Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This Week In Tickets: 6 February 2012 - 12 February 2012

Festivals. They're at war with the weekly grind.

This Week In Tickets!

I was hoping to fit one or two more things in there, but work. The good news is that, at least when the MBTA eliminates the bus that connects Cambridge to Burlington this summer, it will be much easier for me to get to stuff that starts at 6:30pm after working from home.

(And if they do it in July, well, what will the company care if I'm remote from Cambridge or Montreal?)

Not a lot of variety this week even with a fair amount of volume - although I wasn't exactly trying to warm up for a week spent watching sci-fi films with a superhero flick and an anime classic with floating cities and sky pirates; it just happened that way. I may have to gorge on very grounded indies to counteract this next week.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 6 February 2012 in the Somerville Theatre #2 (first-run, 35mm)

Still, if you're going to go the superhero route, it may as well be with Chronicle. I'm not sure why I had low expectations before starting to hear good things; I suspect it's mostly a matter of becoming numb to found-footage marketing. The films are often a bunch of fun, but the people selling them seem to feel the need to not "break character" and acknowledge that these aren't documentaries - except we know this, and thus it feels like I'm being lied to...

Whatever the reason for my reticence might have been, the end result is pretty darn great. Sure, it starts from some very basic pieces - a cool kid/aloof kid/troubled kid trio, a plot device that's almost ridiculously vague and unexplained, and one kid getting hit with two parental nightmares (one loving and dying, the other an angry alcoholic) - and there's not really a single step in the story that can't be predicted from the set-up. It's often the case that execution is more important than set-up, and the execution here is quite good - Dane De Haan, Michael B. Jordan, and Alex Russell hit these characters pretty much dead-center, and the filmmakers (director Josh Trank and scripter Max Landis) recognize the strength of the basic stories and don't mess them up.

Plus, they use the assembled-footage technique very well. At first, it's a way to center things around Dane DeHaan's Andrew and say something about his character, with the implication being that the special effects will be lo-fi and things will remain character-focused, but it eventually becomes clear that this isn't Paranormal Activity, but Cloverfield, except that Trank and his effects guys pay the promise of bigger things off even better: Seeing these flying scenes is the same sort of experience audiences at Richard Donner's Superman had 30-odd years ago: It's something that's been done before, but never this well. And the big action scene is fantastic: It's clear when the format would seem to give the director free reign to be confusing, and cut together in a really exceptional way.

Some have complained about the way Trank seems to abandon the faux-doc aesthetic in the last act, or "forgave" him because the end result is just a fantastic action sequence, but I think he and Landis should be getting more credit for it: They recognized a limit of the form, created onscreen ways to circumvent it: A fair amount of time is spent establishing that manipulating cameras almost instinctively was something Andrew did, and whatever in-story filmmaker is piecing footage together after the fact was established as having access to multiple video sources early on. That's smart and inventive, and I hope to see more like that from these guys' future projects.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Pig & The Millennium Bug
In The Renaissance & Folklore
Green Card, Please & Neander-Jin

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