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Chronicle: Teens With Superpowers
Power makes people do strange things. They get drunk on the feeling of superiority that it conjures up and foster the belief that they’re entitled to treat people like crap. Chronicle tells the story of a high school loser who suddenly finds himself endowed with the power to retaliate.
Andrew (DeHaan), the aforementioned high school loser, buys a camera and starts filming his whole life, both at home and at school. While at a party with his cousin Matt (Russell) and Matt’s friend Steve (Jordan), the trio stumble across a gaping, rumbling tunnel that leads to an underground cavern filled with what looks like glowing, blue stalagmites. Their exposure to the radiation emitted gives them powers of telekinesis. Gleeful, they start out small while testing their powers; skimming rocks, assembling Lego, etc. but they soon graduate to bigger things such as moving cars around. Their magnum opus comes when they teach themselves how to fly.
While all three of them pick up their new skills rather intuitively, Andrew is something of a prodigy and is suddenly the runt of the litter and he finds himself more powerful than everyone around him. As time goes on, his lashing-out becomes more deadly and he turns into a time bomb, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. It’s up to Matt and Steve, who are both weaker than him, to knock some sense back into him before he loses all control.
Chronicle is a small, familiar story that is told very well. DeHaan’s role as Andrew goes beyond the dangerously unhinged loser stereotype and everything we see about his life at home and at school really fleshes out his character and makes him transcend the stereotypes. He’s not just a high school loser that flips because he isn’t popular. He’s a guy who’s bullied at school, physically abused at home and has to deal with an alcoholic father and a dying mother whose medication they can’t afford. He has nobody to talk to and so turns to his camera as a way of expressing his thoughts and feelings. The camera also acts as a barrier between him and the world; a way of distancing himself from everything that’s happening to him.
The score is as sparse as can be, possibly even nonexistent, but the film
is very clever and original in its use of music. A scene where Andrew dons a mask
and prepares to go out and steal the money needed to buy his pain-stricken
mother her medication is accompanied by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and it really makes an impact. It’s this kind of
attention to detail that really elevates the film.
Chronicle could have been yet another entry in the teens-with-superpowers genre, but in the hands of director Josh Trank, the film is a psychological character study about the effect of power in the hands of the unstable. That makes it sound a bit deeper than it actually is but the fact remains that Chronicle is cool and smart.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.