Chronicle


Chronicle

Dane DeHaan wants a Ferrari and he wants it NOW!!!!

(2012) Superhero (20th Century Fox) Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, Anna Wood, Rudi Malcolm, Luke Tyler, Crystal-Donna Roberts, Adrian Collins, Grant Powell, Armand Aucamp, Nicole Bailey. Directed by Joshua Trank

 

The saying goes absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that is true even of people in the best of positions. When it comes to teenagers, they are still developing their value system and their moral compass is still under construction. That’s not a knock, that’s just how people grow – some may develop sooner than others but for the most part most teens are just kind of making their own way through the best they can. Making mistakes is part of growing up; but when you have super powers, those mistakes become amplified exponentially.

Andrew (DeHaan) is a bit of a loner. His mom Karen (Petersen) is slowly dying, her lungs eaten up by cancer. His father Richard (Kelly) is a former firefighter who is out on permanent disability and copes with the family’s financial ruin and impending death of his wife by drinking and beating up his son who is a disappointment to him.

Andrew copes by documenting everything on an ancient video camera he’s found – why I’m not really sure except a desire to relive every moment of his teenage years’ misery when he gets older. He has few friends at school, let alone a girlfriend. He’s not a bad kid but he’s clearly troubled.

His only friend is his cousin Matt (Russell) who is smart and outgoing although a bit socially awkward himself. He reads books of philosophy, quotes Plato and Schopenhauer and ferries his cousin around to school. Living in the Seattle area, cars are a must unless you’re fond of getting soaking wet in the frequent rainstorms.

Matt drags Andrew to a rave and Andrew decides to go, camera in tow. Predictably he gets bullied and goes outside to sit, despondent. Matt’s friend Steve (Jordan), a popular athlete running for student body president finds Andrew and brings him to a mysterious hole in the ground that he and Matt found. Matt wants Andrew to take pictures of it; the three go down into the hole and find…something.

Three weeks later that something has started developing telekinesis – the ability to move objects with the power of the mind – and their powers are growing stronger and stronger. At first it’s a big goof for the three of them, moving a leaf blower to send an updraft up the skirts of cheerleaders, or bringing a stuffed animal to life to terrify a young girl in a toy store (boys will be boys and sometimes they’re jerks, to paraphrase something Martin Zellar once sang).

Soon though Andrew’s inner rage (as the bullying intensifies as does his mother’s illness and his father’s abuse) begins to burn through and he is rapidly becoming the most powerful of the three of them. An incident causes Matt to establish some rules – no using the powers in anger, on humans or in public, all of which Andrew will soon violate.

This is Trank’s first feature film and he’s already being considered for the high profile Fox reboot of Fantastic Four. He is very successful with taking a movie in the found footage genre and augmenting it with some pretty nifty special effects (although some of the flying sequences look patently green screened with harnesses). The script by Max Landis (son of veteran filmmaker John Landis, the man behind An American Werewolf in London and National Lampoon’s Animal House as well as Michael Jackson’s Thriller video) is smart and authentic. Not only are these high school boys who talk like high school boys (perhaps only Diablo Cody is as good with young people dialogue) but they act like them too. Full of mischief, a little bit of cruelty and plenty of insecurity yet absolutely sure they are the top of the human food chain – yup, just like every teenager I’ve ever met – or the one I used to be.

The movie could easily have taken the easy route and just had three kids becoming Gods with all sorts of wisdom and benevolence and become Superman or even Spider-Man but instead their powers play into their issues and their inexperience leads to tragic circumstances.

DeHaan is the lead here and he does the best job artistically – he has much more to work with in a lot of ways as the troubled boy who slowly comes to realize that he doesn’t have to take anybody’s crap anymore. Still, I think the handsome Russell may wind up with the most success later on down the line – he has that movie star charisma and looks that studios find irresistible. Don’t be surprised if he gets a franchise role somewhere down the line and not too far, either. Ditto for Jordan who has an easy charm and might do real well in some Tyler Perry-like comedies for a younger audience.

Hinshaw as a v-blogger who captures Matt’s attention and Wood as a classmate of Andrew’s who decides to take his virginity after a successful talent show appearance (augmented by his powers) are both nice eye candy but not really called upon to stretch their talents very much. Hopefully we’ll see them do just that in some juicier roles eventually.

This was a bit of a surprise I have to admit – judging on the trailer I expected another teen-centric found footage piece that would grab the high school audience but not much more; quite frankly I thought this was a solid movie with broad appeal and certainly a nice showcase for both Trank and Landis, who I believe have awfully promising careers ahead. There’s actually some stuff to think about here along with the strictly visceral appeal – and that’s a win for a broader audience anyday.

REASONS TO GO: The teens act like teens. Some impressive effects work despite the budget.

REASONS TO STAY: More than its share of angst.

FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence, a few cuss words, some sexuality, teen drinking and some of the themes here are pretty sophisticated for the Nickelodeon set.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Anna Wood, whose character makes out with Andrew in the film, is Dane DeHaan’s girlfriend in real life.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/15/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 86% positive reviews. Metacritic: 69/100. The reviews are raves.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Cloverfield

RAIN LOVERS: It rains all the time in Seattle, dude. It rains here a lot too.

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

TOMORROW: Man On a Ledge

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Four-Warned: February 2012


February 2012

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. THE VOW (1.4)
2. GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (1.5)
3. CHRONICLE (1.6)
4. THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE FAIRY (1.5)
2. THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (1.8)
3. CIRKUS COLUMBIA (2.1)
TIE. ON THE ICE (2.1)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

FEBRUARY 3, 2012

BIG MIRACLE (Universal) Genre: Family. An Alaskan town races to save a family of whales trapped by the ice. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 On paper sounds maudlin but the trailer looks very good and John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore look like a great team.
CHRONICLE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Science Fiction. Three high school kids make a startling discovery that leads to them developing superpowers and with great power comes great…ego. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6. Uses the conceit that the kids capture their power growth on video; yeah, the next superhero shows up on YouTube.
THE INNKEEPERS (Magnet) Genre: Supernatural Horror. As a 100-year-old inn prepares to close, two of their employees attempt to prove it’s one of the most haunted hotels in New England; and they’re wicked right. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 An intriguing premise and haunted house stories usually pique my interest but the trailer didn’t really grab me.
KILL LIST (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A hitman going for a big score on three related hits slowly begins to unravel. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Could be really good but trailer looks a bit too low-key.
SPLINTERS (SnagFilms) Genre: Documentary. How a surfboard left behind in a remote village in Papua New Guinea led to a rise in indigenous surfing. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles February 17th). RATING: 3.1 I’m still not sure how inspiring this is but it does look potentially fascinating.
W.E. (Weinstein) Genre: Romance. A modern New York City woman who idolizes Wallis Simpson, whose love inspired King Edward VII of Great Britain to abdicate his throne, finds out the ultimate love story was rockier than she thought. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 I like the premise but from the trailer I think the movie might have been miscast.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK (CBS) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A young lawyer in the 19th century gone to wrap up a deceased client’s affairs ends up embroiled in a supernatural mystery. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Potter project looks to be scary as all get out.

FEBRUARY 8, 2012

THE MINERS’ HYMNS (Icarus) Genre: Documentary. Archival footage of British miners is set to stark, stirring music by composer Johann Johannsson. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 I’m kind of on the fence about this one; could be amazing, could be pointless.

FEBRUARY 10, 2012

CHICO AND RITA (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. A pianist and a singer in 1948 Cuba find solace from their turbulent relationship in jazz. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Very stylized animation, not necessarily my cup of tea – but the movie looks oddly intriguing.
IN DARKNESS (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A sewer worker in Nazi-occupied Poland encounters Jewish refugees in the sewers; what started as a cynical business arrangement becomes an inspiring fight for survival. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.2 The trailer does not help the cause of this film.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (New Line) Genre: Family Adventure. The young teen who previously journeyed to the center of the earth to find his dad recruits his step-dad to help him find his grandfather. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 2.9 This family sure needs to put locators on their members – but the Rock is in this so it’s all good.
KUNG FU JOE (Indican) Genre: Spoof. An unjustly convicted special forces commando hunted by the government turned private eye turns his martial arts skills on a gang of bizarre individuals intent on world domination through doughnuts. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 The trailer was…not inspiring, grasshopper.
PERFECT SENSE (IFC) Genre: Thriller. An epidemiologist struggles with a strange disease that affects emotions and then the senses as well as a love affair. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Sounds a bit like Blindness only on a bigger scale.
RAMPART (Millennium) Genre: Crime Drama. A brutal, homophobic, racist, misogynist cop sees his life begin to unravel after a corruption scandal rocks the LAPD. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Woody Harrelson looks to be delivering a career-best performance here.
RETURN (Dada) Genre: Drama. A female soldier experiences disassociation upon returning home from her tour of duty. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Most “returning home from war” films revolve around male soldiers; this should be interesting viewing.
SAFE HOUSE (Universal) Genre: Thriller. A CIA safe house operative becomes embroiled in a deadly game of cat and mouse when the most notorious turncoat in Agency history becomes his house guest. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Here is a part tailor-made for Denzel Washington; looks like one of February’s keepers.
STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D (20th Century Fox) Genre: Science Fiction. The Star Wars saga gets the 3D upgrade treatment as the first of the six films is released in sequential order. Release Strategy: Wide (3D). RATING: 4.0 The worst of the Star Wars films and there is simply no way I would pay an upcharge to see it again.
THE TURIN HORSE (The Cinema Guild) Genre: Drama. When Nietzsche saves a dray horse from being cruelly beaten, it sets into motion the Apocalypse. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.5 Said to be the last film of influential Hungarian director Bela Tarr, the movie is shot in only 30 long takes. No teenager will ever be able to sit through this movie.
THE VOW (Screen Gems) Genre: Romance. When a car accident causes a woman to lose all her memory from the past five years, her new husband sets out to get her to fall in love with him all over again. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Based on a true story, this one is going to get women all over the world turning to their mates, smacking them on the shoulder and bemoaning “Why can’t you be like him”?!

FEBRUARY 14, 2012

ALL THINGS FALL APART (Image) Genre: Sports Drama. A star football player copes with the stresses of family, relationships and a deadly disease. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Has a kind of direct-to-cable movie of the week quality in the trailer; its already been broadcast on BET.
BUZZKILL (Indiecan) Genre: Comedy. A struggling writer finds fame when a serial killer steals his car with his latest book in it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Looks unfunny and somewhat depressing – and not in a good way.
THIS MEANS WAR (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action Comedy. Two expert spies begin an escalating conflict over the same woman. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 I suppose I’d go to war over Reese Witherspoon myself.

FEBRUARY 15, 2012

MICHAEL (Strand) Genre: Psychological Thriller. A mild-mannered insurance agent is hiding a 10-year-old boy in his basement. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks incredibly disturbing judging by the trailer.

FEBRUARY 16, 2012

RE: GENERATION MUSIC PROJECT (D&E Entertainment) Genre: Musical Documentary. Five DJs look to remix music alien to their way of thinking and create a new kind of hybrid. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Remix is an art form that has never connected with me.

FEBRUARY 17, 2012

BULLHEAD (Drafthouse) Genre: Crime Drama. A cattle farmer with ties to organized crime comes face to face with the consequences of his decisions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 I never knew there was a bovine steroids mafia but now I do.
CIRCUS COLUMBIA (Strand) Genre: Drama. An exiled Bosnian returns to his native land on the eve of the Bosnian War, only to discover it was not the land he left. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 The trailer had laughs, pathos and a serious examination of the Thomas Hardy equation – is it true that you can never go home again.
GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (Columbia) Genre: Comic Book Superhero. Johnny Blaze comes out of hiding to save a child who might be the next Antichrist. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.5 I thought the first movie was a bit underrated; this one looks better.
ON THE ICE (PMK*BNC) Genre: Suspense. An argument between three Inuit boys leads to tragedy, deceit and upheaval. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks a little teen angst-y but still could be a very strong film.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (Disney) Genre: Anime. A family of tiny people living under the floorboards are discovered by humans. Based on the classic children’s book The Borrowers. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 The latest from Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli isn’t exciting me as their movies usually do.
THIN ICE (ATO) Genre: Thriller. A Midwestern insurance agent gets caught up in a scam for which the stakes continue to escalate. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks like a cross between Fargo and Killshot.
UNDEFEATED (Weinstein) Genre: Documentary. The 2009 Manassas HS Tigers of Memphis attempt to go from laughing stocks to an undefeated season for the first time in school history. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Hasn’t gotten a lot of press but the trailer looks impressive.

FEBRUARY 24, 2012

ACT OF VALOR (Relativity) Genre: Action. A team of Navy SEALs race against time to prevent a terrorist attack on American soil. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Using active duty SEALs as actors in the cast seems a trifle gimmicky but if done right could be fascinating.
THE FAIRY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Comic Fantasy. A young man working the night shift is visited by a young woman claiming to be a fairy who grants him two wishes. When she disappears, the love-struck man decides to go and find her. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 Looks droll but charming, a cross between Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton.
THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. An Albanian family is caught up in a blood feud, forcing a clash between ancient traditions and modern law. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 Terrific concept, looks like it could be an amazing film.
GONE (Summit) Genre: Thriller. A young woman who escaped a serial killer a year discovers her sister has been kidnapped by the same killer which the police don’t believe; she will have to rescue her sister herself. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Amanda Seyfried in what looks to be a version of Kiss the Girls.
HIPSTERS (Leisure Time) Genre: Musical. A disaffected Moscow youth circa 1955 discovers American-influenced jazz in the underground clubs of Soviet Russia. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.9 Highly stylized, sort of like a Russian Glee.
JODI BREAKERS (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A man who specializes in breaking up bad romances falls in love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Like many Bollywood extravaganzas, combines romance with music and plenty of cheese on the side.
TYLER PERRY’S GOOD DEEDS (Lionsgate) Genre: Urban Romance. A scion of a wealthy family who always did what was expected of him breaks ranks to help a single homeless mom. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 Tyler Perry is really good at what he does – but I just haven’t been able to connect to any of his films as of yet.
WANDERLUST (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A new Judd Apatow comedy about a well-off couple that is forced to relocate after being downsized and win up at a commune. Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd make a charming couple.

FEBRUARY 29, 2012

THIS IS NOT A FILM (Palisades Tartan) Genre: Documentary. An Iranian director, confined to house arrest and banned from making films, documents waiting in his apartment while awaiting word on the appeal of his sentence. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 The raw footage was taken on a cell phone and digital video camera which were smuggled from Teheran to Paris in a cake.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Big Miracle, Chronicle, W.E., Journey 2: Mysterious Island, Safe House, Undefeated, The Vow, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, This Means War, Act of Valor, Gone, Wanderlust

New Releases for the Week of February 3, 2012


February 3, 2012

CHRONICLE

(20th Century Fox) Dave DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, Anna Wood, Rudi Malcolm, Luke Tyler, Crystal-Donna Roberts. Directed by Joshua Trank

A group of three high school buddies, as modern high school kids will, set out to document every little thing they do on video. This includes the discovery of something phenomenal – something that gives them amazing, incredible powers. At first this is just super-cool. I mean, like, they pwn the world, dude. But like middle-aged movie critics who try to sound young and hip, things go bad. The old saying of absolute power corrupts absolutely apparently isn’t in the curriculum at their high school because slowly it does things to their heads as well.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking)

Big Miracle

(Universal) Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kirsten Bell, Ted Danson. Based on a true story, this is about how rival superpowers put aside their differences to free a family of trapped gray whales near the tiny town of Point Barrow, Alaska. The essentials really took place in 1988 in an effort that was nicknamed Operation Breakthrough.

See the trailer, clips, featurettes, an interview and web-only content here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Family

Rating: PG (for language)

The Woman in Black

(CBS) Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Roger Allam.  Radcliffe begins his post-Potter career with a spooky period horror film. Here he plays a 19th century lawyer gone to settle a late client’s affairs and must journey to the home of the client to go through his papers. While there, strange occurrences and visions of a woman clothed all in black makes him uneasy, a situation not improved by the tight-lipped locals. Working to discover the truth to the tragic circumstances of the woman, he finds himself caught in a terrifying situation when he discovers what her intentions really are.

See the trailer, promos and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material and violence/disturbing images)