Published On: Thu, Jun 9th, 2011

‘Super 8’ movie review


Somebody loves Steven Spielberg. Somebody besides me, I mean. That somebody is J.J. Abrams, whose new film, “Super 8,” is a homage to the man who will go down as the most successful director in Hollywood history.

It’s a dreary spring day in 1979. As car after car pull up at his house, young Joe Lamb (Courtney) sits quietly on a swing. One man enters the house only to be dragged out immediately by Joe’s father, who is also a deputy sheriff. He is thrown into the back of a car, which quickly speeds off. Fast forward to the beginning of summer. Joe and his friends are making a movie about zombies. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the director. He has decided that his crew should meet at midnight at the local train station to film an important scene. As they begin to set up they hear a train approaching. As one who constantly stresses “production values,” Charles hurries his cast in position as the train passes by. Suddenly there is an explosion as the train derails. As the kids run the camera continues to film. Something.

I must confess that my anticipation for this film was up there on the same level I felt standing in line to see “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or “The Empire Strikes Back.” And I have to say that my anticipation was met in spades. Director Abrams, who skillfully breathed life back into the “Star Trek” franchise (sorry Andrew) in 2009, has obviously studied everything Spielberg has done and added a fresh touch to it. The film is a compilation of many films, from “Jaws” to “E.T.” to “Close Encounters,” with a few splashes of “The Goonies” thrown in for good measure. As in “Mission: Impossible 3” and “Star Trek,” Abrams shows a great eye for action. The train derailment scene is presented brilliantly as the sound of screeching metal fills the air while cars tumble aimlessly across the tracks. The script, also by Abrams, is a great tribute to both what it was like to be a kid and the movies that kept us amazed. I’m about six years older than Abrams but I can tell you that in the spring of 1979 I was one of those guys who, to quote Deputy Lamb, “spend all their days with a movie camera and monster make up!” I once made a film that featured a robot coming from the future to change the past. And while I’m still waiting for James Cameron to send me some of his “Terminator” money, what’s most important is that I still have that memory. And it’s obvious that Abrams not only has those same memories but that he wants to share them.

The cast, both young and old, is top notch. Of the youngsters, the only one with major acting experience is Fanning (younger sister of Dakota), who is both touching and strong here. I was amazed to learn that this is both Courtney and Griffiths’ first acting job. Both of these young actors leap off the screen, drawing comparisons to Henry Thomas in “E.T.” or Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” with their strong performances. Chandler is strong as a man who must bury his own demons while Ron Eldard earns our sympathy as the man Deputy Lamb holds responsible for his wife’s death. The soundtrack is pure 70’s hits and the production design is strong and memorable.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney and Kyle Chandler
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 52 mins

MOVIE MIKES SCORE: 5 out of 5 stars

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See the review here: http://moviemikes.com/2011/06/film-review-super-8/

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