One other little change. I'm trying out letter grades this time (and maybe for the forseeable future) instead of a numbered scale.
Paranormal Activity 4: When ‘Paranormal Activity’ first debuted in 2007, it gave the horror genre a much needed boost due to its effective storytelling technique and unique POV. Made at a paltry $15,000, PA ushered in the ‘new’ genre of low-budget ‘found footage’ movies (though one can certainly argue that ‘The Blair Witch Project’ did many years earlier). PA2 and PA3 followed suit with bigger budgets but somewhat less satisfactory results. Perhaps it is inevitable that the ‘law of diminishing returns’ will take a toll on the franchise; you know, the economic theory that each of your successive bite of chocolate will be less tasty and satisfying than the previous one. Although PA4 continued the PA mythology, it’s the first movie not centered on the two sisters or their immediate relatives. Told from the POV of a 15-year old cutie who communicates via webcam with her boyfriend, you do feel uncomfortably like a voyeur at times during the movie, but the pay-off at the end wasn't any worse than previous installments and leaves open the possibility for part 5. With that in mind, PA4 offered nothing new or particularly earth-shattering but simply delivered to its diehard fans more of what they expected and wanted.
Pitch Perfect: Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. No, this isn’t Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’ but ‘Pitch Perfect,’ a candy-coated guilty pleasure of a movie about the ultra-competitive world of college acapella singing. In the tradition of movies like ‘Bring It On,’ 'Stick It' and 'Drumline,' ‘Pitch Perfect’ is a witty, funny and sugary romp about an all-girl acapella group called ‘The Bellas,’ as they seek to de-throne their hated rivals and perennial champs, the all-male prima donnas of ‘The Treblemakers.’ Anchored by fine theatrical and vocal performances from alt girl-next-door Anna Kendrick and ‘fat Amy’ Rebel Wilson, the Australian scene stealer whom we first took notice of in ‘Bridesmaids,’ ‘Pitch Perfect’ is entertaining if nothing else, with enough laughs and endearing moments (as well as a few gross-out ones) to satisfy a diehard Gleek like me.
Grade: B plus
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Based on a book about the trials and tribulations of adolescence, 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' upholds the tradition of such quirky bittersweet anthems of teen angst as John Hughes’s ‘The Breakfast Club’ and Cameron Crowe’s homage to rock ‘n roll, ‘Almost Famous.’ What makes this movie truly stand out, as in the case of its predecessors, is its ensemble cast of memorable misfits played to near perfection in believable and heartfelt performances. Charlie, Sam and Patrick are outcasts so earnestly and sometimes achingly portrayed by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller that you can’t help but emphathize as they struggle with loss, love, acceptance and betrayal in their lives as not-so-typical high school kids growing up in Pittsburgh during the ‘90’s. Plus, the movie's got a nice soundtrack and pays tribute to ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' Pretty cool, huh?
Grade: A minus
Sinister: From the producer of ‘Paranormal Activity’ and ‘Insidious,’ ‘Sinister’ is the latest J-Horror style movie (as in inspired by ‘The Ring’) which relies more on haunting visuals and a slowly unfolding mystery than standard blood and gore (ho hum). That’s a good thing, because even though this movie does fall back on some familiar tricks (like shifting shadows and noises aimed to make you jump), it does have a delicious twist of an ending that some may find a bit disconcerting. The fact that I guessed it beforehand had more to do with my been-there-seen-that jadedness than due to any faults of the movie. With its slow-burning suspense, creepy atmosphere and a suitably tortured performance by Ethan Hawke, ‘Sinister’ is worth a look at least on rental.