"Chronicle" (2012)

Chronicle (2012)
Directed by: Josh Trank
Running time: 84 minutes.

Now Showing is back after my sweet holiday at the Great Barrier Reef with my first review of a movie that had its first cinematic release during 2012! That’s right, I braved sharks and I’m still here to rant and rave about the movies that are screening at your local cinema or available at your nearest DVD shop. It would take a lot more than an reef full of sharks to prevent me from throwing my movie going opinions in people’s faces! But enough about that, let’s get down to business!

Now Showing this week is the film Chronicle, directed by industry new-comer Josh Trank. Chronicle is a “found-footage” film (man, I have a soft spot for those don’t I?) about three American teenagers who discover a weird-glowing-possibly-alien-or-possibly-experimental-military thing buried behind a high school rave party and inexplicably gain superpowers; specifically telekinesis. Once discovered, they go right ahead and muck around with their new abilities, rapidly growing in strength. But what they initially take as a blessing slowly starts to become extremely dangerous as they get more and more powerful…

I suppose the massive elephant in the room with this movie is that fact that it is a found-footage movie, and everyone seems to be really sick of those kinds of movies. And I understand why, it is a film convention that can fall flat on its face, especially when the filmmakers can’t find a good reason for the characters to happen to be filming these events. The latter Paranormal Activity suffer from this very much. When the more climactic or mundane situations get, the more we have to suspend our disbelief that the main characters would bother to keep recording. Some found-footage films can pull it off; the original Paranormal Activity was all about two people wanting to document a ghost, The Blair Witch Project again was about a group of people wanting to make a documentary about a legend in a forest so of course they want to record all their findings. But Chronicle was very hit and miss in this area of the genre. The main character Andrew starts the film by recording his abusive father threatening to hurt him, which made sense; I mean it’s recorded evidence that he could use against him. But then he states to him “I’m filming everything now,” and then goes on to film/cough-establish-to-the-audience-cough his school, cousin, his dying mother and his awful life. It was just so clunky and expositional, that he just suddenly decided to document his whole life for no real reason.

Speaking of clunky and expositional, I would go so far as to say that the whole beginning of this film was just boring. Like, Hugo boring (that’s right Margaret and David, come get me!). As soon as the main character was established as a “I’m a depressed, loner/outcast teenager whose life just sucks” character I just stopped caring. He wasn’t an outcast due to the usual reasons people are outcast at schools, you know, for not playing football or being intelligent or not being a complete douche-bag; he was an outcast because he had this weird fixation of just filming people around him and I could fully understand why people wouldn’t want to be around him. It’s not a reason for other people to pick on him or physically hurt him like they do (but we all know that all high school-ers are jerks) but it would make me very uncomfortable so I had no empathy for the guy. Again, I just didn’t care. Couple this lack of caring with the sheer silliness of the fact that there happened to be an alien/military/never explained device buried near the school rave that happened to give them super powers and it made for a very crappy introduction. Sure there were some character development moments that became relevant later but all in all it was just terrible.

But once we got past the terrible opening act, the movie suddenly became awesome! Once the movie had tripped and stumbled over the hurdle of getting three teenagers (Andrew, his cousin and the really popular guy in school) to gain telekinetic superpowers, it became interesting. The most interesting thing about the movie was that it didn’t simply go down the road that most “someone gains superpowers” movies do, that is that they realise they must use their powers to stop criminals ala Spiderman, X-Men, Green Lantern and Fantastic Four. Instead the boys do what any real boy would do: use their powers to commit pranks and play around. They mess with people’s minds, they learn to fly and play football at thirty seven thousand feet, they use their powers to put on the most amazing magic show anyone had ever seen, they do all the things I reckon I would do if I suddenly gain telekinesis. And that was just so entertaining, it was different; and different is good. I won’t spoil where the film goes, but it also explores the negative side of giving these kids such power and it was actually an interesting exploration.

Finally, I must tip my hat off to the special effects in the movie. Some of them were amazing! You could tell a few of them were low budget and seemed a bit fake, but all of that was forgiven after the climatic final scene of the film. It was a scene that rivals any superpower charged finale in the likes of the movies I listed above and does so from the varying perspectives of handicams, security cameras, mobile phones and news-helicopters. Let’s just say, it was awesome.

So if you have a taste for a very different “superhero” movie then I’d recommend you check this out. Don’t let the horrible opening act put you off; once it’s over the movie will spark your interest. It’s a good little film that came out of nowhere, and made by some decent new talent. That’s always good to see! But seriously Josh Trank, make a better opening next time, I won’t let you off the hook again.

See you next time!

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"Hugo" (2011)

Hugo (2011)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Running time: 126 minutes

Just as a quick mention first up, also Now Showing this week is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I feel I can summarise it as: yeah, it’s alright. A few hilarious moments, some awesome action sequences but the acknowledgement of the villain straight from the beginning, combined with the total lack of mystery with a simple terrorist plot, and you’ve got an average sequel to a good movie. Oh and also, Robert Downey Jnr’s blank-faced-yet-quirky-demeanor grew tiring by the end; so in the end I would say I had a good time, but it was an underwhelming experience.

And speaking of underwhelming experiences!

Now Showing this week is Hugo, a 3D film directed by film making veteran Martin Scorsese. Hugo (without spoiling too much) tells the story of a little orphan surprisingly named Hugo who lives inside the walls of a train station in Paris back in some unspecified time period that one assumes is past at least the first World War but also during some period of history when the world looked like a magical fairytale as well. Hugo is surviving by stealing his food from the merchants of the train station and is also collecting clockwork parts in order to repair an automaton that he and his father were working on prior to his death. The automaton is designed to write and Hugo believes it will write a message that was meant for his father. However, a grouchy clockwork merchant (Sir Ben Kingsley, naming his character would spoil the film) is angered on discovering Hugo is fixing this automaton, and Hugo is keen to find out why…

Let me begin with a positive note that this film looks more gorgeous than Yvonne Strahovski wearing nothing but floral paint (it’s out there, Google it). The colour schemes and the way the CGI locations blend with the actors is very beautiful to behold. Lots of gold and blue combine together to make a very shiny and majestic yet incredibly cold Parisian landscape. Also the 3D effects are actually quite good, which is rare in this day and age, some of the huge panning shots through the city were wonderful. Having said all this however, all these elements had me captivated for about the first ten minutes of this two hour film and I was hoping the narrative events would sustain me…..

Yeah, no.

Bored. That’s exactly how I would describe myself during the first two-thirds of this film: bored. My initial curiosity towards the automaton and Ben Kingsley’s mysterious hatred for it’s construction evaporated very quickly when the clunky exposition and the boring lead characters kicked in. Hugo and his cohort Isabelle are just uninteresting and are basically caricatures of the stock standard children’s film heroes: the young, “I love adventures” kind of children that seem unaffected by their down trodden landscape. In fact, the entire film (or at least the opening two-thirds) feels like the kind of film that would be a fantastic adventure for children but is outright boring for adults. Even Sacha Baron Cohen’s “villain” The Station Inspector is a classic trashy kid’s movie villain as he is practically not threatening and Hugo constantly foils him by making him slip over or end up in an awkward posture. And even Hugo’s father’s death was just pathetically stupid. Such a pivotal point in Hugo’s back story is made up of Jude Law simply opening a door in a museum and a really badly animated ball of fire engulfing the camera, then suddenly cut to Hugo’s uncle walk into the house and say “There was a fire, your father is dead.” I don’t know about anyone else who likes to use their brain to understand events that transpire, but what caused the fire? Giant fire balls don’t just happen you know, something must have happened! But the point, the important point, here is that all of this would not have phased me when I was a child and I watched films like this. A child would love this film, but I cannot understand why an adult would.

Back on the irritation of Hugo and Isabelle, it is really them that make this film such a stupid children’s film. They have simplistic logic and that somehow gets them by in this world. And the film itself adopts this stupid logic to push the story along! A certain man suddenly disregards his life belief that Ben Kingsley is dead simply because two random children tell him “because it’s true.” What kind of evidence is that?! These children are strangers to him and he is a scholar, and they are CHILDREN! I can understand leaps of faith, but come on people.

Anyway, the last third of the film picked up a little and became a semi-touching tale of the beauty of the visual arts. But the payoff is barely worth the boring opening two-thirds. I don’t know what the hell happened with this film critically, I think I must have seen a different movie to what everyone else saw.

See you next time!