Movie Tickets: “Looper,” “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Brazilian Film Week

Our picks for the best in film over the next seven days.
Paul Dano and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures.
Paul Dano and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures.


Movies about time travel can get so caught up in the mechanics of the science fiction,
coming up with convoluted explanations to deal with the paradoxes inherent in time
travel, that sometimes they can forget you still need a good underlying story. Not
so with the third film from
Rian Johnson, a deeply felt narrative about destiny and how our past shapes the inevitabilities
of our future selves, that keeps its time travel logic simple, and just fuzzy enough
to allow for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a hitman whose entire job involves going to a rural field at an appointed
time and shooting the person who will suddenly appear upon the tarp he’s laid out.
The victims have been sent from the future, where criminals use time machines mostly
to send people they want to get rid of back to the past to be killed and disposed
of, removing any evidence of the murder from their present. The only catch to his
job is that eventually he’s going to have to kill his future self, sent back 30 years
after the termination of his contract to “close the loop”. If Gordon-Levitt looks
not like himself in those trailers, it’s because he’s been made up to look like a
younger version of that future self, played here by Bruce Willis, who is prepared
to avoid his death the moment he pops up in front of the gun of his younger self.

If any of that sounds confusing, don’t worry: Johnson makes the time travel bits easy
to comprehend by keeping it simple and not overdoing the science fiction. Once the
future Joe escapes death at the hands of his younger self, he goes on the run to try
to alter the past so that he’ll never have come back at all. Meanwhile, Joe is on
his tail, while the criminal syndicate is on both their tails to clean up the mess.
Part science fiction, part mob movie, and with a nice infusion of dark comedy at just
the right moments,
Looper is Johnson’s best movie yet, and manages to be hugely entertaining, affecting, and

View the trailer. Opens tomorrow at a
number of area theaters.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky decided to write and direct the adaptation of his popular coming-of-age novel, which
is often a dicey proposition. But anyone who feared he wouldn’t have the filmmaking
chops, or that he’d be too attached to his book to make the changes necessary to make
it into a film, can rest easy: His movie version stands alone as its own moving entity
while still retaining the tone and feel of the book. The overriding feeling is one
of nostalgia, for the early ’90s and what it was like to be in high school before
the Internet, when you painstakingly made mix tapes to show your affection and if
you heard a song on the radio that you didn’t know, you might never find out what
it was. It’s in that time that the movie’s titular wallflower, Charlie (Logan Lerman), is entering high school, dealing with the recent suicide of his only friend and
coming off a mental breakdown that he only hints at. Charlie finds his tribe, though,
in the form of other kids who are outcasts in their own different ways, and becomes
closes to Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), a pair of charismatic seniors who take him under their wing. The great thing about
Chbosky’s book is how honestly and matter-of-factly it always dealt with the difficulties
of high school without ever getting maudlin or moralistic. That’s true of the film,
too, which balances the thrill and discovery of Charlie’s first year of high school
with genuinely darker moments.

You can read my longer take on the film, and on how
Chbosky avoids the usual curse
of authors directing adaptations of their own novels, over at

View the trailer. Opens tomorrow at a
number of area theaters.

Brazilian Film Week

For the sixth year, the Brazilian Embassy has collected a number of recent Brazilian
film releases to screen in DC, to showcase the best in new film from that country.
This year’s program includes seven features with diverse focuses, including a pair
of documentaries and drama, comedy, and romance narrative features. The documentaries
are about dance and music; the narrative films include one about an actress who makes
ends meet as a celebrity impersonator (Craft), another about a doctor who begins a challenging
new relationship while dealing with a serious illness (We’re Together), and a surreal black-and-white feature about
a girl who is living her life seemingly in a different timeline from those around
her (Southwest).

Starts tomorrow and runs for one week at E Street Cinema.
See the festival site for full

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

One of the most influential figures in the fashion world for much of the 20th century,

Diana Vreeland was an editor at
Harper’s Bazaar, and then ran the show at
Vogue. She went on to work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, curating fashion’s history
as charismatically as she dictated its present while she was a journalist. This film
about her life, using a wealth of archival footage and lots of interviews with those
who knew her, is cowritten and co-directed by a trio that includes
Immordino Vreeland, the subject’s granddaughter-in-law.

View the
. Opens tomorrow at
Avalon and the Angelika


Starting this weekend, the Goethe-Institut is partnering up with the Hill Center for
weekly presentations of German film adaptations of Grimms’ fairy tales. It was 200
years ago that the first volume of those stories were published, and for the next
ten weeks, the Hill Center will screen these hour-long versions—in German, with English
subtitles—for the Family-Friendly Fairy Tale Films
. That starts this Sunday with director
Uwe Janson’s 2011 take on

Sunday at 2 PM at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital,
sponsored by the Goethe-Institut.

DVD Pick of the Week:

Cabin in the Woods

Few films in recent memory sparked quite the furor over what does or doesn’t constitute
a spoiler in writing about the movies as director
Drew Goddard’s
Cabin in the Woods, cowritten with
Buffy the Vampire Slayer mastermind and
Avengers writer/director
Joss Whedon. Which probably explains the
film’s modest return on investment, and the slightly
negative word of mouth that came out of opening weekend
screenings. Trailers attempted
not to give away even the slightest hint of the film’s secrets,
leaving it looking
like a run-of-the-mill slasher flick rather than the wildly
imaginative, surprisingly
funny, and wickedly smart deconstruction of the horror genre it
was. If you missed
it in theaters because you thought it was nothing more than the
trailers let on, now’s
a good time to catch up with it, without all the surrounding
furor. You can read my
full review of the movie over at

(While technically spoiler-free, it does contain some
expository details, so if you’re
still determined to go in as a blank slate, you’ll want to just
dive into the movie.)

Special Features: Commentary with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, six making-of featurettes,
and trailers.

View the trailer.


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