laughs (cheap or no) come in the form of the comedic attempts of Goldie's Nana (aka Jane, played by Barkin) and Bryan's assistant Rocky (Leakes). And just for good measure, a lot of whiz-kid, modernity-laced quips (Twitter! Facebook!) from a wise-beyond-her-years nerdy-type daughter named Shania (Wood).
Star Likely To Out-Fame The Show: Andrew Rannells is a gem — he needs to be on America's TV screen more.
Most Cringeworthy Moment: Almost any scene with Barkin, whose lines seem more fitting for an episode of All in the Family than anything on television in the past 30 years. In the pilot alone, she jabs at gay men, lesbians, Asians, African-Americans, and Jews. The rationale for her quips seem to have no reason behind them, merely shock and awe.
And If Jane Was A Real Housewife: Her catchphrase would be, "I look too good to be a great-grandmother!" with a sassy wink and a hairflip.
Biggest Housewives Similarity: Though Roxy might not be a self-proclaimed "rich b**ch" like NeNe is, she sure will play the part, thanks to gifts her boss doesn't know he's buying her.
High Point: Mini-guest appearances are aplenty just in the pilot alone. Murphy favorites Gwyneth Paltrow and Leslie Grossman do quite well in their brief moments on screen. (We love Mary Cherry forever.)
Who to Watch it With: Your little sister who loves Glee, any Ryan Murphy obsessive you know, grandparents that think bigotry and gay people are JUST HILARIOUS.
Who Not to Watch it With: Pretty much anyone else.
Wine and Cheese Pairing: Straight Velveeta and some Riesling in a baby bottle. Bottoms up!
Most GIF-able Moment: We've got six words for you: midget mom in a Barbie car.
TV Math: (Ryan Murphy - American Horror Story) + Glee's Kurt and Blaine in 15 Years - Singing x √Gay = The New Normal
Is it Worth Watching?: There's always that glimmer of hope one has for a Ryan Murphy show. Keeping with this is not like Glee, which you either hate-watch or tune in for the campy, fun moments that remind you of Murphy's talents. Bartha and Rannells are at least good enough to warrant a viewing of episode two. A Season 2, however...
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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With the release of The Tourist today, we’re witnessing a moment in Hollywood history; the pairing of two stars that are sure to become icons of tomorrow. Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp have reached that untouchable level of super glamorous stardom and it was only a matter of time before someone decided to combine their illustrious powers in a full length feature. In celebration of this classic and almost annoyingly gorgeous onscreen couple, let’s take a look back at Old Hollywood’s best couplings and make a few predictions about who might be next to ascend to the glitzy throne next.
Classic Couple: Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
The modern Humphrey Bogart: Robert Downey Jr.
Now, I know that since you can’t say classic Hollywood without thinking Bogart, any suggestion that someone may be the second coming will be met with resistance (and quite possibly antagonism). With that, I’m not saying RDJ is a replica of Bogie, rather the 21st century version of him. Careless, yet cocksure swagger. Check. A bit of a bad-ass? Check. Enough charisma to put men and women alike under his onscreen spell? Check. Add in his incredibly snarky style and you’ve got the closest thing we’ll ever see to a modern Bogart.
The modern Ingrid Bergman: Marion Cotillard
Like Bergman before her, Cotillard turned her creative credibility in France (for Bergman it was Europe in general) into a crossover career that landed her firmly on the Hollywood A-list. After winning the Oscar for her performance en La Vie en Rose, Cotillard has become a symbol of lasting, classic Hollywood beauty and she’s landed roles opposite the biggest names in the business as a result. Johnny Depp, Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio have all had the pleasure of calling the exquisite actress “co-star.”
Rebel Without a Cause, 1955
Classic Couple: James Dean and Natalie Wood
The modern James Dean: James Franco
Before you get up in arms, yes, I am aware that Franco took on Dean in a made-for-TV biopic. While that initially steered me away from the comparison, I had to admit that the similarities are undeniable. Both young stars serve as mysterious, smoldering cultural icons. Dean’s persona was embodied in this classic film and remains long after his unfortunate death. While Franco hasn’t quite hit his Rebel Without a Cause moment, it seems that he’s taken to the public sphere to give us a modern, performance art version of it as he continues to puzzle us all with his defiant antics.
The modern Natalie Wood: Emma Watson
This is a bit of a prediction because she hasn’t done much outside of the Harry Potter films, but like Ms. Wood, Watson’s staggering beauty is sure to keep her from fading. Both actresses began their careers as children – Watson in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone and Wood in Miracle on 34th Street – and grew into gorgeous young women before the public’s eyes. Watson still has many years ahead of her, but I think it’s safe to say she won’t become just another child star that burns out.
Some Like It Hot , 1959
Classic Couple: Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe
The modern Tony Curtis: Leonardo DiCaprio
Curtis was considered one of the most handsome actors of his time, his looks landing him a slew of mild roles that allowed him to showcase little more than his face, but he soon proved that he was not only a good actor, but he had range for days. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? DiCaprio started out in a similar vein (ahem, Titanic anyone?), but with fantastic performances in films like Blood Diamond and The Departed, I’m certain Leo’s star it’s on its way to joining that illustrious list of untarnished stars.
The modern Marilyn Monroe: Christina Hendricks
Could it be anyone else? Ms. Hendricks is practically a red-headed reincarnation of the former sex symbol; the measurements of her dangerous curves are almost identical to Monroe’s and she’s even got the whole high-pitched, breathy whisper down. While she’s yet to rack up starring roles in a slew of films, her role on Mad Men has pushed her right to the top of the celebrity elite; and besides, Marilyn started out by reprising her one-note act. It’s just a matter of time before Hendricks breaks out of her mold too.
Classic Couple: Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak
The modern Jimmy Stewart: Tom Hanks
Both actors are like the Hollywood fathers we all grew up with; both are infinitely successful and comfortably familiar. Stewart became a legend of American cinema, showcasing his consistent and versatile talents in many of our favorite films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Rear Window, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Like Stewart, Hanks is infinitely likable and has given us years of great cinema with films like Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, but he’s shown versatility in movies like You’ve Got Mail and Toy Story. He’s now cemented as a beloved Hollywood face that won’t fail to be a part of the permanent Hollywood legacy.
The modern Kim Novak: Scarlett Johansson
Ms. Novak didn’t necessarily gain fame for her great acting abilities, but she was mostly solid and her classic good looks made her a pleasure to watch. After starring alongside Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, her status as a Hollywood legend was locked. Like Novak, Johansson is infinitely watchable and stunning. While her past performances never reached the level of many other actresses who’ve achieved similar levels of fame, her name is sure to be a solid fixture in the history of Hollywood for years to come.
To Catch a Thief , 1959
Classic Couple: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly
The modern Cary Grant: George Clooney
George, George, George. From the time he started breaking hearts on ER, we knew he was going to go on making us swoon for years to come. Like Grant, Clooney shares the classic C.G. initials that worked so well for Gary Cooper and Clark Gable and oozes infinite charm. Grant was capable of physical comedy, sincere drama, intense action, all while maintaining his immaculate suaveness; I would point out which pieces correlate to Clooney, but it’s safe to say they all do. Grant was named AFI’s "Greatest Male Star of All Time" and while Clooney’s not quite there yet, I think he could one day make a close second.
The modern Grace Kelly: Natalie Portman
While she isn’t a princess, per se, Portman carries all the modern style, grace, and composure that “Princess Grace” was known for. Kelly became a staple of American cinema, gracing the screen with her talent and beauty in a slew of now-classic films including Rear Window, To Catch a Thief and Dial M for Murder. Portman is just now coming into that phase of her career fresh off the praise for her performance in Black Swan, but she’s on her way to becoming the epitome of elegance in this modern age of Hollywood.
In the late 19th century Dr. Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) a misunderstood monster hunter is summoned to Transylvania to ferret out Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and kill him once and for all. When Van Helsing gets to the small village where the vampire was last spotted he discovers he also must contend with Dracula's three seriously twisted vampire brides Dracula's angry henchman/werewolf--and a lovely gypsy princess named Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) who is hell-bent on eradicating Dracula and his bloodsucking kind for slaughtering her entire family. Oh and let's not forget Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) who holds the key to Dracula's evil master plan--something about releasing his minions of unborn bat-like children from their goo-filled cocoons so they can wreck havoc on the world. Yuck. Sounds like our resident monster stomper and his sword-swinging gal pal have their work cut out for them. If Van Helsing does manage to kill all his monster foes does that mean he's out of a job?
Jackman has the whole antihero thing down pat. He adequately embodies the younger more virile Van Helsing dishing out as much pain and torture as he can on the undead--but the Aussie actor isn't given nearly as much meat to chew on as he did say delving into the complicated Wolverine in X-Men. Instead the monster hunter is relegated to carrying big weapons wearing a big hat and muttering something about having bad dreams to a past he can't remember. Same goes for Beckinsale. The British actress was oh-so-cool on the other side of the fence playing the chic vampire Selene in Underworld cutting her way through a myriad of werewolves. As Van Helsing's heavily accented female counterpart Anna however she just runs around with her sword blurting out such pathetic dialogue such as "Dracula took everything away from me and now I'm alone in the world" while Roxburgh's Dracula--who can't hold a candle to other far more charismatic Draculas before him--wails about being so very alone as his luscious brides hang upside down in front of him. Give me a break. At least Australian actor David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings) provides much-needed comic relief as Van Helsing's sidekick Carl a Catholic friar who doesn't much like playing hero.
With the requisite dark mood and tone action sequences and snazzy CGI-creations including the winged vampire brides and formidable werewolves you can see exactly where writer/director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) spent Van Helsing's nearly $150 million budget. But even all the bells and whistles can't tie together the film's vacuous nonsensical mumbo jumbo as Sommers attempts to bring classic movie monsters together in the same movie. Maybe in a tongue-in-cheek Abbott and Costello movie it could work but as a serious action-packed thriller clearly Dracula Frankenstein and the Wolf Man do not need to meet. On top of that Sommers steals from other movies as well such as recent films Underworld (the whole vampire vs. werewolf conflict) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (Van Helsing defeats a rather familiar-looking Mr. Hyde at one point). Whatever originality there is in the film leaves you either scratching your head--Dracula has kids?--or rolling your eyes--Anna needs to kill Dracula so her nine-generations of family can reunite in Heaven? Please.
October 19, 2001 5:57am EST
The film opens with prison warden Colonel Winter (Robert Redford) greeting the highly respected General Irwin (James Gandolfini) at the start of his 10-year sentence for disobeying a presidential order. When they meet Irwin makes a snide remark about Winter--a non combatant--proudly showcasing military trinkets and memorabilia in his office. The comment instantly touches off a power war between the two which ends with Irwin threatening to take over the prison and flying the American flag upside down--a symbol that the castle has fallen. Winter rises to the challenge and the two begin their strategic plotting. Irwin wins the respect of his fellow inmates in an overly drawn scene where he is forced to carry large stones from one pile to another in the prison courtyard and forms an army of inmates using clichéd chess tactics to demonstrate his assault plans. Winter meanwhile watches from his cozy office overlooking the courtyard as if he was watching a reality series on a big-screen TV.
The highly regarded General Irwin is a simple solemn type which unfortunately is what is fundamentally wrong with the film. While Redford does the brooding thing quite well the script never calls for him to do anything more than that. James Gandolfini takes on the role of prison warden Colonel Winter with fitting simplicity. He accentuates Winter's dumb-thug persona by over-enunciating his words and speaking in an unnaturally slow manner. Redford and Gandolfini both churn out great performances but it would have been more rewarding had the script called for their characters to be more well-rounded. Steve Burton plays Winter's right hand man Captain Peretz convincingly considering what few lines he has. His body language facial expressions and dialogue manage to convey his character's thoughts even when his lines don't.
Directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender) The Last Castle is a well-paced story without a dull moment. It concludes with a dramatic and exciting climax but the problem is it's just too simple. While it's easy to get caught up in the story it's hard to buy how easily the inmates are able to take control of such a heavily guarded maximum-security prison. Using cafeteria trays as shields is one thing but hurling stones using a giant catapult that somehow went unnoticed by prison security is hard to swallow. So is the fact that these inmates a group of hardened criminals cooperate so easily with hardly any friction. While it could have been a very emotional story it fails because the characters are one-dimensional and never really explored including the two main characters played by Redford and Gandolfini. One is a great strategist and the other draconian but viewers are left to guess why and how they got that way.