June 20, 2011

Super 8

Erica: Last Sunday we were in New Jersey to visit Mike's parents. We occasionally go to the AMC Clifton Commons 16 when we stay there because it's a short walk from their home. Overall, this is a nice theater with comfortable seats, good screen sizes and decent sound quality. It is basically what you can expect from an AMC theater. Also nice about this theater: The crowds aren't ghetto. Although we must admit that we've never gone her on a Friday or Saturday night. But it is nice to get out of the city and see a movie with fairly well behaved people. You don't hear a lot of cell phones or talking. On the other hand, there are a lot of kids. The theater has two party rooms, making it very convenient for kids' birthday parties. We've witnessed a lot of them here. But thankfully, the kids here are far better behaved then the children we have encountered in Manhattan. At Kips Bay for example, we have seen the most bratty kids with light up shoes do dance moves during the movie. We've had Gatorade spilled on us there, too. We are not saying the kids in Jersey aren't annoying, they are just better by comparison. It seems like their parents have a better handle on them and they have no problems telling them to shut up, sit still and watch the movie. In Manhattan, the rich nanny-raised kids are uber-entitled and do whatever they want. And the poorer kids tend to be ignored, too, to the same effect. So yeah, we definitely notice a difference between kids in Manhattan and this area of Jersey.

But while the children seem more well behaved here, a few members of the adult audience in this theater helped New Jersey live up to its reputation. The theater was about halfway full (or halfway empty if you're a pessimist) and during the trailers, two middle aged Jerseymen stormed in like a hurricane, one of them diving into the buffer seat next to me where I was holding my purse. Without even looking down or asking if anyone was sitting there, he crushed my bag and hand underneath him. He didn't even bother getting up to let me get my hand and bag out. No apologies, either. We quickly moved one seat to the side to reinstate our buffer. And boy are we glad we did: His friend got a big bag of popcorn that the two of them shared. But he forgot something important: napkins. We spotted the guy wiping his buttery hands - first on the re-established buffer seat, and then later on his legs. Gross!!

Now....onto the movie Super 8.

This flick has been shrouded in mystery since the beginning. The previews would show enough to get the audience intrigued but not enough to give away what the movie is about. They wanted you to know the bare minimum to get you to the theater. Hollywood wunderkind J.J. Abrams wrote, directed and somehow cajoled Spielberg into producing and bringing back his Amblin imprint. The movie plays like a greatest hits compilation, taking moments and tones from such films as Stand By Me, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goonies. And even Mac and Me if you're counting horrible alien design.

Mike: Fun fact: In college, I had a philosophy professor whose name was J.J. Abrams. Seriously. Spelled the same way. But a different person. Weird, huh?

That is really weird...

This movie panders to our nostalgic sensibilities, but I thought it worked. It's interesting how so many films this year tap into our love for the past. Which is understanding, since the present kind of sucks, we think. We're seeing remake after reboot after TV show adaptation, all of them hoping to tap into our misconception that things were better back in the day. X-Men: First Class tries to recapture that funky 60s James Bond film vibe. Our little blue friends from the 80s - The Smurfs - are coming back in a few weeks. And later this year, Jason Segel looks to recapture whatever we loved so much about the late 70s/early 80s Muppets and not what we hated so much about the 90s Muppets. Midnight in Paris had a very interesting take on this morbid fascination that we have, when Owen Wilson travels to the glamorized 1920s to find people traveling to the 1890s, which they thought were the glory days. Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia. It's everywhere. But Super 8 takes the cake. It is structured so closely along the lines of the aforementioned Spielberg films, it pushes the limits. Nearly everything in this film is a derivative of something we already saw. But damn, it sort of worked. Super 8 is a fun film. It's not great, but a lot of fun.

The cast is pretty good, although some of the kids really weren't necessary. They could have done with three instead of five - a major weakness in the script. But I thought all of them were pretty good.  I also liked the adult cast. I never watched Kyle Chandler's TV shows but I dug him in King Kong and I dig him here. It was also nice to see Ron Eldard again.

Riley Griffiths is the fat kid. If he is lucky he will turn out like the fat kids from The Goonies or Stand By Me and lose all his weight and become either a successful lawyer or marry a supermodel. So Good Luck, Riley.

The film is called Super 8 yet the actual film reel the movie is named for plays a small, unimportant role. It is used in the setup but does not factor at all into the payoff. That being said, I throughly enjoyed this film because of the nostalgic feel. It made me feel like a kid again, bringing up memories of movies I adored as a kid. If you're a child of the 80's, I think you will really enjoy this blast from the past.

I should note that over the end credits, they play the finished Super8 film made by the kids. It's a total buzzkill. They should have kept this for the DVD bonus disc. Anyway, overall it's a fun, highly enjoyable film. All that mystery courtesy of JJ Abrams and company was completely unnecessary - what exactly were they trying to keep from us? There are no big surprises or revelations in the film. But go see it. I walked out of the movie feeling great, as if I was transported back to the 80s. And then very quickly I became sad, realizing how pathetic that is.

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