Monday, September 24, 2012

'Wallflower' Has Many Perks, while 'Curve' and 'End of Watch' Are Both Decent Entertainments

It's a real pleasure to stumble across a genuine surprise in our current age of cinematic predictability. I'm speaking of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own 1999 novel.

It's not only the best movie about youth since 2009's "Adventureland," but also one of my favorite films of the year thus far. Typically, teenagers are treated as idiots in films and serve one of two purposes - to hormonally rage or be picked off by a masked madman.

But "Perks" is a sweet, melancholic look at the joys and pains of growing up. It draws a fair amount of pathos from its story, which is centered around Charlie (Logan Lerman), a troubled freshmen who bonds with a damaged girl (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother (Ezra Miller). While the picture does not exactly break ground thematically, it manages to do what it's thing - portraying the heartaches of youth - very, very well.

The week's other two newbies - "End of Watch" and "Trouble with the Curve" were just enjoyable enough. The former is a decent, gritty cop film that is only brought down slightly by its unnecessary found footage format. There are some issues of believability that stem from said format.

The latter is a mostly charming baseball drama that features a cranky Clint Eastwood - but, you know, a charmingly cranky Eastwood and not the type who yells at inanimate objects - and Amy Adams in a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship. It gets off to a rocky start with a little too much focus on Clint's grouchiness and an unfortunate scene at a grave site, but picks up once it gets rolling into its story. It's not Eastwood's best movie of recent years - but, then again, he didn't direct it himself.

Here are my reviews.

I also managed to catch another screening of "The Master," which I've now viewed several times. My father, who was visiting from out of town, drew an interesting conclusion from the film: there is a parallel between Lancaster Dodd's "making it up as he goes along" and Freddie's "making up" his alcoholic concoctions, which include everything from paint thinner to photography chemicals, as he goes along. "Food for thought," as Dodd himself might say.

This coming weekend, I'll obviously catch "Looper." My other selection could either be "Won't Back Down," which is not based on that Tom Petty song, or "Pitch Perfect." Or something else. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A New 'Master' Piece by Anderson

Now, here's a movie. And it's about time. After a long summer full of studio blandness and an overall unambitious 2012 slate thus far, Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is so good that it nearly makes up the difference.

The picture is stylistically closest to "There Will Be Blood," but it also shares some similar themes with "Boogie Nights" (father-son scenarios and outsiders being brought into a dysfunctional family). And yet, the film is easily the most opaque of Anderson's work. It often defies convention and concludes with a series of scenes that could best be described as "inconclusive."

It's a beguiling film that is filled to the brim with gorgeous cinematography - shot in 65mm and projected in 70mm - as well as career-best performances by several of its actors and a screenplay that will leave you with a lot to chew on.

I also caught Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage," a solid Occupy Wall Street-toned thriller that features a great performance by Richard Gere.

Between the two films, the fall season has started with a bang. Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'm going to try to catch all three of these films: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Trouble with the Curve" and "End of Watch."

Monday, September 10, 2012

When 'Words' Fail

I'm gonna keep this super short this week as I'm in the midst of an extremely hectic week.

This week's cinematic selections were "The Words," an occasionally interesting drama, and "Bachelorette," a mostly bitter dramedy that squanders a talented cast.

Here are my Patch reviews. See, I told you - a short post.

Next week, I'm going to have to take some significant time for writing as, in case you haven't heard, Paul Thomas Anderson's highly acclaimed "The Master" is finally unveiled. I'll also probably catch "Arbitrage."

Monday, September 3, 2012

End of Summer Blahs, Vol. II: 'Lawless,' 'The Possession' and 'For a Good Time, Call...'

Well, the good news is that this week's three new releases were - on the whole - better than last weekend's selections. The bad news is that they were all pretty average.

The film to which I was most looking forward was John Hillcoat's "Lawless," which details the bloody wars between moonshine bootleggers and a violent lawman (Guy Pearce) in the 1930s. The picture received middling reviews at Cannes, but I thought it was, perhaps, an example of an American genre film that gets lost amid all of that festival's higher profile films.

Alas. It's a pretty mediocre picture. Despite the fact that the movie has been wonderfully cast, its bevy of talented actors are given little to do other than murmur their way through an average script that is occasionally punctuated by outbursts of graphic violence. The film looks good, but it's an overall hit and miss viewing experience.

I was slightly surprised that "For a Good Time, Call..." was a little better than I'd expected. I found the film's overly vulgar trailer to be trying way too hard to be raunchy and outrageous. And while the film certainly contains those elements, which I thought to be the weakest moments in the picture, the film also contains a pretty touching portrayal of two women forming a friendship. At those moments, the film is at its best. On the whole, it's not a bad movie - it could have just down without all of the calculated outrageousness.

My final film of the week was "The Possession," which was significantly better than last weekend's supernatural outing - the dreadful "The Apparition." That being said, it's still pretty by-the-book. The film is at its best when following the divorce of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick's characters and its effect on their children. But, of course, these scenes are surrounded by the obligatory low gruntings of the possessed, creepy eyeball rolling sequences and all manner of objects flying around rooms. To sum it up - meh.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend kicks off the fall movie season. I'll catch "The Words" as well as one of these pictures - "Bachelorette," "Branded" and "REC 3."