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#61 Overstreet

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 02:22 PM

I linked to SDG's review on Facebook, which provoked this comment from a guy named Josh Shephard:

Ah, the usual Greydanus/Overstreet error rears its head again: "I never watched 'Lost'... it’s not hard to pull Abrams' work to pieces once you start thinking about it."

That paragraph screams at readers: don't trust my opinion. And they shouldn't.

It's a well-written piece with nice layering of context. True, the film has a language problem. But this misses what Abrams and Spielberg are saying about loss and love, about regret and forgiveness, about mystery and wonder.

The perfect summer movie helmed by sci-fi's best living filmmakers, Super 8 is one everyone should see. And if nothing else, we should refrain from gross generalizations about a show one hasn't seen.


Well, there you go.

#62 John Drew

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 02:49 PM

: Plus the fact that Alien was rated R, at a time when it was a lot harder for kids to sneak into those features (at least at the theatres I went to).

Question: How are these kids such Romero fans, in an era before home video? Methinks they've been doing some sneaking into those features. :)


Probably for the same reasons that I knew who George Romero was, through late night TV horror shows. Up until 1979, I had never seen an R-rated horror film (Alien and/or Dawn of the Dead was my first) in a theatre. But I'd seen plenty on late night TV, thanks to shows like Bob Wilkins' Creature Features broadcasting from Sacramento and San Francisco. Creature Features was the first show to broadcast Night of the Living Dead on TV (in 1973 or 74, I believe), and he would show it annually. I had quite the horror education during my tweens and teens. It seemed to me that wherever my family might go on vacation, each city had their version of a Creature Features. I feel bad for today's kids that don't have a Bob Wilkins, or Elvira, or Peter Vincent type to guide them through the shock and schlock. They made that first foray of seeing an actual horror film in a theatre a bit less intimidating.

If you're interested, here's a link to my tribute to Bob Wilkins, which explains a little more of my exposure to horror pre-video and pre-theatre hopping days. :D

I'd also add that Logan's Run and Star Wars had a lot to do with my early horror education. I'd read everything I could get my hands on that had to do with Star Wars and special effects in general (Starlog magazine and others) which covered not only sci/fi fantasy, but spilled over into horror films.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah, 12 June 2011 - 10:59 AM.


#63 Tyler

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 03:03 PM

I feel bad for today's kids that don't have a Bob Wilkins, or Elvira, or Peter Vincent type to guide them through the shock and schlock.


My dad has told me about watching Svengoolie when he was growing up.

#64 SDG

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 03:58 PM

I linked to SDG's review on Facebook

Huh, I don't see that on your wall.

which provoked this comment from a guy named Josh Shephard

Heh. He sounds like a winner.

Ah, the usual Greydanus/Overstreet error rears its head again

Wow, a meme jointly named for the two of us! I'm honored, Jeff. :) I just wish Mr. Shepherd were a little clearer about what our usual error was, so I would know I was being Overstreetian when I made it.

: "I never watched 'Lost'... it’s not hard to pull Abrams' work to pieces once you start thinking about it."

That paragraph screams at readers: don't trust my opinion. And they shouldn't.

Nice ellipsis, Josh.

It's a well-written piece with nice layering of context. True, the film has a language problem. But this misses what Abrams and Spielberg are saying about loss and love, about regret and forgiveness, about mystery and wonder.

Ha ha ha ... He had me going for a minute there. "Loss and love, regret and forgiveness, mystery and wonder." If anyone left any regret and forgiveness lying around in this story, the characters would have tripped over it.

I'll give Mr. Shepherd this much: Super 8 was obviously made by someone who has seen some movies about loss and love, regret and forgiveness, mystery and wonder, and it has something to say about them. Not the same thing.

The perfect summer movie helmed by sci-fi's best living filmmakers, Super 8 is one everyone should see.

It was "helmed" by more than one person?

And if nothing else, we should refrain from gross generalizations about a show one hasn't seen.

I assume this refers to saying "'Lost' is a mess," since the comment above was made in reference to Star Trek. For that, the haunted looks in the eyes of my Lostie friends is enough.

Edited by SDG, 11 June 2011 - 04:05 PM.


#65 Overstreet

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 06:06 PM

I linked to SDG's review on Facebook

Huh, I don't see that on your wall.


Steven, I know it's confusing, and my repeated mentions of this on my wall don't seem very effective: But I use http://facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreet only for occasional notes. My regular, busy Facebook page is here: http://facebook.com/...reyoverstreethq (You have to choose "LIKE" to get those results on your FB home-page feed.) That's where I talk about movies most often. (Also in operation: http://facebook.com/TheAuraliaThread and http://facebook.com/...ghaScreenDarkly .)

#66 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 10:01 PM

SDG wrote:
: Ha ha ha ... He had me going for a minute there. "Loss and love, regret and forgiveness, mystery and wonder." If anyone left any regret and forgiveness lying around in this story, the characters would have tripped over it.

Yeah, and what's with the "mystery and wonder"? It's been a few years now since I first heard a lot of hoo-ha about "mystery" in connection with J.J. Abrams and his "mystery box", or whatever it's called, and it has always seemed to me that Abrams has very little to say about "mystery" and a lot to say about "secrets", which are NOT the same thing.

: It was "helmed" by more than one person?

Spielberg is notoriously hands-off when it comes to "producing" films, and in some cases (e.g. Joe Dante's Gremlins -- which apparently shares at least one cast member with Super 8!), he has made a point of defending directors' visions against the studio's wishes. So the fact that a film is "produced" by Spielberg generally means that he serves as its patron (and as one of the people who gets a cut of the revenue!), but it doesn't mean that he has made a point of having all that much input into the finished product.

All to say: Yeah, I agree. Abrams "helmed" the film, obviously, but Spielberg...?

#67 SDG

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:35 PM

My review has generated some interesting combox discussion between a defender of the film (who thinks I should "revisit this film when you’ve taken some peptobismol or sipped a nice cup of tea") and myself.

My thesis: Super 8 falls between the movie nostalgia of Raiders and the wrenching themes of E.T. It subjects the characters of the one to the trauma of the other, but the characters themselves are as paper-thin as the other, and the juxtaposition doesn't work.

#68 LibrarianDeb

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 03:45 PM

I'm not a fan of this genre of film in the first place and I've never seen any of Abrams previous work.

I didn't leave the theater impressed, rather I wanted to so see E.T. or Stand By Me to see this type of film done well.

The EW review opens with the following:

"Loving, Playful, and spectacularly well made, Super 8 is easily the best summer movie of the year — of many years. And I make that declaration with full knowledge that the season has just begun."

That statement makes me want to stay in my basement watching Netflix until the fall when this year's equivalent of The King's Speech is released


#69 Tyler

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 03:51 PM

when this year's equivalent of The King's Speech is released


The Sarah Palin documentary?

#70 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 09:06 PM

Another nitpicky point: This film takes place in June or July 1979 (four months after a prologue that takes place in February, and right after the end of the school year), and we see a gas-station attendant listening to music on something he calls a "Walkman" ... but the first Walkman went on sale in Japan in July 1979, and it didn't become available in the U.S. until June 1980 ... at which point it was marketed as the "Soundabout". The name "Walkman" wasn't attached to the American version of the device until slightly later.

Oh, right! Moviefone has just reminded me that this film also makes reference to Rubik's Cubes, which technically WERE created in 1974 by a Hungarian architect (and first sold in Budapest toy stores in 1977), but Rubik didn't make his deal with Ideal Toy Corp. until September 1979, and the toys weren't actually sold in the U.S. until 1980.

So, that's yet ANOTHER element that makes this movie a work of 1980s nostalgia even though the movie is set, for some unknown reason, in the 1970s.

#71 opus

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 11:03 PM

Saw Super 8 earlier tonight with the wife and enjoyed it. As I posted on Twitter/Facebook, I'm very glad I saw it but I don't necessarily need to see it again. IIRC, some folks were talking about a twist, but what twist were they talking about? The fact that the alien was actually just trying to go home and had only been turned "bad" by the military? If so, there's nothing really twist-y about that; it strikes me as a pretty standard genre convention.

Some other thoughts:

1) Loved all of the kids in the film and felt like most of them were given moments to shine, not just the two leads. I like it when a movie is generous like that.

2) The scene where the two main kids are in the bedroom, watching Super 8 footage of the mom, just about killed me because I started thinking of what my kids would do were they to (God forbid) lose their mother.

3) After the movie, my wife mentioned that she hadn't been prepared for how uncertain she felt as to the "type" of movie she was watching. Is it an alien film? A first love/crush movie? A film about a father and son? That's not to say that she disliked that about the movie, and in fact, that was one of the things that I liked the most.

4) Our favorite scene in the movie was when the kids were rehearsing the scene at the train station. Alice is running through her big emotional speech to her "husband" and in the background, you can see one of the other kids mouthing words into the payphone. Just cracked us up.

5) The movie's weakest link was the father. It's not that I think the father was unsympathetic or anything, but I'm not sure if the movie knew what to do with him. One minute, he's crying in the bathroom, the next he's a harsh authoritarian figure, the next he's a hardcore action hero knocking out military guards. Just felt off to me.

6) I've come to enjoy movies that depict loud, boisterous families, and so I enjoyed the scenes that took place at the Kaznyk household. True, it was over the top, what with all of the yelling and screaming, the rebellious teenage daughter, etc. And yet... I liked how the movie hinted at how much the main character wanted something like that as opposed to the sterility, coldness, and distance of his home.

Edited by opus, 17 June 2011 - 11:12 PM.


#72 NBooth

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 09:50 AM

Saw Super 8 earlier tonight with the wife and enjoyed it. As I posted on Twitter/Facebook, I'm very glad I saw it but I don't necessarily need to see it again. IIRC, some folks were talking about a twist, but what twist were they talking about? The fact that the alien was actually just trying to go home and had only been turned "bad" by the military? If so, there's nothing really twist-y about that; it strikes me as a pretty standard genre convention.


Oh, and it wasn't just that, was it? Nearly everything that happens is similarly predictable--I'm thinking particularly of revelations late in the movie concerning the main character's mother's death. The plot isn't exactly a marvel of complexity.

The kids are good, though (well--I found Elle Fanning a little bland, aside from the rehearsal scene you mention). I would happily watch a whole movie that consists of just these kids making a zombie movie (according to Abram's interview on Fresh Air, that was how it was supposed to be originally). Actually, after seeing the movie, I realized that this would make a pretty neat double feature with Son of Rambow. The sf stuff, though? Not so much.

Edited by NBooth, 18 June 2011 - 09:51 AM.


#73 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 10:34 PM

NBooth wrote:
: The kids are good, though (well--I found Elle Fanning a little bland, aside from the rehearsal scene you mention).

I'd have to say the scene where the boy puts the zombie make-up on her is also way cool.

: I would happily watch a whole movie that consists of just these kids making a zombie movie (according to Abram's interview on Fresh Air, that was how it was supposed to be originally).

Really? When -- at what stage of the development process -- did it turn into something else?

#74 NBooth

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 12:35 AM

: I would happily watch a whole movie that consists of just these kids making a zombie movie (according to Abram's interview on Fresh Air, that was how it was supposed to be originally).

Really? When -- at what stage of the development process -- did it turn into something else?


The impression I got from the interview was that it was about halfway through development; Abrams had already contacted Spielberg, but the script wasn't working, for some reason or another, and he got the idea to use another story he was working on, about a train transporting cargo from Area 51, to give it whatever extra something it was missing.

#75 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 01:50 AM

Question: Why does this movie take place in 1979?

I mean, given that it trades so heavily in 1980s nostalgia -- with nods to Spielberg films like E.T. (1982) and The Goonies (1985), a trailer that uses music from Cocoon (1985), and even an explicit reference to the Walkman, which wasn't even available in the U.S. until 1980 (and possibly not by that name until sometime later) -- you would think the movie would, itself, be set in the 1980s.

But, no, it's set in the 1970s. The LATE 1970s, to be sure. But still, it is NOT set in the 1980s.

Hmmm, Steve Sailer hints at a possible answer:

In an isolated industrial town in Ohio in the summer of 1979, some 13 year old boys are filming a zombie movie on Super 8 film under the direction of an ambitious fat kid who looks like J.J. Abrams (b. 1966).



#76 winter shaker

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 12:34 AM

I finally got around to seeing Super 8. My brief thoughts...

It reminded me of a cross between Stand By Me and Cloverfield. Neither I nor my friends knew what to expect because of all the secrecy surrounding the movie (plus I had made sure I didn't read any spoilers/reviews). I agree opus that the father didn't really have a focused role. I thought the ending was disappointing and abrupt although, unlike my friends who thought it was "cheesy", I did like the part where the father and son are together and the locket is being pulled away and the locket opens to reveal the mother's picture. I also liked the scene where the son slaps the girl.

#77 David Smedberg

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 07:46 PM

On Friday, my parents and my two youngest siblings were in an Amtrak train that was hit on the side by a truck. They are all fine, thank God. One of the other passengers said it "felt like a movie".

Now, the train did not derail. We don't know exactly how fast the truck was going -- it did try to stop, but skidded for over 100 yards and still struck the side of the train directly. (My family members may -- may -- owe their life to the fact that the train didn't derail.)

This got me thinking about the train crash in Super 8. I was already skeptical that the train would have derailed under the circumstances that take place in this movie. Now, I am even more so. The pickup truck was either stopped or moving pretty slowly at the time of the crash. What's more, it was traveling directly opposite to the train--not perpendicular, as this truck was. And in Super 8, the train was a fully loaded freight train, weighing many more tons than the Amtrak passenger train my family was on. Yet, the Super 8 train derails spectacularly. Yet another movie science fail?

FWIW, Unstoppable was the movie that was replaying in my mind during the uncertain few hours before I knew for sure they were all OK. Probably because that movie really strives for realism.

Edited by David Smedberg, 26 June 2011 - 07:48 PM.


#78 John Drew

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 08:50 PM

This got me thinking about the train crash in Super 8. I was already skeptical that the train would have derailed under the circumstances that take place in this movie. Now, I am even more so. The pickup truck was either stopped or moving pretty slowly at the time of the crash. What's more, it was traveling directly opposite to the train--not perpendicular, as this truck was. And in Super 8, the train was a fully loaded freight train, weighing many more tons than the Amtrak passenger train my family was on. Yet, the Super 8 train derails spectacularly. Yet another movie science fail?


First, it's wonderful to hear that your family is safe. This indeed could have been tragic.

As to the "science fail"... Here's a photo of a Metrolink vs. Jeep Cherokee collision that happened in 2005, about a mile from where I work, on the very line that I now take into work.

Posted Image


The Cherokee had been abandoned on the tracks (the driver claimed he was attempting suicide, then changed his mind). The metrolink hit at about 30 mph, causing the cars to jackknife, killing 11 and injuring nearly 200. True, this is a lighter train than the freight depicted in Super 8, but I, for one, would not want to be near something similar.

#79 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 10:40 PM

Not-Quite-Super 8
I’m not impressed by Abrams’s C.G.I., but, rather, by his B.S.U. (Blowing Shit Up). The scene in question, early in the film, is superbly choreographed, with railroad cars flying balletically and careening into each other, scattering debris that becomes part of the sublime catastrophe, and it keeps going on and on, in a remarkably long and intricate chain reaction that unleashes metallic menace from unexpected angles and conjures the only moment of real fear that the movie’s kids won’t all come out all right. What’s impressive about the scene, in addition to its sheer kinetic delight, is Abrams’s own evident joy: it’s the only moment in the film where his visual conception and artistic imagination outstrips the demands of the script—and, above all, the film’s moral tone—to evoke the dark side of pleasure in destruction.
The movie’s producer is Steven Spielberg, and “Super 8” shares with Spielberg’s work an absence of Id: its motives and resolutions are sociable, reasonable, and humane—extending all the way to the (thinly conceived and poorly revealed) monster. I wish that Abrams found a way to tap into the absolute otherness of the Other; even the homemade zombie movie that the kids shoot, and that we see at the end, is tamed and tamped-down, despite its amateur gore. And the closest he comes to admitting the joy of evil—his own latent monstrosity, the possibility that he really might enjoy seeing his sweet young heroes get bashed around at his own almighty directorial hands—is in the train-wreck scene, wtih all its catastrophic magnificence. The scene’s extra-moral excitement is precisely in its excess, digital or otherwise. . . .
Richard Brody, New Yorker, June 22

#80 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 07:11 PM

David Poland puts the film's Spielbergianism in perspective:

If Super 8 is an homage to Spielberg, great. I get that. We all got that. So how did it stack up against that standard? This is not “I like that movie.” Plenty of people like the movie. As I noted in my gently negative review, there are plenty of things I liked about it. But if we’re reliving Uncle Steve’s genius, does this film deliver on that?

You know, it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Zemeckis, Robbins, Columbus, Silberling, Sonnenfeld, other newcomers, and later work by Dante, Donner, Kasdan, Bay, and lately, Eastwood have all been supported and built via some Spielberg largesse. And their films with him have, for the most part, contained the sentimentalism that is Spielberg’s clearest trademark.

So do the things that JJ Abrams does in Super 8 that add to the Spielberg tone live up to that legacy? We’ve seen Spielberg do kids and misunderstood monsters and aliens and threats to the planet. If we love what Spielberg did with them – 20/20/rose-colored hindsight for some critics – does Abrams’ take deliver as well… visually… but more importantly, emotionally?