Tag Archives: Chronicle

Grizzly Review: Project X

Every teenager wants the opportunity to be the coolest kid in the school. The dream that one day everybody will be chanting your name is sometimes what keeps students going for what can be the worst four years of their lives. It’s true, though, when people say that all it takes is one amazing night to change everything you know about being popular, and what everyone else knows about you. Project X is that night. Project X is that dream come true. Project X is that party.

As I’ve mentioned in reviews for films like Chroniclefound footage has been plaguing cinemas for the past few years. I’m actually quite a big fan of found footage, but I guess I’m the only one. Regardless, it puts the asses in the seats and brings in the dough. Found footage works, in my opinion, because it brings the viewer closer to the characters. It helps them feel like they’re actually there. For some films like the Paranormal Activity and REC series, found footage really works. In fact, 2012 marks the first year that found footage films haven’t been dominated by horror flicks. The genre is expanding rapidly, and the results are actually quite astonishing.

Project X follows three teenagers who throw the biggest high school party of all time. Thomas Mann, Costa, and JB (who all use their real names), plan a “little get-together” for Thomas’ birthday that soon turns into anarchy with 1500+ guests. There is some footage of before the party with all the planning, as well as after the party, AKA, the cleanup. Most of Project X is just people partying. Things like plot and character development take a backseat to things like booze and boobs.

Advance screenings have described Project X as “the best party movie ever” and “Superbad on crack”. These claims are all 100% correct. If you’re willing to accept the silliness, the cliches, and the sometimes very raunchy humor, Project X is actually quite enjoyable. Many critics have deemed the film misogynist and mean-spirited. One critic called the characters, and I quote, “unrepentant, nihilistic, vile, venal, animalistic, avaricious, charmless, entitled, sub-Kardashian, stunningly irresponsible brats.”

All I have to say is, congratulations, sir, you just described a teenager. I related quite a bit to the characters, their plight, and their search for fame. In fact, that’s what makes Project X worth watching. While the dialogue is nowhere near genius, it’s honest. The movie is honest. It knows teenagers just as well as teenagers know teenagers.

Granted, the constant insanity can get a little tiring until something new happens, but there’s no doubt that Project X is chaos cinema at its finest. The direction by music video director Nima Nourizadeh definitely shows, as there are some sequences throughout the film that actually play out like music videos, but it’s impossible to not marvel at the sometimes visionary camerawork that makes this party seem so damn enticing.

Much like Chronicle, the main cameraman, Dax, isn’t the only one shooting the footage. In fact, producer Todd Phillips equipped certain members of the cast with recording devices like iPhones and camcorders so that him and Nourizadeh could go through all of it later and pick out snippets to put in the film, truly making Project X a found footage film.

Project X is an experimental film in its heart. Utilizing guerrilla film making as its medium for storytelling, the often uncontrollable environment finds a delicate balance between film and documentary, giving the impression that the events in the film are actually happening. But at the end of the day, despite all the “misogyny” that is contained within the film, Project X has a big heart, and makes a point to let us know that even though on the exterior, characters like Costa are douches and asses, they’re just kids who love their best friends just as much as anyone. And in the final shot, when Thomas looks at Dax and signals for him to cut the footage, we know, just as much as he does, that we’ve reached the end of a journey. No matter what the future brings, Thomas had that one night. And it was a night that he’ll never forget.

4/5 Bears

Grizzly Review: Chronicle

The genre of superhero movies is one of my favorites, as is the sub-genre known as the “found footage” genre, so I think you can estimate my level of excitement when I saw the brilliantly edited trailer for the new film, Chronicle. Now, there’s quite a bit of hate for the found footage genre, and I can definitely see why. The shaky camera, the sometimes phony looking thrills, and the overall bad reputation the genre has had since its inception all sway the public opinion far enough so that found footage films border on hated.

Both 2010 and 2011 brought us seventeen found footage films each year, and in 2012, the number is up to about ten. I think I can fairly assume that found footage is here to stay, at least for a couple more years. The Paranormal Activity films have grossed an insane amount of money with minuscule budgets, and other horror films like the Spanish found footage film REC, as well as films like Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog, The Blair Witch Project, August Underground, and the original Paranormal Activity are considered to be modern horror classics. On a side note, my favorite found footage movie is definitely Trash Humpers, and I definitely recommend that to any film buffs who haven’t already seen it.

Getting back on track (I could talk about found footage for days), 2012 probably has the biggest variety of found footage films. Chronicle is a superhero movie, Paranormal Activity 4 is a horror movie, Area 51Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli’s follow up film, is a sci fi flick, and Project X, is the first of its kind as a comedy found footage flick. Now, you nitpicky bastards out there are going to cite The Virginity Hit, right? I honestly don’t think that counts, as there are some regular steady cam shots in the film, which is essentially breaking form. With that criteria in mind you could call American Beauty a found footage film.

Chronicle follows three teenagers who probably wouldn’t have become so close if not for a hole in the ground. Emotionally damaged teenager, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) decides to purchase a camera to record everything in his life, but mostly the drunkenly violent tendencies of his alcoholic father. After sustaining an injury while working as a fireman, Richard Detmer (Michael Kelly), spends his time at home taking care of Andrew’s sickly mother, Karen (Bo Petersen).

Andrew’s cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) convinces Andrew to go to a rave one day. Andrew insists that he bring his camera, and begins to film the party. There, he meets Casey Letter (Ashley Hinshaw), one of his classmates who is also filming the party for her blog. The two meet briefly, but it’s obvious that Matt is the one interested in her, not Andrew. He walks away and begins filming more, and after a physical altercation with a man who thinks Andrew is filming his girlfriend, he resigns to the parking lot, accepting the fact that he really just can’t make any friends. Suddenly, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), who is front runner for class president, approaches Andrew and asks him to come film something that he and Matt found.

Now I don’t want to spoil what the object in the ditch is, because it’s pretty freaking cool. What I can say, though, is that the boys develop superpowers, and begin to flex what they theorize is a mental muscle. In short, it’s telekinesis, and it makes them virtually indestructible. But instead of using the powers for the good of mankind, they just decide to do cool and often stupid things with them, but as they get stronger, complications in their relationship arise, causing Andrew to inherit rage that is sometimes beyond his control.

Chronicle is equal parts origin flick, accurate high school comedy, and harrowing family drama. With an excellent script and equally impressive direction by first time filmmakers Max Landis and Josh Trank, Chronicle manages to be a low budget superhero movie that actually works, and goddamn does it work well. Everything from the performances to the pitch perfect dialogue rings absolutely true despite an odd and rather rehashed plot line. The depiction of a modern high school is near perfect, capturing both the angst and a glimpse of popularity all through the eyes of a troubled teen.

Make no mistake of Chronicle‘s motives, because the film isn’t here to tell a story of good and evil. It’s here to tell a story of good intentions through a troubled mind, and the abuse of power in a time of desperation, as well as the importance of family in a difficult and confusing situation. The central performance by Dane DeHaan is absolutely fantastic. Only 24 years old, you may have seen DeHaan on the HBO series In Treatment, but if you haven’t, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. With four 2012 movies on his roster, including my most anticipated film of the year, Wettest Country, DeHaan is going to be getting both A-list billing and treatment in literally no time.

In a world of YouTubers, Microbloggers, iPod, iPad, iPhone, video cameras, camera phones, and even basic things like surveillance cameras are all integral parts of today’s society. We feel an inherent need to document everything, and I think that Chronicle accurately portrays that. It never breaks form, but instead uses various forms of handheld cameras to get its point across, and with a surprising amount of finesse, too. Director Josh Trank could have just switched to regular film and filmed the climactic action sequences that way, but he decided to not take the easy way out and stick with the method he began the film with, and it really does actually pay off.

On a budget of only $15 million dollars, Chronicle does more with the little it’s given than most other similar movies, ($200 million for Green Lantern?! What is that?!), and the CGI is near perfect in my opinion. Walking in I expected an entertaining teen superhero flick but I walked out realizing that I’d just viewed not just a movie, but a film that has meaning and isn’t meant to just be. I recommend Chronicle to anyone who really just likes movies. It’s got the wide spread appeal of a blockbuster, with the mind of an indie flick, a perfect marriage if you ask me.

4.5/5 Bears

Chronicle: Super Powers Done Right

This February director Josh Trank releases his first feature film, and it looks pretty damn sweet. Chronicle tells the story of 3 friends who acquire super powers, and then follows as they learn how to use, and eventually abuse them. As you can see in the trailer, things get out of hand…

The most recognizable actor in the movie is easily Michael B. Jordan who you may recognize from Friday Night Lights or Parenthood, but the movie also features character actor Michael Kelly and up-and-comer Ashley Hinshaw. Considering how good the effects looks, that’s not bad on budget of less than 10 million dollars.

To me this looks sort of like the early episodes of Heroes, but better. The only thing that I’m unsure of is the whole ‘Blair Witch’ camera work which can get old quick when in the theater. But I guess we’ll find out February 3rd.