10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, Dan Trachtenberg)

Fun, twisty thriller. I probably never want to watch it again, and I probably still don’t want to watch the shaky-cam action prequel, but I didn’t regret renting this.

Mary E. Winstead (Ramona Flowers, the girl with hair like this) is in a car crash and wakes up chained to John Goodman’s basement. But wait, Goodman is a nice guy who rescued her on his way to his massive emergency shelter and outside the world has gone to hell. But wait, she hears a car overhead and there’s a person outside and Goodman denies this is possible. But wait, that outside person is crazy and wounded and is trying to get into the shelter, proving Goodman’s point. Goodman’s neighbor John Gallagher (Short Term 12) is also in the bunker and says Goodman’s on the level and John isn’t a creepy sex fiend and he talks like a normal sad guy about his daughter. But wait, Gallagher says the girl in the photo isn’t Goodman’s daughter. But wait, Mary suspects Goodman is the one who caused her car crash in the first place. But wait, before she confronts him about this, Goodman sheepishly admits that he crashed into her in his haste to get to the shelter.

All this back-and-forth is resolved in the best possible way: Goodman is right about the extinction-level event outside AND he’s dangerously crazy, so Mary has to fight her way out of the bunker then fight Cloverfield aliens, which I assumed would be more Godzilla-like, not floating spaceships with Hellraiser tentacles.

Obvs produced by JJ Abrams, but directed by Trachtenberg, whose previous film was a fan-film short for the video game Portal (he was also key grip on Phantasm OblIVion). Written by a Narnia editor, a G.I. Joe associate producer and Whiplash director Damien Chazelle. That is a fucked-up lineage but man the actors are so good in this.

M. D’Angelo:

What if you got trapped in an elevator with your abusive ex-boyfriend and you’re a hemophiliac and OMG your ex-boyfriend is a vampire! Come on.

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.