Thursday 25 February 2021

Rob's Movie Night Roundup - C (Coraline, Chronicle)

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I decided that we'd like to watch more movies. There are 52 weeks in a year, 2 of us, and 26 letters in the alphabet. What better way to choose some movies than to go alphabetically? The only rule: Where possible, it should be a movie that one or more of us had never seen before. Oh, and ideally it should be part of one of the copious online streaming services we're already subscribed to, because why bother paying for a rental when we're not short of options?

Incidentally, if anyone from the big online streaming service providers is reading this (your Notfluxes or your Prims, for example), please make it easier to search for/sort movies alphabetically. Thanks.

Also, fair warning: There may well be movies that appear on this list that you'll find hard to believe I haven't seen before. It happens.

Previous letters are here: A B

For this one, we did our first rental via a digital platform, as we could only come up with one movie across our respective digital collections (streaming and purchased) that we both had never seen before. I'm sure there were others, but as mentioned above the ability to search by first letter is sadly lacking from most services. We're halfway through D at the time of writing, and so far I think the general feeling is that it's been a great enterprise. Even when we get through the Covid restrictions, I can personally see this sticking around.

Let's "C" what's in store!


Onward to the movies!

Director: Henry Selick
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman

Synopsis via IMDB: An adventurous 11-year-old girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets.

I forget why this one passed me by at the time of release. I remember the time period well, because I was working in a cinema when it came out and so the trailer was something I'd seen a fair bit of, but for whatever reason I didn't get to seeing it. I wonder if part of it is that I'm just not as enthused about a lot of the stuff that would normally qualify it as a slam dunk for a lot of people. I think The Nightmare Before Christmas is an enjoyable time, but it's not one of my favourite movies despite the vocal stylings of Oingo Boingo's Danny Elfman. I like a few of Neil Gaiman's creative endeavours; The Sandman was one of the first comics I read and I was so thoroughly glad I did, and I read The Ocean At The End Of The Lane last year and I thought it was utterly sublime. Despite this, I don't align with the extent of the fuss about him generally. I just find it a little much. I'm sure he's lovely though.

When the movie was suggested to me as my wife's pick for C, I had a feeling I would enjoy it. Despite not having as much love for the works of Henry Selick as some, I really do appreciate the craft involved in making the stop-motion stuff work to the degree that he and his crews are able to achieve. When you stop and take stock of all the attention to detail that has to go into it, it's really quite something. In the case of Coraline, the visuals are exceptional for everything from character design all the way to the colour palettes on offer. One thing that's really nice about it is how even during the course of the earlier part of the film, the "Other" world is painted as ever so slightly off.

I also really appreciated the voice acting on show, with a number of high-quality performances from the likes of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, French and Saunders (I especially enjoyed their work in this one) and even Keith David pops up! Having just watched the first series of Future Man, I do like some Keith David. He's brilliant, and the voice performance was a great choice for the role he played.

What was odd, however, and felt a tiny bit like padding but not to the degree of ruining the film, was that this movie had a fetch quest like you'd see in a video game. Yeah, it struck me as odd too. It's nicely done, but nevertheless was a little jarring. Overall, while the story was a little bit "by the numbers" in places, it was overall very satisfying and had some of that same weird and wonderful charm that we've come to expect from Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman individually, so the combination works well here.

Still, in short the movie looks fantastic and has a really nice story arc. Well worth a watch in my humble opinion.

Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan

Synopsis via IMDB: Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery underground. Soon they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.

I have mixed feelings on "found footage" movies, having been very much underwhelmed by The Blair Witch Project and a little disappointed in Cloverfield after an immeasurably awesome trailer. I will always treasure the memory of going to see the former, however, for one of the favourite anecdotes of my adolescence. One of my schoolfriends, aged 15, tried to claim he was young enough for a child's ticket before realising it would place him at age 14 and thus unable to see the film. We had to explain to the guy at the desk that he was indeed old enough to see the movie, he was just a pillock. Thankfully, the guy at the desk didn't press the issue further and we were able to see the film, but that's a lesson for you: Honesty is always better. Speaking of honesty, back then the ticket was £2.80 and I still felt cheated by The Blair Witch Project.

But I digress. Chronicle does a serviceable job in the "found footage" department, it has to be said, even using some cool camera tricks as the characters (one in particular) get more familiar with their newly acquired powers and start being flashy with it. I really liked how this came into its own as the film continued too.

I did find sometimes, especially near the end of the film, that the "found footage" style got forgotten about in favour of making more sense of the scenes (it's hard to explain without spoilers, but if you've seen the movie it's right near the end and a big part of the movie, hopefully that helps). I get why it makes sense to change it up a bit, but then the ending makes it suddenly make little sense, unless there's some editing happening in the world to make it all fit, in which case it doesn't take much to show us that. Just my two cents. As I say, it's a tricky one to explain without giving too much away, and though the movie isn't exactly new, I still always like to err on the side of caution with spoilerific roundups.

I can certainly see why Dane DeHaan went on to star as Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as his performance has a certain edge to it that fits well with the subject matter. The arc was, at times, a little predictable but I guess in a way that's a sign that the story was set up well.

I can also see the case for "Hey, this guy made a pretty great superhero movie on a comparatively limited budget, let's give him a crack at something more significant in superhero movies" with Fantastic 4, and why Michael B. Jordan would be a good fit for casting in the role of Johnny Storm (whatever your thoughts are on the overall casting and its relative sense). Jordan, in particular, plays a kind of schmoozy but likeable character in this film despite initial impressions being that he might conceivably be a bit of a git.

Thinking back on it, one of the things that really impressed me about the movie was how well the movie worked in terms of audio. Considering that it was found footage style, there was a really sparse use of music with most of the audio just taking the form of sounds and such, and it worked really well.

All in all, I've found myself thinking back very fondly on Chronicle as time has passed since I watched it, and I find myself reflecting to the tune of "Actually, that was pretty damn cool."

C was a good letter for movie night, in conclusion. So far what I've really enjoyed is the variety of films we've watched with everything from romantic comedies to indie superhero movies. As I mentioned at the top, we're halfway through D at the time of writing, and I can tell you that my wife's choice has kept this variety up!

Did you enjoy the roundup? Let me know! If you have thoughts on the movies chosen and their respective writeups above, you know where to find me. Maybe you don't, but there are buttons everywhere to make that happen. Comments, Twitter, you name it. Moreover, if you want to make use of this movie night format, bearing in mind you're a few weeks in and might have to double up to get up to speed, feel free to do the same - I'd love to know what you chose too!

Rob Wade

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus has always been on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media.

Rob is the editor of Emotionally14, and showrunner of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train", "The E14 Gamecast" and "Talk Star Wars", as well as the host and guest of a number of pieces on E14's Youtube channel over the years.

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