The Gift

the gift posterSTX/Blumhouse (2015) 108 min. R

Director: Joel Edgerton

Screenplay: Joel Edgerton

Cinematography: Eduard Grau; Editing: Luke Doolan

Production Design: Richard Sherman; Set Decoration: Matthew Flood Ferguson

Costumes: Terry Anderson; Score: Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans

Stars: Jason Bateman (Simon Callen), Rebecca Hall (Robyn Callen), Joel Edgerton (Gordon “Gordo” Mosley), Tim Griffin (Kevin Keeler), Allison Tolman (Lucy), Adam Lazarre-White (Ron), Beau Knapp (Detective Walker), Wendell Pierce (Detective Mills), P.J. Byrne (Danny McDonald), David Denman (Greg), Busy Philipps (Duffy)

For some reason, I kept getting The Gift mixed up with The Box, which also used the Pandora concept as a basis to explore the untapped potential for darkness in seemingly ordinary, unthreatening people. In an overheated summer full of typically hotheaded action blockbusters, this low-key, largely introspective psychological thriller is the real surprise gift to moviegoers and it’s not even close to Christmas yet. Despite being riddled with horror movie clichés and transparent script convolutions which allow audiences to anticipate most of what’s coming, this remains an intriguing, quality sleeper attractively wrapped for our predilection.

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Chronicle

Chronicle poster20th Century Fox (2012) 84 min. PG-13

Director: Josh Trank

Screenplay: Max Landis; Story: Max Landis & Josh Trank

Cinematography: Matthew Jensen; Editing: Elliot Greenberg

Production Design: Stephen Altman; Set Decoration: Fred Du Preez

Costumes: Diana Cilliers; Score: Andrea von Foerster

Stars: Dane DeHaan (Andrew Detmer), Alex Russell (Matt Garetty), Michael B. Jordan (Steve Montgomery), Michael Kelly (Richard Detmer), Ashley Hinshaw (Casey Letter), Bo Petersen (Karen Detmer), Anna Wood (Monica)

On the cusp of another summer of blockbuster blitzkrieg, one can only hope moviemakers look to their laurels by revisiting one of the finest superhero movies of recent years. Forget all the over-marketed, big-budgeted Dark Knight Rises, Avengers and Amazing Spider-Mans that glutted the franchise market back in 2012. Chronicle, a modest little sleeper by comparison, directed by Josh Trank and written by Trank and Max Landis, with shoestring special effects, a teensploitation plotline and derivative handheld video camerawork, still emerged as the most creative, original superhero movie of that year. Or, to be more accurate, the best secret origin story of a supervillain. The revisionist storyline was clever enough to subvert our initial expectations. Continue reading