Friday, February 24, 2012

Wanderlust Review

Greetings Internet!  This will be short and sweet.

I enjoyed Wanderlust quite a bit.  The story follows New York couple George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) who end up losing their new micro loft/studio apartment (for financial reasons) and head for George's brother's (the always-hilarious Ken Marino) house in Atlanta.  On the way they stop at what they think is a B&B.  It turns out this is a commune for a myriad of stoners, musicians, nudists, and various manner of hippies.  Hilarity ensues.

Wanderlust is a very funny film.  A good bit of the humor comes from the traditional one-liners and witty dialogue between George and Linda and their new-found housemates.  The rest comes from the utterly awkward comedic moments that blossom between the couple and the hippies.  Uncomfortable doesn't even begin to properly describe most of the situations that play out on screen.  Its this off-beat sense of humor that makes Wanderlust a special comedy that hits on various comedic beats.  One of my favorite moments involves George delivering a hysterical monologue (about his manhood) into a mirror.  Its comedy gold; I haven't laughed this hard in a very long time.

The story is fairly predictable and plays out as anyone with a modicum of film-watching experience would expect.  That wasn't too much of a problem for me as the charisma of the two leads and their ridiculous situation overshadowed any story or plot issues.  The ensemble cast is fantastic; Justin Theroux's Seth is an asshole of a stoner that's trying to be the coolest dude on the planet.  Alan Alda is fantastic as always, despite having only a few scenes.  Several Mad TV alums make appearances and are as funny as they've always been.

If you enjoy comedies in the vein of Role Models, Step Brothers or most Judd Apatow-style comedies than I'm fairly certain you'll enjoy Wanderlust.  Its a rude, crude awkward comedy that reaches distinct moments of brilliant writing and comedy.  Rudd and Aniston have a great on-screen chemistry that comes through in their great performances.  I had a blast with Wanderlust.

A final note.  I'm somewhat of a continuity freak when I'm watching films.  I try my hardest to pick out moved objects or an actor's changed position.  There is one glaring continuity error involving George's car.  I don't want to spoil anything, so try to spot it for yourself.

Wanderlust is a fantastically funny film that will leave you satisfied in the end...even if you saw it coming a mile away.

The Bearded Bullet.

Act of Valor Review

What is goin on, Internet?  I'd like to begin this discussion by saying that I have not served in the military and most likely never will.  I cannot fathom the sacrifice it takes to serve our great country and to put one's life on the line as our service-men and women do daily.  Therefore, I have no personal knowledge of actual military tactics outside of what I've seen in film and video games; breach and clear, perimeters, etc.  That said, I do have a strong fondness for the military and things involving the military.  Call of Duty is one of my favorite gaming franchises (regardless of its inaccuracies to real combat) and Saving Private Ryan is my all-time favorite film.  I was incredibly excited for Act of Valor; a film starring real, active-duty Navy SEALs.  Knowing the leads weren't professional actors cast some doubt on the final product, but I'm pleased to say that AoV is an action-packed thrill ride that will not disappoint.

Act of Valor should've been called Call of Duty because its probably the best CoD film we could ever hope for.  Despite the obvious parallels to the best-selling video game franchise, AoV operates with a grounded reality that just isn't present in most modern action films and games.  CoD is chock-full of over-the-top action set pieces that just don't happen in real combat.  And that's fine.  There's a place for that in entertainment and it does a damn fine job delivering on that.  Don't get me wrong, AoV has plenty of action set pieces, with thousands of rounds being fired and explosions left and right.  But it does so with an authenticity that can be completely and wholly believed.  Its no secret that many of the action scenes were planned and developed by the SEALs on-set to capture that sense of authenticity; they planned each assault as if it were real.  And they look damn real.  I cannot begin to describe the intensity with which each firefight is captured on film.  At times I honestly felt like I watching footage of real combat.

The aforementioned intensity that is present on screen is captured brilliantly through the use of a first-person perspective (FPP), which will draw heavy comparisons to Call of Duty.  I'm a huge sucker for FPP when used effectively in film.  There were very small bits of this in District 9, but plenty in AoV.  I won't lie, after the first few shots from a FPP I felt a bit annoyed, but by the third act's final sequence of confrontations I was completely on board and loving every second of it.  A FPP allows the viewer to see what the soldiers are seeing and adds to the visceral intensity of the numerous firefights.  And first-person views aren't relegated solely to the battlefield; there are several instances of a FPP of someone driving a truck, for instance.  It may annoy some viewers, but honestly, me being accustomed to such viewpoints after playing first-person shooters for over a decade, I absolutely loved its use in Act of Valor.

While a terrorist-hunting action-film at its heart, Act of Valor does a mediocre job of letting us get a sense as to who the SEALs really are.  That's not necessarily what this film is about.  Instead, we learn their names through a quick voice-over during a beach party the night before the team is deployed.  And honestly, there really isn't a need to remember each squad member's name as the two leads are really the only characters we get to know.  Due to the fact that these men are active-duty, their names cannot be released to the public.  Therefore, they are absent from AoV's IMDb page.  That means that their characters' names are absent as well.  Even being the two leads, we really only get to see the life of one; he's a family-man with five children and a sixth on the way.  He's really the only member of the team we the viewer can connect and identify with.  Any insight into these men's lives is delivered via voice-over throughout the film by the other lead.  With all of this said, I was emotionally invested during a critical event in the third act that prompted a physical reaction in me that doesn't often happen during most films.  I felt attached and sympathetic despite the lack of real emotional development.

Act of Valor is very much an action film and it succeeds 110% at that.  The plot is simple enough that we can follow, but isn't necessarily bland, either .  Rather, we're able to work through the plot details fairly quickly and just sit back and watch the bullets fly.  If you are an action film fan then I cannot recommend AoV highly enough.  It will satisfy you on every level.  If you're interested in a plot-heavy, emotionally engaging film with great character work, AoV is not for you.  It accomplishes those on a basic to sub-par level that will leave some wanting.  A quick note about the acting: most of the men and women in this film are not actors.  And this shows through much of the dialogue.  There are moments where you can clearly tell they are not professionals; however, there are a few scenes in which the dialogue is not stilted and delivered believably.  As most would've guessed, its quite a mixed bag.  At the end of the day I loved this movie and will probably end up seeing it many times.

Act of Valor is a thrilling, action-packed, bullet-riddled war film that will blow you away...but not with dialogue or character-work.

Bullet to play some Call of Duty.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Means War Review

Hello, Internet!  I really wasn't looking forward to This Means War all that much.  I was amused by the trailers but felt that it was going to be a mildly entertaining spy-infused rom-com.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much this film simply entertained me.  There aren't dazzling special effects, a deep, complex story, or surprising twists.  Nay, this film was cliched beyond belief and highly predictable from beginning to end.  But I still had a blast with it.

I really haven't had this much fun watching a film in a very long time.  At its core, TMW is a spy/romantic comedy with a woman (Reese Witherspoon) as the end goal, rather than Russian nuclear launch keys or some other stereotypical spy film MacGuffin.  Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are fairly typical handsome, bad ass CIA agents that happen to be partners.  Hardy's character, Tuck, is a divorced father who has been out of the dating game for quite awhile.  Pine's FDR is the exact opposite; complete ladies-man who apparently can pick up any woman he wants.  Tuck meets Witherspoon's Lauren via online dating.  After their first date Lauren runs into FDR unexpectedly, and despite her initial rejection, ends up going out with FDR as well.  The men find out that they're dating the same woman and engage in a "gentleman's agreement:" nothing comes between their friendship and neither can sleep with her.  There's the setup for your typical romantic comedy.  And that's pretty much all this film aspires to be.  Adding nothing new to the genre, TMW moves through the paces - she dates both, falls in love with both, can't choose between them because they're great in different ways, decides to sex it up with both and ends up picking one in the end.  What is added to the mix to change the formula ever so slightly is the fact that both men work for the CIA, and abuse their power and privileges in wholly entertaining ways (using satellites and UAV's to track one another while on a date, breaking into her house to plant bugs, etc).

What honestly is the strongest aspect of the film are the two male leads.  Chris Pine and Tom Hardy (both Star Trek alums!) have an amazing back-and-forth that is just purely entertaining to watch.  It probably could've been a buddy comedy a la The Other Guys and I would've been perfectly fine with that.  This Means War is one of the funnier films I've seen in awhile.  There's a certain sequence at a paintball range that is brilliantly hysterical to watch.  The charisma of the two leads allows this to be much more entertaining than your average rom-com.

As I stated before the story is nothing to write home about.  Naturally, the film was bookended with an op-gone-wrong that comes back to bite the duo in the ass.  This time around the stereotypical European (German, this time) villain is played by Til Schweiger; most of you probably know him as Hugo Stiglitz from Inglourious Basterds.  He has the thankless job of saying some stuff in German, blowing up some cars, and doing normal bad buy stuff.  And that's a shame because he's pretty awesome and could probably kick tons of ass.  I really wish screenwriters would devote more time to fleshing out the typical villain for these types of action films (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a recent example).

As time goes by I'll probably forget most of what actually happened in This Means War.  What I will not forget are just how awesome Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are as a team and how much energy and charisma they brought to the table.  Beyond that, TMW brings little in terms of actual substance - just pure, unadulterated fun.  And I'm okay with that.

This Means War is a highly entertaining, if not mostly forgettable romantic comedy (with more comedy than actual romance).

Bullet out.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Retro Review: The Room

What is up, Internet?  This evening I saw a movie titled "The Room."  Outside of that, I'm not quite sure what exactly I just sat through.  There are many variants of a "bad" film.  There are films that are just intrinsically terrible.  Jonah Hex, Beastly, and The Last Airbender come to mind.  A mix of film making incompetence; bad dialogue, poor editing, terrible story, unwatchable acting.  Then there are films that are terrible on purpose.  A perfect example is Black Dynamite; a film that I absolutely adore and is one of the funniest films I've ever seen.  Mistakes in editing, continuity, and dialogue are made on purpose.  And it work brilliantly.  Then we have films like The Room.  The Room was supposed to be a serious drama, dealing with real-world issues of fidelity, love,  The "director," "writer," and lead "actor" of The Room, Tommy Wiseau, actually believed that he was and did craft a well-made film.  But he did not.  He failed on almost every level imaginable, yet managed to make one of the funniest, weirdest, and downright strangest "films" that I've ever seen.

What is The Room?  Neither my words nor my thoughts cannot express coherently what exactly The Room is.  I lack the mental capacity to coalesce my thoughts into an accurate description.  Just look it up on Wikipedia.  It'll be quicker and easier for the both of us.

I am literally sitting here at my keyboard, where I've penned dozens of reviews, shaking my head.  I just don't know what to say or where to begin.  Acting?  Atrocious.  Dialogue? Even worse.  Cinematography?  I don't think Tommy Wiseau knows what that words even means (more on that later).  Score?  Pretty much one of two songs played over and over again.  Visual effects?  Probably the worst green screen I've ever seen implemented in a film (yes, worse than last year's Breaking Dawn).  It's just so frakking bad.  Can anyone tell me where Mr. Wiseau heralds from?  Anyone?  Didn't think so.  His accent is beyond strange, and his delivery of dialogue is comically bad.  Which is what makes it awesome.  The Room is probably one of the most quotable films I've seen.  And many of those quotes are mumbled by Tommy.  He's unintentionally a master of comedy and comedic timing.  This clip provides a perfect example AND manages to encapsulate how the rest of the film is in just one scene.

The rest of the "cast" is pretty much on par with Tommy, if not just a smidge better.  The best "acting" in the entire film is done by some street thug threatening Donnie/Dunnie/Dinnie/Danny/Denny (seriously, his name changes with every scene) for his money.  Again, their delivery and the actual dialogue itself is just so terrible that its hilarious.  If you can stand it for the full run-time, I challenge you to not laugh your ass off at lines like:
"If you think I'm tired today, wait until you see me tomorrow."
"Denny, two is great, but three is a crowd."
"Anyway, how is your sex life?"
"Everybody betrayed me! I'm fed up with this world!"
And those aren't even the best ones.

I'm shaking my head once again.  That's pretty much all you can do after sitting through The Room.  The story, or lack thereof, bounces from random scene to random scene, leaving the audience very much confused.  "Normal" films usually have a set-up/pay-off system that rewards viewers for paying attention.  The Room does not.  Scenes languish for eternity without going anywhere.  Plot points are brought up and never referenced again or returned to.  Its all pretty ridiculous, and yet again, incredible.  I have the urge to purchase the DVD immediately and watch it again.  Just as Mr. Wiseau says in The Room's "interview" in the bonus features, "every American should watch The Room twice.  You probably won't get it the first time."  I don't think that even Tommy "gets" his own movie.

I seriously could continue on ad naseum about The Room and how terribly great it is.  Before wrapping this up I feel that I must make mention of the four, count em, four "sex" scenes in the film.  The Room is essentially a softcore porn form the get-go.  With bellybutton sex.  I can't describe it - it must be seen to be believed.  Just...go watch The Room.

The Room is, I really don't know.  It must be seen to be believed.

The Bearded Bullet is left in a state of shock.  (I can't even bring myself to tag this review with any labels...)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Review

Hello again, Internet!  In preparation for my viewing of Ghost Rider 2, I sat down and finally watched the original.  You can view my thoughts here.  I enjoyed the first one for what it was.  That made me quite excited for its sequel.  Well, that and the awesome trailers and commercials that were released.  I need to get one thing out there first: I've never seen any films by the duo of Neveldine/Taylor.  That said, I am well aware of their gritty shooting style from what I've seen of the Crank films.  And I kinda dig it.

I really enjoyed GRSV.  One of the weakest aspects of the original was the amateurish nature of the cinematography and editing.  Too many cheesy, hackneyed camera angles and shots; odds close-ups of Blaze's eyes or jump-cuts.  This sequel improves on these imperfections in every way, shape, and form.  Nev/Taylor's style is very raw and in-your-face.  Rarely is a shot perfectly still; they wield the cameras themselves to get crazy-ass angles other directors wouldn't dare attempt.  I couldn't help but feel that the nature of the shooting style complimented the raw, kinetic energy with which The Rider fights; he destroys whats in his path with little rhyme or reason.  Same can be said about the cinematography.

If you've seen either of the trailers then you'll know what I'm talking about.  I'm a sucker for low-angle shots, especially during car chases.  And this film has a ton of them.  I recently watched a featurette in which they show that the directors were tied to the cars/motorcycles while on rollerblades just to get an awesome angle.  That kind of stuff blows my mind.  And it made GRSV that much better.

The visual effects were a big step up from the original.  The Rider's leather jacket now bubbles as if it was literally on fire.  His skull is now blackened and charred...and the actual flame effects are highly impressive.  As seen in the original, any machinery The Rider touches transforms, and there are myriad examples of this baddassery present throughout Vengeance.  And they were all quite impressive to behold.

The dialogue is much improved over Ghost Rider.  There are still plenty of cheesy one-liners and roll-your-eyes-worthy delivery but it all fit much better this time around.  This film has a much darker, edgier tone to it and these short, witty comments balanced things out nicely.  The plot itself is a nice compliment to the original film; however, they do very little to acknowledge certain events that played out before.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I dig Nic Cage.  And he makes this film for me.  This Johnny Blaze is a little different than before - he's been through some crazy stuff.  Long gone are the ramp-jumping-Blaze-days.  He's out for himself and no one else.  And yes, we get some very awesome "Nic Cage" moments.  And I think you all know what I'm talking about.  I don't wish to spoil much, but there is one particular scene in which he's fighting back The Rider and its insanely awesome.  Idris Elba is a nice addition, although I wish they would've let him keep his awesome English accent rather than the at-times-difficult-to-understand-French one.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is not for everyone.  If you mildly enjoyed the original I recommend you give this sequel a chance.  I understand that the frenetic way in which Neveldine/Taylor shoot their films will deter some as well.  I say give it a shot.  I just hope you can appreciate the insanity of this film as much as I did.

A quick note about the 3D - I saw Vengeance with the third dimension and I thought it was fairly serviceable.  Nothing too fancy or impressive, just fairly solid.  There was more 3D in the first five minutes of this film than in the entirety of Episode 1.  You might want to save those extra dollars on popcorn, but if you can spare the dough I say go for it.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a frenetic, in-your-face anti-hero film that gets quite a lot right.

The Bullet is out.

Retro Review: Ghost Rider

What is up Internet?  Its been five years since Ghost Rider was released.  And it took me this long to sit down and watch it.  I've heard many things over the years...predominantly negative.  People seem to hate on Nicolas Cage quite a bit, especially his performance in this film.  On the eve its sequel, Spirit of Vengeance, I decided to plunk down three of my hard-earned dollars and rent the original on Amazon instant video.  I went into it with very low expectations, and was actually pleasantly surprised with what I saw.

Ghost Rider is quite a mixed bag of over-the-top terribleness and down-and-dirty awesomeness.  I'll put this as simply as I can.  I didn't like almost any of the dialogue.  Its just plain cringe-worthy most of the time.  The term "phoning it in" is used quite a bit for actors who just don't seem to care...I don't think Eva Mendes even got close to picking up a phone for this film.  Some of her "acting" is selectively engaging and believable.  The rest of the time it looks like she can barely deliver the stilted dialogue.  The same goes for the several villains of the film.  I honestly can't tell you who they were beyond fallen angels that have elemental powers.  No one went out of their way to really explain much or tell us who these people were.  The only real standout of the film was the always-fantastic Sam Elliott.  He actually seemed to be enjoying himself and fit perfectly into his role.

I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a fan of Nic Cage.  A lot of people speak ill of him and his career choices in the last few years.  Its no secret that the man has financial problems; the quantity of the films he's been starring in lately greatly overshadows the quality of said films, but that's all to get a paycheck.  I see this and fully understand.  I quite enjoyed Knowing, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Drive Angry 3D were perfectly suitable films, with Cage being probably the best thing about them.  That all said, I enjoyed him as Johnny Blaze.  Knowing absolutely nothing about the character allowed me to appreciate his eccentricities and unique lifestyle.  Sure, there were plenty of cheesy lines of dialogue and poor delivery but he has a certain charisma that I found quite interesting.

I understand that most of this film is just plain bad, but for some reason I really enjoyed it.  The action (what little there actually was) was fairly serviceable.  The visual effects felt outdated, despite being only five years old.  I did kind of enjoy the unique ways in which The Rider dispatched each of the villains, using their elemental tendencies against them.  There are small, fleeting glimpses at what could've been a badass action film...but the overall mediocrity of the piece brings everything down.

Call me crazy, but parts of me enjoyed parts of Ghost Rider.  For a time so dominated by generally good-willed heroes its a nice change of pace to have something that's uncontrollable in its quest to suck bad guys' souls through their eye sockets.  I can see why loads of moviegoers disliked it, but it still made a ton of money.  Hence the sequel...

Ghost Rider is terribly bad at certain moments, yet quite entertaining at others.

The Bearded Bullet is out.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome to Bearded Reviews!

What is up, Internet!  There have been some changes to Two Guys, One Movie...the site is now Bearded Reviews by The Bearded Bullet.  The Bullet has gone solo and decided to rename the site accordingly.  I'll still be providing awesome, entertaining reviews like always.  Just a simple name change.  The second guy of "Two Guys" will occasionally post a review as he sees fit.  Please continue to enjoy my content and let me know what you think!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace 3D Impressions

Greetings, Internet!  The Bearded Bullet is here to talk about Star Wars.  Specifically, Episode 1 in 3D.  This won't be a full review - trust me, you don't want me to go on for pages about why this movie bothers me so damn much.  Instead I'll just briefly discuss the "3D-ness" of this re-release.

In short: Episode 1 did not need to be in 3D.  I don't say that because it was inherently just was not really even all that present.  Yes, there were scenes and images and sequences in 3D.  But I really couldn't tell most of the time.  Usually when I see a film in 3D I'll move the glasses a bit just to see how blurry the image is (so I can get a feeling for just how "3D" the film is).  I did this myriad times with Phantom Menace, and almost every time I did so the image was practically crystal clear.  No blurriness.  Hence, no 3D effect.  The one scene that this is quite evident in is the first scene in which we meet Queen Amidala in her main chamber, talking to Palpatine's hologram.  That entire sequence has little to no 3D.  Many of the scenes set in Mos Eisley had little or no effect.

Unnoticeable 3D is not inherently a bad thing.  Subtlety is key with most films.  Hugo is a great example.  The 3D is absolutely fantastic, yet is subtle in a way that you forget you're wearing big, dumb glasses.  With Episode 1 I also forgot that I was wearing those big, dumb (Darth Maul-themed!) glasses.  But in this case it was because I couldn't really even notice the effect most of the time.  I honestly cannot pinpoint any particular shot, scene, or sequence in which I was impressed by the implementation of 3D.  I thought the podrace looking fantastic...but not because of 3D.  The final lightsaber battle is still all kinds of impressive...but not because of the use of 3D.  It wasn't particularly bad - it just wasn't all that effective.

Maybe I'm being too nitpicky, but after having seen the likes of Hugo, The Adventures of Tin Tin, and Immortals last year, the standard for 3D in films has been raised quite a bit.  Granted, this film was post-converted and not shot in 3D, considering that it was filmed almost fifteen years ago.  Still, there are examples of good post-conversion (Harry Potter 8).  I just wasn't all that impressed with Phantom Menace.  That said, I do hope this re-release makes enough money to warrant post-conversions for the rest of the series.  I have a feeling that Episode 3 could look quite spectacular in three dimensions, especially the final confrontation on Mustafar.

Let me know what you think about the use of 3D in Star Wars.

Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace was underwhelmingly blah in three dimensions.

The Bearded Bullet is off to listen to Duel of the Fates...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chronicle Review

Hello, Internet.  I'm going to start off by saying that this review will be peppered with spoilers for the newest found-footage film, Chronicle.  I can't really effectively discuss my thoughts and feelings without going into detail about actual scenes and events.  Some are shown in the trailer, others smartly held back. That said, I really enjoyed this film.  Like, a lot.  I can totally understand why some people wouldn't, but I just don't fall into that category.  Let's get right into it.

Its no secret that I'm a sucker for found-footage films.  Most of the ones that I've seen I've enjoyed on varying levels.  I absolutely adore Cloverfield.  The three Paranormal Activities were quite frightening and entertaining for me.  Troll Hunter is a fantastic film, and needs to be seen by everyone.  Its just so darn good.  I actually dug The Virginity Hit, although pretty much  no one else on Earth saw it. just bleh.  I didn't like it at all.  But that had more to do with the subject matter (and misleading trailer) than the actual style in which it was shot.  Chronicle lands up there with Cloverfield, for me.  It just works on so many levels.

**Full spoilers for Chronicle abound**

Chronicle is a film about three unlikely friends who stumble upon a strange, underground artifact that is pulsing with energy.  Clearly something's up with this object when the main character's (Andrew) video camera starts malfunctioning.  Something pulses out of the object and the three flee from the cavern.  That's the basic set-up.  Next we cut to the boys practicing their new-found telekinetic powers.  I'll admit, its a bit of a jarring cut to go right from them screaming in darkness to a bright, sunny backyard with the three boys laughing and throwing baseballs at one another.  Over the next few days and weeks the trio begin to hone their new talents, getting stronger with every use.  Alex (Matt Garetty) even describes their powers to be akin to a muscle; something that can be strengthened with use over time.  That concept was quite fascinating and intriguing to me.  I had never before thought of a power or ability as something that could be strengthened with use.  Perhaps there are instances of a super-hero gaining new abilities over time, but to have these three boys discover this fact and take advantage of it so soon was refreshing and gave a nice flow to the plot.

The narrative that plays out is quite compelling and enjoyable to watch.  Andrew begins the film by setting up his camera in his room to capture his drunken, abusive father on film.  Andrew's mother has some sort of illness that keeps her essentially bed-ridden, with her care being left to his father (played by everyone's favorite asshole cop from Dawn of the Dead, Michael Kelly) who has given every penny he has to save his wife.  And also to alcohol, apparently.  He's physically and verbally abusive to Andrew, leading him to be a shy and introverted teen in the already-difficult high school years.  His only friend is his cousin, Alex, who can rarely get him to talk about anything personal.  This "origin story" for Andrew is not something we see with a traditional "super hero" film.  Perhaps that's because Alex ultimately becomes the villain of the piece.

Most may see his eventual turn to villain as obvious.  Well, it may have been obvious but I still thought it was quite compelling and entertaining.  The great thing about Chronicle is that you are able to sympathize with and relate to all three of the main characters, but definitely Andrew the most.  His abusive upbringing planted deep-seeded anger - anger that spills out after his father confronts him about buying a video camera when that money should've been spent on his mother's medication.  I can see his father's frustration, as we the viewers never know where Andrew gets the money for not one, but two video cameras over the course of the film.

My absolute favorite aspect of the film is the camera work.  Like most found-footage films, the vast majority of the piece is shot via a hand-held video camera, with the main cast doing most of the shooting.  Questions that arise in every film of this type are present: why would they continue to film in certain situations?  Chronicle does a decent job at setting up why there's a camera everywhere; Andrew is using the camera to not only capture his drunken father and hold him accountable, but he uses the camera as a physical boundary between himself and the world around him.  Perhaps he feels that he can hide behind the lens, without having to fit into society.  And this is actually called out by Alex halfway through the film.   Because of  his telekinetic abilities, at times Andrew controls the camera with his mind, allowing it to float around in the middle of a scene.  This allows for more traditional camera movement akin to a "normal" film.  I absolutely loved some of the shots achieved with this method.  It all just worked for me.

The ending/climax of the film was quite a sight to behold. Andrew's character arc comes full circle after a rage-filled crime spree lands him in the hospital.  His father chastises him for his behavior, blaming his mother's death on him.  Andrew literally explodes the side of the hospital and drops his father to what should be his death.  Alex arrives in time to catch him and thus begins a thrilling, intense battle of flying, telekinetic badasses who wreck quite a bit of property before Alex finally puts down Andrew after a standoff with a few dozen police officers.  Alex is forced to flee, even though he is clearly the "good guy."  One can only imagine what tests and experiments would've been conducted on the boy.

The final scene is touching, poetic, and a perfect cap to this wonderful film.  Again, I can totally see why some people wouldn't enjoy Chronicle.  There are jumps in logic one must take at times, and plenty of hero-style tropes are present.  But none of that hindered my enjoyment of the film.  I feel that there is enough fresh material, at least a fresh approach to said material, for it to be quite an enjoyable experience.

Chronicle is a highly entertaining, thrilling super-hero film that I highly recommend.

The Bearded Bullet is off to think about all the cool stuff he could do with telekinesis...

The Woman In Black Review

Greetings, Internet.  I was pretty pumped for Daniel Radcliffe's first foray into non-Harry Potter fare since the conclusion of that great, great saga.  I thought both trailers were quite haunting and effective.  I also found it strange that we never heard Radcliffe speak a single line of dialogue during those two trailers.  Perhaps this was to try to distance him from the Potter franchise.  Indeed, the tone of this film is probably the furthest you could get from that franchise.  The result is a mixed bag that I enjoyed...but not quite as much as I had hoped.

I need to get this out of the way: Daniel Radcliffe does not look old enough to have a four-year-old son.  There, I said it.  Now that that's out of the way I can actually focus on his performance...which was fairly solid.  Yes, after seeing him in the (invisibility) cloak of one Harry Potter for a solid decade, its difficult to picture him in any other role.  This thought plagued me during the first fifteen or so minutes of the film.  It doesn't help that the second shot introduces us to his young son.  Its quite a jarring experience (outside of the context of the film).  Once I was able to move past this superficial thought I quite enjoyed Daniel's performance throughout the film.  He suffers a wide range of emotion and conveys them to us with great effect.  The rest of the cast is perfectly fine - the problem is that they usually show only one emotion, fear.  And sometimes anger.  There really isn't much for anyone else to do in this except, save for Radcliffe.

The beginning of the film is quite confusing, starting with a scene that doesn't end up paying off until nearly the end of the film.  Again, after getting past this confusing set-up I quite enjoyed the actual narrative of the film.  Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps is tasked with settling the account of a deceased widow and her large mansion...which happens to reside on a small island in the middle of what appears to be marshland.  During high-tide the roadway to and from the island is flooded, trapping anyone on the island who remains.  Fairly convenient for a horror/thriller, but is actually quite effective.  The setting itself is haunting; isolation always helps to build tension within the context of most horror films.  Pandorum and Jason X (yes, I went there) are just two that come to mind.  Granted, both of those films are set in space but you get the point.  It took what felt like quite a while to get into the actual main "event" of the film.  The Woman in Black is very much a film that is 80% build-up and 18% climax, with 2% resolution.  And I wasn't all that happy with the 2%.  The climax of the film was harrowing, cringe-worthy, and highly effective.  What came after let me down a bit.  I don't want to spoil anything, but the ending feels like a big "f you" to the audience, who has been on Kipps' side throughout the course of the film.

While I overall enjoyed TWiB, I can't help but having left the theater wanting more.  I can't quite pinpoint what exactly that thing is.  Maybe scarier?  That's tough to say because there are plenty of nail-biting, creep-out moments.  More gore?  Its PG-13 rating hampers what can be shown on-screen but I didn't miss the blood and guts of other horror films, and frankly, there was no need for any.  I really can't say what else I would've wanted, besides a different ending.

What I can say is that I hope that Mr. Radcliffe has a very long, and storied career in Hollywood.  I have a feeling he will.  He's already shown a talent for the stage, and I feel that The Woman in Black shows that he can pull off tension/fear/loss with great aplomb.  I'd recommend it for anyone who enjoys being scared, even if it might be on the tamer side.

The Woman In Black has some decent scares peppered throughout (if you can get past the whole child thing), with a fairly compelling narrative.

Bullet out.