Neil Fox’s weekly film preview (03.08.11)

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Super 8

There’s something infinitely reassuring about seeing Steven Spielberg’s name above a summer movie title, something even the woeful last Indy Jones instalment can’t dilute.

Here, he is the producer while J.J. Abrams does the real work as writer/director, but nevertheless we are in classic Spielberg territory.

The film is set in 1979 and follows a group of kids who investigate strange, potentially alien happenings in their small town.

So we have the Steven staples of kids, the 1970s and aliens.

Like the recent British movie Attack The Block, what we have here is homage to a type of movie and a moment in a filmmaker’s past, shot through with resolutely modern delivery.

It also has strong elements of the undervalued British coming of age charmer Son Of Rambow in its story of the kids documenting their investigations with cameras and glee.

After some lacklustre movies Abrams is cementing a reputation bolstered by the impressive Star Trek reboot with another film drawing on the past but slamming it into the future with his enthusiasm and love for mystery and storytelling.

Fans of the brilliant TV show Friday Night Lights will rejoice in seeing Kyle ‘Coach Taylor’ Chandler heading up the adult cast as the local sheriff trying to keep it all together.

The film seems determined to return fun, story and entertainment back into the summer movie calendar and it’s certainly a refreshing change from underwhelming superhero sequels and franchise feeders.

Hopefully Abrams can move on from both the franchise and Spielberg’s shadow in the future, as he has certainly proved himself a capable director and writer for the Hollywood audience.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Jim Carrey’s ‘one for them and one for me’ movie ratio is looking a little lopsided and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to defend him.

The likes of Eternal Sunshine seem so distant now and I hoped that the spirited Yes Man was ‘one for them’ and we’d see him back making the great work of which he is capable once again, but since then we’ve had the Robert Zemeckis anima-thing which was OK and now this, which is, well, to put it kindly, beneath him.

It does have Carla Gugino and Angela Lansbury but it’s still a middle of the road, cliche-ridden kids movie that doesn’t deserve him.

Carrey stars as a successful businessman who inherits six penguins and whose life, as you’d expect, is turned upside down.

There’s nothing new here in terms of story or delivery, and Carrey gurns and pratfalls on autopilots and my defence looks weak in the light of this evidence.

I want the Jim Carrey of The Truman Show and Man on the Moon back, please.

Hell, I’ll even settle for the Dumb And Dumber JC back, at least that was truly funny.