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“Super 8”
a review by Darby O’Gill

When writer/director J.J. Abrams teams-up with Steven Spielberg to bring back that old school, early 1980’s feel of a summer movie to a whole new generation, what you get is Super 8. It’s a retro look at the cinema of most of our youths, with a hint of modern day monster thrills thrown in for good measure. It’s like The Goonies and The Monster Squad meet The Thing. There are also some elements of Red Dawn in there, and I think it all works pretty well overall. Super 8 is loosely based on the supposed transfer of the alleged items found at the Roswell UFO crash site in New Mexico, to a military air base in Columbus, Ohio. Fun little side fact, I used to live down the road from that alleged air base in college. Pretty cool, huh?! Okay I’m getting off topic. In the movie the train is derailed during the transport, and a group of kids who’ve snuck-out to make a homemade zombie movie with their Super 8 camera witness the whole thing. The train wreck is amazing, a little over the top, but that happens a lot in this film. A lot of moments are played in this very real, nice and quiet manor, and then there are these other moments where everything is just so over the top you can’t help but notice the two contrasting each other. One of these moments is when the town is just all of a sudden full of tanks, and they all just start firing causing mass hysteria and World War III to breakout in this small suburban town. It looks amazing, and it’s really well shot from a filmmaking standpoint, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t fit with the retro style. But, that’s not to say the mixing of the monster movie and the boy and his alien genre doesn’t work. I think Abrams manages to knock that out the park. The look and feel of Super 8 is fantastic! It drags in a few places, but overall I think it works. I was kind of hoping the kids would stick together a little more. The middle of the movie kind of focuses a little too much on just Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning), the other kids are kind of M.I.A. and I wish there was a little more interaction between the group on a whole. With all these minor things aside, I think Super 8 is a great old school summer matinee movie! I sadly don’t see it becoming a timeless classic like its predecessors; but time will tell.

Rating:

 

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“Paul”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Throughout the history of cinema we have always had our share of great comedic duo teams, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, Burt Reynolds & Dom DeLuise, David Spade & Chris Farley, and now Simon Pegg & Nick Frost. Okay, that might be a little bit of a grand statement, but I’ve got to say it’s one that I’m proud to stand behind. From Spaced to Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Frost have more than earned their place on that list. In their newest team-up, they find themselves on the run from the men in black with a little help of the third kind.

In Paul, illustrator Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and aspiring sci-fi writer Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) have ventured across the pond on holiday to attend the Holy Grail of all nerd events, the San Diego Comic-Con! However, the Comic-Con is just the beginning of the duo’s epic adventure. Having rented an RV, Graeme and Clive plan to visit all the UFO hot spots the American Southwest has to offer, from Area 51 to the infamous UFO crash site in Roswell, New Mexico. But, their plans quickly change when in the desert just outside Area 51, they stumble upon a real life alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Now on the run from government agents that want Paul back, the boys will do their best to help their new alien friend get home.

Paul might not be an instant classic, or even in line for an Oscar anytime soon, but it’s a fun ride just the same. I really had a good time watching this one, and can’t wait to see it again. It’s just fun to watch Pegg & Frost do their thing, even if it is without the help of good friend Edgar Wright. That’s not to say that Wright was completely left out of the making of Paul. There’s a nice little nod in one of the scenes, to the movie Edgar was filming at the time of Paul. In the comic book shop in Roswell, there is a rack full of Scott Pilgrim trades proudly on display. This movie is full of little gems like that. With so many science-fiction movies, comic book and pop culture references in it, Paul has definitely set a record. I would almost say there are too many, but somehow it works. I think having so many in the film, gives the movie a little bit of a leeway. Well, that and the fact that Graeme and Clive are a pair of hopeless nerds, who would most likely talk like that. The other thing that really helps you enjoy this movie is the character of Paul himself. Seth Rogen does such a great job of breathing life into this fully culturally integrated spaceman. I love that he is constantly pointing out the misconceptions of alien stereotypes, and has a true gift for stating the obvious. Did I mention that Paul is also the idea man (well, alien) behind some of our greatest science fiction? Well, he is! Paul is truly the ultimate fanboy road trip movie!

Rating:


“Back to the Future”
a review by Darby O’Gill

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s already been 25 years since the greatest movie ever made was released in theatres. That’s right! Back to the Future is celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday this year, and yes I said greatest movie ever made! For those of you that know me, I would imagine that that statement comes as no surprise to you, but for everyone else this movie was a huge deal to me growing-up. I went to see it in the theatre two times, which doesn’t sound like much these days, but when you’re talking about a 12 year old kid in 1985, and add to that the nearest theatre was a whole thirty-five minutes away, it’s kind of a big deal. To help celebrate the anniversary earlier this month, some theatres around the country and even the world, showed special screenings of Back to the Future once again on the big screen. As you can probably already guess, I was there to gladly get a third theatrical screening under my belt.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this movie, I will kindly ask you to remain nameless, for I value our friendship, and wish not to judge you. In Back to the Future, a teenager named Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) worries that he’ll never amount to anything. He also, like most teenagers, can’t relate to his parents and can’t even fathom them ever being his age. Well, that is until early one morning on October 26, 1985, when his good friend Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) introduces Marty to his latest invention… A time machine made out of a DeLorean!? Finally, a time machine with some style! After a series of unforeseen events, Marty finds himself unwittingly transported to November 5, 1955, and face to face with none other than his own teenage parents. Pretty heavy, huh? To make matters even worse, he may have also inadvertently stopped his parents from ever meeting, which as you can image doesn’t bode well for Marty’s future.

I think one of the things that makes this one of the greatest movies, is how amazingly well it holds-up. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, you still get tense at the clock tower scene; as if you thought the movie might end differently this time. Also by labeling 1985 as 1985 and not the present, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale are able to preserve the movie as a period film no matter when you watch it. The only thing they have to worry about is the future, and they’ve got another 5 years before that’s a problem. Let’s just hope someone can invent the Hoverboad before then, but we’ll get more into that in about 5 years. Let’s get back to the first movie, Back to the Future did a great job of telling an amazingly creative story with a lot of humor and heart. Sadly, a movie like that would never be made today. It’s too big of a chance. Hollywood doesn’t take chances like that anymore. They like to play it safe. Let’s just make sequels and adapt already existing material. Do you realize that filmmakers these days are writing comic books in hopes of maybe being able to get it turned into a movie?! They can’t just write an amazing script anymore. They have to turn their movie ideas into something they’re not, so that someday it might be turned into the movie they wanted to make in the first place. That’s fucked up, people!! Back to the Future would never get made today, and that’s crazy because it has two successful sequels! Exactly what Hollywood wants from a movie these days! We need creative filmmakers now more than ever, and they’re out there. They just can’t catch a break, when the studio executives just want something exactly like that other something that just made money for no reason. Unfortunately, as long as there are sad little “yes men” writers out there, that are more than happy to write whatever they’re told to, the next generation of Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Tim Burton’s will never be heard. Wow, that got really depressing there. Back to the Future greatest movie ever made! See it if you haven’t! See it again if you have!

Rating:

(of course)






“Paranormal Activity”
a review by Darby O’Gill

NOTE: There are NO SPOILERS in this review. I won’t even talk about the movie’s storyline, so please read freely if you have yet to see Paranormal Activity.

“The scariest movie ever made!” Well, maybe not. Look, I know I don’t get very scared at scary movies, but I really don’t understand how Paranormal Activity is getting people to hype it after they’ve seen it. My wife and I went to a test screening for Paranormal Activity, like a year and a half ago. We raced to the theatre after work; she had a slight headache, but still wanted to go. We had no idea what the movie was going to be about before hand, but we both like scary movies so we were hoping it would be good. Thirty – five minutes or so into the movie, the shaky handheld camera work had my wife ready to blow chunks, and even though I was kind of digging the movie, it wasn’t the end of the world to leave. On the walk back to the car, I told her I thought the movie gave a lot of promise, but it also felt like they were never going to pay it off. I kind of liked the simplicity of it, but she said, “It’ll never see the light of day.” After a few months, I figured she was right. Now, fast forward a year later, and we start to hear people talking about this indie movie that is going to come out, and be the scariest movie ever made. Just imagine how shocked we were when we heard the title of the film. I figured, at first, it was just your basic studio hype trying to get the movie a big opening weekend. But, then I found out it was only playing in thirteen college cities, and it wasn’t even playing in Los Angeles yet! I started to think they must have changed the whole movie, because the one we saw was okay, but would never have people talking like this after they’d seen it. After two weeks of nothing but hearing people talk about this movie, I knew I would have to go see it again. My wife said, “Have fun, a half hour of a screening of that snooze-fest was more than enough for me.” So, I went… And amazingly… It was the exact same movie we saw a year and a half ago. However, I did get to see the end this time. Now, I’m not saying the movie is bad. I’m just saying it’s not by any means “the scariest movie ever made.” Much like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity is a unique kind of horror movie. It doesn’t use a ton of blood and gore to scare its audience; instead it plays on your nerves in hopes of tapping in to one of your natural fears. Here’s the part I don’t get. How does this movie get so much word of mouth hype, when nothing really ever happens? Don’t worry I’m not going to give anything away, but the “activity” in this movie is only 15% at best. I enjoyed this movie. I thought the acting was really good for the first half; but it started to get a little shoddy by the end. I also loved the uniqueness of this film. It’s always nice to see a movie that no one believed in making it big. I take that back, Steven Spielberg believed in it. Paranormal Activity may not be the scariest movie ever made, but it is a fun night out.

Rating:
3 Little People


Steven Spielberg is developing a new feature film  based on Michael Crichton‘s forthcoming posthumous novel, Pirate Latitudes. The book won’t hit stores until November, but you can pre-order your copy here.

Michael Crichton has always been one of my absolute favorite authors. I’m just so glad we’re going to get one last story from him, and who better than Steven Spielberg to tell that story visually.

Let all just hope it’s better than Timeline.

==================== UPDATE ====================


This just in from researcher extraordinar, David Garcia, “According to wiki, there’s ANOTHER unpublished book after this one, scheduled for release in 2010!”

So make that two more posthumous tales from the late great Michael Crichton.

“Transformers” (2007)
a review by Darby O’Gill

Okay, this is the “Holy Grail” of my childhood. I’ve been looking forward to a live action movie of “Transformers” since 1984. So the first time I heard they were making a live action movie, and that Michael Bay was directing, to say I got worried would be something of an understatement. The more I heard about the project, the more I feared its release. Not to say I wasn’t going to see it; I just couldn’t see how Michael Bay and Hollywood were going to do any justice to my childhood dreams. Fast forward to July 4th 2007, and see just how surprised I was. And believe it or not, I liked it.

The movie does a great job of bringing “Transformers” to the masses, and making it a big summer blockbuster movie. I still don’t think this is the movie I dreamed of when I was a kid, but it’ll do. Shia LaBeouf is a big help. That kid is amazing! He really knows how to make you believe in the character he plays in every movie.

I think the one thing that scared me the most about a live action “Transformers” movie was that Hollywood would just simply over do it. There would be just too many robots and big in your face action scenes. This, amazingly, is not the case. The decision to have only a handful of Autobots and Deceptions was a smart move.  Less is more in a Michael Bay film… I KNOW!!! I’m not sure who was pulling the reins on the project (Steven Spielberg maybe?), but thank God they did. If I wanted to nit pick the movie, I could, but I would rather just enjoy it for what it is. The special effects are great, but the sound mixing is amazing! Sound mixer, Kevin O’Connell, or as he’s better known, the man without an Oscar, is the record holder for the most sound mixing nominations and no wins. Twenty in all, with zero wins, which is a crime, because his work on “Transformers” was by far the best of 2007. The use of the original sound effects of the transformation makes a world of difference. The other thing that helps make the world of “Transformers” come to life is the voice talent of Peter Cullen reprising his original role as Optimus Prime. It just would never be the same without that voice. The Mom and Dad’s back and forth is your stereo typical comic relief, but the family’s chemistry works so well. It just works. Look, the movie overall is entertaining. If you are a fan of the old cartoon, just let that love go for two hours, and watch something you never thought you’d be able to see on the big screen.

Rating:

4 Little People

DVD Two-Disc Special Edition Features:

Disc 1:

I think Michael Bay is a truly talented director. His sense of timing, movement, and action cuts makes him an editor’s director. With all that being said, I would never want to spend ten minutes in a room with him. The only person that would enjoy listening to this commentary is Michael Bay. He just tells you these stories about how great he is. “I was the first person to ever do this.” “’Die Hard’ couldn’t do that.” “I’ve got a direct line to the Pentagon.” “My penis is this big. Beat that!” For two hours! If anything I proved my commitment to this blog by sitting through the whole thing, so you won’t ever have to. You’re welcome. I’m not joking, or as Michael Bay would say, “Teasing.” Let me tell you, there are two types of people in this world, those who say, “I’m just kidding/joking” and those who are douche bags and think saying, “I’m just teasing,” will make up for all the asshole things they do to people. I would never tease you. For the love of God, don’t listen to this commentary!

Disc 2:

  • Our World:
    • Explore the world of “Transformers” through interviews with the cast and crew, stunt training footage, and exclusive access to the on-set locations.
  • Their War:
    • Learn more about the Atuobots and Decepticons with exclusive access to production design, military advisors, and digital special effects.
  • More Than Meets The Eye:
    • An in-depth featurette on the making of the Skorponok Desert Attack scene and concept boards.

There is truly hours of behind the scenes and making of footage here. If you enjoyed the movie the special features will be well worth your time… and money.

DVD Special Feature Rating:

5 Little People