BARE BONES: CHRONICLE (2012)

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CHRONICLE (2012)

Chronicle is an interesting twist on both the found footage/POV and superhero genres. Flick tells the story of abused and bullied Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who starts to “chronicle” his life on camera like so much of today’s Youtube generation feels the need to do. It’s at a rave one night that he and his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and their friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) stumble upon a mysterious glowing object they find in a hole in the ground while drunkenly wandering around. Contact with this object gives them what appear to be a form of telekinesis and soon the three are developing what can be simplified as super powers. What makes this aspect of Chronicle interesting is that these teens don’t become overgrown boy scouts like in the comics, they behave like typical teenagers probably would, if they acquired such powers. They have a good time with it and secretly hone their skills as Andrew documents. Andrew is an emotionally damaged young man who has to deal with an alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and dying mother (Bo Petersen). Putting such power in his hands begins to give him a way to vent his rage and avenge his mistreatment at school and home. It’s no surprise that things will spiral out of control and people will get hurt.

Chronicle is well directed by Josh Trank from a script by Max Landis and is an overall effective film that only suffers from a little predictability and following certain formulas a little too closely in it’s last act. We know in the opening scenes that Andrew is unstable and it is obvious where this will all lead. We know as soon as the trio begin to flex their new psychokinetic muscle that the troubled Andrew would be the one to ignore the classic credo of “with great power comes great responsibility.” We know who he will eventually avenge himself upon and we also can easily see it will be the “conscience” of the trio, Matt, that will have to deal with it. The lead characters are likable enough, but the father and bully characters are pretty generic and, sadly, once Andrew turns to the dark side, he becomes so mean spirited that we are no longer sympathetic to him…though we do understand how he gets to this point. To a degree he becomes the super villain of the piece, but not one that is charismatic enough to intrigue us. He becomes exactly the kind of bully that used to make his life miserable, but on a bigger and more dangerous scale. It does echo real life, as sometimes the abused become abusers themselves…or serial killers. This does rob us, though, of continuing to care about him or sympathizing with his pain. This renders the last act into basically a ‘gee whiz’ POV FX showdown that we no longer have a strong emotional stake in. It becomes a routine, good vs evil final battle that has been done so many times before. We no longer want to see Andrew saved, just stopped. At least we do feel some sympathy for Matt who’s forced into a situation he doesn’t want to be in. It would have been far more interesting if we were led to believe that there was still some humanity left in Andrew, but there isn’t and it’s obvious what choices are left to Matt. That’s why the last act is the weakest part dramatically, despite some intense FX action during the climactic confrontation. It eventually becomes a more routine story of an abused character finding the power to avenge, like Carrie, albeit with a superhero twist, after beginning so interestingly. Still, Chronicle is an intriguing effort, if not a totally successful one. There was a lot to like about it and it can be disturbing, but It could have been even better had the filmmakers been a bit more daring in the final reel, as they were building up to it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: VALERIAN and the CITY of a THOUSAND PLANETS (2017)

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VALERIAN and the CITY of a THOUSAND PLANETS (2017)

Goofy space adventure finds Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Sgt. Laureline (Cara Delevigne) trying to protect a small creature called a Converter from a bunch of pursuing aliens in a massive space city….and that’s it.

French Sci-fi flick is written and directed by The Fifth Element’s Luc Besson based on the French comic book Valérian and Laureline. It’s an overindulgent spectacle with some sumptuous design and visuals  that could have used a more involving story and a lead with a little more screen presence. Dehaan is a good actor, but is not really a leading man/hero type, though model Cara Delevigne (Suicide Squad) shows a bit of spunk and fire as his partner/love interest Laureline. Another problem is that the flick jumps from set piece to set piece and seems like it’s being made up as it goes along. There is also the lack of a strong villain, though there are numerous sequences which dazzle the eye and provide lots of action even if we don’t feel the movie really accomplishes anything by it’s conclusion. A shallow, but beautifully designed diversion that gets a lot of credit for imagination from it’s art and SPFX departments. Too bad there wasn’t the same imagination in the script, then this could have been something special. Also stars Clive Owen as Commander Filitt and appearances by Ethan Hawke and Rihanna as a brothel owner and performer respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017)

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A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017)

Flick has an up and coming executive named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) being sent to a wellness clinic in the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company’s estranged CEO (Harry Groener). The man is needed to complete a crucial merger and his latest correspondence has the board questioning his sanity. What Lockhart finds is a strange place where there may be something very sinister going on despite the idyllic appearance. Trapped there after a car accident, Lockhart begins to investigate the institute and it’s equally strange founder, Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Issacs). But what he finds is something straight out of a nightmare…unless he too is losing his mind.

Directed by Gore Verbinski from a script by Justin Haythe, this tries to be an old fashioned gothic chiller from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft, but wears out it’s spooky welcome long before it’s over. The film’s biggest problems are it’s overindulgent running time of 146 minutes and the fact that it’s hero is kind of unlikable. The flick could have been at least forty minutes shorter and not lost any important story elements and it’s hard to feel for DeHaan’s Lockhart as he is just another stereotypical ambitious suit character. There are some creepy moments and Verbinski is a skilled visualist, but the movie runs out of gas long before it’s over and where it leads can be seen coming an hour before it does finally end. An interesting effort that could have been better if it didn’t take so long to tell a story that didn’t need so much time to tell it and we actually cared what happened to it’s lead.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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