Joseph Gordon-Levitt Special: Premium Rush & Looper Reviews

It’s been quite a year for 31-year-old young thespian Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s got four movies opening this year alone, including one mega-blogbuster The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a testament to his versatility that he’s played a supporting role in two (TDKR and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, out later this November), and a starring role in two action thrillers released within a month of each other. Here are the reviews of those two, starting with the review from FC contributor Cecilia Rusli:

Premium Rush (2012)

I really think that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is currently Hollywood’s shining star in skinny-guy category. He has pretty much impressed me on 500 Days of Summer, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises which actually affected my curiosity on Premium Rush and Looper where I end up with watching both of them this week.

Premium Rush tells the life of Wilee as a bike messenger who received a package which made he chased by a dirty cop. The main idea of the whole movie is about chasing and running. With a bike.

The movie definitely would appeal to fans of single-speed bikes (fixies) and if you’re one of those people, I’d think you won’t be disappointed in this one. Levitt succeed in showing the best he’s got as a cyclist, riding in a crowded traffic in style. There are plenty of edge-of-your-seats moments here which made me think that this is the bike-version of Fast and Furious. It has a story, but people should not expect much from it. The action parts on the traffic is very entertaining, especially those moments when a biker comes really close to having a deadly accident. However, there was one scene that’s quite disappointing as it appears as if there was going to be a bike-outbreak, where a bunch of bikes suddenly came out of a garage to deceive their enemy, but I don’t think that scene wasn’t handled very well.

As Bobby Monday, Michael Shannon plays his role pretty well. He managed to show his persistence as a tough villain who never stop his fight. Big guy as a dirty cop versus the skinny bike messenger is quite entertaining to watch.

One fun thing about Premium Rush is the graphic design. I really love how Wilee’s GPS shown on the screen, indicating which one is the best way to reach a certain place. The director, David Koepp, also shows some possibilities might happened in route that Wilee’s take. It feels a bit like playing a video game.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a movie which will pump your adrenaline with fun visuals with not much concerns about the story, Premium Rush will suit you just fine. A breath of fresh air for those who are bored watching car chase scenes.

P.S: Stay on seat after the movie ends for some additional footage in the end credits

– Review by Cecilia R.

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3 out of 5 reels


Looper (2012)

Time travel sci-fi movies are inherently intriguing to me, so when I first saw the trailer with THIS cast, I knew I wanted to see it. The hype surrounding this film is quite strong, at least if I’m using Twitter as a barometer, but I’m glad to report that I’m not disappointed.

As in the trailer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a specialized assassin, in an outfit called the Loopers. He lives in the year 2042 but the mob he works for lives 30 years ahead where time travel would’ve been invented. When his employer from the future wants to get rid of someone, they zap that person back 30 years where someone like Joe would be waiting with a big gun in hand, ready to blow them up to oblivion. The only rule is: never let your target escape… even if your target is you. The job seems easy enough, I mean, the targets are blindfolded, so it’s not like they could really escape. That is, until one did, and that target happens to be his older self, in the form of Bruce Willis.

Now, before the action begins in full throttle, Director Rian Johnson sets up the story by introducing the Looper doing their jobs and how these junkies hit-men spend their lives in a dystopian future (is there any other kind in the movies??). “Loopers are well paid, they lead a good life…” Joe said in his narration, but what he means by ‘good’ doesn’t mean a happy one and it’s clear that Joe is disillusioned with his life.

Let me just say the less you know about the plot the better as I went in pretty much ‘blind,’ other than seeing the trailer weeks ago, and it’s fun to see the story unravel in ways I didn’t really expect. There’s really a lot to chew on here, as do most time-travel movies, and I have to admit it was a bit mind-boggling to digest it all as I’m watching it, but now that I’ve processed the movie more, Johnson actually told the story well enough without an overly drawn-out exposition.

The strengths are in the performances, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who seems to only get better and better as he grows to be a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Seems like every time I see him, even in minor roles like in Inception or The Dark Knight Rises, he never fails to impress. I’ve got to admit though, his prosthetic make-up to make him look like Bruce Willis is distracting at times, but once I get into the story, I got used to it. In fact, in some scenes Gordon-Levitt’s mannerism and expressions really do remind me of Willis!

Now, I’ve always been a fan of Bruce. He’s a bad ass guy with a heart and I feel that he sold me on the emotional moments as well as on the action front, in which he channels his iconic John McClane in the Die Hard franchise. In fact, I kept waiting for him to yell ‘Yiippiikayee’ during some of the shootout scenes!

I’m also impressed with Emily Blunt and child actor Pierce Gagnon who plays her little boy. Both played two key roles that serve as the emotional center of the story. Their paths crossed with both the younger and older Joe in a way that not only affect their own lives but the lives of Joe’s fellow Loopers. Their scenes with Gordon-Levitt are well-played, though it could perhaps be tightened a bit as it does feel dragging at times. Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano also lend memorable supporting performances, Daniels is sort of a comic relief as Joe’s manager who happens to be sent by the mob from the future.

It’s refreshing to see a movie based on an original script, not an adaptation nor a remake. Despite all the time travel elements, the film also doesn’t feel too science-fiction-y. I’m also glad Johnson doesn’t pile on one action set pieces after another, instead there are a lot of quiet moments to establish character development that help you get immersed in Joe’s journey.

Final Thoughts: Looper is a thrill ride that has a nice blend of thrilling action and matters of the heart. There are brutal action and some totally-unnecessary nudity here, but fortunately not so much so that derails my overall appreciation for it. At the core of this movie lies a heartfelt love story between a man and a woman, and also between a mother and his son. I like what Ryan @ The Matinee said in his review about how our decisions have a ripple effect that might impact people in ways we don’t intend or understand. It reminds me a bit of another time-travel movie Frequency which also deals with this theme, but this one is much less melodramatic.

I haven’t seen Brick yet, but I might give that a shot to see Johnson + Gordon-Levitt’s previous collaboration. I have an inkling this won’t be the last movie of the pair and that’d be a welcome project in my book!

4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on Premium Rush and/or Looper? Let us know in the comments!

Monthly Roundup: September Movie Watching Recap

I didn’t realize Autumnal Equinox was eight days ago. The best part of this season for me is the gorgeous fall foliage. I love driving past all the colorful trees, the mix of warm colors are just absolutely beautiful! I wish we could just have the next six months be Autumn and skip Winter altogether until April! 😀

Well, you could say I wasn’t as prolific this past month with just 20 posts in 30 days (compared to 25 last month). I deliberately took most of the weekends off as it’s been quite a hectic month for me.

There’s no blogathon I’m participating this past month, but I’ve been busy prepping for the Small Roles… Big Performances. It’s scheduled to go LIVE on Monday at NOON US Central Time, along with a couple of separate posts from FC’s contributors. Thanks to those of you who have submitted their entry. For those who haven’t I’ll still be taking submissions all next week, so just email it to me or leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the main post.

Well, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from September:

Well, what did I manage to watch this month?

Movies I haven’t seen before:

  1. 2016: Obama America (2012)
  2. Robot & Frank (2012)
  3. The Crow (1994)
  4. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)
  5. Endgame (2009)
  6. Frequency (2000)
  7. Headhunters (2011)
  8. Hysteria (2011)
  9. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  10. Looper (2012)
  11. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
  12. Lumpy (2012)

Re-watch:

  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • The Avengers (2012)

Favorite September Movie(s):

I haven’t got a chance to review Looper yet as I’ve been busy with the blogathon, but let me just say it’s a solid sci-fi thriller that’s as much a thrill ride as Headhunters was. I can’t choose which one I like the best, and I think I’d end up giving it the same rating of 4.5 out of 5. Interestingly, both directors of Headhunters and LooperMorten Tyldum and Rian Johnson respectively — have only got three feature films under their belt. Not only that, this marks the second collaboration with an actor they worked with previously (Tyldum with Aksel Hennie and Johnson with Joseph Gordon-Levitt).


So, what movies did you get to see in September and which one is your favorite?

Five for the Fifth: September 2012 Edition

Hello folks, it’s time for the September 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?
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1. With election just a couple months away, the political ads are getting more and more vicious. I’m not generally fond of political movies or documentaries, though at times I’m curious enough to check it out, like I did with 2016: Obama’s America.

I guess I don’t mind them if they have the right cast and that it’s not too much bashing going on from either parties, they just leave a bad taste in my mouth when the filmmakers get too nasty/vindictive about a certain politician. There are only a handful of political-themed movies I’ve enjoyed, among them are the light-hearted ones like The American President, Dave,  as well as well-made thrillers like Enemy of the State and State of Play.

Do you like political movies? If so, which one is your favorite?

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2. There are at least a dozen movies I’m anticipating until the end of the year, not sure I could get to all of them on the big screen but I certainly hope so! Now, just looking at September and October, here are five on my must-see list:

ARGO – October 12

As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

I like the last two of Ben Affleck-directed films, and he seems to be much better in front of the camera when he’s also behind the camera. This trailer looks GRIPPING! Can’t wait to see this one!


The Master – Sept 14

A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

Can’t wait to see Joaquin Phoenix’s return to the big screen, and the Scientology-like organization seems timely given what’s been happening with Tom Cruise! Eric from The Warning Sign puts this as his #1 movie of the year so far, and with Phoenix + Philip Seymour Hoffman, no doubt the performances are ace!


Looper – Sept 28

In the year 2042, a man working for a group of killers called “Loopers” (they work for the mob and kill people who are sent blindfolded back in time from the year 2072 by their bosses) recognizes a victim as himself.

Despite the weird makeup on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I do like this cast and this promises to be a time-travel thriller with a twist. So yeah, I’m game!


Chasing Mavericks – October 26

When young Jay Moriarty discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home, he enlists the help of local legend Frosty Hesson to train him to survive it.

I’ve posted the first trailer here, but I like the second trailer better. Those waves look spectacular… and Gerry Butler in a wet suit? Yes please 😀 I still wish the kid playing Jay is more interesting, but hey, King Leonidas as surfing instructor? Sign me up!


Cloud Atlas – October 26

An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

Ok, this could be a spectacular movie or a complete mess. But the trailer makes me curious enough to see it and there are a lot of my fave British/Aussie actors involved: Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, etc., though Tom Hanks and Halle Berry might be the big draw for mainstream audiences. We’ll see if the Wachowskis deliver on this one.

Honorable Mention: The Cold Light of Day – I LOVE Henry Cavill so I’ll definitely try to see this on the big screen, but not sure if this movie is actually getting a wide release.

Now your turn. What’s your five most anticipated movies in the next two months?

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3. After having seen Brandon Lee in The Crow and the Bruce Lee’s biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee story, my hubby and I have become quite fascinated by the martial art icon.

My brother was very fond of martial arts stuff and so I probably have seen a few of his movies, it’s just not my cup of tea. But it’s no denying that Bruce Lee is not only the greatest and most influential martial artist of all time, but he’s quite a charismatic guy. He’s also quite articulate and philosophical in interviews, too bad there aren’t too many of them out there. Btw, did you know that Bruce Lee is part German? Apparently his mother is of Chinese/German descent and his father was a Chinese Opera singer.

It’s so tragic what happened to him and his equally-gifted son Brandon. Bruce died at a young age of 32, reportedly from an allergic reaction to a headache tablet, and Brandon was only 28 when he was fatally shot in a bizarre filming accident of his last movie, The Crow. Cursed or not, there’s definitely something peculiar about their cause of death. I highly recommend both films if you haven’t seen it, I’ll be reviewing them both at some point.

Thoughts on Bruce Lee and/or martial arts movies? Are you a big fan of that genre?
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4. Happy Birthday Michael Keaton! Last week I read on Castor’s blog that the 61 year-old actor has been cast in the Robocop reboot, replacing Hugh Laurie. I think that’s great news, though I wish Keaton had gotten more leading roles. I’ve always liked Keaton, he’s got screen charisma and he suits both dramatic and comedic roles pretty well.

Though people are split whether he makes a good Batman or not, I do think he’s a great, versatile actor. Whether playing a crazy ghost (Beetlejuice), an overwhelmed dad (Multiplicity, Mr. Mom) or a genius psychopath (Desperate Measures), Keaton is always a joy to watch. I do hope this underrated actor gets more roles, I think he still looks a lot younger than his age!

So, what’s YOUR favorite Michael Keaton role?
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5. One of the classic masterpieces that have eluded me for so long is Lawrence of Arabia. Not sure why that is as it sounds like the kind of epic story I’d enjoy and I know my mom used to have a big crush on Omar Sharif, ahah.

Well, it’s been announced that it’ll be re-released on the big screen on October 4th as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. My hubby and I are definitely going to catch that. Check out the restoration trailer below:

According to this article, Grover Crisp, the EVP at SONY Pictures who’s in charge of the restoration said they wanted to ‘return this film to as pristine a condition as possible’ for the anniversary celebration.

“The original negative was seriously damaged in a number of ways, some problems dating from the original release and some accumulated over the years… But, until now, we did not have the tools available to address these issues. We think fans of the film will be as amazed as we are at the detail and resolution in the imagery captured by cinematographer Freddie Young to compliment David Lean’s immaculate direction.”

Man, I can’t wait to see this in its 70mm glory on the big screen!

Are you a fan of this film? Who else are going to see the big screen release of this one?


Well, that’s it for the September edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀