Looper

The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that does not need an animated continuation. It just goes on and on with very live action. We begin this evening with a shot from The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2, the animated follow-up to The Dark Knight Returns. Warner Home Video has released the image with a promise to show some footage at the upcoming New York Comic-Con. This should continue to hold you off until Warner Bros. can figure out what they’re doing with live-action Batman. Or at least until the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy is available on Blu-ray.

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Rian Johnson

Editor’s Introduction: Normally this feature is created by diving into the deep end of interviews, but when Rian Johnson agreed to write an entry himself, it was an opportunity impossible to pass up. With only three features under his belt, Johnson is already a force to be reckoned with. Emerging onto the scene with the inventive high school noir Brick in 2005, he pivoted off its dark tones for the lighter flair of The Brothers Bloom in 2008. He re-teamed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for this year’s Looper, which has been blazing a trail through fans and sparking a metric ton of conversation. Part of that is his dialogue, part of it is the look he manages to achieve, but another big part is his personal style that shines through and seems impossible to mimic. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) directly from a man who built his own time machine.

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Jaws

Ah yes. It’s that time of the year, folks. The only month where it’s slightly less mean to jump out at a child while wearing a clown mask. The vandal’s holiday… cretin Christmas. It really is a special time for all of us horror movie fans. So let’s light some candles, get our favorite Misfits album out and start this party. They say that nothing can ever outdo the imagination – something that is most evident when it comes to terror and death. It’s not what you see that scares you – it’s what you don’t. It’s why we fear the dark. So while gore is great fun, it’s nothing compared to something merely implied.

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The Presidential Debate

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that isn’t so political. Unless you consider watching the Presidential Debate and imagining the candidates as Muppets to be political… We begin this evening with the nation’s top story — no, not Saturday Night Live — the Presidential Debate. That will undoubtedly be the reason why tonight’s column is coming in late. And because I love hyperbole, I’m not only watching the debate, but also reading Andrew Sullivan having an aneurism and watching CNN’s talking heads go crazy. Also, someone said Lincoln. That movie is out in November. But enough politics, lets do the movie news…

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Looper. Several hours after seeing Rian Johnson’s Looper, I find the film still rattling in my head. Not because certain moments have resonated with me, nor because the möbius strip sci-fi structure has motivated any existential introspection. Instead, I felt surprisingly conflicted by Looper, perhaps more so than any other film this year. Looper is a film that consists of so many great parts, miles above what most studio genre fare has released this year, yet somehow even the success of these parts didn’t seem to cohere into a resonant whole on the drive home. What stands out the most about Looper is the emotional and thematic import of the film’s time travel plot device. In situating a young man confronting his aged (and changed) self, a middle-aged man attempting to change course in his life through any means possible, and several evident cycles of fate-determining actions shared between characters, Looper connects its investigation of predestination v. free will to a rumination on how our choices directly effect the lives of others in lasting ways. The logic of Looper lays out a vision of life that includes many potential options from which we choose or have chosen for us. Here there is no such thing as fate, only opened and closed opportunities, the implications of which we can’s possibly comprehend in the present moment.

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The Best of Fantastic Fest

It’s not hard to see that Fantastic Fest has come and gone for another year. If many a film fan could find a way to “wear black” on Twitter, they’d do so in mourning of the end of another great year of hardcore geekery. It was a diverse year for the Fantastic Fest programming team, bringing in equal numbers the intense, the gross, the violent, the real and the fun. On the whole, a truly “fantastic” experience for all involved. As we’ve done each year past, it is time for our Fantastic Fest Death Squad to round-up the festival and give you some parting thoughts. Most importantly, we’d like to leave you with a number of films that should occupy space on your horizon, films you should seek out when they finally get distributed in your region. To do this, each member of our coverage team has provided a recap of their experience and their three “Best of the Fest.” On the next page, you’ll find everyone’s nominations for the 2012 Death Squad Awards, highlighting the best films of each of Fantastic Fest’s competition categories.

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Now that Looper is a decent hit — especially in China — we can anticipate that people will be discussing the movie around the web, the water cooler and wherever else we talk about movies these days. Much of the conversation will be devoted to the usual with the time travel subgenre: paradoxes, the workings of the time machine, plot holes, why wasn’t Hitler killed, etc. But with this particular story there’s one major point of discussion I’m interested in, and of course it involves spoilers. So, if you’ve seen the movie or are just one of those who don’t care about stuff being ruined, join me after the break as I ask…

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Rian Johnson’s new film, Looper, is a pretty awesome time travel flick, one with as many elements that are clever and original as there are purposefully derivative and influenced. It’s the kind of smart and stylish sci-fi cinema we expect every once in a while on the festival circuit, like Sound of My Voice (which hits DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday), rather than from a major Hollywood studio. Looper does fit the indie model, though, since Sony/Tristar picked it up for distribution only after it was done shooting, yet as Brian’s review of the film attests, we can still consider it a good sign for mainstream movies of this genre, and we can hope that Hollywood will see Johnson as the sort of directorial talent they need. But is it the best science fiction film since The Matrix? That’s a question posed in a headline from Time magazine yesterday, though its respective post doesn’t address such a discussion let alone attempt to answer the inquiry. Well, if we exclude superhero movies, animated features (Pixar, Miyazaki and The Iron Giant among them) and the Star Trek reboot, Looper is currently one of only two original studio films of its order to be battling for the status of best reviewed since the Wachowskis’ groundbreaking modern classic. The other is Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men.

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Fantastic Fest: Looper

Joe (the conveniently similarly named Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, and no, sadly, that has nothing whatsoever to do with stunt piloting. What his profession actually entails is the assassination of targets sent back through time by an organized crime syndicate; the only entity to have access to the highly illegal, but totally existing time travel technology. These assassins will inevitably be one day sent the future versions of themselves in a retirement process known as “closing the loop.” Apparently the gold watch and the store-bought sheet cake was simply far too conventional. When Joe is put in a position to close his loop, he commits the fatal sin of hesitation; setting in motion a fight for his own survival as he seeks to kill himself. That sentence could only ever work in relation to Looper.

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

Jesus H. Franco, it’s been a busy week here at Film School Rejects. Mainly because of Fantastic Fest, of course. Since the last Reject Recap, we’ve posted 36 reviews of films from the event, plus six interviews, including one with Tim Burton. And we’re not done. The festival may be over, but we’ll still be rolling out the coverage for a couple more days. Obviously, this link to all that content, which can take you in reverse through that which you’ve missed and forward to what will appear (once it appears), is a crucial bookmark for you in these post-fantastic times. Once again, you can easily track through the week’s prominent other features by clicking on buttons around the main page, but here are some links to help you out: reviews (new releases include Pitch Perfect, Won’t Back Down, The Hole, Hotel Transylvania and Hello I Must Be Going); interviews (including Brian DePalma); the Reject Radio podcast (this week was episode 150!); Short Film of the Day and of course your best spot for the most pertinent movie news. Check out our ten best features from the past week plus some other additional reading after the break.

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Bruce Willis as John McClane takes aim in LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD.

In Rian Johnson‘s Looper, our old pal Bruce Willis plays a man who is sent back in time to be shot by himself. Twisty? Yes, but it all comes through in the wash judging by the high amount of high praise the sci-fi flick is getting. In honor of the plot concept, we’ve asked our old pal ChugsTheMonkey to mash-up an epic video of Bruce Willis battling against Bruce Willis. Unsurprisingly, he enlisted a fictional fighter jet, a high speed chase and a lot of ammunition to take on the task. Who do you think will win?

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Nathan Johnson

Out today, Looper tells the story of mafia hit-man Joe (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) who spends his days offing victims, but there’s a twist here: these victims are sent to him from the future. And when he comes face-to-face with his future self (Bruce Willis), things really start to unravel. Part sci-fi, part action, part drama, Looper flows between these different genres just as the story flows between different time periods and it is Nathan Johnson’s score that helps guide us from one place to the next. I spoke with Johnson about creating his completely original score, full of found sounds he then manipulated into actual instrumentation – no easy feat! But one that is fully achieved and gives this original story an equally original sound and feel, creating a new world that does not completely take us away from where we are now, but hints at where we may be going.

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Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson is a director you’re going to want to get to know, if you don’t already. He’s one of the more innovative filmmakers around and his previous films, Brick and Brothers Bloom have been triumphs of independent cinema. If nothing else, Brick showed us that there is still life remaining in the otherwise tired convention of film noir and that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was ready to be a leading man in something other than fluff comedy. Johnson’s latest film, Looper, re-teams him with JGL as well as giving him the chance to work with Bruce Willis on what is essentially the biggest movie of his burgeoning career. After seeing Looper at Fantastic Fest, we had a blunderbuss full of questions to fire at Johnson. We were so happy he was able to make time for us.

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Aural Fixation - Large

Unlike most films, Looper starts off with only ambient noise – the sound of the wind and the rustling of leaves fill the space, but as we look upon a stone faced man wielding a gun these every day sounds we rarely notice take on a new feeling and become almost as foreboding as the use of sorrowful strings or rumbling percussion. A single shot breaks this near silence and with it, Nathan Johnson’s futuristic and industrial score comes in. Johnson has been no stranger to giving audiences peeks at his process for creating Looper’s score and there is little question why – it’s pretty damn cool. Rather than simply turning to a full-bodied orchestra to expand on the various characters’ emotions and set the frenetic pace of the film, Johnson took found sounds (a car door slamming shut, an industrial fan, the vibration of a door stopper) and used these sounds as his instruments while still infusing and pairing them with more standard instrumentation, creating a score that is both familiar and inventive. He even went so far as to build new instruments by combining normal instruments (a marxophone) with unique sounding elements (an appropriately selected gat gun) making the score feel off-putting, but still grounded in the fabric of the narrative.

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While today certainly feels like a slow news day, the Internet has provided a ton of great links to share with you all. I’ve felt compelled to keep my links strictly film related over the past couple of days, but I think you’ll appreciate some of the geeky, non-film stuff today.

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Looper

Rian Johnson‘s upcoming Looper is clearly filled with thought-provoking elements, but certainly one of its more interesting aspects has to be the way in which Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are playing the same character, but at different ages. Much ado has been made about the effects work used to make Gordon-Levitt more lantern-jawed and Willis-looking, but not a whole lot has yet been said about how Gordon-Levitt approached his performance. How exactly does one go about trying to play a younger version of a star whose screen presence is as well-defined as Bruce Willis’? i09 caught up with the actor and his director and got some answers on this subject, as well as a few others. When talking about his preparation for the role, Gordon-Levitt said, “I studied him [Willis], and watched his movies, and ripped the audio off of his movies, so I could listen to them on repeat. He even recorded some of my voice-over monologues [from Looper] and sent me that recording, so I could hear what it would sound like in his voice.” That sounds like a good way of studying Willis’ cadence and perfecting the way that he talks, but does that mean Gordon-Levitt’s performance is going to simply be a glorified impersonation?

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Fantastic Fest 2012

As you well know, Fantastic Fest is the one. There are plenty of fine film festivals that take place in many fine locations around the globe. They all show movies, many of which end up on our top ten lists at the end of the year. But no matter what any of those TIFFs and Cannes-fests have, they don’t exactly measure up to the pure, blood-filled experiential goodness that is Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. For a fair number of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Great friends come into town, great BBQ is consumed by the pound, and a number of carefully programmed movies are displayed just for us on the screens of the Alamo Drafthouse. It’s high praise, sure. But as anyone who has actually attended the festival might tell you, it’s perfectly spot on. Our goal for this year’s coverage – this being our fifth consecutive year covering as a site – is to bring you even closer to the experience that is Fantastic Fest than ever before. We won’t just be filing reviews for the big movies like Dredd 3D and Looper, we’ll be providing looks at every single feature film playing this year’s festival. We’ll have spotlights on filmmakers you should keep an eye on. We’ll show you what it’s like to attend Fantastic Fest. We’ve got a crack staff in place, the one we call the The Fantastic Fest Death Squad. Joining veterans Rob Hunter, Brian Salisbury, Luke Mullen, and Adam Charles are […]

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Dredd Concept Art

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly news column that doesn’t always have something to say. But when it does, the geeks of the world listen. We begin this evening with some great DREDD concept art found by the folks at Comic Book Movie, picked up via Germain Lussier’s ever-excellent Superhero Bits column. The excitement I have for this, one of Fantastic Fest’s big name films, has gone through the roof as more reactions come in, including that of our own Nathan Adams at TIFF.

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Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson‘s Looper is fresh from being showered with praise in Toronto and Chicago (see our praise here), so it’s fortunate that Johnson possesses the technology to go back and live through the adoration all over again. Of course, that’s the toughest technical part of writing a movie about time travel. The mechanism itself is both used frequently and difficult to get right. If the logic behind the time travel is off, audiences might be forgiving, but there’s a special brand of nerd (I’m raising my hand) who has extreme difficulty looking beyond illogical time travel. The perfectly legitimate reason is that bad time travel reduces down to a gimmick used for convenience instead of momentum. It’s like introducing a gun into the plot but having it shoot banana pudding at the climax. It’s giving yourself license to do things over, and few filmmakers seem to have the discipline to resist the easy path. So it’s encouraging to see Johnson talk about his time travel element in Looper. As Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis attempt a game of cat and also-cat, this is what we can expect to see in their temporal-jumping:

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Welcome to the weekend. I am the new FSR editor specifically covering Saturday and Sunday, and I’m kicking off, as I will each Saturday morning, with a recap of the site’s coverage from the previous seven days. I’ll start by getting the formality over with in linking to my own “Better Know a Reject” introductory profile. I’m actually not full of myself, but that post didn’t really fit anywhere else in this roundup. Now, let’s play catch up.   TIFF Begins First of all, this week saw the start of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and our man Andrew Robinson is on the beat. Ahead of the opening, he offered a list of 12 Most Anticipated Movies playing the event, including new works from the Wachowskis, Terrence Malick and Joss Whedon. First up from Andrew’s onsite coverage is a review of the “interesting” but “a bit uneven” documentary Far Out Isn’t Far Enough. Also reviewed as part of the fest, Rian Johnson’s Looper got an ‘A’ from newly joined Reject Louis Plamondon. Dredd 3D is screening at TIFF as part of the Midnight Madness program, and we took a look at a motion comic prologue to the upcoming action film. We also checked out the trailer for TIFF selection A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, an animated epic that should obviously appeal to fans of the British comedy legend(s). Fans of the troupe should also read Cole’s list of 6 Filmmaking Tips From Monty Python.

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