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Friday, June 10, 2011

Super 8 Review

Why didn’t we love this movie? Why was it not mint? Why did it not earn the A we totally wanted to give it? Ten minutes after leaving the theater, one of us ran into a friend at the gas station and he asked us how it was. Response? A shrug and an, "It was OK." We're in the minority though, so feel free to argue.

We love the star Kyle Chandler, we love Steven Speilberg, we love nostalgia, we love J.J. Abrams’ creations and his attitude. This movie has an 83% on RottenTomatoes (which is the perfect rating, because it’s not high enough to be pretentious Oscar/critics’ fodder and it’s not low enough to be crap). It has great special effects, it’s sci-fi, there are some humorous bits, it has a good message, it’s touching, you can catch a brief glimpse of Amanda Foreman, the characters were good, and it’s entertaining. So what’s wrong? Were our expectations just too high due to hype?

Let’s start listing gripes then.

1) It wasn’t scary enough for adults. Everything J.J. does is going to get compared to his greatest creation, LOST, so we’re going to go ahead and do that. The great thing about lost was how eerie it was. Come on, LOST fans. LOST was creepy as ****, no? Super 8 had some jumps, but no real scares. The only reason they hid the object was so that it wouldn’t seem stupid to just immediately whip out something ludicrous. That’s a good idea, but the badness was like a reject from MANY other movies.

2) So maybe it’s for kids? Wrong. It’s not scary enough for adults, but it’s not clean enough for the kiddies due to language alone. These kids cuss as much as real kids and a stoner says the “F” word. And, of course, there is a heap of violence. This movie is perfect for the middle school and young teen crowd. Boys and girls ages 12-15 are going to love this movie. Sadly, we’re older than that.

3) We’ve seen this movie before. Usually we don’t mind when moviemakers borrow from other movies, as long as the result is incredible fun. Example: Tarantino. But this movie wasn’t quite good enough to excuse it from its imitations, and it brought nothing new to the table.

4) We got bored in some places. Granted, we watch a lot of TV, so our attention spans are not what they used to be, so this might not be a problem for some people. But we’re just throwing it out there.

5) We wanted the story or something in the movie to have more mystery and wonder. It’s lacking that magic that makes sci-fi and fantasy so intriguing. Once again, it was all just too familiar. There were no surprises or shocks at all. While we cared about the characters and their relationships, we weren’t invested in the action and the tension just wasn’t there. We didn’t get swept up in the movie. The events are not involving. We are going to forget about Super 8 as soon as we finish this review, and we won’t likely think about it again unless someone brings it up. We like movies that stick with us days after you leave the theater.

It seems like Abrams is repeating himself, and we are starting to chalk up his success to other people (his LOST writers) as he continues to churn out the disappointments. First was Alias, then Undercovers. First LOST, and now he's going back to an island for Alcatraz (of course we will be watching that anyway). Now we have Super 8. This is better than Cloverfield though. This guy can create some great stuff, but he's not one of our most-trusted creators anymore.

Bottom line: It’s not bad, but unless you are a 13-year-old boy, it’s not making your favorite movies list. The story just isn't there. Lots of specific things and moments worked, but as an overall experience, it's kind of a mess.

Movie Grade: B-

Summary of Pretty Little Liars Season One

----UPDATE---
A summary of seasons 1-3 can now be found here. We updated it AND made it more thorough.

Some people don't have time to catch up on shows and just want to jump right in. Lots of people have heard that Pretty Little Liars is good, but they heard it too late. Hey, we were surprised at how good this show turned out to be as well.

Pretty Little Liars is a convoluted show with lots of characters, subplots, clues, mysteries, and cliffhangers. So we probably didn't mention EVERYTHING that happened or will be touched upon again. But we did try to mention everything you would reasonably need to know to start watching season two when it airs this coming Tuesday.

The premise: There were five friends. One of them, Alison DiLaurentis, was a real jerk, but the other four worshipped her anyway. One night, Alison disappeared. The rest of the girls lost touch, but one year later, the four remaining friends came together on the day Alison’s dead body was found. That was also the day the mysterious “A” started sending them text messages, taunting them. The text messages included secrets about the girls that each girl had only revealed to Alison. So the show has two mysteries: Who killed Alison and who is A?

The four main girls:

Spencer Hastings - Ern’s favorite. She’s tough and smart, but she has a weakness for her sister’s guys.

Hanna Marin - Leeard’s favorite. The girl has a slick mouth that she probably got back when she used to be chubby (because when you aren’t gorgeous, you have to develop other strengths). But now, Alison is dead and Hanna lost weight, so she is the towns new most popular girl. She’s cool and hilarious, but she struggles with things like shoplifting and the occasional purging session.

Emily Fields - Probably the nicest of the girls, and the best person, Emily discovered that she was gay over the course of season one when she started a relationship with a new neighbor, Maya. Emily is on the school’s swim team, and she’s very good. Emily’s mother is having trouble accepting her daughter’s sexual orientation. Emily’s mom told Maya’s parents that Maya was smoking pot (which was true), so Maya was sent away to some sort of boot camp/boarding school. Emily spoke with her over the phone and it sounded like Maya had changed, so the relationship is over, for now. She’s currently digging a girl named Samara, even though she has kind of been dating a girl named Paige from her school. The trouble is that Paige is still in the closet, and Emily is over that.

Aria Montgomery - No one’s favorite, unless she is confronting her dad and his mistresses. That was the only time she was remotely cool. (Mr. Montgomery cheated on Aria’s mom and Aria knew. There was drama with Aria keeping the secret and then Mrs. Montgomery finding out and leaving Mr. Montgomery. They are getting cozy again though, so they might get back together.) Aria spent most of season one secretly dating her English teacher (and potential statutory rapist), Ezra Fitz, who she met in a bar before they knew she would be his student. Aria has a brother.

Other characters:

Jenna - She’s the blind girl. You can tell because of the cane and the eyeglasses. She is one creepy mofo. She forced her stepbrother, Toby, to have sex with her. Jenna is blind because Alison decided to set fire to a garage to play a prank on Toby. The four main girls were there, and the whole incident is one of their secrets.

Toby - Jenna’s stepbrother, who used to be the main suspect for Alison’s death, but only because he comes across as creepy at first. He’s really not. He’s dating Spencer right now. Spencer used to be dating a guy named Alex, but he’s not in her life anymore, due to a misunderstanding. We only mention this in case Alex ever comes back and starts some triangle business. And because we really liked Alex.

Melissa - Spencer’s sister. She is pregnant with Ian’s baby.

Ian - Suspect number one for the death of Alison, with whom he had a secret relationship. He made out with Spencer a long time ago.

Wren Kim - Melissa’s fiancĂ©. That ended when Melissa caught Wren and Spencer making out. He’s gone now. Plenty of guys just disappear from this show. We disapprove.

Noel Kahn - An actual age-appropriate guy who likes Aria and knows about her relationship with her English teacher. He tried to leverage that knowledge into a better English grade, but apparently that is the one thing Ezra feels is morally wrong. We thought he was gone from the show too, but if the split-second shot of him in the finale is correct, he's coming back.

Garrett - A cop snooping into all the show’s incidents. He pretends to be a friend to the four main girls, but we know better. He's dating Jenna.

Mona - Hanna’s popular-girl friend who is kind of a jerk but entirely hilarious.

Lucas - A nerd who loves Hanna, but she’s not into him. Leeard loves him for a multitude of reasons.

Caleb - A guy Hanna was crushing on who had no place to live. She let him live in her house, until she found out that Jenna was paying him to spy on Hanna. He swore he quit spying once he got to know Hanna though. Caleb tried to tell Hanna that he loved her, but Mona intercepted the love note. Lucas found out about Mona’s bad deed and went to get Caleb and drive him back to town.

How we left it: English teacher Ezra Fitz took a job at Hollis College with Aria’s dad…and his ex- fiancĂ©e. Noel Kahn still likes Aria. We found out that Ian has been taping all the girls in town, creepily. We found out that Alison got a hold of one of Ian’s videotapes (when she was with him vacationing at Hilton Head) that included a nice scene of Jenna telling Toby that she will say he raped her if he doesn’t sleep with her. Alison had the video on USB and Jenna has been trying to get it. We found out that Jenna is dating Garrett. She’s still up to something, and we don’t know what. Emily might have to move to Texas with her family. Ian chased Spencer through a church bell tower and tried to kill her, but he was pushed off a high perch by…someone. His body was not found. He is the presumed killer of Alison at this point, but you can never be sure with this show. So A is still out there, sending clues and taunts.

Anything else you can just pick up as you go or get from the "Previously on Pretty Little Liars" recaps at the beginning of each episode. We also have a few recaps of episodes that we've done, if you click on "Pretty Little Liars" at the top of this page. This really should be enough to give you the overview you would need to jump in. If anyone else can think of something important to add, put it in the comments!

Pretty Little Liars season two will be on Tuesdays on ABC Family. It starts on June 14th. We can't wait.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ABC Family update - Switched at Birth pilot and Secret Life season finale


Switched at Birth Pilot Review
One of us will watch just about anything that ABC Family airs, including Secret Life, and isn’t ashamed of it. Okay, she’s slightly ashamed, but she’s trying to get over it. Therefore, she obviously watched the pilot of Switched at Birth. If this is literally the first you’re hearing about the show, the title tells you just about everything about the show: the two main characters, Bay and Daphne, were switched at birth. Bay grew up privileged with two loving parents and a brother, while Daphne was raised by a single mom and grandmother. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff there. One of the more interesting and unique things about this show is the fact that Daphne is deaf. One of the bloggers is very interested in deaf culture, and is pretty excited to see it on television, even if it is watered down. And speaking of the deaf culture, we thought it was very interesting how Daphne became deaf from a meningitis infection when she was four. We hope that this causes conflict in later episodes, because we would probably enjoy the discussion; if Bay and Daphne hadn’t been switched, would Daphne still have become deaf? Would Bay have instead? We really hope that wasn’t just a one-time thought for the show.
However, we really didn’t like how fast the first four minutes of the episode were, covering eight weeks in their lives. We would’ve appreciated getting to know the girls and their families before finding out that Bay and Daphne were given to the wrong parents. As it was, we didn’t care for the sloppy introduction. We also wish the show had shown us how different Bay and her mom are, instead of having Bay repeatedly tell the audience.
We didn’t love the episode, but after hearing bad things about the pilot from a lot of other sources, we were pleasantly surprised. We do expect more from ABC Family now, however. In terms of quality, we want this show to be more like Pretty Little Liars, and right now, it’s leaning more towards Secret Life.
Episode Grade: C
Secret Life Season Finale
Speaking of which: oh Secret Life. How one (AND ONLY ONE) of us loves you so. Y’all, this episode was insane. We predicted it from the previews, but Adrian’s baby died. We would like to say first that having a baby die like that is horrible and we literally can’t imagine the kind of pain that Adrian, Ben, and their families must be going through, not to mention the pain felt by the people who actually go through that in real life. No one deserves that kind of hurt. That being said, the actor who plays Ben is a horrible fake crier. It needed to be mentioned. Also, this might sound horrible, but we’re kind of excited about what this development will mean for Adrian and Ben. They got married and moved in together because they were going to become parents. How are they going to deal with it now that they aren’t? Will they stay together or separate? Obviously, our money is on them separating, but probably not getting divorced; that wouldn’t fit with Secret Life’s image.
Episode Grade: B+
What were your thoughts on the Switched at Birth pilot and Secret Life season finale?