REVIEW: Super 8

Super 8
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler and Riley Griffiths

Science fiction might be a genre that appears to always be looking ahead, embracing the latest 3D technology, CGI backgrounds or scientific discoveries; but at its core it has always looked at its influences and initial pioneers to give direction to stories that span light years, universes or complex human-political analogies away.

With the names J.J. Abrams and Steven Steven Spielberg attached to a summer monster movie, it appeared we’d be expecting the same expectations-breaking story: big blockbuster, big effects, big noises and big disappointment. Collaborations like Spielberg and Bay’s Transformers series didn’t give us much hope, but Abram’s recent works like Star Trek certainly did. A young gun with a visual track record and a producer with the know-how is a great comparison to Peter Jackson apprenticing Neil Bloomkamp with his District 9, which isn’t the only comparison Super 8 draws with the movie.

To put it briefly: instead of attempting to rewrite the genre as Abrams has done with TV, they flip the pages back, finding the core and simplicity in great story telling with a soft $50 million budget. Continue reading

The Big 10: No Easy A’s

Out of the dozens of reviews we’ve done since we started this blog, we’ve had only 10 A’s.  For a movie to deserve a perfect rating here, it doesn’t have to be perfect: it needs to be different.  It has to bring something new to the movie table, or do something old so well that it feels new.  Here are our 10 ‘A’ reviews, as diverse as an obese teenager’s quest for societal independence or a man avenging his father’s death in 19th century America.  (Side-note:  though we rarely hand out straight A’s, we’ve also only awarded one F… to a movie ironically called The A-Team.)

Amélie

Being John Malkovich

Casino Royale

District 9

Gangs of New York

A History of Violence

In the Loop

Precious: Based On the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire

Up in the Air

Where the Wild Things Are

Complete Oscar Coverage

OSCAR PREDICTIONS

Matt Ersmaper’s Picks

Luke Miller’s Picks

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES REVIEWED

Avatar

Verdict: The film is titanic in every way, from its dazzling images and special effects to its messages and attention to detail. But with big budget comes big demand, meaning Cameron must make a crowd-pleaser. Dumbing down the dialogue, character depth and dynamics, he creates a universal story the whole world can understand and enjoy. Avatar is whatever movie you want it to be, a love story, a message movie, or an visually imaginative heyday, but to sophisticated moviegoers it’s only meh. Grade: B- Full Review Here

The Blind Side

Verdict: John Lee Hancock’s bombastic, preachy and watered down The Blind Side is the one movie nominated for Best Picture this year that didn’t deserve its slot. This is the crowd-pleasing, melodramatic sports movie that moved both the Monday Night Football crowd and Sarah Palin wannabes to tears.  Hancock directs this film with a style right out of the sports film playbook, taking no chances and milking every crowd-pleasing scenario for maximum fluff. Grade: D Full Review Here

District 9

Verdict: District 9 is the greatest display of gritty sci-fi, with its scathing political undertones and pulse pounding action.  Blomkamp is able to mesh aliens seamlessly into a very real human world that echoes our own. While the obvious political undertones make this an allegory for apartheid, more conceptual parallels can be made with our current human rights, terrorism, and corporate moral dilemma. It’s expert movie making from top to bottom.  Grade: A Full Review Here Continue reading

DVD Must-watch: Spike Jonze’s Oscar snubbed Where the Wild Things Are

Image courtesy of Screen Rant

The biggest crime perpetuated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Peter Travers of Rolling Stone prefers “Farts and Biases” and I tend to agree) this year is ignoring Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are. Today, you have the opportunity to partially correct that mistake by going out and renting or buying the film yourself and seeing what great work he has done.

Jonze had the audacity to adapt a 12-page, mostly illustrated children’s novel to the silver screen.  Guess what?  He succeeded admirably.

Wild Things is a beautifully told vision of childhood.  The fears, anxieties, tribulations and joys told through the eyes of a young boy named Max (portrayed by terrific child actor Max Records) are all brought to vivid, beautiful light in this film.

Continue reading

BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: District 9

District 9
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Written by: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Starring: Sharlto Copley and Jason Cope

The year 2009 has been a splendid year for sci-fi, with Cameron’s Avatar pushing the limits in film making technology as well as box office potential, Abram’s sleek and erogenous revival of Star Trek reaching wide commercial success, and the pyscho-thiller Moon grabbing newcomer director Duncan Jones some serious attention. It is safe to add to the list District 9, which happens to be the best of the bunch.

Originally, producer Peter Jackson had picked South African born Neill Blomkamp to make his directorial debut with an adaptation to the video game phenomenon Halo. But when financing put the project in development purgatory, Jackson gave Blomkamp the go ahead to make whatever film he wanted. Under one condition: a fraction of the budget.

District 9 comes from a mini-mokumentary made by Blomkamp when his career was still only Nike commercials and digital shorts. It’s all set in his own birthplace, Johannesburg, where there are townships, slums, heavy accents, and barbed wire fences that give the film a harsh and gritty setting.

Twenty years prior to modern time, a large space craft stalled above the city, unable to move. After humans entered the ship, they encountered something much different from the “light of heavens” interaction they were expecting. The aliens were diseased, famished and hopeless. So for twenty years, the government kept them isolated in a ghetto which experienced crime, discrimination and poverty. It is up to the world’s second largest weapons manufacturer, MNU, to relocate the “prawns” into a far-off concentration camp after humans can no longer take their burden. In charge of the evacuation is Wikus (Copley), a pencil pusher looking to prove his place, who begins to find himself split between the two worlds in a great chase for weapons and power that he barely understands.

Continue reading