Chronicle (2012)

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Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 7:10 PM | Posted in


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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

CHRONICLE (2012) - Josh Trank

"Found footage" is a specific genre of filmmaking in which a substantial part of a film is presented through recordings, often left behind by missing or dead protagonists. The Italian horror film Cannibal Holocaust was the very first film to introduce this style in the year 1980. However, in 1999, The Blair Witch Project made the genre so popular that the term "found footage" is now considered a gimmick. After the impact of Blair Witch, the new decade launched the Spanish [REC] series, the Paranormal Activity series, Cloverfield, and just recently, Apollo 18 and even The Devil Inside. In early February 2012, a "dead zone" for good movies, a small $15 million budget movie called Chronicle comes along. In addition, this is a directorial debut from an incoming director named Josh Trank and stars actors who I have never heard of before. In summary, the storyline is basically first person, but with super heroes. Common sense tells us that Chronicle is, without a doubt, another gimmick that is gonna be undeniably panned. Not quite.

Chronicle centers on hard-life-living Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), and their fellow high school student Steve (Michael B. Jordan), as they form a close bond after receiving telekinetic abilities from a mysterious object. The group at first use their abilities for mischief and personal gain until Andrew, due to teenager angst, begins using his powers for darker purposes. The "found footage" element of the film is primarily shot from Andrew's hand-held camcorder as well as other video recording devices.

At conceptual stage, the story of Chronicle is fresh and original enough to intrigue. The script is tightly written, enhanced with impressive direction and phenomenal performances. Its engagement to the audience helps Chronicle to break free from the chains of "found footage" films. The plot is believable and ties itself into the idea of super powers more closely than ever. As a result, any visual appealing of such special abilities not only intrigues the eye, but also intrigues the mind. Near the end, if one is still thinking about it, the visuals look magnificent for a $15 million budget. The previous time I have had such a surprise was in 2009, when the $30 million budgeted film District 9 was released. Despite a mediocre beginning, Chronicle meticulously offers its own uniqueness and quickly astounds the audience, demanding and earning their attention rightfully so. Chronicle is not just a superhero origin story. It is nearly a Shakespearean drama about a disturbed teenager. With a young, talented cast, Chronicle easily stands out as a believable and original piece.

DeHaan, who bears a similar tone as Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, is the perfect man for Andrew, yet he does sometimes cross the line and enter my region of becoming irritated. He is a realistic character and truly portrays a student experiencing family problems as well as bullying at school. Since the film is mostly presented from his point of view, we can feel his pain as well as his frustrations effortlessly. Yet, as he slowly descends into madness, we are slowly conflicted to back up and observe the bigger picture. One pities him but soon enough becomes afraid of him. In the end, the character is a tragedy, a modern take of a Shakespearean flawed man.

Russell and Jordan, whom I have never seen on screen before, perform in the movie almost as if they are Oscar-worthy professionals. Russell's character, backed up with well-crafted dialogue, delivers the worried cousin who wants to have fun with his abilities yet also cares for his disheartened cousin. Jordan, with clever lines, delivers the high school buddy that almost everyone would wish to have. What amazes me yet annoys me to the point of foaming at the mouth is how young Hollywood these days consists of attractive looking  untalented people, yet suddenly a movie like John Erick Dowdle's Devil or Tranks' Chronicle can come along and fully captivate our minds with unfamiliar faces. After seeing Chronicle, I am truly psyched to see what this talented trio of actors would do next.

In conclusion, Chronicle is breathtaking. It combines superhero luxury with literary sensations. It arrives during a dreadful time of movie releasing, after so many vile "found footage" films, but with a great script and exceptional performances, it stands out. Chronicle does not just stand out as in "the film works as a movie," but it also stands out as an outstanding redefinition of so many aspects of film; a science fiction movie, a super hero movie, and unpredictably, a "found footage" movie.


The Woman in Black (2012)

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Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 6:12 PM | Posted in


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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 6.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 6/10

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012) - James Watkins

It was 2001. I was seven years old when I first fell in love with Daniel Radcliffe's portrayal of the widely acclaimed boy wizard: Harry Potter. Ten years later, the magical journey has finally concluded, still leaving a memorable place in our hearts. The scar hasn't pained Harry's forehead for years. All was well.

What can Radcliffe possibly do next? At first, I predicted him to either take a break from the movie industry or continue on with some other science fiction or fantasy film. Perhaps a reboot on the Golden Compass series or even start something new, like Pendragon or even Artemis Fowl. Surprises hit big for me when word comes out of Radcliffe playing the protagonist of an upcoming horror film. A horror film. What is more surprising is that The Woman in Black is an adaptation of an original 1983 novel by Susan Hill and the film is confirmed to be directed by James Watkins, who previously did Eden Lake, another horror film. This was a sign; a sign that Radcliffe might have a chance to make it to Hollywood. He has casted spells for ten years and now his first step on a different road is in the horror genre. Fascinating.

Daniel Radcliffe is now Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor who is assigned to handle the estate of a woman by the name of Alice Drablow, who owned an English manor that looks like a combination of the mansion inCasper and the grim humble abode of the Adams Family. Soon enough, Kipps finds himself haunted by a woman dressed in black, and the townspeople claim that the "Woman in Black" kills an innocent child every time she is seen.

Unlike a slasher like Halloween or a supernatural freak show like The ExorcistThe Woman in Black takes good advantage of atmospheric tension. The art direction was highly respected and paid attention to in this piece and the house bears a gothic tone similar to the classic Hammer Horror films. Integrate that with brilliant cinematography, crisp lighting, and slow dread-building shots and The Woman in Black should be an astounding horror film. Not yet.

A movie is like a journey up a mountain. One must be well-equipped with the necessary elements to easily "climb up". However, the execution of the movie, in this case, the journey down, is just as important. The Woman in Black is a perfect example of a film that has everything needed to be a good movie, yet executes the process in a mediocre fashion. Despite the mood and atmosphere being present, the film trails behind in its scares. There is a difference between making the audience shake because of chilly musical intensity and making the audience jump in fright because of a loud sound. Accompanying the scene with a loud sound effect is undeniably effortless to do. What is harder to do is to truly build tension. When the first "scare" came up, I jumped. When the fifth came up, I realized that this is all that they have for the audience. The scares then lose their value and the film in general becomes forgettable. In the end, loud sounds to scare the audience is simply "cheap filmmaking" and it is dreadfully unfortunate to see The Woman in Black, a movie with so much potential, to fall into the same abyss that so many other horror movies plunged into. It has climbed up the mountain so easily yet tripped and tumbled back down.

Luckily, the film is not a total loss, because it is indeed saved by one specific aspect, and that is, to my greatest surprise, Daniel Radcliffe. In the first half of the haunting, I could not help but expect Radcliffe taking out a wand and yell our memorable "Expecto Patronum". The real question of The Woman in Black is: Can Daniel Radcliffe outgrow the boy wizard and truly become someone else? Thankfully, the answer is yes. On the contrary, the film offers nothing unique for Radcliffe in the first half so that he can come out as Kipps. It dug itself a hole in the beginning with the star, but fortunately crawled back out with Radcliffe's convincing flows. Soon enough, we become persuaded that Radcliffe really is Arthur Kipps, and no longer Harry Potter.

In conclusion, The Woman in Black is middling. However, it is not to the point of being trashed with all theTexas Chainsaw Massacre sequels. I give them extreme credit and respect for trying something new and organic after all the formulaic junk we have been having in the last few years. The movie perfected its conceptual stage, but was carried out in the opposite direction, and sadly, the wrong direction. Mercifully, Daniel Radcliffe did his part and The Woman in Black is clear evidence that Radcliffe does have a bright future in the acting industry. But the movie itself, not so bright.


Upcoming Reviews (2/26 - 3/3)

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Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 4:51 PM | Posted in


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The Woman in Black (2012)
Chronicle (2012)
The Grey (2012)

Hugo (2011)

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Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 4:22 PM | Posted in


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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

HUGO (2011) - Martin Scorsese

Makeup, costumes, and set designs. Lighting, cinematography, and atmosphere. Foreign movies bear an elegance in which we as audience members and young filmmakers can fully appreciate as true cinematic experiences. Without a doubt, storyline is one of the most crucial elements of a film. Despite that necessity, movies from foreign nations strive from art direction and characterization. The crowd breathes the air of the scenery, an act that Hollywood these days no longer give room to. The two words "Art direction" is the difference between witnessing the bright beautiful world of Paris and living the extravagant paradise. In many ways, the power of foreign cinema is superior to American films, let alone CGI-loaded eye candy. Five minutes into Martin Scorsese's Hugo, I was sincerely spellbound when the first line of dialogue was spoken. It was in English.

Before we were given any such character introductions, Scorsese first invites us into the world of an average train station in Paris. We witness our average passenger-goers wandering throughout the brightly lit building. Flowers glow a mysterious sunlight, absorbed from the rays through such clear windows. Men and women meet each other and become emotionally attached. Halt at a frame and the image looks identical to a French magazine, well-constructed cinematography. Behind all this fascination is a young orphan boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield). One says that it is the actions of a man that define him. The first action we see from this child is attempting to steal a mechanical mouse from an invention store owner (Ben Kingsley). What we presume is Hugo is a thief, especially after being revealed by Kingsley's character that this was not the first incident. During investigation, the owner finds a little book from the boy's pocket, containing sketches of what appears to be an automaton. In response, the book was confiscated. Hugo, suddenly desperate, asks for it back. Before the 30-minute rule of interest grabbing, the film has already captured our attention. What appears to be a naughty child may turn out to be something more.

Hugo is an intelligent boy on a quest: A quest to unlock a secret that his deceased father (Jude Law) left for him. What he does not know is that this journey will transform all those around him, along with himself. During his attempt to retrieve his book, Hugo meets Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), a well-educated open-minded girl with a big heart, and from that point on, the very innocence of this screen duo carries the movie on its own.

Butterfield, who I have never seen on screen before, has perfected his role as determined Hugo. Similar to Spielberg, Martin Scorsese uses the power of child emotions to deliver to the audience. Hugo, a headstrong character, can only be portrayed by a headstrong actor himself and Asa Butterfield has done so fluently. One cannot help but discover the secret along with him and see his passion, a child with a heart of an adult.

Charming Moretz, who was previously seen in Vaughn's Kick-Ass and Reeves' Let Me In, comes to portray a book-loving girl who's both superb in vocabulary as well as charisma. In spite of her reading classically acclaimed novels, her personality bonds with Hugo for her love of "adventures," even though she never really had one. Hugo connects to her by introducing her to the world of movies. The chemistry of the leads was the heart of this piece. Always they are looking for something exciting as they slowly move closer to the secret. If Scorsese's film is a beautiful statue, then the lead performances and presence are the gold polish that make the statue shine.

Ben Kingsley was perhaps best known for his role as Gandhi in Attenborough's Gandhi and his supporting role of Itzhak Stern from Spielberg's Schindler's List. After his stardom, Kingsley has continued to participate in several movies, but with extremely supporting roles in which he is unable to stand out. These films included Prince of Persia and Shutter Island. But here, with the help of Martin Scorsese, Kingsley's presence in the film was mesmerizing. The film triumphed with the innocence of kids as well as the innocence of elders, and Scorsese has combined both elements brilliantly. The fact that Kingsley did not receive a nomination for Supporting Actor is one of the biggest misfires of movies this year, up to par with The Dark Knight failing to receive a Best Picture nomination in 2008.

With the greatest art direction of this year and an excellent cast, Hugo succeeded with one more thing and probably the most important: its tribute to the magic of cinema. The very innocence of the characters invite us in to the subjects it touches on. Hugo pays an immeasurable amount of respect to the history of movies, as if Scorsese himself is thanking the Lumière Brothers for inventing film. The film was a mirror of Scorsese and possibly the one closest to his heart as of now, similar to E.T. being Spielberg's closest work. Scorsese has been given all of the resources he needed, like the character Hugo, and has made a film masterpiece about -- film masterpieces. The sight of the classic "Harold Lloyd holding onto a clock handle" scene on the big screen was remarkable. Above all cinematic films shown such as The Arrival of a Train and Exit From the Lumière Factory, the film that ties itself into Hugo the most is A Trip to the Moon, one of classic filmmaker Georges Méliès' most notable pieces. Again, the sight of the ship crashing onto the moon on the big screen was captivating to watch, intriguing to the average audience member, but astonishing for filmmakers and film critics.

Hugo is powerful and demanding of being selected by the National Film Registry. In a few years, it will have its place. It is emotional, as heartwarming as it is well-crafted. To say that Scorsese's new film is exquisite is not enough. Who knew that the man who brought us Taxi DriverRaging BullThe Last Temptation of Christ, and Goodfellas can make something truly light-hearted, a real antithesis of his original style as a filmmaker? Throughout his career, I was convinced that Martin Scorsese, despite his successful movies, is a one-note director, making movies one specific way like David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, or M. Night Shyamalan. I stand corrected. Hugo reaches to us with its characters, a director's first priority. Fluently, everything else naturally combined to form a big picture, call it a delicious cake with beautiful decorations. Hugo is extraordinary, wonderful, and superb. It is a work of art that fascinates the mind and touches the heart. It is a creation of outstanding artistry, a piece unique in its own type, let alone a Martin Scorsese film. It is a portrait of genius, wisdom, and splendor, a masterpiece that deserves an annual viewing and finally, a full score from this young film critic.