“Looper,” “End of Watch” and “Taken 2”–three new movie reviews, no waiting!

I’ve had a bit of a dry spell lately when it comes to hitting the theaters to catch a new movie and write a review of it soon after. Low and behold, within the past week alone, I was able to catch not one…not two…but three new movies! And now, without further ado…

Looper

Writer/director Rian Johnson’s Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, is a complex and incredibly smart sci-fi thriller. The film deals with the concept of time travel, which in the film is invented in the year 2074. Although outlawed, time travel is used by criminal organizations to send those they want killed into the past where they are killed by assassins called “loopers.” Gordon-Levitt plays the younger version of the main character Joe, a looper, while Willis plays the older Joe. Younger Joe ends up encountering an older version of himself in 2044 and is told to kill the older Joe (or “close the loop,” as all loopers must eventually do). But, alas, things don’t quite work out that way. Time travel is a tough concept to execute in any film without things going completely off track, but through a smart screenplay and fine direction by Johnson, Looper proved to be an entertaining and ingeniously plotted film.

4 out of 5 stars

For more on Looper, visit the Sony Pictures Web site.

End of Watch

Writer/director David Ayer’s End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, is a deeply involving action/drama about two Los Angeles street cops (played by Gyllenhaal and Pena) who deal with crime in South Central Los Angeles on a daily basis. Officer Taylor (Gyllenhaal) is taking a film class during his spare time and, for a project, decides to film a documentary on the job. The film takes on a docu-feel to it as a result, which only helps illustrate the grittiness of life as a cop on the harrowing streets of South Central L.A. The two officers find themselves transferred to a tough, predominately Mexican-American district where, through their gung-ho determination, they stumble upon a Mexican drug cartel operating in L.A. Both Gyllenhaal and Pena do stellar work here and are completely believable as cops. Gritty, suspenseful and unforgettable, End of Watch is one of the finest cop dramas I’ve seen.

4 ½ out of 5 stars

For more on End of Watch, visit the Open Road Films Web site.

Taken 2

Director Olivier Megaton takes the helm of Taken 2, which brings Liam Neeson back to the role of Bryan Mills, a man “with a particular set of skills.” In the first Taken, Mills killed a lot of bad guys in order to rescue his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Here, the matriarch/employer of a few of the dead men plots revenge against Mills and his family for what he did. While on vacation in Istanbul with Kim and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), Mills and Lenore are…well…taken, and eventually Mills’ skills come into play. Due to the original’s success, of course Taken was going to get the sequel treatment, but as is the case with most sequels, it’s hard to match the appeal of the first film. A lot of Taken 2 requires the viewer to just go along for the ride and accept the implausibility of the action. And there’s a lot more implausibility here than there was in the first film. What redeems Taken 2 a little is indeed Neeson—you can’t help but root for the guy and be entertained by his character for taking care of business with the bad guys the way he does. Neeson is an actor of great integrity and intensity, so with him on board again you know he’s not “slumming it” here. But, in the end, Taken 2 wasn’t all that necessary and Megaton’s odd direction definitely doesn’t help the movie as a whole. The action scenes don’t pack nearly the amount of punch entertainment-wise as the first one—in fact, I could hardly remember them, which is the fault of the film’s director. Unfortunately, Taken 2 does make the case that, when it comes to making a sequel, it’s wise to just leave well enough alone.

2 ½ out of 5 stars

For more on Taken 2, visit the site on Facebook.

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