Sunday, September 30, 2012

2 Movie Reviews: The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Looper

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
Director - Stephen Chbosky
103 Min; PG-13
Logan Lerman - Charlie
Ezra Miller - Patrick
Emma Watson - Sam

I walked out of the theater thinking this could be my favorite movie of the year thus far.  I knew nothing about this high school drama set back in the day when mix tapes were all the rage, but it is a novel written by Stephen Chbosky who also wrote the screen play and directed the film - hell of a trifecta Mr. Chbosky.  Charlie is an introverted freshman dealing with a multitude of demons and desperately in need of friends and something normal.  Patrick and Sam are senior misfits of sorts who welcome Charlie into their version of a clique.  What could end up being a totally cliched high school coming of age flick turns out to be extremely moving and extremely cathartic. 

I loved the way Logan Lerman played Charlie, his mannerisms really giving off the highs and lows that his life goes through.  Ezra Miller is at times too over the top for me as the openly gay kid, but he reigns it in at the right times to put in a good performance.  Emma Watson - no longer playing Harry Potter's sidekick - is so vulnerable as the girl with a past who wants nothing more than a fresh start it makes you want to just give her a hug. 

The film does suffer at times from a little Dawson's Creek type dialogue and actions for kids this age, but it really comes together very well by the end when you piece it all into one year in the life of these kids and their bond.  If you're looking for something different and you're open to a little reminiscing about the good and bad days of high school I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

***** out of 5

Looper (2012)
Director - Rian Johnson
118 Min; R
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Joe
Bruce Willis - Old Joe
Emily Blunt - Sara
Jeff Daniels - Abe

A hit-man time travel themed movie filled with blood, profanity AND a pretty damn good story - yeah, this movie is pretty bad ass and I loved it.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are equally solid in their roles as young and old Joe, and even though we all know how terrible some time travel movies can become, this one does a pretty good job of not reminding us to think too hard about all the ramifications.  I really liked the unexpected story lines and the mixed emotions had by all the characters as they each struggled for their own survival.  I'm sure someone can find fault in it, but I just sat back and enjoyed this one.

***** out of 5

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2 brief 2012 reviews: The Master and End of Watch

The Master (2012)
Director - Paul Thomas Anderson
137 Min; R
Joaquin Phoenix - Freddie Quell
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Lancaster Dodd
Amy Adams - Peggy Dodd

A year or two ago I would have wanted to write a long review of this film, but I find it more and more difficult to give these the time they deserve.  Instead, I'll just say that I found this film, with some of my favorite actors under the direction of one of my favorite directors, to be an enjoyable journey.  I liked the first act set up, the second act depth, and the third act ambiguity.  I have a whole lot of praise for much of this film and that is the most important thing I can convey.  I did, however, feel it left quite a bit to the imagination in terms of some of the deeper meanings of it all, and to be honest, that's just fine with me.  I don't need everything laid out on a platter for me nor do I need to know who this 'master' was in his younger days and how he came to be who he is today.  I also don't care to go into any Scientology comparisons - clearly they are there and clearly it shouldn't matter in terms of watching the movie.  Hoffman is always great and I think he is once again perfect here.  Amy Adams plays a wonderful supporting role as the wife.  It is Phoenix who puts in a pretty great performance as a man struggling with his emotions who may or may not want the help of someone powerful to get his life on track.  Anderson has directed some of my favorite films of all time and though this one won't rank next to those in my mind, it is a refreshingly dramatic film at a time when the 2012 year has been anything but stellar.

**** and 1/2 out of 5

End Of Watch (2012)
Director - David Ayer
109 Min; R
Jake Gyllenhaal - Brian Taylor
Michael Pena - Mike Zavala
Anna Kendrick - Janet
Natalie Martinez - Gabby

Another cop movie set in the streets of south central LA. Most thankfully this film brings a lot more to the table than just a piecing together of various other films from the genre.  In the most basic terms, this is a bro-movie.  Taylor and Zavala are partners who have a friendship as strong as kin and a moral code that leads them everyday through the rough streets and back to their significant others.  Much of the film is seen through the lenses of various people filming themselves and others around them, for various reasons, and at times the shaky cam and reasons it is happening can be distracting.  The incredible amount of unlikely situations these two find themselves in is also a bit far fetching and leaves you wondering why just two or even three incredibly awful crimes wasn't enough for us to see what these two go through.  If you don't like profanity, stay away.  I'm not sure I recall a film in recent memory with so much foul language, but I liked the way it was used as is made everyone in the film feel pretty authentic.  The basic plot is easily unspoiled, as these two partners patrol the streets and we get a glimpse of their friendship and relationships as they stumble upon and get mixed up in some Mexican cartel crimes.  What the film ultimately gives us is a friendship and the two men who give 100% to their jobs which, everyday, could easily kill them.

**** and 1/2 out of 5