‘Super 8’ falls well short of vintage Steven Spielberg
Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney star in “Super 8.”
- ‘Super 8’
★★ 1/2 (out of four)
2011, Dir. J.J. Abrams, U.S.
- New films
Director: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis.
Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson.
The plot: Lightning McQueen, pit boss Mater, and the rest of
Lightning’s crew enter the Race of Champions, a multi-national
event taking place in Japan, Germany, Italy, France, and England
Director: Jake Kasdan.
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel.
The plot: Dumped by her sugar daddy, an unsaintly schoolteacher
targets one of her colleagues as her next lover — a plan that pits
her against a popular co-worker.
- Film roundup
‘X-Men: First Class’
★★★ 1/2 (out of four)
Matthew Vaughn is no Christopher Nolan, and “X-Men: First Class”
is no “Dark Knight.” Vaughn does not completely reinvent the genre
here, nor does he dabble in philosophy and subversive themes, as
Nolan does. Vaughn plays things relatively straight (a little
homosexual subtext notwithstanding), but he assembles his
old-fashioned picture with deft precision and confidence. Nolan
wrote the book on how to completely retool a franchise from the
ground up, but Vaughn deserves his own accolades for providing a
template for how to resurrect a good-as-dead film series while
still remaining true to the predecessors’ tone and overall
‘The Hangover Part II’
★★★ (out of four)
I went into “The Hangover Part II” with the understanding that I
would be witnessing a cynical act of studio-sanctioned pandering,
and that’s exactly what I got. Yet, since I was going in with
lowered expectations, I was able to let my guard down and
appreciate this crass cash-grab on its own limited terms. And, lo
and behold, I had a good time. I suppose the importance of
creativity is diminished when one is faced with the prospect of a
drug-dealing capuchin monkey riding a motorcycle. Or a heterosexual
man being seduced by a Thai lady-boy, or any number of the other
lewd gags the film lays out with record speed.
‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger
★★★ (out of four)
You see, against all odds and despite what you may have heard
from basically everybody you’ve ever met, “Pirates of the
Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is not a bad film. It is not
aggressively stupid, as some have charged, nor is it woefully
boring. Its horridness will not inspire you to burn effigies, and
it is not among the worst films you will see this year. In fact, in
many respects, it is indistinguishable from the rest of the movies
in the series.
But that’s the problem. Uninspired, inert and listless on every
conceivable level, “On Stranger Tides” is perfectly content to
simply exist alongside its predecessors without setting itself
apart in any meaningful way. The result is a summer spectacle
without the spectacle. With nothing even remotely new or
interesting to offer audiences, the film just sits there, waiting
for you to be impressed simply by virtue of the fact that you are
watching a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
In some ways, “Bridesmaids” is a breath of fresh air for
audiences who tire of the same old “chick flick” formula. Styling
itself after the gross-out/heartwarming comedies of filmmakers like
Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips, the movie attempts to tackle female
subjects with the crudeness and irreverence typically reserved for
the boys. The result is a raunch-fest that wears its heart on its
sleeve, and if you’re keeping track by counting laughs per minute,
“Bridesmaids” easily stands up to the best gross-out comedies of
the past few years.
Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 11:41 am
Steven Spielberg has been producing films for more than 30 years
now, and it is becoming increasingly unclear what, exactly, the
Spielberg production credit means at this point. In 1982, with
“Poltergeist,” it meant that he essentially ghost-directed the
film, by all credible accounts. Decades and hundreds of millions of
dollars later, the man seems to be slapping his name on anything he
can get his hands on, with little to no concern for the actual
quality of the production. (“Eagle Eye,” anyone? I thought
Spielberg‘s latest offering, “Super 8,” then represents an
interesting case. Here is a film that is fashioned from the
Spielberg model, from the themes of childhood innocence right down
to the director’s trademark photography techniques. Director J.J.
Abrams (the television power player who has attempted to make the
leap to the big screen, with limited success, with “Mission:
Impossible III” and “Star Trek”) has aped Spielberg so well that,
sans credits, one could conceivably mistake “Super 8” as being
directed by the master himself — that is, if you’re only looking at
Friday, June 17, 2011 11:41 am.