Archive for the Telekinesis Category

Quick Cuts: Favorite Movies by DAVID CRONENBERG

Posted in 2012, 70s Horror, 80s Horror, Body Horror, Classic Films, Cult Movies, David Cronenberg, Disease!, Disturbing Cinema, ESP, Evil Kids!, Hit Men, Indie Horror, Parasites!, Telekinesis with tags , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2012 by knifefighter

Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, Mark Onspaugh, and Jenny Orosel

Director David Cronenberg has been giving us nightmares for over 40 years.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of David Cronenberg’s latest movie, COSMOPOLIS (2012), we’ve decided to take a look at our favorite Cronenberg movies.


L.L. SOARES: David Cronenberg is such an iconic director, and has made so many great films to choose from. But, without a doubt, my all-time favorite Cronenberg film is CRASH (1990), which happens to be based on one of my all-time favorite novels (of the same name) by J.G. Ballard. With an amazing cast that includes James Spader, Holly Hunter, Deborah Kara Unger, Rosanna Arquette, and Elias Koteas as charismatic anti-hero Vaughan, it’s the story of a man (Spader as “Jim Ballard”) who experiences a traumatic car accident and then discovers a strange cult-like group of people that fetishizes (and just about worships) car crashes. Cronenberg captures the cold, antiseptic feel of Ballard’s very bleak novel, and the movie was pretty controversial (like a lot of Cronenberg films) when it first came out.

(Not to be confused with the Paul Haggis film “Crash:” from 2001)

Cronenberg has made so many great movies. But my other favorites include:

DEAD RINGERS (1988) —With Jeremy Irons in one of his best performances ever as twin gynecologists who share a relationship with one woman (Genevieve Bujold), who can’t tell them apart. Then things start to get violent.

VIDEODROME (1983)—With James Woods as a man who finds a very disturbing cable TV channel that changes his life in scary ways. Including the famous scene where Woods has a VCR slot in his stomach. Also starring Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry.

THE BROOD (1979) —the first Cronenberg film I ever saw, and still a favorite, with little monster kids created from the rage of Samantha Eggar. With Oliver Reed.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) —The underground classic novel by William S. Burroughs was considered unfilmable, but that didn’t stop Cronenberg from bringing it to the big screen. He makes it coherent by mixing a lot of Burroughs’ wild imagery with biographical incidents from the writer’s life.


JENNY OROSEL: I have a soft spot in my heart for CRASH (1990), seeing as I got my driver’s license in a CRASH t-shirt (I got my license late—I’m not that young). The humor was lost on my tester.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) blew me away because I had no idea how anyone could turn that book into a movie, and I think he pulled it off the only way possible.



NICK CATOSHIVERS (a.k.a. THEY CAME FROM WITHIN) (1975) is my personal favorite Cronenberg film. It’s a genuinely scary tale of a parasite that turns the residents of a luxury condo into possessed sexual predators. It’s not his best technical achievement, but it gets the goosebumps going better than most standard horror films.

While I’d like to list VIDEODROME as my second favorite, that honor goes to CRASH (1996). Only Cronenberg can take such a bizarre subject (people turned on by car crashes) and make it a film that holds up amazingly well to repeat viewings. It’s unlike any film before or since.


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Without doubt, my favorite David Cronenberg movie is THE FLY (1986), which is one of my favorite horror movies from the 1980s, one of my favorites of all time, and certainly one of my favorite remakes.  I love the performances by Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, the gruesome special effects, and how this film captured how it would really be to have your DNA mixed with the DNA of a fly, a concoction that would occur at the molecular level.  Cronenberg is masterful at the helm here.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

I’m also a fan of VIDEODROME (1983) and THE DEAD ZONE (1983).


 PAUL MCMAHON:  It feels traitorous to choose only a single Cronenberg film as my favorite, so I’ll pick two.

First, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005). Its brilliance starts with the emotionless opening sequence of random cruelty that mirrors our fears. The film moves you through the realization of a specific act of violence and explores the way that one event changes the people involved. Violence shoves its way into your life and grows roots. No matter how you try to hide from the memory of such a traumatic event, it never goes away and never lets you forget. Cronenberg’s movie dramatizes this brilliantly, and is very uncomfortable to watch.

Second, and I’m just realizing this is another brilliant representation of trauma —THE BROOD (1979). This time the violence comes from divorce and the ensuing custody battle over a young daughter. THE BROOD features a progressive psychotherapist who has developed a way to make his patients’ internal and invisible pain manifest physically, where it can be seen and acknowledged. Cronenberg himself was struggling through just such a divorce while he directed this movie, and his pain bleeds through the screen. Like the patients of Dr. Raglan, David Cronenberg crafted a physical representation of his inner turmoil. He has said that it’s the one film of his that he cannot bear to watch again.


MARK ONSPAUGHSCANNERS (1981) —So audacious and amazing! I remembered hearing something about this movie and my wife and I were at a theater where they showed a red band trailer. I whispered, “I think this is the movie where people’s heads blow up,” knowing she’d want to look away —she didn’t hear me —man, did she shriek when that happened! For months after it came out, a friend and I kept repeating Michael Ironside’s line, “I’m gonna suck your brain DRY!”

THE FLY (1986) —It was Cronenberg who layered in the romance into Charles Pogue’s script, elevating this movie from mere creature feature to a masterpiece of horrific tragedy. I don’t think Jeff Goldblum or Geena Davis have ever been better.

So many to choose from, including EASTERN PROMISES (2007), HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and SPIDER (2002). If you want to take what amounts to a class in cinema, watch SPIDER with the director’s commentary – I don’t want to spoil it for those who didn’t see it, but there is a major change in the movie I didn’t even detect, at first – brilliant.


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  And that about sums up David Cronenberg.  Thanks, everyone!

L.L. SOARES:  And thank you, readers, for joining us today!


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, Mark Onspaugh, and Jenny Orosel



Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, Bizarro Movies, Cult Movies, Experimental Films, Highly Stylized Films, LL Soares Reviews, Mad Doctors!, Mind Experiments!, Paranormal, Psychedelic Films, Telekinesis, Visions of Hell, Weird Movies with tags , , , , , , , on June 13, 2012 by knifefighter

Movie Review by L.L. Soares

After watching Ridley Scott’s new blockbuster, PROMETHEUS, I took a train to the other side of town to see a movie that was, in many ways, its complete opposite. Low-budget, often badly acted, and just plain bizarre, Panos Cosmatos’ new film, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a viewing experience of a completely different sort. But I don’t want to give the impression I didn’t like it. There were some parts of it that I liked very much.

Supposedly made in 2010, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW has recently been doing the midnight movie circuit in some cities. I originally saw it listed as part of the Boston Underground Film Festival a month or so ago. I’d wanted to see it, but couldn’t. And now it’s back for a few weekend showings at a local art theater. So, for many people, it’s a new release. I know, for me it was. I also know that, based on the title alone, and a brief synopsis that highlighted a psychedelic storyline, I really had to see this one for myself.

The movie begins with an instructional video from Dr. Mercurio Arboria, for the Arboria Institute, which promotes emotional happiness and peace of mind. Supposedly, a visit to the foundation will include pharmacology, meditation and other fun stuff, in a regimen designed to help people find true inner happiness. Sounds pleasant enough. This video looked a bit dated and reminded me of the instructional videos that were made by the Dharma Initiative on the TV series LOST. Kind of an interesting way to start things off.

The movie’s credits begin, showing a giant, pulsating eyeball, with the actors and crews’ names coming forth from the eye’s pupil. It’s actually a cool opening credit sequence, and a cool image overall. I thought it was a good sign this was going to be a lot of fun.

Then the movie starts. It’s 1983. The foundation is being run by Dr. Arboria’s associate, Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers). But strangely, despite that cool promotional video, there’s only one patient in the whole building—or, if there are more patients, we never see them. The patient’s name is Elena (Eva Allan), and she’s a young girl around 19 or 20, who is dressed in a hospital gown and has long, brunette hair (she almost looks like those long-haired ghosts from movies like THE RING and THE GRUDGE). Elena does not speak, and appears to be in some kind of depressed/almost comatose state. Each day she is brought into a room to sit on a plastic seat, while in another, facing room, separated by a sheet of Plexiglas, Dr. Nyle talks to her. He talks and talks, but she never responds. He must have a lot of time to spend trying to help her, since there don’t seem to be any other patients for him to attend to.

For the first half of the film, this takes up most of the time. Elena is repeatedly brought into the room, Dr. Nyle repeatedly talks to her and gets no response. There are point-of-view shots of us going down an orange, antiseptic hallway. Its repetition seems almost aggravating at times. The dialogue is actually kind of silly, and the acting isn’t very good. There were more than a few times when I laughed out loud. Everyone else in the audience was quiet. I don’t think they appreciated the movie’s goofiness.

A few times, Dr. Nyle goes home to his wife Rosemary (Marilyn Norry), whom he either lectures or ignores. When she speaks, he makes goofy faces. There doesn’t seem much of a point to what’s going on.

Dr. Nyle (Michael Rogers) controls everything in the Arboria Institute.            Or does he? (from BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW)

There is a female nurse who clearly dislikes Elena. And we eventually learn that Elena has CARRIE-like telekinetic powers. There are also strange robots, that look like men in space suits with television screens in their bellies, called Sentionauts (it says so on the computer screen that activates them). They patrol the foundation’s halls after hours, especially if Elena leaves her room.

Then, about half-way through, something happens. We go back to 1966. Dr. Arboria, along with a female assistant, are shown in reverse negative (everything is strikingly white, and we can barely see people’s features). Dr. Nyle is prepped to enter another dimension, or at least that’s what it seemed to me. All white, he submerges himself in a giant puddle of inky blackness, and goes out the other side, where he turns different colors and his skin melts!! When he comes back, he is transformed. Slimy and black with ooze, he infects the female assistant, and she gives birth to a baby, before she suddenly dies. Could this baby be Elena? (!).

Back in 1983, Dr. Arboria, the head of the foundation, has become an drooling invalid/drug addict, who isn’t capable of doing much for himself. Dr. Nyle has to look after him, and even administer his heroin (morphine?) injections. Dr. Nyle has the true power at the institute and he clearly likes to manipulate those around him.

At one point, Dr. Nyle has kind of a breakdown and removes his wig (revealing a shiny bald head) and puts on a strange leather suit. While he is gone, Elena attempts to escape the facility.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a mixed bag, but I could definitely see it becoming a cult movie over time. Parts of it are so bad, it made me think of movies like Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM, and I think RAINBOW could benefit from an audience that interacts with it. It might make for a much more enjoyable experience. There are other times when the imagery is actually pretty interesting. But never once did I feel that the movie lived up to the promise of that great title—except maybe for the very strange events that occur in 1966.

The music, by Jeremy Schmidt, is mostly a droning synthesizer score, and it does get repetitive at times, but overall, it works. There are even parts where it gets more animated. The music was one of my favorite parts of the film, and definitely complemented the psychedelic feel of the proceedings.

The over-use of different kinds of filters in the film, and negative effects, seem like an amateur’s attempts at creating otherworldly visuals—or someone trying to transcend a miniscule budget—and there are moments when it feels like a student fim. There are also lots of close-ups on inanimate objects that go on a little too long. Despite the fact that it really is not a very good movie, there were parts of BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW that I enjoyed despite myself, and, as I said, there are several times when I found myself laughing—even though that probably was not what the director intended.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, for the most part, might be one of those “so bad they’re good” movies for a new generation. It plays things completely straight (to its benefit), but is probably campy enough to attract a rabid audience.  I haven’t seen anything this odd (and yet enjoyable) in a long time, and it reminded me how movies like this were much easier to find in the 1970s and 80s. It made me miss those times.

A movie like this is hard to rate, because it’s clearly not meant to be a normal, mainstream narrative film. And, even as I write this, I find myself enjoying the movie now more, in retrospect, than when I was sitting in the theater. Despite its very obvious flaws, I give BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, two and a half knives. And I’m sure its imagery will grow on me over time and this rating will improve…..

This might just be the kind of film that deserves to be revisited on Blu-ray.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW~ two and a half knives! But it’s such an odd movie, that rating may change over time.

Me and Lil’ Stevie Are Moved by CARRIE (2002)

Posted in 2012, High School Horrors, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Remakes, Telekinesis, TV-Movies with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie

Are Moved By



By Peter N. Dudar

(INTERIOR/NIGHT:  Establishing shot of a gymnasium filled streamers and balloons and painted banners and signs. High school students in tuxedos and formal gowns are floating and twirling on a wooden floor with gridded basketball lines and circles. In the background, a slow dance number flows through the mid-spring evening. One couple waltzes past the camera, and as the man’s tuxedoed back turns to face us, we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King. We also see that Lil’ Stevie is wearing a prom dress!)

Lil’ Stevie:  What the…What did you do to me?

Peter:  You’re my prom date for the night. You look gorgeous!

(Lil’ Stevie pulls the pin out of his corsage and sticks it right in Peter’s eye.)

Peter:  OUCH!  Why you little…

Lil’ Stevie:  Good evening, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our little column. In this edition, we’ll be reviewing Brian De Palma’s masterpiece adaptation of my very first novel, CARRIE. Now, in case you didn’t know…

(Peter plucks the pin out of his eye and plants it right into Lil’ Stevie’s wooden nose.)

Peter:  Hold that thought!  Today, we’ll be discussing David Carson’s 2002 made-for-TV adaptation of the REAL Stephen King’s novel CARRIE (USA Network). I was going to have us review the original De Palma film, but the truth is that I just don’t have it on DVD and Netflix only had the newer version. So I figured, what the hay and the two of us sat down and watched it.

Lil’ Stevie:  You must have slipped me some Roofies because I don’t remember it. You didn’t molest me or anything, did you?

Peter:  Of course not. I’m waiting till after the dance. Now, can we get on with this?

Lil’ Stevie:  Just a sec…(pulls pin out if his nose and tosses it aside). Alright, get on with it!

Peter:  For the two people out there who have never read the book or watched the movie,  CARRIE (played originally by Sissy Spacek and, in this version, by horror-fan fave Angela Bettis, who also starred in Lucky McKee’s MAY, 2002), is the ultimate high school loser. She is the epitome of tragic figure:  her mother is a fanatical religious nut who has raised her in ritual obedience and punishment, her fellow schoolmates absolutely loathe her because she is incapable of fitting in, and we get the impression that she has absolutely no hope within herself to ever find happiness in any part of her life.

Lil’ Stevie:  Hell, when I was writing the book, even I wanted to slap her!

Peter:  That’s terrible!  But you didn’t write the book, so quit interrupting. This version of the movie begins with Carrie’s mom Margaret White (Patricia Clarkson, SHUTTER ISLAND, 2010) delivering her baby at home, in her own bed, all by herself. Apparently, Carrie’s deadbeat dad was long gone by this point.

Lil’ Stevie:  Would YOU want to stick around with that psycho-head?

Peter:  I suppose not. But this little glimpse of Carrie’s life is missing from the original movie, as was the rain of burning stones directly afterward.

Lil’ Stevie:  At least that follows what I wrote in my book…

Peter:  Jump ahead the seventeen-plus years of her life to her senior year of high school, where the mousy, beaten-down Carrie practically tiptoes through the halls of the school with her head down and her books clutched in a death grip in front of her. We see her in her daily classes, where the other kids carelessly pick on her and laugh at their own delight. We see her in the library, where she sketches in her notebook a picture of a heart, with her and her crush, Tommy Ross (Tobias Mehler, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, 1998) holding hands and living happily ever after. And we see her in gym class, where she strikes out to end the softball game.

Lil’ Stevie:  She’s on the Loserville Express!

Peter:  It’s no wonder the other kids pick on her. She sucks at life!

Lil’ Stevie:  I shoulda just euthanized her back in chapter 3, so she didn’t have to endure all the punishment I throw at her.

Peter:  Like when all of a sudden, at the end of adolescence, she suddenly has her first menstrual cycle in the girl’s shower?  Only to have all the other girls peering at her over the shower stalls and chanting terrible things at her?  And then they fill her locker with tampons and write “Plug it up!” in magic marker on the locker door for all the world to see?

Lil’ Stevie:  (Chuckling) Yeah, that may have been a little over the top.

Peter:  Actually, no it wasn’t. That’s the kind of cruelty you can only find in teenagers. They suck!  It’s a developmental thing…camouflage your own flaws by pointing out the shortcomings of others. It’s a defense mechanism. Three parts projecting, two parts pack mentality. And with a bunch of high school girls, all riddled with their own self-esteem issues, it becomes very convenient to find a weaker target and throw garbage at her.

Lil’ Stevie:  Only, MY pile of garbage has telekinesis!

Peter:  Teleki-what?

Lil’ Stevie:  Telekinesis!  The ability to move objects with your mind.

Peter:  Oh, like this…

(Peter closes his eyes and concentrates, and suddenly Lil’ Stevie begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)

Lil’ Stevie:  OUCH!  Hey, knoc…OUCH!  Quit it!

Peter:  (Laughing) Sorry. I got CARRIE’d away. Get it?

Lil’ Stevie:  You’re an imbecile!

Peter:  Anyway, for their stunt in the locker room, gym teacher Rita Desjarden (Rena Sofer, TRAFFIC, 2000) tells the rotten little bitches that if they want to go to the senior prom, they will be spending a week in detention with HER. Which means they will be running laps on the track until they puke.

Lil’ Stevie: …And since most of them want to lose those last few pounds before prom anyway

Peter:  Of course, the actual perpetrator, Kris Hargenson (Emilie De Ravin, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, 2006) refuses and declines her prom privileges, and she begins hatching a scheme to get even with Carrie. Even though none of it was Carrie’s fault, Kris blames her and simply wants to punish her.

Lil’ Stevie:  God, she is such a bitch!

Peter:  De Ravin plays the role perfectly. You can feel the hate just oozing out of this girl, when the reality is that she’s a spoiled brat who is used to getting everything she wants. Seeing just how well she performed here made me wonder if actresses enjoy playing this kind of role, especially when it is nothing like themselves in real life, and if it somehow impacts their reputation, as some people can’t seem to distinguish characters from their portrayers.

Lil’ Stevie:  You think too much.

Peter:  The other girls commit to doing Ms. Desjarden’s detention so they can go to the prom. But Sue Snell (Kandyse McClure, MOTHER’S DAY, 2010) actually feels guilty about the whole shower incident. Wanting to clear her conscience and actually show poor Carrie some compassion, she decides to also opt out of the prom, and encourages her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the prom as her date. She sets the wheels in motion with no knowledge of what Kris is up to, and the catastrophic results that will later ensue.

Lil’ Stevie:  And while all of this is going on, Carrie is discovering her supernatural powers. Developing them, so to speak. We see her as she begins to spasm and convulse, and then she’s moving hairbrushes off tables and throwing the rude little kid on his bicycle into a tree after he taunts her.

Peter:  You know, I’m glad you mention this. This aspect of the movie reminded me of Harry Potter, and how he reacted to the mean people in his life. I kept waiting for Hagrid to pop out and go, “You’re a wizard, Carrie!”

(Harry Potter suddenly appears on the dance floor.)

Harry:  Did somebody just say my name?  Brilliant!

Lil’ Stevie:  Avada Cadavra!

(A light fixture suddenly falls from the ceiling and crushes the boy wizard to death.)

Peter:  Why did you do that?  I loved Harry Potter. Even the Real Stephen King loves Harry Potter!

Lil’ Stevie:  He was a tool!

Peter:  The rest of the movie is the unavoidable catastrophe that has been set in motion:  The prom, the terrible prank that Kris and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (Jesse Cadotte) play on Carrie, and the vengeful wrath of a girl that has been pushed too far by her mom, by her classmates, and by life in general.

Lil’ Stevie:  Which begs the question, was remaking Brian De Palma’s original masterpiece worth it?

Peter:  Well, there are several things to consider. First is that Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie absolutely nailed the roles of Carrie and her mother in the original version. The photo of Spacek dripping with blood is iconic to us horror fans. Second, De Palma’s version has the “jump out of your seat” popcorn horror moment at the end, when Sue Snell visits her grave. Third, the gymnasium sequence, when the camera goes to split and multiple screens of the chaos that happens after Carrie gets pig blood dumped all over her is some of the best horror ever committed to celluloid. It’s amazing to behold.

Lil’ Stevie:  But in this version, we have a whole different ending…

Peter:  Which we won’t give away to those who still want to see it. Look, this version is not terrible at all. In fact, it’s quite good all the way up to the bogus ending. Bettis is a fantastic actress, and she really does give a great performance here. As do most of her castmates. Where this film succeeds is stripping away all the bad fashion sense of the late 70’s and adding the up-to-date touch of cellphones and technology. Carrie goes to the library and Googles her special powers rather than have to hunt through books to learn about it. It makes the story more accessible to today’s teens.

Angela Bettis has the title role in the 2002 TV-movie version of Stephen King’s CARRIE.

Lil’ Stevie:  But it’s not the original. And it never captures the power of De Palma’s vision.

Peter:  Close, but no cigar!

Lil’ Stevie:  Well, then…Let’s have some fun. I wanna spike the punch and have a few drinks before Carrie gets up on stage.

(Lil’ Stevie suddenly swings his arm up and begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)

Lil’ Stevie:  OUCH!  I told you to…OUCH!  STOP IT!

Peter:  I’m not doing it!

(Carrie walks over and confronts the two.)

Carrie:  That’s for making my life such a bummer. You didn’t have to be such a creep and write my life to be this way!

Lil’ Stevie:  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!

Carrie:  (To Peter) How would you feel about ditching this little jerk so you and I can go have some fun?

Peter:  (To Lil’ Stevie) Later, Stevie. See you next time, folks!

(Peter drops the puppet on the floor and takes Carrie by the arm, and the two exit the gym. From out of nowhere, a stream of blood comes gushing out, spilling all over Lil’ Stevie in his prom dress. The doors slam shut just as the flames begin to engulf the school…)

Lil’ Stevie:  You just wait till I write the sequel!  Don’t leave me…NOOOOOOO!

-The End-

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar


Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Faux Documentaries, High School Horrors, Mutants!, Telekinesis with tags , , , , , , , on February 6, 2012 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA are driving along a rural road, LS behind the wheel and MA in the passenger seat. A four-wheel-drive 4X4 is close on their tail, honking at them.)

MA:  What is that guy’s problem?

LS:  Maybe he’s reacting to our bumper sticker.

MA:  What?  “Honk three times for Cinema Knife Fight?”

LS:  No. The other one.

MA:  “If you’re close enough to read this you’re a horse’s ass”?

LS:  That’s the one.

MA:  Yeah, that might be it.

LS:  I’ll fix him.

MA:  You’re not going to do that waving-the-arms telekinesis bit you used during our Coming Attractions column last week, are you?

LS:  That’s so passé. Keep up with the times. (Rolls down window, sticks his head out, and makes a face at the driver. The driver shrieks and loses control of his vehicle, which crashes off the side of the road.)

MA:  Sometimes I forget just how scary you can be.

LS:  Well, one of us has to be scary around here, and it’s certainly not you!

MA:  Shouldn’t we go back and see if that guy needs help?

LS:  Nah!  We’ve got a movie to review. Speaking of which, why don’t you start since I’m driving?

MA: Wait a minute. Do you even have a license?

(LS grunts)

MA: Er…okay. Well, welcome, folks, to another edition of Cinema Knife Fight. This week we’re reviewing CHRONICLE (2012) the new movie that examines what happens when three high schoolers suddenly find themselves with telekinetic super powers.

That’s right. One night at a party, three high school friends, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan, who some people might recognize from the show FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) discover a mysterious tunnel out in the woods, which they decide to check out just for kicks. Inside this tunnel they come across a strange object— is it alien?  a secret government project? —who knows? The movie doesn’t make this clear, and that’s okay. All we need to know is the day after coming into contact with this weird phenomenon, the three teens discover they have telekinetic abilities, which means they can move objects just by using their minds. Later, they attempt to return to the tunnel in search of answers, but find it has conveniently been filled up.

LS: Actually they’re not really friends when the movie begins. Steve and Matt are friends. Andrew is one of those shy loners that everyone else picks on. Matt is his only friend, that’s mostly because they’re cousins. Steve wouldn’t even normally notice Andrew is even alive—he’s an athlete and a popular kid running for class president – but he needs Andrew and his camera to film the weird tunnel as evidence. Of course, after the three of them discover their powers and bond through this, they become real friends, and Andrew starts to come out of his shell.

As for what’s inside the tunnel—yeah, we never really know. The smoothness of the walls makes it appear that the tunnel was “carved out” through the use of some kind of technology. And the strange object – it involves a lot of weird, bright lights. But you’re right – it’s good this is never explained. It adds to the mystery of it all.

MA: At first, they use their new powers for fun, which is what most high schoolers would do. They make girl’s skirts go up; they go into a store and make Teddy bears float scaring a little girl; and they move a parked car in a parking lot. But when Andrew angrily uses his power to force a tailgating vehicle off the road, nearly killing its driver, they come up with some rules, including not using their powers on people, not using them in public, and most importantly, not using them when they’re angry.

But Andrew is a very troubled youth, and rightly so. His mom is bedridden, sick and dying, and his drunken dad, a former firefighter who’s now out of work collecting meager disability checks, is constantly hounding Andrew and worse yet beating him. Andrew is also regularly bullied at school. Eventually, he snaps, and when he does, look out world.

CHRONICLE was one of those movies I feared would cross over into “mediocre land” becoming another variation of last year’s I AM NUMBER FOUR (2010), but I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case. CHRONICLE played above my expectations, and as a result, I liked it a lot. I found it watchable throughout, a very entertaining and well-written movie, well-paced, and after a fun ride, it becomes insane for its final 10 minutes. I have to say, I really liked the ending.

Why was this one so good?  Well, like most good movies, it starts with the script. Max Landis wrote the screenplay. Landis is the son of John Landis, and I think he’s inherited some of his father’s humor. A lot of the humor in this movie reminded me of the work of John Landis, in such films as ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).

The scenes where Andrew, Matt, and Steve “play” with their powers are laugh-out-loud funny. I had seen most of these scenes in the film’s trailer, yet they were still comical. Part of the reason the humor works is it all seemed so real. If I had their powers at their age, I’d probably be doing the same things and laughing at it the same way.

LS: Hell, I’d be doing the same things now, if I suddenly got super powers. It looked like they were having fun. I almost wish this part had lasted longer.

MA: It also looks real. The special effects are great.

In CHRONICLE, Landis creates likeable characters who deal with their new abilities in realistic ways. The majority of the movie is light and amusing, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

But the undercurrent of darkness is always there because the central character of the story is Andrew, and his life is rough. His dad never leaves him alone, his mom’s dying, and he’s bullied regularly at school. The fact that he develops a close relationship with his camera (it’s the one thing he connects to) makes perfect sense and sets the stage for the documentary style of this movie, since Andrew films everything. More on that style in a moment.

One of the things I liked about CHRONICLE was I wasn’t sure which direction the story would take. While it was all fun and games for a while, I knew things wouldn’t stay this way. Would this become more of a “superhero” story where these teens would use their powers for good, like Superman’s story in SMALLVILLE?  Would they be hunted down by aliens jealous that they had stolen this power, similar to I AM NUMBER FOUR?  Or would the story take a more sinister turn?

(SUPERMAN flies overhead).
SUPERMAN:  Will it be a movie about folks like me?

(A teen with a “Number 4” Jersey sprints along next to them.)

NUMBER 4:  Or about teens like me?

LS:  Neither!  Now beat it, you jerks!

(They flee.)

MA:  You didn’t even have to show your face this time.

LS:  Sometimes reputation alone is good enough.

MA:  Still, that’s pretty impressive scaring away Superman!

LS: Well— the Kryptonite I keep in the trunk might have helped.

MA:  Why would you keep—?  Never mind. Getting back to CHRONICLE, as we learn more about Andrew, we realize that this kid isn’t escaping from his demons, and so, the direction the story ultimately takes is natural and satisfying.

Getting back to the film’s documentary style:  yes, CHRONICLE is another of those documentary style movies where everything we see is the result of “found footage” from cameras in the movie. We’ve seen this in movies like CLOVERFIELD (2008), THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) and APOLLO 18 (2011).

LS: And don’t forget THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies (2007 – 2011), and this year’s THE DEVIL INSIDE.

MA:  Here, director Josh Trank throws in the additional gimmick of not using just one camera. Sure, most of the movie is filmed with Andrew’s camera, since he’s obsessed with filming everything that happens in his life, but in this movie, any time there’s a camera around, we see the action through the eyes of that camera. This includes the camera owned by Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), who eventually becomes Matt’s girlfriend, and who’s constantly filming for her blog, as well as security cameras in stores, at traffic lights, bystanders – pretty much anywhere there’s a camera, and in this day and age, it’s hard to be somewhere there’s NOT a camera. For the most part, this gimmick works.

LS: Yeah, I was riveted throughout.

MA: The cast is fine. Nobody’s going to win an Oscar here, but they made me like their characters. Dane DeHaan is very good as Andrew. I didn’t want to see him go down the road he eventually takes, but the cards are so stacked against him it’s almost inevitable. DeHaan succeeded in making me feel bad for his character while still liking him, and later, when his life goes down the toilet, he made me believe his darker side was genuine.

Alex Russell was also likeable as Matt, the friend who becomes more responsible as the movie goes on. At first, it seemed as if Matt might be a jerk, but he isn’t and grows more likeable as the story plays out.

Michael B. Jordan is also very good as Steve, the most popular of the trio, and his character is the most fun of the three to watch. Ashley Hinshaw as Matt’s love interest Casey, is cute and adorable in her brief screen time.

LS: Yeah, the three lead characters were great. Andrew is easily the most dramatic role, but Matt and Steve were solid characters, too. I actually wish the movie had given us more of Matt and Steve’s personal lives, but I guess that wouldn’t make sense, since Andrew has the camera.

MA: And, as Andrew’s dad Richard, Michael Kelly does a nice job playing a jerk, and he doesn’t evoke any sympathy, even though he’s a former firefighter now out of a job due to injury. He plays the role as a complete monster, and you’re not sorry when he gets what’s coming to him.

LS: I also really liked the big battle toward the end, where super-powered guys duked it out, destroying buildings and cars in the process. It looked like the way a super-powered battle would look. MESSY! And very destructive. Without all the glamorous costumes and fancy banter you usually see in superhero movies.

Too bad WE can’t have a big telekinetic battle in the middle of the city.

MA: Don’t get any ideas.

I found CHRONICLE to be a most pleasant surprise. Light and funny throughout, this one builds to a dark second half and a thrilling conclusion that is as satisfying as they get. Go out and see this one!  I give CHRONICLE three and a half knives.


LS: I liked it a lot, too. I thought the movies that came out early in the year were supposed to be stinkers, but both this one and last week’s THE GREY were pretty solid. I give this one three and a half knives, too.

My only gripe with the movie is its title. CHRONICLE is a horrible name for a movie about three kids with telekinetic super powers. It’s bland and tell us nothing about the movie. I really didn’t like it. But the movie itself was really good.

MA:  I agree.  I thought the title was lame.  It sounds like a news magazine. So, now that we’re done with the review, how about we take the next exit and pick up a pizza?

LS:  Why not bring the pizza to us?

MA:  Huh?

(LS lets go of the steering wheel and waves his arms about.  Several pizza boxes fly through the air towards them.  MA rolls down the window, and the boxes land gently in his arms.)

LS:  Now that’s the way to use telekinesis.  Hand me a slice.

(MA opens box, and suddenly pizza flies up into his face, slapping him.)

LS (laughing):  And that’s another way!

(MA fires a slice that hits LS in the face.  Blinded, LS loses control of the car and they veer off the road towards a tree.  Screaming, both LS & MA frantically wave their arms, and at the last second, the car flies above the tree.)

LS:  Way to go, blinding the driver, you goober!

MA:  Hey, we’re alive aren’t we, so be quiet!  Let’s land this flying car and eat some pizza.  Okay, folks, while we’re looking for a place to land, we’ll say so long, and we’ll see you next week with a review of another new movie.


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives CHRONICLE ~ THREE AND A HALF knives!

LL Soares gives CHRONICLE ~ THREE AND A HALF knives.


Posted in 2012, 3-D, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Coming Attractions, Nicolas Cage Movies, Psycho killer, Sequels, Serial Killer flicks, Telekinesis, Thrillers with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda & L.L Soares

(The Scene: A toy store. A little girl screams when a Teddy Bear floats off the shelf and starts to chase her. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES enter scene.)

MA: That’s a new low for you. Picking on little kids.

LS: Don’t look at me. I didn’t do that. Who do you think I am, Yoda? Besides, if I could do that sort of thing, I wouldn’t waste it on kids. I’d pick on adults. Like this.

(LS waves his arms and a stack of game boxes falls off a shelf and crashes on top of a man’s head. The man screams and his girlfriend rushes to his aid.)

MA (dressed as Darth Vader): Impressive. Very impressive.

LS: Thanks.

MA: So, how exactly did you do that, Yoda?

LS: Don’t call me Yoda. If I’m any character from STAR WARS it’d better be Darth Vader….or Chewy!

MA: You could be the Emperor.

LS: That shriveled up old dude? No way— what’s with all this STAR WARS talk anyway?

MA: Well, two reasons. The main reason is the first movie we’re reviewing this month, CHRONICLE, is about a group of young men with some super powers that look strangely familiar. They can move objects without touching them, and my thirteen year-old son commented that it looks like they’re using The Force.

LS (groans): Actually, it’s called telekinesis, and it’s been around in literature and movies a lot longer than The Force.

MA:  I’m not so sure about that.  After all, when talking about The Force, we’re talking about events that happened “a long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away.”

LS:  Hey, I was actually looking forward to CHRONICLE. Why did you have to go and bring up STARS WARS for?

MA: Well, the other reason is THE PHANTOM MENACE is being re-released in 3D in February.

LS (grins): The one with Jar Jar! Hey – you didn’t say the full title. It’s really STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999). Don’t tell me we’re reviewing that one, too?

MA: Nope. We’ve seen THE PHANTOM MENACE. No reason to see it in 3D.

LS: Whew!

(Samuel Jackson strolls by wearing a Jedi robe.)

JACKSON: Take a seat, you two! And put on a pair of 3D glasses!

MA: Uh, not this time. Go seek out some fans who don’t care that they’re seeing the same movie YET AGAIN! It’d be nice if George Lucas would come up with something original.

(JACKSON ignites a light saber. LS waves his arms, and JACKSON disappears.)

LS: Take that! You foolish Jedi! (to MA) I never was all that impressed with Sam Jackson as a Jedi. He’s actually a lot scarier in PULP FICTION (1994).

MA: Neat trick. How did you—?

LS: A magician never reveals his secrets.

MA: Tell that to Penn and Teller. Anyway, getting back to the movies we’re reviewing….

CHRONICLE actually looks pretty cool. It has an interesting trailer, and it looks like it has potential. On the other hand, it also has the potential to be pretty stupid. We’ll have to see.

LS: This is another new movie to use the popular “fake documentary” style. It looks like someone is videotaping it while it happens. We just saw this applied to exorcism movies in THE DEVIL INSIDE, and it should be cool to see it used in a story about three guys with telekinetic powers. I’m looking forward to this one.

MA: On February 10, we’ll be reviewing SAFE HOUSE starring Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. I’m looking forward to this one. I always enjoy Washington, as he’s one of my favorite actors working today.

On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of Reynolds. I didn’t enjoy him all that much in GREEN LANTERN (2011).

LS: I’m with you. I like Washington, but I’m still on the fence about Reynolds. I’ve liked him in some things, but GREEN LANTERN wasn’t one of them.

MA: The story itself, about a CIA agent, played by Reynolds, taking on a fugitive, played by Washington, looks OK, but certainly doesn’t wow me. This one could go either way, but I do like Washington a lot, so I’m guessing I’ll like this one.

LS:  I’m willing to give it a chance, but I’m not really too psyched to see this one. Maybe it will surprise me.

On February 17, we’ll be reviewing GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2012), the sequel to GHOSE RIDER (2007), a movie that I had mixed feelings about. I still say that Nicholas Cage is a lot of fun as an action star, but I’m also a big fan of the comic book character, Ghost Rider is pretty cool, and the first movie had a lot of scenes that made me wince. That said, this one looks like it could be potentially better than the first one. I sure hope so. Even if it’s bad, I’m sure there will be some great Nick Cage moments to keep it from being totally awful.

MA: It’s hard for me to get excited about GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. I’m not a big Nicholas Cage fan, and this is a sequel, and so my expectations aren’t high. Although it does have Idris Elba in it, and I usually enjoy his work.

LS: I like Idris Elba, too. As for Cage, his last two movies, SEASON OF THE WITCH and DRIVE ANGRY (both 2011), were both a lot of fun. So, we’ll see what happens. It could go either way.

MA: We finish the month with GONE (2012), a thriller starring Amanda Seyfried. I like Seyfried a lot, as every movie I’ve seen her in I’ve found her completely captivating to watch. So, I’m looking forward to GONE.

LS: I like Seyfried, too, but I’m not always happy with her movie choices. While I thought she was the best thing in JENNIFER’S BODY (2009) acting-wise, it wasn’t that great a movie.  But I did think she was great in CHLOE (also 2009). And you liked her a lot in RED RIDING HOOD (2011). But then I think that she was also in MAMA MIA (2008) and the DEAR JOHN (2010)…..Ugh.

I never know when a new movie starring Seyfried is going to be good or dismal.

MA: I didn’t see JENNIFER’S BODY, and although MAMA MIA was goofy, Seyfried was great.

The trailer for GONE makes it sound like a pretty ordinary tale. Seyfried plays someone who believes her sister was abducted, but the police think otherwise. The question will be, is Seyfried’s character telling the truth or is she crazy?

LS: I find it hard to care. The trailer for this one looks pretty bland.

MA: I’ll be interested to see how this one plays out. It’s written by Allison Burnett, one of the screewriters for UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (2012), which is NOT a good sign. However, keeping an open mind, maybe her work here will be better.

LS: Yep, always gotta keep an open mind. I always want her to be in a good movie. This one looks like your standard woman-in-jeopardy thriller, like the Ashley Judd movie KISS THE GIRLS (1997). Similar kind of vibe. For some reason, I’m not really all that excited about it.

MA: Well, that’s it for this month’s Coming Attractions column. So, now that we’re finished, are you going to tell me how you moved those boxes?

LS: That’s easy. I did it like this. (Waves his arms again, and this time stacks of toys fall from the shelves and crash onto MA’s head) See?

MA (seeing stars circling his head): That’s not exactly what I meant—.