Archive for the JJ Abrams Category

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Action Movies, Alien Worlds, Based on TV Show, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, JJ Abrams, Plot Twists, Science Fiction, Space, The Future with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)
By L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

0506100402startrekintodarkness (THE SCENE: The vastness of space. Drifting among the stars, we see the space ship the U.S.S. Enterprise. Camera moves in closer, and then we find ourselves on the bridge. L.L. SOARES is dressed in a gold shirt, sitting at the control chair, while MICHAEL ARRUDA stands nearby, wearing a blue shirt and pointy rubber ears)

LS: Engines full thrust. We have to get to Jupiter by dinnertime.

MA: Flying a starship in search of food is highly illogical.

LS:  Hey!  Stop taking your role too seriously!

MA:  Well, perhaps if I were playing Captain Kirk right now, and you were Mr. Spock, you could handle things differently.

LS:  No way.  I should be Kirk.  I’m the captain. Stop whining, Spock. You’re supposed to be cold and logical.

MA:  It’s illogical to assume that you would play the captain and I the first officer based on—.

LS:  There you go again! Stop with the logic crap!

MR. SULU: Gentlemen, can you please stop your bickering and review the new STAR TREK movie already?

MA: Sure. Why don’t you start us off, Captain.

LS: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is the new movie in the Star Trek franchise by director J.J. Abrams, who gave us such previous films as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006) and SUPER 8 (2011), as well as television shows like ALIAS and LOST.

His previous Trek film, simply called STAR TREK (2009), was something of a calculated risk. By rebooting the original series with a new generation of actors, Abrams somehow was able to give us a movie that could please both original fans and people who were new to the franchise. While it had its flaws, I thought Abrams’ STAR TREK was a pleasant surprise, and the casting of younger actors to play these characters was pretty good.

MA:  I agree.  As a fan of the original series—the adventures of Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, and company remains my favorite—I had my doubts about the 2009 film, but it was just good enough for me to put aside my affection  for the 1960s TV show and buy into what J.J. Abrams was selling.

I liked the alternate universe idea in that film very much, in that it allowed Abrams to basically play with the characters and stories in a way that would be refreshing and new, and hardcore fans wouldn’t be able to complain about things being “changed” since in this parallel universe things are expected to be changed.

It was a brilliant plot device, and Abrams uses it to full effect here in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS.

LS:  In this first sequel by Abrams, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS brings back Chris Pine as Starfleet Captain James Tiberius Kirk, the character made famous by William Shatner in the original Trek series in the 1960s, and Zachary Quinto as his First Officer Mr. Spock, the role originally made famous by Leonard Nimoy.

MA:  And once again, they are both excellent in these roles, which is a key reason I’ve enjoyed these new STAR TREK movies.  The cast, especially Pine and Quinto, is very good.

LS:  The new movie starts with a bang as Kirk and his ship’s doctor, “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) are running through an alien red forest, being pursued by eerie, white-painted primitives, as an active volcano is on the verge of erupting them in the background.

MA:  Great opening scene.  A rousing way to start the movie.

LS:  They are there to prevent the volcano from killing all life on the planet, and giving the inhabitants a second chance to advance as a species. During this cultural rescue mission, however, Kirk has to make a desperate decision when Spock’s life is put in danger, and makes a choice that puts him in hot water with his superiors back on Earth. As a result, Kirk and Spock are both demoted, and Kirk is “relieved of duty” as captain of the Enterprise.

But, as any fan of the series knows, this won’t last long. And while Kirk accompanies the  Enterprise’s new captain (and the guy who was in charge of it before him), Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), to a meeting of Starfleet elite, they are attacked by a man in a small, but heavily-armed ship, which results in several casualties. Kirk is called upon to hunt the murderer down, and in the process gets reinstated as Captain of the Enterprise (and Spock is reinstated as his First Officer).

Along for the ride are the usual cast of characters, including Communications Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana from AVATAR, 2009) , who is also Spock’s girlfriend; Engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg from SHAUN OF THE DEAD, 2004), John Cho (Harold from the HAROLD AND KUMAR movies) as Mr. Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as Russian crewmember Chekov (Yelchin was also in movies like the FRIGHT NIGHT remake from 2011, that you liked a lot, Michael, and TERMINATOR SALVATION, 2009). There’s also a new crew member, Carol (Alice Eve) who looks great in her underwear and who just happens to be the daughter of Commander Marcus (Peter Weller, ROBOCOP himself back in 1987), the man who sent Kirk and his crew out to get the murderous bad guy dead or alive, preferably dead. This is former Starfleeter James Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch, who you can also see as the Necromancer in the recent HOBBIT films) who just happens to really be a classic villain from the original TV series using an assumed name.

MA:  Carol Marcus is the character from STAR TREK II:  THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) who, as was revealed in that movie, is the mother of Kirk’s son.  So, we know where this relationship will go.  Then again, it’s a parallel universe, so maybe we don’t know.  Perhaps this time around she’ll end up with Dr. McCoy.

(Door slides open and DR. MCCOY enters the bridge.)

MCCOY:  Dammit, Jim!  Why is that Dr. Marcus always parading around in her underwear?  The crew’s distracted!  We can’t get anything done!

LS:  Maybe I should go down there and settle things down.

MA:  No, captain, you’re needed here on the bridge.  I’ll go.

LS:  Shut up, Spock!  I’m the captain!  I make the decisions! It’s only logical!

SULU:  Don’t you both have to stay here to finish the review?

LS:  Dammit.  He’s right.  McCoy, you’re just going to have to handle things yourself.

MCCOY:  Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a customer in a strip club!  But if someone has to lay down the law, quiet the crowd, and set that woman straight, it might as well be me.  (checks his wallet) I think I have just enough for a lap dance. (Smiles devilishly and exits.)

star-trek-into-darkness-spock-movie-poster

MA:  Moving right along.

As far as the baddie in this one being a classic villain from the original show—.

LS:  Shh! No spoilers here!

MA:  I wasn’t going to spoil anything, but carry on.  I’ll comment on this later.

LS:  Along the way, Kirk and his crew are used by villains on both sides as the Enterprise tracks Harrison down to a supposedly uninhabited area on the planet Cronos, which also happens to be the homeworld of the warlike Klingons.

Can Kirk bring Harrison to justice without setting off an intergalactic war? You’re going to have to see INTO DARKNESS to find out.

Like Abrams’ first TREK film, I found this one likable enough. Everyone is good in their roles, even if they can’t be developed anywhere near as in-depth as they were in a weekly TV series. In a way, a lot of these characters seem more like recognizable nationalities and familiar catch-phrases from the past than real people. And while I like the new cast, I don’t think they’re half as good as the originals.

MA:  I would have to agree with you here, but in the new cast’s defense, they’ve only been together for two movies, where the original cast starred in 79 episodes.  They had more practice.

But that being said, I prefer the original cast, too.

LS:  Also, the plot of this one is a little convoluted at times. At 132 minutes, it’s a little long, and they take their sweet time revealing who bad guy Harrison really is (see if you figure it out way before the big revelation, like I did). Also, there are lots of scenes, especially in the middle, that just seem like a lot of loud noises and giant spaceships and not a lot of substance.

MA:  Yeah, it’s a little long.  I didn’t mind the revelation about the villain coming later in the film though.  It added a nice boost to the movie, and I liked this.

LS:  Yeah, it’s worth the wait. Toward the end, things get better, and I found myself caught up in some genuine suspense as Kirk tries to make the right moves in this gigantic game of chess. The movie goes out of its way to include inside information that will make hardcore fans of the series very happy, while drawing in a new generation of fans.

MA:  I agree again.  The film gets pretty suspenseful towards the end, and I was certainly caught up in it.

LS:  While I liked STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, I didn’t love it. It still seems like a pale imitation of the original 60s show, even if Abrams does give it a solid try. Then again, even the original cast had a hard time translating the best aspects of the television show into feature films. Of the original movies in the series with the original cast, the only one I ever liked a lot was STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982), which is kind of significant, as that was the second film in the first franchise and INTO DARKNESS is the second film in Abrams’ reboot.

I thought there was a lot to like about the new STAR TREK film, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the series, but there was also something about it that left me cold. I can’t put my finger on it: it’s like there were all these bells and whistles, but it lacked real depth. Maybe if I didn’t grow up with the original show, I would feel differently, but I give the new movie three knives. It’s well made and capable, things we’ve come to expect from Abrams, but I guess I didn’t walk away from it as emotionally satisfied as I thought I would be.

What did you think, Michael?

MA:  I liked it a lot too, but like you, I didn’t love it.  It’s kinda how I felt about the first one, and I think it’s because I like the original series so much.  I know my teenage sons love these new movies more than I do, and I’m sure it’s because I’m a bigger fan of the 60s show than they are.

One difference between these new films and the original series that I have trouble getting past—although it’s not necessarily a bad thing—is that these films are much more action oriented.  In terms of cinematic entertainment, that’s fine. It’s probably why they’re so successful.  They’re slick, they’ve got great special effects, and they’ve got some cool action scenes.  I can’t deny that I like this.

For example, the chase near the end where Spock pursues Harrison is one exciting sequence.  It’s as riveting as anything you’d see in a James Bond movie.  I don’t think the previous STAR TREK movies could make this claim.  So, in terms of cinema, this is a good thing.

But in terms of STAR TREK, it troubles me.  Gene Roddenberry’s vision of STAR TREK was science fiction based, and it was a forum where he hoped to explore social issues of the day but in a science fiction format.  This new TREK is much more action oriented than any STAR TREK before it.

LS: Yeah, I think you’ve touched upon my problem with it, too. There’s a lot of action, and Abrams is great at that. But there’s only enough time to delve into the characters in a superficial way, by playing on personality traits we know all too well. And that wasn’t enough for me. The original series was more about ideas, and the new series is more about dazzling us with action and explosions.

MA: Exactly. While I’m not necessarily knocking this, there are times where I wish the action would just slow down and take a back seat to some ideas.  It would also help us get to know these characters more.  I can’t fault Abrams for this, really, as even the original STAR TREK films edged towards action.  After all, the STAR TREK film which Roddenberry had the most control of, the first one, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979) had no action at all and for most viewers was boring, although I do like this movie a lot, believe it or not.

LS: I remember being pretty disappointed with that one when it first came out, which is why WRATH OF KHAN, the film that came after that one, was such a big deal. It felt more like the original show, and had a great villain, which STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE lacked.

MA: I agree.  I was disappointed with STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE when it first came out as well, but over the years, it’s really grown on me.

star-trek-into-darkness-poster

Getting back to today’s movie, although I prefer the original cast, I do like this cast a lot.  Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy might be my favorite.  He nails the character, and he reminds me so much of DeForest Kelley it’s uncanny.

LS: Yeah, he’s great. I’ve been a fan of Urban’s since way back when he played Julius Caesar on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.

I also really liked Zoe Saldana as Uhura. She’s a strong woman and is given some significant things to do this time around. Although I didn’t believe her relationship with Spock for a minute – and thought it was one of the few missteps here.

MA:  Yeah, they don’t exactly share much onscreen chemistry.  I’m not sure a love story involving a Vulcan is such a hot idea.

LS:  And Simon Pegg as Scotty is another big highlight. He’s a scene-stealer here.

MA: The same can be said for Zachary Quinto as Spock.  And while there’s nothing wrong with Chris Pine as Kirk—in fact, he’s very, very good—he has the most difficult job of the entire cast.  He’s sitting in William Shatner’s captain’s chair, which is no easy task.  Shatner is just one of those larger than life personas.  He’s hard to replace.

LS: I agree with you. They all have big shoes to fill, and do a very good job. Whoever did the casting for these movies did a terrific job. And I do think Pine has the hardest job. Shatner was one of a kind.

(Door slide open and WILLIAM SHATNER steps onto the bridge.)

SHATNER:  I am— Kirk.  Did you hear me, Spock?  I— am Kirk.

MA:  Are you talking to me?  I’m not really Spock.  I’m just playing him for purposes of this—.

LS: Hell, Arruda doesn’t even look like a convincing Spock…

SHATNER (ignoring them):  To be first, to be the original, it’s all part of the human condition.  It’s what makes us— human, Spock, what gives us our identities.  We are unique.  We are hu-man.

LS:  What the hell is he talking about?

SHATNER:  What the hell are you doing in my chair, Picard?

LS:  Picard?  I’m Kirk.

SHATNER:  You have no hair.  How can you be Kirk?

MA:  He makes a good point.

SULU:  Gentlemen, the review, please?

MA (to Shatner):  Don’t you have some green women to chase?

LS: Or girls with tails.

By the way, Captain, you should see the new Carol Marcus in her underwear.  She’s hot.  And, she’s on Deck 9 right now. If you want, I could go check on her while you resume your captain duties…

SHATNER: Deck 9 you say? On second thought, as you were, gentlemen,. You’re doing a fine job.

(SHATNER exits without another word.)

MA:  Where was I?  The cast.

The rest of the cast is fun as well, and probably what I like most about this cast is that they succeed in capturing the essence and spirit of the original characters without coming off as caricatures.  I never feel as if they’re trying to impersonate the characters.  They make them their own.

LS: I don’t know. It’s not their fault, but there’s so little time here for character development among all the giant space ships firing at each other and buildings crashing. Sometimes they do come off as caricatures. But it’s not their fault. A movie that really explored each of the main characters’ personalities would run about five hours.

MA: I hear you, but a lesser cast would make it seem more obvious, I think.

I also thought Benedict Cumberbatch made a nice baddie here.  He was very convincing and was a formidable foe for Kirk and company.

LS: Yeah, at first he seems kind of like a cold fish, but as we get to know him, he’s a pretty strong bad guy.

MA: Again, the parallel universe concept worked for me here, although there were times in the movie where I wasn’t so sure.  For example, regarding the true identity of the villain, at first, I liked this, but then, when I saw where the plot was going, involving a certain sacrifice by a key character, I thought it was too soon in this new series for something so dramatic.  I mean, these characters haven’t been together for as long as the original characters had been together when a similar event occurred in one of the STAR TREK movies.  But then, the writers saved the day by tweaking this event yet again, and by the time it was said and done, I liked it.

LS: Yeah, one thing about this movie, I thought, was that it all comes together by the end. The way things are resolved make sense based on information that came earlier. It’s well thought out at least. Even if it does tie up loose ends a little too neatly.

MA: Which is a roundabout way of saying I think the writers—Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof—do a great job here.  They successfully breathe new life into classic characters and situations, and change just enough to keep things interesting without ruining the history from the older series and movies.  That’s no easy task.

LS: Like I said, it’s a formula meant to please old fans and new. Which is why these movies work so well.

MA: I liked the new-look Klingons, although I did wonder why they looked different.  I guess it’s all part of the parallel universe, but I’m not quite sure how the changes made in the first movie would affect the way the Klingons looked.

LS: They didn’t look that different.

MA: Really?  I thought they looked a lot different.

The special effects are also excellent.  There were some really cool shots of the ships, and I especially liked the shots where we see the ships first from the outside and then the camera tracks into a close-up of a crew member inside.  Those shots looked authentic, as if the camera was really filming the exterior of a real spaceship before zooming into a real person on the inside.  It was smooth and seamless.

I did see STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS in 3D, it looked good, but again, I think it would look just as good in 2D, and it’s cheaper.

LS: Yeah, I saw it in 2D and it was fine. I doubt it lost much of its spectacle, and I’m just sick of paying extra for 3D effects that are almost always disappointing.

MA: All in all, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is a very entertaining movie.   It’s sure to satisfy fans of the series, and it’s good enough to please folks who aren’t familiar with STAR TREK as well.

I also give it three knives.

LS:  Perfect timing.  We’ve reached Jupiter.  Okay, Spock, you can have the captain’s chair now while I beam down for dinner. I’ve got a couple of gals from Ganymede waiting for me.

MA: Oh, that’s what the hurry was about. Do they have tails, by any chance?

LS: Actually, they do.

MA:  Well, I’m feeling a bit hungry myself (takes off pointy ears). I think I’ll join you. We’re done here anyway, and I’m done with this character.

LS: Sorry, three’s company, four’s a crowd. You’re no fun. I thought you’d be happy to be Spock!

MA (lifts hand and separates fingers in Vulcan greeting):  Live long, and prosper.

LS:  Gee, thanks.

MA:  That was for the rest of the crew.  This gesture’s for you.  (Flips him the bird.)

LS:  No, you’re doing it wrong.  It’s like this.  (Uses both hands to make an even more violently obscene gesture to MA.)

SULU (turns to camera and rolls his eyes):  It was never like this in the old days.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

LL Soares gives STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS ~three knives.

Michael Arruda gives STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS ~ three knives, too!

Remote Outpost: LOST AND FOUND

Posted in 2012, JJ Abrams, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Paranormal, Remote Outpost, Supernatural, TV Shows with tags , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST
LOST AND FOUND: ALCATRAZ AND LOST GIRL
Television Reviews by Mark Onspaugh

(NOTE: There are some SPOILERS ahead. It’s difficult to convey the mysteries and conundrums of these shows without giving away some of the material covered in the pilots—be properly warned, ye be.)

Ah, it’s like Christmas morning here at the Outpost… Two new genre shows debuted recently and we all got our chores done early – herded in the banths, milked the vermithrax and harvested venom from all thirteen gorgons. Then, we microwaved Orville Redenbacher (I don’t mean the popcorn, laddie) and brewed some Irish coffee and huddled around the ol’ viewscreen.

The shows in question are ALCATRAZ from J.J. Abrams and (his production company) Bad Robot, and LOST GIRL, from Showcase—now on the SyFy Channel (A note of warning – if you have friends that have been watching LOST GIRL online, they are into season 2 or 3, and they are FULL of spoilers!)

To be honest, I was very excited about ALCATRAZ and was going to leave LOST GIRL in the dust. However, the Council of Elders at Cinema Knife Fight sent two hulking bruisers to my home to convince me of the error of my ways. If you think it’s easy typing with two black eyes and one unbroken finger (left pinkie), you are mistaken. Pardon me, I have to lie down as another blackout descends…

# #

I’m back. Like I said, ALCATRAZ is from J.J. Abrams (ALIAS 2001-2006, LOST 2004-2010, FRINGE, which is still on the air, and the most recent STAR TREK movie (2009)), and Bryan Burk (ALIAS, LOST, FRINGE and STAR TREK). These are, by any yardstick, heavy-duty creds. I came into LOST late into the game (Season 3) and had to do a massive marathon viewing to get up to speed. I love FRINGE and I loved LOST—even the finale so many hated, which I felt took some chances and, while maybe not entirely successful, did explain some mysteries and give us closure. So Bad Robot and company have a lot of credit with me.

The pilot starts beautifully in 1963. Coming in over the water is a major cliché these days, but here the water looked eerie, threatening. A detail bringing over more prisoners for “The Rock” finds the entire facility deserted. Prisoners, guards, civilians and families (guards lived on the island with their families) are gone. The younger guard, we come to find, is Emerson Hauser, and will grow up to be Sam Neill. Now, Sam Neill has tons of genre cred – his eyes are a’twinkle with mischief and/or malevolence. He was Damian all growed up in OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981), Merlin in MERLIN’S APPRENTICE (2006), Dr. Alan Grant in the JURASSIC PARK franchise (1993, 2001) and Lovecraftian protagonist John Trent in John Carpenter’s eerie IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994).

Emerson is the brains behind the program to collect all the Alcatraz missing as they return. There’s lots he not telling his two cohorts, not the least of which is he has a giant, state-of-the-art prison hidden underground in the middle of the woods where he transfers captured escapees—living and dead. The doctors who attended staff and prisoners before the disappearance are either not aging or are time-traveling from 1963 to the present… And, as seen in the pilot, at least one inmate had money and fake ID’s waiting his return…

Joining Emerson is a plucky cop, Detective Rebecca Madsen, played by Sarah Jones. I thought Sarah looked familiar—she played the daughter of Adam Arkin’s American Nazi character on the FX series, SONS OF ANARCHY. Rebecca’s cases come into conflict with Emerson’s secret agenda. In fact, she had a grandfather who was a guard on Alcatraz… Rebecca soon learns that isn’t the truth, nor is the old man dead… Hell, he’s not even old. In addition, “Gramps” is often seen in the infirmary when other inmates visit, and seems to know a lot more than he should about a lot of things.

If Emerson is our brains, and Rebecca our courage, the last part of the OZ formula is supplied by Dr. Diego Soto, played by Jorge Garcia, who was so wonderful as Hurley on LOST. Dr. Soto is the world’s expert on Alcatraz, and he got his hands on lots of documents and personal effects no one else ever did. He’s also a comic book geek who owns his own store. He’s not very brave, yet is willing to risk life and limb for Rebecca or an innocent.

Sam Neill, Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia are the stars of ALCATRAZ, the new show from JJ Abrams.

The trouble with ALCATRAZ is two-fold—its “hook” is to feature a different inmate’s return each week, and dribble in some more details on the mysteries it has laid out. While the mysteries are interesting, the criminals may not always be, and this formula may grow tired very quickly—I noticed that the second hour of the pilot seem to move much more slowly than the first. It’s early, but it hasn’t become a show I have to watch. Unlike LOST, it’s not one I feel compelled to discuss with friends. In addition, even if LOST didn’t always give us buckets of mystery every episode, the characters and their situation were compelling enough—Sawyer hogging supplies to barter with, Hurley trying to be the peace-maker, Locke and his “noble savage” abilities, etc. ALCATRAZ depends heavily on its three main characters, and so far they just haven’t been very interesting… However, I do have faith in J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, and figure that things will heat up very quickly… My wife has given them 5 episodes… Sometimes I will stubbornly stick with a show I had faith in, wanting it to redeem itself or go down in flames (X-FILES [1993-2002] and SMALLVILLE [2001-2011] are two examples). Whether ALCATRAZ becomes “must viewing,” a guilty pleasure, or something I escape, we shall see.

# #

Apparently someone passed out a memo to television and movie execs a few months back and declared fairy tales the genre flavor of the moment. Why else have two Snow White movies, mash-ups of Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and shows like GRIMM (which I like), ONCE UPON A TIME (which I gave up on), and now LOST GIRL?

SyFy apparently read enough talkbacks to see they were becoming synonymous with cheap, laughable movies about tornados that dump alligators on galas presided over by C-list actors and has-been pop stars from the 80’s. Taking their cue from HBO and Showtime, SyFy is going for more adult programming, meaning that after 10pm one may get more mature content in the form of language, nudity and gore.

LOST GIRL is, I believe, the vanguard of this new face on the “Y” channel (really, does anyone prefer “SyFy” to “SciFi” that capitalized on the fact that the latter contains “if”?). Our heroine is Bo, played by Anna Silk. Bo is a beautiful woman with a terrible secret – she is capable of seducing anyone with a mere touch and feeds off their life-force. She is, in fact, a succubus, one of the many species of Fae, or Faerie Folk. The Fae live in our world and may even hold jobs as cops or teachers or that peculiar goat-footed balloon salesman in the park. Somehow Bo has escaped the notice of the Fae until now. Her undoing is helping Kenzi, a pickpocket and thief played by Ksenia Solo. Bo sees Kenzi has been “rufied” and can’t help getting her out of a jam –plus the would-be rapist is a tasty snack. Enter two cops to the crime scene who are actually Fae: Dyson, a sort of werewolf or shape-shifter and Detective Hale, whose singing can make one forget or do his bidding. Dyson is played by Kris Holden-Reid (UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING, 2012) and Hale by K.C. Collins. Dyson has taken an interest in Bo, and seems impervious to her succubus energy-sucking, so romantic possibilities are in the offing…

The cast of the Syfy Channel series, LOST GIRL.

Rounding out the cast are Zoie Palmer (DEVIL, 2010) as Lauren, a human doctor who knows about the Fae and how to treat them (and who is noticeably attracted to Bo) and Richard Howland as Trick, a gnome or little Fae (leprechaun?) who runs the only Fae bar in town—a place that is neutral ground for Dark and Light. Trick is the character who seems most familiar with whatever prophecy involves Bo.

In the pilot, Bo was introduced to the Fae and found out they are divided into Dark and Light. She was set against two nasty creatures as a test, then, once she survived, told she must choose between Dark or Light. Bo chose neither, wanting instead to stay a part of humanity. This did not go over well with any of the Elder Fae, but also seems in keeping with a prophecy of a very powerful Fae either uniting or wiping out the whole Fae race.

Bo and her plucky human sidekick have taken up residence together, and have formed a sort of Fae X-FILES—they investigate strange and weird crimes with the intent of helping people, and Bo hopes to learn more about her Fae parents, who apparently abandoned her when she was a baby.

Anna Silk plays Bo in the new series, LOST GIRL.

LOST GIRL is a bit of a cross between BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997-2003) and the aforementioned GRIMM, with plenty of wise-cracking and clever riffs on old tales and well-known characters from legend, folklore and fairy tales. It’s nice to have a female protagonist who is not only attractive but confident in her sexuality, and her flirting with Dyson is a nice spin on the old “beauty and the beast” trope. My wife loves this show, and several of our female friends love it, as well—both for the wisecracking Kenzi and the “dreamy” wolf Dyson. I’m more a fan of the Blut Bad (Big Bad Wolf) in GRIMM, but I was a big fan of BUFFY—it’s doubtful this will reach Joss Whedon inventiveness or greatness, but one can always hope…

# #

NEXT UP: Just started watching a terrific new miniseries from the BBC called THE FADES, and will be watching the premiere of THE RIVER, a new ABC series from Oren Peli (director of the 2007 hit movie, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and AREA 51, now in post-production) and exec produced by Zack Estrin, who co-exec produced PRISON BREAK (2005-2009), another show I stayed with until the very end, long after it had left the twin cities of Rhyme and Reason far behind… But oh, those characters!

Well, gotta go—we’ve got mutants in the sand pit again, and no amount of D-Con or poisoned crackers keeps them at bay. They are hell on the lawn and my guests, leaving little tell-tale antennae sticking out the back of folks’ necks, and making them all cranky and anti-social and cannibalistic in the bargain.

See you next time. Outpost… out.

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh


Quick Cuts Presents: THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2011

Posted in 2011, Disappointments, Guillermo Del Toro, Indie Horror, JJ Abrams, Quick Cuts, Remakes with tags , , , , , , on December 24, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS – Most Disappointing Movies – 2011
Brought to You by the Staff of CinemaKnifeFight.com

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Today, as a companion piece to our previous QUICK CUTS column on our picks for the most pleasant surprises of the year, we ask our panel, what’s the most disappointing movie— or movies— of the year for you?  Not necessarily the worst movie of the year, but that flick you were really looking forward to, you thought would be great, but turns out it sucked.

MARK ONSPAUGH:  For me it was GREEN LANTERN.

L.L.SOARES: Yep, that was certainly disappointing.

MARK ONSPAUGH: I have been waiting for a live-action GREEN LANTERN movie since the 60s.  I think Ryan Reynolds was a good choice, but the script was horrible, so full of holes and just plain illogical.  And the movie shows that sometimes you can have too much CGI.

MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES (in unison):  Sometimes?  (They exchange annoyed and suspicious frowns).

MARK ONSPAUGH O:  Arrgh! – just thinking about it pisses me off!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I’d go with THE THING (2011).  I really expected this one to be better.  I was hoping for a creative, thought-provoking prequel to the Carpenter version, something very special.   Instead, it turned out very mediocre.

Two other movies that were letdowns for me were GREEN LANTERN and APOLLO 18, but I enjoyed both of these a bit more than THE THING.

DANIEL KEOHANE:  The most disappointing—  compared to my expectations—  though it wasn’t a bad movie, I just felt a bit empty when it was over, was SUPER 8.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Wow.  I really liked SUPER 8.

L.L. SOARES:  I liked that one, too.  (MA & LS again exchange confused glances)

DANIEL KEOHANE:  Steven and JJ together, I was into that, but it felt too… I don’t know, too much like an homage of Abrams to Spielberg, and I was kind of on the outside looking in. There were really good parts to it, but it is a good example of how a weak ending can ruin a movie for everyone.

JENNY OROSEL:  I’m going to shake things up a bit and talk about a DVD release.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  A little Shake ‘N Bake from our MEALS FOR MONSTERS columnist!

(DANIEL KEOHANE groans and laughs.)

JENNY OROSEL: The most disappointing DVD release of 2011—RUBBER.

It should have been a fantastically fun movie. After all, it’s about a homicidal tire! But no, they had to try and make it ART with capital letters. Every scene screamed self-importance. The whole concept of a homicidal tire lost all its joy, and it was just a sad little movie.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  A homicidal tire?  Is that anything like a homicidal bore?

L.L. SOARES (to MICHAEL ARRUDA):  Why are you looking at me when you say that?  Are you looking at me?  ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME?? (Lifts a huge axe over his head).

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, because it’s your turn to answer.

L.L. SOARES:  Well, in that case— (tosses axe aside.  There is a blood-curdling scream off-camera.)

MARK ONSPAUGH:  That was awkward.

L.L. SOARES:  There were actually several disappointments for me this year. First off, there’s APOLLO 18.  After months of seeing the trailer for this one, I had high hopes. It looked like a very clever idea. But the movie itself was kind of so-so, and the big twist toward the end was actually kind of silly.

An even bigger disappointment was the remake of DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. The original from 1973 was one of my favorite TV-movies of all time, and the new one was produced by Guillermo Del Toro. So what could go wrong? EVERYTHING! The remake stunk to high heaven. What a bummer!

Another big disappointment at the movie theater was YOUR HIGHNESS, starring Danny McBride in his first big-budget leading role. Considering the talented people involved, from director David Gordon Green, to  actors like James Franco and Natalie Portman, I had high hopes for this one. A mix of a stoner comedy and a fantasy spoof, YOUR HIGHNESS ended up being very low on laughs. Considering that I’m a big fan of McBride’s (especially his HBO series EASTBOUND AND DOWN) and I know what he’s capable of, I was really let down by this one.

And the most disappointing DVD release of the year was THE UH OH SHOW – As a huge fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis, I’ve wanted to see this one for a long time. Finally a new movie by the Godfather of Gore! When it finally came out on DVD, though, it was a big letdown. To quote Mark, “AARGH!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  And there you have it! Thanks for joining us!

—END—

Quick Cuts: OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED? (Part 3 of 3)

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Giant Monsters, JJ Abrams, Michael Arruda Reviews, Overrated or Underrated?, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , , on June 30, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: THE OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED GAME (ANSWER 3)
(Quick Cuts created by Michael Arruda)

With the recent release of SUPER 8, the new alien movie from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, we’re going to play a game of “Overrated/Underrated.”

Are the following overrated or underrated?

1. Steven Spielberg
2. J.J. Abrams
3. ET, the Extraterrestrial
4. The Cloverfield Monster

***

ANSWER # 3

MICHAEL ARRUDA answers:

1. Steven Spielberg

I’d have to say that Spielberg is actually Underrated.

 I know, I give him a hard time on this Web site, and deservedly so, because his over-the-top sugary style irritates me.  That being said, the man is a tremendous filmmaker, responsible for some of the most memorable movies ever made, JAWS (1975), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), JURASSIC PARK (1993) and SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993), to name just a few.

I’ve always thought critics have been unfairly harsh on him, and he often doesn’t get the credit he deserves, as if because he’s “Steven Spielberg” he’s held to a higher standard.  For example, I really liked his WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) remake, yet the film was largely panned by critics.  Sure, it has its flaws, but it provided a lot of thrills and better than average entertainment.

So, because Spielberg doesn’t always get the credit he deserves, I say he’s underrated.

The multi-talented JJ Abrams

2. J.J. Abrams

Underrated.

Why?  One word: LOST.  Why isn’t this guy a household name yet?

A typical sappy moment with Spielberg's E.T.

3. ET, the Extraterrestrial

Overrated.

Everyone and their grandmother loved him in 1982, and they continue to love him today.  Why?  I’ve never understood the attraction.  Is he sweet and cuddly?  Nope.  On the contrary, he’s hideous!  I’ve always thought he should be living in a garbage can as Oscar the Grouch’s next door neighbor.

Allegedly doctored photo of the Cloverfield Monster attacking New York. Is it real?

4. The Cloverfield Monster

Underrated.

The Cloverfield Monster is a terrific movie monster.  I expected this creature to achieve icon status, to be up there with Godzilla and King Kong.  Yet, there’s been hardly any buzz about this monster since the film left theaters in 2008.  Cloverfield Monster, where are you?

—END—

Quick Cuts: OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED? (Part 2 of 3)

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Giant Monsters, JJ Abrams, LL Soares Reviews, Overrated or Underrated?, Quick Cuts, Steven Spielberg with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: THE OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED GAME (ANSWER 2)
(Quick Cuts created by Michael Arruda)

With the recent release of SUPER 8, the new alien movie from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, we’re going to play a game of “Overrated/Underrated.”

Are the following overrated or underrated?

1. Steven Spielberg
2. J.J. Abrams
3. ET, the Extraterrestrial
4. The Cloverfield Monster

***

ANSWER # 2

LL SOARES answers:

People are still afraid to go in the water, thanks to JAWS (1975).

1. Steven Spielberg

Very Overrated. Hey, I like some of his movies. DUEL (1971) was a terrific debut. JAWS (1975) was great and still holds up quite well, mechanical shark and all. It’s still the one movie that comes to mind first when I think about summertime. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) and JURASSIC PARK (1993) had some good moments. I even like EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987) and the first part of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998).

So I don’t hate the guy. But people treat him like some cinematic deity, and I just don’t see it. He’s not consistently good. For every good movie, he has two or three bad ones, or boring ones. To me, he just isn’t in the same league as masters like Kubrick, Peckinpah and Hitchcock.

And he has a sentimental streak a mile long. It’s actually ruined some of his movies that could have been a lot better.

2. J.J. Abrams

I’ve been a fan of most projects he’s been involved with, so I’d have to say Underrated. But that’s bound to change eventually.

I actually liked his reboot of STAR TREK (2009) I didn’t think it was the best thing since sliced bread like a lot of people, but it was a fun way to recharge the series. SUPER 8, despite its flaws, was pretty enjoyable. And I’ve been a fan of his TV work for a while now, especially LOST.

Alien Pals: E.T. and Michael Jackson. Visitors from outer space.

3. ET, the Extraterrestrial

Overrated.

Too cute. Too sentimental. Too nauseating. Spielberg tried to do something different by making a movie about an alien monster who was NICE. Not necessarily a bad idea in theory—look at a classic like the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, (1951) where a good alien tries to save us from ourselves—but in Spielberg’s hands it’s pure fructose corn syrup. I saw this when it first came out, as a kid, and soon after the dentist said I had three cavities. Give me those murderous, crazy-as-hell alien monsters over E.T. any day.

Also, the effects were awful. E.T. looks like a stiff, plastic puppet. Or a giant bobble-head.  He couldn’t even walk right. This was cutting-edge technology in 1982? What did they spend, like ten bucks on this guy?

Eeegah! It's the CLOVERFIELD MONSTER!


4. The Cloverfield Monster

Underrated.

I liked this monster a lot, even though they didn’t show him enough in the movie. I can’t wait til he takes on King Kong and Godzilla. We want more CLOVERFIELD!

—END—

Quick Cuts: OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED? (Part 1 of 3)

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Giant Monsters, JJ Abrams, Overrated or Underrated?, Quick Cuts, Steven Spielberg with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: THE OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED GAME (ANSWER 1)
(Quick Cuts created by Michael Arruda)

With the recent release of SUPER 8, the new alien movie from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, we’re going to play a game of “Overrated/Underrated.”

Are the following overrated or underrated?

1. Steven Spielberg
2. J.J. Abrams
3. ET, the Extraterrestrial
4. The Cloverfield Monster

***

ANSWER # 1

DAN KEOHANE:


1. Steven Spielberg

Neither.

Spielberg is raised high on a pedestal of directors/producers and rightly so. The guy has a vision and has the resources to back them up.

2. J.J. Abrams

Underrated, only in that he is not as well known as he will be.

Those of us who’ve been captivated by the guy’s work since ALIAS hold him in high regard, but now the rest of the world is catching up to us.

Where the hell are my Reese's Pieces?


3. ET, the Extraterrestrial

Overrated.

Granted it’s a good movie, very cute, and the first half of the film is very excellent, very Spielberg, but overall a bit too long and syrupy… siruppy… mooshy.

4. The Cloverfield Monster

Underrated.

I LOVE this monster. Thought it was a brilliant creation. I did NOT care, however, for yet another movie where they thought the giant monster wasn’t enough and had to put little monsters in as well (a la GODZILLA (1998) and  a la JURASSIC PARK (1993) – the one time it DID work).

—END—

SUPER 8

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Cinema Knife Fights, Giant Monsters, JJ Abrams, Science Fiction, Steven Spielberg with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by knifefighter

Cinema Knife Fight: SUPER 8
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: An old-fashioned train station in a small town. It’s 1979, and a bunch of kids are filming a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera. LL SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA approach)

LS: Damn brats! Get out of here! We’ve got a movie to review.

KID 1: Gee, mister, can’t we just finish this scene? We snuck out of our houses late at night and everything to get this shot.

MA:  Gee, mister? What is this, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? This is 1979, not 1959. I grew up in the 70s, and we weren’t saying “gee, mister.”

KID 1: What are you complaining to me for? I’m just saying the lines. I didn’t write ‘em, you big jerk!

MA: That’s more like it.

LS: Who cares? (roars at kid) GET OUTTA HERE!

(Kids scream and run away.)

MA: Shall we start our review of SUPER 8?

LS: Sure.

SUPER 8 is the new movie by J.J. Abrams. He’s the guy behind TV shows like “Alias” and “Lost.” He also directed the recent reboot of the STAR TREK (2009) franchise.

MA: And he produced the great giant monster movie, CLOVERFIELD (2008).

LS: Yeah, yeah, I was getting to that.

This one is also produced by the legendary Steven Spielberg, which is fitting, because in a lot of ways, SUPER 8 feels like a homage to Spielberg’s early 80s films, especially E.T.: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (1982).

Unfortunately, I hated E.T. I thought the effects were lame, especially the creature—good ol’ E.T. himself—who looked very stiff and puppet-like. And don’t get me started on the sappy, overly sentimental story.

MA: Yep same here. Back in 1982 I thought I was the only guy on the planet who didn’t like that movie.

LS:  In comparison, SUPER 8 is definitely an improvement. But it’s not perfect.

MA: SUPER 8 didn’t remind me all that much of E.T., thankfully. Sure, it’s about an alien, and kids, but I thought this story stood on its own, even though it certainly did have the feel of a Steven Spielberg movie. I say this because one of the main plot points of E.T. was the connection between the boy and the alien, and here in SUPER 8, while this happens, it’s not the main focus—again, thankfully. I never felt I was watching “Me and my Alien Buddy,” which was a good thing.

LS: SUPER 8 begins with the death of Joe Lamb’s (Joel Courtney) mom at the factory where she worked. Joe is about 12 years old and it’s the summer of 1979. He’s taking the death of his mom pretty hard (which makes sense) as is his father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler), the town’s deputy sheriff. The more Joe and his dad talk, the more it’s pretty obvious they really don’t know each other and don’t have a lot in common. Jackson wants his son to go to a sports camp to be more manly. Joe wants to spend the summer helping his friends finish a zombie movie they’re making. Considering that Joe’s life revolves around things like comic books and making Aurora monster models (mostly of Universal monsters of the 1930s – these models were pretty popular back then), he and his father couldn’t be more different.

MA: Yep, I had a whole bunch of those Aurora models.

LS: Yeah, I did, too.

MA: I was actually a bit disappointed that Joe only had the Hunchback of Notre Dame model. He should have had more. Oh well.

LS: He must have had more—they just didn’t show them. Right?

MA:  How the hell do I know?

(A TRAIN’s whistle howls in the distance)

LS: Joe’s buddy Charles (Riley Griffiths) is directing the film, and the two have been friends since second grade. Charles is bossy, but then again this comes in handy for someone wanting to be a director. To make the movie more “commercial” he asks a girl at school, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), to play one of the characters’ wife, to give the movie a “love story” angle. She agrees and does a pretty great audition.

Joe is the make-up artist, and it’s clear early on that he has fallen for Alice. The thing is, she’s the daughter of the local troublemaker, Louis (Ron Eldard), who Joe’s dad has had to arrest on several occasions. There’s also a resentment because Joe’s mother was filling in for one of Louis’s shifts at the factory when she was killed, so Jackson kind of blames the guy for his wife’s death. Needless to say, neither Jackson nor Louis are very happy to see that their kids spending time together.

While filming their movie at a train station—much like this one—late at night, a truck jumps on the tracks and rams itself right into the train, causing a huge and violent derailment. The kids almost get killed, but are able to get away before “anyone” sees them. As for this “anyone” – it’s the US Air Force, and soldiers swarm the area soon afterwards. Something escaped from that train wreck, but they aren’t saying what. Soon, the soldiers are taking over and evacuating the whole town.

As the movie develops, we learn that the train was holding a strange alien life form captive, and now that it’s been set free, it is scrambling around town, taking equipment it needs to construct a spaceship to get back home. So, just like E.T., the SUPER 8 monster wants to “Go Home.”

The kids get caught up in the drama of the Air Force, the monster, and their own lives.

MA: Not exactly an original story. While I really liked the characters and dialogue in this movie, its premise, the alien who’s “really just frightened and only wants to go home” —-

(A loud sympathetic “awwww” sound erupts from the audience.)

Yep, thank you, all of you just joining us now after the last episode of OPRAH. As I was saying, this premise didn’t wow me. Been there, done that. Speaking of Mr. Alien, what did you think of the monster?

LS: I think Abrams did a good job with the monster.

MA: Really? I was a little disappointed.

LS: We don’t see it up close very much (which was similar to CLOVERFIELD), and for most of the movie we see what it has done, but not the creature itself. It seems to move in a spider/crab –like way, and actually seems pretty alien in its appearance and movements (much unlike the awful E.T.).

MA: I thought the movie worked well in spite of this. The story was strong even while we weren’t seeing the alien. The problem I had was once we do see the alien, it’s really late in the game. As much as I enjoyed this movie, it could have used more alien screen time.

LS: I think it works that they build up suspense and don’t show the monster right away. What exactly does this thing look like? In too many monster movies lately, they show the creature way too early in the game. I thought this one was well-paced.

MA: I was also a bit disappointed with the look of the alien, mostly because CGI aliens just don’t cut it for me. I always feel like I’m watching a video game. Abram’s monster in CLOVERFIELD was one of the better CGI alien monsters. For some reason, this one reminded me of a Transformer/alien hybrid. I think it was the way it moved.

LS: Also unlike E.T., this isn’t a sweet little story about kids bonding with a cute guy from outer space.

(A huge cheer erupts from the audience.)

MA: Amen!

LS: I think the monster is actually kind of scary, and at one points starts abducting some humans as well (including Alice), and later we find out it’s for food. It’s this more gritty take on the monster—that it’s not safe and cuddly—that differentiates it from Spielberg’s so-called “classic.”

MA: I agree. The monster eating people for food was definitely one of the better parts of the story, but sadly it’s mentioned all too briefly. It should have been more a part of this movie.

LS: Yeah, I’m with you on that. It certainly could have used even more “scariness.”

(TRAIN is getting closer. Whistle is louder)

LS: I actually thought the monster might end up looking like the creature from CLOVERFIELD, to have some kind of continuity between the two films, but no such luck.

MA: Yeah, that would have been a cool connection. Oh well.

LS:  However, despite the differences, there are also several scenes throughout the movie that are overly sentimental and sugary, and these do the best at conjuring up the feel of those old Spielberg films, especially toward the end. They’re also the aspects of this film I didn’t like.

MA: I didn’t think there were too many of these, thankfully.

(The freight TRAIN roars by, suddenly derailing and crashing into the countryside)

LS: Dammit, we’re trying to finish a review here.

MA: You’re all heart. We should go see if there are any survivors who need our help.

LS: Wait, wait. We’re almost done.

Overall, the acting is pretty good. First off, I like Kyle Chandler a lot (he plays the coach on the excellent TV show “Friday Night Lights” —which is in its last season—so I hope Chandler is able to make the jump to movies pretty easily).

MA: Yeah, Chandler is fine, but SUPER 8 really isn’t his movie. It belongs to the kids, and while I really enjoyed the kids here, the film could have used a stronger adult presence. I wanted to see more of Chandler’s character. Specifically, I wanted his character to do more. He’s got decent screen time, but he always seems to be on the periphery of the action. I wish he had been more like the Timothy Olyphant character in THE CRAZIES (2010).

LS: Well, at least he’s not completely passive like some movie dads. When the Air Force takes him prisoner at one point, he doesn’t just accept it, he fights back. And the kids are all pretty believable. I thought Courtney is fine as Joe, although he does seem a bit generic at times.

MA: Really? I thought Courtney was terrific. I thought he gave the best performance in the movie. He was sincere, sympathetic, and eventually he proves himself to be quite the hero. I thought his performance was key, because if you don’t like this kid, then the film’s not going to work.

LS: I dunno. There were a few times where Joe seemed kind of cliché to me. Courtney does a good job with the role in spite of that, though. Another kid who stands out is Ryan Lee as Cary, a kid obsessed with fire and pyrotechnics, and who is in charge of explosions and effects for the kids’ movie. He has some funny lines.

MA: Yes, Lee was great. I also enjoyed Riley Griffiths as Charles, the kid making the movie. Sure, he’s the “fat kid,” but he’s not cliché, in that he’s strong, assertive, and bossy. Also, his large family is a hoot.

LS: Yeah, I thought Charles was pretty good. His family, too.

But it’s Elle Fanning who pretty much steals every scene she’s in. She’s very good here, and clearly has acting chops that are above and beyond the rest of the kids in the film. Her “audition” for the kids’ movie was so good, it made me feel like I was watching someone who was going to be a star.

MA: I agree with everything you said about Fanning, but I also think Courtney was just as good.

I also really enjoyed the connection that Alice and Joe shared. They’re both without their moms, they both have dads that are struggling, and it was fun to see them become attracted to each other. It was an attraction I bought and believed in.

LS: Yep, it definitely worked.

MA: Even though this movie was about the kids, there were a couple of other memorable adult performances here. Ron Eldard certainly made an impression as Alice’s dad, Louis. At first, he comes off as a good-for-nothing loser, but eventually he earns some sympathy and is able to redeem himself. I also enjoyed David Gallagher as Donny, the local pothead who works at the store where Charles develops his movie film. He also has the hots for Charles’ sister and later on, because of these feelings, gets rooked into helping the kids.

LS: Yeah, Gallagher is pretty funny as the stoner guy.

MA: Interestingly enough, other than Fanning’s Alice, there really aren’t any other women characters in this movie. For a while there, I thought the alien fed only on women since there didn’t seem to be any women in town!

LS: I noticed that, too. And both of the main kids’ mothers are dead.

(Something is approaching them in the mist. They can hear something scuttling closer)

LS: I thought Abrams did a fine job directing this one. He’s proven he’s got the goods. But I wish he wasn’t so interested in aping Spielberg and seeking his approval. The Spielbergian elements are the ones that don’t work as well. Abrams is better when he’s doing things in his own “voice.” And frankly, some of the sappier scenes also result in lapses of logic, where emoting is more important than actually thinking.

MA: I didn’t think there were too many of these sappy scenes. Which ones were you thinking about?

LS: Well, like I said before, it’s especially toward the end. Like when Joe “bonds” briefly with the alien, even though he had just saved his girlfriend by being eaten by it. Of course, that’s explained by the fact that he’s desperate not to be killed, so it makes sense in the moment. But he just seems way too quick to empathize with this dangerous creature from then on. And there are some overly sentimental moments throughout the film.

MA: But I agree with you about lapses in logic. There were parts to this movie that didn’t make much sense to me. For example, the train accident is caused by a scientist who drives his truck onto the tracks in order to— as we learn later—free the alien. Now, I realize this guy was desperate, but aren’t there better/easier ways to free something than derailing a train?

LS: Yeah, if he had time to plan it out all out—which he did—he could have done it without risking his life.

MA: I also thought a lot of the story was rushed and some interesting points were simply glossed over without being developed. The alien technology used to build its ship is mentioned oh-so-quickly. It’s a cool concept, but it’s mentioned in a flash and not reiterated— look down to find that dropped popcorn kernel on your shirt and you missed it!

LS: Those weird Rubik’s cube things were cool!

MA: They were cool, but they weren’t in the movie all that much.

All the dogs run away as soon as the alien arrives. Why? Does the alien eat dogs? The alien eats people, we kinda know that, as it’s mentioned in a very brief scene. An alien that eats people? This is scary stuff! It needs to be in this movie more!

LS: Yeah, what was up with the dogs?

MA: We also never really learn why the military is so interested in this alien, other than the fact that it’s the military, so of course they’d be interested in such an alien and in covering up the whole ordeal from the public. The portrayal of the military here is extremely clichéd. They’re reduced to the “bad guy” heavies who are only interested in cover-ups and killing aliens.

Repeat after me. “Alien—good.” “Military—bad.” Cliché! Who wrote this? The Frankenstein monster?

All this being said, I did like SUPER 8. I thought the kids were great. They were memorable, they were fun, and when all hell breaks loose, you really care for them as they go through their ordeal.

I also automatically connected to them since the story takes place in 1979, and I was around the same age in the late 1970s, and so it brought back a lot of memories. Speaking of which, I loved the 70s songs on the soundtrack, and I enjoyed the HALLOWEEN poster on the wall. Director J.J. Abrams successfully captured the feel of 1979.

Like you, I thought Abrams was fine at the helm. There were a couple of very intense scenes, the initial train crash scene I thought was terrific….

LS: I thought the train crash was really over the top. A little truck causes that much damage? Everything is flying around like crazy—for what feels like a long time—and it almost defies logic that none of the kids gets killed by flying chunks of metal and that their “getaway car” still runs, considering how close it was to the train station.

MA:  All true, but I still liked the scene, and later in the movie when all the weapons/tanks went haywire, that was also intense. These were my favorite parts of the film, and I wish there had been more of them. I also liked the sequence when the alien attacks the bus on which the kids were being held prisoner by the military.

Abrams also wrote the movie, and I think he gets an A for creating likable characters and for telling an exciting story, but as far as the threat goes, it really wasn’t all that terrifying and certainly not original. The alien who just wants to go home? We saw that in ET, and even in John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982), and even “the monster motivated by fear;” we saw that in CLOVERFIELD. And this alien is certainly not The Thing or Cloverfield!

The few intense scenes in this movie were excellent. There should have been more of them.

LS: I agree. I really liked this movie, but I didn’t love it. I wish Abrams had relied more on his own sensibility than trying to emulate his idol, Spielberg.

Oh yeah, and stay for the end credits. They show the whole zombie movie the kids were working on, and it’s pretty funny!

I give it three knives. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie became a hit.

MA: Yeah, it does have that “hit” feel to it, doesn’t it?

I certainly liked it. I found it to be enjoyable enough. It’s got a great group of kid characters, a few good adult ones, an engrossing story, but an alien we hardly get to know, and while the story is engrossing, it’s not original. We’ve seen this tale before. Still, Abrams does such a good job with the material, you don’t really care; you’re having too much fun.

I also give SUPER 8 three knives.

(The mist clears to show a giant E.T. bobbing his head up and down, accompanied by ALF)

E.T.: Do you have phone? E.T. must phone home.

ALF: Yes, and I need to call Melmac. Do you think they’ll accept the charges from here?

E.T.: Do you have any Reese’s Pieces?

ALF: Or cats?

(LS screams and runs away)

MA (in sugary sweet voice): Why yes, I have a phone.

E.T. (smiles): Phone— please.

MA: Why, certainly. Here you go. (Hands E.T. sparkling sticks of dynamite.) (MA turns around and blocks his ears. Behind him there is a HUGE EXPLOSION.)

Who says I don’t have a dark side? Well, I’d better go tell LL that the coast is clear. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next week with a review of another new movie.

(MA walks off in search of LS, as bits and pieces of E.T. fall to the ground. When the smoke clears, we see ALF is still standing there.)

ALF: What about me?

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives SUPER 8three knives

LL Soares also gives SUPER 8 three knives