Chronicle is one of those films that just comes out of nowhere and slaps you over the head. The marketing for the film has been low key and mostly of the “viral” variety. A tumblr showcased Chronicle art by fans and artists; while /film reports that the film hired a marketing company to fly 3 people-shaped remote-controlled planes around some New York Bridges. The trailor while giving some indication of what we might see in the film, remains quite vague and shows jumbled-up clips from all over the film. The result of all of this is that you go into Chronicle a little intrigued with only a fleeting idea what you might see.
Is Chronicle a found-footage film, an supernatural film, an action, a dark comedy, a family drama, a tale of friendships? Chronicle is in fact a really interesting and unique combination of all of these. It’s a small budget film with big budget results.
The film centres around social outcast Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who comes from a rough home with a mother who is dying and an abusive alcoholic father. Andrew takes to recording everything on video, and it is through his recording that we gain a sense of how truly desperate his life is. Bullied and cast out at every turn - he is the portrait of an unhappy and marginalised teenager.
It is when he is out videotaping that he is asked to film something which his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), and Matt’s popular friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) have discovered. Through this discovery the three boys gain superhuman powers, and from there the film follows them as they learn both how to use their powers and how to live with them. What starts of as innocent fun and pranks, soon escalates into something more serious; and for one boy it becomes something rather dark indeed.
While there are plenty of found-footage films out there, this one stands out as a very well executed one. The footage is largely shot by Andrew, who uses the camera as somewhat of a security blanket between him and the world around him. At times the footage is extremely shaky and all over the place, while other times it is perfectly still and very raw. The film also employs the use of other cameras such as CCTV, security cameras, and that of the rather too convenient video-blogger Casey (Ashley Hinslaw) as sources of footage. At times the film’s need to show everything as “found-footage” seems needless and draws you out of the film.
It is the engaging and interesting characters which add the extra dimension to this found-footage film. This is not often found in other films in the genre, which often just focus on scares and not story. Andrew is such a broken person, and your heart just aches for him because you understand the root of his issues. Dane DeHaan must be given credit for his extremely strong performance. Michael B. Jordan (known for Friday Night Lights & The Wire) delivers a charismata performance as the very likeable Steve; while Matt is the boy-nextdoor type of guy who is the glue that holds the three of them together. The chemistry between the three is fantastic; the more comedic scenes are particularly strong and will have you smiling.
Chronicle could easily be a film preaching about the pitfalls of power, or a moralistic film where the characters decide to use their powers to fight some type of evil or wrong. Instead Chronicle is ultimately a character-centred film which employs the found-footage technique (to mostly successful results) to tell the story. While the film languishes in the second half and some of the sources of the footage is slightly absurd, it is a high-energy, engaging film which can be counted amongst the highest quality films in the found-footage genre. It must be also be added that it is awesome fun to watch.
Chronicle opens in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and other countries on Febraury 2nd.
A silent black and white film in the age of 3D and IMAX cinema!? The Artist is certainly a novelty, but thankfully it is a beautifully made and perfectly executed one.
The film follows George (Jean Dujardin) the star of the quickly fading silent film era as he struggles with the arrival of the “talkies” film revolution. While still in a star, George meets fan and aspiring actress Peppy (Bérénice Bejo) who he unintentionally gives a huge boost in her realising her dreams -in turn quickening his own demise. However, Peppy never forgets George, and throughout her rise to stardom she does everything she can to help the man she admires above all.
The themes in this film are as old as the medium itself - the rise of one person and the fall of another, the reality of one’s dreams, and change. The theme of feeling left behind as a younger model moves in is universal. You can’t help feel sad for George, but at the same time frustrated that he won’t help himself and embrace the new revolution in film. One scene shows George descending the stairs inside the film company, while Peppy and a young preppy looking man ascend the stars at the same time; a slightly blunt but perfect representation of the story.
Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are receiving much praise for their performances, and it is praise that is well deserved. Dujardin is the definitive image the dashing lead of films past. His luminous smile and expressive eyes really convey what words do not. Bejo is delightful and full of energy, which almost dances of the screen. Praise also must be given to the excellent supporting cast which includes John Goodman as the film studio boss and James Cromwell as Dujardin’s long-time companion and driver. The lovely dog Jack (Uggie) will have you swooning and going “awwww”.
The film cannot be faulted in its construction. The score successfully coveys the mood of the film and draws the audience into the story. The cinematography is superb, and the old fashioned fade-out cuts are very reminiscent of film editing from another era. All who see the film will not be able to disagree that it is a visual delight and a joy to watch
In the same way which Martin Scorsese’s Hugo can been seen as an ode to cinema, this too is very much a celebration of the cinematic arts and history. While director Michel Hazanavicius states he made the film a silent film because it suited the story, one can’t help but think that this is very much a statement that the old styles of film making can still be relevant and enjoyed. At a time when digital film is slowly pushing out 35mm, this film is rather timely, and the messages certainly resonate.
The Artist is a delightful film which a story that will be understood across all cultures, ages, and languages. Ultimately your enjoyment of the film will depend on your ability to abandon yourself to the nostalgia and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The Artist opens in Australia on February 2nd and in New Zealand on February 9th.
Too many films and not enough time! As I don’t have the time (nor the motivation) for full reviews, here are some brief thoughts on some of the films I’ve seen this week. Full reviews may come at a later date. Enjoy!
In cinemas now
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy -dir. Tomas Alfredson
This film epitomises the term ‘a slow burn’. A beautifully shot film which follows Gary Oldman as he is tasked with finding the mole within the upper echelons of MI6. Oldman is supported by his right-hand man, played marvelously by Benedict Cumberbatch in this complicated unravelling of lies and deceit. The ensemble cast is incredible and contains a number of great performances from the likes of Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong. The world created in the film is picture-perfect Cold War era Britain, and the muted tones really add to the depressing grey feeling. The atmospheric (and Academy Award nominated) score completes the package. Tinker Tailor isn’t for everyone though. You need to concentrate and be happy with words as weapons rather than big gun fights or chase scenes. A more thrilling film cannot be found in cinemas currently.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actor (GaryOldman), Best Adapted Screen Play, Best Original Score
The Descendants - dir. Alexander Payne
George Clooney plays a Hawaiian lawyer and land baron whose wife ends up in a coma after a boating accident. Clooney, the “second parent” is forced to take care of his daughters and deal with some serious and seriously dark family matters. The stars of the film are the two daughters played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller. They both react to their mother’s situation and related fallout in a completely believable and raw way. Nic Krause adds some much needed comic relief as Woodley’s seemingly bumbling friend. The film plods along at the same pace as the Hawaiian music which plays in the background during a large percentage of the film. While beautifully shot and well-written, the film often fails to connect. The slow pace and the way Clooney’s character treats his wife’s condition and his actions while she is in the coma seem shallow and unrealistic. A lovely film that is just missing something that is hard to pin down.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actor (George Clooney), Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Muppets - dir. James Bobin
If you want a truly family film which will put a smile on the faces of all (big and small), then this is the film for you. An absolutely delightful tale of The Muppets’ fight to keep their studio from being claimed by an evil oil baron, and to be relevant again in the pop culture world. From catchy new songs, to wonderful nostalgic songs - you will be singing, you will be smiling, you will not be able to get them out of your head. If the Muppets themselves don’t amuse you enough, then the great cameos will. My personal favourite is Jim Pearson - keep an eye out for him. NZers should also look out for a muppet named ‘Lew Zealand’. The feel good film of the summer!
Academy Award Nominations: Best Original Song (‘Man or Muppet’ - Bret Mckenzie).
Coming to cinemas in April 2012:
The Deep Blue Sea -dir. Terrance Davies
A drama adapted from the popular Terence Rattigan classic play, set in post-war Britain. Rachel Weisz stars as Hester, a woman married to a wealthy judge who falls in love with an ex navel officer. The film follows Hester as she grapples with these feelings and deals with the consequences of her decisions. The film is a rather gloomy one. Post-war Britain was a tough place to be, and the colours and cinematography in this film reflect it. The film delves into many of the prominent themes and feelings surrounding love: desire, lust, duty, regret; and it does so in quite a powerful way. Weisz gives her all in this role and exposes the character’s every emotion for all to see. The film does suffer at times from some over-baring music and extended scenes involving groups of people singing en masse, and may have benefited by being slightly shorter.
Available to rent/own
I Saw The Devil - dir. Kim Ji-Woon
The revenge film to top all other revenge films. If you thought Japanese horror/thriller was frightening, then you haven’t seen anything yet. The film follows cop Byung-hun Lee who decides to hunt down a serial killer who murders (in the most horrific manner) his fiancée. As Byung-hun Lee is sucked deeper into his revenge mission, the line between the devil and the hero becomes increasingly blurred. What goes on in this film is too horrific to write down. Not only is it graphic, but it is honest-to-god scary. The film is beautifully made and wonderfully put together. Make sure you watch with a friend and/or the lights on.
The Hangover Part Two - dir. Todd Phillips
If you have seen the first film then you have seen this film. If you haven’t seen the first film, you should go and watch that instead. It is the same film but set in Thailand with a smoking monkey instead of a tiger, and some ladyboys with their goods out. There isn’t a single laugh in this film; it couldn’t even be considered mindless fun. It’s just mindless
Underworld: Awakening is the 4th film in the Underworld franchise, which sees Kate Beckinsale reprise her role as the sleek vampire Seline. Seline awakes to find she has been cryogenically frozen for the previous 12 years. During this time the humans have attempted to cleanse their world of vampires and Lycans and are very much the dominant species again.
From here the story doesn’t really matter because there really isn’t much of one, and who goes to see these films for the storyline anyway? It’s best not to worry about the story too much, because if you do you will not be able to ignore the giant plot holes which litter the film.
The film is really a sequence of action scenes punctuated by awfully delivered wooden dialogue. The dialogue is so bad that it really takes you out of the film and kills any atmosphere of fear or danger which had been present. While the dialogue is terrible, the acting isn’t much better. Beckinsale can kick some serious ass, but the minute she opens her mouth the facade of her as a formidable vampire is gone
Thankfully the action scenes which make up much of the film are quite impressive. The Lycans are spectacularly ugly creatures, reminiscent of mutated Orcs, and the action scenes involving them are high-paced and rather gruesome. There are enough action scenes to keep the most serious of action nuts entertained. Vampires, Humans, Lycans -everyone is fighting everyone. It’s a little hard to keep track of who we are supposed to be cheering for.
Much like the previous films the colours in this film are variations of blue, black, and grey; the film does a fairly decent job of creating a depressing and gloomy world. For fans of the franchise, it may be worth paying the extra to see this in IMAX. The size of the IMAX screen allows the audience to follow the often crowded and busy action scenes much easier than a smaller sized screen would. The 3D is neither here nor there. A few action sequences benefit from the effects, but otherwise it doesn’t add much.
Fans of the franchise and those looking for wall-to-wall action will love this film. Those looking for an action film with an interesting story are likely to be quite disappointed.
Underworld: Awakening opens in Australia and New Zealand on Thursday 26th January.