Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Super 8: My Review

Posted: June 12, 2011 in Movies, Reviews

 

Steven Spielberg and the eighties go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly.  Whether with his own films like E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind or lending his name to a film to get it made like Goonies, Spielberg owned the eighties.  Today it was that nostalgia that brought me to the local Cineplex to check out J.J. Abrams’ next film, Super 8.

In the summer of 1979, a group of kids in a small town in Ohio are putting the finishing touches on their zombie film called “The Case.”  While sneaking out late at night to get a scene shot, they witness a horrendous train crash and begin to unravel the mystery behind it.  While this happens, the very shy Joe Lamb, living with his grief stricken father starts to fall in love with one of the movie’s actresses, Alice.  It doesn’t take long for the action to ramp up as the reality of the situation comes to a head and puts the group of friends and the rest of the town in harm’s way.

It is only logical that at least one filmmaker growing up on Spielberg-goodness would attempt to take the mantle from the master himself and push forward to wow a new generation.  J.J. Abrams would seem like the logical choice.  He grew up in Hollywood, knew Spielberg and is well versed in his catalog of work.  Abrams has worked in almost every style and genre in the business from Horror and Drama to Action and Sci-Fi.  Many hoped after this project was announced that it would be a symbolic passing of the torch from Master to Student.

Super 8 is a hot mess and that is not a horrible thing at all.  There is so much happening at once that you are left scrambling, trying to figure out what this movie really is.  Is it a romantic kids movie?  Is it an action movie?  What about a Sci-Fi or Monster movie?  To be honest, it is an amalgamation of all of the above.

 

 

Going to this film was a treat, not just for the inner child who grew up on a steady diet of Goonies, E.T. and Indiana Jones but for the kind of guy who appreciates those filmmakers that take the time and energy to salute those who came before them and pay homage to their heroes.  Let me be upfront when I say that this movie is not perfect, not flawless.  It has plot holes and questions that are never answered, but it never bothered me.   It had a perfect balance of simple storyline and action peppered with comedy to keep me in my seat.

Where Abrams dropped the ball was in the narrative of the relationship, or lack thereof, between father and son, he picked it up with the nice and simple romance between Joe and Alice.  It wasn’t sugary sweet and sappy.  It was just right and helped keep interest in the film when there was downtime.  The action keeps ramping up as if he was trying to out do the previous scene and it works but sometimes I wondered if Michael Bay was at the explosion trigger.  Baysplosions!!!

The excess of action and pulp culture in this film were fun, from the very start right through the end credits where we are given a very special treat.  I know that Abrams is a love him or hate him kind of director, but with what he has done on the small and large screens, I think this just adds to my love of his style.  In no way is the torch being handed off today, but you never know what the future holds.  The student can very much become the master.

4.0/5

James

  Scream 4 (2011)

Directed by Wes Craven.  Written by Kevin Williamson

Starring Courtney Cox, Neve Cambell & David Arquette.

*** SPOILERS***  ***SPOILERS***

All is quiet on the rolling hills of Woodsboro, scene of a series of horrific crimes centered around our heroine Sidney Prescott.  Now ten years have passed since the first set of murders and Sidney returns home to Woodsboro, now as a New York times best seller with her book about being a survivor of those horrific crimes.

Seems she’s not the only one coming home.  Since her return for a book signing, people start coming up dead.  Yep, Ghostface has decided to come out of hibernation and wreck havoc on the towns people.  Dewey, now the town sheriff and his wife, former reporter Gayle Weathers join in as they attempt to stop the bleeding in their small town and catch the killer.  The supporting cast of local teenagers, including Sidney’s cousin Jill Roberts become targets as Ghostface now wants to torture Sidney by killing all of her friends and family, leaving her for last.

Needless to say, this film follows the same exact formula as the original movie several years ago.  While Neve, Courtney and David reprise their roles, the supporting cast fills in for those lost to the three other films in the franchise.  Sidney, always the heroine seems to be a bit more helpless because the focus seems to be less on her and more on making her relive her time before in Woodsboro.  Dewey is still the dork in a cop uniform and Gayle seems to have not lost her edge as the “bitch” reporter willing to do anything to get the scoop.  All the while, we still have the cliche characters.  The hot girl, the edgy girl, the damsel in distress and now it seems several horror movie fanatics.

Does this work?  Absolutely.  Was it a good refresh of the franchise ?  Maybe not as much.

The film overall works well.  Back in the hands of the original writer and director, Williamson stays with the tried and true horror formula that made the original Scream a success and in the hands of a capable horror director, Wes Craven brings us the full number of chills, jumps and gore as any of his other films to date.  The unique opening of a movie within a movie within yet another movie was funny, almost a pointing the finger at yourself kind of way.

The movie rolls pretty fast with little or no slowdown in the movement in plot.  There are almost no plot holes in the film, but really are there any plot holes in a slasher flick?  The ending where the big reveal was good because of the amount of red herrings that populate the film.  Everyone appears to be of suspect in this film and the big reveal is not exactly the biggest shocker in the world, but it is a mild surprise.

I thought that the ending as a whole dragged quite a bit, being about ten minutes too long for my taste.  Overblown and rambling reasons and motives really killed the power of the ending more than anything, but the ending leaves it open for multiple sequels I suppose.  I thought my idea was great for an ending but in my own sick mind, I want things to sometimes have a permanent ending.

It’s a decent matinee film that gives you the fond memories of why you liked the original.  You’ll leave it, go home and pop the first one in and revel in how a film that sort of mocked the genre films that came before it succeeded.

3/5

James

The Graduate (1967)

Dir. Mike Nichols

Starring Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross

Ranked #17 on AFI top 100

 

 

 

 

 

” One Word son.  Plastics.”

Day three brings me to the 2nd film by Mike Nichols called The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman in his first leading role and Anne Bancroft as the bombshell ” cougar ” Mrs. Robinson.

It’s the story of Benjamin Braddock, a college graduate with an uncertain future who gets entwined with his fathers partners wife, the alluring Mrs. Robinson, leading to an affair.  In the course of trying to “find himself”, he becomes entranced with the Robinson’s daughter Ellen and dedicates himself to winning her hand in marriage despite destroying the Robinson family with the affair.

Made in the late 60’s, this film and it’s ending has been lampooned, parodied and down right copied over the years.  I’m sure that there were films that became before it that explored the forbidden love angle but somehow this film didn’t really come out and grab me as a whole.

Many could go on and say that the subject matter of the film was or could have been controversial for that time but I’d have to argue that point by saying that in comparison with what was going on in that time frame and the maverick film directors like Dennis Hopper and John Cassavettes that this film was almost tame by this time.  It’s like the film missed it’s mark by a couple of years.

The major issues with the film is that it seems to be lifeless at times.  Hoffman’s Benjamin and Ellen seem to be lifeless organisms just hanging around, moving with the flow of the story and plot.  In fact, one could say that the only character that had any life in the film was Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson.  She’s a woman stuck in a boring life, forced to live this so called expected life.  She wants to explore the vibrancy of sex, to experiment, to liberate herself. Ellen has almost no dialog in the film and what dialog she has is useless and empty.  The ending scene might come off to some as he won and got the girl.  I see it as a nervous realization that these two boring characters have said very little to each other and might have nothing interesting to say in the future.

I understand that with no direction, Benjamin might come off as rebelling against authority but in fact it’s like he’s in some sort of stasis, seeming to be more comfortable at the bottom of a swimming pool than being a reflection of the times.  The times of questioning and out-right challenging authority and the status qua.

This film is tamer seen in today’s standards.  It could be seen as a film about a man with limited focus and interest who gets the chance to have an affair with the hottest wife in the neighborhood only to throw it away to marry the dorky or nerdy daughter.

 

3 out of 5.

 

James