About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Looper & Friends

So this Looper movie that opened on Friday, it is indeed pretty good, and I'd highly recommend the JABberwocky client list, many/most of whom have an inner sf geek, go and see it.

The barest bones of the concept:  we have time travel, since time travel is illegal only criminals travel in time, and criminals are sent back 30 years to be offed, in fact there are dedicated specialists who take care of that. Every once in a while, the specialist gets to "close the loop," kiling the 30-years-in-future version of himself that's just been sent 30 years into the future's past.  Yes, it's a time travel movie, so if this explanation is hard to follow don't blame me.  And specifically here, the future has a guy called "the rainmaker" who is taking over the mobs en masse, closing loops en masse, sending all his enemies back in time.  Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis play the same dude, the +30 and the -30 versions.  Bruce Willis doesn't want his loop to be closed, he wants to find and kill the person who's going to become "the rainmaker," this will not endear either of them to the mob headed by Jeff Bridges that runs the whole looper thing in the -30.

Mostly, this is handled with lots of pluses.  Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed, has an ace cast and an ace tech team, and the movie is well made, suspenseful, not without its bits of humor.

The time travel?  Well, it makes sense.  Or it makes as much sense as it can.  Like any time travel movie, if you get to thinking too hard about the consequences of the things that happen, you realize it's all quite nonsensical.  But Goldilocks would approve of the way the script makes just enough effort to make all of this seem logical complete with just enough hand-waving to cover up the illogic that you're willing to cut it some slack.

It's a nice contrast to some of the other attempts Hollywood will take to deal with sf themes, like the laughable In Time from a year ago.

Though just to say, for anyone who's seen, as one good example, Brian de Palma's The Fury, there's a scene that should easily reveal the identity of The Rainmaker long before the characters in the film get around to figuring it out.

Also worth seeing:  Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhal in End of Watch.

Another auteur genre piece, this one written and directed by David Ayer,whom the posters remind us wrote the script for Training Day.

More good casting.  Gyllenhal and Pena have amazing chemistry and rapport together, and the script requires them to say things that always seem right, even at their most cliche.

As with Looper, a bit of slack needs to be cut.  The good guys can spend the whole movie radioing for backup and have it come nicely and quickly, until the final act when the back-up is most desperately needed and all of a sudden it's like the additional units need to drive to South Central from Santa Barbara.

This isn't Training Day.  It's a movie, and shit happens, but it's the cop drama that really has only the nicest things to say about cops.

It's safe to say I made the right decision to head to the movies after the first act of Harper Reagan, a play from an up-and-coming British playwright that makes it to New York a few years after a London debut.  A series of two-character scenes about a women I don't care about with family trouble I don't care about meeting characters I don't care about.  I hate walking out of plays, but with all the movies on my list and this play doing nothing for me...

Of course, I'm sure the reviews will be extravagant in their praise.  As I'd suspected, they've been very good for the play Detroit that I saw last weekend.

Friday night I saw an old "new to me" Hitchcock movie, Marnie from 1964, playing at the Loews Jersey as the lead-in to a 50th anniversary Bond double feature on Saturday of Dr. No and Goldfinger.  I'd have seen Goldfinger if not for a party to go to Saturday night, but had to settle for Marnie.  Even though it has Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren, who was also in The Birds for Hitchcock, there are lots of good reasons why this is obscure Hitchcock.  Marnie, the character played by Tippi Hedren, is a bag of troubled woman cliches.  Sean Connery's reaction to her makes absolutely no sense at all.  The production values are kind of cheesy, scenes of people driving that look unconvincing by standards of a 1922 silent film, blatantly matte-painted backgrounds to the point that they distract from the actual important things happening in the frame.  (I'm looking at the Wikipedia entry after typing this last sentence and seeing that these were things that were picked on by critics at the time.)

However, if you've seen a lot of Hitchcock, there's so much of Hitchcock in this movie that it's fascinating to ponder on in the context of his career.  There are so many Hitchcock women like the ones here, the suave debonair matinee idol like Sean Connery is a fixture of Hitchcock's work from Farley Granger in Rope through all the Hitchcock with Cary Grant or James Stewart.  There's a very good score by Bernard Herrmann who started in film with Citizen Kane and did a number of Hitchcock films later on.

Based on a novel by Winston Graham, the screenplay is the first by Jay Presson Allen.  This gives the movie a little extra resonance for me, Jay Presson Allen wrote (with her daughter) a stage play based on The Big Love, a book by Tedd Thomey which was part of my portfolio at Scott Meredith, and it's the one time I've gotten to go to a Broadway premiere and after-party. And it turns out that Jay Presson Allen was hired to script after Evan Hunter, aka Ed McBain, and a one-time Scott Meredith employee himself, was fired.  Who knew!

The Loews Jersey has a 50'-wide screen.  There was music on the Wonder Organ before the performance.  It would be nice if they would get the balcony open, they've been talking about this for as long as I've taken in the occasional movie (they show one Fri/Sat per month from September to May).  I'm told the problem is less putting in the seats than being in a city-owned building with the city not rushing to repair the fire escapes and put in updated alarm systems.

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