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posted: 9/27/2012 6:00 AM

'Perks' a clear look at the troubles of youth

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  • Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson navigate the sometimes difficult waters of teenage life in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

    Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson navigate the sometimes difficult waters of teenage life in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

  • Video: Solomon Kane trailer


Reel Life mini-review: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
A cheesy, easy third-act revelation veers this otherwise realistic and sensitive look at teenagers into Melodrama City. But "The Perks of a Wallflower," directed surprisingly well by its screenwriter, Stephen Chbosky (based on his own novel), survives with a sterling cast and an empathetic look at troubled youth reminiscent of Robert Redford's Oscar-winning "Ordinary People."

Troubled Charlie ("Percy Jackson and the Olympians" star Logan Lerman) comes into high school as a freshman and falls in with provocative senior Sam (a post-"Potter" Emma Watson) and her gay half-brother Patrick ("We Need to Talk About Kevin" star Ezra Miller).

Romance, marijuana brownies and acid loom in the future as Charlie struggles to contain some dark secret that causes him to go "bad."

"Perks" falls back on a perfunctory device of having Charlie write his thoughts to an imaginary friend (easier to pass on exposition that way). But the camaraderie between the trio of young stars stands solid in the face of Chbosky's beginner's quirks and keeps the coming-of-age drama (set during the early '90s before the cellphone invasion) amazingly fresh and urgent.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago and the Renaissance in Highland Park. Rated PG-13 for drug and alcohol use, sexual situations and violence. 103 minutes. ★ ★ ★

Reel Life mini-review: "Solomon Kane"
Despite some very effective special effects involving demons lurking inside mirrors, Michael Bassett's Christian-based action adventure "Solomon Kane" comes off as a disappointingly generic fantasy with a leading man of limited appeal.

James Purefoy stars as Kane, a savage warrior who renounces violence and evil to redeem his soul from certain damnation. That doesn't last very long when he comes to the aid of traveling Puritans led by the late Pete Postlethwaite. After ambushers carry off Pete's virginal daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood), Kane reverts to his violent self to save her.

Lots of blood and screaming ensue as Kane takes on a masked Darth Vaderish entity and works his violent way up the food chain of evil. Max von Sydow pops in for a quick cameo as Kane's elderly dad, who has the smarts to croak quickly and get out of this mediocre mess.

"Solomon Kane" opens at the 600 North Michigan Avenue Theaters in Chicago. Rated R for extreme violence. 104 minutes. ★ ★

Reel Life mini-review: "Vulgaria"
"Who wrote this?" movie producer To (Chapman To Man-chak) asks himself about halfway through the aptly titled Chinese comedy "Vulgaria." I wondered that very thing after sitting through 90 minutes of what appeared to be a very bad attempt to create an Asian counterpart to a Judd Apatow film.

This sniggering, uncomfortably unfunny movie shows To, a failing movie producer, being interviewed by a university professor onstage, whereupon To shares countless flashbacks detailing his dealings with a twisted head of a local triad gang, Tyranosaurus (Ronald Cheng). He insists that To and his business partner engage in sexual relations with two nearby donkeys if they want the gangster to put up money for a movie.

Director Pang Ho-Cheung never reveals if the story has a basis in truth. And I don't wanna know.

"Vulgaria" opens at the AMC River East 21, Chicago. Not rated, but intended for mature audiences. 90 minutes. ★

Stephen King rules!
It must be October. That's why Dann & Raymond's Movie Club is presenting "Creepshow: The Films of Stephen King" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 190 N. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg. Raymond Benson (author of six James Bond novels and the "Black Stiletto" book series) and I will discuss the hits and misses of movies based on Stephen King stories.

Plus, we'll have clips from such movies as "The Shining," "Cujo," "Carrie," "Creepshow," "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile." Free admission! (Bring your own popcorn.) Go to or call (847) 985-4000.

Chicago in St. Charles
I'm going sans Raymond for a special one-time presentation of "Sweet Home Movies: Films Made in Chicago" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the St. Charles Public Library, 1 South Sixth Ave., St. Charles. We'll whip through the history of Chicago, once referred to as Hollywood on the Lake. We'll also check out clips from such gems as "The Untouchables," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "The Blues Brothers" and 13 others. The best part? Free admission! Call (630) 584-0076 or go to

Reel Life film notes
• The Chicago Film Critics Association will sponsor a special screening of Cameron Crowe's celebrated rock'n'roll drama "Almost Famous" as part of the "Film With A View" series of classic movies at The Studio Movie Grill Wheaton. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Grill, 301 Rice Lake Square, Wheaton. Go to to purchase tickets.

The event will be hosted by Elk Grove Village film critic Erik Childress, a member of the Chicago Film Critics board of directors.

• The Paramount Theater continues its $1 Classic Movie Mondays series through December. Remember, first Monday is horror, second Monday is comedy, third Monday is romance and the fourth Monday is adventure.

Shows start at 7 p.m. Next up is "Tremors" on Monday, followed by "Napoleon Dynamite" on Oct. 8. Go to for schedules and information, or call (630) 896-6666.

• The After Hours Film Society presents "The Queen of Versailles" at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. General admission costs $9 ($5 for members). Go to or call (630) 534-4528 for tickets and schedules.

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