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A beautiful tale of teen angst tops the week's movie releases.
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a heartbreaking and emotionally authentic teen drama, directed and written by Stephen Chbosky, based on his 1999 novel. It tells of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a freshman whose adjustment to high school is eased when he falls in with a crowd of social outcasts, led by step-siblings Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). Chbosky captures the pain and humor of teen life better than anyone since John Hughes' glory days, and his cast particularly Lerman (from the "Percy Jackson" films), Miller ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") and Watson (in her first big post-"Harry Potter" role) is top-notch. (Read The Cricket's interview with Chbosky and Lerman.)
The box-office battle will be between a Halloween animated story and a gritty action thriller.
"Frankenweenie" brings Tim Burton back to his roots, with a charming black-and-white stop-motion animated version of his own 1984 short film. Young Victor Frankenstein decides to revive his late and beloved dog Sparky using lightning, with strange and dangerous consequences. Burton gathers some old friends for his voice cast including Catherine O'Hara ("Beetlejuice"), Martin Short ("Mars Attacks"), Martin Landau ("Ed Wood") and Winona Ryder ("Edward Scissorhands") for a fun homage to old-fashioned monster movies.
"Taken 2" brings Liam Neeson back as the ex-spy who must use his skills when his family is kidnapped by nasty European thugs. The Cricket's colleague Vince Horiuchi reviewed the film, and found it to be a stale carbon copy of the first one.
On the art-house slate, there's "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care," a rallying cry of a documentary that neatly marshalls the arguments for why the U.S. health-care system needs fixing. (Hint: The first step is reforming campaign finance.)
Lastly, there's "Butter," an atrocious political satire set in the world of butter-carving competitions. The characters from the trophy Republican (Jennifer Garner) to the saintly orphan (Zara Shahidi) are flat stereotypes, and the humor is shrill and predictable.
Watch "Means on Movies," with clips of some of these films, by clicking on the video link above.