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September 30. 2012 2:31AM

Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club: Good week for movie releases


 
Movies are in focus this week as one intriguing film hit theaters and two excellent DVD releases are on the shelves.

"Looper" opened on Friday and both "The Avengers" and "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" made their DVD and Blu-ray debuts on Tuesday.

"Looper" offers an interesting premise and strong cast and my guess is that by the time you are reading this it will already have had a strong opening weekend.

"Looper" is the first bigger budget movie from writer/director Rian Johnson. It stars rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mob hitman.

But here's the twist: his targets are mob employees sent from the future who have worn out their usefulness.

Sounds cool, right? Here's the second twist: one of the targets turns out to be the future version of Gordon-Levitt's character.

The older version is played by Bruce Willis and Gordon-Levitt (through subtle prosthetic makeup and performance) manages to make two actors playing the same person believable.

Early reviews are very positive and "Looper" looks like a solid hit that could rival other excellent time travel movies like "Donnie Darko" and "12 Monkeys" (which also starred Willis.

Switching gears to home video, both "Avengers" and "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" were must-have purchases for me this week.

Let's look at Batman first. This is not the DVD release of "The Dark Knight Rises" but is instead an animated version of the epic and legendary comic book from 1986 from writer/artist Frank Miller.

Set in a dystopian future where an aged Bruce Wayne has given up on being Batman, "Dark Knight Returns" is hailed as one of the greatest Batman stories ever told and the animated adaptation does not disappoint.

Batman must come out of retirement as the activity of a gang known as the Mutants begins to become too much for him to sit back and watch.

Two words of warning on the Batman movie, though. First, like the excellent "Under the Red Hood" Batman animated feature from 2010, this is not a kids movie and is rated PG-13.

Second, this is only part one of the story. Part two will be released early in 2013. But you've already read the comic so you know the story, right?

My take on "The Avengers" release also comes with a warning. If you own a DVD player only (and not a Blu-ray machine) your version of the disk will not come with many extras at all while the Blu-ray is jam-packed.

Of course, the movie itself is worth the price of admission alone, but the extras on the Blu-ray are top-notch.

Among the best extras are a four-minute gag reel of outtakes and extended or deleted scenes, including a nice look at Steve Rogers (Captain America) feeling out of place in the current world he finds himself in.

There is also an extended fight sequence from the climactic battle showing extra action from the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) that leaves the stunt people in motion-capture suits in place (not removed for the computer-generated aliens) so you can see how all the choreography works.

All told it was an excellent week for movies, whether you want to hit the theater or kick back on the couch.

Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Check out his podcast "Nerdherders" on iTunes. He may be reached at iclark@unionleader.com.

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