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Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Snowden (2016)

snowdenDIRECTOR: Oliver Stone

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Melissa Leo, Nicolas Cage

REVIEW:

Given his attraction to controversial, politically-charged fare, it’s no surprise that Oliver Stone would end up being the one to make a film about Edward Snowden, the NSA/CIA analyst-turned-whistleblower who became an internationally wanted fugitive (currently living under temporary residence in Moscow) after leaking thousands of classified files exposing unconstitutional government wiretapping and mass surveillance programs.  Whether Snowden deserves the label “hero” or “traitor” (or to some extent maybe even both) varies widely depending on who you ask, but the content of his leaks, whatever one may feel about his methods or the man himself, should give anyone a moment’s pause.  Perhaps Snowden‘s biggest drawback as a film is that it doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table that can’t already be gleaned from a documentary on the same subject, Citizenfour (ironically the same complaint that can be made of another Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle, last year’s The Walk), but it’s still a compelling biopic/docudrama that doesn’t require one to be particularly familiar with the real Edward Snowden to find the film interesting viewing. Continue reading

The Walk (2015)

walkDIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Steve Valentine, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy

REVIEW:

During their twenty-eight-year lifespan, New York City’s iconic Twin Towers were host to their share of newsworthy occurrences, including a 1993 terrorist bombing that did fairly little damage but in hindsight would serve as foreshadowing of their eventual demise.  A more uplifting (albeit death-defying) incident, and one of the most amazing spectacles they or any other building in the world had ever seen, came when the towers were still under construction, on the morning of August 7, 1974, when a French high-wire walker named Philippe Petit spent approximately forty-five minutes walking back-and-forth on a 200 foot cable suspended 1,370 feet above the ground, without benefit of net or safety harness.  Petit’s audacious stunt got him arrested (though he faced only a slap on the wrist), but also made him an international celebrity and helped make the new Twin Towers icons in their own right (before Petit’s stunt, many New Yorkers disliked the new towers, considering them oversized eyesores that towered over the city and blocked the sun, but Petit’s walk helped usher in their status as iconic NYC landmarks).  Petit’s walk was already the subject of a 2008 documentary, Man on Wire, directed by James Marsh and narrated by Petit himself, and now Robert Zemeckis has brought the story back to the big screen as The Walk, working off of Petit’s memoirs “To Reach The Clouds”.  While it’s debatable whether The Walk really brings anything new to the table that can’t be gleaned from Man on Wire (apart from recreating the titular walk through state-of-the-art technical wizardry), it serves as an entertaining and engaging, albeit flawed, docudrama and a love letter to not only Philippe Petit, but the towers he crossed. Continue reading

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Sin City2DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez

CAST: Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jaime King, Julia Garner, Stacy Keach, Juno Temple, Marton Csokas, Lady Gaga

REVIEW:

Sin City was one of the coolest movies of 2005 (or any other year).  Adapted by Robert Rodriguez with painstaking accuracy from Frank Miller’s hyper-stylized, ultra-violent graphic novels, it was a blast of visually inventive, kinetic, wildly over-the-top sadistic fun.  For various reasons which vary depending on whose version of events you listen to, it took a whopping nine years for the much-discussed sequel to finally return to Basin City, and like many follow-ups that take this long to see the light of day, it’s dubious whether it was worth the wait.  It would be overly harsh to call A Dame to Kill For a trainwreck (though its disastrously abysmal box office returns would argue otherwise), but while it’s diverting, much of the freshness has evaporated.  Like other inferior sequels, it remixes a lot of familiar ingredients but without that undefinable “spark”.  Dame is not really “bad”, but while it apes its predecessor’s style, it largely lacks its panache, despite moments of flirting with recapturing it. Continue reading

Don Jon (2013)

don-jon-fathers-day-clip-061613DIRECTOR: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luc

REVIEW:

For his feature film directorial debut (though he had earlier dabbled in making short films through his online production company Hit Record), Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears three hats here as writer, director, and star, and has chosen to tackle such potentially dark issues as sex and porn addiction.  But in sharp contrast to something as bleak as the Steve McQueen-Michael Fassbender drama Shame, Gordon-Levitt goes the comedy-drama route.  There’s a little synergy with Gordon-Levitt’s 2011 cancer comedy-drama 50/50—though he only starred in that one, and did not write or direct—both in its raunchiness, and in the way it uses irreverent humor to tackle a difficult subject.  The result is a flawed directorial debut, but also shows enough promise to make a good case that Gordon-Levitt’s talents do not only lie in front of the camera. Continue reading

Looper (2012)

looperDIRECTOR: Rian Johnson

CAST: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Noah Segan, Garret Dillahunt, Summer Qing, Pierce Gagnon

REVIEW:

Time travel is commonplace in sci-fi stories, sometimes used effectively, sometimes as a flimsy plot device.  With Looper, writer-director Rian Johnson finds a way to embrace the inherent paradoxes and incorporate them into a hard-hitting sci-fi thriller in ways that are intelligent and unpredictable.  Looper is not just a generic action flick with time travel as a plot device; it’s a smart movie that works on different levels as an action thriller, a sci-fi story, and even a morality play, and stimulates the adrenaline, the brain, and the heart.  It’s not a perfect film, but its narrative is engaging, involving, and thoughtful, and doesn’t shy away from a tragic vein. Continue reading

Premium Rush (2012)

premium rushDIRECTOR: David Koepp

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Wolé Parks, Henry O

REVIEW:

Premium Rush isn’t anything deep or substantial, but as its title suggests, its an hour and a half of breezy, fast-paced diverting entertainment that slows down as rarely as its characters.  Writer-director David Koepp has mined a previously little-used premise–bicycle messengers–for chase scenes that feel less generic than standard-issue dime a dozen car chases. Continue reading

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST:

Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman

REVIEW:

WARNING: WHILE I HAVE ASPIRED TO AVOID OUTRIGHT “SPOILERS”, THIS REVIEW WILL MENTION SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE FILM’S PLOT

Along with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers earlier this summer (and to a lesser extent, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man films before it), Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has redefined the possibilities of what to expect from a “comic book superhero movie” and raised the bar to a level that future entries in the genre will be hard-pressed to equal, let alone surpass.  Continue reading

50/50 (2011)

50 50DIRECTOR: Jonathan Levine

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Philip Baker Hall, Matt Frewer

REVIEW:

Movies about characters with cancer are a dime a dozen, but what gives 50/50 a little distinction is its approach.  At least for the majority of its running time, this is not a tearjerker; in fact, as unlikely as this might sound, it’s in full comedy-drama mode.  Inspired by the real-life experiences of screenwriter and producer Will Reiser, who wrote the script after his own battle with cancer, 50/50 manages—for the most part—to find an effective tricky balance in a middle ground between disrespectfully flippant and overly sappy.  The result is far from perfect, but Reiser’s sense of humor about his ordeal makes for a refreshingly irreverent take on a difficult subject that’s far more watchable—and still occasionally touching without being overbearing about it—than some Lifetime melodramatic weepfest. Continue reading

Inception (2010)

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, Lukas Haas, Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite

REVIEW:

Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige) reportedly spent ten years writing his screenplay for Inception. Watching the film, one can see how it might have taken so long. Some will no doubt find Inception confusing. It definitely is not a movie where you can take a trip to the restroom, and requires a commitment of close attention and concentration, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Continue reading

500 Days of Summer (2009)

500DIRECTOR: Marc Webb

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloe Grace Moretz, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Minka Kelly

REVIEW:

While it contains its share of romance, 500 Days of Summer is not a romantic comedy, at least not in the conventional sense.  As the narration informs us from the get-go, “this is not a love story”, and it acknowledges that every romance isn’t “happily ever after”.  Using a non-linear narrative structure, it’s a deconstruction of the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship that follows its protagonist, not always in chronological order, as he runs the gamut from exhilarated joy to crushing heartbreak, and all the little moments in between.  In a way, it’s not about the boy getting the girl, but the boy learning to get over the girl and living his life instead of desperately clinging to a relationship that may not have ever been as compatible as he thought it was.  That 500 Days of Summer manages to do all this without being a total downer is a tribute to the smart and witty screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the sophisticated and visually inventive direction by first-time filmmaker Marc Webb, and the charm of star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Despite the inherent bittersweet poignancy of the premise, this is–for the most part–a breezy, entertaining, enjoyable comedy-drama that manages in the end to be optimistic and life-affirming rather than bitter or depressing.  Among “breakup movies”, this is as “feel good” an example as you’re likely to find. Continue reading

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