When you're in high school it feels like the whole world is against you. In writer/director Stephen Chbosky's high school-set The Perks of Being a Wallflower the whole world may actually be against Charlie (Logan Lerman) whose freshman year of high school should be listed in the dictionary under "Murphy's Law." Plagued by memories of two significant deaths as well as general social anxiety Charlie takes a passive approach to ninth grade. A few days of general bullying later he falls into a friendship with two misfit seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who teach him how to live life without fear. Perks starts off with a disadvantage: introverts aren't terribly engaging but Chbosky surrounds Charlie with a vivid cast of characters who help him blossom and inject the coming-of-age tale with a necessary energy.
Set in a timeless version of the '90s Charlie's world is full of handwritten journals mixtapes and a just-tolerable amount of tweed. He writes letters to a nameless recipient as a way of venting a preventative measure to keep the teen from repeating a vague incident that previously left him hospitalized. The drab background of Pittsburgh fits perfectly with Charlie's blank existence. And when he finally comes to life as part of Patrick and Sam's off-beat clique so does the city. Like the archaic vinyl records Sam lusters over (The Smiths of course!) Chbosky visualizes Charlie's journey through the underbelly of suburban Pennsylvania with a raw emotion blooming lights and film grit at every turn. Michael Brook's score and an adeptly curated soundtrack accompanies the episodic affair which centers on Charlie's search for a song he hears during the most important moment of his life.
The charm that keeps The Perks of Being a Wallflower from collapsing under its own super seriousness come from Chbosky's perfectly cast ensemble. Lerman has a thankless job playing Charlie; often constrained to a half-smile and shy shrug Lerman is never allowed to grapple with Charlie's greatest fears and problems until (too) late in the film. Watson nails the spunky object-of-everyone's-affection but she's outshined by Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth another rebellious friend in the pack who takes a liking to Charlie. The real star turn is Miller riding high from We Need to Talk About Kevin and taking a complete 180 with Patrick a rambunctious wiseass who struggles to have an openly gay relationship with the football captain but covers his pain with humor. A scene of confrontation — at where else the cafeteria — is one of the best scenes of the year.
Chbosky adapted Perks of Being a Wallflower from his own book and the movie feels stifled by a looming structure. But it nails the emotional beats — there is no obvious path to surviving high school. It's messy shocking and occasionally beautiful. That about sums up Perks.
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
Troubled by unfortunate event after unfortunate event The Watch sidesteps faux pas to come out on top as a consistently funny sci-fi comedy that doesn't let its high concept tangle up a bevy of one-liners. The script penned by Jared Stern Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assumes you've seen a few movies before entering the theater (mainly any sci-fi movie made in the 1980s). "Summer movie logic" is the foundation for The Watch's ridiculous plot which finds four adult nincompoops teaming up to form a Neighborhood Watch trying to solve the murder of a local Costco employee and eventually pursuing a killer extraterrestrial. Instead of making sense of it all The Watch wisely focuses on its four leads: Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade — a quartet whose bro banter goes a long way in spicing up the dust-covered material. There's nothing revelatory to be found in The Watch but the cast's knack for improv a poetry of the profane makes the adventure worth…viewing.
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) establishes his two-dimensional characters quickly and bluntly smashing together broad personality types like a Hadron Collider of cinematic comedy. Stiller's Evan is a micromanaging do-gooder who can't find time for his wife; Hill's Franklin is a mildly disturbed weapons enthusiast yearning to join the police; Ayoade is the quaint weirdo who joins the Watch to fill the void left by his divorce; Vince Vaughn is Vince Vaughn: a loud crass gent looking for a bit of male bonding. The ragtag team assembles to fight crime but they spend most of their time drinking beers in a minivan — an affair they dub "stakeouts." A perfect opportunity for banter.
For a movie about enforcing the law and alien invasions there's a surprising lack of action in The Watch. Long stretches of the film see the central players yapping back and forth about everything: Russian nesting dolls peeing in cans or the similar viscosities of alien goo and human excrement. Charisma goes a long way and Vaughn does much of the heavy lifting making up for lost time out of the spotlight (he's been virtually nonexistent since 2005's Wedding Crashers). The man spits out jokes like no other — the rest of the cast barely keeps up. Ayoade balances out Vaughn's bombardment with a tempered timed delivery that's uniquely British and rarely found on the American big screen. Even when nothing's happening in The Watch it's rarely boring.
The Watch is at its best when it goes a step further mixing the group in with outsiders and throwing them off their rhythm. Billy Crudup cuts loose as a creepy neighbor and its delightfully weird while the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan's wife Abby brings unexpected warmth to the couple's relationship. Sadly The Watch mishandles its greatest asset: the aliens. The film never finds a pitch perfect blend of comedy and science fiction (Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest this is not); a few scenes where the two come together hint at the best possible scenario but more often than not The Watch avoids its sci-fi roots. A moment in which the guys haul a dead alien back to their man cave plays like an E.T.-inspired version of The Hangover credits. It's lewd and ridiculous but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that energy.
Stiller Vaughn Hill and Ayoade have all proved themselves able funnymen capable of taking weak and tired material up a notch which they're forced to do in every moment of The Watch. Schaffer can handle his talent but his direction isn't adding anything to the mix. By the third slow-motion-set-to-gangster-rap scene The Lonely Island member's obsession with non-cool-coolness is officially just an attempt at being cool (which is not all that funny). The Watch has a greater opportunity than most comedy blockbusters to go absolutely bonkers: it's rated R. But instead of taking its twist and running with it the movie plays it safe. In this case safe is non-stop jokes about the many facets of human reproduction.
Angelina Jolie has not only split from her husband, Billy Bob Thornton, but she also has taken leave from her father, actor Jon Voight. In an interview with Access Hollywood that aired Thursday night, Voight tearfully admitted that the two are estranged. Voight said his daughter has "carried a lot of pain" for years, adding he was "brokenhearted...because I've been trying to reach my daughter and get her help, and I have failed, and I'm sorry." Jolie released a terse statement acknowledging the estrangement, saying, "After all these years, I have determined that it is not healthy for me to be around my father, especially now that I am responsible for my own child," referring to Maddox, a Cambodian boy she adopted this year.
In the ongoing murder investigation against actor Robert Blake, The Associated Press reports Blake's attorney Harland Braun released a recorded phone call between Blake's slain wife Bonny Lee Bakley and Marlon Brando's son Christian Brando. On it, Brando warns Bakley, "You're lucky somebody ain't out there to put a bullet in your head." Bakley initially claimed she didn't know if Brando or Blake was the father of a child she was carrying, but tests proved it was Blake's, and he married her soon after she gave birth to daughter Rose. Braun admitted the tape as evidence that Bakley had many enemies, citing the investigation as being flawed for not interrogating Brando more thoroughly.
Angelina Jolie may be having some personal problems, but perhaps filming the sequel to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on a Greek isle will take her mind off things. AP reports part of the film will be shot on the sun-drenched Aegean Sea island of Santorini later this month. That should be nice.
Denzel Washington's directorial debut, The Antwone Fisher Story, will make play at the Toronto International Film Festival. Based on a true story, the film centers on a hot-tempered sailor (newcomer Derek Luke) who is sent to see a naval psychiatrist (Washington) and starts a journey toward emotional healing, eventually becoming a screenwriter. The festival runs Sept. 5-14.
Environmentalists are concerned after Florida authorities gave the go-ahead to filmmakers to shoot a boat chase for Bad Boys 2 in a protected manatee habitat. A waiver was granted to shoot in the Miami River and Biscayne Bay areas where slow-moving manatees could be hit by high-speed boats, but with some conditions attached--there will be manatee observers in the air and on boats, looking for the endangered species. If a manatee is spotted, filming is suppose to stop.
Ellen DeGeneres and Alec Baldwin are slated to appear in the center square on the revamped syndicated game show Hollywood Squares this fall. At the end of last season, Whoopi Goldberg left the center spot, which she had occupied since the game show reincarnated from the classic in 1998. Producers are hoping this strategy of rotating celebrities in the center square will boost ratings when the fifth season starts.
Wayne Brady, the improvisational co-star of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, will host the Miss America Pageant this year, becoming the first black master of ceremonies in the pageant's 81-year history.
Ozzy Osbourne can bite off the head of a live bat, but apparently watching his wife receive chemotherapy treatments is too much. Osbourne had announced a three-week hiatus from his Ozzfest concert tour to be with Sharon Osbourne as she underwent treatment for colon cancer, but he nearly fainted after watching the first treatment was administered, Reuters reports. Realizing he wouldn't be doing anyone any good, Sharon sent him back on the road. He'll rejoin the tour in Clarkston, Mich., Aug. 7.
ABC unveiled its fall schedule Tuesday, and viewers can expect big changes next season from the third-ranked network.
In a bid to rebrand itself, ABC will be showcasing several new shows this fall. ABC Entertainment Television Group Chairman Lloyd Braun told Variety that the network's fall primetime campaign will revolve around the 8-9 p.m. hour Monday through Friday rather than focus on a dominant night.
Primetime shows between 8 and 9 will fall under the new banner "ABC Happy Hour."
Some of the new series include Dinotopia--which will compete Thursdays at the coveted 8 p.m. time slot, the Tuesday comedy Eight Simple Rules of Dating My Teenage Daughter, the Wednesday medical drama Meds, the Thursday reality drama Push, Nevada and the Friday drama That Was Then.
ABC has also scheduled the revamped Dragnet series for Mondays at 9 p.m. as a midseason replacement for Monday Night Football.
Missing from the lineup are some familiar series, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Dharma & Greg, What About Joan, Bob Patterson, Spin City, The Job, The Mole, Philly, Thieves, Once and Again, The Chair and The Court.
The network also announced it is pulling the plug on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect and will replace the late-night program with an entertainment show headed by former Man Show host Jimmy Kimmel.
ABC says that there is no problem with Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander's new vehicle Bob Patterson, despite the show's loss of a head writer, the replacement of several cast members and the addition of an entirely new character.
"There are no internal problems and there have never been any internal problems. That show could not be going any better,'' Lloyd Braun, co-chairman of ABC's Entertainment Television Group, defensively told reporters.
However, the program's pilot will probably have to be re-shot due to all the changes, including the departure of the original pilot's head writer Tim Doyle.
A tumultuous start is not what ABC needed with Bob Patterson, which stars Jason Alexander as a recently divorced motivational speaker. Patterson is slated to go up against NBC's vaunted comedy Frasier on Tuesday nights as the alphabet channel tries to knock off the peacock network.
Patterson is the second show from an ex-Seinfeld star to hit the airwaves in as many years. NBC's embattled The Michael Richards Show (starring Richards, Seinfeld's doofus Kramer), debuted last year but went largely unwatched and was yanked in December.