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Super 8 an original film with nice surprises

There are always three elements of a good movie, although they don’t all need to be present to make the film good.
Great actors/acting. An ensemble cast can elevate a film. Notting Hill, Love Actually, 4 Weddings and a Funeral come to mind. They’re better examples of a cast as opposed to individual performances.
Good writing is another component. I think American Beauty is one of the great films to combine all the elements. It was brilliant writing and even had stunning cinematography as a bonus.
Great direction is the final piece of the puzzle. Someone who can tell a story. Someone who knows pacing and shot selection and essentially can make the camera disappear and present the story in front of you seamlessly.
JJ Abrams is one of those directors.
His CV is a highlight reel from the last decade of compelling television.
He created Felicity, Alias Lost and Fringe. He has a new series Person of Interest starting soon.
He directed Mission Impossible II and III and has another installment coming out in the fall. He directed Star Trek, which breathed new life into the lamest franchise in Hollywood and he wrote one of my favorite little pictures, Regarding Henry.
As the story goes, at one point in his storied career he edited Steven Spielberg’s 8mm films that he made as he learned the craft and they became friends. So at some point a few years back he calls Sir Steven up and says I want to make a film called Super 8 about some kids in the 70s and Spielberg said ‘Yes’.
No plot summary no treatment, just a title. Spielberg co-produces and the results are stellar.
I slept on this one initially. It didn’t grab me right out of the gate.
It’s a story about a bunch of kids making a movie about zombies who get caught up in an army train derailing and the subsequent attempt at a cover up. They actually are filming when the train is coming through their town and the young director immediately sees the production value so they go to full alert. As the camera rolls, the train derails, and we learn intentionally, and that should be that. Except strange things are happening. People in their small town are disappearing. Things are getting blown up and stomped and trampled. And the kids bear witness to all of this.
I like movies where the kids are smart and competent. The stars of Super 8 are, for the most part, unknown, and that adds to their cachet. You like them. They’re thoughtful and serious and it never dawns on them that this stupid cheesy movie they’re making isn’t going to set the world on fire.
I love the teenage angst that shows up in the Super 8 film they’re making. How the kids playing adults keep saying things like “I just love you so much” because hey, that is how us grown ups talk.
I thought the crowd reaction was interesting. A friend told me it reminded her of The Goonies, another said it’s ET grown up, and there certainly are elements of all of those films.
The movie is scary.
Definitely not for the younger set. Most of the suspense comes from this force/menace which seems to trample vehicles and moves like a violent wind, making people disappear, presumably dead or eaten or who even knows.
What I do know is that it’s compelling. I was only sort of watching it the first night and it hooked me in, so the next night I went front to back with it.
There’s definitely a Spielberg sentimentality to it and so the comparisons to his hits from the 80s is apt. It reminded me of Sings a little, without the malevolence.
For all of the comparisons, it’s a totally original film with some nice surprises and a cast that held my attention despite their youth.
Super 8 is the only film this summer that has a number in the title which doesn’t represent another in a series and some of those are past their stale date.
This film had a budget of 50M and it’s already brought in 108M. Green Lantern cost 200M+ and it’s stalled at 102M. Hey, maybe story does count.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: Paul Peterson

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