A Super Gr(8) Nod to Spielberg

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Did you see any movies this weekend?

I have yet to see The Hangover Part Two; it’s now crossed the $200 million dollar mark so even if it’s nowhere near as entertaining as the first Hangover, it’s probably going to be every bit as lucrative and then some. The thing everyone says (love it or hate it) is that H2 is identical to the original, plotwise. For better or worse. Now the movie I saw this weekend isn’t identical to any predecessors, but it does follow a pretty specific formula (there’s a difference) and the result is one really great summer popcorn flick. In fact, it’s actually one film geek’s homage to probably the most successful film geek of all.

In terms of sheer adrenaline rush Super 8  totally blows X-Men: First Class and Pirates out of the water. It’s completely fun, really well acted, and you will definitely jump out of your seat from time to time. It’s a fantastically nostalgic ride through 1979 and the whole thing has a Spielberg sheen and sound that is inescapable. Now, if you were around in 1979 (which I was) and you are a fan of those films like ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark and saw them in the theater (which I did) and you were also too scared by Close Encounters to go see it (that would be me again) you’ll probably enjoy Super 8 a lot.  It’s a great formula, and JJ Abrams doesn’t skimp on any of the essential ingredients in his unabashed tribute to Speilberg (and kinda George Lucas too).

First, you take a couple of kids, both curious and very determined  – one’s husky, one’s geeky & irritating, one’s geeky & terrified, one’s geeky & foolhardy and one’s thoughtful, measured and patient  (this is how we know he is the star).Then we have the vaguely brooding local sheriff/deputy type who’s a single father and who must – inadvertently – become a one-man vigilante of truth (Jaws, anyone?) even though it may not be his style. Plus add the mysterious government cover up/ dangerous threat to society that’s popping out of nowhere. Fold in mass hysteria in a small town and garnish with creepy things rocketing out of the trees spiriting people away, and you’ve got it.

Nor, of course is this movie really about monsters, or evil, or the dangerous military, so much as it’s about relationships and family. Spielberg is above all a very personal director and JJ Abrams is proving to be one too.  Come on, do we not all remember the familial dynamic in ET ? Do we not know that Roy Scheider needed – along with a bigger boat – a certain mythic man/beast triumph in his humdrum life? Spielberg – for all his wizardry and genius effects – is really a phenomenal storyteller concerned with touching each and every one of his viewers in a personal way. That’s what makes them so powerful – and JJ Abrams knows this. He’s made a marvelous movie (which Spielberg also produced). That said, Super 8 is not going to knock   ET, Jaws , Close Encounters or Raiders off their respective thrones (largely because they set the bar so egregiously high. And did so about a hundred years before anyone else.) But for a big summer movie filled with drama, cover-ups, one unbelievable train wreck and some ultra-believable kids it’s pretty delectable stuff.

Today’s poll:

Super 8, in theaters now, was inspired by the films of Steven Spielberg. Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these Spielberg films is your favorite:

1)   Close Encounters

2)   ET

3)   Jaws

4)   Raiders of the Lost Ark

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