Looper (2012) by Rian Johnson is a very entertaining film—part Blade Runner and part Terminator. T is the story of a futuristic society where time travel is invented and then banned, however, the crime syndicate uses it to dispose of people who get in their way and send them into the past to be killed by assassins known as loopers. I like how Johnston sidesteps the time travel inconsistencies in a scene where the present day looper meets himself from 30 years in the future. The ending is inventive and original. This was one of the more entertaining films I’ve seen this year.
I was intrigued by The Loneliest Planet, a 2012 film directed by Russian-American Julia Loktev. It is based on a short story, “Expensive Trips Nowhere” from Tom Bissell’s engaging collection God Lives in St. Petersburg, which I have read and enjoyed. This story also can find antecedents in Ernest Hemingway’s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”-where a man fails to rise to the occasion to protect his woman in front of a more masculine, confident guide. Loktev’s film was made on location in the Caucus Mountains in the former Russian state of Georgia. So there is some breathtaking scenery, but the pacing is quite slow with little dialogue. However, it raises some interesting questions about gender roles and what sort of behavior that women truly value.
When I first read about Richard Linklater’s film Bernie (2012), I felt somewhat dubious about the storyline. However, I should have known better since Linklater always makes films that are if nothing else interesting. This was more than interesting, but hilarious in some parts and Jack Black does the best work of his career and there are some great sequences from the supporting cast of the neighbors who provide commentary on the story throughout the film, including another great turn from Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley McClain nails her part as well. It was much better than I anticipated.
Take This Waltz (2012) is a Canadian romantic comedy directed by former actress Sarah Polley that has gotten a lot of critical accolades. It stars Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, and Sarah Silverman. I think it was much inferior to the other highly acclaimed romantic comedy of the season, Silver Linings Playbook. I suspect Williams is supposed to be one of those quirky Audrey Hepburn types, but I found her and her relationship with Rogen and Kirby to be cloying and annoying.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) by Katherine Bigelow was one of the most hyped films of the holiday season. And while I enjoyed it, I don’t think it quite lived up to the hype. It is something like a procedural to show how CIA analysts followed up intelligence to link Osama Bin Laden’s most trusted courier with the man himself. It depicted torture, which was said to have produced some leads that lead to the assassination. However, it also showed the callousness of collateral damage as some innocents were killed during the operation that took out Osama Bin Laden. That action is thrilling and tense, despite the fact that the audience knows the ending, but it took two hours to get to that sequence.
It seemed like the latest installment of the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy (2012) directed by Tony Gilroy didn’t as good as reviews as earlier installments. I am at a loss as to why that was. I found this installment much easier to follow and thought Jeremy Renner put in a fine performance and there were plenty of great chase sequences in exotic locales. In fact I think it might even make my list of top 10 films for 2012.
I finally got to see the much-talked about documentary, Waiting For Superman (2010), that looks at the failing educational system in America. It was an extremely well-made documentary by director Davis Guggenheim that essentially echoes my opinion that all schools should be charter schools. But it also points out how teacher unions work against the best interest of children and education by making it all but impossible to fire poor or ineffective teachers.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Stephen Chbosky’s film adaptation of his novel, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012). It is an enjoyable coming of age drama that deals with some dark material. And it seems to have been set in the mid 80s and brought back a lot of memories regarding my own high school experience: the new wave fashions and music, Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc. The soundtrack was particularly great, with songs like, “Asleep” by The Smiths, “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth, “Come on Elieen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Low” by Cracker, “Tugboat” by Galaxie 500, “No New Tale To Tell” by Love and Rockets, “Heroes” by David Bowie, “Dear God” by XTC, “Temptation” by New Order, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, “Evensong” by Innocence Mission, “Pretend We’re Dead” by L7, “Counting Backward” by Throwing Muses, and “Araby” by The Reviers-some of which I haven’t heard in more than a decade.