Lost

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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Planet Terror

Year: 2007
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie came out on DVD I bought it on the spot having not yet seen it. I watched it frequently after getting it and often fell asleep with it on. This movie goes back to menu when it’s over and that song plays over and over again if you don’t turn off your television. I have slept many a night with that song playing nonstop like a personal soundtrack through my dreams. It has been burned into a brain in such a way that when I am old and everything else is gone I will probably hum the tune from this film. I love the song and every single time I pop in the DVD I get this funny feeling from that music. It sucks me in and pulls something inside of me to the surface. That score, as much as anything else, is what makes this an awesome movie for me.

Another obvious thing that makes this movie awesome is the intro. Let me pose a question for anybody reading this now. Is there anything hotter than Rose McGowan in the opening scene of this movie? She is as sexy as any woman I have ever seen, barring my wife of course, dancing on stage to the music by Robert Rodriguez. I don’t understand why she has had such a limited career in acting over the years. I can’t really find any flaw in her talent and she is hot enough to pull off plenty of roles but for some reason she has been limited to films, more or less like this one. This was an intentional B movie and it was fitting for her being cast as she is mainly a B actress. I don’t understand why though. I think she is awesome in this movie and she portrays one of my favorite heroines of all time.

You can say whatever you want about Rose McGowan, but she is a badass as Cherry Darling. Not only is her opening dance scene smoking hot but when she gets her new leg she is an utter badass. I love when she launches herself over the wall and starts mowing down the infected soldiers while utilizing her dance moves. In a movie like this is doesn’t really matter how reasonable it is for a go-go dancer to suddenly become such a badass.  All that matters is what is and this just so happens to be really freakin cool.

I have written many times throughout this blog that when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on these Grindhouse films that Rodriguez proved to be the better filmmaker. Tarantino made what amounted to a 2 hour chick flick with a thrill ride at the end in his half of the collaboration, Death Proof. With this film Rodriguez not only made an awesome film, he did it all himself. He wrote this film, directed it, produced it, edited it, and even wrote the music for the film. It may have been an intentionally campy B movie but with this film he showcased a hell of a lot of talent. It’s one of the reasons I consider him such an incredible filmmaker. One thing Rodriguez never forgets as a filmmaker is the cool factor. I’ve always been a proponent of the cool factor in any movie. If it’s not cool then what good is it? You can just about guarantee that when Rodriguez gets behind camera what he produces will look cool. It may come out as overkill and sometimes even silly but it will be cool and you can take that to the bank.

This movie, if nothing else, is cool and that all starts with the cast. Rodriguez always gets a good group of latino actors into all his films but acting side by side with them are always A list actors. In the part of his misunderstood Latino badass he cast Freddy Rodriguez, no relation. He may have looked silly riding that tiny motorcycle at one point in the film but he fought with the ferocity of a samurai when wielding his butterfly knives in the hospital on his way to save Cherry. In the bad guy roles he has A list actors Bruce Willis and Josh Brolin. Now I have mentioned before I didn’t understand what rock Josh Brolin suddenly crawled out from under but it was right around the time this movie came out he did so. After doing nothing really noteworthy since 1985 in The Goonies he burst onto the map in 2007 with five films, this among them. Bruce Willis is an actor welcome in just about anything. I remember when I saw him in the G.I. JOE sequel I felt like these days he would do just about anything for the paycheck but movies since have proved he’s still got it. I hate what he continues to do with the Die Hard franchise but I could never honestly criticize Willis. He has been an awesome actor as long as I have been alive.

I love that Michael Biehn is in this movie. It’s one of the reasons it stands out to me. I have always been a fan of the original Kyle Reese and I have never understood why his career didn’t take off in other ways. He is part of one of my favorite parts in this movie. When the surviving group arrives at the BBQ joint his deputy, played by cult icon Tom Savini, asks him if he’s sure about this. In his hand Savini shakes a box label “All or Nothing Box.” When Biehn confirms Savini dumps the box full of badges on the hood of the car while Biehn tells everyone they have now been deputized. I love the concept of the “all or nothing box” and how obvious it is utilized in this movie. After arming all of them he walks up the hill and tells them, “don’t shoot each other, don’t shoot yourselves, and most importantly (he turns to face them) don’t shoot me!” Such an awesome actor how is it that Michael Biehn didn’t do more with his career? I don’t know the answer to that so if anybody does know please enlighten me, and I will not accept that he just isn’t a good actor when so many others made it and he didn’t.

I’m unfamiliar with Marley Shelton, and still haven’t seen her in anything else since this movie, but she is great as the nurse with her three little friends. I used to have a poster hanging in my home of her character Dr. Block holding up a syringe, mascara running down from her wild looking eyes, with the tag line “just a little prick.” I loved that poster but Amber won’t let me display it in our home anymore and I to agree it’s probably a bit much for our young children. I still have it though and one way or another it will one day have its place on display again.

I love how aggressive this movie is. It’s aggressive in so many ways. It is aggressively exaggerated and aggressively obvious at times. I think it is interesting to look back at a movie like this in 2007 and hear the big bad guy, Bruce Willis, claim to have been the soldier who killed Osama Bin Laden. Of course we know now that not only was he not dead in 2007 but he somehow continued to live his lavish lifestyle while alluding capture for more than a decade. My main point is that this movie now stands in an interesting place historically as it represents a time when we had no idea what had become of the world’s greatest enemy. The number one villain in American history had been unaccounted for for so long that a movie like this aggressively puts forth one of the many theories to what had to have happened. It represents American thinking in such an interesting way. The idea that he had simply gotten away wasn’t considered or accepted by the public as the great almighty United States would never allow such a man to escape punishment. We know now that not only did he do just that but he lived unencumbered for longer than anyone thought was possible.

I feel compelled to wrap this up now but I could never say enough about this movie. I’m not even satisfied with everything I have covered so far but have let it sit to long. It’s time to release it into the world. There is more to say about this movie though, and I encourage any film fan out there to see it. See it to compare the styles and abilities of Tarantino vs. Rodriguez. See it to learn the kind of thing the American public had about Osama Bin Laden 6 years after 9/11. See it because it is a cool movie that is fun to sit back and enjoy. It would be easy to pass of the Grindhouse films as a camp and nothing significant but that would be wrong. These movies are special because there is so much to get out of them. So much to enjoy about them. This is one of my favorite movies ever and I suggest it to all but the faint of heart that I simply don’t think could handle it.

One more thing because I can’t deal with the fact that I didn’t fit it in. Naveen Andrews is awesome in this movie and Hollywood needs more of this guy. I liked what he brought to the role and he has one of the coolest deaths in the film. Bound to spark argument, I am no a fan of Lost. I think J.J. Abrams is a terrific filmmaker but also a wizard when it comes to duping people into watching something like mindless zombies. Lost equals the carrot on a stick Abrams held in front of the American public for years before he could get his hands onto bigger and better things. I watched three seasons of it and to this day consider every hour of every episode I watch wasted and spitefully hold a grudge for the time I lost. I have had people argue with me about the show till they were blue in the face but as I am to understand the ending was just as vague as everything else on the show. You don’t put f-ing polar bears in the jungle and make the audience wonder why for years with no reason why, motherf-ing YEARS! My question to anybody is, “how is that good enough for you?” To this day I am still puzzled by the people who talk about how great it was. Nevertheless I consider J.J. Abrams to be quite capable and look forward to what he does with Star Wars.

NEXT MOVIE: Platoon (1986)