crap i have watched recently #11

jacob von hogflumeJust some older crap from the Netflix queue to get me through the suddenly very cold nights.  I’m sure there’s some SPOILERS below or something.

Looper (2012):   Hitler is standing in front of you but he is just an innocent little kid.  What do you do?  This moral dilemma is at the heart of this oddly enjoyable noir time travel movie.  Joe is a “looper”, a paid assassin whose victims are sent to him from 40 years in the future when time travel has been invented and is used by crime lords to dispose of inconvenient corpses.  Joe waits out in a field, his bound and hooded mark pops into existence in front of him, he shoots him and then he disposes of the body.  His payment, bars of silver, is strapped to the victim’s back and Joe has been carefully salting away his riches for when he retires.  Eventually, as will all loopers, he will shoot an older version of himself and find a substantial number of gold bars strapped to his back, enough for thirty years of retirement.   This is called “closing the loop” and no one seems too distressed by the prospect of serving as one’s own executioner.  One of his fellow loopers fails to close his loop and his older self tells him there is a crime boss in the future called the Rainmaker who is cancelling all the loopers’ contracts.   When the time comes Joe closes his own loop without remorse, takes his gold, and retires.  He falls in love with a woman and lives a contented life.  When the Rainmaker’s goons come for him they accidentally kill his wife.  In order to save her, Older Joe kills his captors and comes back through time to kill the child who eventually becomes the Rainmaker.  This time through, Younger Joe hesitates, Older Joe escapes, and Younger Joe sets off after him in order to close the loop.  In the ensuing chase he meets and falls in love with a young woman who happens to be the mother of the Rainmaker, a kid with very strong telekinetic powers and a great deal of anger.

Most time travel movies suffer from inconsistencies and plot holes and inevitable outcomes.   Looper is no different and if you spend too much time thinking about it your head will explode.  There are a couple of excellent and involved discussions over at Popular Science and TheHuffPost that are worth a read if that is your cup of tea.   A more felicitous topic would be the many nice touches in the film.   I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Younger Joe) in everything I see him in and this movie was no exception.  Bruce Willis (Older Joe) is just Bruce Willis, bald and bad-assed and burdened with the sorrows of age and loss.  The kid that plays the Rainmaker is creepy in the way that preternaturally mature and serious small children are.  The near future in which Younger Joe lives is appropriately Blade Runner-esque; it’s gritty and dark and morally ambiguous.  Even the characters you like are not pleasant people.  Younger Joe is an efficient and unemotional killer; when his own future is threatened he rats out his best friend.  Older Joe kills innocents to prevent his wife’s death.   There are small touches that are nice.  Changes in the present change Older Joe’s memories and even his body.  Younger Joe sends him a message by scratching it on his arm, which instantly appears as a scar on Older Joe’s arm.   When Younger Joe suggests saving his future wife by simply refusing to meet her Older Joe forces himself to remember the first time he met her as a way of holding on to her.  It is slightly unnerving that we like both of these men (this man?) yet we can’t decide which of them is right, who we should want to prevail.  They are  literally fighting for different versions of their own future.  One of them has to lose and the consequences for the larger world in each case are profound.   In the end Joe’s choice is not surprising but, as in the best time travel movies, it leaves you with a lot to ponder.

This is the kind of movie that you think about after it’s over.  That’s a good thing.  Go rent it.

Score:  Meh.

Waiting for God (1990-1994):  This is a slight but enjoyable BBC series about people living at the Bayview retirement home outside Bournemouth.  Here in the US we’d call this an “assisted living facility”; it’s a nice, well-kept place where the inhabitants are generally in good health and don’t really require much in the way of care.  They  live there because they are alone or because their families don’t want them around anymore.  The show centers on two residents in particular:  Diana, a former world-class photojournalist who was forced out of her job when she hit retirement age; and Tom, a widowed former accountant whose loathsome daughter-in-law and weak-willed son are warehousing him until he dies.  Tom is pleasantly dotty to nearly everyone and Diana is a curmudgeon who rarely makes a positive comment.  Both of them are frustrated by the condescending treatment they receive at the hands of their families and the Bayview management and in short order they’ve teamed up to raise hell and change some things.   They joust against Bayview manager Harvey Bains and his assistant Jane and against Tom’s relatives.

This is a fairly typical British sitcom and if you like that sort of thing you’ll like Waiting for God.  Most of the characters are fairly stock.  Diana and Tom represent what most of us think of the elderly (barmy, bitter).  Harvey and Jane represent what most of us think of bureaucracy (self-centered and soul-less, well-meaning but inept).  Tom’s family represent what all of us fear in our relatives (thinly disguised grave robbers).  In the first season at least (all I’ve watched thus far) few other characters get much screen time and those that do are also cliched:  the Portuguese gardener, a strict German nurse, a bare handful of the other residents.  Diana’s niece, however, is refreshingly unlike Tom’s relatives.  To be honest I found the first couple of episodes almost unbearably sad.  Despite the spirited back-and-forth and the rebellious escapades the two get into, given their circumstances there is an underlying melancholy that is hard to shake.  However in the later episodes this gives way to a sense of fun and shared misbehavior and the absurdities and indignities of life as a senior citizen are mocked with some gusto.   The sadness doesn’t disappear exactly, but rather is woven into the humor in a way that very much mimics life itself.   I find myself curious to see how these people turn out so I’ve queued up the next couple of seasons.

On a technical note, the DVD transfer of the show is pretty bad.  Hopefully the later seasons will be better.  Also the laugh track is…weird.  Maybe it’s a British thing I don’t get but most of the places they used the laugh track (which sounds the same every single time) weren’t places I considered funny.  Fortunately the show gets good enough a few episodes in that I forgot the laugh track was there.

Score:  Meh.

~ by gun street girl on January 29, 2013.

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