Drive-In Classic “Super 8”

  J.J. Abram’s Super 8 is a great drive-in movie even though drive-ins are more or less extinct these days. It’s an “E.T.” kind of movie with a cast of kids who get caught up in a sci-fi thriller adventure story that’s perhaps not iconic like Steven Speilberg’s better science fiction, but it’s a fun summer movie. Goes good with popcorn.

“Duel” – The best car chase movie ever?

A big ominous ugly truck comes barrelling down the highway and makes life difficult for a lonely businessman in a car on his way to a meeting. Duel is like Jaws on wheels. Directed for TV by Steven Speilberg in 1971, this 90-minute theatrical cut is nothing but entertainment. There’s no moral to the story. It’s just one long chase scene that keeps you wondering, “How the hell is he going to get away from that truck?” Speilberg takes that simple concept and milks it to the hilt. Well done.

“Close Encounters” – When Science Fiction Wasn’t Stupid

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the best science fiction films ever made, and worth revisiting if you haven’t seen it for a long time. Steven Speilberg’s directorial style quickly became what you might call obvious later in his career, but in this early film he allows plenty of room for interpretation. He shows us but doesn’t tell us anything.

The final encounter with the aliens is spectacular and mysterious (communicating through music is pretty darn cool). Too bad they don’t make movies like this anymore.

“The Incredible Hulk” Ain’t Too Bad

The Incredible Hulk — Another Marvel comic book movie. The Hulk smashes the crap out of everything. Ed Norton and the rest of the cast play their roles well. The story isn’t as involving as Iron Man, but it’s done well and it’s never boring. What else do you want from a comic book movie? It’s fun for what it is. (June 14/08)

The Stone Angel — Based on the novel by Margaret Lawrence, starring Ellen Burstyn. Another sad and depressing Canadian novel where nothing good happens to anyone or anyone’s children, and then they die. (That’s an accurate summary of more than a few Canadian classics.) The film adaptation isn’t much more uplifting or hopeful. The movie tries to encompass too much of the novel instead of taking its time to develop the characters. It definitely has its moments, but I lost interest well before the closing credits. (June 7/08)

The Happening — There is no reason to see this movie, ever, not even out of morbid curiosity. Considering the downward slide M. Night Shyamalan has been on since, well, arguably since The Sixth Sense, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually hit rock bottom, and this is it. Even The Village had moments where you think, “Maybe this’ll get good now,” but there isn’t a single compelling moment in the entire running time of The Happening, and subsequently nothing to feel disappointed about. I like Shyamalan as a director, so I was hoping to see at least a few good scenes or cool shots. But nope. The Happening is a zero on every level. The writing, the acting, the direction — it’s all bad, mediocre at best. (June 14/08)