There’s something pretty super about “Super 8.”
The latest from writer/director J.J. Abrams is a fun homage to early Steven Spielberg films (who served as one of the producers of “Super 8”). It’s a smart blend of everything from “Jaws” to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to “E.T.” to “Goonies.”
“Super 8” tells the story of a group of teenage friends in a small Ohio town in 1979 that is making a zombie movie on a super 8 camera. While filming one of the scenes at a nearby train station, they witness a horrific train crash.
Soon after the crash, the military arrives for a top-secret cleanup. Meanwhile, unusual disappearances and other inexplicable events begin to happen and the kids soon realize that their footage may be the key to unlocking the mystery.
One of the great joys of “Super 8” is the sense of discovery, so it’s best to leave the plot points to a minimum. Even if you see the big twist coming (and honestly, you probably will), it’s still an enjoyable ride, thanks in large part to Abrams and a very talented young cast. And while the twist is a part of the movie, it doesn’t overshadow the strong human element that works thanks to a very good cast.
Joel Courtney plays lead character Joe, who has recently lost his mother, and is very interesting, reminding me of Sean Astin in “Goonies.”
Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota, is also very good as the young girl whom the friends enlist to help them with the zombie movie. She is also smart, but perfectly captures the charm and aura of that first crush, something I think any person can identify with.
The movie within the movie also provides some nice laughs, especially from Riley Griffiths, who plays the aspiring filmmaker.
Some might argue that Abrams follows the Spielberg blueprint a little too much. While I can see that point, I see it more as a way to pay tribute to the director. This is a film that is a throwback to that era, the big summer movie that could both entertain and enlighten.
This might not be the most original piece of work, but it’s one of those films that show that sometimes familiar can be a good thing.
Also in theaters
While “Super 8” is a throwback to early Spielberg, “Midnight in Paris” (B), the latest from writer/director Woody Allen, also plays on the nostalgia element. It’s a chance for fans of Allen’s earlier work to see glimpses of his brilliance, with a smart and charming literary fantasy that makes the most of the beautiful city that serves as its backdrop.
“Paris” follows Gil (Owen Wilson), a second-rate screenwriter with aspirations of writing the next great novel. While vacationing in Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her family, Gil gets the idea to move to France and pursue that dream.
Inez is less than receptive to the idea, but Gil’s hopes and dreams are fueled further when he hops into an antique car one night and finds himself face to face with a plethora of early 20th century talents - including F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates).
He also meets Adrianna (Marion Cotillard), a young woman who makes Gil start to realize that Inez may not be his true love after all.
I’ll admit the premise requires a leap of faith, but Allen’s script and direction is so pitch perfect it’s easy to accept.
Wilson makes a good muse for Allen’s prose, which is sharp and quite funny.
I never quite bought the relationship between Gil and Inez, though, which is the weakest link of the film, but it is easy to forgive a film that bravely tackles the task of bringing to life some larger-than-life literary greats - and pulls it off quite well.
This is another in a strong run of Allen’s recent work, on par with “Match Point” and “Vicky Christina Barcelona.”
“Midnight in Paris” is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking and is now playing at the Greenwood Mall 10.