Friday, June 10, 2011

Movie Review: Super 8 (spoiler free)

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What appears to be the best kept secret for the movies happened this weekend. After seeing trailers for Super 8 you're left wondering just what is it braking out of the train car, scaring away dogs, putting fear into the towns folk and causing the disappearance of nine people. Usually weeks or months in advance there are clues as to what "it" is. Not this time around. I don't know, maybe they put some major damage clauses in contracts with everyone involved in the project that they wouldn't even dare risk it. The beauty was that walking into the theater I had no idea what to expect.

Super 8 Movie Poster
To ratchet up the hype, Twitter and Paramount teamed up. Two days before the advertised release they went through different venues to let people know that they could go to a special location for information about pre-release date shows. It happened to be showing at my regular theater in IMAX format. Regular 2D format would release on the scheduled date. Normally I would have waited, but this time I went: one because I was really interested and looking forward to the movie and two I had another M&Ms prize for $3 off a ticket. So for $7 I was able to see the IMAX version a day early.

Now here's where it gets tricky, reviewing without giving away any spoilers. It was directed and written by J J Abrams of Lost, the Star Trek reboot and Cloverfield fame with Steven Spielberg producing. Both men leave their fingerprints all over this movie. Right from the opening scene we're pulled into an emotional state. The slow camera movement and the minimal on screen action without words speak loudly tugging at the heart strings. From there the level of emotion is held tightly and pulled tight and then relaxed accordingly.

The emotional center is Joe (Joel Courtney). The year is 1979. Match Game is on TV, Disco is waning and the aftershock of Three Mile Island is weighing on the minds of Americans. Life events are changing rapidly for Joe. His dad who is a deputy for the small town of Lillian, Ohio doesn't think his friends are good enough given those changes. His friends are making a horror movie via a super 8 camera hence the name of the movie. While trying to capture a scene at the local train station, a train accident happens under mysterious circumstances. Afterward, strange things are starting to happen. Something on the train got loose but what is "it"? We don't know until about half way into the 112 minute movie. So like Cloverfield we don' t know what "it" is allowing the drama and action to build.

Speaking of "it", the lens flares are not "it". Abrams has used the lens flares before. We saw them used extensively in Star Trek. In Super 8, it was over done and became annoying. Any of the night shots had flares left and right and up and down. It would have been one thing if they were views through the camera the budding movie production team was using, but no it was from the mind of the director. Maybe he was using the flares as a type of misdirection to hide little clues in the background as to what was happening.

While we're talking about clues, there was a short clip that just recently started making its rounds on the internet. Abrams took a page from the Lost game book. Pierre Chang had orientation films for the Dharma Initiative that outside of the hour each week on network TV gave those little extra information nuggets to help explain what was happening in the bigger world expanding the little slices of story we were given. If you do a little poking around with Google, I'm sure you'll find the Super 8 "leaked" footage.

The emotional journey of Joe with his friends and family in dealing with the accident drive the story and keep our eyes glued to the screen and our minds scrambling to try to put pieces of the story puzzle together. The coming of age story has threads similarly woven within Goonies or even ET. While they didn't use quite the same language those 80s movies had it had its own to earn a PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some nudity. There were a couple of items that were introduced that didn't have a completely satisfying explanation or ending but the overall picture was well worth seeing.

When you go, do not leave as the credits begin. Take a moment to breathe deep to take in the ending and make sure that you stay through the credits. The bonus that you get gives the movie a satisfying conclusion tying together some of the loose ends. It is a great little treat for those that wait!

As a side note this week. Have you had the aggravating experience of someone who talks or texts throughout the movie? Or do they even pull out their phone to check texts or calls or try to use them as a flashlight during the show with the screen light shining as a bright high beam beacon in the middle of the dark theater? I had it happen while watching Super 8, a man having a conversation on the phone during the middle of the movie. The funny thing was that I had noticed that they didn't run the theater trailer telling people not to text, call or talk during the movie. The Alamo Drafthouse had that situation and they kicked out the patron who called back and left a nasty profanity laced voicemail for management. Alamo Drafthouse turned around and created a PSA (Public Service Announcement) using that voicemail. Here is the link to the censored version over at YouTube. If you want the uncensored version, check the suggestions on the side of the censored version. As I write this between the two versions it has about 3.5 MILLION hits in less than a week. AHHHH, if only all theaters would enforce their own rules in the same way! Oh, I did let my management know about the situation and not having the house rules before the movie. The manager said he would check with the projectionist because it was supposed to be there for the IMAX theater.

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