Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8 is Great Summer Fun
by Janet Lawler

This movie will make you feel like a kid again.

Super 8, the latest movie from director/producer/writer J.J. Abrams is terrific. It literally had us jumping out of our seats. Here is the trailer.

The story is about a young boy (Joel Courtney) who is dealing with the recent death of his mother. He's now cared for by his aloof father, played by Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), who is the town deputy. The boy spends his free time hanging out with a group of neighborhood boys who are making a short film. While shooting a scene at night, they witness a massive train crash and find themselves up to their ears in trouble.

It's a thrilling movie. J.J. Abrams script is tightly written and pays off throughout. The action scenes are amazing. It's paced nicely with scenes between father and son dealing with their fears and grief.

The actors all give solid performances, especially lead actor Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning's younger sister), as well as the cast of young boys.

The adolescent humor is true without being overly crass or gross like in most movies today. It will transport you back to the days when you rode your bike with friends, had your first crush and pondered how to break out of an ordinary small town life. These kids find the way -- and there is no turning back.

Steven Spielberg produced Super 8 and his presence is felt -- in many shots of the film I was reminded of Jaws (the town cop fighting authority and a monster) and ET, kids riding bikes and understanding more about love and yearning than the adults. It's moviemaking at its best.

I saw Super 8 at a screening for the Producer's Guild of America at the DGA (Director's Guild Theater on W. 57th St in NYC). The audience laughed and screamed throughout and applauded at the end (twice!). That doesn't happen often at screenings by "industry types" -- they can be a tough room to please.

They loved Super 8.

So did I.

If you want to see a really fun, suspenseful, heartwarming movie this summer -- check out Super 8.. It's rated PG13. You can bring your kids without worrying much (unless they frighten easily!).

And stay in your seats for the closing credits!! It's then that the audience sees the finished short film the kids were making in the movie. It's sweet and funny.

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Until next time.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


J.J. Abrams gave a talk at the TED Conferences a few years ago that is worth revisiting today.

Abrams, the Hollywood writer/director/producer, talks about how as a child his grandfather took him to a magic store in New York City. He purchased a "mystery magic box" for $15 but it promised $50 worth of magic inside. J.J. Abrams never opened the box to this day. He keeps it in his office in Hollywood as a reminder of his beloved grandfather, who bought him his first Super 8 movie camera, and to always remember to chase the mystery in story.

Abrams points out that in many of the best movies what works are not the explosions and the special effects, but the mystery inside the characters or villains.

What we remember about Rocky is not the fight scenes, but the heart of Rocky Balboa not wanting to end up a bum in life... or Die Hard not just the thrilling aspects of a cop battling terrorists in a skyscraper, but of John McClane trying to win back his wife as she contemplates divorcing him.

Quentin Tarantino used the mystery box in Pulp Fiction. When John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson open the trunk of their car and something mysteriously glows in their faces. What was that thing in the brief case?

Or Jaws, when we hardly see the shark in the water but we know it's there... looming... stalking its next victim in the ocean. That mystery hooks us as moviegoers, as readers of a script or story, and pull us in. It hooks our emotions.

Think of movies that you love and there is probably some mystery involved.

Check out J.J. Abrams TED talk... it's a treat. Who knew he was so funny too?

And remember when writing -- to keep the mystery in every scene, every act and on every page of your next story.

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Until next time.