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Friday, April 27, 2012

CHRONICLE -- DVD review by porfle

Most cinema verite' flicks since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT have a few things in common.  For example, they have to show characters reacting to someone in their midst who's going around doggedly and obsessively filming everything until it's established that everyone's finally used to the ever-present camera (although they'll occasionally say "turn that damn thing off!").  They have to have several shots from the passenger's POV of someone driving a car and spouting exposition.  And they all have to start out happy until something ominous happens and things start getting progressively worse.

CHRONICLE (2012), while not actually a "found footage" movie, has all of that familiar stuff.  But once the set-up is done it explores some pretty intriguing territory.  And unlike most films of this nature, the home video thing isn't a means of disguising a low budget, because this sci-fi thriller has good production values and is loaded with both practical effects and, better still, tons of CGI that's actually pretty well-handled and convincing for a change. 

Before it's over--to paraphrase SUPERMAN's undying tagline--you will believe three high school boys can fly.  And scare little girls in toy stores by making stuffed animals come after them while barking out Mr. T-isms.  And almost destroy downtown Seattle.

The toy store scene is part of the "happy" segment of CHRONICLE, when the boys' newfound telekinetic powers (which they develop after exploring a mysterious tunnel and stumbling across...something) are a source of prankish fun.  Granted, the videographer, a shy, troubled boy named Andrew (Dane DeHaan) isn't all that happy--he bought the camera to gather evidence of his drunken father's daily beatings and to record his dying mother's final days.  Taking it to school just invites noogie-laced ridicule from bullies, and even the more athletic and outgoing Matt (Alex Russell), Andrew's cousin and best pal, thinks it's a pretty geeky thing to do. 

Later, though, when they and their "Mr. Popular" friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) are in the middle of their telekinetic prank rampage, they're glad to have someone recording such historic hilarity as mentally moving a woman's parked car to another space across the lot and the aforementioned toy store hijinks. 

The ominous part comes when Matt and Steve begin to realize two things--one, Andrew is becoming a lot more powerful than them, and two, Andrew is already a lot more mentally and emotionally unstable (you might even say volatile) than them.  Naturally, we expect something along the lines of CARRIE after seeing Andrew being tormented by bullies, rejected by popular girls, and generally treated like an outcast. 

But the results of his paranormal "acting out" go way beyond disrupting the senior prom.  I found shades of both AKIRA and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND in the thrillingly-staged climactic scenes of chaos and destruction, along with sort of a KICK-ASS vibe in regard to ordinary people suddenly doing the things that only comic book superheroes usually do.  The aerial battle between two opposing super-powered forces also recalls SUPERMAN II and MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS, but with a much more realistic tone that's helped by having much of it appear in the form of live TV news bulletins. 

Yet with all of these "shades" and "vibes" of other films, CHRONICLE is a pretty original story that is consistently involving and inventive.  Dane DeHaan, resembling a young Leonardo de Caprio circa WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE?, does a good job with Andrew's evolution from a simple troubled boy to a frighteningly powerful menace. 

Director Josh Trank manages to overcome the built-in restrictions that his script (co-written with Max Landis) places on him, mainly by giving Andrew one heck of a great home video camera and bestowing it with the ability to fly around wherever Andrew wills it to.

The DVD from 20-Century Fox Home Entertainment (also available as a 2-disc Blu-Ray/DVD+Digital Copy combo) is in widescreen with Dolby 5.1 English and 2.0 French and Spanish sound.  Subtitles are in English, Spanish, and French, and there's also one of those spoken-word descriptive tracks for the sight-impaired.  Extras include "Pre-Viz" animatics of the flying scenes, camera tests of certain scenes with a different cast, and trailers for this and other 20-Century Fox releases. 

I was instantly intrigued by the trailer for CHRONICLE and the film didn't let me down.  As derivative as it may be--you'll probably be picking out the various elements from other movies the whole time as I did--everything has been distilled into a well-crafted and enjoyably entertaining little sci-fi flick with its own unique charm. 

Buy it at
Blu-Ray/DVD+Digital Copy

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