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Super 8 & 13 Assassins

Super 8

Super 8
****1/2
Paramount Pictures
PG 13, Running Time 112 minutes
Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Kyle Chandler (Jackson Lamb), Elle Fanning (Alice Dainard), Joel Courtney (Joe Lamb), Noah Emmerich (Nelec), Ron Eldard (Louis Dainard), Glynn Turman (Dr. Woodward), Riley Griffiths (Charles), Ryan Lee (Cary), Zach Mills (Preston), Gabriel Basso (Martin). 

If there are any lovable movies for the 2011 Summer Movie season (and there are very few) it”'s the science-fiction/fantasy “Super 8.” Directed by J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”[2009], “Mission Impossible lll” [2006]) and produced by Steven Spielberg, “Super 8”has the delicate touch of Spielberg-esque. And that touch also has the lovely audience pleasers of an “E.T”, “Close Encounters”, all Spielberg-esque. Not just a few have compared “Super 8”to Rob Reiner”'s 1986 film “Stand By Me”, with a similar twist at play: kids being kids.

Joe (Joel Courtney), Alice (Elle Fanning), Cary (Ryan Lee), Charles (Riley Griffiths), Martin (Gabriel Basso), all adolescents living in a unspecified Ohio town of 12,000; in1979. Upcoming amateur filmmakers Joe and Charlie, along with Alice, Cary and Martin go to a train station to make a “scary” film for an upcoming arts film festival. They await an on coming train before they start filming, but just as the train is approaching the train station a pickup truck goes straight towards the train. But before the handful of eager youngsters can barely get the camera rolling a spectator train crash occurs sending all five kids scattering in all directions.

Both Joe Lamb and Alice Dainard are raised by single fathers, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) and Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard), respectively. Joe”'s father is the deputy in the small steel-mill town who is essentially a workaholic”“unintentionally to some degree”“neglecting his son. Alice doesn”'t have a good relationship with dad, a scruffy looking man, treated as a pariah”“poor white trash”“by many of the townspeople.

The movie hinges on the African American doctor, Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman), a man out of the umbra of mystery up against an unknown, menacing visage. The arrival of this bizarre visage to this off-the-beat Ohio town follows with dogs and persons mysteriously missing. Subsequently, J.J. Abram (as so cleverly with his “Cloverfield” [2008]and TV series “Lost”[2004-2010]) builds his characters and story with a slow-burn panic that increasingly grips in the town.

The deputy realizes what he”'s up against and for him to destroy or injure “it” by himself, is futile. The army is called in to fight the uninvited creature. The army sets grass fires in the distance from the town, and then orders a full evacuation of the townspeople. Meanwhile, Joe and Ryan separate temporarily from their buddies to look for the key to the strange events happening in their serene town.

Although “Super 8”isn”'t as moving as “E.T.” or as deep as “Close Encounters”, “Super 8”should be on your lists of must see summer movies.

13 Assassins (2010)
****1/2
Sedic International
Running Time 141 minutes
Director: Takashi Milke, Rated R
Country: Japan/UK
Language: Japanese/English

Cast: Koji Yahusho (Shinzaemon Shimada), Takayuki Yamada (Shinrouko), Goro Iseya (Lord Naritsuga Matsudairo), Yusuke Iseya (Koyata), Hiroki Matsukata (Kuranaga), Mikijiro Hira (Sir Doi), Ikki Sawamura (Mitsuhashi), Arata Furuta (Sahara), Tsuyoshi Ihara (Ogura), Ikki Namioka (Ishizuka), Koen Kondo (Horii), Megumi Kagurazaka (Otake), Kazue Fukiishi (Tsuya/Upashi)

13 Assassins

Takashi Milke”'s film plays much like Sun Tzu”'s “The Art of War”. What”'s descried in “13 Assassins” is shrewd strategic and tactical warfare by thirteen adept assassins against Lord Naritsuga Matsudairo”'s (Goro Inagaki) 200 plus men. Moreover, what is refreshing is the minimal to zero use of CG or special effects in “13 Assassins”. Cinematically impressive with a roughly uninterrupted 40 minutes of clashing swords leaving blood, flesh and guts in front, back and on either side. It”'s Samurai action in unmitigated fashion and not for the squeamish.

The thirteen are a motley crew, shameless about attempting to kill ruthless Lord Naritsugu. These passionate thirteen use explosives, booby traps and simple disguises to subdue their enemies.

Indeed,”13 Assassins” is more than satisfactory entertainment in conjunction with lessons for American directors on how to do really good action films. Naritsugu”'s primary samurai protector, Hanbei (Masschika Ichimural), an old classmate and old nemesis of Shinzaemon, sets the tone for battle.

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