Chronicle - A Citizen Geek's Review

With what seems like an almost over saturation of super hero movies now a days it’s hard to come up with an original idea that is not already an established comic book franchise or seemingly cheesy in it’s outcome without intent. That’s where Chronicle steps in.

Short Review: A great documented footage mashup with the super hero genre that actually works in it’s execution. Go see it.

Long Review: I have to preface this that I have come out of a press screening of this film 2 hours ago, so my thoughts may change slightly with more thought. However, I wanted to get my review out there while it’s fresh in my mind. First of all I had trepidation going into this movie. I was thinking two things 1) It’s going to suck, so don’t get hyped up and 2) It’s going to be fantastic, so just enjoy it. Right now I’m leaning towards 2.

The story is three teenagers: Andrew, Matt and Steve (yay Steve!) find a hole in the ground outside a party and begin to investigate, they are suddenly blessed with super powers and hilarity and trouble ensues. Don’t worry those aren’t spoilers, that’s directly from the trailer. What isn’t in the trailer which will be a slight spoiler is that the majority of this film is seen through Andrew, a troubled teenager who’s mother has cancer and his father is an alcoholic. Even though it’s seen through his eyes, you really get a sense of why the characters do what they do and what these powers do that enhances their personalities.

I do have to address the “First Person Camera” stuff that may turn people off. We’ve all seen the documented footage style before dating all the way back to Blair Witch and most recently Paranormal Activity. But what works in this film is that it’s not “shaky cam” and the camera actually feels naturally placed throughout the film. Sure it took a bit of getting used to at the beginning as everything on camera seemed forced. However, it works as it’s the first time the camera is introduced into these teenagers lives. It gets more natural as the movie continues on. So please don’t let the style of the film deter you from seeing it.

As for the story/script, I will say that this movie is the movie I wish I could’ve written.  It’s greatly executed, not hackneyed at all (Andrew’s alcoholic father maybe but that’s a small nit-pick). It really gives the most logical story as to what would you do if you were a teenager and got a super power? (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!1! - I should mention it is only one super power, it’s kind of obvious from the trailer but they get the power of telekinesis)

The story for only being just under 90 minutes long doesn’t feel rushed, or even missed. I didn’t realize until the movie was over that it was only that long. You get sucked into the movie.

Geek Factor: It’s people getting super powers! Duh!

Conclusion: This may not be for everyone, as it is a geeky kind of film. But I’d say for those who don’t like superhero movies, this film may be a great way for them to watch one without the all that spandex. Unless you’re into that kind of thing ;)

My grade: A

Contagion - A Citizen Geek Review

A person, on average, touches their face a couple thousand times a day; two to five times every minute.  Imagine how many things you touch in that day: door knobs, hand rails, elevator buttons.  Now imagine how many times those things have been touched in a day and by whom.  If that scares you a lot, do not watch this movie.  If you are intrigued and/or curious by this film with it’s star studded cast and it’s premise, continue on.

Short Review:  It’s a smart horror film that if you are interested in, go see it.  If you aren’t interested, you may get bored.

Long Review:  This film is a horror film in the most basic sense of the word.  It doesn’t do it with a shock or a bang, but a long slow crawl through your skin that makes you feel uncomfortable every time someone coughs or sneezes near you when you walk out of the theatre.  

It’s a smart film, and doesn’t take that for granted.  It really does take a real world “What if?” Scenario and goes through all the logical steps of what would happen if an unknown disease spreads throughout the globe.  That’s all you need to know about the plot.  It’s basic in it’s concept, but made smart by it’s director.  Steven Soderbergh does a fantastic job of directing a fully decked star-studded cast and weaving everyone’s stories seamlessly in and out of the main narrative.

The acting is fantastic from all fronts.  Some performances you expect such as the calm and collected Laurence Fishburne, an everyman Matt Damon, to a witty Jude Law (ie: Sherlock Holmes witty).  But there were some surprises such as I really enjoyed Kate Winslet.  I have seen a few movies she’s been in since her big hit Titanic 14 years ago (Really?!  14 years?  Wow!), but in this movie she was fantastically simple yet complex in her character.  I loved the rapport she has with Laurence Fishburne’s character throughout the film.  The only sort of “Yeah, I could do without” performance was Gwyneth Paltrow.  Not to say she wasn’t good, it was just you could almost put any actress that fit that role and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.  Granted she’s only in the film a short time so she didn’t have much to grow a character on.  

Geek Factor:  The cast.  So many people you will recognize, such as the title cast that I mentioned, but also in the film are: Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, M.A.S.H. and Oceans 11 through 13’s Elliot Gould, Veronica Mars and Flashpoint’s Enrico Colatoni, to even Comedian Demetri Martin whom you would almost miss if you have never seen him on The Daily Show.  All in all, there’s enough star power to make you go, “Oh I know that guy/girl!”  

Another thing that adds to the Geek Factor, at least for me anyway was a story Bryan Cranston told in a recent Nerdist episode.  Which I won’t go into into too much detail, you’ll have to listen to the episode to hear it.  Overall it is an awesome interview with Bryan so I highly recommend checking out.  In the episode, Bryan mentions something that as a film nerd I love hearing about, and that’s how director’s make their films.  One thing that Soderbergh did as he was shooting the film during the day, at nights he would edit the movie on his laptop!  This isn’t new, I know Kevin Smith did this for Red State, but I love that we live in the age where filmmakers can shoot footage in the day and edit the film on a laptop at night!  That to me is just geeky and awesome.

Now back to the movie, again it’s a smart film.  It’s hard to find that kind of film nowadays.  Everything needs to be a spectacle and a lot of times the story suffers.  This doesn’t do that.  It keeps you informed enough so it’s not too hard to follow but there’s enough science in there to keep us nerds/geeks happy.  

Conclusion:  If you want a more hollywood style amp up to a massive climax and it all come crashing to a final end, then this movie is not for you.  This film is a long sizzle that never goes out until the credits.  It does it without a lot of huge “We have to find a cure!” kind of ending which we see in other epidemic movies.  Soderbergh keeps you interested throughout the entire film and I enjoyed it.

My grade: A