PG-13 | 143 mins | Action, Adventure | October 31, 2012 (Philippines) 

Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Ralph Fiennes

Agent 007 is definitely back, and the cool factor is higher than ever. 

Skyfall starts with Bond’s end. At the beginning of the film, we are treated to an action sequence -- James Bond (Daniel Craig) in pursuit of a crook who has stolen the precious hard drive of M's computer containing a list of all undercover MI-6 agents positioned in terrorist organizations. But the mission goes wrong when the head bitch in charge, M (Judi Dench), instructs young agent Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to fire her sniper rifle, even with James in the way. Agent 007 gets shot instead of the thief and presumed dead. Fast forward 3 months and M is now pushed into early retirement for the stolen hard drive and the (wrong) decisions she's made over the last year. But courtesy of the return of now-out-of-shape Bond, M gets a second chance to redeem herself. 

This 23rd James Bond movie, more than an homage, is in itself an assessment on the 50 year old franchise. It taps into whether our world still needs undercover agents from super-intelligence organizations (like the MI-6) on the ground when everything can be easily supervised online. The franchise afterall stemmed from the Cold War and the espionage that was so widespread at the time. It is this theme of irrelevance and outdated-ness that overwhelms Skyfall. Even the new geeky Q/ Quartermaster (Ben Whishaw) suggests that he can do more in his pajamas, and his computers, in a week than Bond can do in a year. To further prove that point, the film's brilliantly menacing villain, Silva (Javier Bardem, with blonde hair!), challenges the idea behind and the need for the primitive MI-6. He shakes the MI-6 and is out to make M realize, with his clever methods comparable to Christopher Nolan's The Joker, that her ways and means are obsolete. 

Great story. Impressive action. Stunning visuals. From the tense three-way chase through grey London to the climactic and blazing finale in the damp Scottish highlands, Skyfall is simply gorgeous and exciting as hell. Emotional depth and all, the acting is excellent collectively. Craig splendidly channels the humanized version of the aged secret agent with all that charm and grit and handsome griminess; Dench's indelible performance as M could easily win her an Oscar; Bardem's portrayal totally makes his flamboyant and mad cyberterrorist character by far the best Bond villain; and Ralph Fiennes who plays Mallory will keep you guessing whose side he is on until towards the end of the film. I also love Daniel Kleinman’s work. His title sequence, with Adele's throaty vocals, is so surreal. And Thomas Newman’s musical score gets an A+ from me, his best to date. 

Sam Mendes' two-and-a-half-hour Skyfall is one of the best films of 2012 and the best James Bond film of the franchise. Highly recommended, Bond fan or not. 

Lesson to the next M: do not, I repeat, DO NOT keep a single file with the name of every agent in the MI6 on a hard drive sitting idly in your office. 

RATING: 9/10


Taken 2

PG-13 | 92 mins | Action, Adventure, Drama | October 4, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen

Taken was one of my unexpected favorites in 2008. So imagine my excitement for this action flick's sequel.

The movie introduces Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) reestablishing his relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). Taken 2 picks up a year after the events of the first film, where Bryan successfully saved his daughter from human traffickers in Paris. Now, Bryan will be haunted by the consequences of that rescue. The father of one of the men he killed to get Kim back is seeking revenge. On a trip in Istanbul, Bryan and Lenore gets abducted, but cleverly managed to escape with Kim's help. The action begins here, as this former CIA agent is forced to retaliate.

Taken 2 was a decent follow up, although predictable. A sequel where the baddies' nearest and dearest strike back at your hero and his family is just unoriginal. 

There's more running here. I mean far-better-than-The-Bourne-Legacy kind of running, and a cliché  but awesome car chase sequence.

The movie felt like Transporter. But of course, this was also directed by Transporter 3's Olivier Megaton. 

As a sequel, it’s rather underwhelming because the story wasn't as smart as Taken, nor as intense, although the fragile-daughter-becoming-the-heroine-and-not-the-victim-anymore subplot was pleasantly refreshing. The action and fighting scenes are great; it just lacked the brutality that its predecessor showed when a father was so hell bent on rescuing his precious daughter. Even Megaton's Colombiana had more kick-ass action scenes than Taken 2, I think. But Neeson made up for the slack, thank goodness. Maggie Grace did so very well too, playing a bigger role this time around.

It's a lot of fun if you fancy seeing Neeson run around -- shooting, driving, and killing thugs. It’s got a good amount of conflict, adrenaline and drama.

I’m not jumping up and down about Taken 2, but I had a good hour-and-a-half with it. 

RATING: 7/10


The Dark Knight Rises

PG-13 | 165 mins | Action, Sci-fi, Adventure | July 19, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard

Awesome. Is that enough movie review already, that this movie is awesome? LOL.

The Dark Knight Rises picks up 8 years later since Batman (Christian Bale) took the fall for Harvey Dent's crimes. Batman hasn't been seen since. Bruce Wayne seem to be forever mourning Rachel Dawes's death, who was murdered by The Joker (the late Heath Ledger). One chance encounter however with an enchanting jewel thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) sprung him up. Unfortunate news of Wayne Enterprise’s financial standing in his time off, and the new apparent threat of global terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), forced Wayne to embrace his alter ego again.

The Dark Knight Rises clocked in at 164 minutes, just the right time to tell this powerful post-apocalyptic/war story while allowing the audience to breathe and digest the material. The KAPOW and SPLAT, inked and derived from the pulpy pages of comicbooks, is what a movie about superheroes and supervillains like this is built on. But the bone crushing violence in this movie was so carefully staged and filmed that it all felt more human and authentic than the wrestling matches I see on TV. Monstrous goon Bane crippling Batman, delivering damage so intense, genuinely broke my heart. The stream of pounding had me flinching so bad the whole time. Twas an agony to watch.

The central actors are by and large topnotch. Christian Bale has stated this is his last time to play the role of Batman, and he did a better performance here than he did in The Dark Knight, mostly as Bruce Wayne than as Batman of course. Anne Hathaway was perfect as Selina Kyle. She was gorgeously hot and wicked and entertaining, and when she talked she purred like a cat (was never referred to as Catwoman though). Her chemistry with Bale tramples over that of Bale and Marion Cotillard's. Cotillard's significance as Miranda Tate sure was murky for the bulk of the film, until the big reveal in the end. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays doe-eyed police rookie John Blake, and arguably his performance was better here than in Inception. Hardy's Bane was intimidating enough, despite his facial expressions being hidden behind a mask (but The Joker is still supreme nasty). Credit to Bale and Hardy for selling their characters' personal conflicts so well. And as always, Michael Caine gives much gravitas as the film's heart, Alfred. Disappointingly, Cillian Murphy lacked the menace that he displayed from Batman Begins, and only reminded me of a local singer Christian Bautista.

This was the series' best work in the musical score department, kudos to Hans Zimmer for a chillingly good theme overall. Wally Pfister's cinematography, his Gotham City, is solid.

The movie presented a perfect plot for a terrorist attack - putting a city into anarchy and using weapons of mass destruction. The movie ought to disturb viewers a lot more than it does, yes, because it would touch upon issues like terrorism and gun violence. But I don’t think the comicbook violence in the Batman world caused the senseless and merciless movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado. The business of easily and legally acquiring guns and ammunition made that happen. The Dark Knight Rises movie as a matter of fact promotes at length a gun-free type of violence.

This is the third and final installment in Nolan’s Batman series. Or not. The restored bat symbol that Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) discovered and Blake's final scene definitely points to another Nolan adaptation, with Gordon-Levitt in the lead role, I conclude, but not as Robin the sidekick in green and red costume. Blake's going to take on the role of Batman in the future! Why? It was well established earlier in the film that anyone can be Batman, that it’s just a mask. So Bruce Wayne who apparently faked his own death gave Blake the coordinates and tools necessary to find the batcave, seemingly entrusting all the Batman equipment to him while he enjoys his hiatus. And he was already Robin in the film (Blake was actually named Robin, we found out at the end). He doesn't need to suit up and become Robin in the future because he already served the sidekick role of Robin in the movie. Finally, that powerful symbolism at the end, with Blake RISING up as the screen goes black, then the title: The Dark Knight RISES. So, yeah, I had reason to think this movie was a prelude to John Blake's task being the Batman.

I personally prefer this John Blake version of Robin and not the original Dick Grayson; this is how artistic Nolan is at rehashing characters from the comicbook source. Maybe Nolan will choose to adapt Frank Miller’s four-part Dark Knight Returns? Maybe. But having other Batmans will be interesting, like a Blake version of Batman. He could be like Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael) from the Knightfall series who stood in for Bruce Wayne after he was broken by Bane.

The first chapter presented the central characters. The second gave us the most loved (or hated) supervilain. Summing up the entire series, in grand fashion, The Dark Knight Rises tells the story of a man and his city.

Imperfections and all, this movie is an epic Grade A comic-book production.

RATING: 9.5/10


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

R | 105 mins | Sci-fi, Action, Adventure, Horror | July 4, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rufus Sewell

In light of the upsurge of twisted fairy tale movies comes an alternate retelling of historical events via Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This was based on the mash-up fiction novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. It reveals the supposed secret life of the 16th President of the United States as a slayer of the undead. Abraham "Abe" Lincoln (Benjamin Walker), one of America's well-loved president, discovers vampires are planning to take over the US and makes it his mission to annihilate them. Like Harry Turtledove, the father of alternate history, Grahame-Smith masterfully wields this fiction genre where he rewrites classic literature and mix it with zombies and monsters. 

It's hard to imagine Lincoln as a vampire hunter. Learning about his 'real' life story and his ideals, and memorizing The Gettysburg Address in highschool, the title just seems silly and derogatory. But mind you the story (based on the book) itself was well researched and, though suggests ridiculousness, made sense to me that's for sure. How? Abraham Lincoln is an ideal vampire hunter because of his outdoorsy background and his towering height, he was in good shape. Lincoln portrayed as an excellent fighter has basis, he in reality likes fist fights (check "Ten Things You Don't Know About: Abraham Lincoln" on History Channel). A historian said once that during a campaign speech, he went down the platform to pound on a rival supporter who was beating up his own follower then went back and continued with his speech.

Benjamin Walker channeled the stern look of Lincoln well. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was good in her portrayal as Mary Todd, proving that she can take on serious roles and she's not just a Sky High character. 

I wasn't too impressed with the CGI, especially that scene where Lincoln chases a vampire through a stampede of horses. They just couldn't realistically create the animals, sorry. (Read: Don't watch it in 3D) The sound effects could be better. Twas so nonsensical when a 2-inch toy sword made of plastic that's dropped on carpet sounded like King Elendil's Narsil dropped on a mass of metal. The scoring could have added the needed depth to the story. It could've been worse, but at least the movie brought the novel to life enough. Bekmambetov's earlier directorial work, Wanted, was a flop for me. It was more of a comedy than a serious movie to me, so imagine my surprise when Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter worked out OK taken as a whole. 

More than the technical atrocities, I still enjoyed it. Well, mainly because of the refreshing story really. This is something different.  Vampire cum history lovers will like this! But, just a heads up, the vampires here don't sparkle in the sun. LOL.

RATING: 6/10


The Amazing Spider-Man

PG-13 | 136 mins | Action, Adventure, Sci-fi | June 29, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary

Unlike the earlier films, The Amazing Spider-Man is a mature and darker version of the Marvel hero's untold story. It tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), an introverted loser highschool kid in New York City who was left by his parents as a boy in the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). He would later discover that he is the son of a top scientist who had done extensive research in cross-species genetics, leading him directly to Oscorp and his father’s ex-partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). He gets bitten by a radioactive spider that granted him incredible powers. Dr. Connors' experiment to regrow his right arm went out of hand and transforms into The Lizard, Spider-Man's nemesis. Peter would juggle with his affection for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), whose eyes make me weak and strong at the same time, and his responsibility as a hero.

The movie is rich and dark; all the stunt work and the effects and the blood seem to be going for the Dark Knight track. Although the main character was altered from the original comicbook source -- i.e. Peter Parker would never expose his superhuman powers especially not showing off in the school gym to humiliate the school bully in front of his schoolmates-- I understand it was necessary to drive home that point. That feel of grittiness is definitely present in the movie. What stood out for me here was how that legendary heartbreak of Peter losing his Uncle Ben was made even more tragic. There were light moments too, comedic scenes that gets the audience laughing. 

Garfield has acting chops, he proved it in The Social network then and he proves it again in The Amazing Spider-Man now. Much to my own surprise, he actually is right for Peter Parker. I read someone cleverly wrote, Tobey Maguire may have been the first to bring the comicbook superhero to life, but it was Andrew Garfield that made him human. The guy gives the character a boost making you root for him. His on-screen chemistry with Stone was engaging, and their lovey-dovey moments was a welcome contradiction to the film's dark mood. Stone fuses cute and sexy naturally well and rocked those rain boots, er, Gwen Stacy's signature go-go boots. And those eyes of hers, Teddy Geiger must've wrote the lyrics "Cuz I could fall asleep in those eyes, like a water bed" for Emma Stone. Gwen Stacy is portrayed as gutsy rather than ditsy. Ifans was believable in his peculiar and personal battle as Dr. Connors and the Lizard. While I thought Sheen was effective as Uncle Ben, Field's character Aunt May fell short for me. Aunt May lacked character development, when she was supposed to be a central figure. She was so downplayed that the character appeared dispensable. Take Aunt May out of the story, the movie can still stand on its own.

My only little issues were that, one, the supposed untold story about his childhood is refreshing but hardly vital at this point though. It may all make sense when the sequel comes out (Yes, there is one. You should've known better than to leave right away, because Marvel movies always have teasers after the credits). And two, I still think it would've been a smarter and a more interesting story if Peter invented instead his webbing all by himself from scratch and not just use Oscorp's technology.

Director Marc Webb did not rely on CGI and did a splendid job overall. Webb understands that the audience do not want a lengthy, slow and boring telling of the origin story events so he kept it concise, snappy, easy to digest and most importantly let Spider-Man swing into action faster and longer. And boy, does he swing! This is the Spider-Man that any fan, and non-fan, would have imagined him to be. The rock anthems complemented Webb's vision for the movie, but Danny Elfman’s musical scoring of the Raimi movies is still the better arrangement for me. 

Expectations were high for this film, because it's an incarnation so soon of the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire letdown that is Spider-Man 3. But these expectations were positively met. The Amazing Spider-Man is what a blockbuster movie should be. It's worth a watch! 

RATING: 8/10


Les Destinées Sentimentales

180 mins | Foreign, Drama, Romance | Release Date: July 12, 2000 (France)

English Title: Sentimental Destinies
Director: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Emmanuelle Béart, Charles Berling & Isabelle Huppert
Language: French; with English subtitles

Les  Destinées Sentimentales is an adaptation of Jacques Chardonne's epic novel. It examines the first four decades of the 20th  century through the lives of Jean Barnery (Charles Berling), his unconventional wife Pauline (Emmanuelle Béart) and his obssesive ex-wife Nathalie  (Isabelle Huppert).

The film's intention to follow moments through time was achieved. But it was exhausting at 3 hours of run time. There was just too much screen time for those heavy conversations, and an extensive focus on the finer points of  porcelain-making. LOL. For such a long running time, you would think that Les  Destinées Sentimentales would have perfected characterization. Wrong. The film was devoid of audience interpretation because it's a mere visual track of the  characters. Assayas' camera  would just follow the many characters, not too many observational moments. The transitions were weak, time would pass with little to no indication, or the characters would suddenly be in a specific emotion in the next scene but no attempt  to show how they arrived there.

The film was sensitive, but disappointing. It was over-extended and in spite of the elements to a period flick being present -- set in a small village, a devoutly Protestant  porcelain empire in Limoges, the Swiss Alps, and World War I -- it lacked the period movie breadth like how the Italian's would do it. Not even the beauty of Béart nor the shaky camera technique used throughout the movie could hold our attention for such a long time.

Oh well, this was Olivier Assayas' first period film, a departure from his contemporary works. That's a valid excuse for the film, I guess.

RATING: 5/10


The Avengers

PG-13 | 143 mins | Action, Sci-fi, Adventure | April 25, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, and Tom Hiddleston

What can I say, all that geekiness and comicbook charm was achieved by The Avengers. It is now officialy my most favorite superhero film (Sorry X-Men: First Class). 

The Avengers is composed of the billionaire Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the scientist Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth), World War II supersoldier Steve Rogers/Captain America (Cris Evans), and spies Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). They were re-grouped by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of international peace keeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D, to save the world from the alien invading forces of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who unfortunately gained possession of the cube-like Tesseract.

The film has a common superhero story of aliens invading Earth and there's a lot happening, but still the film felt refreshing and exciting. The film tapped into the conflicts and relationships of each character, like a regular messy therapy session with a shrink, only with superhero attendees. Marvel's The Avengers is packed with action from start to finish but did not fail to make us laugh as well. Iron Man's arrogant sense of humor were a given, but The Hulk was a revelation! He kept the audience laughing with his subtle comical moments, one with Thor, another with Creepy cool Loki. The characters of Hawk Eye and Black Widow were promoted to hero status and made a great debut. Ruffalo gave the The Hulk a character boost, and I must say, the uses to which The Hulk is put throughout this movie was unforeseen but certainly a pleasant surprise; it made him look stronger and catapulted him into the front ranks of the Marvel Universe's superheroes.

Surely it was no simple feat, so kudos to Joss Whedon for brilliantly executing this intelligent and witty story with a burdensome superhero all-star ensemble. Most of the heroes in this 2 hour and 23 minute movie are very well-known, but none are short changed. Although obviously, and naturally so, crowd favorites Ironman, Captain America and Thor got more screentime in the movie. In spite of that, Whedon showcased well all the heroes, gave each character enough story then he weaved all the superhuman stories together and made it work. Whedon clearly has a deep understanding, and love, of the source material. The effects are top-notch and all the actors were great. Even the supporting Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, who was not trying to make us laugh like she does in How I Met Your Mother) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). The chemistry is all that good.

One minor problem: It's not a prerequisite to watch the previous films, but for the benefit of first-time viewers they could've picked up more the movie's character and plot development element, maybe summing up the events that led to the encounter. 

The film's climactic battle is breathtaking, delivering its every promise. The Avengers is a spectacle filled with crowd-pleasing action and playful wit and humor. This is one of the best superhero film ever made and I am not exaggerating. The seven year wait and the films that led to assembling The Avengers were all worth it. Kids and adults, fans and non fans, will love the movie. This is a must watch. 

If you stick around for the post credit sequence, as with any Marvel film, you'll get a hint of what's coming. And the next villain is Thanos!

RATING: 8.5/10


The Hunger Games

PG-13  |  142 mins  |  Adventure, Sci-Fi | Release Date: March 23, 2012 (USA)

Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
(Based from the novel written by Suzanne Collins)

It's Survivor meets Big Brother meets Gladiator.

The story is set in a glum future, in the dictatorial nation of Panem composed of 12 hard up districts and its seat of government, the Capitol. Each year, as punishment for their rebellion, a boy and a girl aged 12 to 18 from each district gets chosen by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. This barbaric televised game will show the 24 Tributes fight to the death in an outdoor arena. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her younger sister's place as District 12's representative. With her male counterpart Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss competes against bigger and stronger Tributes and would radically change the game that displeased the President.

Lawrence was on the money as Katniss, emitting a charm that can stir a crowd. But, minus the mindless racist casting comments she's been getting, adorable Amandla Stenberg won my heart over playing smallest and youngest tribute, Rue. She showed her underaged loveliness and her relatable acting as Katniss' ally. The story was filled with colorful characters (no pun intended Rue), although mostly poorly developed - a perrenial issue for an adaptation from book to film. Take for example Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who was merely in the sidelines.

Gary Ross did a good job at making all those battle scenes less brutal though, hence PG-13. Visually, and I also mean the Tim Burton-ish costumes defining the wealthy from the poor, it is an awesome film. And I must say that the musical score complemented the scenes perfectly, stimulating that air of suspense and hope.

The film captured enough the spirit of the novel regardless, and for that it deserves the box-office success it got. But I expect even more exciting things to happen in the next installments of this trilogy.

Naturally, the novel would offer more depth to the story. There's just so much more that can be packed into books!



Wrath of the Titans

PG-13 | 99 mins | Epics, Adventure | March 30, 2012 (USA)

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Rosamund Pike

Now, who thought it was a good idea to make a sequel of 2010's re-make Clash of the Titans? 

I didn't. But the producers thought otherwise. Despite the fact that the bland first movie was not well received, it raked in profit anyway, although measly, and the rest of the world loves shitty 3D, so they made a post-converted 3D sequel, Wrath of the Titans. 

Set ten years after, the Kraken slayer Perseus (Sam Worthington) leaves his fisherman life and his 10 year old son Helius behind and travel to the heart of Tartarus to rescue his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) as Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) drain his godhood to revive the lethal Titan king Kronos. 

The good points. First that unsteady cam technique, usually disorienting, worked for this ancient Greek story. You'd get a genuine sense of delicious danger, urgency and pure grit throughout: Perseus getting dirt under his fingernails and all over his body, then those gaping wounds rendered by mystical creatures (i.e. the Chimera in the beginning of the flick) make the demigod son of Zeus appear fragile. Secondly, Worthington was allowed to keep his aussie accent which felt natural. Thirdly, with the gargantuan molten lava hands of the film's ultimate villain Kronos alone, the CGI is a success! Finally you have Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes reprising their roles as Zeus and Hades respectively with their outstanding talent fees, er, acting.

All said, Wrath of the Titans still is not a particularly good film. The love interest subplot is weak. Do these major franchise action films have a problem with relationships? Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) is never shown to be close to Perseus. Him falling for Andromeda is based on nothing more than the fact that she is the flick's only available female, then who knows she'd be killed off like Gemma Arterton's Io in the first film. And character development is almost non-existent, but it should be the director's fault. The movie is directed by Jonathan Liebesman who's responsible for the unoriginal and easily forgettable Battle: Los Angeles, a sci-fi thriller straight out of Black Hawk Down but with Aliens.

The movie is an impressive display of computer graphics and strong fight sequences. But Disney's animated Hercules is a better story. LOL.

RATING: 6/10


Super 8

PG-13 | 112 mins | Sci-fi, Adventure | June 10, 2011 (USA)

Director: J.J. Abrams
Producer: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Ryan Lee

Sure, there is an alien in the movie, a kleptomaniacal one I must say, but it really is a story of kids and their relationships.

The movie is set in 1979, basing on a newscast referencing the Three Mile Island accident, and a bunch of kids in small town Lillian, Ohio is making a monster movie in the Super 8 format (that’s an old movie format that you can’t watch right away, it needs to be viewed on a projector after it was developed). The main kid, Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney), has his mother get killed in a steel mill accident involving the father of Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), the cute white trash girl. The fathers, Kyle Chandler as deputy sheriff Jackson Lamb and Ron Eldard as scary Louis Dainard, hate each other and both have estranged relationships with their children.

Alice gets pulled in to do their film, and chubby child director Charles (newcomer Riley Griffiths) rounds up the gang to do shooting at the train tracks late at night. They accidentally film a train crash instead. What emerges from the train wreck is out of this world, I mean literaly. Bizarre things start to happen and the kids try to solve the mystery like Sooby Doo. A battle ensues involving machine guns and tanks, that impossibly fires repeatedly because they're manual loader tanks (YOU GEEK! I know...) and not powered by Prof. X.

Much of Super 8's poster has been dedicated to two prominent names in film: J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg. Were they just banking on these names to make a fortune and make up for its likely senselessness? I didn't think so.

Like any other, the film has issues, yes. Like those tanks; and the Air Force freight train that ridiculously ran at that impracticable speed! No wonder it got derailed. And that the monster is racist because it didn't abduct anyone other than caucasian. Of course it's a collage of different amazing movies, according to sour critics, but it has its own original tone to it, according to me. Their point was: a group of kids in their early teens (Stand by Me), they pursue the mystery that haunts their town (Goonies, or Scooby Doo if twas TV), and they get into trouble with the military dealing with an alien (E.T.). Abrams has pieced together all those with a storytelling technique that is his own, and that's genius and original. He is like a student of poetry, you study the works of the standards like William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe and Pablo Neruda, and you take from that and make a style that is your own.

The acting was superb! What do you expect, J.J. Abrams is good at casting. Except for Elle Fanning, the kids had little or no prior experience at acting but they were authentic. Joel Courtney especially was very good in his role. Like kids often do in their part of the world, they swear, they are bitchy to one another, fight over girls then get over it.

It's a movie for kids that appeals to adults too. There are problems to the film, but that and the cranky comments about Super 8 still doesn't take away from the feel-good glory of the film. I sat back and enjoyed the Spielbergian nostalgia that it brought. I felt like a kid again.

RATING: 8.5/10


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