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The Master – Ten Word or Less Review: Two guys act up a storm.  Don’t know why.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed feature is an enigmatic, perplexing and antagonizing experience.  Rarely could you praise two performers (Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman) as highly as this, hold a deep appreciation for Anderson’s unparalleled technique as a filmmaker, Master is never less than exquisitely composed, and still feel thoroughly disinclined to recommend the end result to anyone.

Phoenix’s portrayal of Freddie Quell, a WWII vet/pervert/raging alcoholic/whack job, is complete in its dedication and hypnotic to watch, but the man refuses to grow into anything beyond the perverted screwball we meet in the first scene.  Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, like Phoenix, is an equally blistering performance worthy of praise, but in service of what I know not.  If Hoffman is supposed to be L. Ron Hubbard, of which there’s little doubt, he does neither the man nor the Scientology movement any favors, but a larger purpose feels vague.  Anderson’s screenplay refuses to reconcile why Dodd keeps Freddie as his close satellite for so long.  We wait and wait for some kind of arc or narrative point to present itself but good luck with that.  Their relationship peaks half way through the movie.  The two men dance around each other for the remainder and when their final scene together culminates, it’s a long moment of head scratching.  The whole thing feels like a master class acting lesson taking place for the entertainment of its creators, everyone else be damned.

LooperTen Word or Less Review: Back to the Future with lots of shot guns.

As good as you’ve heard, but not exactly what you’re expecting.  In the decaying America of 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper, kills people sent back in time from the future where murder is impossible to get away with.  You’re paid in silver attached to your victim’s back and your last kill, with a golden payday included, is an older you.  When Joe’s older self appears to be disposed of (Bruce Willis) the kill goes wrong and Joe’s older self escapes and begins a grim crusade to save the future he’s just been stolen from.  As young Joe chases old, things get stranger, deeper and more malevolent.

Looper is sci-fi entertainment at its finest. Those hoping for, or perhaps dreading, a high-minded, existential crisis about meeting yourself aren’t going to get that.   You can feel echoes of previous sci-fi efforts (12 Monkeys, The Terminator) echoing off Looper’s walls but it still manages to feel fresh and original.  It also makes some unorthodox and challenging character choices and doesn’t tippy toe around its harder narrative turns.  It’s R-rating is well deserved and those expecting some kind of flippant, flashy chase movie are in for a bit of a shock.  Director Rian Johnson realizes the time travel plot with a sure hand, embracing and running with the ludicrous nature of his story.  Instead of getting hopelessly bogged down in the plausibilities of going back to the past he has twisted fun with the concept and gently nudges plausibility aside.  Levitt and Willis make good sides to the same coin.  For Levitt, in subtle make up to give him a half acceptable Bruno resemblance, it shows he can move past charm and good looks to play something a little more desperate and edgy.  Willis gets to play aged and shoot people so it’s right in his wheel house.

Trouble With the Curve Ten Word or Less Review: Gran Torino for the ABC Family crowd.

This movie is boring as Hell.

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