If it's crap ... We'll tell you
SUPER 8 (Blu-Ray and DVD)...A Special Guest Review by LEON
Sorry, if you got worked up by all of the promotion that made you think (or wish) that ‘Super 8’ was going to be something as original(ish) as a sequel to 'Cloverfield'. I dare say that whenever Steven Spielberg is too old to make films or dies and the Academy of Arts & Sciences lovingly crafts a glowing tribute montage of his life’s work, it will still not be as much of a sycophantic love letter as J.J. Abram’s movie. Like so many of the Spielberg produced or directed films from 70’s-90’s, 'Super 8' is a paean to older films and mixes that part of childhood where tween crosses over to teenager with larger than life adventure. It takes place in a small town, an all-white suburb (ala 'E.T.'; 'Poltergeist', endless amounts of etc) in Ohio where a group of six quirky (most of the time raunchy) middle schoolers set out on a quest (ala 'The Goonies') to shoot their own amateur zombie movie. The stand-out leads are: the handsome-ish but shy Joe (Joel Courtney), his fat, obnoxious best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths), and the tag along cute girl Alice (Elle Fanning), all of this ala 'Monster House'. While trying to film an important night scene down by the local freight train depot, they spot a truck barreling at an oncoming train driven by a local Science Teacher/ ex-government scientist, played by actor Glynn Turnman (who was also the local scientist in 'Gremlins'). In the ensuing bombastic collision some…thing escapes (perhaps an extra-terrestrial?) that wreaks mysterious havoc on the town. Eventually the less-than-altruistic government agents and military, bum-rush the town (again, 'E.T.') to apprehend something that may be deadly... or is it just misunderstood? Without dipping any further into what could be spoiler territory, I will tell you that near the end there is an obligatory scene of a crowd in awe of something that was inarguably directly lifted from 'Close Encounter of the Third Kind'. Besides being too derivative (even WAY more so than 'Superman Returns' cribbed from previous Superman films), it takes too long to reveal the mystery and even then it can’t make up its mind about what that mystery even is. When you take a second to think about it, you might conclude that the “bad guys” were right all along. On the plus side, Dakota Fanning’s little sister Elle Fanning gets to show that unmistakably, talent runs in that family. And despite the weak ending of the film, at the very, very end you get the treat of seeing the completed zombie film that the kids shot, and yes, it’s more entertaining than the feature that precedes it. I suppose if you haven’t seen any of Spielberg’s film from that era, 'Super 8' serves as the Cliff’s Notes version of them. It’s funny because Spielberg himself moved past directing movies like this a long time ago. He just kicks back and let movies like 'Super 8', 'Monster House' and 'Reel Steel'do half-assed versions of what he used to do so well, for him.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Super 8 (Blu-Ray)
THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT/DARK ANGEL (DVD)
Much like with Warner Brother's Archive collection, MGM has been putting out some of their smaller archived titles through a new-ish "Limited Edition Collection" on DVD. Naturally, there's some hidden gems in amongst the filler titles, although the two I asked to get for review certainly qualify me for the sanctified 'b-movie fan' category. Some might argue that the British film "The Quatermass Experiment" shouldn't qualify as a b-movie. It was originally a well-received 1953 BBC miniseries, and then was made into this 1995 theatrical release by Hammer Films, which was a giant hit in the UK and became the first Hammer film distributed in America. But come on. It's about the lone surviving astronaut who returns from an experimental early space mission (Richard Wordsworth) who turns out to be infected by some alien thingee that makes him absorb any life form he comes into contact with. For some reason, it's a cactus plant he generally has decided to take the features of (not the brightest alien parasitical force in the universe apparently), and soon all of England is under threat. It's thoroughly silly stuff, really dated, and it never really makes a lot of sense...BUT...it was the first Hammer horror film, which spawned two sequels as well as a recent remake, and you've got to give it some credit for its place in history. No such excuses can be made for "Dark Angel", which everyone in North America actually knows as the Dolph Lundgren 1990 sci-fi action film "I Come in Peace". Dolph plays a 'hot shot' cop (as they all were in Hollywood films of the time) who isn't afraid to break the rules (and blow up a ton of shit) in order to stop the bad guys. Therefore, he ends up being the ideal guy to deal with the murderous drug-dealing alien (Matthias Hues) who is endorphin-draining people around Houston...to death! Even while saddled with a by-the-book partner (Brian Benben, who's actually the best thing about this), Dolph will do whatever it takes to stop ANY drug dealer, especially some illegal alien assface, from screwing up his town. Oh, what a glorious 80's (I don't care if it came out in 1990, it's 80's, believe me) disaster of a film this is. I'm still trying to get our local film satire boys (Master Pancake Theater) to tackle this one theatrically. Both of these releases are bare-bones, but generally inexpensive and well worth picking up for folks who like to watch movies with a group of like-minded, half-drunk, snarky folks making their own commentary.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Quatermass Xperiment (DVD)
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Dark Angel (DVD)