75. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)
Most superheroes look like they’re wearing their underwear on the outside of their clothes. What this movie gleefully presupposes is: Maybe one can. The presumptuously titled Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, based on Dav Pilkey’s first four children’s books in the Captain Underpants series (all of which have amusingly lengthy titles themselves), pokes a lot of fun at the concept of superheroes, the concept of action movies and the very cinematic medium in which it’s found itself. Captain Underpants’ plethora of animation styles (including a wonderful sock puppet sequence) separates the film into imaginative sublayers, keeping it from feeling like the one-joke wonder that it often edges towards. Fans of the book will love the adaptation’s loyalty and specific references, while those unversed in Underpants lore will find themselves admitting (reluctantly, I’m sure) that they had a good time. (See full review.) -Jacob Oller
74. Power Rangers (2017)
The Power Rangers franchise was never in need of a gritty reboot (Joseph Kahn saw to that with a short film and James Van Der Beek in 2015), and director Dean Israelite obviously never had one in mind. Instead, his big budget Power Rangers reboot re-focuses the early ’90s Mighty Morphin TV series on the five misfit teenagers coming to grips with the ways in which their new, vaguely defined superpowers can maybe make their troubled young adult lives better—or just exacerbate the problems they already have. The Red Ranger, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), is hell-bent on wrecking his guaranteed athletic route out of small-town Angel Grove, while the Blue Ranger, Billy (RJ Cyler), confesses he’s on the spectrum, and so has trouble making friends, what with his inability to identify most social cues. Yellow Ranger, Trini (Becky G), is the new girl at school, her outsider status compounded by her questions over her sexuality; Pink Ranger, Kimberly (Naomi Scott), is a popular cheerleader, but suffering some major social blowback; and Zack (Ludi Lin), the Black Ranger, suppresses the fear of his ailing mother’s impending death by living on the fringe. Brought together by the discovery of a secret alien lair, lorded over by giant floating head Zordon (Bryan Cranston, able to make anything work), and the powers they’re gifted because of that happenstance, the newly appointed Power Rangers go on to learn how to harness their abilities and, above all, work as a team to defeat cosmic menace Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, delightfully chewing walls). Amidst the explosions and kaiju battles, Israelite never looks away from the lives of his multicultural pubescent posse, so that by the time their town really does seem like it’s in peril—soundtracked by Brian Tyler’s pretty-awesome Tron: Legacy-like score—we’re fully invested in the fates of these outcasts. —Dom Sinacola
73. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
If it achieves anything, Zack Snyder’s messy, badly plotted and awkwardly paced film proves that prepping for a shared universe is no simple task, no matter how easy Marvel makes it look. This seems true even when one is starting with one as established and as powerfully etched into the popular consciousness as DC’s. It’s bad enough that Snyder and company dutifully preserve and transfer many of the excesses and offenses from Man of Steel to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice—the wildly out-of-character behavior by our heroes and a super-mobile Lois Lane to prod the plot along when needed, etc.—the film also is filled with plot holes large and small that will niggle at the mind of those viewers who like their fantasy films to make sense at least within the confines of the worlds they portray. Ultimately, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice serves as a reminder of why so many people dislike the Snyderian take on the DC universe—and as a reason to look forward to the solo Wonder Woman film. (See full review.) —Michael Burgin
72. The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002)
Much like The Simpsons Movie and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, The Powerpuff Girls Movie is a perhaps inevitable cinematic manifestation of a long-running television series. A more detailed origin story for the heroes of Craig McCracken’s superb Cartoon Network show, the movie basically serves an an extended episode and is appealing for all the same reasons. As such, The Powerpuff Girls Movie will not shed light on some previously unexplored aspect of the show’s mythology, but if all it does is introduce some new viewers to the show, that’s worth it. —M.B.
71. The Phantom (1996)
One of the better “comic strip/pulp era” heroes brought to the big screen, The Phantom holds up pretty well as a realization of its source material (even if it will never be considered among the best superhero films). The plot—the leader of a nefarious brotherhood seeks to control a mystical item that will bring him absolute POWER!—is pure pulp goodness. Billy Zane is beefy and believable as the 21st Phantom out to avenge the death of his dad (the 20th), and I sort of wish Catherine Zeta-Jones had spent more of her career playing rogue-ish femme fatales who lead a squadron of female mercs. —M.B.
70. The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though, mockery comes in a close second. The Lego Batman Movie’s silliness is just the stationery on which creator Chris McKay (an animation co-director on The Lego Movie) has composed his love note for the World’s Greatest Detective, at once a sharp parody of representations of Batman on screens both big and small as well as an honest go at exploring what really makes the icon tick beneath the cape, cowl and cool gadgets. It isn’t the grim posturing seen in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, or the gaudiness of the Joel Schumacher films, or the violent, kinky cheese factor of the Tim Burton films—it isn’t the campy 1960s vibe of the Adam West TV series, either—no, it’s loneliness that makes Batman Batman, and The Lego Batman Movie dives into his self-imposed isolation with equal parts sympathy and glee. (See full review.) —Andy Crump
69. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
If it achieved nothing else, The Incredible Hulk deserves credit for picking up the ball from Ang Lee’s 2003 version, throwing it away, buying a new ball and pretending that radioactive tree poodle never happened. Just the second entry in the still brand new MCU, Louis Leterrier’s film also does something that we wish more films would do—it gets the origin story out of the way in the opening credits. (But hey, let’s show the deaths of the Waynes or of Uncle Ben one more time … we may have forgotten!) As the titular smasher of puny things, it’s hard to say whether Edward Norton is better than Eric Bana. (In fairness, Bana never got a fair shot.) But what can be said is this iteration actually gives viewers more Hulk (and more quickly) than its predecessor, and it trots out an actual Hulk-specific villain in Tim Roth’s Abomination. Besides being encouraging evidence that Marvel knew better how to handle its recently reclaimed property, such moves make some of the less sensible moments—and there are plenty—easier to overlook. No one will ever claim The Incredible Hulk is one of the best MCU efforts, but it deserves credit for being one of the first. —M.B.
68. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Marc Webb’s film proves that rebooting a successful franchise is no sure thing. First, a reboot works best with properties that have become stale, over-burdened by conflicting bits of canon or weakened by over-exposure. Only ten years removed from the first film (and five from the third), it’s not like Raimi’s trilogy was a distant memory for viewers. Considering the films occupy spots #1 through #3 in all-time box office for Sony/Columbia, it’s tough to argue flagging interest, either. Finally, unlike another popular rebooted property, Star Trek, where its heroes’ early days have been untouched on film—and thus make for intriguing fan-bait—Spider-Man’s origin story is a central part of his Big Screen tale. As a result, Webb was faced with a daunting proposition: Retell a story that was just told (and told well) a few years earlier—and, oh yeah, no major changes to the origin allowed. Perhaps this stricture explains why The Amazing Spider-Man feels less like a reboot than an extended paraphrasing of the plot points and emotional beats from the first two films in the Raimi/Maguire trilogy. But whether judged in relation to Raimi’s trilogy, compared with successful superhero franchises as a whole, or just rated on its own terms as an action film, the only thing amazing about Webb’s reboot is how quickly a Hollywood studio can forget the lessons its own films have taught it. (See full review.) —M.B.
67. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2018)
In the past half-decade (and two similar Lego movies later) there’s hardly a shred of anything original left that hasn’t been commodified into oblivion. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part blasts off into that oblivion, attempting to grow up with the younglings it once courted while, as well as it can given its hyperkinetic guiding koan of “everything is awesome is everything at once,” shooting for unexpected shades of nuance. Written by Lord and Miller, but directed by dependable animated studio hand Mike Mitchell, the second episode in the ongoing saga of Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and the citizens of Bricksburg starts only minutes after the first film, but feels like a lifetime separated. Lord and Miller seem to get that. They feel it too. Is everything still awesome? (Short answer: no.) After the most important Master Builders in the ’burg—including Benny (Charlie Day), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Metalbeard (Nick Offerman)— are kidnapped, Emmet’s the only figure left behind. Out of his element, he reconfigures his house into a spaceship and heads for the Systar System to rescue his friends.
Though The Lego Movie 2 reboots at the end, refusing to quit without a happy ending, it admits: Everything is not awesome, but everything isn’t so bad either. How could it be when everything is everything? Perhaps this is the lesson on which kids can glom amongst this admittedly overlong, overwhelming experience: Yoda was wrong; trying is what matters. It’s a lovely lesson, and a lovely movie. It’s okay to be angry and sad and hurt by the world, because it will hurt, but you shouldn’t give up. You shouldn’t break things when you can build them. You shouldn’t break people down when you can build them up. (See full review.) —Dom Sinacola
66. Justice League (2017)
The real difference between Justice League and Snyder’s previous DCEU entries is that the distinct Snyder-ness of it all has been neutered, chastised even. The movie is under two hours, for god’s sake, its many typical philosophical conversations generally snipped and tucked, mythology abridged into brisk expositional conversations or relegated to—in the case of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) identifying Aquaman (Jason Momoa)—literally seeing everything one needs to know on a wall mural. All in all, Justice League seems to want to just get on with it, which is probably as good a sign as any that anyone who complained Zack Snyder’s films are bloated, ponderous, humorless slogs of pretentious “adult” populist entertainment will find his latest blockbuster operates at a clip much more—dare we say it—delightful that anything he’s done before. Justice League may be a more functional film that its predecessors, but it also lacks the style and go-for-broke big ideas that made Batman v Superman such a fascinating shitshow. In the place of Snyder’s all-consuming hubris is something seemingly committee-created, too aware of past mistakes to try anything that could make the film something more than a thoroughly mediocre $300M investment. (See full review.) —Dom Sinacola
65. The Wolverine (2013)
Loosely based—very loosely—on an early story arc from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s eponymous comic, The Wolverine has several advantages going for it: one of Marvel’s most popular and enduring mutants, the return of Hugh Jackman for a sixth time in a role he owns, and one of the richer story arcs tied to the character’s many decades of adventures from the page panels. (Plus, it couldn’t possibly be worse than X-Men Origins: Wolverine.) But as much as director James Mangold’s cinematic interpretation has going for it, it only seldom succeeds. Taken as a whole, The Wolverine is nearly as hit-and-miss as the rest of Mangold’s filmography: it ain’t Cop Land or his first-rate remake of 3:10 to Yuma, but nor is it Knight and Day or Kate & Leopold. However, given the enviable headstart this movie had at its greenlight, viewers may be disappointed they couldn’t do better than two steps forward, one step back. (See full review.) —S.W.
64. The Crow (1994)
Alex Proyas’s gothic cult classic, in which Brandon Lee’s Eric Dravin flits from rooftop to rooftop, makeup supernaturally intact, is almost hilariously bleak, a sort of Hot-Topic-toned cousin to something from Hermann Warm’s wettest of dreams. Because of that, The Crow is either something completely understood, an object with which a select few audience members can truly sympathize, or something to be consumed in bewilderment—like an H.P. Lovecraft story or what Rob Zombie does. After this and Dark City (1998), it became clear that a studio could put their trust in Proyas to later take over the Blade brand (however successful): So shamelessly stylized and earnest is Proyas’s emo heart. —D.S.
63. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
A cautionary tale in how a successful franchise can maintain most of the ingredients in its creative team, and yet still be derailed by what seems like the smallest of adjustments. Sure, Spider-Man 3 was a financial success—$890 million or so in worldwide box office on a budget of $258 million—but it also sported some “classic” transgressions of the genre. There’s the overly convenient—and worse, unnecessary—sewing together of plot points that were originally disparate. (Flint Marko is also the man who shot Unca Ben!) There’s the cramming of too many subplots and villains into the movie (the latter tendency perhaps best thought of as a Schumacher Effect). And then there’s a few eyebrow-raising moments unique to the film, like, sigh, that Jazz club scene. All in all, it represents a sudden low for anyone relishing the high of its predecessor, and the end of the Raimi-Maguire era. —M.B.
62. Man of Steel (2013)
Man of Steel begins well enough. Director Zack Snyder brings his signature richness of design to Krypton, treating its final days like the end of a rollickin’ space opera upon which the viewers have stumbled. As Jor-El, Space Ranger, Russell Crowe is less spindly scientist (or bloated Brando head) than the character has ever been, and the final days of Krypton allow Michael Shannon to get a welcomed early start on chewing up the scenery as General Zod.
But once young Kal-El reaches Earth, action grinds to a halt, as Snyder breaks apart the classic “growing up supah!” montage, inserting it instead throughout the next lifetime—I mean, hour or so—of the film, which switches back and forth from childhood to present day and the now grown Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). There are a couple of nice superpowered ninja saves—a bus full of children here, an oil rig crew there—but mainly, the scenes consist of Clark looking angsty, Ma Kent (Diane Lane) giving comfort and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) giving increasingly dubious “advice” that culminates in a nice father-son assisted suicide. Once Zod and crew reach Earth, the action picks up, but so do the film’s issues—there’s the heavy-handed Jesus-ing, the wholesale public endangerment and just overall exposition-heavy, plot-sloppy script.
For some heavy-handed allegory might make Man of Steel worthwhile, and that’s great. If others have become so inured to bombast, sloppy plotting and the substitution of cliché for character in sci-fi blockbusters that they enjoy Snyder’s game attempt at the Superman tale, all the better. However, for those looking for a Superman tale well-told—there’s nothing to see here. (See full review.) —M.B.
61. Constantine (2005)
Constantine is the classic case of a film that is fairly entertaining on its own but frustrating when judged as an adaptation of a beloved comic book character. It wouldn’t have taken that many tweaks to bring it more in line with what fans of the comics would have been expecting, but the casting of Keanu Reeves in particular fundamentally changed the character of John Constantine in ways that many fans had a hard time accepting. Gone was the typically witty, sarcastic, cheeky British magician scamp of the comics, replaced by a surly, depressed-looking Reeves who was lacking a fundamental piece of the character’s charm. At the same time, though, Constantine does boast some absolutely mesmerizing supporting performances that have helped the film develop a late-blooming appreciation: In particular, the radiant, androgynous Tilda Swinton as the scheming angel Gabriel and the malevolent Peter Stormare in a sadly brief but brilliant portrayal of Lucifer. It almost makes one hope for a different film featuring the same characters in more depth, rather than the somewhat generic plot of Constantine itself, which is strongest when hewing to a specific comics subplot about John’s life-threatening lung cancer. In the end, Constantine is simply uneven, but the bright spots almost demand a watch. The ill-fated Constantine TV show on Fox, meanwhile, actually gave audiences a more accurate and charming take on the title character, but failed in an opposite respect: A lack of any interesting supporting characters. At some point, hopefully the character of Constantine will have another moment in the sun. —J.V.
60. Sky High (2005)
Disney’s Sky High manages to be neither that memorable nor the least bit offensive. (And the latter may seem like faint praise, but as the upper regions of this list attest—there is ample wince-worthy live-action superhero crap out there.) Instead, Sky High is one of those films a nerd-leaning adult can watch with his or her kids and enjoy for its cast alone. There’s Wonder Woman classic (Lynda Carter), Ash (Bruce Campbell), Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) and even Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost from the CW’s Flash (Danielle Panabaker). And while those kids will likely not care about any of those names, they will enjoy the straight-forward, lightly spoofy take on what awaits them (or currently afflicts them) in high school. —M.B.
59. Batman Returns (1992)
There’s still healthy debate as to which of the original Tim Burton Batman films is actually superior, but Batman Returns has a case to make as one of the most entertaining takes on the Caped Crusader. Michelle Pfeiffer certainly is responsible for the most fun take on the Catwoman mythos, although that’s certainly not saying much when the alternatives are the disastrous Halle Berry feature or the disappointing mundanity of Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. But the casting is so strong all around—a wild-eyed Christopher Walken as the bizarre-looking corporate villain, a more comfortable Michael Keaton who has settled into the Batman role and the impeccable Danny DeVito as the real star of the film, the hideously makeup’d Penguin. Oswald Cobblepot is a character of significant pathos and audience empathy here, alternately shrewd and pathetic, which makes for a fascinating villain. Yeah, the movie dives into Bruckheimer-esque absurdity during the portion when it’s revolving around penguin soldiers with missiles strapped to their backs, but you can’t argue that doesn’t jibe with the tone of classic Batman comics of the ’60s and ’70s. —J.V.
58. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
At two hours and 44 minutes, The Dark Knight Rises is way too long … and way too short. Welcome to the temporal paradox that is the third, final and a bit overladen entry of Christopher Nolan’s tripartite take on the caped crusader. In the third film of his trilogy, Nolan brings his A game (and A team, for that matter) to bear in an attempt to at least match the billion-dollar-grossing, Heath Ledger-elevated The Dark Knight in tone, tenor and pace. But between multiple characters afflicted with “plotty mouth” and a need to have readers suspend disbelief early and (a bit too) often, this trilogy capper falls well short of the two films that preceded it. After all, nearly three hours may seem like a long time to maintain tension and viewer interest in anything not involving hobbits or the NFL, but it’s also all too short when you’re trying to juxtapose the slow burn of a hero’s psychological journey (and physical recovery) with a villain’s crisp, diabolical plan (and throwing in three to four additional character arcs for good measure). It’s at this intersection of hurry up and slow down that the film both bogs down and skips beats. It’s why 30 minutes more would have told a more convincing tale of Bruce Wayne, and 30 minutes less would have done wonders for the story of Batman’s battle with Bane. Still, though The Dark Knight Rises may have joined the long list of finales that did not measure up to what went immediately before, that doesn’t make it any easier of an act to follow. (See full review.) —M.B.
57. Superman Returns (2006)
It’s sad that Superman Returns never got the real accolades it deserved from the moviegoing public, because Bryan Singer nailed this shit. The balance between an arch tone and an overwhelming sense of awe; the themes and concerns and thrills; all the Christ-like imagery: In Superman Returns, Singer gave DC and Warner Bros. the film they wanted—an updated sequel/reboot to the immortalized ’70s franchise—and they paid him back by using middling box office as an excuse to hand everything over to Zack Snyder, who proceeded to completely, fundamentally misunderstand everything about the character and its cinematic roots. Look only to Snyder’s casting of Henry Cavill and Singer’s signing on of Brandon Routh—the latter is the spiritual successor to Christopher Reeve, and the former isn’t—and know that with Singer’s stake in the franchise died any hope that a Superman movie (and most things you love) could ever be good again. —D.S.
56. The Mask (1994)
Like a thick green clot, Jim Carrey solidified his star power in the hearts of 12-year-old boys everywhere by proving that if you loved cartoons hard enough, you, too, could one day guilt a pretty lady into kissing you. In The Mask, Carrey plays the man with the perfect weiner name, Stanley Ipkiss, a sniveling bank drone who finds the mask of the god Loki, which, upon wearing, transforms him into an anti-hero Looney Tune. Pretty obviously a psychopath—who the movie implies is Stanley’s unfettered Id come to life or something—The Mask robs a bank, murders over five people, sexually assaults a mechanic, threatens to kill his landlord, sexually assaults Cameron Diaz, and vicariously allows The Mask 2, starring Jamie Kennedy, to exist. Which also sounds like a typical day for Donald Trump. This movie is as funny as that joke—and pretty much the mean-spirited epitome of mid-’90s PG-13 comedies. —D.S.
55. Iron Man 2 (2010)
For all of its star power and CGI wizardry (some of the action scenes seem perfectly calibrated to tickle your superfan receptors), Iron Man 2 can’t quite manage the balance between plot development and action. Just as you think there’s about to be some payoff for yet another overlong sequence spent plumbing Stark’s family history, or watching Mickey Rourke’s Vanko pace like a caged animal and generally devour scenery, the movie abruptly shifts gears and tosses in another joyless chase sequence or string of explosions. It’s a shame that director Jon Favreau didn’t place more of the film in the hands of his actors; where the first Iron Man was a character-driven delight—something of a thinking-man’s blockbuster—the sequel succumbs to, well, sequel-itis, opting instead to crank up the special effects and noise and hope for the best. The most cynical and calculating part of it all is that the movie never really finds a justification for its existence—except, that is, as a bald-faced setup for The Avengers. —M.B.
54. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
For millions of fans, Batman: The Animated Series stands as the definitive Batman—the Batmaniest iteration of all the Batmen through the decades. It’s easy to understand why. Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and company went back to the character’s roots, drawing from both the graphic style of the era, and the original purpose of the Dark Knight himself: Batman is a detective first, dramatic crime-fighting vigilante second. Following the success of the cartoon series, Warner Bros. decided to release what was meant to be a straight-to-video Batman: The Animated Series movie in theaters, instead. Unfortunately, it was rushed in production as a result, and not very well promoted by the studio, and so failed at the box office. But the failure falls squarely on the shoulders of WB marketing execs, because Mask of the Phantasm makes a strong argument for being the best Batman movie. It’s a minor tweak on Batman’s origin, but a damn effective one. It may be the most humanized Bruce Wayne has ever been treated onscreen—of course, it’s the murder of his parents that initially shapes his obsession with justice—but it’s a different Bruce Wayne, jilted by a new love, who finally dons the cape and cowl. And it’s a new Batman who emerges parallel with the mysterious Phantasm, who helps him determine the best way to mete out his vigilantism, by standing in sharp relief of his new rival who’s perfectly content to kill criminals in the name of justice. Using the The Animated Series as a template from which to tell the story was a savvy move by the filmmakers. The neo-noir feel and art deco look beautifully underline the dark places the story goes. It’s not just a Batman origin that’s “mature for a cartoon,” this is a Batman story that’s most assuredly all grown-up. —S.W.
53. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Deadpool 2 never stops leaping around and jumping for your attention, in a way that’s more winning and affable than it probably should be. A lot of this is Ryan Reynolds, but the expanded cast brings plenty to the table as well. Zazie Beetz of Atlanta is certainly the standout of the X-Force crew, as a mutant whose talent is “being lucky,” which doesn’t sound like a superpower but certainly feels like one when you see it in action. (It might actually be the best superpower.) Rob Delaney has a delightful small role as the least gifted but most relatable member of X-Force. And Brolin gives the film an added gravitas that it doesn’t necessarily need but certainly doesn’t hurt. But this is Reynolds’ show: He is grandmaster and main event of this circus, all by himself. Ultimately, Deadpool 2 is a film that works best when it’s entirely irreverent about its own irreverence, when it is constantly riffing on its increasingly large place in the comic book movie canon. (It even notes that it’s the reason Logan existed.) It’s tough to create a universe like that, and it’s that, not the love story or Deadpool’s journey, that sets these films apart. I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a post-credits sequence. But I didn’t want Deadpool’s to end. It’s all disposable, but in this franchise’s case, that’s a happy feature, not a bug. (See full review.) —Will Leitch
52. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)
The Golden Army is a somewhat divisive sequel to Hellboy, with some proponents praising Del Toro’s vivid imagination as crafting an even better film than the first while others consider its an example of Lucas-ian drift from character and story into a world-building wonderland. Regardless of the comparison, though, it’s a very solid sequel that gives us more of the first film’s better elements—the genius of Ron Perlman, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, a bit of John Hurt—and the addition of the eccentric Johann Krauss, the disembodied, ectoplasmic professor contained in a diving suit. The elven antagonist, Prince Nuada, can’t quite measure up to the first film’s villains in terms of how they fit into the mythology of Hellboy’s creation and destiny, but the MacGuffin of the titular Golden Army makes for a spectacular final fight sequence. Also neat: Seeing an expansion of the fantasy/fairy world that coexists next to the human one in the Hellboy universe, including their memorable trip to the Troll Market existing in a parallel dimension under the Brooklyn Bridge. The story is ultimately slightly less focused on Red himself, but The Golden Army is never anything short of entertaining. —J.V.
51. Chronicle (2012)
Chronicle is a sometimes fun, slightly dark film about a boy and his camera. Directed by Josh Trank, the film wants to be more interesting, more complicated than its found-footage counterparts (Cloverfield, Blair Witch Project, etc.), and in many ways, it is. Trank clearly wanted to create a true character in Andrew (Dane DeHaan), to explore familial bonds and dysfunctions and strange friendships that are as weak as they are strong. The characters, although annoying at times (being teens and all) are well-cast. They are never just problem kids, or just kids with superpowers, or creepy kids with cameras (like those wretched brothers in Another Happy Day). But the storyline of Chronicle does not fully allow for a deeper exploration of what makes them tick. Clichés overwhelm the piece, and as with most found-footage films, it gets extremely difficult to believe that someone is still determined to get the shot when all hell is breaking loose.
One wonders if the short film (84 minutes) might have benefited from a slightly longer running time. Too quickly, the victim becomes the villain, and the transformation lacks authenticity—even with good, quality acting. Ultimately, the script does not ring as true as the performances, and this failure weakens what might have been a much stronger film. (See full review.) —Shannon M. Houston