Friday, November 30, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

There's something quite special about discovering a small film, a movie that none of your friends have mentioned, whose ads don't blow away the newspaper pages. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those films.
I must say, however, I've read many a quick review, which has told me this is definitely a film to see. There's even some veiled Oscar talk.
Small films like this don't get their actors nominated, but this brilliant screenplay (by Stephen Chbosky, based on a novel by Chbosky) might force a second look. And, as to the acting, it's really superb. The Academy might reconsider its guidelines.
We first see Charlie when he's about to go to high school for the first time. You learn almost immediately that Charlie hasn't been to school because he's been in a hospital. Knowing no one, this introvert goes about trying to find his way through the hell of high school, and tries to make friends. With a little bit of effort on his part, he finds one in Patrick (Ezra Miller), and through Patrick's connections, Sam (the all-grown-up-Hermione from Harry Potter, Emma Watson).
One of the great parts about this film is that we follow all three characters, not just Charlie, and each has moments that reveal. Most of these moments are quite painful but quite real. You may recognize yourself in one of these lives.
A nice little perk is the appearance, albeit short, of Paul Rudd as one of Charlie's teachers.
Thumb's up.


I saw my first James Bond movie in 1962. Every Saturday I would go to the Village Theatre in Coronado for the matinee, never having any idea what was showing. I would just go, get my Flicks and a Coke, and sit down. I saw a lot of turkeys, as you can imagine, but I also saw some gems like Wizard of Oz ("What?! A black and white movie?!) and Dr. No.
Skyfall is as good as those early Bond films, if not better. And better than the first two Craig Bond films, if I may. Casino Royale was awfully good, showing us a young, untried Bond killing his first spy. Quantum of Solace was as much a mystery as the title. Skyfall, although its title is a mystery, is a perfect gem, and the meaning of the title is eventually revealed.
Our Bond is self-assured in this third version, although he still has his issues. He apparently has an orphan issue, as this movie reveals, and it's through his relationship with M (played stunningly by Judi Dench) that we learn about this. M has a few issues, too, and it's great fun to get a tease of her history with MI6.
Javier Bardem is our laughing hero this time, and although he's quite colorful (and rather persistent), he's kind of a retread of so many other villains in, if not Bond history, comic book history. In fact, think Joker Light and you'll be there.
I highly recommend Skyfall. It's not only entertaining, it will stay with you days if not weeks later. Thumb's up.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


Frankenweenie is a beautifully crafted stop-motion animated film about a boy who brings his dog, his best friend, back to life after a tragic accident.
It's Tim Burton all the way, and the result is much too scary for pre-teens. Teenagers might get a kick out of it, certainly, and adults (like me) who grew up on horror and sci fi movies will surely enjoy the frequent references to these old movies.
We kept poking each other in the ribs, calling out names. "The Birds! Godzilla! Bride of Frankenstein!"
Of course, the kid is Viktor Frankenstein, the next door neighbor's girl's first name is Elsa (after Elsa Lanchester, who inhabited the Bride of Frankenstein), and the homages go on and on. However, it's a big long in the set-up, and only really gets rolling when the school kids figure out how to put together their project in the school science fair by bringing their own beloved dead pet back to life.
There's no Disney ending here, beware. There's no moral to the story. In fact, there's no end at all, really. It's a terrific little idea once more destroyed by the fact that a movie needs to be 90 minutes or more, and thus is highly repetitive. Still, if you love those horror homages, you'll love Frankenweenie. And you certainly have to appreciate the artistry that went in to making this movie.
Thumb's up.