Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review
Director: Stephen Chbosky

Cast Headliners: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller

Original Release Date: September 21, 2012

Seen: March 2013 

Don’t be turned off by the title of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The name may be off-putting, but if one takes the chance to peer inside they will find a movie with surprising depth and entertainment.   High school can be either the best or worst years in someone’s life.  For myself, it was definitely somewhere in the middle.  Charlie (Lerman) has a pretty miserable start.  After staying home in 8th grade, he rejoins public schooling for high school. He is bullied at first, and feels utterly alone in the jungle that is the American education system. Luckily, he soon becomes friends with Sam (Watson) and her step-brother Patrick.  What follows in their film are various mis-adventures, as well as Charlie fighting his personal demons.

The film can be incredibly dark. Things are learned about the backstories of the primary characters which are truly horrific and shocking to hear. One of these is the reason for Charlie’s missing a year from school.  Personally, it was a bit startling to see these themes brought up in a movie involving teenagers.  I think, while perhaps shocking to witness, these are very real issues that need to be addressed and fixed in modern youths.  I must say that I found it a bit of a stretch to think high schoolers would hang out at college frats as much as these teens do, but perhaps I didn’t get around much in my youth.
Logan Lerman does a great job as Charlie, certainly breaking the image he had in the adventurous Percy Jackson movie. He gives the character a somber delicateness not often seen in cinema. He is a fascinating character, and the plot clearly shapes his motivations.   His two friends are also mold-breakes. Emma Watson is in her first major post-Harry Potter role as Sam, and she is nothing like Hermoine. Sam is outgoing and spunky and popular with people. She is literally the opposite of a certain geekish wizard girl. Watson has great chemistry with Lerman, both in a mentor way and later romantic and back again. The film has a twisting dense plot. Thirdly, Ezra Miller may perhaps be the shining star. As the gay Patrick, he has some great and memorable scenes. Certainly different from the psychotic Kevin from We Need to Talk about Kevin. He gives the film some hilarious humor, and truly shows his range as an actor. Each of the actors playing the characters is playing outside their type, and I believe that helps give the movie an atmosphere of fresh edginess.
Things can get extremely dark, but there is a lot of heart in this film. It is in many ways showing a nostalgic affection for the high school years. It points out the dark aspects of humanity, but it also shows its light.  Sometimes the jokes can be silly, but this is a quality serious dramatic movie deep down that just happens to involve people in high school. Also of note is the soundtrack, which has some classic tunes from David Bowie and others.  Charlie may get confused, and so does the movie too in certain middle section when he switches romantic interests with the “unique” Mary Elizabeth instead of Sam. But by the end everything comes back around and is wrapped up nicely. I laughed and I cried. I feel Logan Lerman deserves recognition for what he did in this movie, because the way he does it made me care about everything that happens to Charlie.  This film may be too much of a clash of teens and drama for some, but it is a solid film. 8 out of 10

The Silver Linings Playbook Review

The Silver Linings Playbook Review
Director: David O Russell 

Cast Headliners: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Original Release Date: November 16th, 2012

Seen: January 2013 

 Some of the best kinds of films are the ones about unique characters. Characters that might be incredibly heroic or that may be incredibly wicked. The most interesting however are those who are odd and out of whack. In the Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper plays a character named Pat who has had a hard few months. He caught his wife cheating, and brutally attacked her suitor. This further destabilized what can be inferred was an existing mental instability. So, after going to a mental health institute, Pat returns to his parents’ home in the same area of Philadelphia where his ex-wife lives.  Every main character in this film received Oscar nominations, and they deserved those nods.  Robert De Niro is great as Pat Sr a sports betting obsessed man with some hilarious lines, Jacki Weaver is great as the ever caring mother of Pat Dolores, and even the minor characters of Danny played by Chris Tucker and Dr.Patel Pat’s consultant have quality lines and traits. The tense yet equally humorous relationship between Pat and his parents is some great dramatic writing. Cooper is at his finest in Pat, who is neurotic and angry almost constantly.   It is one of the highlights of his entire career.

I have not mentioned Jennifer Lawrence yet, because she deserves her own section. She received an Oscar for Best Actress, and she definitely earned it. Pat soon runs into Tiffany, and most of the film is about their relationship. Through a complicated web of things, Tiffany and Pat become connected. And Lawrence gives the film its best scenes. She is charismatic and charming and brings so much emotion into the role of the erratic Tiffany.  Her moments and comebacks give Silver Linings its best quotes.  She is the movie, and she is amazing.
The movie is a fantastic blend of comedy, drama moments, and romance.  It is a unique film which is a blend of these three genres. There are no major complaints with this film, aside from maybe the plot loses slight focus towards the end bringing in higher stakes for Pat’s life.  It is a fantastic film with great characters played by great people with a particular great Jennifer Lawrence. Go see this movie, anyone will like it.  8.5 out of 10

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard Review

A Good Day to Die Hard
Director: John Moore

Cast Headliners: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney

Original Release Date: February 14th, 2013

            Die Hard is a franchise which has adapted to the time period it’s in. The 80’s are thought of as a time of manly action films. One of the reasons for this is that the first Die Hard set the paradigm for testosterone-fueled shoot em up adventures. 2 were more of the same, and 3 and 4 were experiments to match the 90’s and 00’s respectively. A Good Day to Die Hard, or “Die Hard 5”  is technically apart of the modern era, but it feels like it’s stuck in the past for a few reasons.
            John Mcclane never really has time to rest does he?  McClane (played by the real life version of the character Bruce Willis) is going about his normal life when he hears that his Jack (Courtney) has gotten into a plot in Russia and is in danger. McClane, always the hero, travels there. Jack’s storyline is very interesting, as he is working to free a prisoner named Yuri Komarov.  That is the start of the film, and I don’t want to spoil the details because one of the movies strengths are the twists and turn which happen.
            Another of the great aspects of this and all Die Hard movies are the action scenes. They have been more ridiculous in scale with each installment, and the ones here inspired claps from the audience I was in. The car scene involving re-uniting father and son McClane is wonderful thrilling. Tons of damage is done to Moscow, and the pacing is great.  Another highlight is the finale, which has some extremely awesome explosions.
            The main problem with this film is , while when it does happen it’s great, there is not enough action. The run time is less than two hours, making the whole thing end just as it starts to get interesting. There is some great father/son humor, and their chemistry together is something I would want to see in future Die Hards. But their time together is so short it’s a bit hard to appreciate what they have going for them. McClane Jr is a badass character every bit as crazy as his father, and Courtney is a perfect addition the series. It’s a shame that it takes a while for the two to start to get along.
            The film just kind of happens; it lacks a depth the old ones have. Yuri, who I won’t say where his allegiance lies, is a decent character but has the dialogue of a Russian stereotype,. Every antagonist commander and henchmen feels like a stereotype, but not in a good way. They are like Saturday morning cartoon villains in comparison to Hans Gruber for example. The way the plot is given is a bit disjointed as well. These two factors are reminiscent of b-films from the 80’s.  There is some decent fun to be had, but Die Hard has finally become like a knock off of the genre it helped define. Willis is looking a bit old to be saving the world too I might add. 7.6 out of 10.