Notes from the Back Row 

Super 8 goes old school

Summer is usually full of action and romance flicks but anytime is a good time for a monster picture. This week producer Steven Spielberg and director J.J. Abrams ( Cloverfield, Lost) kick it old school with Super 8 , a film set in 1979 that focuses on a group of kids, a weird train crash, some amateur filmmaking and a big ol' monster.

Joe Lamb is a young teen who opens the film at his mother's funeral while his buddies wonder if she has zombie potential. His cop-dad is a workaholic and about all he has going for him is a band of friends, a Super 8 camera and plans to make a horror movie starring the slightly older Alice - who comes from the wrong side of the tracks and, of course, becomes the love interest.

On the first night of filming a pick-up truck derails a train and the kids uncover a wicked-cool artifact and an ominous warning: "They will kill you. Do not speak of this or else you and your parents will die."

Aside from the story, Super 8 is very much about loving movies and making movies. Abrams, obviously a big fan of Speilberg, recognizes the film takes place in his hero's golden era and he desperately wants to hit the same notes as classics like ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goonies . Abrams doesn't quite get there (things unravel a bit as he moves towards the great reveal) but Super 8 is still pretty solid, a nice mix of sci-fi, horror and young romance. For real family entertainment (it's rated PG-13) this is probably one of the better flicks of the summer. Makes a guy wish we had a drive-in theatre in one of those big-ass parking lots.

On the total opposite end of the spectrum, Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer makes a guy wish Doctor Kevorkian were still alive so he could end the suffering. Directed by John Shultz, the "artist" responsible for such garbage as Like Mike and Aliens in the Attic , Judy Moody is aimed solely at Tween-age girls, but even they should be able to see this one as being as much fun as picking undigested Ritalin out of a loud-and-messy shitpile.

Crap and other bodily excretion actually feature prominently in the film; Judy Moody encounters a face-full of puke and there's a recurring gag about Big Foot shit (in a sandwich no less). This is what happens when C-grade filmmakers tackle D-grade source material and slap together a film with utterly unlikeable characters. Avoid at all costs, this one as worse than running over your own dog in front of your kids, and having it all somehow end up on YouTube.

And that's it for new flicks. It's a very kiddie-centric week at the good old Village 8. But for the rest of us, and keeping with monster movies, the download of the week is John Carpenter's The Thing .

The Thing stars Kurt Russell as part of a twelve-man Antarctic research team that fall prey to a savage shape-shifting alien that can assume any form, including humans. With no help coming from the outside world the film is riddled with tension and paranoia as the crew attempt to discern who is really real and who might be... wait for it... The Thing! This one, released in 1982, is a remake of an older Howard Hawkes flick and another remake, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead ( Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is set to hit theatres this October, so check Carpenter's out now - notable because it has absolutely no romantic subplot whatsoever. You don't see that much anymore, summer or otherwise.

 

 

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