‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’
Author Stephen Chbosky adapts his own popular 90s coming-of-age novel for the screen. ‘Harry Potter’s Emma Watson and Ezra Miller (‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’) take on image changing roles but the lead, played by Logan Lerman, fails to ever convince as a 14 year old. The relationship between him and the two seniors also is hard to believe in what is trying to be a realistic teen drama. While it avoids adding any typically crude teen humour, and sensitively touches on some serious issues, it’s ironically ‘Perk’s more conventional moments that stand out, such as the high school bullying scene.
‘This is 40’
Since his big breakthrough with ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, the films of Judd Apatow, both as a producer and a writer/director, have been continually plagued with the same problem; length. Comedies like his just don’t lend themselves well to 2 hour plus running times. His latest film behind the camera, ‘This is 40’, also clocks in at over 130 minutes. It meanders around a good deal and features several fairly superfluous characters. Apatow’s known for keeping a loyal company of actors and sometimes it seems he just loves getting lots of them in his films, whether or not the character has anything to contribute. Here he also adds in several new actors (Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox) all bringing unnecessary subplots with them. This could be more excusable if ‘This is 40’ was very funny but it rarely is. That’s not even the worst of its troubles. It acts like it has profound, universal things to say about parents approaching middle age but its central couple are pretty hard to feel sorry for. Their main problems seem to be a worry they might have to downgrade their massive house. Also Paul Rudd is a fairly athletic man who looks fine for his age, yet there are numerous references to him having to give up cupcakes as if he’s incredibly overweight.
Like ‘Lincoln’, here’s another nominal biopic that’s actually just about one very short, but crucial, stage in its subject’s life. In this case, the making of ‘Psycho’, which could probably be called Hitchcock’s most well-known film. Anthony Hopkins piles on the prosthetics to convincingly transform himself into the famed director, and is easily matched in quality by Helen Mirren as his wife, shown to have important input to his work. We don’t gain a great deal of insight into his life but the story behind the film does have some interesting and amusing moments, revealing lesser known details. For example, Hitchcock financed the film himself as no-one else would, and had to battle the censors to include the film world’s first shot of a toilet flushing. The fantasy scenes with Hitch talking to Ed Gein, the real-life killer who served as inspiration for Norman Bates, do feel out of place though.
Super-super fans of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ offer various interpretations on what they believe the film to be about, studying it meticulously, and coming up with theories varying from the Holocaust to the moon landings being a hoax. It’s a fascinating look into how some people can find meaning in the tiniest of details, a practice often done with literature but rarely with film. Some of the pieces of evidence presented are real long shots (the Minotaur poster), but other details are undeniably curious (the impossible window), particularly considering Kubrick’s notorious reputation as an absolute perfectionist, carefully controlling every shot of his films. Most of these things will pass easily over the heads of the majority of viewers, and who knows; maybe Kubrick’s intention was just to make a really scary film? Food for thought though.
John Huston’s 1956 adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic novel follows the plot quite loyally. As a whole the films holds up rather well nowadays, except for when the whale’s onscreen. Moby-Dick himself is obviously an artificial prop(s), and while understandable for the time period, undermines the film come its climax.
‘Fire with Fire’
Bruce Willis must have owed the director a favour, as he pops up occasionally in a completely negligible role this derivative action thriller, in which a wooden Josh Duhamel witnesses a gangland murder by an over the top Neo-Nazi gang, and finding himself a target, decides to take the law into his own hands. It went straight to DVD in the US and it’s not hard to see why.
A blow-up sex doll inexplicably comes to life in this Japanese drama, which takes a rather silly premise and treats it very seriously. Curious but overlong.
‘Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God’
‘Enron’ and ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’ director Alex Gibney takes on the Catholic Church in this harrowing documentary that could leave you appalled and angered. It mainly focuses on the testimony of former pupils for a school for the deaf, who were regularly abused by their supervising priest, but were tragically unable to tell their parents as they couldn’t sign. Their interviews are sensitively handled, presented as them signing for the camera while actors (including Ethan Hawke and Chris Cooper) read translation over the top. From here it examines the shocking prevalence of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and the measures the church takes to protect the abusers, rather than the victims, including a revealing interview with a former monk who was given a large budget to pay off victims in exchange for their silence. That’s not even the worst of it; awareness of the abuse goes up to some of the highest rankings in the Vatican. A powerful, devastating and important work.
The New Amsterdams – Outroduction
While in general I’ve tended to prefer more pop/rock music to country-tinged indie folk, I’ve always liked ‘The Get Up Kids’ front man Matt Pryor’s side project; The New Amsterdams much more than his main band. That continues with this, being much more enjoyable than TGUKs reunion album from a couple of years ago. It’s a real shame that this will reportedly be the last album to bare The New Amsterdams’ name, as I really think it’s where Matt Pryor’s best work can be found.