Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Looper Is Certified Fresh

Plus, Hotel Transylvania is giddy but thinly-scripted, and Won't Back Down is impassioned but bland.

by | September 27, 2012 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a futuristic hitman (Looper, starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a monster bash (Hotel Transylvania, with voice work by Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg), and a pair of education advocates (Won’t Back Down, starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal). What do the critics have to say?



The fanboy anticipation for Looper has grown to a fever pitch over the last few months. It appears the wait was worth it; critics say Rian Johnson‘s third feature pulls off that rarest of trifectas — it’s at once a provocative head trip, a tense thriller, and an intriguing character study. It’s 2044, and control of time-travel technology is in the hands of the mob; when they want somebody rubbed out, they send them back 30 years for an assassin to kill. But when one such “looper” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is tasked with killing a future version of himself (Bruce Willis), he finds himself on the run from perhaps fate itself. The pundits say that despite the occasional narrative stumble, the Certified Fresh Looper is such an exciting, heartfelt, and ambitious sci-fi tale that it’s sure to imspire plenty of conversation after the lights come up. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Willis’ best-reviewed films.)

Hotel Transylvania


They may look scary, but all the famous movie monsters are just like us on the inside. That’s the clever premise of Hotel Transylvania, but while critics say the movie looks great and has moments of comic inspiration, it largely fails to balance the yuks with its attempts at sincerity. At a remote hotel, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and a bunch of other horror VIPs gather for Dracula’s daughter Mavis’ birthday celebration. But the ghoulies’ placid idyll is threatened when Mavis falls for a human and her dad gets really overprotective. The pundits say Hotel Transylvania has a buoyant, giddy tone that may please children, but it’s also loud and thinly-scripted. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames, an image gallery of legendary creatures in animation.)

Won’t Back Down

If you’ve seen one inspirational story of underdogs taking on the system, you’ve seen ’em all, right? Not necessarily, though critics say Won’t Back Down feels awfully familiar — not to mention simplistic — despite the best efforts of stars Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Davis and Gyllenhaal play a teacher and a single mom, respectively, who become so disillusioned by the bureaucratic rigidity of the local public school system that they start a grass-roots movement to wrest control from the teachers union. The pundits say Won’t Back Down is well-acted, but its script fails to lend dramatic heft or sophistication to the hot-button issue of education reform.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Other Dream Team, a documentary about the politics surrounding the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team, is at 86 percent.
  • The Waiting Room, a documentary about the workings of a public hospital in Oakland, is at 86 percent.
  • Joe Dante‘s The Hole, a horror film about a pair of middle-schoolers who discover a bottomless pit in the basement of their new house, is at 81 percent.
  • Tales of the Night, an animated collection of vignettes featuring fantastic tales from around the world, is at 80 percent.
  • Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow in a comedy about a new girl on campus who encourages the school’s a cappella group to get hip, is at 76 percent.
  • Solomon Kane, an action/fantasy hybrid about an English mercenary who goes to war with the devil, is at 64 percent.
  • The Thai import Headshot, an action/thriller about a cop-turned-hitman with vision problems, is at 56 percent.
  • Vulgaria, a comedy about a movie producer who must make a bizarre pornographic film in order to pay alimony to his ex-wife, is at 43 percent.
  • Stars In Shorts, a collection of seven short films featuring an all-star cast, is at 38 percent.
  • Bringing Up Bobby, starring Milla Jovovich and Bill Pullman in a comedy about a con artist who tries to create a stable environment for her son, is at 14 percent.

Finally, props to Bently Lyles for coming the closest to guessing House at the End of the Street‘s 11 percent Tomatometer.

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