Super 8

(Writer’s note: I was going to review “Batman
Begins” and link it to the opening this weekend of “The Dark Knight
Rises,” but out of respect for those affected by the tragedy that occurred
today in Colorado, I have replaced that review with another one. )



Film (with rating): Super 8 (PG-13)


Studio: Paramount


Summary: A group of friends witness a horrific train crash
while making a super 8 movie and begin to suspect that it was not an accident,
especially when strange events and disappearances start happening around their
small Ohio town.


Review: I loved “Stand By Me,” and this movie,
while different at its surface, has that same flavor. A bunch of kids band
together to solve a mystery. Some reviewers have compared “Super 8″
to “ET” and even “The Sandlot” or “War of the
Worlds,” but I still stick by my “Stand By Me” link. It has that
same coming-of-age flavor mixed with friendship and drama. We’ve even got a
sweet love story, and that really rounds out this summer blockbuster of 2011. It’s
produced by Steven Spielberg and it shows. This has a very vintage Spielberg
feel to it.


This sci-fi thriller has lots of thrills, but it is simply
rich in character development. The band of friends is large, but each character
is so multi-faceted, so unique, viewers don’t run the risk of forgetting one.
No one blends into the woodwork here. The standouts are Elle Fanning as Alice, Joel
Courtney as Joe and Riley Griffiths as Charles, the demanding


As the group gathers one night on the sly to finish filming
Charles’ zombie movie at an old train station, the teens witness a horrid train
crash. (The special effects on this sequence are amazing, by the way.) Almost
immediately, they realize this may not have been an accident at all, especially
when the military takes over, dogs run away and townsfolk start disappearing.


The film is set in 1979, so references to that era’s culture
(the Walkman) and family values add to the movie’s feel. I felt connected to
the characters–even the scary ones–and wanted things to turn out well for them.
The movie had some flaws, though. I didn’t really feel satisfied with the
backstory on Joe’s mom’s death or Alice’s dad’s issues. I didn’t think Joe and
his dad really worked through their own drama. But despite these incomplete plot
threads, “Super 8″ felt satisfying complete at its end.


At the end of the day, it’s the perfect film for a lazy
summer weekend.


Extra highlight: “The Dream Behind Super 8″


What to serve for dinner: Since this is a summertime movie
(both in its feel and in the setting) and it does remind me so much of the
ultimate coming-of-age summer movie “Stand By Me,” let’s eat a
seasonal staple: watermelon. Try Watermelon and Arugula Salad (


6 cups diced seedless watermelon

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup feta cheese crumbles

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds

6 tablespoons prepared balsamic dressing

5 cups lightly packed baby arugula

Cracked black pepper to taste


In a large bowl, combine watermelon, onion, feta and
sunflower seeds. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Add arugula and toss
again. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.


What to talk about over dinner: What kind of adventures did
you get into when you were a kid? Who were your friends? Remember the super 8
cameras? Did you ever make movies when you were young? Who was your favorite
character? Did you feel the Steven Spielberg touch on this one? What movie did
“Super 8″ remind you of? What did you think of the creature in the train?
What parts of the movie were unbelievable to you? What did you think about the