Archive for June, 2011

Cars 2

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Comedy with tags on June 28, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Of all the Pixar films crying out for a sequel, Cars would have been my last choice. I enjoyed the movie back in 2006, but it has always been my least favorite. Cars 2 is not even up to the standard of the original, but it still manages to entertain. After winning the Piston Cup for the 4th time, racecar Lightning McQueen and his best friend, tow truck Mater, head to Tokyo to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. In the beginning, the narrative is briefly centered on Lightning McQueen and the racing championship. But the action soon shifts to Mater who becomes the main protagonist concerning  his accidental involvement in an international espionage subplot.

James Bond-like story, complete with mistaken identities, is a confusingly plotted spy thriller packed to the rafters with details. It’s incredibly convoluted and I struggled to follow the needlessly complicated storyline. At one point we learn that evil scientist Professor Zündapp uses an electromagnetic pulse to ignite a renewable fuel called Allinol in the racecars so that they explode. I barely understood the concept, so I doubt any child will makes sense of it. It’s really not that important, but the technical jargon highlights the chief problem: where’s the fun? Utterly devoid of character development and emotion, frenetic events have become the focus here. The 113 minute length is overlong and drags in parts. A completely fresh group of personalities including Finn McMissile, Holley Shiftwell and Miles Axlerod join the supporting cast. And while they’re serviceable characters, I couldn’t help but think all the new vehicles were introduced to sell additional merchandise.

The computer graphics are of course superb, particularly the scenes upon arriving in Tokyo. In fact it’s a stunningly gorgeous technological marvel. One imaginative episode has Mater confused by the mechanical complexity of a bathroom stall. We could have used more creative scenes like that. The synergy between Mater and Lightning McQueen is still intact and that’s what that captures the audience. Larry the Cable Guy is amiable in a way that the comedian could never be in a live action picture. His chemistry with Owen Wilson as his buddy is genuine. Their friendly dynamic remains sweet. I will mention, however, that the plot’s reliance on Mater’s cluelessness does get a little preposterous at times. He’s never been the brightest bulb, but here the light seems to have gone out. Not a disaster by any means, but this is the first Pixar film that feels a bit labored. If you can appreciate the terrific animation and chase sequences, you’ll be entertained.

Beginners

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on June 26, 2011 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketOliver, an illustrator, begins dating the whimsical Anna, a French actress, just months following his father’s passing. The recent relationship causes Oliver to reminisce with respect to his parents’ marriage and specifically his dad who had made a startling disclosure to him only 5 years before his death.

This somber tale’s most admirable aspect is the subtlety of the performances. Most affecting is Christopher Plummer as Hal, Oliver’s recently widowed father, who after 45 years of marriage, embarks on a new life after coming out as a closeted gay man. Hal’s subsequent cancer diagnosis might imply that the screenwriter is stacking the deck in an effort to interject even more importance to the narrative, but surprisingly, it doesn’t feel that way. The revelation is presented early and although the son is extremely confused by the news, the disclosure is introduced in a quiet manner. His forthrightness leads to a growing closeness that develops between father and son. The film illustrates Hal’s “coming out” in little conversational vignettes with Oliver: first exposure to house music, placing personal ads, and his infatuation with Andy, a much younger man.

Writer Director Mike Mills knows a thing a two about the subject matter. His own father made the exact same announcement to him following the loss of his mother. So the story comes from a very real place. This definitely adds to the plot’s authenticity. Mill’s is personally invested in the material and it has a genuine poignancy. The movie is ingeniously divided into 3 timelines, which jump around in sequence. The first being the present day and his romance with Anna, several months after his dad has died, the second period is the time spent with his father in the wake of his mother’s departure, and the third concerns his relationship with his mom, when he was a boy of 9.

The bareness of the plot allows the actors to really delve into their characters and bring life to them on screen. While everyone delivers honest performances, I couldn’t help but feel the entire drama was somewhat underwhelming now and then. There are cute editing bookends that provide historical shortcuts of the time periods and their Jack Russell terrier is actually given subtitles as if he’s speaking. These quirky touches indeed add to the drama’s anecdotal nature, but they also betray a lack of faith in the story itself to captivate the audience. The memoir can occasionally be a bit precious, but sincerity and nuance conquer that issue in the end.

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster

Posted in Action, Biography with tags on June 25, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Follow-up to 2008’s Ip Man once again stars Donnie Yen as grandmaster of the martial art, Wing Chun. Our story begins when he and his family move to Hong Kong in the early 1950s after their escape from the city of Foshan. The straightforward plot is divided into two parts.

The first half follows the teacher as he attempts to turn his fledgling Wing Chun school into a success. In the beginning Ip Man struggles and there is drama in his endeavor. This culminates in a scene where Hung Chun-nam, a Hung Ga master, demands that Ip defeat practitioners of all wushu varieties before he can teach in his own school. The conflict leads to a match atop a table where celebrated star Donnie Yen must battle Master Hung himself played by Hong Kong legend Sammo Hung. The hand to hand combat between the enemies justifies the film. It’s an exhilarating display. The second half sees former adversaries become allies as they band together to unite against the British, specifically a championship boxer who insults the integrity of the Chinese martial arts community.

Here’s where it gets silly. Iranian-British actor and martial artist Darren Shahlavi plays British boxing champion, Taylor “The Twister” Milos. To call him a ruthless character would be an understatement, and make no mistake, he is a character. He is the model definition of “the heavy”. He shows no respect, belittling the very culture of the country he’s a guest of. The portrayal is so crude he makes Ivan Drago, the central villain in Rocky IV, seem like a paragon of subtlety and restraint. At this point the plot feels as if it was lifted directly from that mid 80s movie. Chinese nationalism has rarely been this unbridled or obvious. I lost count how many times the British were referred to as “foreign devils” with unabashed contempt.

The 10 minute table fight sequence notwithstanding, there is little that’s distinctive in this sequel. That’s surprising given the legacy of this fascinating leader in martial arts. This was, however, a huge money-maker in China so look for Ip Man 3: The Teaching of Bruce Lee. Yes, that movie title may be a joke, but anyone familiar with Ip Man’s life will appreciate the humor. Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung are of course a marvel in their combat scenes. If that’s all you crave, you will not be disappointed. Their adversarial chemistry is exciting. I only wish the script could have been a bit less predictable.

Bad Teacher

Posted in Comedy with tags on June 24, 2011 by Mark Hobin

I’ve always believed the script to be much more elemental to a comedy’s success than the director. With that said, you’d think with scribes Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, this picture would be garbage. After all, this was the screenwriting team responsible for the execrable Year One. Fortunately this is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, Bad Teacher doesn’t aim high. The ideas are rather commonplace as it rests heavily on lazy clichés. The girls’ volleyball coach is a butch lesbian for example. It is moronic in places, but it’s also entertaining in an undemanding sort of way.  Most of the comedy is based on the premise that watching an educator behave in an unprincipled fashion can be side-splitting.

I wish the story had been a bit more sensible. Cameron Diaz is Elizabeth Halsey a hard drinking, pot smoking teacher who curses like a sailor. She’s driven by an all consuming desire to marry rich so she doesn’t have to work in life. You see, teaching is just the fallback crutch she relies on while waiting to secure a wealthy husband. Yes you read that correctly. Why an apathetic underachiever like this chose the teaching profession as “the easy way out” is never explained. It seems to be merely a writer’s construct to get laughs from Diaz’ politically incorrect behavior. Admittedly her conduct is a mischievous delight, a guilty pleasure if you will. For instance, her lesson plan depends on showing movies like Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds while she naps in class. You know, films about dedicated instructors affecting positive change on the lives of their students. That’s hilariously ironic and not so far off from some very real teachers in actual schools. If Bad Teacher had explored those targets as a commentary on the state of the educational system in the U.S., this could have been even more subversive. As it stands, the satire is extracted superficially from her less than heroic behavior as a teacher. It’s a fearless performance so she earns points for that at least. She isn’t likeable by any stretch of the imagination. But she definitely commits to the role. Unfortunately it’s a one-note portrayal, so the joy kind of runs out quickly.

Similarly not making much sense is her love interest played by Justin Timberlake. New substitute Scott Delacorte behaves in a manner than is wildly schizophrenic. His personality appears to fluctuate depending on the scene at hand. One minute he’s sweetly innocent, the next he’s awkwardly lustful. That makes him unpredictable, but it isn’t particularly engaging. For humor to be funny, there needs to be some truth involved. Much more realistic is Jason Segal’s cynical gym teacher. He’s subtle and the underplaying works well against everyone else’s exaggerated style.

The true secret weapon in Bad Teacher is a star making appearance by English actress, Lucy Punch who plays Amy Squirrel, a goody goody instructor who is Elizabeth’s chief rival at the school. She is so defiantly by-the-book, so cheerful, she won me over with her do-gooder spirit. She’s buoyantly friendly. I found her perkiness infectious. Initially Amy sincerely attempts to make friends with Elizabeth, repeatedly and with enthusiasm. However she isn’t taken in by Amy’s charms. She’s annoyed by her presence. But Elizabeth’s behavior seems irrational. We’re clearly encouraged to join her in hating Amy, but despite the writer’s obvious intentions, I caught myself rooting for her. Much in the same manner that the writers of TV’s Family Ties inadvertently created a character people loved with Alex P. Keaton. Apparently we’re supposed to hate traditional types, but Amy Squirrel is a teacher we want to champion.

Although saddled with an imperfect script, the movie manages to entertain on a cursory level. The humor is shall we say, accessible. Lucy Punch gets high marks for pushing this past mediocrity and Cameron Diaz adds to the proceedings with her no holds barred shenanigans. Bad Teacher doesn’t come close to achieving the honor roll, but it earns a B- at least for the occasionally amusing effort.

Submarine

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on June 21, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Oliver Tate is a fifteen year old Welsh boy with two ambitions in life: to save his parent’s crumbling marriage and to lose his virginity before he turns 16. From that conventional premise springs this tale of anxiety that is surprisingly bitter when it isn’t utterly boring.

Adolescent angst is a frequently mined subject. It’s ripe for comedy. I should know, the similarly themed Rushmore is one of my favorite movies ever. But where that little love letter to a tortured teen was a sarcastically captivating tale with sympathetic characters, this is a universe populated by miscreants. Igby Goes Down and The Squid and the Whale also suffered from this problem. People with misanthropic tendencies might be humorous, but they’re not endearing.

The protagonist Oliver sees himself as an unparalleled genius, worshipped by his classmates. Although flippantly clever, he is in reality socially awkward . Precocious qualities can be kind of lovable in a child, But where we can often sympathize with this archetype, this boy has a hipper-than-thou attitude that gets on your nerves. He’s is such a contemptuous little brat, you’ll want to kick his a–. When bad things happen to him, you’re glad. That’s karma. I’m sure that’s not the reaction director and writer Richard Ayoade intended when adapting Joe Dunthorne’s 2008 novel of the same name. But his so-called charm sounds forced, like it was written by a an ageing humorist with a lifetime of regret.

The rest of the cast is unpleasant too, Oliver is in love with Jordana Bevan, a fickle shrew of a girl that never even radiates any sort of warmth or sex appeal. Why does he pursue her? She’s perpetually abrasive, a prickly cactus of a girl that symbolically barks “don’t touch me” simply by the way she casts a stare. Oliver actually taunts a fat kid at one point just to impress her. Yeah she’s a sweetheart. Further complicating Oliver’s wretched existence are his parents. His dad is a wimpy milquetoast that has less backbone than a jellyfish. He mopes around all day like a pathetic sad sack. His mother is no improvement. She does naughty things with a weird neighbor into martial arts that would give Madonna pause. These personalities are nothing more than 2 dimensional ciphers. They posses so much indifference for their own lives, we cease to care as well. All of this pain is supposed to be poignant. Although we should probably sympathize with Oliver’s plight, the opposite happens. He grows more and more repellent. Near the end I was hoping he would just put himself out of his own misery à la Harold and Maude.

When it isn’t depressing, the story is tiresome. The script values quirkiness above plot to a monotonous degree. Much of the action is reinforced with annoying voiceovers. Self-absorbed Oliver’s narration repeatedly hits us over the head with his observational bon mots. The effect is mind numbing and after awhile I struggled to stay awake. Whatever happened to the axiom “show don’t tell?“ We can plainly see that New Age guru Graham T. Purvis is a buffoon. It isn’t necessary for Oliver to inform us of the fact. There are positives, however. The soundtrack by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, is catchy in that twee manner that always seems to underscore Indies as of late. The cinematography is artfully done too. The carefully photographed drama gives the aesthetic a rich visual texture.

In the end, boredom, clichés and unlikable characters sink this submarine. You’ve seen this subject accomplished countless times before with more heart. The Graduate explored this territory way back in 1967. The fastidiously presented images significantly emphasize the utter emptiness of these people. Like admiring a beautifully folded tissue paper flower. It’s superficially artistic, but the facade is merely a deception. It doesn’t have the soul of a real living blossom. As a matter of fact, it’s actually worse in this case, because this flower is covered in anthrax.

Green Lantern

Posted in Action, Crime, Science Fiction with tags on June 17, 2011 by Mark Hobin

The comic book movie has come of age. They are now so common, so pervasive, they qualify as their own genre as traditional as drama or comedy at this point. Spider-Man and The Dark Knight proved these movies could be both artistic and lucrative. But they’ve given rise to a lot of really inferior films as well. Green Lantern is the latest offense.

The introductory narration informs us of The Guardians of the Universe, a knobby headed race of immortals that speak every word as if they’re reciting great poetry They sit on high thrones, have long robes and discuss intergalactic policy to the point of tedium. They’re a rather joyless lot. They’re also the founders and leaders of the Green Lantern Corps, an interstellar police force that keeps the peace in the cosmos. Hal Jordan is a pilot and the first earthling selected to be a part of the task force. The setting alternates between planet Earth and the planet Oa, the origin of our hero’s power. When Green Lantern is brought to the foreign planet for training, he’s greeted by a humanoid lizard-like creature. Despite belonging to a strange race on a distant planet, the extraterrestrial conveniently speaks in an English accent. Blimey!  British articulation just make people seem so much more clever, doesn’t it? The rest the plot is a barrage of one CGI exhibition after another.  Dull story is a soulless, recycled piece of routine.

Green Lantern is a textbook case of how CGI ruins films. The picture  joins such effects-laden creations as The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which all excessively relied on computer graphics at the expense of a good story. There is a dizzying amount beginning with the opening scenes.  The setup concerns some nonsense about this ultimate being of fear called Parallax.  At times, the picture more closely resembles an animated movie than a live action flick. And the visuals are really ugly I might add. I don’t know how you can spend $200 million and produce a film with special effects that look so cheap, but somehow director Martin Campbell found a way. In the past, a filmmaker would wisely save these pyrotechnics for the climax or for key roles. Ang Lee’s Hulk was an infamous example of how shoddy CGI can ruin a character. But Lee showed remarkable restraint compared to what Martin Campbell does here. Green Lantern’s entire suit is CGI. Ryan Reynolds apparently wore a motion capture suit during shooting and the graphics were added in postproduction. It’s so skin-tight, he looks as if he’s simply wearing briefs and had the suit superimposed over his skin. He resembles a glowing green anatomically incorrect Ken doll.

Even the performances fail to engage. Ryan Reynolds usually has an appealingly affable presence.  He’s terrific in light comedies which require him to toss one liners and be glib. But here the script never really allows him to rely on what he does best. He manages to be charming, but most of his dialogue falls flat amidst the murky spectacle around him. Blake Lively is laughably bad as fellow pilot and love interest Carol Ferris. She’s initially required to act exasperated with Hal and his irresponsible ways, but she never seems convincingly upset or even intelligent. You know when they put on a pair of glasses on a sexy looking woman to play a scientist? Well Lively’s performance is about as convincing. The rest of the impressive supporting cast obviously placed commerce over art when agreeing to this script. Tim Robbins, merely 12 years his senior, unconvincingly plays Peter Sarsgaard’s father(!) Academy Award nominee, Angela Bassett, also shows up in a white lab coat and comes across as the pompous intellectual of the scientific world in charge of recovering a mysterious being. With all the high profile talent, it’s interesting that the only actor who extracts a few laughs form the script is New Zealand director Taika Waititi who plays a mechanic.

The whole undertaking is a half-baked story with grimy special effects. Even by the fanciful standards of superhero films, the story is a ridiculous mess that jumps round with no apparent rhyme or reason. It’s haphazard and unfocused. Now and then it almost aspires to the campy fun of an 80s classic like Flash Gordon. But where that explosion of color and wackiness felt effortless, this feels like nothing more than a labored, depressing chore.

The Double Hour

Posted in Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller with tags on June 14, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Psychological thriller concerns Sonia, a young and pretty hotel maid who attends a speed dating event eager to meet a boyfriend. She finds one in Guido, an ex-cop-turned-security guard. They begin seeing each other. Then bad stuff happens. The way the mystery unfolds, that is, the design of this suspense puzzle is intriguing.  But the specifics cannot really be discussed in much detail without spoiling the fun. The movie is unpredictable right from the start. Within the first few minutes, a young woman jumps to her death from a hotel window, apparently a suicide attempt. No explanation is given. It’s one of those dramas where looks can be deceiving and nothing is as it seems. Duane Dudek of the Journal Sentinel described it as a “moebius strip of a tale” and that’s such an apt description, I had to quote him.

The script is interesting, but what ultimately draws you in the most, are the performances of the two leads. Russian actress Kseniya Rappoport plays Sonia with a mysterious, ambiguous quality that is alluring, but also aloof and distant. Italian actor Filippo Timi is a more simple fellow. He’s approachable and trusting but with a guarded exterior. The couple have such chemistry, their interaction is fascinating. Their association is even highlighted by a steamy romantic encounter. Erotic scenes can sometimes come across as laughable, particularly when they are overly intense. It’s a tribute to the stars’ magnetism that the affair here is seductive.

Much has been made of the debt the story owes to directors like Hitchcock but this decidedly chilly thriller has much more in common with European art house pictures like “Read My Lips,” and “Tell No One” than any Hollywood production. Those modern movies are good so it’s definitely a compliment. However, Hitchcock’s characters displayed considerably more humanity that this lot. There’s an inaccessibility, a distance between them and the viewer, that prevents us from truly getting to know or understand them.

Film noir, melodrama, suspense, even horror elements are all expertly crafted into an intricately woven plot that holds our attention until the very last frame. The title refers to those moments when a clock reads double digits, such as 11:11 or, in European time, 23:23. It’s at precisely those minutes you are entitled to make a wish. Whether these aspirations come true is open for debate. It’s an enigmatic film. One that doesn’t always play fair with the audience, but thanks to the two charismatic leads, we really don’t care.

Gnomeo & Juliet

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy with tags on June 13, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Sweet cartoon tale based (obviously) on William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Blue Gnomeo and red Juliet are figurines on adjacent lawns of neighbors who despise each other. They meet and fall in love despite the fact that the blue and the red garden gnome families are not on friendly terms either. Little known Starz Animation Toronto is responsible for this colorful computer animated comedy. Yes comedy, as liberties have been regrettably taken to lighten up the source play. Additionally, the production lacks the detailed facial expressions that usually highlights these productions. All of the gnomes have sort of the same generic features. Their repetitive countenances lack the distinction needed to engage the viewer. The production does feature an impressive array of British talent that includes James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as the lead characters. There’s also a plastic garden frog named Nannette, Juliet’s best friend, who is a notably goofy side character. But it’s ironic that the funniest voice belongs to American wrestler Hulk Hogan as an announcer that commands internet shoppers to purchase the Terrafirminator lawn mower: “It’s a weapon of GRASS destruction!” The story could have used more funny bits like that. Regardless, this was a sleeper hit and it‘s not too hard to see why. Innocent family offering is just pleasant enough to entertain the whole family.

Midnight in Paris

Posted in Comedy, Fantasy, Romance with tags on June 12, 2011 by Mark Hobin

A successful screenwriter and his fiancée take a vacation in Paris with her parents and while there, he embarks on a magical journey. The trip is an intoxicating one, a love letter to “The City of Light” during the 1920s. The adventure is historical filled with personalities of art and literature. But a more detailed discussion of who and what he meets would detract from the surprise. For that you’ll just have to watch.

Midnight in Paris displays many of the touchstones that typify a Woody Allen production. He’s always had an affection for the music of the Jazz Age, for example, but who knew he could capture its period with such joie de vivre? His obsession with Europe continues as he has set virtually all of his productions there since 2005’s Match Point. The film begins with an opening montage of beautiful shots of Paris. The images are charming and quaint. They quickly set the mood. His passion with the city becomes our passion. Not only are we immediately intrigued to find out what happens next, we want to purchase plane tickets and fly there right after leaving the theater.

Owen Wilson plays Gil, a Hollywood hack screenwriter tired of being a sellout. He wants to write, I mean really write great literature that will stand the test of time. The story comparison that actor Owen Wilson of utterly hackneyed rubbish like You, Me and Dupree and Drillbit Taylor is now in a sophisticated, well written romantic comedy, is not lost on this reviewer. The dramatic parallels between the actor and the role he is playing are just one of the things that make him so effective in this part. Owen Wilson as Woody Allen’s alter ego inhabits the lead so perfectly, you wonder why he hasn’t appeared in one of the director’s pictures until now. Perhaps Wilson’s involvement in Wes Anderson movies has honed his talent. He arguably gives the best performance. That’s saying a lot because he’s surrounded by an absolutely stellar cast of memorable characters. Marion Cotillard is radiant as Adrianna a mistress and muse of Picasso’s who catches Gil’s eye. Rachel McAdams is given the difficult task of portraying the shrewish fiancée, but she approaches the part tongue-in-cheek and exploits the nastiness of her character to comedic effect.

So much of the script is based on the unadulterated joy of nostalgia, a sentimental yearning for a previous time period. It intelligently explores the concept from the outlook of someone who shares the point of view while also admitting the inherent pitfalls of the feeling. Our tendency to romanticize the past is explored with insight. Using humor and witty dialogue, the story shares similarities with Play It Again, Sam and The Purple Rose of Cairo , classic pictures of his that twist reality. These are some pretty big shoes to fill. Midnight in Paris isn’t quite up to those classics, but it is his warmest, most sweetly innocent film in decades.

Super 8

Posted in Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on June 10, 2011 by Mark Hobin

A group of kids set out to make a zombie movie for a local film festival and in the process, witness a catastrophic train crash. The youngsters that make up the central clique, almost behave like a recasted sequel to The Goonies. Mikey, Chunk, Mouth and Data are all here, just portrayed by different actors. Instead of endeavoring to find the buried treasure of a 17th-century pirate, they’re exploring the reasons for a mysterious accident. The picture certainly could have been titled The Goonies 2: The Day the Train Derailed, and still would have made perfect sense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes the characters feel eerily familiar. Luckily it’s the mystery of it all that sells the picture. The story unfolds gradually, piece by piece. The joy of discovery is what keeps the audience engaged. The downside is, the more we learn, the less impressive things become.

A strong sense of déjà vu hangs over the proceedings. Prolific producer J.J. Abrams has had a hand in creating the successful TV shows Felicity, Alias, Lost and the current Fringe. He’s clearly talented. Abrams’ slowly building suspense style is evident. However, producer Steven Spielberg’s fingerprints are apparent in every scene. From the suburban setting to the dynamic between righteous teens and inept adults, all of his hallmarks are here. If a film can be called Spielbergian, this is it. The cinephile in me couldn’t help but play “spot the movie reference” as the picture progressed. Close Encounters, E.T., Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds are implied, as well as many others. While it plays out, it’s enjoyable to be sure, but in retrospect, the script feels cobbled from the reminisces of other, more original films. I greeted all of this appropriation with a mix of nostalgia and disappointment. Indeed the line between homage and rip off can be a fine one.

The period setting of 1979 in the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio is a brilliant choice that adds to the drama and appeal. The title refers to the video camera and corresponding film format released in 1965 by Eastman Kodak, which was a vast improvement over the older regular 8mm home movie format of the past. A cheap, mass-produced home video solution, Super 8 cameras were a fixture of the American household until 1985 when VHS rose to prominence. For legends like Spielberg, George Lucas and Robert Zemekis, it was with super 8 that they honed their craft in the 70s. A personal story, Abrams is surely inspired by those directing heroes. The depiction of the young budding filmmakers in Super 8 are essentially those directors as kids. 1979 is also significant because it was well before the dawn of cell phones and the internet. The 70s backdrop allows for a simplicity often lacking in the modern technological world. We can focus on the developing action in the traditional sense. Had it been set in 2011, the events would probably involve YouTube, Twitter and Facebook which would have given the narrative a cluttered feeling.

Does Super 8 live up to the hype as the summer’s greatest film? No. Is it an entertaining action thriller? Definitely. It’s satisfying enough as it unfolds and it‘s got one of the most memorable train crashes since 1952‘s The Greatest Show on Earth. It just doesn’t have the innovative distinction to make it anything more than a pleasant summer distraction.

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