Daily Archives: November 23, 2011



It’s obvious what director J.J. Abrams hopes to achieve with Super 8:  He wants his movie to be Spielbergian, the kind of fantasy that appeals equally to children and adults.  Nice try, J.J., but I can’t imagine anyone over the age of 15 really enjoying this film.

For younger kids, this is the type of movie they will see, love, and recall fondly for years to come.  And then one day, 10 or 20 years from now, they will rewatch Super 8 on TV (or whatever device we’re using) and wonder what they ever saw in it.

The story begins well.  A group of middle-school kids in Lillian, Ohio, circa 1979, are making a zombie movie using the Super 8 film format.  A train approaches an old depot where the kids are filming, it crashes, and … something escapes from one of the train cars.  Shortly after this incident, animals and objects begin to vanish from Lillian.

Up to this point, Abrams’ script is warm and fuzzy, a nostalgic throwback to movies like Stand by Me or Steven Spielberg’s E.T.  But then the plot gets convoluted.  And special effects begin to dominate the story.  And Super 8 proves, once again, that no one can make a Spielberg fantasy anymore — not even Spielberg, who is one of the film’s producers.

It’s apparent that money was poured into the film, and yet a motion-capture monster is neither convincing nor frightening.  At some points, this beast resembles nothing so much as a jerky Ray Harryhausen creation from the early ’60s.  Meanwhile, Abrams’s movie goes from sweet and intriguing to frantic and clichéd.

The zombie movie that the kids had been making is more entertaining than the misfire that is Super 8.  Unlike the silly alien in this film, Abrams and Spielberg discover that, despite their best efforts, they can’t go home again.       Grade:  C




Director:  J.J. Abrams   Cast:  Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Kyle Chandler, Jessica Tuck, Amanda Michalka, Ron Eldard, Katie Lowes   Release:  2011


Super83   Super84




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I blame it on Ripley, believe it or not.  Sigourney Weaver’s gun-totin’, ball-bustin’, space-travelin’ Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise introduced a new type of hero to the action movie:  the kick-ass female.  Weaver’s ballsy character led to Catwoman and Lara Croft and, inevitably, some far-fetched heroines like the one we meet in A Lonely Place to Die.

And so in this British attempt to cash in on the lucrative action-movie market we get Alison (Melissa George), a supermodel-type who, improbably:  1)  dodges bullets;  2) plunges from mountainous crags down to lethal river rapids;  and 3) out-muscles professional killers in hand-to-hand combat.

Alison is the alpha female in a quintet of mountaineers who, during an outing in the Scottish Highlands, discover a Serbian girl who’s been kidnapped and then buried in a box.  The climbers rescue the girl and are then stalked by the kidnappers, two nasty mercenaries who manage to bump off everyone in the cast except for, naturally, Newt and Rip– … er, Alison and the little girl.

A Lonely Place to Die boasts some spectacular views of the Scottish hills, and director Julian Gilbey handles the physical scenes capably.  Movies like this can be fun, provided the more-ridiculous aspects are coupled with a wink at the audience. But Gilbey and the actors treat the material with dead seriousness, so that by the time Alison outduels a killer who is wearing a pig mask, I wasn’t buying a bit of it.   Grade:  C



Director:  Julian Gilbey  Cast:  Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Eamonn Walker, Sean Harris, Alec Newman, Karel Roden, Kate Magowan, Garry Sweeney, Stephen McCole, Holly Boyd  Release:  2011


Lonely3       Lonely4




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Above, Melissa George as a mountain climber in A Lonely Place to Die.  Below, Melissa George as mountains in Dark City.




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