Super 8 (2011, JJ Abrams)

Not an actual movie, but an admirable simulacrum. Abrams imagines a mid-80’s Spielberg adventure, complete with teenage protagonists each with a couple sympathetic personal details, aliens and intrigue (“Do not speak of this or else you and your parents will die,” says Glynn Turman, who was also the first casualty in Spielberg-produced Gremlins), likeably honest small-towners and evil shadowy government conspiracy. That’s actually the thing I liked most about the movie, watching it the same week as the politically shady Contagion. Abrams puts his unique directorial stamp on the material (just kidding – he simply floods it with lens flares).

I found a shot of the kids without lens flare:

Glynn Turman:

Kid named Joe is helping made a zombie movie with friends, who recruit his crush Alice (Elle Fanning, tiny Cate Blanchett in The Benjamin Buttons). With names like Joe, Alice and their buddy Preston, sometimes it seems like this was written as a 1940’s movie then changed at last minute. Joe’s mom died in a factory accident caused indirectly by Alice’s dad, Joe’s dad (Kyle Chandler of Katy’s football show) is the town cop, Charles (the super-8 director) has a thing for Alice – these are our token character details, the Stand By Me half of the big-budget action movie. Seems that a vindictive alien escaped from gov’t captivity when Turman drove his pickup truck onto train tracks causing an outrageously overdone crash, which throws train cars into the air like in a Transformers flick but doesn’t kill Turman or fully destroy his truck. Shadowy gov’t agent Nelec will finish the poor guy off before being dispatched by the alien, who proceeds to loot the area of all wiring, engines and other metal bits to construct a vessel home, finally turning the town water tower into a Katamari Damacy electro-magnet.

Runaway dog map:

The kid’s sentimental locket is Katamari-bound:

Star Trek (2009, JJ Abrams)

I’m behind on the ol’ movie blog, but nobody ever notices. If I watch a John Ford movie on video and I write about it a few minutes later, or four months later, nobody will know the difference. But posting on the Star Trek Remake three weeks after it came out seems like such ancient history. There’ve already been five or six blockbusters in theaters since I watched this – I’d be surprised if Trek is still playing.

Decent movie, anyway. Already one of thee greatest films of all time according to IMDB users, but I preferred Mission Impossible III. A bit wearying in its length and intensity, with an exasperating number of dialogue references to the original shows and movies (“dammit Jim I’m a doctor” was especially forced).

Good to see John Cho looking badass with a sword (his actual action is shot from so far away, it’s doubtful Cho went through months of fencing training to prepare for the role), and I enjoyed comic relief actors Charlie Bartlett as Chekov and Simon Pegg as Scottie. Eric “Hulk” Bana played the sneering Romulan (not Klingon) bad guy, and neither of us realized that Winona Ryder was Spock’s human mom. L. Nimoy is still a commanding presence, but his role amounts to being young Kirk’s destiny tour guide.

Movie gets its Kirk origin story out of the way (angry young man because of dead father at hands of time-traveling rogue Romulan, joins starfleet on a dare from captain Bruce Greenwood, happens to team up with random group of the best and brightest young crew in fleet history) before making Spock the focus of the movie. Future-Spock failed to save planet Romulus from black-hole destruction, so evil Rom wants Spock to watch him destroy planet Vulcan. Rom gets a 3-for-1 bonus, since both Spocks witness planet destruction and Spock’s mom dies in front of him, prompting a Wrath of Khan-esque action-revenge climax.

The filmmaking is super stylish but it’s not my favorite style… constant handicam motion, fast cutting, lens flare in every shot. Nice to watch planets implode and the torpedo fights and transporter effects. Pleasant enough diversion but I wouldn’t have felt bad to miss it entirely. Katy is annoyed that she had to watch this as a loyal Abrams fan and hopes he doesn’t make part 2.

Mission Impossible III (2006, JJ Abrams)

Putting aside all the Tom Cruisey shenanigans and South Park sketches, he’s a really good actor for this type of movie. Fun fake faces, costumes, cars and brain bombs. The action scenes make my eyes hurt, and it’s all action scenes.

Billy Crudup, looking not so familiar, was the inside man and Phil Hoffman was an endearing psycho killer. Everyone else did whatever, and probably did a fine job of it. I was all caught up in the tension of the thing and the wild missions… thrilling. Took exception to the happy-sappy final scene, where all survivors (TC, wife, three teammates, commander L Fishburne and the comic-relief tech guy) laugh and cheer, the camera taking turns showing them smile in close-up. But later read a fine explanation of how Cruise maybe got brain-bombed or never woke up from eating a live electric cord, and the ending is a dying fantasy. Katy had a point in the action scenes having way too many cuts, but that’s nothing new.