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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.

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“Iron Man 2”
a review by Darby O’Gill

A lot of things can go wrong, and often do, when making a comic book movie sequel. But gladly none of those things seem to be happening in Iron Man 2. Most comic book movies, namely the 1990’s Batman sequels, tend to find themselves spreading their stories ridiculously thin when adding way too many new characters to a storyline, but director Jon Favreau somehow manages to avoid this pitfall. Not only does Iron Man 2 work, but it also manages to do so while maintaining it’s fast pace, and it’s very well executed sense of storyline. Even with a handful of new characters being introduced, at no point does the audience, or the storyline for that matter, feel bogged-down by a bunch of origin story telling. I think Iron Man 2 should be the text book example of how to tell complex storylines to an audience without spoon feeding them at the same time.

In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., not only finds himself dealing with the U.S. Government wanting the ownership of the Iron Man weapon, but also the fact that the very thing saving his life, could very well be killing him at the same time. If that weren’t enough, the Avenger Initiative has also started to lose their faith in him as a proper hero, and begin to question his future role in the Initiative. Topping it all off, Stark finds himself paying for the sins of his father, and dealing with a new enemy known as Whiplash, masterfully played by Mickey Rourke.

Now I figured with the addition of so many new characters, characters we’ve already met like Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, would become secondary characters; making way for the new ones. But, I’m glad to say this wasn’t the case. Pepper’s character plays just as big of a role, if not bigger, in this film as she did in the first film. Also Don Cheadle’s replacement of Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James Rhodes was seamless. I really liked Cheadle’s choice to play Rhodey the exact same way that Howard did. It really made the role more about the character, and less about the actor playing the character, which is not something all actors would choose to do. Scarlett Johansson is well under played as the Black Widow, but in a good way. The movie doesn’t rely on her as new eye candy, but rather uses her as needed for the story, which is a refreshing change of pace for movies like this. Which brings us the show stealing performance of Sam Rockwell; I don’t know what else to say other than… Wow! He really does bring his ‘A’ game to his performance as Stark Industries’ rival competitor, Justin Hammer. You’ll see what I mean when you see it. That guy needs to work more! Last but not least, Robert Downey Jr. continues to effortlessly capture the essence of Tony Stark, a role he was clearly born to play.

Is Iron Man 2 better than Iron Man? It’s hard to say. They’re two completely different movies. In the first Iron Man, there is this nice slow story pace that helps to ground the movie, but in Iron Man 2 you hit the ground running and it just feels right. With most sequels it’s easy to say which one is better, but with this one it’s truly is a continuation of the original movie, and feels like they are one and the same. Yes, I do realize that I just contradicted myself by saying they’re completely different and yet the same movie, but it’s true. I really hope all the other franchises out there are paying attention, because this is how it’s done. I think it’s safe to say that the 2010 season of summer movies is officially upon us, and the bar has been set very high thanks to Iron Man 2.

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