Trouble with the Curve: Look, Clint, I’m not happy that the chair thing is going to be mentioned in press coverage of this movie, either. I was perfectly content to never think of your semi-ambiguous Republican politics while enjoying your infrequent star turns about how totally old and old-school you are, and while I don’t care much about baseball, it’s probably my favorite sport on film if you go by number of movies featuring it that I’ve really liked (A League of Their Own forever!). I even like your two-takes-if-that directorial style, at least with certain types of material, and Trouble with the Curve, wherein you play a totally old and old-school baseball scout reconnecting with his daughter while dealing with sight problems, seems right in that Space Cowboys/Million Dollar Baby wheelhouse. I just don’t get why you’d self-generate hackier routines on national television than you’d ever settle for in—what? You want me to do what to myself? Ignore your borderline-insane idea of what Mitt Romney stands for and convince myself that I’m watching an Amy Adams movie in which she may appear in as many as half or more of the scenes? Well-played, Mr. Eastwood. Well-played.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Usually, if I want to see an upcoming movie based on a well-regarded book I haven’t read independently, I wait for the movie; in my experience, a book can undermine my ability to enjoy a movie far more than vice versa. I read High Fidelity and Trainspotting after seeing the movies, and those worked out just fine. But about once a year, a mysterious siren goes off in my head that says: Read that book first. Read that book first. The Perks of Being a Wallflower set off that siren—more so after I saw the trailer and thought to myself: wait, is this beloved YA classic just about a bunch of teenagers looking smug and screaming in different settings? Surely there must be more to the book than this! And yes, there is: the entirely epistolary novel touches upon issues the trailer would prefer to ignore in favor on ultra-lite teenage rebellion and feelings. In fact, Ezra Miller’s flamboyant Patrick character may have almost as much dialogue in the trailer for the movie as he does in the entire book, which describes his behavior more than stuff he says (or ironic, cutesy stuff he yells). One thing the trailer captures is the dewy-eyed deeply felt feeling of the whole enterprise; I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with so much crying as Perks of Being Wallflower.
I should clarify: the book did not make me cry (and not because I’m a stony hardass and certainly not because I didn’t find the characters almost painfully sweet and sympathetic). I mean that I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with so much crying per page. I’m pretty sure that not a single major character in the book escapes without shedding tears, which brought to mind my writer friend Yuka’s assertion that she never wants to see someone laughing or crying in fiction. It seemed draconian at the time, but Perks of Being a Wallflower made me get what she means a bit more. The movie should be interesting at least as a case study in adaptation, because it’s written and directed by the original novelist (who seems, I should say, fairly uninterested in being a novelist, as the success of his MTV Books novel led to him not, say, writing another novel, but hightailing it to TV and film writing). Now that I’ve read, enjoyed, and processed some mixed feelings about the book, I have opinions about what an adaptation should feel like! Which is to say, I’m going to have the kinds of insufferable feelings that I’m usually able to avoid about books based on novels. At least it’s not the Adventures of Kavalier and Clay movie, about which, should it even materialize, I will probably spend many paragraphs talking about how they should’ve made the version I helped fantasy-cast with my friends, with David Krumholtz and Joseph Gordon-Levitt [ours has Jason Schwartzmann and Elijah Wood! —Ed.]. Anyway, I have no idea why Summit is going art-house with this release, giving it four screens this weekend like it’s a P.T. Anderson event or something. The teens demand emoting! Put it out in the malls!
House at the End of the Street: If you’d prefer to see teenagers in their natural movie habitat, which is to say being terrorized and possibly slaughtered in spooky houses, a slumming J-Law is ready to bombshell her way through a horror movie that I could’ve sworn was a remake, and sure sounds like an old seventies horror movie dug up and turgidly reanimated, but I guess not!
End of Watch and Dredd: If you asked me for a list of late-September releases likely to attract decent-to-impressive reviews, neither of these cops-under-siege movies would’ve made it. End of Watch has to be, at minimum, the 43rd movie David Ayer has written and/or directed featuring gritty cops on the gritty edge of grit. Dredd is only the second attempt to turn brutal comic book character Judge Dredd into a feature film, but they tried doing the Punisher three times to no good results, and though I haven’t read any Judge Dredd comics, it seems like a similar deal (except it’s maybe supposed to be satirical? Whatever. I have the Criterion DVD of Robocop so I feel like I’m set for that). And yet: they’re both racking up pretty decent notices. I assumed early positive word on Dredd was mostly from geek-blog types who tend to get a certain degree of excited over a certain degree of ultraviolence, but no: it’s getting all-around decent notices, and—I had no idea—it was adapted by novelist/screenwriter Alex Garland, Danny Boyle’s go-to genre guy for 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Maybe Olivia Thirlby’s presence isn’t so inexplicable after all. End of Watch, too, sounds like it might actually be worthwhile, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as cops who take on a drug cartel (though they presumably do not get trapped in a high-rise full of bad guys attacking them, as happens in Dredd, as happened in ever-so-slightly-overrated geek favorite The Raid: Redemption earlier this year). Next you’ll be telling me that House at the End of the Street is taut and clever!