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Chronicle (2012)

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Chronicle (2012)Starring Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw

Directed by Josh Trank


As far as debut feature films go, director Josh Trank has set the bar incredibly high with his efforts on Chronicle, which crash lands in theaters this weekend like a breath of fresh air that should hopefully silence many of the found footage naysayers out there who argue that there’s nothing compelling about the technique as a storytelling device. In fact, Chronicle somehow manages to defy the odds while blending together two very basic and well-worn cinematic concepts (superhero and found footage flicks) with exhilarating and often jaw-dropping results.

In Chronicle we meet social outcast Andrew Detmer (DeHaan), who is dealing with a whole mess of problems- he’s regularly bullied at high school, his mother is dying and Andrew’s abusive alcoholic father (Kelly) can’t afford the medical bills so he takes his frustrations out on his son during violent outbursts. The only way Andrew can deal with the pain is by filming his whole life with a new camera, thereby detaching himself from the rest of the world while he hides behind the lens.

One night at a random house party, our sullen protagonist’s life changes forever when he, his cousin Matt (Russell) and social butterfly and aspiring politician Steve (Jordan) discover a mysterious hole in the ground and go inside for a closer look; and as you can imagine, that’s when Chronicle really takes off.

From there on out the movie uses the universal superhero template to tell Andrew’s story; we see how the awkward shy kid that life usually takes a dump on comes to discover that he may possibly be the most powerful being in the world, and through his new kinship with Matt and Steve, it looks like poor Andrew might just be able to find some happiness after all. We see the three friends explore their powers through a series of hilarious tests (dancing teddy bears in toy stores, moving parked cars at the mall, flying around in the clouds and dodging planes) but as the three young men’s powers grow stronger, not everything goes to plan, and like Harvey Dent said in The Dark Knight, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Soon enough, the trio of friends begin to struggle with just how far they should take their newfound powers, and as a rift starts to build among them, Chronicle takes some dark turns in the third act, eventually building to a stunning and deadly showdown between good and evil. And while the set-up of Chronicle‘s final fight sequence may seem rather derivative if you’ve ever seen a superhero movie in your life, Trank smartly plays on that and throws viewers into some terrifying camera perspectives, which heightens everything beyond anything you’ve ever experienced from a “final showdown” between hero and supervillain ever before.

With Chronicle telling the story from Andrew’s camera’s perspective for the most part, it makes the found footage aspect of the movie work, and when you add special abilities into the mix, that allows for a lot more camera freedom that you don’t often see in this subgenre. We also get a lot of the third act of Chronicle shown to us through various other formats, including security camera footage, spectators’ phones, news footage and aerial footage from police choppers, which also makes the flick unique. By opening up the footage like that, director Trank is distancing himself from the old “mysterious last recordings” shenanigans that a lot of other movies tend to rely on. And intentional or not, it seems like Trank and screenwriter Max Landis are also making their commentary on technology’s intrusion into society, which I felt was rather clever as well.

At a perfect running time of 83 minutes, Chronicle manages to work in a lot of plot without ever getting too muddled and is anchored by incredible performances all around. Generally, younger actors never seem to resonate with me these days, but DeHaan, Russell and Jordan are all outstanding in the film and have a natural chemistry together. Kelly is downright scary as Andrew’s bitter and angry drunk of a father, and as a love interest for Matt, Hinshaw’s performance as Casey left a surprisingly strong impression on me even if her screentime is limited in the flick.

For those of you out there who have given up on found footage or superhero movies, seeing Chronicle should restore your faith in both subgenres as Trank and his debut film both defy the odds here by giving audiences an experience unlike anything in recent years. There will be countless genre movies released this year, but there’s no doubt in my mind that few will be as entertaining, charming, clever and thrilling as Chronicle; it’s my favorite original film in theaters since last year’s Attack the Block.

Chronicle is not to be missed.


4 1/2 out of 5

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law


I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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