Kyle Chandler

Super 8

Year:  2011
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Written By: J. J. Abrams

RYAN’S REVIEW

Since making that miserable journey through Star Trek and coming to the invigorated reboot I have had my eye on this movie. Not for any particular reason that had to do with the film itself but as an opportunity to bash the film’s maker, J.J. Abrams. So before even popping in the DVD I sat down an wrote out my passionate opinions on Abrams. I have strong feelings because my time is so valuable to me and he personally wasted an awful lot of it that I’ll never get back. Well not literally him personally but I hold him accountable for it, among other things. Many are the grievances I have to J.J. Abrams but after sitting down to watch this movie I found that I wholeheartedly loved it. Damn J.J. Abrams and the conflicting feelings I have right now.

This is a wonderful film that takes us back to the days of Spielberg, who served as producer on the film, and makes us…member? I of course am a big South Park fan and can’t help but consider the man behind Member Berries in the show. This movie makes me member. Not what life was like in 1979 because I was not alive but of so many films that I grew up watching from that era. Member what is was like when movies about kids were real? Member when aliens came to Earth? Oh I member. This movie stands on its own but it does do an awful lot of pulling on our nostalgic strings.

I love the kids in this film who are out to make their own movie. How seriously they are taking it and how it draws them into this greater adventure. The way the big kid directing the movie runs out looking through his hands at the scene is awesome. I don’t know who most of these kids are but they get across a wide range of emotions from enthusiasm to fear and everything in between. They remind us of that confusing period of adolescence and really hit us in the heart.

In hindsight I can’t help but see this movie as a template for Stranger Things. There are so many similarities but they were partially going for the same thing. Both trying to emulate a specific time period and Spielberg feel. Kyle Chandler plays the David Harbour part in this movie and he is nothing short of fantastic. Of course this movie came first and its influence over such a beloved show to myself as well as everybody only frustrates me more because it draws the pendulum of J.J. Abrams back to the “he’s awesome” argument. My opinion on the matter can be read at great length below and despite how great this movie is I stand firm on the matter.

I’ll concede for the time being. In the face of this terrific movie I will temporarily draw back on my argument because the lovers of J.J. Abrams win this round. I absolutely love this movie and I pride myself on accepting when I am wrong about something. I’m not going to make excuses for why it is good and try to argue that it was a fluke for Abrams. He is a very talented filmmaker and deserves plenty of credit but I don’t have to like him. Let me explain why I don’t.

Section reserved for bashing J.J. Abrams:

I will be the first to admit J.J. Abrams has talent. If nothing else what he did with Star Trek as well as this movie alone prove that but nevertheless I maintain he is overrated. When I was in college Abrams made a name for himself with his hit television show Lost. I want to say unequivocally that I think Lost was specifically the most overrated show of all time. A gimmick that strung viewers along like hanging a carrot just out of a donkey’s reach.

When I was in college I would argue with people relentlessly about the show. Some had the audacity to call it the greatest show of all time and to those people I would bestow outrage. I am a big fan of television and dramatic series and I gave Lost an honest effort. It let me down time and time again. Never answering any of the several questions it would propose in nearly every episode.

I’ll never forget once I was coming home from college to stay with a friend one night. My friend called me and asked what time I would be in. I told him I had to watch Lost and I’d hit the road right after. He responds “all you do is talk shit about that show why are you watching it?” He didn’t understand though. All week the advertisements had been on television. FOUR things were going to happen on Lost that week. I had to see it, and as I told him I had invested too much time in the show not to see something actually happen. Wanna know what happened? Not a damn thing and I just ended up getting to my friend’s house late that night.

My point is that Lost was a show for suckers. I don’t think Abrams or the writers of the show had any idea what they were doing. It was like they would toss around ideas and just go with the coolest ones with no larger plan in place. They were freestyling the whole show and everybody, myself included, was eating it up. I was frustrated with the show and I talked negatively about it at great length but I was still tuning in when it aired. Another fool in the masses that gave that ridiculous show ratings.

I eventually quit watching the show at a point when I simply couldn’t take it anymore. When I reached a point where I didn’t care why there were polar bears on this tropical island, who “the others” were no longer made any difference to me, I didn’t even care about the bizarre smoke monster that made not a bit of sense. I do remember my breaking point. It was when “the others” leader led Locke to the guy who had all the answers. The guy who would finally solve some of the mystery I had been suckered into was coming. There was an entire episode of Locke and that guy travelling the island to get to this one guy and what happened when they got there? There was a room with an empty chair, an empty f-ing chair! I patiently watched every episode for I don’t even know how many seasons and what I got for my patience was an empty chair? Who the other guy motioned to and introduced as Jacob if I’m not mistaken.

Now I’m sure there are plenty of suckers out there that would want to argue with me about this but you know what? I think as a writer, when you don’t know what you’re going to do next you put all your eggs in one basket and then get even more vague than you were before. I was done at that point, time wasted and I still to this day haven’t binged the show and gone back to see what I missed.

That settles one issue with Abrams but it doesn’t stop there. My next beef is with Star Wars The Force Awakens. I’m not really a huge Star Wars fan (it’s no accident we haven’t reviewed the movies, I don’t own them) but I’ll easily admit The Force Awakens was a totally OK movie. That’s the whole problem though. It was just an OK movie. The great and powerful J.J. Abrams ditched a Star Trek franchise he had brought back to life to make an OK version of the space rival.

I mentioned during the review of Star Trek into Darkness that I thought the movie might have been better if Abrams didn’t spy a bigger fish in the pond. Granted it was an opportunity that no sane director anywhere would have turned down but still. Abrams had started something with the new franchise of Star Trek and I for one think he belonged at the helm for the series going forward. Not just as a Producer either with one foot in the ring but behind camera where he made the magic happen in that first film.

It doesn’t really matter what I think about Abrams though and my grievances mean nothing. He’s been immensely successful despite what I think and I’m knowingly on the losing side of the argument. Nevertheless this is my space and I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for years. Screw Abrams and the horse he rode in on.

In closing for Super 8

This is a great movie. A movie that seemingly heard what I was thinking and said “oh yeah? I dare you to hate on this.” I simply cannot do that because this movie inspires too much in me. It makes me member, and I sincerely love it. It’s going to be hard for anybody that hasn’t seen it to not think it’s just a rip off of Stranger Things but you have to keep in mind this came long before. This movie is worth your time to see and I would recommend it to anybody.

NEXT MOVIE: Superbad (2007)

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King Kong

Year: 2005
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Original Story: Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was Peter Jackson’s next venture after creating the incredible and historic Lord of the Rings trilogy. No matter what he had decided to do there were going to be very big expectations.  I don’t know that anything he could have possibly done could have measured up those expectations but this movie came pretty damn close.  It is another epic film that runs a lot longer than anyone likes but it’s what Jackson thrives at.  This movie does offer some of the most exciting action sequences you will ever see and the visual effects are spectacular. It took on the responsibility of rebuilding a Hollywood legend and it carries that legend to another level.

When Peter Jackson finished with his epic goldmine trilogy he could have done anything he wanted to.  He could have chosen any project on the table but to his credit, he chose to take on a challenge.  King Kong goes back to very early in the film industry being made in 1933.  It had a legacy that was going to have lots of needs and expectations to fulfill when the remake was attempted. I think Jackson lived up to those expectations and even exceeded what some of us could have imagined. He had built his name making some of the biggest epic movies of all time and chose to follow up with the first epic ever made.  There could not have been a better choice to helm the project of bringing back that epic that still stood significant after more than 70 years.

I think this was an incredible movie but I have never felt it was as good as it could have been.  I have always thought the greatest flaw of the movie was in its cast.  With a picture like this, that is going to have all the hype in the world behind it, I just really thought they should have went big with the actors they chose.  The thing is, I like most of the actors in this movie but still, they could have gotten bigger people to play the part.  I really like Jack Black. I think he is an incredibly talented entertainer but when this movie was made I didn’t think he was a great choice.  I think he played the part well, but I really don’t think he was at the right place in his career to carry a movie this large on his shoulders.  Despite this opinion, I do think he was great in the movie and I think he acted his ass off.  The same goes for Adrien Brody. I like Brody despite some of his creepier movie roles over the years, but I don’t think he was a great choice to play the hero in the movie.  He has proven me wrong as a hero before, specifically in Predators but I just don’t see him as a serious choice for that role.  I think he is a talented actor and I don’t think he was bad in this movie but I have just never felt he was right for the part.

Naomi Watts was cast as the starlet of the film, the beautiful damsel in distress that captures the heart of the monster.  I think she did an incredible job playing the part and could not say a criticizing word about her performance.  I thought she showed a lot of talent and had to do so most of the time against a green screen which makes the performance even more impressive.  Yet I still have the same feeling about Watts as I do about Jack Black and Adrien Brody.  She did a great job but I think this movie would have been more successful had a more popular actress been cast in the part.  I don’t know why I feel this way because I honestly do think she played the part to a T and did a great job.

I think the greatest role in this movie was actually the one performed by Andy Serkis.  I don’t mean the part of the cook which he also played but that of King Kong.  Just as he did for Peter Jackson in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as the creature Gollum; Serkis again donned the motion capture suit and performed the actions of the legendary ape. It is a talent he probably won’t be able to get enough out of because these types of roles are rare but Serkis really has a specifically awesome gift.  King Kong in this movie is incredible and a lot of that has to do with the work put in by Andy Serkis.  He went the extra mile studying apes and their behavior to prepare for the part and it paid off handsomely.

This movie also sported a very good supporting cast aside from the other actors I have mentioned.  When this movie came out I had really high hopes for Colin Hanks.  The son of the legendary actor seemed destine for great things but that just hadn’t happened yet.  I had hoped that this movie would put him on that path but I was wrong.  Colin Hanks has only gotten older over the years and never really stepped out of his father’s shadow to make anything significant of himself.  I liked seeing him in Mad Men a few years back but by then his part in the show only reminded me of the high hopes I had for him years before. Jamie Bell has a role in this movie that I didn’t think was that great but want to mention it simply because it came off the heels of his performance in The Chumscrubber, which I really liked.  I am not a fan of Kyle Chandler but he has continued to do great things despite what I think.  I think he fit his part really well in this movie though and it seemed to do more for his career than anyone else’s part did.

I have always been under the impression this movie failed to live up to expectations but like I said I think the expectations were insurmountable.  I may be critical of the cast myself but I don’t know that I could really be critical of the movie itself.  I think the cast could have been better but they all did an incredible job in their roles.  I think this movie offers some of the most incredible action sequences ever filmed.  The attack of the savages, the stampede in the gorge, and Kong vs. the T-Rexes just to name a few were mind blowing and seem to get better with every viewing. What’s so awesome is that even after those mind blowing scenes are over there is still so much of the movie left, so much more action to look forward to.  This movie runs way too long really, but it doesn’t stop with the intensity or the action.

This is an awesome movie and I think it packs a pay-off that makes it worth anybody’s time to see it.  That says a lot given the movie runs for over three hours but I don’t think you will be disappointed investing that much time in the film.  It is an epic movie and made by the master of epics.  Peter Jackson really knows how to make these kinds of films and he did an excellent job with this one.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is a lot of fun. It’s an adventure throughout and I usually like watching it any time I find it on television. I think the new version is a nice adaptation and has really nice visual effects.

kingkongThis poster is a little boring. I think there were a ton of ways to make this more iconic and visually appealing graphically. There were tons of directions you could go and people would have automatically known what the movie was going to be. King Kong is already so iconic. The designers could have had a lot of fun with this but they lost the chance to do that. There are weird Photoshop glows everywhere too. I think it’s just sloppy. Too bad.

NEXT MOVIE: Kingpin (1996)

The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)

Year: 2008
Directed By: Scott Derrickson
Written By: David Scarpa (who adapted Edmund H. North’s 1951 screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have never seen the original movie this film is based on, but I imagine it was really cool and ahead of its time. I have no way of knowing how it compares to the original but I do think this version of the film is pretty cool.  I can’t imagine the right technology was at hand to make a film like this in 1951 but that hasn’t stopped visionary filmmakers of any generation before.  This movie looked good, it was well stocked with popular actors, and it was exciting for the most part.

Watching it now I am really reminded a lot of the last remake we watched, Dawn of the Dead. The people are just a bit too stupid and too many dumb decisions are made in dealing with the situation at hand. Albeit I could see these exact decisions being made in real life by the government but it is still annoying to see.  This movie makes a strong effort to say something about our humanity but I think it is a message that is overdone and people were tired of hearing it when this movie came out. This movie was not successful at the box office despite relentless advertising and I think it is because the theme has been played out and people weren’t interested in seeing it again in a remake.  Yeah we are a species destroying our own planet. Yes the people we put in charge do not care or do anything to make things better. Yes we multiply and bleed the planet dry of resources relentlessly.  We get it, as long as movies have been made this message has been sent to us in every angle imaginable, from Planet of the Apes to Pixar’s Wall-E.  The fact that this is a remake from a movie made sixty years ago proves that by itself.

This is a visually compelling movie with great special effects, that’s the main reason to watch it.  Beyond that I think that Keanu Reeves performance makes this movie worth wild.  Reeve’s hasn’t really had many hits in his post-Matrix career and this movie definitely wasn’t a hit, but I think he was great as Klaatu.  He was cold and chilling as the alien envoy with really cool abilities.  Jennifer Connelly plays the female lead and she isn’t bad, but I am not a fan of hers. Kathy Bates is also in the movie and while I am a fan of hers I don’t think this was her finest role. There are many television stars in the film including Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler, and Robert Knepper.  I think Will Smith’s kid was really miscast for this movie but the industry seems determined to make both of his kids superstars.

We only own this movie because I bought it used for four dollars or something, I thought it was worth that.  This isn’t the greatest movie we own and it isn’t one of my favorites but it’s not a bad film.  I think that you would enjoy it if you gave it a shot.  Again, I have not seen the original so I could eventually see myself taking back everything I said about this movie.  When I saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004 I didn’t think there was anyway the original could be better because it was so scary and the effects were so good, but I was wrong about that.  I could easily be making a mistake about this film as well simply because it looks good and stars people I recognize.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I really enjoy this movie. I wasn’t sure about it when we watched it the first time, or even when I saw the trailer for the first time, but overall this is a movie that can get into your head and make you think about the human race and the way that we treat the planet. I am not a fan of a Keanu Reeves; I think he is a horrible actor that somehow continues to get jobs. Having said that, it is roles like this one and The Matrix that make it okay for him. Especially this one, where he doesn’t even play a human. Those are the best roles for Reeves in my opinion.

In any case, this movie is moving in the sense that we are treating our planet and each other like shit. We dispose of so much waste that it literally makes me anxious. I have anxiety about the fact that all of this waste we have just goes and sits in a landfill. Eventually those areas are going to run out, and when they do we are going to be overwhelmed with trash and human waste. We also even treat each other like crap. Occasionally, we come together as a race and help others during times of troubles like natural disasters, but that never lasts very long and as soon as the news is old we are out and they are on their own again (Haiti).

This is a moving movie, and although out there with the aliens and all, it provides a good message that we should all treat each other better and also treat this planet better.

NEXT MOVIE: Dazed and Confused (1993)