Sunday, 28 April 2013

Film Review | Lawless (2012)

Based on the real lives of the bootlegging Bondurant brothers during prohibition era America, Lawless feels throughout as though it wants to reach the heights of cinema's most revered gangster tales. But despite an impressive cast of acting talent, it never manages to achieve anywhere near the greatness it so desperately and ambitiously strives for.

Lawless' main cast is arguably its strongest asset. Tom Hardy does well as middle brother Forrest, growling his way through a part which, whilst certainly not the most challenging he has taken on in his career so far, allows the actor to create an interesting character through a mix of understatement and intensity. Opposite Hardy as youngest Bondurant brother Jack, Shia LaBoeuf gives the best performance of his career so far but one that still lacks consistency. At times LaBeouf delivers some pleasingly strong emotional moments, but at others feels out of his depth; whilst certainly not an awful turn, it's easy to think of several other acting talents of a similar age who could have delivered a lot more in the role. Rounding off the trio of brothers is Jason Clarke as Howard, the oldest but unfortunately also the sibling most underwritten and underdeveloped, feeling too one-note for the actor to create anything genuinely memorable.

The supporting cast elsewhere delivers mixed results. Guy Pearce delivers with an unsettling and intense performance as Special Deputy Charley Rakes, stealing the show in the film's opening act; it's a shame that both the character and Pearce's performance descends into over-theatrical ludicrousness by the film's climax.  Gary Oldman does reliably well in a role more akin to the maniacal characters of earlier in his career than the more restrained parts the actor has been seen in recently, but is also vastly underutilized throughout. Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain are both fine, but are given very little of interest to do other than be accessories to the men.

The screenplay from Nick Cave is at times strong, but lacks the narrative thread needed to tie all its different elements together. The slow-burning feud between the Bondurants and Rakes is compelling throughout, but both of the film's attempts at romantic subplots fail to do anything genuinely meaningful: Hardy and Chastain's chemistry props up their love affair, but the scenes between LaBeouf and Wasikowska continually fall flat.

Lawless is regularly at its best when delivering brutal violence, with John Hillcoat's direction feeling most effective when focused upon the grittier and more unforgiving elements of prohibition era society. Elsewhere, the director's artistic choices feel perfunctory at best. There are moments of impressive cinematography but these are far too seldom to leave any lasting impact. Hillcoat's execution by and large feels too clean cut and lacking in stylistic mastery to deliver an authentic mise-en-scène.

Lawless ends up as an enjoyable period crime drama, but also one that wavers far too much between successful and ineffective elements. There's certainly a fair amount here to like, but there's also too much that falls significantly short of what it needs to be to create something genuinely memorable. Hillcoat's film manages to entertain for most of its running time, but with several big talents involved and a time period undeniably compelling in itself, to deliver a film that manages to entertain without offering much else ultimately feels like a wasted opportunity.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Film Review | Toy Story 3 (2010)

Combining both the rule of diminishing returns and the inverse relationship between the length of time you leave between installments in a film franchise and the quality of the newest entry, Toy Story 3 should be awful. Add to that the fact that both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were beloved modern classics of animation by the time of Toy Story 3's release and it could have become the most derided third film of a trilogy since The Godfather Part III. Surely if any studio could manage to steer clear of this minefield of cinematic failure, it was Pixar? Simply put: yes, it surely was.

Toy Story 3, like Toy Story 2 before it, retains many of the successful elements seen since the series' first installment. All the key voice cast members return sounding as fresh as ever (aside from Jim Varney as Slinky Dog due to his death in 2000, but whose role is ably and respectfully filled by Blake Clark). A wealth of new talent join them, each as perfectly fit to their animated counterparts as the franchise veterans. Ned Beatty as Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear deftly creates the series' most finely crafted and performed antagonist, with Michael Keaton providing strong and often laugh-out-loud support as Ken. Additional supporting roles are filled by seasoned performers including Whoopi Goldberg, Bonnie Hunt and Timothy Dalton (as one of the series' most brilliant minor characters, Mr. Pricklepants: a lederhosen-attired plush hedgehog with a propensity for Shakespearean performance), which lends the film an essence of cinematic eminence.

After piloting the first two installments, John Lasseter receives credits as story writer and executive producer here whilst handing over control to Lee Unkrich in his directorial debut. Unkrich proves to be a worthy successor staying true to the style and passion Lasseter infused into his films; Toy Story 3 takes in a great deal of cinematic heritage including classic prison escape thrillers and an opening sequence which trumps both of the previous films' magnificent efforts. Unkrich blends the best elements from the franchise's past whilst keeping his film feeling original and contemporary. Even a handful of sequences clearly designed to take advantage of the film's 3D release in cinemas work just as well with one dimension removed. Pixar's ability to make the design of their characters, initially restricted by 1995 animation technology, still feel as crisp and appealing as ever is easy to overlook but simply cannot be understated.

Whilst Toy Story 3 at its core tells the story of a rescue mission once again, it manages more ably than its predecessor to bring an entirely original slant to proceedings. But perhaps most impressive of all is Unkrich's ability to make Toy Story 3 the most emotional entry of the trilogy. An early scene involving the toys effecting an elaborate ploy to get the attention of the now young adult Andy (John Morris) using his mobile phone is heartbreaking, and the film's final sequence will have you blubbering like a baby, especially if you've been with Woody and co. since the beginning. Elsewhere the film touches on areas that lesser animated films wouldn't dare go near, with existential questions surrounding death and the reasons for being etched within some of the film's most moving sequences.

Toy Story 3 therefore rounds off Pixar's flawless trifecta, one of the greatest film trilogies ever accomplished. All three deserve recognition in history as masterworks of animation and cinema, and their influence will undoubtedly resonate through the years and decades of film far into the future. Or as Buzz Lightyear would say more succinctly: "to infinity and beyond".


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Film Review | Toy Story 2 (1999)

After the overwhelming success with both critics and audiences of Toy Story, it's no surprise that Pixar chose to create a sequel to capitalize on its success only four years later. No other franchise from the studio would receive a sequel until Cars 2's release in 2011. It could be that Pixar didn't want to emulate the dead-horse-flogging antics of rival studio Dreamworks, churning out one sequel after another no matter how low the quality sank. Or maybe the masters of computer animation were anxious that any future sequels made by them matched up to the incredibly high bar set in Toy Story 2.

A great deal of Toy Story 2's success comes from returning director John Lasseter's decision to carry over many positive elements from the original film. Hanks and Allen again deliver first class vocal turns as Woody and Buzz, as do the rest of the returning cast. New additions to the acting roster are just as excellent: Joan Cusack as cowgirl doll Jessie fits the character to a tee with a larger-than-life performance; Kelsey Grammer as Stinky Pete draws on his thespian roots, as well as his well-known television role as the pretentious Dr. Frasier Crane, to create a classic cinematic villain; and Wayne Knight is a perfect fit for ruthless toy collector Al McWhiggin.

Lasseter's direction here is in many ways even more impressive than in Toy Story. The advances in Pixar's animation in the four years since the first film are regularly obvious, but always used with subtlety and panache by the director. Toy Story's opening was intentionally low key and all the more powerful for it; the start of its sequel sits at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of flamboyance, delivering a breathtaking action sequence that takes in a great many cinematic nods and references along the way, but at the same time Lasseter once again crafts a compelling and entertaining sequence. Elsewhere we see refined examples of something Pixar are now seasoned experts of ingeniously crafting from computer code: pathos. I defy anyone to watch Jessie's flashback sequence without experiencing a pang of genuine emotion within themselves.

Arguably, Toy Story 2 doesn't avoid every pitfall many sequels often fall into. The story here revisits some of the key beats of that seen in Toy Story with a rescue mission at the core of both films, only with Woody and Buzz's roles reversed from the first film to the second. But this never takes anything away from Toy Story 2, and the richness of the craft and depth of the ideas on display here mean that any repetition can be wholly forgiven. Toy Story 2 is every bit as accomplished, imaginative and entertaining as its predecessor, deserving recognition as one of the best animated films ever made.


Monday, 15 April 2013

Film Review | Toy Story (1995)

It's in no way an understatement to say that Toy Story is a cinematic milestone: one of the most important films ever made. It transformed the landscape of animated cinema forever and managed to do so slap-bang in the middle of the Disney Renaissance, one of the most critically and commercially successful periods for the animation giant. But whilst being a watershed moment in CGI, eighteen years after its release Toy Story still feels as fresh, vibrant and masterfully crafted as it did in 1995.

Toy Story perfects that synthesis of performance, direction and art so rarely seen and so precious when it happens. The vocal performances consummately fit their animated counterparts without fault. Both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz Lightyear respectively cease to be actors, inhabiting their characters absolutely and sublimely. The chemistry between the two is pure cinematic gold, making the journey the two toys make from rivals to odd couple to double act an intoxicating mix of childhood fantasy and raw authenticity. The supporting characters too are fleshed out superbly, their voices expertly cast and each as entertaining as the next.

The script is spot on, with joke after joke hitting the mark. Toy Story effortlessly blends wordplay with visual humour, as well as providing what is now seen as a Pixar trademark - comedy that will entertain the kids, but will also draw genuine laughs from the adults. There are numerous subtle references and in-jokes littered throughout, and each is a winner.

The directorial craft from John Lasseter is consistently stunning. Shot after shot shows a passion and gift for storytelling influenced by some of the finest cinema ever made. Within Toy Story you'll find sequences of high emotion, heart-pounding action and unsettling horror, underpinned by one of the best buddy stories ever told. It's also to Pixar's credit that, nearly two decades on, the animation within their debut feature is still just as impressive as ever, the design of their characters effortlessly retaining a timeless yet contemporary quality.

Perhaps Toy Story's finest achievement of all is its transcendence of both genre and target audience. To describe it simply as a "children's film" or an "animated adventure" is to ignore its universal appeal and broad spectrum of influence and ambition. It's a film which has earned its place in cinematic history but, most importantly of all, it's a film which provides pure enjoyment through comprehensively refined cinema. Simply put, Toy Story is flawless.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Film Review | Shrek Forever After (2010)

Upon its release, Shrek Forever After was greeted with reviews lauding it as a return to form for the franchise. Maybe it was the fact that the fourth Shrek film was to be the final one, sparking nostalgia for the series' more auspicious beginnings. Or maybe it was because Shrek The Third was such a steaming ogre turd that anything better than it was a welcome relief. But whilst Shrek Forever After is indeed better than its precursor (not hard, as most films are), it never achieves anywhere near the success of Shrek or even Shrek 2.

Granted, Shrek Forever After does have some good ideas contained within it. New antagonist Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) is effective enough, despite being an amalgamation of features from the previous three baddies seen in the Shrek franchise (Lord Farquaad's diminutive stature, Fairy Godmother's magical contracts, and desire to be king from both Prince Charming and Farquaad). Another entertaining new adversary is the Pied Piper, although his appearances in the film are disappointingly brief. The alternate universe story is set up well and provides a handful of imaginative concepts, although as the story wears on the ideas start getting less and less fresh. Shrek's (Mike Myers) get-out clause in his contract with Rumpelstiltskin, for example, is lifted almost entirely from Shrek 2.

Despite these redeeming features, there's also too much within Shrek Forever After that simply doesn't work. The tribe of ogres, despite being voiced by current talents such as Jon Hamm and Jane Lynch, feel like a collection of flat Shrek clones (apart from Craig Robinson's excruciatingly unfunny chimichanga-peddling Cookie). Shrek's rebuilding of his relationships with his old friends in the alternate universe also provides one misfire after another: Donkey (Eddie Murphy) feels underutilised for the second Shrek film running; Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) is turned into a one-note lowest-common-denominator visual joke (he's fat); and there's never any spark in Shrek's renewed courtship of Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who is presented as a nearly-twenty-years-too-late Braveheart parody.

In the end, Shrek Forever After is undoubtedly much more worthwhile than Shrek The Third, but still provides a weak and largely unsuccessful conclusion to the Shrek series. It's a shame to see a franchise which built its foundations on witty subversion of stereotypes and conventions in its first film largely fall back on trite and unimaginative ideas as it draws to a close. Sadly, Dreamworks have made sure there's absolutely nothing left to wring out of their flagship ogre before allowing him to retire to his swamp for the final time.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Film Review | Shrek The Third (2007)

Dreamworks are often held up as the main competition to Pixar, the current studio to beat in the world of computer animated cinema, with some of the studio's best output seen by some to match some of Pixar's efforts. It's a comparison I feel at the moment is unjustified; whilst Dreamworks have created some memorable films, the ratio of decent to average-or-worse cinema just isn't that impressive. And whilst Pixar have turned out one or two less impressive films to end their streak of classics, they have yet to produce anything as dull and underwhelming as Dreamworks' Shrek The Third.

Before watching number three in the Shrek franchise, forget the clever subversion of fairytale constructs, the subtle and well-chosen cultural references, the jokes that actually make you laugh rather than question why on earth they had been included (basically everything that the first Shrek film was about and that Shrek 2, whilst not quite as successful, managed to at least remain faithful to), because Shrek The Third contains none of this. The plot is a rehash of elements from the first two films, feeling entirely uninspired and never generating much interest. Shrek's character arc, focused on whether he's ready to become a father, feels heavy-handed and comes and goes too much to ever feel properly developed. The connected moral message of facing up to responsibilities feels muddled and is concluded in a wholly unsatisfactory manner.

The returning characters feel tired or unnecessary, and choosing Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) as the primary antagonist here when he was introduced as second fiddle (and a bit of a tit) in the first sequel is setting up to fail from the very start. Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz as Shrek and Fiona respectively never offer more than going through the motions. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) are entirely wasted here, with a half-baked body switch "twist" thrown in late on in proceedings which goes nowhere, as if the writers suddenly realised they'd wasted two of the franchise's strongest assets. The new characters are no better: Arthur "Artie" Pendragon is underdeveloped and irritating, with Justin Timberlake's vocal performance never fitting the character; Merlin (Eric Idle) is even worse - a pathetic "new age" wizard whose every joke falls flat.

Shrek The Third is one of the laziest pieces of cinema I've ever experienced. Every aspect of it smacks of apathy on the part of everyone involved, from the stars to the director to the animators. It lacks energy, imagination and humour and represents the very lowest end of computer-animated cinema. Until Dreamworks is no longer happy to churn out dross such as this, it will never truly be able to compete with Pixar.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Film Review | Shame (2012)

Michael Fassbender has emerged over the last five years or so as a serious talent to watch, bringing to life such memorable characters as Lieutenant Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds and more recently the unsettling android David in Prometheus. But to truly see why Fassbender is one of the most outstanding contemporary actors out there, you need look no further than his astonishing performance in Shame.

By the end of the film's opening, wordless sequence, Fassbender has expertly set out his stall, crafting the character of Brandon Sullivan sublimely through suggestion, expression and an intensity that only the very purest acting talent can muster. Brandon is seen making eye contact with an unnamed woman on the New York subway. The subtle flirting is traded back and forth, escalated little by little. And then things suddenly change, the woman sensing threat and becoming flustered before quickly escaping the train carriage at the next stop. Brandon pursues, no longer a man flirting with a woman but a predator desperately attempting to track his prey. The woman eludes him, and Brandon transforms again: a frustrated child who knows he has lost the game and momentarily bewildered, before heading back crestfallen to board the train once again. All the while this is intercut with candid snippets of Brandon's daily routine; his well-to-do but solitary existence in a modern, clean-cut apartment which belies the character's true life as a sex addict.

It's a performance which Fassbender sustains and develops masterfully throughout the film. Brandon is a complex character, simultaneously repulsive and genuinely sympathetic, repressed yet explosive. This is a character more intricate than the entire cast of other films put together, and yet Fassbender's execution of the part is so perfectly balanced between the excruciatingly subtle and overwhelmingly palpable as to appear effortless. It's a performance around which the rest of Shame is built, but the combined skill of both Fassbender as performer and McQueen as director means that it never threatens to overpower the film's many other superb elements.

Under the direction of another, Shame could at any point very easily slip into the exploitative and tasteless realm of cinema, but McQueen is so firmly in control of what he is creating this never even threatens to  happen. His depiction of the sordid elements of Brandon's life is regularly graphic, but never pornographic. A great deal of the sexual activity McQueen shows us is devoid of sexiness, instead manifesting a combination of Brandon's hedonism, dependency and self-loathing. The only time the director allows sex on screen to titillate is during Brandon's seduction of co-worker Marianne (Nicole Beharie), directly reflecting the character's desire to begin a genuine romantic relationship. Without a doubt, McQueen's command over his film is absolute and expert at every moment.

Carey Mulligan, supporting Fassbender as Brandon's capricious sister Sissy, is also deserving high praise. Her chemistry with Fassbender is electric, bringing a volatile and deep relationship to the screen with the two sharing both tender moments and some of the most uneasily tense scenes in the entire film. Her haunting yet beautiful take on a well-known film theme is also guaranteed to stay with you just as long as some of Shame's most hard-hitting sexual images.

Shame is a modern masterpiece: a piece of art where everything is perfectly crafted and exudes excellence. Steve McQueen is a director of substantial talent who will undoubtedly prove to be a name in cinema worth watching very closely in the years to come. But it is the awe-inspiring performance from Michael Fassbender that will imprint itself upon your mind long after the film's conclusion, and rightfully so. It's the most brilliant performance I've seen yet from one of the finest acting talents of the 21st Century. Shame is regularly not an easy watch, but it's a film that without question deserves to be seen.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Film Review | The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2009)

It was with sadness that I heard of Tony Scott's death in August last year. Whilst he was never likely to be remembered as a director who created some of the great artistic works in cinematic history, Scott was undeniably a man with passion for and understanding of cinema who directed some of the more memorable entries into the action and thriller genres during his career. The Taking Of Pelham 123 would end up being Scott's penultimate film, and whilst it certainly has some redeeming features, unfortunately it's nowhere near the quality of the director's most successful work.

Scott's film is likely to start on the backfoot with some in the audience before it has even begun, being as it is a remake of the well-respected 1974 film of the same name (and with which I must admit I am not at all familiar), making changes to update the story to a technology-filled post-9/11 New York City. Whilst comparison with 1974 stars Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw may be the route by which some will judge Denzel Washington and John Travolta here, it really isn't necessary. Washington can do this kind of thing in his sleep, and whilst his turn here is perfectly satisfactory, he's never remotely stretched and constantly on auto-pilot. Travolta's performance, however, consists of him shouting and using the word "motherfucker" a lot, occasionally calling John Turturro (another great talent going through the motions) a "greaseball", and at one point using the term "bunghole". At no point will you ever buy into Travolta's character as anything but a fifty-something nutter desperately trying (and failing) to fit into youth gang culture, let alone who he is eventually revealed to be.

Scott manages to build some decent tension through a ticking clock framing device in the opening hour or so, but unfortunately this is squandered through a half-hearted final act which never delivers the fast-paced action needed. By this point Brian Helgeland's script has overcomplicated matters by adding in unnecessary 21st Century adornments to the story and seriously muddling Ryder's (Travolta) motives, leaving those who still care with a frustratingly anticlimactic conclusion.

The Taking Of Pelham 123 ends up as a hotch-potch of elements ranging from above average to quite poor. It's entertaining enough for what it is and never awful, but it also falls short in too many areas to ever become anything memorable. In the end, it's a film which helps to remind you of the great many superior offerings in the action thriller subgenre that are on offer, some of which can be readily found in Scott's own back catalogue.


Monday, 8 April 2013

Film Review | Machete (2010)

Once upon a time, Machete was a film that existed only as a "fake" trailer presented between Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof in the pair's double feature homage Grindhouse. Featured alongside trailers for other fictitious features such as Werewolf Women Of The SS (Rob Zombie's tribute to Nazi exploitation flicks) and Thanksgiving (Eli Roth's brutal holiday-centric slasher parody), Machete ended up as the first of these ideas to be fleshed out into a real film. Working backwards from an idea that was intentionally thin on plot and excessive when it came to violence and action, Rodriguez's "Mexploitation" pastiche could - and by rights should - have ended up as a total mess. In the hands of another director, it almost certainly would have. But whilst it lacks the refinement and sheer quality of the director's best work, Machete is hugely enjoyable.

Danny Trejo as the titular hero both looks and acts the part perfectly, coming across like a Hispanic John McClane with the vocal range of Schwarzenegger's Terminator and the allure of James Bond. The rest of the cast is as game as is necessary, with big names such as Steven Seagal and Robert De Niro giving it their hammy all.

The story is somewhat overstretched for the one hour and forty five minutes Machete runs for, and at times Rodriguez threatens to make things more complicated than they need to be for a film of this nature. There are also social and political messages running underneath much of what is presented, which thankfully only threatens to take over the fun on two or three occasions. Most importantly, Rodriguez remembers throughout what Machete needs as its focus: balls to the wall action. And by heck, the director shows he knows how to put together a decent extreme action sequence. The film's opening scene is pure exploitation gold, and the fire-powered finale can't help but bring a gleeful grin to your face.

Whilst Machete is never likely to be considered a Rodriguez classic, falling short of achieving the pulpy heights of Sin City or the exquisite level of homage seen in Planet Terror, it's a consistently entertaining, no-nonsense action film packed with plenty of guns, fights, explosions and - perhaps least expectedly - talent. Admit it: a film featuring Cheech Marin as a twin shotgun toting priest has got to be worth a look.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Film Review | Blood Simple (1984)

Talk about a "Coen Brothers film" today and many things come to mind - so many in fact that it's difficult to pin down precisely what the ingredients of a film from the minds of Ethan and Joel Coen actually are. Their films will be different experiences for each individual; to my mind, the best Coen Brothers films take any genre that the brothers wish to tackle, shoot it through with a smart story, uncannily authentic characters and wickedly dark humour, and present the whole thing in an offbeat and eccentric style. Blood Simple, the debut feature by Joel and Ethan (credited as director and producer respectively, but in reality sharing the roles intrinsically), contains a great many of these features with varying degrees of success, as well as a handful of flaws rarely seen in the brothers' later works.

Blood Simple is the Coens' take on the neo-noir genre, focusing on the seedy criminal proceedings of a small group of people. This is one of the film's key strengths, as each character is given plenty of opportunity to be fleshed out on screen. The cast are comprehensively strong: Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh are fantastic as sleazy bar owner Marty and even sleazier private-eye-cum-hitman Visser respectively; Frances McDormand as Marty's unfaithful wife Abby captivates in a mature and expert performance which belies this being her feature debut; only John Getz feels like something of a weak link as Ray, Abby's lover, putting in a performance which never feels up to the standard of the rest of the cast.

The film oozes '80s film noir style, with the Coens never missing an opportunity to have stylish cinematography drip from every frame. The use of camera angles throughout is startlingly individual, and the choices of setting and lighting constantly give the film a satisfying claustrophobic and oppressive feel. The pace of the film is never fast, at some points feeling steady and controlled but at others just feeling intolerably slow, not something which I've ever found to be a problem in the Coen Brothers' later works. The story suffers from the same problem: some scenes benefit from the slow pacing, allowing atmosphere and character to develop, but during others you just wish they'd get on with it. It's a good forty minutes or so into the film before the story actually begins moving forwards.

Ultimately a product of both the time in which it was made and the point in their careers at which the Coen Brothers made it, Blood Simple remains (despite a few missteps) a highly crafted and enjoyable watch. It's a film which indicates the fantastic cinema the pair would create during their career in the thirty or so years following its release, with bold and individual creative and artistic flair throughout that you can't help but be impressed by.


Friday, 5 April 2013

Film Review | Chronicle (2012)

There will always be types of film that feel as though they're reaching saturation point and either need to be left alone for a while, or need someone to do something so radical with them that they become fresh and interesting again. Found footage films currently fall into this category, as do superhero origin stories. Writer and director Josh Trank's decision to combine these two subgenres in his debut feature Chronicle can therefore be seen as either very brave or very stupid. As things turn out, he lands somewhere in the middle.

The found footage style of shooting turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, working at its best when combined with the superhuman abilities the three main characters gain; some of the most stylish moments throughout the film come from when Trank has the handheld camera float around the action, usually through Andrew's (Dane DeHaan) telekinesis. The question therefore has to be asked why Trank felt the need to present his film through found footage rather than just creating a realistic style of cinematography, something of which he is clearly capable.

More often, however, the reasons for characters to be filming at all feel too contrived to the point of becoming really quite distracting. Andrew's reasons for choosing to film his life at the start feel flimsy, and whilst it's easy to believe he would want to get footage of the powers he and his friends develop, there are plenty of moments where his filming feels entirely nonsensical. There are too many other occasions where other characters have to explain away the fact that they are filming, which begs the question once again why Trank chose to stick so stubbornly to the found footage style (at times to the detriment of his film) instead of opting for a combination of handheld and traditional camera shots.

As an origins story, the film does bring some fresh ideas to the table, with Trank choosing not to explain every element of his story. To the film's benefit the source of the trio's powers isn't dwelt upon, and the inclusion of the nosebleed side effect that the friends experience make proceedings feel all the more mysterious and sinister. Structurally, the film's opening and closing acts are stronger than the middle, which ultimately drags despite a handful of interesting elements. A lot of the time it's almost like you're watching a series of YouTube clips of people with superpowers pratting about. It's amusing at first, but soon loses its novelty. Thankfully, Trank manages to pull off a gripping and exciting finale, going all out with the superpower special effects at exactly the right moment.

Other elements to the story feel underdeveloped, most notably a great many of the characters. For the majority of the film, Andrew is a stereotypical social outcast with a troubled home life that is never explored in enough detail, his sickly mother and abusive father never becoming much more than one-note characters. Steve (Michael B. Jordan) again feels lacking in depth, his friendship with the other two rarely feeling natural. Matt (Alex Russell) is the most frustrating of the three, quoting philosophy irritatingly - and apparently for no real reason - at the start of the film, and never really settling as a character into anything consistent. It's a shame, because all three young leads put in solid performances despite the unconvincing characters they are portraying.

In the end, Chronicle is flawed but entertaining. There's enough here to make it feel worthwhile and evidence of plenty of invention and style from Trank. A reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise is currently in the Trank's future career; with the right script behind the project, and based on the positive elements seen in Chronicle, it could be a great match of director to franchise, and the perfect opportunity for Trank to remedy some of the mistakes made in his first film.