Here’s The Trailer For Honest Thief!

Liam Neeson’s money has been ….. TAKEN!


Yeah, okay, it’s an obvious joke and not a particularly clever one but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who instinctively makes a joke about Taken whenever I see another trailer featuring Liam Neeson holding a gun or cracking a safe.

Anyway, Honest Thief stars Liam Neeson as a veteran thief who wants to retire so that he can marry Kate Walsh.  However, he’s just been double-crossed by two FBI agents and now, he has to do what he has to do to get his money back.

Honest Thief is scheduled to be released on October 9th.  Here’s the trailer!

Back to School #74: The Perks of Being A Wallflower (dir by Stephen Chbosky)


“We are infinite.” — Charlie (Logan Lerman) in The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)

So, here’s the thing.  In general, I try not to judge people.  I have friends (and family) of all races, religion, and political ideologies.  I may not always agree with you but I will always respect your right to disagree.  With that being said, if you don’t love the 2012 film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, then I’m worried about you.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is based on a novel that I read and loved right before I entered high school.  In fact, I loved the novel so much that I had my doubts about whether or not the film could do it justice.  Of course, if I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that the film was directed by the same man who wrote the book, Stephen Chbosky.  Everything that made Wallflower such a powerful book — the honesty, the understanding of teen angst, the underlying sadness — is perfectly captured in the film.

Wallflower tells the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a painfully shy and emotionally sensitive high school freshman.  Charlie starts the school year under the weight of two tragedies — the suicide of his best friend and the death of his aunt.  Because he’s so shy, Charlie struggles to fit in and make friends, though he does find a mentor of sorts in his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd, playing the type of teacher that we all wish we could have had in high school).

Charlie, however, does not find a mentor in shop class, which is taught by Mr. Callahan (Tom Freaking Savini!).  However, he does meet Patrick (Ezra Miller), a witty and cynical senior who, because he’s openly gay, is as much of an outcast as Charlie.  Patrick introduces Charlie to Sam (Emma Watson).  Charlie assumes that Sam and Patrick are dating (especially after he sees them dancing together) but later he learns that they are actually stepsiblings and that Patrick is secretly seeing a closeted jock named Brad (Johnny Simmons).  That works out well for Charlie because he has a crush on the free-spirited Sam.

The rest of the film follows Charlie as he survives his first year in school and Patrick and Sam as they complete their final year.  It’s a long but exciting year in which Charlie discovers everything from drugs to the mysteries of sex to the pleasures of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Even more importantly, it’s a year that forces Charlie to confront his own unresolved emotional issues.

Sensitively acted by the three leads and featuring a great soundtrack, The Perks of Being A Wallflower is one of the best films about growing up that I’ve ever seen.  For me, there is no scene that best captures everything that’s great about being young than the scene where Sam, upon hearing David Bowie’s Heroes on the radio, demands to be driving through a tunnel.  It’s a great scene from a great movie that celebrates both just how scary and amazing it is to have your entire life ahead of you and the special friendships that help us survive.



Embracing the Melodrama #55: Inside Out (dir by David Ogden)

Eriq La Salle in Inside Out

Eriq La Salle in Inside Out

Welcome to the suburbs!

It’s a world of secrets and lies, where friends spend their time exchanging gossip and no one’s marriage is that happy once you get behind closed doors.  It’s a place where any sign of nonconformity is viewed as being a threat and where everyone is desperate to be a neighborhood insider because being an outsider is Hell on Earth.

The suburbs have also been the setting of a countless number of Hollywood melodramas.  I’ve reviewed a few of them, like Sin In The Suburbs, over the past two weeks.  The 2005 film Inside Out continues the cinematic tradition of casting a skeptical eye on the suburbs and it actually works pretty well, up until about the final 10 minutes of the movie.  Yes, Inside Out is one of those movies that basically starts out strong and then ruins it all by building up to a thoroughly ludicrous final twist.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love twist endings when they work.  When they don’t work, they lead to something like Inside Out.

Inside Out starts out well enough.  Eriq La Salle plays a mysterious man who moves into an idyllic suburban neighborhood in the middle of the night.  When his neighbors attempt to greet him, he simply responds with a cold glare and then proceeds to alienate them even more by loudly mowing his lawn in the middle of another night.  When he decides to hold a sudden garage sale, everyone is surprised to discover that he’s not selling the usual second-hand stuff.  Instead, he’s selling expensive and new electronics and valuable antiques.  When one neighborhood woman asks why he’s selling all of it, La Salle simply replies that they once belonged to his son.

Finally, La Salle does start to socialize with one neighbor (played by Steven Weber) but the friendlier that La Salle is, the more suspicious Weber becomes.  Weber cannot bring himself to trust his new neighbor and instead, he starts his own investigation.  As Weber finds out more and more about La Salle, he starts to grow more and more paranoid….

And, up until the final 10 minutes, the entire movie is actually kind of working.  Director David Ogden is keeping things nicely off-center.  Weber is both sympathetic and somewhat frightening as he grows more and more paranoid.  Best of all, Eriq La Salle creates a character that seems to radiate a very genuine sort of menace.  You really want to know what La Salle is hiding in his basement and you worry what will happen to Weber once he inevitably breaks in La Salle’s house to investigate…

And then, out of nowhere, the film launches one of the biggest and stupidest twists in the history of the movies.  No, you won’t see it coming.  Yes, you will be shocked.  But not because the twist is effective or surpising.  No, the twist is shocking because it makes no sense, it comes out of nowhere, and it is just amazingly stupid.

And that’s a shame because there’s a lot of talent on display in this film.

Is the film worth seeing despite the twist?  Perhaps.  It shows up on Encore occasionally and  I would recommend it on the strength of Weber and La Salle’s performances.  As I said, there’s a lot to appreciate during the first 80 minutes of the film.  But, before it reaches that twist, you might want to stop the film and come up with a better ending of your own.

Embracing the Melodrama #44: Normal Life (dir by John McNaughton)

Digital StillCamera

Out of all the sin-in-the-suburbs films that I’ve watched recently, 1996’s Normal Life is one of the best.  Judging from the lack of reviews of this film online, it also appears to be one of the least known.  So, allow me to rectify that by telling you a little about Normal Life.

In Normal Life, Luke Perry plays Chris Anderson, a seemingly naive police officer.  From the minute that we first see Chris, it’s obvious that he’s a cop.  With his thinning hair, his anonymous mustache, and his deliberately calm and controlled manner, there’s no way that Chris could be anything else.

One night, Chris goes out to a bar and sees Pam (Ashley Judd) getting into a fight with her date and cutting her hand.  Chris, playing the hero, bandages it and then asks her for a dance.  For him, it’s love at first sight.  Soon, Chris is taking Pam on dates to the shooting range and, before you know it, they’re married.  Pam, it soon becomes obvious, is emotionally unstable.  She deals with disagreements by threatening to kill herself and trashing the apartment that she shares with Chris.  She makes little secret of how little respect she has for Chris’s family and she often goes out of her way to embarrass him.  However, Chris will never leave her because he’s in love with the idea of being the only one who can save her.  And, even though Pam may not admit it, she wants to be saved.  Chris gives her stability while Pam gives Chris a taste of excitement that his life would otherwise lack.

Unfortunately, even after Chris loses his job, Pam continues to spend money extravagantly.  Soon, in order to support his wife, Chris starts to utilize his law enforcement experience by robbing banks.  Now that they finally have money, they are able to move to a perfect house in the suburbs and Chris is able to pursue his lifelong dream of opening and running a small used bookstore.

However, Pam eventually discovers that Chris is a bank robber and soon decides that she wants to rob a bank with him.  Chris knows that it’s a mistake to involve the unpredictable Pam but, as the film makes clear, he will always chose her happiness over everything else…

Normal Life was directed by John McNaughton, who also directed the seminal serial killer film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  And while Normal Life is a far less disturbing film than Henry, it does utilize a similar technique of emphasizing just how banal Chris’s suburban lifestyle really is.  When Chris isn’t robbing banks or dealing with his suicidal wife, he’s essentially a rather boring guy who is perfectly happy to spend his days running his little bookstore.  The best scenes in the film are the ones where Chris simply walks to the doorway of his house, the placid calmness of the suburbs providing a strong contrast to what we know is going on inside that house and inside Chris’s head.

Of the two lead performers, Ashley Judd has the showier role and she does give a fantastically brave performance, providing an honest and sympathetic portrayal as a character who is not always pleasant to watch.  Luke Perry, however, is even better.  Whereas Judd is playing a character who is literally incapable of hiding her emotions, Perry has to play a character who keeps all of his emotions hidden.  Judd’s performance is almost totally external while Perry’s performance is largely internal and, when those two techniques come together, it tells us all we need to know about why Chris and Pam are fated to be together.

Normal Life is a film that you need to see.  And you can watch it below!

Quickie Review: Legion (dir. by Scott Stewart)

Scott Stewart’s film about the Biblical Apocalypse was one film that I was very hyped to see in the first weeks of 2010. I had heard some very good buzz about it when a red band sizzle reel was shown in at 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. This was Stewart’s first major work (he had made a smaller film in 2000 called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love) and with his background in the special effects industry I thought that this film of his would at least be a feast for the eyes. I knew going in what to expect from something about God, Angels, the Apocalypse and uneding amounts of guns and ammo. So, it was with a profound disappointment when I finally saw Legion and, despite my low expectations, was roundly disappointed with everything about it.

Legion is about God deciding that he’s had enough of humanity’s bullshit and shenanigans (a term I would put on this film) and turned his angelic hosts loose upon the world to start things new. This was God’s version of shaking the Etch-a-Sketch that is the world. He has his two favorite Archangels in Michael and Gabriel leading the vanguard of this Apocalypse with Michael tasked with making sure a baby doesn’t get born before the divine enema has been completed. Well, Michael being the introspective sone decides that he still has faith in humanity and refuses to do God’s bidding. We see Michael go through removing his wings (which also unlocks the very BDSM God collar all the angels wear) then find a huge cache of weapons inside a toy company warehouse. Seems removing the wings makes him human and minus all the cool angelic powers. He says something about the Apocalypse having started then makes off towards Bethle…I mean the diner out in the Nevada desert to protect the prophesized baby who will save humanity.

Yeah, the premise for Legion sounds awesome on paper. Militant angels led by badass Archangels like Gabriel about to go “Terminator” on mankind. The story itself was like a mish-mash of some of the best cult fantasy/horror of the past. There’s some of the cool Christopher Walken film Prophecy in the plot and, of course, one cannot but see some parallels with Cameron’s Terminator. Plus, we have a humanized Archangel Michael with guns and guns and guns to battle his former brethren with his coterie of human sidekicks to help out. The trailer for this was very cool and full of action. A trailer which pretty much had all the cool parts in this film. One can watch the trailer and actually enjoy Legion more than when they watch the film itself.

For a filmmaker with a special effects background the film looked pretty lifeless with action sequences that lacked any sort of memorable action. The dialogue wasn’t awful, but everyone’s performance made it sound worse than it really was. Even Bettany in the lead role of Michael looked tired and bored with his role (a sign the film was going downhill and downhill fast). The possessed humans who made up the bulk of the opposing force against the good  guys were uninteresting with the exception of Doug Jones’ “Ice Cream Man” character shown in the trailer. A scene the trailer pretty much showed almost in its entirety. That character was on the screen for less than two minutes then gone.

I actually think that people should just watch the trailer for Legion then pop into their dvd player Prophecy and Terminator. Doing that will pretty much give them the whole story of Legion and have a kick-ass time doing so. This was a film that looked good to great on paper, but once they actually started writing the script and started filming went down the septic tank. It’s films like these that makes one shout “shenanigans” at all those involved in its making. I think Kyle Broflowski would agree with me.