Tag Archives: Michael Kelly

Chronicle

19 Feb

Title: Chronicle
Year: 2012
Director: Josh Trank
Writer: Max Landis, based on a story by himself and Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking
Runtime: 84 min
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic: 69

After the success of The Blair Witch Project over a decade ago, and especially after the Paranormal Activity films started killing it at the box office, studios have been fond of exploiting the found-footage gimmicky style of filmmaking, resulting in films that are novel and that can be made for a low budget and usually do well at the box office accordingly. Well, while there indeed have been some good found-footage films, which is why the technique has become popular now, it’s now gotten to the point in which one of these films comes out every month or so, and already this year we’ve had The Devil Inside which I gave a horrible D- to.

So I guess you could say I approached Chronicle, the new film using this gimmick, with a sense of caution. Well, I seriously needn’t have worried, since this film isn’t a found-footage movie for the sake of being one, but actually uses the style in order to amplify its vision, to complement a really well-written script, some really smart direction that gave this film a really great momentum by Josh Trank, a man who made his feature debut with this one and that’s been cited as the front-runner for the directing gig on a possible Fantastic Four reboot which, after seeing this one, is a decision I would seriously get behind. And the cast is also full of young performers, including Friday Night Light‘s Michael B. Jordan, who bring a lot of energy into their performances that make the film as compelling as it ultimately is.

This is just a really, really smart film that left me quite impressed if I’m to be honest. The plot follows around a trio of high school students that develop supernatural abilities that they must learn to control and use for the good and not fall into the darker trappings that come with such powers. And this film, which runs a slim eighty-four minutes, will hook you right in with the powerful performances and the potent way in which Mr. Trank tells this story, not to mention that while all these super power things are going on the film is still very much grounded in a human element that keeps it great. As soon as the film starts and you see Andrew, played by Dane DeHaan (the stand-out of the leads to me), filming himself in the mirror, an only child to an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who’s dying from cancer, you’ll be sucked into this film, there’s just something about it that’s so engaging.

Andrew likes to film stuff around, so that’s where the found-footage comes from, and so when his cousin Matt, played by Alex Russell, convinces him to come over to a party there he is with camera in hand. After some drinks are had and the guys feel super giddy and impulsive, Matt takes Andrew as well as Steve, played by the aforementioned Mr. Jordan, over to a hole that’s appeared in the ground, perfectly large in the middle of a field, and they of course decide that the smart thing to do is just going down the hole and see what awaits them there. Whatever happened down in the hole is what has now granted this trio with super powers, and from then on the movie just doesn’t let go for a second.

Now, what I loved is that even though we’ve seen this stuff before, the script by Max Landis (son of John Landis) which was based on a story by himself and Mr. Trank, makes this seem much fresher because it’s really smartly told which is precisely what makes this so entertaining. There’s the superhero origin story, the sci-fi elements, but all of that’s in the midst of a story about teenagers that feel very real. Andrew is of course a disturbed teen because of everything that goes on at home and Matt is his only friend, who in turn is just this incredibly talkative smart guy who throws around facts about Plato and Jung at ease, and then there’s Steve, who’s the handsome popular guy in school, the opposite of Andrew. It’s these guys that draw us in and the superhero stuff is just the icing on the cake, not the other way round.

How Mr. Trank decides to explore the discovery of their powers, the telekinesis skills they start developing after going down the hole, is tremendous, he brings a lightness to those scenes but he never shies away from the darker undertones that also haunt them. They don’t become superheroes or anything, there’s something dark about what they do with them; especially Andrew, who at first acts just as excited about his powers as Steve and Matt but who goes quite dark soon thereafter. And that’s awesome, you know, they act like a bunch of teenagers with powers because that’s what they are, that’s what makes this film feel so real, they don’t become super moral beings who rationalize the fact that they have supernatural abilities all of a sudden because no teenager would do that. And with an actor as Mr. DeHaan front and center it’s really awesome; he has a raw vulnerability to him that feels really awesome on screen.

I loved this film, it was by far the most pleasant surprise I’ve had yet in 2012. It’s a film that’s seriously tremendous fun, one that in a supernatural environment captures the essence of teenage better than most films, and one that with Andrew’s personal life finds a way to instill in this a deeper and darker current that the filmmakers know how to work with really well. And found-footage few times has been done as right as in Chronicle, at first we have Andrew just shooting, then he loses that camera and buys a better one, then he starts operating the camera with his telekinesis which means the opportunity for cooler shots, then we meet Casey, the object of lust in the film, and she has another camera which means an added viewpoint, Mr. Trank really knows how to get the most out of what he’s got.

As great as the film was, that’s what I took out of it the most actually; a real giddy kind of feeling about what the people involved in this film will be up to next. They’re all really young and relatively unexperienced, and the promise they’ve shown in Chronicle is unbelievable. Let’s hope Mr. Trank gets the Fantastic Four gig and gets the chance to work with bigger budgets and a bigger scope; Mr. Landis has written an action-comedy for Jonah Hill and Mark Wahlberg; Mr. Russell has a horror film coming up which doesn’t look that great but he’ll surely get offers by the dozens after this; Mr. Jordan has Jason Katims’ new TV pilot, and that’s the man that cast him in Friday Night Lights and Parenthood so I’m seriously psyched; and Mr. DeHaan, who you might remember as Wednesday’s patient from season 3 of In Treatment, has great stuff lined up, including Wettest County (with a slew of really awesome people including Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy) and Derek Cianfrance’s next project, The Place Beyond the Pines, alongside Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, which I couldn’t be more excited about. So yeah, good things are coming for these guys, and they’re much deserved.

Grade: A-

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The Adjustment Bureau

11 Apr

Title: The Adjustment Bureau
Year:
2011
Director:
George Nolfi
Writer: George Nolfi, loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick
Starring:
Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp, Michael Kelly, Anthony Ruivivar
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image
Runtime:
106 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.1
Rotten Tomatoes:
72%

 

George Nolfi, a screenwriter who had penned two Matt Damon films (The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve), makes his directorial debut here, a film he also wrote loosely basing it upon a Philip K. Dick short story, and enlists Mr. Damon for the leading role in this film.

The Adjustment Bureau is a smart film, and in Mr. Damon it has one of the most consistent actors in the business taking on the leading role, and with him stars Emily Blunt as his co-star, and she’s another very reliable actress, and the chemistry the two strike up in this one is probably what makes this film as good as it is, it’s completely believable, and just really elevates this one by making us care about their characters and believe what they have going on between them.

And this is a film for smart people, kind of like a more gentle version of The Matrix, but one that will still be able to elicit some pretty cool conversations about faith and free will, the philosophical issues on display here are pretty deep, but, because they’re combined with such charming actors and a lighter tone than the aforementioned sci-fi masterpiece, they’re easier to swallow.

That lighter tone is because of the love story that’s also very much present here, one that’s far less concerned with “Are you really The One?” issues than that of Neo and Trinity but still pretty great to watch on-screen, especially because, as I said above, Mr. Damon and Ms. Blunt have some really believable and outstanding chemistry. Because, you see, Mr. Damon’s character falls in love with Ms. Blunt’s and then his efforts to be with her seem to be avoided by a mysterious group.

This is the group of people the title of the film refers to, some sort of accountants that exist to adjust your fate. And Mr. Damon’s David finds out about them, and actually meets them, and they tell him that they’ll have his mind wiped if he continues to try and find her and fall in love with her, and that he’s better off just stopping his pursuit. But of course any guy would never stop going after a girl who looks anything like Emily Blunt, much less if it seems you can’t stop bumping into her.

If you’re thinking this all sounds just like a love story then you’d be right, but behind this love story there are things that go quite deep, and the combination of the two, of the oddball romance side with the more complex metaphysical part of it, makes for a really fun film.

And you know what else? You just have to love how this film looks. I mean honestly, the cinematography is truly superb, done by John Toll who has two Oscars (Legends of the Fall and Braveheart) the film is shot in a way that’s just tremendously effective, and that really goes a long way to convey David’s sense of frustration about his situation.

I know a couple of friends who had trouble with the ending, one told me she really liked the film considerably less because of it, the other one told me it completely ended up ruining the film for him. And, on paper, that ending, which I won’t spoil for you here, doesn’t do it for me at all, it’s not my favorite way to end this story, it kind of makes it all more on the light and cutesy side, instead of dark and complex which it should be considering this was based on a Philip K. Dick story. However, that’s on paper, because when I saw the film I liked the ending because of what the rest of the film had done to me to get there, in the context and style of the film that ending does work, there probably could have been a better one, but the one we do get is totally fine by me.

The philosophical dilemmas on display here are ones we’ve seen presented to us time and time again, but this one goes at it head-on, it asks us about what we believe, if our fate is predetermined and we just have to watch it all go by, or if what you do can alter it. This film presents this group of people, all wearing awesome suits and fedoras, who adjust things in order for things to go by their predetermined course of action, and it also presents two people in love who are trying to run away from them.

However, like I said, this is still a lighter film considering the issues presented. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing for The Adjustment Bureau. It’s a good thing because, by making it light and choosing to focus just as much on the romantic element of it all, which has its bits of funny moments in it, it doesn’t ruin itself by going over-the-top with the deeper issues. However, there was also a chance that by being a bit more risky, and thus choosing to delve into those deeper subjects, it would have tackled them in really smart and great ways, and with that it may have turned into a pretty fantastic film. But it didn’t do that, so we’ll never know unless some adjusters come here and change the film, but for what it did this is still a pretty phenomenal film, and I’d advise you to change the course of your upcoming movie-seeing day and make sure you see it.

Grade: B+

Defendor

14 Apr

Title: Defendor
Year: 2009
Director: Peter Stebbings
Writer: Peter Stebbings
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Sandra Oh, Kat Dennings, Elias Koteas, Michael Kelly
MPAA Rating: R, drug use and language throughout, violence and sexual content
Runtime: 95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%

Canadian actor Peter Stebbings comes forth with Defendor, his screenwriting and directorial debut that filmed in different parts of Toronto and Hamilton, and, on paper, Defendor was a film that I should have loved for two different and seriously valid reasons. One was its subject matter, a normal guy who pretends to be a superhero, I’m a huge geek so that obviously appeals to me, and within that pro one can say, as many actually have, that this was the film to hold us until Kick-Ass was released (and it comes out this Friday!). And lastly, it has Woody Harrelson as a star, and he’s an unbelievably great actor who I love in pretty much anything he does (excluding 2012), and it also stars Kat Dennings, who I not only have a huge crush on but is also actually a pretty damn good actress on her own. So yes, on paper, this one should have been outstanding.

And it was. It was good, not a masterpiece, not an five-star, A-graded geniality of a film, but good enough to have me wait for Kick-Ass to get here, yes, if you haven’t noticed already I have seriously high expectations from Kick-Ass, but Defendor is on its own, Kick-Ass expecatations aside, a truly remarkable little film, Harrelson plays this man-child who wears black tights and used ducktape to make a huge D on his chest and pretends to be a superhero. And he has silly gadgets and wants victory over the evil drug lord Captain Industry.

Yes, in many ways Defendor is obviously a comedy, Stebbings wants you to laugh, but he also wants you to consider this guy beyond the silliness of him, beyond the laughs his stunts provide, he wants you to consider the heroism of Defendor and what that means. This is a more complicated film than one would think, Arthur Poppington, the man behind the shoe-polish eye mask of Defendor, was abandoned as a child by his mother, he uses the costume and mission to escape from it all to be a better man, as he says so himself.

There’s a mystery surrounding Arthur the man, we get to know some stuff from flashback scenes with the Sandra Oh character, but not everything, we want to know more, but we are given what we get, but aided by a terrific Harrelson, and a shining Dennings in a supporting role as prostitute who finds refuge in Defendor’s lair, the movie is just terrific minding a few small missteps, and not only does it succeed in making us hold until Kick-Ass arrives, but it holds pretty damn well on its own, too, and I’ll be delighted to buy it once it comes out on Blu-Ray next week to enjoy it way after Kick-Ass is released and once that one comes out on Blu-Ray I’ll enjoy my very own themed movie night.

Grade: B+