Sunday, August 7, 2016

Movie Review: "Super 8" (2011)

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Movie: "Super 8"
Director: J.J. Abrams
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

A group of friends shooting a homemade zombie movie catches footage of a train wreck with their super 8 camera. This wreck was no accident, and they soon discover something mysterious is going on the government is trying to keep a secret. Meanwhile, strange occurrences and attacks begin to rattle their small Ohio town as it becomes harder to deny the two events are connected.

"Super 8" is a sci-fi adventure film written and directed by J.J. Abrams. It's about a group of friends making a movie in their small town over their summer break. This group of friends is comprised of Charles, an aspiring filmmaker played by Riley Griffiths; Joe, a would-be artist and effects makeup extraordinaire played by Joel Courtney; Cary, a pyromaniac and explosives maker played by Ryan Lee; Martin, the star of their homemade movie played by Gabriel Basso; Preston, a nervous worrier played by Zach Mills; and Alice, an aspiring actress played by Elle Fanning. While out late one night, the friends witness a train wreck and discover some top secret information while trying to film their homemade zombie movie. After the wreck happens, the government jumps on top of things quickly, invading their small town after strange, damaging occurrences begin to happen. All of the town dogs run away at once, people go missing, the power starts flickering, and many other bizarre things start to happen. The kids go on a mission to find out just what the heck is going on, and how it's linked to the train crash they witnessed.

This film takes place in 1979 and is a great summer adventure flick where this group of kids take center stage in a "Goonies"-style film with a sci-fi twist. Luckily, we get very solid performances from all of the kids involved in "Super 8." It's rare when a movie can put together an ensemble cast of child actors and pull it off, but all of the kids here are actually really great actors, and we get the sense and feeling they would be friends in real life making a movie together one summer. Riley Griffiths plays the perfectionist filmmaker character well as he runs around screaming directions for his friends in order to get more ambiance and legitimacy into his picture, which he intends on entering in an international contest. Joel Courtney is super sweet and is extremely likable. As the protagonist who goes through a terrible tragedy early on in the movie, we sympathize with him wanting to spend as much time as possible with his best friends just to take his mind off the sadness, especially knowing his dad, played by Kyle Chandler, doesn't really know how to talk to him or want to get to know him. Speaking of Kyle Chandler, he is also fantastic as the stoic, overworked sheriff of their small Ohio town, who clearly relegated the child-rearing duties to his wife, only to have his life turned upside down when the unthinkable happens. We loved Gabriel Basso in "The Big C," so it's fun to go back and see one of his earlier roles. Cary, played by Ryan Lee, is the nut-ball of the group and just wants to blow stuff up all the time. As we know, Elle Fanning comes from an acting family, and she really does take after her sister. She's a splendid actress and we've come to enjoy her work quite a bit.

This is an imaginative original story, something often lacking in Hollywood, especially when it comes to big summer films like this. J.J. Abrams seems to love his sci-fi twisty stories, and this is no exception. We really like "Super 8." It is an engaging movie that will keep you enthralled in the mystery and invested in its characters. That being said, the train crash scene is a bit over the top. Though the effects are decent, it winds up feeling like a bit too much. The rest of the CGI isn't the best, and though it doesn't look atrocious, it doesn't look great, either. We really have come a long way since 2008, and so has Abrams as a director. When it comes to Abrams' camerawork, and hardcore fans of his know what we're going to say, there are a lot of lens flares here. This has become something of a trademark for him, but when executed in a smaller scale sci-fi action mystery like this, the sheer amount of them becomes distracting and very noticeable after a short while. Luckily in his more recent offerings, Abrams has dialed it back significantly. Overall, "Super 8" truly is a fun movie with a solid cast giving great performances, a really interesting sci-fi twist, and a "Goonies" feel that may transcend the ages. This is the perfect summertime watch. 

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
Last summer, we were watching: "Meatballs"

Two summers ago, we were watching: "Caddyshack"

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