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“Looper” review: Back to the Future

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Time travel is a tricky storytelling device. On one side, it allows for an infinite number of twists and turns in the narrative, but it also demands that the author carefully manage every thread of the story in order to keep all of the timelines in order.

Fortunately, “Looper” director Rian Johnson proves himself an expert caretaker of his film’s time-twisting narrative, and never lets the science-fiction set-up overshadow a brilliant, action-packed adventure powered by superb performances from its cast.

In “Looper,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a hired gun in the year 2042 who, along with his fellow “loopers,” is contracted by the mob to kill people his employers send back in time from the year 2072. Disposing of bodies in the past, it seems, is the best way to ensure they’re never discovered in the future. However, when Joe discovers that one of his next targets will be his future self (Bruce Willis), things take an unexpected turn and he finds himself on the run from the mob and hunting a man who already knows everything he’s going to do.

It’s a clever concept for a film, and in the wrong hands it could go horrible awry, filled with contradicting timelines and confusing twists likely to give its audience a collective headache. But Johnson, who both wrote and directed the film, handles the premise masterfully, and does a nice job of letting the story play out naturally rather than wrestling with the implications of the time-travel elements.

Right from the start, one of the most impressive achievements in the film is Gordon-Levitt’s uncanny, spot-on performance as a younger version of Willis. While the makeup and prosthetics worn by Gordon-Levitt certainly make the leap from younger to older Joe a little easier to believe, make no mistake: it’s the younger actor’s performance that seals the deal. Gordon-Levitt manages to capture every nuance of Willis’ speaking pattern, accent, and mannerisms — even his laugh. In the end, the practical effects that make him look like Willis are only a finishing touch.

Willis, on the other hand, is his usual tough-guy self, though he does manage to bring some depth to the character that makes “Old Joe” more than just a squinting, gun-toting brute. In fact, there’s just enough emotional substance there to make you uncertain which version of Joe you’re really supposed to root for in this story.

Emily Blunt and Paul Dano also do a nice job in supporting roles, and Jeff Daniels offers up a nice take on the classic kingpin role. Child actor Pierce Gagnon also holds his own amid the star-studded cast, and plays well against Gordon-Levitt and Blunt during their scenes together. A brief appearance by Garret Dillahunt — who’s a welcome addition to any cast — only adds to an already impressive roster.

One role which never really finds its footing, however, is Piper Perabo’s prostitute with a heart of gold, Suzie. As an audience, you’re led to believe there’s some emotional connection between Suzie and Joe that never quite solidifies in the film, and it ends up feeling like her only reason for being in the movie at all is the T&A factor of her brief topless scene.

Still, from start to finish, “Looper” is a brilliant action-movie experience that stands out in a crowded genre on the virtue of its stars’ performances and both the expert eye and signature flair of its writer and director. Anyone who’s seen Johnson’s breakout high-school noir “Brick” will likely pick up the filmmaker’s unique imprint all over “Looper,” from Joe’s retro-’50s style (all slim ties and slick hair) to the little touches he adds to characters’ slang and the way they interact with each other. In the end, it’s proof-positive that Johnson ranks among the best genre-blenders in Hollywood today.

With an all-star cast performing at the top of their games, a smart premise, and a talented filmmaker who makes everything good about the film come together in wonderful ways, “Looper” is more than just the typical late-season Hollywood blockbuster. It’s a special film that reminds its audience of the enormous potential of the science-fiction genre, and the great stories it can give us in the right hands.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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