Friday, June 24, 2011

Close Encounters of the Déjà Vu Kind...

Awright, let's get it over with. Normally I like to get the Stooge film of the week over with, but I also tend to procrastinate. A lot. And I'm in a big hurry to burn some bridges here, so let's tear into it!
First of all, I'm in a double bind here. On the one hand, I don't get out to the movies that much anymore, and I don't want to ruin my free trips. I went to see Super 8 with a dear friend of mine, and they just wanted me to enjoy myself. And on the other hand, I don't want to bad-mouth anything that Spielberg does... okay, maybe just the Transformers movies. And *batteries not included. That was a real stinker. Anyway, before I dig my grave that much deeper, I can't help but wonder if Spielberg himself was holding his nose a bit while watching this blatant homage to his early blockbusting stuff.
Actually, my friend had some complaints of their own! I'll start with those. They said the film kinda took too long to get going, which apparently was kind of the whole point of the exercise. That I could live with. But once it got going, it got a little too busy for my taste. SPOILER ALERT. I don't think I'm giving away too much here, but the film opens with a devastating train crash. A group of kids are at a train station next to where the crash happens. Soon, things are flying, there's traumatic explosions, and the train station itself gets engulfed by flames and flying train cars. The kids are running through explosions and shrapnel and, Heaven forfend, get their faces covered in soot. They go up to the pick-up truck that caused the train wreck. There's a dead man at the wheel... or is he? Did he just survive a head-on collision with a train and the resulting devastating crash? I know, I know... I'm missing the point. The plot points, that is.
I will say this: everything you've heard about the young actors is true. They all do a fine job, especially that Elle Fanning. That kid's going places! At least, until she gets old and goofy looking in a couple years like big sister Dakota. Meantime, she's going to be all right. Check out that long, long résumé. It's probably too early to call it, but... Golden Globe nom? The adults do what they can here, the slaves to the plot they're forced to be. Noah Emmerich does a fine Dennis Quaid impression. He's come a long way since his Truman Show "debut."
Super 8's budget is reported here as $45 million. That either means the dollar's lost a tremendous amount of its value, or the actors all did this for free. A dollar already goes a long way in West Virginia, especially if you're a ruthless coal company. And they've already probably got plenty of tanks roaming the streets as an added bonus! The bulk of the budget must've gone to film stock and film equipment. It's a very slick looking film and the film makers do everything they can to make the films of the period look like period films. However, they probably could've gone the extra mile and cast people that look like circa 80s people, no? I tend to think that J.J. Abrams subscribes to the Michael Bay casting philosophy: all babes, no uglies, and above all... all icons. If you've got an icon-ish face, you're in. Even the fat kid's an icon, damn it! And Shia, I hate to burst your bubble but... meet America's Next Shia LaBeouf!
MORE SPOILERS: As for the plot... I like what one other critic observed; perhaps an Onion hipster or one of the Village Voicers. This is a tribute to early Spielberg, minus the magic. Well, Spielberg did make it harder on all filmmakers, that's for sure. Still, Abrams' 1979 is a little too modern. The alien seems to be a cross-breeding of Transformers and Pan's Labyrinth and, like E.T., just wants to go home. This alien's a little larger than E.T., however. At one point, we see a bunch of dogs running through a gas station, then find out that all the dogs within a big circle on the map have gone missing. I was half-hoping the alien would turn out to be a giant dog. Perhaps like Clifford! No such luck. How retarded of me, frankly. As my friend observed, the film's a mix of E.T., The Goonies... there's even a few shots reminiscent of Spielberg's War of the Worlds. These kids do some fast growing up. If the alien was a real broham, he could've at least given back the pendant, bracelet, whatever. It's not the mirror from Harry Potter, okay? No, no... we've got to learn to let go. And the faster the better, especially given the way Dubya's ruined the country. I know, I know, it's all Obama's fault. Frankly, I feel a bit responsible myself, having voted for Obama, which I plan on doing again in a few months.
And remember, boys and girls! You always have a choice. And despite the many, many reasons not to, I choose to give this negative review. I don't feel so bad about it, though, because given its less than stellar opening at the box office, haven't we all given it a bad review, really? May the film gods have mercy upon us all.

Three Stooges connection: and the film's sound effects editors can back me up on this if they dare... but I swear, when the kids take a break from all the running, the fat kid grabs a delicious beverage and starts drinking it. The sound his drinking makes is the EXACT same sound made countless times by someone drinking a tasty beverage in a Three Stooges joint! Only Spielberg could make that happen, crossing studio boundaries like that.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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