Yours Are The Sweetest Eyes I’ve Ever Seen

People magazine recently named Channing Tatum as the Sexiest Man Alive and, while he obviously takes very good care of himself, I must admit he just doesn’t do anything for me.  Appearance matters, of course, but just as much (if not more), substance is what makes a man sexy (to women).  By which I mean, his sense of humor, his I.Q., his ability to listen and communicate, his wit and integrity of character – these are the things that draw a woman’s attention.

Charming Potato is by no means unattractive but he seems little more than your average jock.  A beefcake, if ever I saw one.  Here are 8 actors every bit as good-looking and infinitely more interesting than Channing Tatum:

Ewan McGregor

Idris Elba

Joseph Gordon Levitt

James McAvoy

Michael Fassbender

Jesse Williams

Tom Hardy

Chris Hemsworth

~Nikki

There Isn’t Room For Both Of Us – “Looper” Review

For the most part, Looper takes place in 2044, in Kansas City.  The future looks grim, the gap between rich and poor so hugely massive, it kind of feels like an Orwell novel.  There’s actually very little time travel in it, since it hasn’t yet been discovered in 2044 and 30 years from then, when it will have been, it’s quickly and strictly made illegal.  The mafia, of course, finds a way to use it for its own purposes.  That is, disposing of bodies.  They employ these “loopers” to swiftly kill the poor schlep they send back in time and then dispose of the body, essentially making all traces of that person’s existence disappear.  When a looper’s services are no longer needed, his future self is sent back to 2044 to be killed by his younger self.  The person being killed is always masked upon arrival and shot immediately.  The looper only knows it’s his older self when he collects his payment, significantly larger than usual.  His contract is complete and he’s free to live out the rest of his life.  That is, until he reaches the age at which he’ll be sent back to 2044 to die at his own much younger hands.  This is called “closing the loop.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Joe, a looper with an unsavory childhood and a drug addiction problem.  He’s good at his job and is hoarding a cache of money (in the form of gold bars – the currency of the future) for when his loop is closed.  When that day comes, though, he sees his future self’s face – somehow not covered as it should be –  recognizes him and hesitates ever so briefly.  Future Joe (Bruce Willis) takes advantage of his momentary lapse to knock him on his ass and escape, putting his younger self in mortal danger.  The mafia does not look on this kind of error lightly.  What ensues is a clever game of cat and mouse and the slow unfolding of a surprisingly interesting plot, one I’d rather not reveal, lest it ruin your movie-going experience.  I walked into the movie thinking that the motivation for Willis’s escape was simple self-preservation, believable enough in itself but much too simple to carry a full-length film.  Turns out, my expectations were too simple.

Willis’s Joe has a motivation beyond survival for escaping death and the explanation behind them nicely closes several gaps between his Joe and Gordon Levitt’s Joe.  The film appears to be a futuristic film about time travel but really it’s about identity and sacrifice, the lengths to which people will go to protect what’s theirs.  This theme is present everywhere – in Willis’s motivation for running from his death, in Emily Blunt’s maddeningly relentless protection of her son, in her child’s (who, by the way, is played with icy perfection by child actor Pierce Gagnon) determination to protect himself and his mother, and finally, by the choice JGL makes at the film’s close.  It’s a gimmicky kind of movie done in a very non-gimmicky way.

The performances are solid, especially Joseph Gordon Levitt’s portrayal of twenty-something Joe.  My prediction: JGL is very soon to be an A-list actor.  The kid can act his ass off.  He has a compelling on-screen presence, stealing scenes from the very capable Jeff Daniels and ultra-action star Bruce Willis.  Daniels plays Joe’s boss, a Mafioso from 2074 living in 2044 to manage the loopers.  What a refreshingly different role for him, and one he plays convincingly well.  Emily Blunt continues to impress.  She seems to have all one needs to succeed in her chosen profession – beauty and a great deal of talent.  If she chooses the right roles, she’ll likely enter the realm of actors the likes of Natalie Portman and Naomi Watts – gorgeous and elegant and capable of carrying both major blockbusters and artsy character pieces.  And Willis delivers a perfectly adequate performance, doing those things – running from gunmen, shooting people, getting the snot beat out of him, beating the snot out of others – he does best.

I can’t say that Looper will blow your mind or change your life – it isn’t that kind of movie. But for what it is – an action flick with a twist – it excels above its peers. Its plot is more intricate, more interesting and better executed than many an action film and the performances from every major player completely sell it, making it a movie well worth watching.

~Nikki

And It’s Peaceful In The Deep

I admit that, like everyone else in the Batman-watching world, I walked into The Dark Knight Rises wondering how Christopher Nolan could possibly top The Dark Knight.  And how could any villain be more fun to watch than Heath Ledger as The Joker?  I walked out of the theater with the one and only answer: there is no answer.  There is no answer because, it turns out, those are not valid questions.  The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are so different in theme, feel, message and overall goal that they are incomparable.  The Joker and Bane are so entirely opposite in their motivations, goals and tone that it simply isn’t fair to compare one with the other.  These movies and their respective villains are on totally different playing fields.  The Dark Knight had a wild, frenzied feel to it, due in part to the The Joker’s manic attempts to create chaos and mayhem in Gotham.  TDKR is all about resolve, the summation of an epic tale and the final resolution for Gotham’s vigilante hero.  Like The Joker, Bane wants to destroy Gotham and its citizens but not through anarchy.  Instead, he cunningly and deliberately manipulates Gotham’s richest and most powerful people into collapsing in on themselves.  He is calculated, controlled, and intimidating as hell.  In short, The Dark Knight raised the bar for superhero/comic book films, to which The Dark Knight Rises responded: I see your bet and raise you.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for??? please stop here.  Below this sentence, SPOILERS abound.

I’m not saying TDKR is perfect.  It isn’t.  But it is damn good and worlds apart from other blockbuster summer films.  Christopher Nolan knows how to craft a story while still giving the masses what they love (i.e., action, awesome CGI effects, drama) without ever cheapening the characters or the plot.  The Batman has surprisingly little screen time in TDKR and because of that, he feels more like a real person than ever before.   Yes, he is a human being underneath the suit and like all other humans, he has weaknesses, vulnerabilities, frailties.  Especially considering he is, at the beginning of TDKR, somewhere in the vicinity of 35-40 years of age and even with extensive training and all the heating pads money can buy, the physical toll of being Batman would have to be catching up with him.  Batman is not invincible.  In fact, his chosen career has a shorter lifespan than most, for the same reasons athletes’ do: the human body can only take so much.   Throughout the whole of TDKR, the demise of The Batman is hinted at, implied, inferred, even flat-out referenced at points.  I expected Nolan to kill him off before the end of the film but Nolan is too smart for that.  Death would be the easy way out.  Nolan knows this and, therefore, his Bruce Wayne comes to know it as well.  Early on, it seems Bruce is looking for death.  Leave it to Nolan to make him grow and evolve until finally reaching the realization that death is too simple.  Having the balls to seek the things you want in life, to turn your life into one you actually want, that’s a challenge.  And that is where Nolan takes his hero.  But the journey isn’t cheap.  It isn’t easy or full of holes and convenient turns in plot.  It isn’t perfect, but it is good.  Nolan does justice to every character, every plot point, every story line.

Of course, there are a few holes.  The fact that Bruce Wayne’s broken back heals within 4-5 months without drugs or medical equipment, just a swift kick to the vertebrae and vertical positioning for hours (days?) – please.  Also, how does he get from India to Gotham with no money?  How does he get back into Gotham when the tunnels/bridges are inaccessible?

Whatever.  The holes are entirely forgivable in light of all that works.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to be The Shit and this is the most I’ve ever liked Bale as Batman, probably because this is the most of his humanity we’ve ever seen.  I also loved that Catwoman isn’t just another villain.  In fact, she’s never once called Catwoman.  Her given name, Selina Kyle, is most often used and once, I think, she’s referred to as a cat burglar.  Her character has some actual depth and plays a very different role than anything Halle Berry or even Michelle Pfeiffer offered us.

And Bane!  Oh, Bane.  He’s so much more than I expected, than I could have imagined.  He’s a fierce,  intimidating, powerful villain.  Everything about him works- his huge, bulking mass, the mask, his voice – all of it.  I really had no idea what to expect from the character or from Tom Hardy.  I’ve never followed the comic books and I opted out on the disgrace that was Batman & Robin so I knew next to nothing about the character.  And, while I really liked Tom Hardy in Inception, the only other thing I’ve seen him in was a film adaptation of Wuthering Heights and I didn’t think he quite caught the brooding intensity and anguish of Heathcliff.  Here, he kind of steals the show.  He is focused, controlled, inhumanly strong and seemingly unstoppable.  Without the use of most of his face, Hardy somehow manages to convey more conviction than most actors can summon with full use of all of their features.

Where TDKR takes its predecessor up a notch is in the reflection of current affairs.  Don’t misunderstand me: this film is not political.  It isn’t making a statement or preaching any particular agenda.  Nolan does not use it to push his (or anyone else’s) opinions/views.  He simply tells a story.  But, in doing so, he touches on a few nerves that, right now, feel a little exposed.  The idea of a revolution wherein the richest few lose what they have to those without has such relevance in our current state.  I don’t want to get political but come on, we live in a society wherein the richest 1% has more total wealth that the bottom 50% combined.  As someone outside that 1%, I could totally relate to Selina Kyle when she said, “You’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”  The idea of class warfare is topical and adds a richness to the plot that is rarely, if ever, seen in blockbusters.

I could go on, and on and on, especially considering I haven’t even touched on the excellent surprise at the end or what it means for the future of this franchise, but I’ll stop here.  If you’ve seen it already, you don’t need me to keep gushing.  And if you haven’t, you have much better things to do than read this.  You have a movie to see.

~Nikki

Nobody Said It Was Easy

50/50 is a lovely little film that mixes real humor with true sadness and fear – the sucker punch of facing a life-threatening cancer and treatment at the age of 27.  It’s based on the true story of the film’s screenwriter, Will Reiser, as he battled cancer in his 20s.  It somehow finds a balance of poignancy and comedy, and pulls it off masterfully.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, the average nice guy who gets handed some serious lemons by life, and he’s pretty much fantastic.  You feel so, so, so, SO bad for him, as he navigates his cheating girlfriend, his harried, bothersome mother, and the bleak, miserable treatment he must undergo – all of this basically alone.  He’s marvelous here; I totally harbor a soul-mate crush on him (he was born just a few days before me and try as I might, I have a hard time dismissing astrological charts – which state that he and I would get along swimmingly).  He’s such a genuinely good guy, just trying to live his life and give everyone the benefit of the doubt (he makes excuses for his cheating, selfish girlfriend, but not his mother), that you like him even more.  His performance was touching, and real.  It was interesting and heartbreaking to see someone face this battle who is in a different stage of life than many others, sometimes with a small support system, and other times, completely alone.

That “support system” consists of his mother, best friend, therapist, and a couple fellow patients he meets at chemotherapy.  Anjelica Huston plays Adam’s mom, and can I just say how awesome it is to see an actress age gracefully?  She does an excellent job of portraying someone who is at the stage in her life where she has to be a caretaker again, and is consistently overcome with worry.  Seth Rogen (Reiser’s real-life friend) is the loyal goofball who cares enough to read books about how to help your friends suffering with cancer, and while he’s in Rogen-mode, he’s funny and sweet.  Anna Kendrick – well, I always want to dislike her, but never can, she’s too consistently good.  Her Katherine, a doctor-in-training whose work with Adam is essentially doctorate-fodder, stumbles through the therapy sessions, saying what she’s learned in school and awkwardly patting his knee as an act of consolation.  She’s green as grass, but trying her best to learn her way around a field that, as she puts it, will allow to her “screw up someone’s whole life” if she does her job poorly, all while dealing with growing feelings for her patient.  Each one of these characters adds humor to the situations, most notably Rogen with some pretty disgusting lines (as always, but they’re still welcome).

I don’t want to give a lot of the story away, other than to tell you how moving and truthful this film felt.  Oh, it’s absolutely a comedy, (you WILL laugh), and a sad one, but it’s so, so much more than that.  Cancer is a horrible, horrible battle for human beings to struggle against, and although any movie dealing with the subject will most definitely be sad, this one wasn’t typically cloying, schmaltzy, or even religious, which I found, for lack of a better word, refreshing.  I often cry during these films because yes, they’re sad, but also, they’re beating me over the head, forcing my tears out.  This one let them flow on their own, (for the last 20 minutes or so) because Reiser infused so much truth into the script, and watching a normal, real, likeable person dealing with something that could happen to any of one of us, is terrifying and inspiring.  Inspiring us all to live a better life, a kinder life, and a truer life.

~Annie