Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Movie Rewind: CHRONICLE (2012)

Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly, Bo Petersen

If you are getting sick of found footage movies, Chronicle may not be your cup of tea. I will say that this filming technique is used far better here than in most movies. Andrew (DeHaan) has recently bought a video camera and decides to start filming everything going on his in life. From shots of his ill mother to his life at school, anyone and anything will be caught on camera. He is already considered a bit odd at school and the constant filming is not helping his cause. Apparently, no one wants to be filmed, especially during cheerleading practice.

The only ones that seems to take an interest in Andrew and his camera are his cousin Matt (Russell) and Steve (Jordan) who is running for school president. Matt and Steve found a mysterious hole in the ground and want Andrew to film their jump into the hole. What lies beneath the ground is an unexplainable force that ends up giving the boys special telekinetic powers.

The guys start testing out their powers to see what kind of objects they can move and how far they can go with their abilities. Like many teenagers they are a bit too cocky for their own good and must learn from their consequences. We have seen characters in comic book movies suffer the same dilemmas. The central characters must decide to somehow find control and know when they are using their powers for good or for evil.

The idea of found footage and shooting the movie from the point of view of a video cameras is fully executed down to each scene. Sometimes movies of this type use this technique in a few scenes or the photography is too shaky or the filmmakers try to scare you into thinking it is real and "untouched" footage. You will not find any of that here. Director Josh Trank places the camera and actors at the proper levels to carry it off successfully without it seeming hokey or unrealistic. Whether one of the boys is holding the camera or it is stationary, the cinematography works well. You will notice mirrors used throughout and other side characters holding the camera in order to capture some of the other actors and different points of view other than Andrew's.

For a first time director, Trank has executed a pretty sharp film that is smart, sleek, and to the point. The film is only 85 minutes as Trank keeps the tension escalating at a pretty quick pace. Much of this is also due to the creative script by Max Landis. Landis is the son of director John Landis who brought us such classics as National Lampoon’s Animal House, An American Werewolf in London, and The Blues Brothers. This is also the first full length feature for Landis. He blends the worlds of the hand held camera/found footage movies and super hero movies together without ever feeling too pretentious or serious about it. Many super hero movies lately are being set in a more realistic society, but Gotham is still Gotham and Metropolis is still Metropolis. Chronicle has that approach of setting the story in a very realistic society by giving these everyday teenagers powers, but it has a different feel to it. I like how he uses teenagers as the protagonists to delve into the consequences of what happens to them after they realize the full potential of their newly found powers. Teenagers do not seem smart enough or mature enough to understand all of the risks involved. There were some surprising twists and shocking moments that left me aghast as I was surprised they would “go there” with the story.

I missed this when it first arrived in theaters, but I was drawn back to it due to stars Dane DeHaan and Michael B. Jordan. They both have had exceptional performances in 2013. DeHaan played the son to Bradley Cooper in The Place Beyond the Pines. He was absolutely riveting and reminded me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Jordan knocked me over with his heartbreaking performance as Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station. These two are definitely actors we need to keep an eye on.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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