Monthly Archives

June 2011

Movie Review: SUPER 8

*No spoilers*

When I read this article on yesterday that reported J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 is tracking softly because he’s being so secretive about it, I found it ridiculous. Moviegoers are supposedly not eager to see it because the writer/director won’t reveal certain plot points or pictures of the creature? So they’d be more interested if the trailer gives away everything?

I attended an advance screening of Super 8 tonight and let me say: Abrams is doing the right thing. Go see the movie before too much chatter ruins it for you. It was the most fun I had at the cinema in a long time.

From L: Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths

Set in 1979, it took me back to the summer flicks of my childhood, movies that were not in 3D or dominated by green-screen effects, entertainment that contained a good story, character development, and skillful acting—completely foreign concepts to the Michael Bays of the world. It’s reminiscent of E.T., Stand by Me, and Jurassic Park, in that it’s a coming-of-age tale about friendship and family but has lots of moments that made me jump, gasp, then titter as I anticipated the next thrill around the corner. (The big dude sitting next to me jumped so far out of his seat one time, he almost landed on top of me.) The train crash teased in the trailer is spectacular in a disaster-movie way, and Abrams knew exactly where to sprinkle witty lines among all the action and suspense.

The movie is anchored by a group of young thespians so naturally gifted, they don’t appear to be acting at all. Their friendship seems lived-in and their dialogue believable for middle-school kids who have known each other for years. The standouts are Joel Courtney as Joe and Elle Fanning as Alice. It’s astonishing that this is Courtney’s first acting gig. He can make you ache for him without saying anything, he can reveal Joe’s heart without any Method-y business. Fanning should finally be declared a star in her own right. Kyle Chandler provides solid support as Joe’s dad, a harried deputy sheriff trying to hold a small town together in the face of some weird goings on.

Chandler (L) with Abrams

Holding it all together off camera is Abrams, who has obviously learned a thing or two from Steven Spielberg, one of Super 8′s producers. Thematically and stylistically, the movie is old-school Spielbergian (it even has a John Williams-ish score by Michael Giacchino) and is Abrams’s best directorial effort to date. His strength here is in knowing when to hold back and when to reveal. And the place for the reveal is in a dark theater, not a trailer you watch on your Smartphone.

Nerd verdict: A 10 for Super 8

Photos: Paramount Pictures


Book Review: BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson

Despite this novel’s title, do not read it at bedtime. Because you won’t sleep. Next thing you know, it’ll be 5 a.m. and you’ll be wondering how the night had vanished.

In S.J. Watson’s debut thriller, Before I Go to Sleep (Harper, June 14), Christine doesn’t have trouble sleeping. She just can’t remember anything when she wakes up. Every morning, her memory reboots and she has to relearn everything about her life, the strange man in her bed, and how she arrived at this condition. At her therapist’s suggestion, she starts recording details in a secret journal, and finds that the people around her may not be telling her the whole truth, if any at all. Worse yet, what she doesn’t know could definitely hurt or even kill her.

Amnesia seems to be the theme du jour this summer; Sleep is the first of three books I’ll review over the next week in which memory loss plays a key role. It’s also the most claustrophobic. The scope of Christine’s fractured mind is already small; it threatens to completely close in on her every night. Watson’s use of first person present tense (her journal entries are in past tense) traps the reader along with Christine in a shifting and shifty world in which a feeling of menace lurks. Her reality changes from day to day, and the only person she can fully trust is herself, but even that is questionable considering her mental state. If she could, Christine would probably say to Ingrid Bergman’s character in Gaslight, “You think you have problems?”

The only slight downside for me was being able to figure out what was going on about two thirds into the book. I wasn’t trying to spoil the fun for myself, mind you; Christine doesn’t get out much or meet many people so this limits the number of possible conclusions. But I didn’t have all the answers and Watson kept me pinned until I did. When I awoke the next morning, the memory of this book was still with me, and it will probably linger in your mind, too, after you put it to bed.

Nerd verdict: Anxiety-laced Sleep will keep you awake

Buy this from Amazon| B&N| Indie Bookstores


Nerdy Links

Got lazy busy this week despite (because of?) the short week so I’ll just post or link to a few things I found interesting around the web.

Here’s the international poster for David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I have no idea why Lisbeth is half-frontal naked. Because she’s not objectified enough or the movie needs more attention?

Entertainment Weekly reports that Martin Scorsese might direct a biopic about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Not sure this would be a good idea. Who amongst our contemporary stars could play the iconic couple? EW suggests Clive Owen and I’d be completely behind that, but I’d have to say no to Catherine Zeta-Jones. The actress is gorgeous but oddly lacks charisma. Do you have any casting ideas?

The funny video below, George Lucas Strikes Back, explains why the Star Wars prequels were so awful: Lucas was kidnapped twenty years ago and an impostor made those movies. Short Round makes a cameo in this “trailer” and the actress playing Leia really has her Carrie Fisher impression down.

The Rap Sheet put together a list of 100 crime fiction novels you should check out this summer. I’ve read some of them; there’s some good stuff on there.

One of the books on the list, Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games, is in my top three of favorites so far this year. It’s the first in a trilogy featuring a great new character named Charlie Hardie. Duane is doing a fun giveaway for those who pre-order F&G. Prizes include personalized copies of his five previous novels, postcards from him as he travels across America on his book tour later this month, and the chance to name a character in the third Hardie book. Get the scoop here.

David Sedaris has a new short story out. It’ll be published in the paperback version of his Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk but you can read it here now. It’s titled “Vomit-Eating Flies” and isn’t for readers with weak stomachs but it has his trademark wit and commentary.

June 1 would’ve been Marilyn Monroe’s 85th birthday, so LIFE released rare photos from when she was a 22-year-old actress just starting her career. The pictures show her taking ballet, acting and singing lessons, and Marilyn seems delighted by everything. See the rest of the gallery here.

Photo by J.R. Eyerman/LIFE

Finally, my Friday reads are Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot and Karin Slaughter’s Broken. What are you reading?

Have a great weekend!

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