Throwback Thursday: Super 8 (2011)

A Throwback’s Throwback

I’ll be completely honest and say that I never saw J.J. Abrams’ wonderful film, Super 8, until just a few days ago. It’s one of those films that slipped through the cracks for me. It was released in 2011, a year in which a large number of popular debut films and sequels such as Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, were released. I just simply missed it. I wish that I’d watched it earlier.

The film tells the story of a group of kids who uncover the truth about a train wreck that occurs in their hometown while they are shooting their own movie on Super 8 film. As the USAF takes control of the town and people and dogs go missing, the kids race to figure out what’s really going on and attempt to finish their film.

The film takes place at the end of the 1970’s and is extremely reminiscent of movies like The Goonies, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and even Gremlins. It features a ragtag team of kids who are all outsiders in their own way. The meek makeup artist of the group, Joe (Joel Courtney), is dealing with the loss of his mother and a father (Kyle Chandler) who remains distant even after the death of his wife. He’s also sweet on the film’s leading lady, Alice (Elle Fanning, in what many consider her breakout role), who has a few problems of her own with her father, Louis (the always underappreciated Ron Eldard) who in turn locks horns with Joe’s dad. Cary (Ryan Lee) is the group pyromaniac who wants to blow up everything. Martin (Gabriel Basso) is the star of the group’s film and tends to be very cautious. Preston (Zach Mills) both acts and does camera, light, and sound work. He’s probably best described as the “every man” of the group. Riley Griffiths portrays Charles, who directs and writes the group’s film and is constantly looking for “added atmosphere.”

The film moves at a tight, spooky pace. It’s full of jump scares and some delightful suspense. The film’s money shot comes early in the movie whenever the kids witness the massive train wreck that unleashes an unknown entity on their town. It also gives sharp-eyed film fans their first major Easter egg: Glynn Turman as Dr. Woodward. While Turman has been in dozens of films and television shows, most notably A Different World, Cooley High, and The Wire, people that grew up in the 80’s know him best for his small but significant role in Gremlins as Mr. Hanson, Billy’s old science teacher who has a nasty interaction with one of the creatures in the film.

The movie features a solid score from Michael Giacchino, excellent cinematography, and even J.J. Abrams’ signature lens flare. It’s a fun ride and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching it as soon as possible, especially if you enjoy films like The Goonies and Stand By Me.

Also, after the film ends, stick around for the credits. There’s a little surprise in there that ends the movie on a fun note. It, along with the rest of the film, reminded me a lot of my life as a kid in the 80’s. I used to write stories that I hoped would one day become a film and even made a few attempts at a script over the years. Seeing how seriously these kids took their production, especially Charles, hooked me into this film. I identified with both him and Joe in this movie. If you grew up in the 80’s, I’m sure that you’ll identify with at least one of these kids as well.

Thanks for reading my post. As we continue to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, expect more nostalgic post from me. I’m an essential employee, so my output probably won’t change much, but I’ll definitely try to post at least once a week.

King Kong (1933)

TCM Big Screen Classics

Over the weekend Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events presented a showing of 1933’s memorable classic King Kong. Featuring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot, the film blazed a trail in special effects led by the work of Willis O’Brien and utilized the music of Max Steiner. According to a segment featuring TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, Steiner’s original composition was the first thematic score for a major film. It was also the first feature length score for a talkie film. The movie also saved RKO Pictures from bankruptcy and put Fay Wray on the map as a certified star.

After a brief introduction by Mankiewicz, an overture was played prior to the film. Then the movie began. The resolution was very good throughout most of the film, but there were a few moments were the film appeared to go slightly out of focus. This is primarily due to the condition of the best surviving negatives used for the film’s restoration over the years. Scenes that were removed from the film after its initial release were shown in this release including a brontosaurus attack and a woman being thrown to her death.

This was the first time that I saw this particular version of the film and the first time that I got to see it on the big screen. It was great to see the movie in a theater. There were only two other people with me for the 1 PM showing, which didn’t surprise me. The coronavirus pandemic kept tons of people away from the theater on Sunday. Also, many people these days are turned off by a film if it doesn’t feature color, CGI, or the latest pop tune as part of the soundtrack. Thankfully TCM and Fathom Events are doing their best to keep these great films alive.

If you’ve never seen King Kong in all of its classic stop-motion glory, watch it. It’s available on Blu-ray, DVD, and on some streaming services. It inspired an entire era of giant monster movies, inspired special effects giants such as Ray Harryhausen, and opened the door for thematic music in films.

Thanks for reading, folks. While I don’t necessarily post often about classic films such as King Kong, I am trying my best to keep these old films alive. Keep an eye out for more black-and-white film highlights and reviews in the near future.

I Saw That!

The Invisible Man (2020)

Remember way back in February when I listed a bunch of movies that I was going to see during that month? Yes? Well, here’s my review of the only one that I’ve actually been able to see (excepting the original King Kong, which I’ll review later today).

Elisabeth Moss heads up a very good cast in a very good film based loosely on the classic H.G. Wells book and the 1933 Universal film of the same name, The Invisible Man. In this updated version of the story, Moss portrays Cecilia Kass, a woman living in an abusive and controlled relationship with Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Griffin is an optics wizard who controls Cecilia’s every move, emotion, and thought. She manages to escape his fortress-like home one evening with the help of her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer).

Cecilia is given refuge by her friend, James (Aldis Hodge), at his home where he is living with his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid). Having been controlled for so long, Cecilia finds simple things such as going out to get the mail to be a daunting task. Both James and Sydney do their best to help her get beyond her PTSD issues to mild degrees of success.

Cecilia told Emily to never visit her at James’ home, in fear that Adrian would follow her there and try to retake control of Cecilia’s life, so when Emily shows up one day at the front door, Cecilia becomes angry. Then Emily tells her that Adrian has been found dead of an apparent suicide. Cecilia becomes somewhat relieved but is still unnerved about her former boyfriend.

Cecilia is also given five million dollars through Adrian’s will, and uses a portion of it to help Sydney. She also begins to relax somewhat and even gets a job interview. As the days continue to pass, however, things begin occurring that make her believe that Adrian is still alive and still controlling her. The fear factor amps up as an invisible being starts creating all sorts of havoc in Cecilia’s life, driving friends and family away and creating suspicion about her mental state.

As her life spirals out of control once again and no one believes her claims about an invisible abuser, Cecilia takes matters into her own hands. Does she uncover the truth about her invisible tormentor? Can she save herself and her friends and family before it’s too late? You’ll have to watch The Invisible Man to find out!

Directed and written by Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man is a truly suspenseful flick. It starts off almost like a traditional ghost film, with the “ghost” (the Invisible Man) setting off burners in the home, yanking on bed sheets, etc. Then it becomes more of a psychological thriller as the “ghost” begins manipulating Cecilia’s entire life. Finally, it becomes a story of both retaliation and freedom, as Cecilia systematically takes apart her oppressor’s own life. I liked the update to the invisibility aspect of the film and really loved how easily it transitioned from suspense to horror to revenge.

The cast is extremely good. Moss delivers a powerful performance of an abused woman who finds herself completely separated from her friends and family in a moment where she most needs them. Aldis Hodge is extremely convincing as Cecilia’s friend who is torn between believing his friend and protecting his daughter from Cecilia as she seemingly becomes more and more unhinged. Harriet Dyer’s role is quite a bit smaller than the rest of the cast, but she gave an excellent performance as a sister who feels rejected by Cecilia but still loves her. Michael Dorman deserves a special nod for his performance in the film. I can’t say too much about his character, but it’s quite enjoyable to see him work on the screen.

Sadly, the least impressive performance in the film is delivered by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Yep, he’s the Invisible Man, but he’s extremely uninteresting whenever we can see him. The character works best when he’s not visible. While he isn’t terrible in his brief onscreen role, Jackson-Cohen was definitely a few steps down from Claude Rains, the Invisible Man from 1933.

The film does lag at times. I believe that Whannell could have shaved about twenty or so minutes off in the film and it would have been a better picture overall. Whannell does a great job of building suspense but drags it out for the payoff. It was also unintentionally funny at times seeing people battle an unseen enemy. There were also some extremely predictable moments and plot points in the film. This didn’t necessarily take away from the overall suspense of the film, but the dull moments between each revelation definitely hurt the movie.

So should you go see it? Absolutely, especially if you’re a fan of suspense thrillers and movies with genuine scares and surprise moments. It’s one of the best updated Universal Monsters films that I’ve seen in a long time, and I hope that both Universal and Blumhouse keep these films on a positive wave.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be posting late today about the TCM/Fathom Events King Kong showing later today.

Bad News…

Lafayette, LA

Louisiana Comic Con has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in Louisiana. They posted the cancellation just minutes ago. Their official post is located on their Facebook page that you can visit here. Here’s the official statement as of this afternoon:

Louisiana Comic Con 2020 canceled due to abundance of caution over COVID-19

For Immediate Release – March 12, 2020

It is with a heavy heart but sound mind that we have decided to cancel Louisiana Comic Con for 2020 out of an abundance of caution. We have spent the better part of the past few days monitoring other events, speaking with officials at the Cajundome, reading updates on government and news articles, and watching the Governor’s press conferences in regards to COVID-19 information.

Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a public health emergency in Louisiana on Wednesday as the number of new coronavirus cases in the state continued to grow. With most St. Patrick’s Day festivals canceled, major sporting leagues canceling their seasons, KISS canceling their event at the same venue as ours, and NCAA tournaments being held with no spectators, the general consensus was to remain calm, but also be extremely vigilant and cautious.

Please understand that no decision like this is made lightly, but know it’s being done for the greater good of not only everyone involved with the event, but for the community at large. The only way to combat COVID-19 is to reduce exposure for everyone to it, and by putting on such a large event we run the risk of exposing people, albeit unknowingly, to a virus that may affect their loved ones. We also understand the financial impact that this decision will cause, but again we believe that for the greater good, we are forced to cancel.

In the coming days and weeks, please be cognizant of your neighbors, what is going on around you, and the information that is being released about COVID-19.

The Louisiana Department of Health has opened a coronavirus hotline, accessible Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for anyone with questions at 1-855-523-2652.

REGARDING REFUNDS
– Refunds issued from point of purchase.
– Ticketmaster will automatically issue refunds on those tickets purchased online.
– If purchased at CAJUNDOME Box Office – need to bring the tickets back to them for refund, starting next week.

This breaks my heart. I really love attending Louisiana Comic Con and hope that they return next year bigger and better. As a result of the cancellation, I won’t be presenting my panel, Bela Lugosi: The Universal Count. That being said, I do plan on presenting the panel at CyPhaCon next month so long as the event isn’t cancelled.

As soon as the panel schedule is released, I’ll post when and where my panel will take place. I hope to see you all at CyPhaCon!

Toss A Coin To Your Blogger…

The Witcher Spins A Wonderful Tale

Outside of the occasional advertisement for the popular video game based upon it, I was completely unfamiliar with Andrzej Sapkowksi’s book series, The Witcher. I knew that the game looked cool, but I’m not much into modern gaming as I am the old school console games, so my knowledge of the series began and ended with the advertisements.

When I discovered that Netflix was going to be producing a series based on the novels and the games, my interest was piqued. I became especially interested whenever I found out that Henry Cavill would star in the series as the title character, better known as Geralt of Rivia.

When the series became available for streaming, it took me quite a bit longer than some others to view it. Why? Because of its mature content, which includes strong language, nudity, violence, and gore, it was a tad difficult for me to watch the series since I am not ready to expose my youngest child to those things. (I have yet to watch the entirety of Game of Thrones due to this as well).

Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve finally managed to watch the entire series and I really enjoyed it. Yes, some bits were rather predictable, but for the most part the series was a solid entry in the fantasy genre. Henry Cavill carried most of the series on his broad shoulders as he grimaced, grunted, and growled his way through each episode. Anya Chalotra, who portrayed Yennefer of Vengerberg, commanded each scene that she was in as well, partly because she did an amazing job in the role and partly because she is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Freya Allan was very good as Cirilla, The Lion Cub Of Cintra, who is the primary motivation for pretty much everything that happens in the series.

For those that are unfamiliar with the series, Geralt is a witcher, a paid monster hunter that is tied by destiny to the fate of Cirilla, whenever he saves her future parents and a lot of other folks at a wedding gone wrong. Yennefer is a powerful mage who gives up something (I won’t say what that something is) in order to become beautiful. She uses her beauty and her magic to manipulate others in an attempt to reacquire what she gave up. Along the way she encounters Geralt and their fates also become tied together.

While the series slowly fuses the destinies of Geralt, Cirilla, and Yennefer, plenty of other adventures occur. There are a number of villains in the series, but the one that stands out the most in my mind is Cahir, the Black Knight who commands the Nilfgaardian army. Driven by his desire to capture Cirilla for his emperor, Cahir (Eamon Farren) takes his army from the North and burns across the realm leaving a path of destruction in his wake. Aided by the mage known as Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni), Cahir decimates Cirilla’s home of Cintra and continues his hunt for her whenever she escapes during the assault. This leads to a great battle at the end of the first season.

Geralt, Cirilla, and Yennefer also run into a few allies off and on throughout the series. Mousesack (Adam Levy) is loyal to a fault to Cirilla, willing to do anything to protect her. Cirilla also befriends a young elf named Dara (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte), who helps her while she is on the run from Cahir. Yennefer forms strong bonds with some of her fellow mages such as Triss (Anna Shaffer) and also has a strong love/hate relationship with her rectoress, Tissaia (MyAnna Buring), who attempts to guide Yennefer down the right path. Geralt runs into many colorful characters such as Borch Three Jackdaws (Ron Cook), a stranger that convinces Geralt to join him in a dragon hunt along with his two aids, Tea and Vea (Adele Oni and Colette Dalal Tchantcho). He also comes into contact with Jaskier (Joey Batey), a somewhat annoying minstrel who tags along with Geralt on a few of his adventures. He’s also the source of a few of Geralt’s problems.

The series also features a number of monsters. Most of them intend to do harm, but Geralt knows that sometimes the monster isn’t necessarily the most beastly looking character. This adds quite a bit of depth to Geralt, as he doesn’t kill merely for profit. He attempts to save the monsters in some cases and this goes a long way in developing him as a character.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable series. I look forward to the second season. I might even pick up some of the books that the series is based upon and read them if and when I ever get the time. Check out the series if you enjoy excellent fantasy.

Thanks for reading!

Jurassic Park: Amber Collection

Figure Review

Last year Mattel announced that they would be releasing a new series of 6″ inch figures and 1/6 scale creatures in the Jurassic Park Amber Collection. The first wave was released late last year and featured Dr. Ian Malcolm and a velociraptor from the original film. Both figures were well received by collectors, and it should come as no surprise since Malcolm and the raptors were two of the biggest highlights of the film.

In February of this year, two new figures entered the collection. Owen Grady and Blue, Owen’s favorite and most trusted raptor, were released in Wave Two. I was lucky enough to receive an Owen Grady figure for review.

The figure is six inches tall and comes with two sets of hands and Owen’s knife that he used in the film. His famous clicker is located on his belt but is not removable. Owen’s articulation includes ball joints at the neck, upper torso, wrists, ankles, elbows, and shoulders. He has a swivel waist and thighs and hinged knees. His knife can be placed in a sheath located on the center rear of his belt.

Owen’s likeness to actor Chris Pratt’s face and body is pretty solid. His clothing is spot on as well. There’s plenty of attention to smaller details like the face of Owen’s wristwatch, buttons, snaps and zippers on his vest, and the definition of everything from his pants pockets to creases and wrinkles in his clothes.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about this figure is the included stand. It resembles a chunk of the amber from the films. It features the traditional JP logo in white and has two foot pegs to keep Owen posed in whatever fashion you want him.

The box is actually quite nice. It features a brief description of Owen on the back and relief images of dinosaur bones, amber with a mosquito in it, and the Jurassic World logo on the side.

The figure retails for $24.95 at the moment and is only available online. Wave One was apparently exclusive to brick-and-mortar Gamestop stores, but Mattel decided to make each following wave available on the web only. Wave Three has been reported to include Dennis Nedry and the dilophosaurus that so famously spit in good ol’ Dennis’ face prior to making him a late night snack! As expected, the dinosaur figures retail a little higher than the humans, with Blue’s current price at $29 to $32 bucks.

I hope that you enjoyed this figure review. I plan on doing more of them in the near future. Thanks for reading!