In Looper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play the same dude, divided by time travel — one’s the hero, the other’s the villain. Writer/director Rian Johnson has an inspiring faith in love — in this case, showing that it can drive someone to evil. The film’s virtue is in its pure strength as both a genre-based product and a vessel for human observation. Looper has a few interesting things to say about time travel, but it has more poignant insights on sacrifice, morality, and fatherhood. It’s an intensely interesting picture that will one day be recognized as a pillar of science fiction.
Zero Dark Thirty
7 10 1
Last year’s media frenzy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty mostly centered around its depiction of torture in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It’s unfortunate because, while those sequences play like an artsy version of 24, the film is otherwise an extraordinary procedural. Jessica Chastain turns in an explosive performance as Maya, a CIA agent who spearheaded the bin Laden investigation. A series of great supporting performances, a tense and forceful screenplay, and a final 50 minutes that will glue you to your chair make this a political procedural not to be missed, and one of the best pictures of 2012.
8 10 12
Take a trip back to your childhood with 1998’s Mulan, certainly one of the finer Disney musicals of that decade. The film, set during China’s Han Dynasty, depicts the journey of a woman who masquerades as a man in order to join the army and fight against a Hun invasion. Since it’s a Disney musical, she is required to carry along a colorful pair of animals of different species — in this case, a dragon and a cricket. Mulan lacks the memorable songs of The Lion King or Aladdin, but is markedly improved by a level of visual splendor rarely achieved in animation.