Thursday, July 21, 2011

Super 8

These days, most of the movies I see are either on DVD or Blu-ray. Nothing wrong with that. Home theater has brought the theatrical experience to our doorstep. But, frankly, nothing beats going to see a movie on the big screen, especially during the summer months. Of course, that’s when the big blockbusters are released. I have one that is worthy of your time and money. Regardless of whether you see it on the small screen or big screen. J. J. Abrams’ newest film, Super 8, is a winner. It’s everything that we expect to see at the movies.

J. J. Abrams, who directed the film, knows how to tell a good story, especially when it involves mystery and intrigue. If you were a fan of Lost, you probably know he was the creative genius behind one of television’s most successful TV series. Although Super 8 might be billed as an action/adventure movie, it essentially is more of a character-driven film. That is a refreshing change considering the usual fair of material that is released during the summer.

Super 8 takes place in the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio, set in 1979. Joe Lamb a thirteen year-old, played by newcomer Joel Courtney, is recruited by his best friend, Charles Kaznyk, played by Riley Griffiths, to help him make his low-budget zombie movie using his super 8 film camera. Yes, there was a time before the digital video camera was invented. You actually had to shoot film and wait 3 days to have it processed.

Joe’s main job is to recruit Alice, played by Ellie Fanning, for the movie. Charles realized that he needed more than just special effects to make his film, and Alice will provide the dramatic affect necessary to tell a good story.

The wannabe filmmakers shoot a critical scene at a remote train station where a spectacular train wreck occurs. They drop the camera and run for safety. Unknowing to the young filmmakers. the super 8 camera continues to roll capturing what appears to be a creature emerging from the destruction. There are also strange cubes strewn throughout the wreckage.

Soon the kids are converged upon by military units. They grab the camera and make a hasty escape. Over the next few days strange phenomena starts to occur throughout the town. All of the dogs from the town for no good reason are found miles away in neighboring towns. Kitchen appliances, car engines and power lines start to disappear.

Soon the military invades the peaceful town of Lillian. U. S. Air Force Col. Nelec (Noah Emmerich) plays the heavy as he searches for his missing cargo. This is just the beginning of the mystery and suspense that is about to unfold. And, of course, our heroes are in the middle of it all.

As I said, Super 8 is a superior film. I felt I was in a time warp and transported back to the 1970s. It was like I was watching Close Encounters of a Third Kind and ET all over again. One of the reasons why this film works is certainly the nostalgic angle. The man behind this film is none other then producer Stephen Spielberg doing what he does best.

J. J. Abrams has certainly embraced Stephen Spielberg’s filmmaking philosophy as it is present throughout the film. Super 8 is in the tradition of Goonies, Hook, Jurasic Park, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and other Spielberg classics.

Spielberg loves to do movies about ordinary people in ordinary places facing extraordinary circumstances. Super 8 meets all of that criteria with Weirton, West Virginia, my wife’s hometown, filling in for the fictional Lillian, Ohio. Another trait of Spielberg are films told with a childlike, naive sense of wonder and faith. I think Joe, Charles and Alice are classic examples. Spielberg also loves themes that express coming-of-age. Super 8 also offers an innocent love story between young Joe and Alice.

And, finally, many of Spielberg’s movies revolve around parent-child relationships, especially reluctant, absent or ignorant fathers. In Super 8 Joe and his relationship to his father, Jackson Lamb, (Kyle Chandler) is strained due to the recent death of Joe’s mother. Jackson has emotionally shut down and is nonresponsive to his son.

Sure, there are plenty of other movies that might offer more action, special effects and CGI. But if you are looking for a real story with strong themes of forgiveness and reconciliation, then Super 8 is for you.

This is one you will want to purchase when it becomes available that you will play again and again. It is currently playing at your local megaplex.

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