The Perks of Being A Wallflower * * *
Cert 12A, 102 mins
Directed by Stephen Chbosky and adapted from his novel, this coming-of-age tale centres on Charlie (Logan Lerman), the wallflower of the title.
It begins with him writing a letter, saying: “If you met me you wouldn’t think I was the weird kid who spent time in hospital.”
It takes all of the film to discover what traumas Charlie has experienced, but he is recovered sufficiently to start his first day at high school.
He finds it hard to make friends but things look up when he’s befriended by older pupils Sam (Emma Watson) and her gay step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller).
Emma Watson has a convincing American accent but has yet to really prove her acting worth. She’s grown up a bit from her Harry Potter days, yet she’s still at school and in a close relationship with two boys, so not that much has changed.
Her character of Sam thinks she’s cooler than she is, coming out with silly phrases like: “I’m not bulimic, I’m a bulimist. I love bulimia.” The characters all feel a little too quirky.
It is set in the early 1990s, though the theme feels current and you wouldn’t really know, apart from the use of cassettes and Dexy’s Midnight Runners on the soundtrack, that it’s a period piece.
The film manages to emotionally connect at the end with the message of ‘We accept the love we think we deserve’, but for me it was too little, too late.
It’s quite sweet, quite funny and quite moving. There’s just not enough of anything for it to really work. RL
Taken 2 * *
Cert 12A, 91 mins
Taken was a visceral thrill ride from the second Albanian human traffickers dragged Kim (Maggie Grace) from under the Parisian bed where she was hiding while her father Bryan (Liam Neeson) listened on a phone in the US.
After a menacing warning to the kidnappers about his “very particular set of skills” that made its way instantly into the lexicon of memorable movie quotes, the ex-CIA man fought his way round the French capital in a convincing example of over-protective parental badassery until he found her.
Having reinvented Oskar Schindler as an Expendable-age action hero, garnering cult acclaim and nearly 10 times its budget in box office, a sequel was inevitable. However, this serves neither its predecessor nor its star well.
The plot didn’t even have to be written down on the back of a metaphorical fag packet as it is simply a rehash of Taken, right down to Bryan making another of his clearly enunciated yet ominous calls.
This time it is the ex-wife of Bryan, (Famke Janssen) that has been abducted, along with Bryan himself, by the vengeance-seeking relatives of the Albanians he killed in the original.
Kim, having conveniently escaped detection, conspires with her dad to track her parents’ location (with a lesson in geometry and some grenades), before slaloming him round the streets of Istanbul to get her to safety so he can go back to rescue her mum.
Janssen, who once crushed men between her thighs in Goldeneye, is wasted in this, spending most of the film unconscious and/or helpless.
Director Olivier Megaton worked with its writer Luc Besson on Transporter 3, and it feels like he is tracing the cinematic lines of better genre directors.
For all its frantic rushing around, “2” is pedestrian stuff. The violence has also been toned down, with some sloppy editing, chasing a lower rating and adolescent audience.
Neeson is a strong solid presence in the middle of the mayhem, giving the role gravitas. But by the end he looks as physically weary of it all as Bryan does after fighting his way through the Albanians’ family tree.
I doubt bets will be taken on there being a “3”. AJ
Resident Evil: Retribution * * *
Cert 15, 95 mins
Paul W.S. Anderson directs Milla Jovovich as Alice in the sixth live action film in the franchise, which picks up where Afterlife left off.
Alice is still fighting the Umbrella Corporation and a rogue evil computer called the Red Queen, but now she teams up with former adversaries Albert Wesker and Ada Wong (Bingbing Li) to save the human race.
They fight everything from mutant zombies to an ugly giant Gollum-like creature – oh, and Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) is back. So too is Colin Salmon, though blink and you’ll miss him.
Alice also acquires a deaf daughter, thanks to a suburban mom clone.
Some of the acting is very wooden, the dialogue stilted and there’s far too much clunky explanation for what is a pretty basic plot.
Yet it’s watchable enough. Resident Evil has built up a loyal fan base and they won’t be disappointed.
The fighting, though ridiculous, is entertaining, especially in 3D on Birmingham’s Giant Screen.
If you liked the other Resident Evil films, you’ll like this, and the end suggests there’ll be plenty more. RL
Sinister * * * *
Cert 15, 110 mins
Writer-director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) has fashioned the best horror movie of 2012 to date.
After the jaw-droppingly awful The Devil Inside and the unwarranted need for cliches in The Possession, this is much more like it.
Crime writer Ellison (Ethan Hawke) likes to move house to be close to the brutal action, but will wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and their son and daughter sleep at night? The film is not particularly frightening, but then it is only promising to be ‘sinister’.
Whether you think that is a more appropriate description of the family’s peril or the father’s behaviour, choosing where to place the point between the two will be your fulcrum to Derrickson’s cinematic seesaw.
Complete with some well-above average cinematography by Chris Norr and a commanding, central performance from the great Ethan Hawke, I enjoyed Sinister so much that it negated the potential tension of having a wisdom tooth out immediately afterwards. GY
Liberal Arts * * * *
Cert 12A, 97 mins
Like Perks of a Wallflower, this is a further education drama from a writer-director: Josh Radnor, from TV’s How I Met Your Mother.
As with his first feature, Happythankyoumoreplease (2010), multi-talented Radnor also directs himself, this time as a college recruiter who goes to a retirement party and meets Zibby, a girl 16 years his junior.
Extraordinarily topical on the back of last week’s story about a maths teacher who ran off with a 15-year-old pupil, Liberal Arts explores everything from classical music and vampire books to the forgotten beauty of handwritten letters.
The cast includes the brilliant Richard Jenkins as Prof Peter Hoberg and my personal choice for best find of 2012, Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House / Martha Marcy May Marlene) who plays Zibby.
The script touches coming of age issues galore, but the way it clearly shows how life affects your best laid plans is the real reason why students – and especially those prone to procrastination – should see it. GY
The Knot *
Cert 15, 91 mins
Noel Clarke is one of Britain’s busiest artists, acting in the likes of Doctor Who and Fast Girls, writing Kidulthood and Adulthood, producing and directing.
But this romcom has fewer laughs than his gritty, crime-ridden movies like Kidulthood.
It’s a shame, as it boasts a decent cast. Matthew McNulty plays Jeremy, who is marrying Alexandra (Talulah Riley). It opens on the day of the wedding, when he wakes up, hungover, with his friends including Noel Clarke as his best man Pete.
They behave like kids, but the bride and her friends, including Julie (Susannah Fielding) and Sarah (Mena Suvari) aren’t much better.
The bride’s parents have ‘comedy’ Spanish accents and Steve Furst appears as a ridiculously camp hairdresser. Jeremy gets sent some genitals in a jar as a warning, and the bride has a toilet problem in a scene very much like the famous one in Bridesmaids.
Every cliché you can think of happens, down to the groom not being able to find the church. RL