Friday, June 17, 2011

Nostalgia Redux

Super 8
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning
Released: June 10, 2011
Viewed in theaters: June 14, 2011

In a summer full of sequels and comic-book adaptations, Super 8 is a small gem to be found among those blockbusters and will most likely get lost in the shuffle, but if you want a fun and suspenseful summer flick reminiscent of Speilberg-esque supernatural movies such as E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind and coming-to-age films like Stand By Me with a little bit of The Goonies thrown in for good measure, then I can't recommend Super 8 enough.

The movie takes place in the summer of 1979 and is centered around a group of middle school-aged kids from a small town in Ohio who are making a zombie movie to enter in their town's film festival. What I like about the cast is that they are actually the age one would be in middle school and they act like normal kids, none of that precocious, cutesy kid stuff you see from so many annoying child actors. I also like the fact that the dialogue doesn't seem to be written by a Kevin Willimason or Diablo Cody-type and there are no lines that are trying to be clever or witty. They're just normal kids who are friends and that's why you believe. Even though they're all really cute kids, I also like that they're not all perfect-looking like they just came from the Disney channel.

Goonies 2011!
Joe (newcomer Joel Courtney) is the main character who's Dad (Chandler) is the local sheriff. He lost his mother in a horrible accident only four months ago and is trying to cope with the loss. He works on the lights and the make-up for the film and has a crush on Alice (Elle Fanning) who agrees to play the leading lady in their film. This was the first time I've seen Dakota's little sister in a film and it was weird to hear her speak because I was expecting this high-pitched, girly voice to come out of her, but her voice was lower than I was expecting. Alice's dad is an alcoholic and he and Joe's dad don't get along because he was somewhat responsible for Joe's mother's death. Neither Joe's or Alice's dad allow them to be friends so they have to sneak around to hang out with each other. Charles is the requisite fat kid who directs the movie and also has a crush on Alice. Cary is the kid with the straggly blond hair and in need of braces with an affinity for fireworks and explosions who plays the lead zombie. Martin is the tall, awkward kid with glasses who plays the lead character and Preston is the wimpy kid who's always saying his heart is beating too fast and refuses to go with the gang when they decide to do something risky.

One night, while shooting a scene near the train tracks, they witness a horrific train crash, which, believe me, even if you don't like the movie, you will get your money's worth just for that scene alone. It is one intense scene. After that, some crazy stuff starts to go down. There's a monster that we don't see fully until the end of the movie, but we do see glimpses of it and when it's rustling in the trees, it reminded me of Jurassic Park and the smoke monster from Lost. Even though it was an integral part of the movie, I much preferred the coming-of-age angle rather than the monster angle. I didn't quite understand the whole story with the monster, but I had a "medium" Wild Cherry Pepsi (really, it looked more like a large!) and had to use the bathroom. I went after the kids get caught sneaking in the school, so maybe I missed some important plot points while I was gone. Oh, I also had Twizzlers and the kids eat Twizzlers during the beginning of the film. Shoutout!

Even though I wasn't around in '79, this movie has a very nostalgic feel to it. I am familiar with movies and TV shows and have seen family photos from around that time, so I was familiar with the "look" of that era. The soundtrack is great! Kids back then listened to way better music than kids do today. Granted, the only songs I remember in the movie are "Don't Bring Me Down" and "My Sharona". One of the podcasts I listen to (Extra Hot Great - I highly recommend it) talked about Super 8 and someone pointed out that the mentioned Rubik's Cube and the shown Walkman didn't actually appear on the market until the early months of the early '80s, but according to the Wiki, the Walkman was first available in the summer of '79.

Now how could have I gone this long in this review without mentioning the lens flare? I've seen/heard several people bitch about the lens flare, but honestly I only noticed it in that one scene where the kids are getting ready to film by the train tracks. It was blue and it was very distracting and noticeable and I kept asking myself, "What the hell is that? What are those blue lights? What does it mean?" Then when I kept hearing about the lens flare, I knew exactly what they were talking about. If it was in any other part of the movie, I didn't notice it, though.

The end of the movie made me choke up and there's a scene that reminded me of Titanic. If you've seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about! (And if you've seen Titanic, of course, which I'm sure you have.) They show the kids' homemade movies during the end credits (about two minutes in so don't get up and leave right when the credits start) and let's just say they are much better filmmakers than that idiot in Cloverfield with his damn shaky camera who was twice their age!

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