Weekend Roundup: Somewhere and Super 8

You can call it the ‘Elle Fanning movie weekend’ 😀 I had never seen her in anything, and suddenly within one weekend, I saw two movies starring Dakota’s 13-year-old little sister. I didn’t think I’d have time to see two movies this weekend given how busy things got, but we had to watch Somewhere as we actually got it last weekend from Netflix! I really should’ve just returned it when we couldn’t watch it last week 😦

Somewhere (2010)

I think the more fitting title for this is Nowhere. The fourth feature film from Sofia Coppola promises much but delivers little. The movie centers on a 30-something Hollywood star Johnny Marco who seemingly has everything a man could want: girls, money, fast cars, etc. I mean the guy lives at the Chateau Marmont Hotel for crying out loud. But despite his fame and fortune, he is disillusioned with his career, it’s not until his young daughter’s visit that he’s compelled to rethink what he’s done with his life.

Coppola illustrates Johnny’s boredom over and over again in almost mind-numbing repetition, just like the intro with Johnny driving his black Ferrari as fast as he could in a loop five times before he finally stops and still bored out of his wits. He falls asleep watching two blond twins pole-dancing in his hotel room, and he even dozes off right in the middle of sex!

The reason I rented this is because I like Lost in Translation, though it’s quite a polarizing film as I know a few of my friends hated it. So I came in with a moderate expectation that I’d at least appreciate it even if I may not thoroughly enjoy it. Boy, was I wrong. Stephen Dorff ain’t no Bill Murray, whose screen charisma can lift and spice up Coppola’s low key, almost lethargic style. There’s nothing wrong with being minimalistic if the director can tackle it properly, but I don’t think this movie has a compelling story — nor performance — to justify it. Speaking of minimalistic, not only is there no editor in this movie, there don’t seem to be a hairstylist either judging from Dorff’s hairstyle (or lack thereof).

Speaking of performances, Stephen Dorff looks believably weary and lonely, but I don’t really buy him as this big movie star. I mean, yes I get it that he’s desensitized to life’s pleasures, hence his bored look throughout the film, but I’d think he’d at least appear charismatic in front of the public so we see the duality of his persona. But no, there’s none of that movie star’s charm present at all, whether he’s in Hollywood, Italy or whatever.

Elle Fanning on the other hand, is quite memorable as Johnny’s 11-year-old daughter. But the series of activities they spend together fail to really engage not because of lack of chemistry, but because Coppola’s lack of direction. As for the denouement, well, there really isn’t one… and boy do I feel cheated as I really was expecting a big payoff to make the whole thing worthwhile!

It really leaves me scratching my head how in the world does this movie win the Golden Lion award at Venice Film Festival… is it because she’s a Coppola?? My friend Ted tweeted me saying that perhaps Sofia is a one-hit wonder? Well, I haven’t seen her two other movies yet, but I don’t think I care to find out.

1.5 out of 5 reels

Super 8 (2011)

I put this as one of my anticipated films this year for pure nostalgia reasons. The trailer reminded me a lot of Steven Spielberg’s ET which was such a timeless tearjerker. This time, Spielberg served as producer with J.J. Abrams at the helm based on his own script. The result? Super 8 is pretty much ET/The Goonies meets Cloverfield (at least judging by the trailers as I haven’t seen that movie).

Kids often get top billing in Spielberg’s movies, and this time it’s no different. Set in the Summer of 1979, a group of Junior High friends witness a mysterious train crash right in the middle of shooting a film with their Super 8 camera. That massive accident sets off a myriad of strange happenings that rock their idyllic small town that prompt the kids to investigate the freaky phenomenon.

Abrams took some time to get us invested in the characters before the main event arrives. Joe Lamb has just lost his mother four months prior and his detached dad Jackson wants him to attend camp for the Summer. But Joe would rather help his friend Charles make his zombie thriller movie for a film festival. The friendship between these kids feels natural and engaging, and once again Elle Fanning makes an impression as Alice, the object of Joe and Charles’ affection. It’s right in the middle of an important emotional scene with Alice when suddenly a car drives onto the track as the train approaches, and kaboom!! The train crash itself is nothing short of spectacular, and Abrams did a good job in keeping us in suspense as to what that creature is on board the train.

The movie works on many levels, for sure it’s technically proficient. The retro look and feel of the movie really takes you back in time, and the special effects enhances the story instead of overwhelming it. The acting is notable, especially the young ‘uns 15-year-old Joel Courtney and 13-year-old Fanning who are the heart of the film. Kyle Chandler is good though he generally relegated to second banana status and wasn’t really given much to do. Joe’s friends are quite an entertaining bunch, though they’re too foul-mouthed for my liking.

The third act get to be too much though, I had just read this insightful commentary on Castor’s blog about the ‘more’ philosophy of JJ Abrams. It sure seems like Abrams likes to ‘pile on the peril’ as I call it, not to mention those pesky lens flares, he’s definitely obsessed with them! There are giant loopholes in the plot as big as the monster in question, but in the end it doesn’t derail the movie. Perhaps I’m more forgiving on that front because I feel the ending is quite satisfying. It has the earnestness and warm, fuzzy feeling that’d probably turn off cynical moviegoers, but I kind of expect that considering this is a throwback to Spielberg’s classics. It’s also worth staying for the end credits, man these kids are really talented, Charles is basically a young Spielberg in the making.

I don’t think the re-watchability factor is all that great though. I’d rather watch Abrams’ previous movie Star Trek several times over than seeing this again. But I’d say it’s worth seeing in the cinema, especially if you’re a big fan of Spielberg and Abrams’ work.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels

So what movie(s) did you watch this weekend? If you have seen either one of these, do let me know what you think in the comments.

41 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: Somewhere and Super 8

  1. Ted S.

    I think I’ll skip Somewhere, I liked the trailer but after reading yours and so many other reviewers gave it a bad review, I don’t want to waste my time on it. Also, I can’t stand Stephen Dorff or I what call him Stephen Dork because he always acted like a dork in other films I saw him in. Sofia Coppola needs to start journey into some different genre instead of her usual pretentious character study films. I think she’s talented, I like the way her films were shot. Maybe do a rom-com or suspense/thriller.

    I’ll wait till Super 8 hits Blu-ray and rent it, missed seeing it on opening weekend.

    1. Yeah, save your money, Ted. I think the movie would only please Sofia’s die-hard fans. Ha..ha.. that’s what I said to Ivan, Stephen Dork is a more fitting name for him, as he’s got this blank expression on his face most of the time. There is one funny scene of him all covered up in face mask and the camera didn’t move for like 3 whole minutes… that’s probably more ‘expressive’ than he is the entire time!

  2. I was a fan of Sophia’s “Virgin Suicides” as well as “Lost in Translation,” but have been hearing that she just didn’t pull it off with the latest which is too bad for such a talented indy director. You’re right about “Super 8” I enjoyed it, but the final act of a movie should be able to pull everything from the story together and answer any lingering questions. They didn’t quite have me at the end, but I still think it was solid. It’s funny you mentioned the lens flares, my wife kept saying throughout “what are those flashes I keep seeing?” I told her “lens flares baby…….Abrams loves em”

    1. Hi Markus, I haven’t seen Virgin Suicides but I don’t think the subject matter is all that appealing to me. I’m not saying she doesn’t have talent, but I think she needs to stretch herself like Ted said, try out different genre once in a while and explore a subject matter that’s outside of her comfort zone.

      Super 8 wasn’t as engaging as ET or other Spielberg movies, but it’s not bad. The lens flare thing is getting ridiculous though. I didn’t watch LOST so I don’t know if this lens flare obsession is new?

    1. Thanks for the article, Rich. Oh I didn’t know QT used to date Sofia. Wow, it does sound like favoritism might have been in play there. I don’t think Somewhere garnered unanimous praise from critics nor did it garner other major awards.

  3. PrairieGirl

    I decided to test out my new On Demand from Comcast and out of curiosity saw the restored 1922 silent movie Beyond the Rocks with Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. I wasn’t expecting much, mostly wanted to see the two famous stars together, but the film was MUCH better than I thought it would be. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0012938/

    1. Wow, that sounds interesting, Becky. I’ve never seen that film before. Those two were icons of the silent era, weren’t they?

  4. Jack Deth

    Hi, Ruth and company:

    Sophia Coppola will garner all the kudos possible, regardless of her talent because she is a Coppola and Hollywood loves to lavish praise on generational achievements.

    That said, Sophia is a fair director. Which means for every film considered decent or great by audiences. There will be three or four that are bad to lousy. The only visible ‘hook’ for ‘Somewhere’ is Elle Fanning, who caught my attention in ‘The Runaways’. Has far more acting chops than her annoying ‘Scream Queen’ older sister (‘War Of The Worlds’) and intrigues me the same way Christina Ricci has, post ‘Addams Family’.

    ‘Super 8’ strikes me as Speilberg’s ‘E.T’ redux. Something that does not sit well with one brought up on 1950s ‘Red Scare Sci-Fi’. Where the Prime Directive of any Alien, Giant Lizard or Bug Eyed Monster was to tear up downtown Tokyo while kicking in the backsides of the Army or Marines.

    1. Hi Jack, yeah I think you’ve got a point there. It’s too bad really, when there are other far more talented filmmakers out there that go unnoticed because they don’t have famous relatives.

      Yes, Elle Fanning is definitely a talent to watch. She’s got quite a screen presence compared to actors years her senior. Was she in The Runaways with Dakota, too? I thought it was just Dakota in that one w/ Kristen Stewart.

      I suppose you could say Super 8 is Abram’s version of E.T. who obviously wants to pay homage to his mentor.

  5. That’s too bad that you didn’t like Somewhere. I have it coming next from Netflix, pretty much for the same reason you stated (I liked Lost In Translation quite a bit).

    I didn’t care for Super 8 at all, although it definitely appears I am in the minority on that. I just wasn’t as smitten with the Spielberg nostalgia as everyone else, it seems.

    Nice reviews, Ruth!

    1. Well I wouldn’t remove it from your queue. Who knows you might like it. I was hoping I’d like it but it just fails to engage nor entertain.

      You didn’t like Super 8, huh? I know it’s not perfect but it was enjoyable for me, but again I think the nostalgia factor definitely helps.

  6. ‘ello!!

    Quiet a varied weekend there my very best friend!!

    I have had Somewhere to watch for a while and even though I think Stephen Dwarf is cool I have avoided watching it, seems I was right too. In fact I would rather stick hot pins in my eyes!!

    I really want to see Super 8, even though i am great mixed reviews It seems up my street!

    How are you doing then my mate?

    1. Hey there Custard, you’ve been missing all weekend, hope you’ve been having fun 😀

      Ha..ha.. another name for Stephen, poor guy. He’s cool in Blade I suppose, though no one can top Wesley Snipes, ahah. Oh no, don’t stick hot pins… what are you gonna do with those cute glasses then if you can’t see! 😀 😀

      I think Super 8 is enjoyable for families. I’d recommend it to your kids too if it weren’t for all the profanity!

      P.S. Did you get my email about the Indonesian icon?

  7. I think Somewhere was more of an experiment than an actual film to be taken seriously. It gave me the chills throughout, and I enjoyed it a lot, but I suppose that’s because it’s nice to look at but not as a serious film. It’s an analysis of human behaviour, but the reason for it’s failure is because the behavior it analyses is so damn boring and pessimistic. I have a soft spot for indie comedies in which nothing happens. I have no idea why, but they trigger some sort of strong emotion in the pit of my stomach, and I realize that this is Sofia Coppola giving the finger to a conventional father/daughter drama and sticking to a one-dimensional character study. Inaccesible, but nonetheless affecting.

    1. An experiment?? Well if I had known that I might as well just avoid it. The thing is, it’s not even that nice to look at, for me anyways. I think one can analyze something tedious in an interesting way. I really tried to like this movie but I just couldn’t.

  8. Rtm, i don’t know if you got my last email, but it should clear up the misunderstanding we had.

    As for me, i saw a foreign Movie called H. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be your cup of tea, but i enjoyed it. And one of the performances in it really impressed me(I actually looked up the actor on imdb. he was that good). I am also going to try to see SUper 8 in theaters today. A local theater has a special discount on Tuesdyas, which i’ve never been able to take advantage of due to school.

    I personally was never too interested in Somewhere. I may check it out when it becomes available for streaming, but that’s about it

  9. If you ask me, Sofia Copolla never had a good movie, like most other female directors (with due respect to the exceptions), she makes visionless, bland and monotonous films.
    I like your SUPER 8 review, although I’m not planning on watching it.

      1. LOST IN TRANSLATION was one of the emptiest and monotonous films I’ve even seen. I was shocked when it got some awards, but it was all because we know who her daddy is.

        1. Well Dezzy, if you think that way about Lost in Translation, then you’d want to avoid Somewhere like a plague.

          Super 8 is pretty fun though, I think you might enjoy it.

  10. Ahahaah it’s kind of funny to read your Somewhere reaction after all the warnings people gave you last week about the movie 😉

    Checking out Super 8 tomorrow so I can’t read that review yet. I will be back.

    1. Well, not everybody hated it… I think Kevyn said he liked it and I was hoping there would be something for me to appreciate, alas…

      Looking forward to reading your take on Super 8, Castor!

  11. Elle Fanning movie time indeed.

    I am sad to hear about Somewhere, but I expected it after reading another blogger’s review http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/01/28/somewhere-out-there-i-write-a-letter-to-sofia-coppola/ (I like some of the stuff that David writes, and this one was interesting!), But I must say it is a disappointment to know it is bad. I was interested when I first saw the trailer! Thanks for the heads up. I will now for sure avoid it.

    Super 8! so glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you on the ending, I also found it unlikely at the, shall I say, survivability of the kids running through the train wreck. (??), but all in all I enjoyed it. I tend to think differently on the re-watch value though. I can’t wait to go see it again!

    Great reviews Ruth! Love em! and thanks for doing them.

    1. Hi T! Oh I remember that blog, it’s a good one, I’ll try to read his review later today.

      As for Super 8, I think a fair amount of suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy the movie, but it’s kinda a given w/ a lot of sci-fis. You can’t wait to see it again, huh? I suppose I don’t mind seeing it on Blu-ray again one day w/ friends, but no, I don’t think I’ll go back to the theater again to see it. X-Men: First Class on the other hand… I just might do that 😀

    1. Now that I think about it, Sofia seems quite myopic in her views as her movies often deal w/ lives of the privilege and like you said, the bourgeois crowd. Perhaps she should do a movie based on a true story of hungry kids in Africa or something to y’know, broaden her horizon just a tad.

  12. Hehehe I didn’t read your review at all…I am here only to see your rating 😉
    I avoid reading any review on my most anticipated movie,I don’t want to be spoiled. 3,5 is good enough

  13. Wow Ruth, I fell exactly the same way about Super 8 (except I thought the kids cussing was hysterical), and I could have almost written your last paragraph myself:P For whatever reason, I liked sure, but I just don’t see a need to see it again.

    Most reviews have the same negative feeling about the third act and you’re right, it didn’t derail the ending but it didn’t do much to tie things up. Too sappy, symbolic and yet foreign to the events leading up to it. Eh but I’d still bet some eat up the heartfelt nature of it.

    P.S. Elle was (although limited) pretty cute in the Sci-Fi channel series The Lost Room…I highly recommend checking it out!

    1. Hi Marc! I think the third act just had too much going for it for its own good, but the ending does tug my heart a bit though not so much my brain, there’s too many things left unexplained.

      Glad you agree w/ my review, Marc.

  14. Disappointingly, Super 8 keeps getting average ratings. It had such promise. Still looking forward to it. Somewhere never really floated my boat. I haven’t seen it but the trailer never made me want to. A lot of my movie seeing decisions hang on the trailer. That might seem fickle but unless there is a vested interest or a pre-existing passion, what else is there to entice the movie-goer?

  15. Just finished watching Super 8 last night, Ruth. I thought it was fantastic. I’ll be linking this review to my own, of course, but I just wanted to stop by and let you know!

  16. Pingback: » Movie Review – Super 8 Fernby Films

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