Alynda Wheat
October 08, 2012 12:00 PM

Looper

Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt | R |

THRILLER

I don’t know how your time-travel fantasies go, but in mine, my younger self and I trade notes on boys to avoid, classes to skip and all that Apple stock I should buy while it’s $20 a share. In other words, she’s not trying to kill me. That one might find an enemy in one’s younger self is just one of the trippy ideas that makes Looper such a mind warp. That anyone would take the job in the first place is another.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is a looper, a contract killer for future gangsters who send their targets back to the present (2044), where they can be disposed of with less fuss. Thanks to the most punitive employment contract ever, he knows that the last person on his kill list will be himself, 30 years older. But Old Joe (Willis) couldn’t give a rat’s rump what Young Joe knows or wants, so when it’s his time to zip back to the past and die quietly, Old Joe goes on the run, while Young Joe goes on the hunt.

Gordon-Levitt and Willis are fascinating as they try to outwit each other, with Young Joe’s actions turning into Old Joe’s memories. (Clever prosthetics that make Gordon-Levitt look more like his costar heighten the eeriness of the face-offs.) Soon they drag rural mom Sara (Blunt) and her son Cid (the mesmerizing Pierce Gagnon) into their drama, at which point Looper takes on grander scope than the usual intensely violent time-travel brain teaser. There are real questions about human potential and what we owe ourselves. (Hint: It’s more than just Apple stock.)

Hotel Transylvania

Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg | PG |

ANIMATED

We’re in an arms race, humans. Monsters come at us with fangs, claws and severe hirsutism; we return fire with stakes, silver bullets and Twilight. It’s no wonder we’re not friends. So it makes perfect sense that Dracula (Sandler) would create a sanctuary for ghouls-where, not for nothing, he can keep obsessive watch over his daughter Mavis (Gomez). That changes on her 118th birthday, when backpacker Jonathan (Samberg) stumbles into the hotel lobby, sending Dracula into a tizzy to protect his business and his little girl, and kicking the movie into a higher gear. The jokes get funnier and the action wilder, even if the 3-D animation isn’t that inventive. Samberg’s dude sensibility is perfect for the character, and he and Gomez bring a sweet energy to their on-screen crush. As for Sandler, this is easily his best movie in years.

Pitch Perfect

Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow PG-13 |

MUSICAL COMEDY

Like a moocher best bud, Pitch Perfect borrows from everywhere-Bring It On, Best in Show, and every music-competition film ever made-but still delivers a rocking time. Freshman Beca (Kendrick, at her surliest) joins college a cappella group the Bellas, led by bossy Aubrey (Anna Camp), and finds their flight-attendant costumes and safe songs fatally dull. (So do hilarious singing-circuit judges Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins.) Though Pitch is wallpapered with cliches and aimed at folks who worship Glee, it’s funny enough-especially when fellow Bella Rebel Wilson is onscreen-to amuse even those of us who like our music less earnest and backed by a band.

Won’t Back Down

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Holly Hunter | PG |

DRAMA

It’s clear from the opening scene, as Malia (Emily Alyn Lind) struggles to read aloud while her classmates snigger and her teacher texts on her phone, that subtlety is not Won’t Back Down’s strong suit. Neither is logic. According to the film-in which educators and parents take over a failing school-good teachers are saints and unions do the Lord’s work, but teachers’ unions are the instruments of Satan. (We all know the issues are more complex than that.) Fighting the devil’s minions are Malia’s mom, Jamie (Gyllenhaal), and Nona (Davis), one of the better teachers at the school. The performances are fine, and the film means well. Who could argue with wanting to improve education? But Won’t Back Down is more of a battle cry than a movie.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO ALYNDA: alyndasreviews@peoplemag.com

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