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Overall Rating
3.96

Awesome34.62%
Worth A Look: 30.77%
Average: 30.77%
Pretty Bad: 3.85%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 8 user ratings


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Chronicle
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by Peter Sobczynski

"I Have Never Felt More Like Leonard Maltin In My Life. . ."
3 stars

Once upon a time, movies used to be based on books or plays. Later on, they began to take their inspiration from comic books, television shows and, of course, other movies. "Chronicle," on the other hand, often feels as if it has been based on someone's Netflix queue. Here is a film that borrows bits and pieces from the likes of "Spider Man," "X-Men," "Carrie," "Cloverfield," "Kick-Ass," "American Beauty" and a certain Seventies-era schlockfest that became infamous in certain circles a couple of decades later after appearing on the late, great "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (Hint: Leonard Maltin gave it 2 1/2 stars) to name just a few of the most obvious examples. In fact, it carries hints and reminders of so many other past movies that some of the more competitive film geeks out there could challenge each other to a round of Spot the Reference and come up with long lists of possible titles. Making this effort somewhat easier is the fact that the film, while undeniably energetic and entertaining in spots, is one of those slightly frustrating near-misses that never quite manages to live up to its considerable potential.

Utilizing the found-footage gimmick that was last deployed so infamously in the unspeakable "The Devil Inside," "Chronicle" opens with the sight of sullen Seattle teenager Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) as he begins utilizing a video camera to capture the minutiae of his existence--a daily dose of depression that finds him being ritually bullied or ignored by his classmates, abused by his drunken lout of a dad and helplessly watching as his gravely ill mother slowly and painfully expires before his eyes. Before his cinematic exploits can lead him on a path that will one day with him winning an honorable mention at a film festival located in a city not known for holding a film festival, Andrew's entire life changes when he attends a local rave one night and goes off into the nearby woods with his more popular cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and BMOC Steve (Michael B. Jordan) to investigate a mysterious hole leading deep into the ground. With the heedlessness of youth and the need to keep the story going, the three defy all common logic and descend into the hole until they come across. . .something that is presumably not of this world. Whatever it is, things quickly get weird and while we aren't privileged to see how the guys get out of the hole, they do and when we see them next, it turns out that they each now possess telekinetic powers that allow them to move things with their minds, fly through the air and all the other usual tricks.

At first, the three behave exactly how a bunch of goofball teenagers might act if they were suddenly blessed with such powers--they pull wild and seemingly dangerous stunts and pranks on themselves and others as though they were trying out for a super-sized episode of "Jackass" (and yes, they do use their powers to flip up the occasional skirt). At first it is all fun and games but it quickly becomes apparent that their abilities are growing the more they use them and when Andrew accidentally (?) causes a car wreck with them, Matt insists that they follow certain rules to ensure that such a thing never happens again--never using them in anger or against another person and so on. Of course, that is easy for him and Steve to say because they are still popular while Andrew is still a put-upon dork and after a combination of more abuse at home and a brief triumph at school turns sour after an embarrassing incident at a party, he begins to drift towards the dark side. Things get uglier and uglier and the others begin to fear that Andrew has gone too far but it soon becomes apparent that their abilities are no match for his and after one final tragedy, he goes completely over the edge and threatens to take the entire city with him.

"Chronicle" is the brainchild of newcomers Josh Trank and Max Landis--Trank directed, Landis (son of noted filmmaker John Landis) wrote the screenplay and the two dreamed up the story--and based on their results, they should be finding plenty of work in the immediate future. The premise is pretty much impossible for genre fans to resist and from a technical standpoint, the film is a knockout. Remember how the first Superman movie promised that "You'll Believe A Man Can Fly"? Well, in this one, pretty much everything not nailed to the ground goes flying through the air at some point--people, cars, teddy bears, even a city bus--and the special effects deployed to create these illusions are fairly remarkable in the sense that while we instinctively realize that everything that we are seeing is nonsense presumably whipped up by computers, the CGI seams rarely show. (The film supposedly cost a fairly low $15 million to make and if this is true, then virtually every penny of it can be seen on the screen.) More importantly, there is a genuine sense of fun in the early scenes in which the kids screw around with their powers by causing hijinks at the mall or by tossing a football around in the sky. (The latter bit gets an even bigger laugh when the game is suddenly interrupted by. . .well, I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.) For a while, it seemed as if "Chronicle" was going to be one of those rare mass-market films that transcends the constraints of its genre and goes off on its own glorious path.

Inevitably, the higher up in the sky that its heroes soar, the quicker "Chronicle" plummets back to Earth. Like too many film of its type, this is one of those things that spends the first two-thirds of its running time raising any number of intriguing dramatic questions and then spends the last third casting them aside in order to wrap things up with an extended orgy of destruction that grows a little wearisome after a while. The screenplay has a lot of good ideas and neat gimmicks but it is pretty uneven as well thanks to paper-thin character development, unironic deployment of genre cliches (without giving too much away, I can say that Steve's fate is pretty much sealed from the first moment that we see him) and a finale so weirdly abrupt that it almost feels like Landis' strange homage to the climax of his dad's "An American Werewolf in London." The biggest problem, however, is the use of the increasingly tiresome found-footage gimmick. To be fair, this is one of the best deployments of that device to come along since "The Blair Witch Project" and some of the ways that the film contrives to keep it going are ingenious but after a while, the film starts jumping through so many hoops in order to continue using it--even going so far as to truck in a babe classmate (Ashley Hinshaw, the apparent result of the government's top-secret project designed to clone Teri Polo) who is constantly filming her life for a blog to serve as a romantic foil for Matt and as a source of footage that would otherwise be unavailable)--that it winds up calling too much attention to itself to work as well as it should, never mind leaving behind numerous unanswered questions about how all the footage was rounded up and put together.

.

"Chronicle" is a film that contains a lot of good individual elements and for most of its running time, it always seems to be on the verge of transforming into something as amazing as its characters but never quite manages to make that final leap. It isn't so much that it is a bad film as much as it is one that isn't quite as good as it clearly aspires to be. I don't actively dislike it and if it sounds like the kind of thing that you might want to see, I wouldn't necessarily want to dissuade you from doing so but it should be noted that the good parts may raise expectations that the other bits fail to live up to in the end. You know how sometimes you watch a movie for the first time and dig it a lot, only to watch it again a few months later when the bloom is off and realize that the bum points now outrank the brilliant ones? "Chronicle" is that kind of film

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22434&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/03/12 12:58:45
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User Comments

1/19/13 Ionicera surprisingly good but marred by cliched ending 4 stars
6/22/12 djdjehfhehgjdhejfdjjfhgfgjf chang A very talented cast and overall worth watching. Sequel! 5 stars
6/19/12 Z A smart movie that blends superheroes with the real teenager's angst 5 stars
5/06/12 ACTION MOVIE FAN FAIRLY INTERESTING TEENS GET SUPER POWERS-CLIMATIC MASS DESTRUCTION OF CITY HELPS SAVE IT 3 stars
2/21/12 Ry Poor Story. Very slow. No purpose. 2 stars
2/12/12 M A bit short and rushed, but well worth watching for finale alone 3 stars
2/08/12 PAUL SHORTT SMART, ENTERTAINING, INVENTIVE THRILLER WITH GOOD PERFORMANCES 4 stars
2/06/12 Quigley Raises the bar of its genre. Better than any superhero film released in quite a while. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Feb-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-May-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-Feb-2012
  DVD: 15-May-2012


Directed by
  Josh Trank

Written by
  John Landis
  Max Landis

Cast
  Dane DeHaan



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