Monday, October 15, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This morning I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower, starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson.

Charlie (Lerman) longs for companionship because something in his past caused him to shut down socially.

Sam (Watson) made many mistakes in her past, but has found solace in her friends and her bestie stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller).

When Patrick befriends Charlie, Sam is the one who brings him out of his shell, which causes Charlie to fall in love with her. Of course, as in any teenage story, Sam already has her eyes on another guy, so they just remain friends.

Charlie loves his new life, though his past never stops fully haunting him. The remainder of the film lets the audience navigate this brave new world with him—and its inevitable road bumps.

What's so refreshing about the wonderful script that Stephen Chbosky (who also wrote the novel) has created is that it's painfully realistic.

There are major themes explored in this film—virginity, bullying, homophobia, child abuse, accident trauma and promiscuity, just to name a few. But none of these overwhelming topics ever cloud the story or its progress. The lives of these characters just keep moving along as they would if they were living, breathing souls.

It doesn't hurt that the cast is phenomenal.

Logan Lerman has eyes so sweet, you'll ache for his every setback

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Today I saw the animated feature, ParaNorman.

Norman isn't like other children. 
Kids don't like him because he's different; his family grows tired of his paranormal claims. Basically, he sees ghosts and hardly anyone believes him.
His one true friend, Neil, a chubby kid that deals with bullies of his own, does have faith he's telling the truth and wants to help Norman as he prepares to save their village from an end-of-days curse.
Throughout this film there's a healthy mix of every-day kid situations (obnoxious older siblings; idiot classmates that pick on others because they're not as smart as their victims) and historical/paranormal references including everything from witch trials to modern-day zombies. The balance is good, but I would hesitate taking a small child to see this. Aside from the obvious frightening scenes, there would be a lot of explaining to do on the part of the adult.
The afterlife is a major theme, as is that of bullying and the treatment of social outcasts.
Overall it sends a wonderful message about how we all should treat each other while marveling us with gorgeous animation wrapped into a very sweet story.
A wonderful escape, especially during the spooky fall season.


Last night I saw Argo, starring Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston.

Tony Mendez (Affleck) is an 'exfiltration' specialist for the CIA, which means he specializes in removing people from dangerous situations. Jack O'Donnell (Cranston) enlists Mendez to formulate a way to get six American Embassy refugees, currently in hiding at the Canadian ambassador's residence, home safely from an Iranian disaster zone. The year is 1979.

Though unconventional, Mendez has an idea to coach the six into portraying themselves as a Canadian film crew to get them out of the country. The general consensus is that the proposal "is so crazy it just might work," so the seal of approval is granted by the CIA to move forward with the plan.

Sounds like a great idea for a screenplay doesn't it? The twist is that this story is true. Painfully accurate, as a matter of fact. The events in this film really did happen and were unknown to the world until President Clinton de-classified the operation in the 1990s.

One may assume that because we know the ending the movie's sense of suspense will suffer, but that's not the case. Affleck, who also directed the film, has created a thriller masterpiece here. He's given us a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction plot, duplicated the physical appearance of the actors to look eerily like their real counterparts and delivered a film full of heart, humor and humility.

Though I knew how the story ended going into it, there were moments where I was actually holding my breath watching it all play out. The casting, the acting, the pacing, the writing—all superb.

It will be hard for another film to surpass the greatness of this one for me this year. Get to the theater right away and take it all in. You won't be disappointed (and do remember to stay for the credits).


Sunday, October 07, 2012


This morning I saw Frankenweenie, an animated feature by Tim Burton.

Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) only has one true friend—his dog Sparky. He doesn't really play outside or interact with other kids, but Sparky is always there to star in his home movies and keep him company.

When the dog dies in an Owen Meany-ish accident at the ball park, the world as Victor knows it crumbles.

Inspired by a lesson taught by his new science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), he successfully brings Sparky back to life in what seems to be an homage to the classic Bride of Frankenstein with a wink toward Back to the Future (there's a lot of relying-on-lightning-striking here). The whole process is a nostalgic treat to watch.

Another classmate who is short on friends soon finds out about this magical result and threatens to tell everyone that Sparky is alive unless Victor shares his scientific secret with him. He complies and soon, despite the promises of discretion, the word is out.

Of course the experiment doesn't work the same way for everyone, and soon they have a catastrophe on their hands (I especially liked the giggling sea monkeys).

This is the only part of the film that I would hesitate to let small children see. Some of the animals that leap out on to the screen are quite menacing and the whole film is a dark black and white, which lays a grim visual landscape from the start.

I wouldn't say this is Burton's best film, as the pacing is slow in a few places and the predictability is very high.

But it is a sweet story about a boy and the dog he loves, and who could resist that?