Tag Archives: logan lerman


Shirley Jackson was a wonderfully spooky and wildly talented writer and she undoubtedly deserves a biopic that lives beyond the borders of ordinary. This is exactly that movie.

Shirley (Elisabeth Moss) is a reclusive horror writer known for her gloomy temperament and spiky sensibility. Husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg), a literary critic and professor at the nearby college, calls her “sickly” and “unwell” as he philanders all over campus. He and Shirley take in a young newlywed couple, Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young); Fred is to be Stanley’s protégé, and though Rose was not long ago a promising young student herself, Stanley now expects that she’ll cook and clean and care for his oft-bedridden wife.

Shirley is writing yet another masterpiece and while her creative process is at first disrupted by the new arrivals, she soon finds Rose to be open and trusting and ripe for manipulation. Rose is curious, and fascinated by the brilliant author, and though Shirley seems, at times, grateful for a friend, her only true allegiance is to her work. And she is, of course, filled with neuroses and wildly unpredictable, so the house becomes volatile as loyalties shift too quickly to be counted upon. Meanwhile, Stanley is jealous of his would-be protégé and inappropriate with Rose, which means no one’s motivations are pure and home has become quite hostile. The more hostile things become, the more the film itself blurs the lines between fiction and reality.

Josephine Decker’s film is provocative and challenging much like the author herself – which, to be honest, means that I didn’t enjoy the film so much as admired it. Certainly I admired the committed, prickly performances, the dedication to some pretty unsavoury characters, and an ambiguous, haunting story-telling style that was nearly a performance in itself. It was an uncomfortable watch though, not what I would consider satisfying, too off-putting for me to truly recommend it. Although I appreciate the boldness it takes to make deliberately ugly art, I always end up wondering what the point is, exactly, if no one wants to watch it.

End of Sentence

Frank (John Hawkes) is recently widowed when he picks up his estranged son Sean (Logan Lerman) from prison. Neither is exactly keen to spend time with the other, but Frank’s late wife’s last wish was for her son and her husband to travel to Ireland together to scatter her ashes in a special lake. Frank is determined to honour her wish, and Sean is determined to be in California in five days time. A deal is struck – Frank promises to deliver Sean to California by way of Ireland – and two reluctant travel companions, plus the ashes of their only common bond, are on their way east – very east.

In Ireland, Frank will come to understand his dearly departed wife a little better, while Sean will come to understand his distant father. None of these will be easy lessons. In fact, long before the mission is either accomplished or abandoned, you and I will start to suspect that the dead wife orchestrated the trip not so much out of preference for her final resting place but perhaps as one last attempt to reunite the two men in her life from beyond the grave. Of course, as in life, so in death: Frank and Sean share a complicated and painful history, and the Irish countryside, beautiful as it may be, is not a magical cure.

Michael Armbruster writes a story that is sensitive but not sentimental about two men who share the same grief but process it side by side rather than together. The story is about men, and how they will relate to each other now that their moderator/interpreter/buffer is gone. It is quite possible that Frank and Sean have never been in a room just the two of them before, and quite clear that this is their preference. And yet – mother knows best? Certainly in her last days she must have worried about them, about her son already careening down the wrong path, unlikely to succeed upon release without the one person who always believed in him, and about her husband, so unable to connect, so solitary and cold in his default demeanor. The script here is brilliant because it allows us to read and explore these things through action and inaction rather than constantly looking back, and director Elfar Adalsteins reinforces this idea by showing rather than telling. This leaves room for the audience to see a bit of themselves in this dynamic: bits of their own grief, their own fraught relationships, their own pain, desire, comfort, and hope for the future, and the story becomes that much more relatable, that much more resonant.

I knew nothing of this movie when we came upon it for rent on VOD, but it turned out to be one of those unexpected cinematic gems just waiting to be mined.


Indignation is a film that demands for you to digest it.  Feeling more like a novel than a typical movie (fitting since it’s based on a book), Indignation is a story about star-crossed young lovers that’s not quite a love story.  It’s also very slow and very talky, which is apt because that mirrors freshman Marcus’ approach to life.  Marcus is a wanna-be lawyer who decides to leave Newark to attend school in Ohio.   And not just anindignation-sundance-review-logan-lermany school in any Ohio, this is a Christian school in 1951 Ohio, where attending chapel services is a required part of the curriculum.

That requirement does not sit well with Marcus, because he’s not only from a Jewish family, he’s also an atheist.  Needless to say, he’s quite indignant about this whole thing, and he takes it so personally that you have to wonder why he thought attending this little Christian school was a good idea.  Perhaps it was the only school that offered him a scholarship?  Or maybe he just wanted to get as far away from the family butcher shop as possible.

Whatever brought him there, and despite his strenuous objection to the religious curriculum, he quickly warms to the school when he sees Olivia in his history class, and from there, a romance blooms.  Sort of.

This is going to sound very weird comi8-indignation-_05_2016-10_17_22ng from me, but I could have used a lot more romance than Indignation delivered.  I liked watching Marcus and Olivia deal with their issues.  It was a lot more real than what we usually get from romantic movies.  But too often, just as it was getting interesting between the pair, we’d cut to some other aspect of Marcus’ college life, seeing him ask important-sounding questions in class or arguing with the Dean or quarrelling with his two roommates.  Many of these other scenes halted the movie’s momentum without adding anything important, and as a result ended up feeling like unnecessary filler.

For anyone who has read the book (Jay?), I’d be interested in hearing whether you were more engaged by the parts of the movie that are just about Marcus, or whether they felt extraneous to you as well.

Even with that uneven momentum, there was a lot to like about Indignation and I would recommend it.  I particularly liked the film’s structure and the way the story was told.  Though it started slow, before too long Indignation engaged me and made me curious about where we would end up, especially once Marcus and Olivia met each other. I just wish the movie had been more focused on the two of them, but in the end, I got enough of their story to ensure that Indignation stuck in my head and made me think about fate and love and starry nights.


Movies Based on Novels for Young Adults

It’s Thursday again, and we’ve got some real beauties lined up! Our friend at Wandering Through the ShelvesTMP had us tackle Fairy Tales last week, and black & white movies the week before. This week we’ve been tasked with listing our favourite movies based on books for young adults. And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado-


I felt really repelled by this week’s topic, which is kind of okay with me. I like a challenge. But the young adult genre is just not my thing. I can’t even claim that Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight are bad because I haven’t and won’t give them the time of day. They’re not for me, and they don’t need me – there are plenty of teenage girls to keep these franchises going.

I think it’s a little weird how franchises like Hunger Games and Divergent seem to put teenagers in mortal danger, in order that they may save the world. It’s sort of asking a lot from people who, by and large, don’t get out of bed before noon. It made me remember movies from my iknowown teenage years, the 90s, a time when teen movies featured parties, prom, and the gosh darned mall. And the occasional nerd makeover. But then I thought about our own teen franchises – Scream, and I Know What You Did Last Summer – and realized that maybe we’re not so different after all. We had teens running for their lives as well.

So for my first pick, I’m going with an even older selection that pit teenager against teenager, putting them in intense mortal danger: The Outsiders. I remember reading this book for the first time in the 7th grade. Our teacher followed it up with an in-class viewing of the movie and my teenaged hormones selfishly hijacked the situation, forcing me to weep buckets, turn purple, TheOutsiders4and lock myself into a horrible washroom stall until I could ‘compose myself’, whatever that means to a white girl with a perm so bitchin she needed a pick comb. To this day I can never decide if the casting was brilliant (Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, all in their peach-fuzz glory) or if it totally missed the boat (everyone else went on to amazing careers while the lead totally fizzled after a controversially racial comedy flopped – Leonardo DiCaprio auditioned for but didn’t get the part). In any case, it tells the story of two teenaged gangs (if they can be called that), really just right side of the tracks vs the wrong side, the Greasers and the Socs, as they tussle and rumble and occasionally kill each other. SE Hinton wrote the book when she was just 15 years old (and what have YOU been doing with your life?) and it took a class full of junior high fans of the book to elect Francis Ford Coppola the most eligible to direct, and sent him a copy of the book. He agreed, shot the movie with Hinton’s help, and 20 years later restored all the scenes got cut when his own granddaughter was about to study it in school.

The old white men who reviewed Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist didn’t much care for it, but what do they know? They didn’t get the excellent soundtrack, couldn’t relate to the nonchalant inclusiveness, and NickNora_2lgdidn’t tap in to sarcastic chemistry between the two leads. Based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, it tells the story of Nick, the token straight guy in an all-gay band, freshly heartbroken by bitchy ex-girlfriend Tris, and Norah, the girl who falls in love sight-unseen with the guy sending frenemy Tris all those great breakup mixtapes. They meet up one night and run all over the city in pursuit of an elusive indie band called Where’s Fluffy. It’s got all the makings of great teenaged shenanigans: live bands, party rockin, neglectful parents, unlimited allowance and no curfews.
Another more recent pick, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, I somehow find charming despite my advanced years, probably because the three leads are so earnest and bright and perfect. Youth is infuriating. The fact that they don’t know a David Bowie THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWERsong is double infuriating. But the teenage trappings are all there: angst, awesome dance routines, riding in cars with boys, and even Paul Rudd – although this time, he’s (tragically) not playing the heartthrob but the teacher. Oh, I feel sick to my stomach. This story is a real testament to its time – the three leads are all outcasts but get this – they’re actually cool. I know. It’s strange. Counterintuitive, even. Goes against pretty much every teenage movie we’ve ever seen. But in 2015 (and apparently as far back as 2012), it’s cool to be weird. What a revelation. John Hughes was eyeing this as his next project before he died, but in the end it was directed by the novel’s author himself (which almost never happens), Stephen Chbosky, who also got to write the screenplay.


The young adult novel is an elusive concept. When I asked Wikipedia, examples seem to include books for children (Harry Potter), teens (Twilight), and twenty-somethings (The Notebook). When I first heard about this week’s Thursday challenge, I was worried I would be choosing between Divergent and The Hunger Games but, after working on it all week, I have managed to find 3 movies worth celebrating.

Coraline-  Adapted from what I just found out was a novel by Neil Gaiman, this 2009 stop-motion fantasy is as different from Disney as American animation gets. My local video store even had it filed under Horror. The bizarre alternate univCoralineerse to the already bizarre regular one isn’t as perfect as it first seems when a young girl discovers that her Other Mother, although more attentive and permissive than her real mother, wants to sew buttons over her eyes. Eye phobics beware. Darkly funny, oddly beautiful, and genuinely unsettling.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy- I’m still not fully convinced that this counts but who am I to argue with Wikipedia? I’ve never read J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy but have always assumed them to be a more demanding read than most in this genre. Peter Jackson’s ambitious nine and a half hour adaptation certainly expects more of its audience than anything else I’ve watched this Lord of the Ringsweek. I’m counting the whole trilogy as one movie to make room for other films on the list. Besides, I am not sure I trust myself to remember what happened in which film well enough to be able to write about them all separately. Together they make up one of the great American films of this century.

The Spectacular Now-  It’s hard to find a movSpectacular Nowie like this from a young adult novel. There are no vampires, wizards, or dragons. The Spectacular Now is a story of young love without the usual gimmicks. Miles Teller (Whiplash) and Shailene Woodley (Divergent) showed great promise in this adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel in 2013 and it’s no surprise that they both got to star in higher profile movies the next year. Teller is especially good as a superficially charming teen alcoholic.



Hugo – this is a very nice love story film, fittingly brought to us by Martin Scorsese. It meanders a hugo__120124150122bit but it is an enjoyable ride, and the whole thing has a fantastical sheen. Having been to Paris and passed multiple times through Gare Montparnasse, where the movie is set, I will be watching this movie again in the very near future (I did not get to it this week because we were too busy sifting through typical apocalyptic YA filler).

Holes – it is sad that all that has gone on with Shia Leboeuf takes the focus off the movies he is holesshiain. I feel he retroactively takes something away from this movie but if you can get past that, Holes is an enjoyable story about family curses. Things wrap up a little too neatly (which I can’t believe I said because I usually love a tidy ending) but it’s an enjoyable movie nonetheless and one worth checking out.

Scott-Pilgrim-vs-The-World-ladyspaz-E2-99-A5-26058602-500-269Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – we have had a ton of comic book adaptations recently and of all of them, Scott Pilgrim feels most like a comic book (and that is a very good thing). It’s a fun movie with a ton of recognizable faces. I feel I’m stretching the category a bit with this pick but it has been tough this week to find anything halfway decent, and Scott Pilgrim is a favourite of mine!


Another WW2 movie released in 2014 – see my reviews of Unbroken and The Monuments Men – that didn’t get a whole lot of attention. Is it possible the American film-going population is finally sick of movies about old wars? None of these movies is great but neither are they bad, which to my mind place them above American Sniper, which showcases a more recent war effort but alsofurybradpitt glorifies it.

Fury is about a tank crew in the final days of the war. Brad Pitt plays “Wardaddy”, an aging staff sergeant to a veteran crew: “Bible” (Shia LeBoeuf), “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal), and “Gordo” (Michael Pena), who credit him with keeping them all alive. They’ve recently lost their fifth man so newbie Norman (Logan Lerman), a typist who’s never seen the inside of a tank let alone the ravages of war is drafted to join the gang. Pitt’s in charge of his tank, nicknamed Fury, but it’s obvious that the fury also comes from inside him. He’s angry at what he’s seen and takes comfort in abusing prisoners and killing Nazis. He counsels young Norman to do the same, but Norman doesn’t think killing prisoners is “right” and refuses.

fury-movie-2014After discussing the moral relativism inherent in A Most Violent Year, this movie had me thinking more along the lines of righteousness, and whether those ideals apply to wartime at all. The film does a brutally stirring job of showing good Nazis, bad Allies, sympathetic Germans, ignorant Americans, and everything in between. THIS is truth. This isn’t Clint Eastwood’s fanatical fanboy version of war, this is the real and harsh and horrid. One man may be both hero and monster. Both sides believe in what they are doing. Everyone’s afraid.

Director David Ayer put his actors through a controversial process, starting with boot camp, but also forcing them to live together in the tank, encouraging them to fight each other physically on set, and hurl verbal abuse at each other, while swearing them all to absolute secrecy. Shia LeBoeuf, never a stranger to controversy himself, took things a step further, pulling out his ownfury tooth, cutting himself repeatedly, and refusing to shower for the duration of the shoot.

Did all of this make for a better movie? Certainly the tank stands in for their “home” and the crew as their “family”, with all the dysfunction and closeness and claustrophobia that brings. The violence is relentless. The tension is gut-clenching. But it’s the middle act that stabbed at me – how the Greatest Generation is merciful and merciless at war. Unfortunately, we get a little glimpse of anyone’s life pre- (or post) war and the characters feel a little one-note. Brad Pitt, kind of old to be a non-commissioned officer at this point, may also be a WW1 veteran, but in Fury, nothing outside the tank matters – or maybe they’ve just been at it so long they’ve forgotten who they used to be. Watching them go from one act of savagery to the next, it’s easy to believe that whoever they once were, they aren’t anymore. When we sent these men home (if they made it home at all), they were changed.



Available on DVD and Blu-Ray today.