Saturday, July 2, 2016

Heroes in Dark Places

Chronicle (2012): written by Max Landis and Josh Trank; directed by Josh Trank; starring Dane DeHaan (Andrew Detmer), Alex Russell (Matt Garetty), Michael B. Jordan (Steve Montgomery), and Michael Kelly (Richard Detmer): Josh Trank and Max Landis' fine, found-footage superhero drama led to Trank's horrible Fantastic Four movie, which really seems like a case of Unintended Consequences. 

Oddly, the means by which the three teenagers in Chronicle gain their telekinesis-based superpowers would have made for a good new origin for the Fantastic Four -- as indeed one character's descent into madness would have made for a reasonable take on Doctor Doom. So it goes. 

The found-footage premise works organically through much of the movie, especially once the characters can telekinetically fly the camera around on its own. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan do fine, nuanced work as our three super-powered teenagers. And Chronicle, despite its (relatively) low budget, does a nice job of showing the wonders and terrors such powers would visit upon people while also creating actual, sympathetic, flawed characters. 

All this actual storytelling means that a concluding super-hero battle actually possesses the ability to shock and disturb. Easily one of the ten greatest superhero movies ever made because it's actually a movie and not an Ad for American Exceptionalism, Toys, and Fast Food. Highly recommended.

Spotlight (2015): based on true events and written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy; directed by Tom McCarthy; starring Mark Ruffalo (Mike Rezendes), Michael Keaton ('Robby' Robinson), Rachel McAdams (Sacha Pfeiffer), Liev Schreiber (Marty Baron), John Slattery (Ben Bradlee, Jr.), and Stanley Tucci (Mitchell Garabedian): Excellent, old-school movie which turns true-life events into the stuff of an intellectual thriller without sacrificing verisimilitude. 

A top-notch cast takes us through the investigation of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in and around Boston back in 2001-2002. The reporters of the Boston Globe's in-depth investigative unit (a unit named Spotlight, hence the title) eventually find not only widespread abuse but a cover-up that really does seem to go all the way to the top. It's a nicely modulated movie about why reporting matters, and how the most terrible crimes can be covered up by seemingly decent people for 'the greater good.' A deserved Best Picture Oscar Winner for 2015. Highly recommended.

Everest: based on a true story and written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy; directed by Baltasar Kormakur; starring Jason Clarke (Rob Hall), John Hawkes (Doug Hansen), Michael Kelly (Jon Krakauer), Emily Watson (Helen Wilton), Keira Knightley (Jan Arnold), Josh Brolin (Beck Weathers), Robin Wright (Peach Weathers), and Jake Gyllenhaal (Scott Fischer) (2015): Enjoyable movie based on the true story of a disastrous couple of days on Mount Everest in May of 1996. Journalist Jon Krakauer's terrific Into Thin Air (1997) documented the affair, and while the movie isn't based on that book, Krakauer does appear as one of the characters. The movie holds up well on the small screen, though one focuses more on the characters when one isn't being threatened with visions of the Sublime every five minutes. Highly recommended.

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