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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: J.J. Abrams

At MTV Movie Awards, 'Super 8' courts the youth vote [Video]

June 6, 2011 |  7:00 am

One of the stranger moments at the MTV Movie Awards Sunday night -- besides Jason Segel's butt-texting bit -- came when Steven Spielberg took to the stage to promote "Super 8." It's not often you get one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation on a stage amid His Bieberness and the K-Stew hair pulling. But there he was, standing aside J.J. Abrams and several of the child actors from "Super 8."

The occasion was the unveiling of a new spot for the low-budget monster film (you can watch it below), and though the whole proceeding felt a bit anomalous amid the Harry Potter and "Twilight" coronations, it did make clear some interesting details about the upcoming film. There's a movie the characters are shooting, for one thing, and plenty of we-must-seal-off-this-town tension, along with more quick cuts than in "E.T.," the film to which "Super 8" has sometimes been compared. Also, is it just us or is there something about that child director that evokes Chunk from "The Goonies"?

As Abrams alluded to from the stage, "Super 8" is trying to create some old-fashioned pre-release mystery, and the interesting question will be how that plays to a younger audience weaned on pre-release hysteria. We'll find out soon: The movie, which is being sold on its concept and filmmakers a bit more than its stars, opens later this week.


Is J.J. Abrams' "Super 8" this summer's "District 9"?

Hero Complex: "Super 8": J.J. Abrams reveals the secrets of his new film

Hero Complex: Steven Spileberg: "Super 8" is the first true Steven Spileberg film

-- Steven Zeitchik


Kid stars of J.J. Abrams' 'Super 8' excited to be on the cusp of fame [Video]

April 2, 2011 | 10:12 pm

When new footage from J.J. Abrams' hush-hush summer release "Super 8" was unveiled at Las Vegas' CinemaCon this week, many were surprised by the prominent role that half a dozen formerly unknown kid actors play in the film.

The director said he chose the novice cast -- led by newcomer Joel Courtney -- largely because he wanted them to look like authentic kids.

Indeed, at the Kids' Choice Awards on Saturday, the group of young boys seemed to be just that. They spoke excitedly about working with Abrams and shook their heads enthusiastically when asked if they'd become close friends off-set.

"He's like a kid at heart," the diminutive Ryan Lee said of the director. "I mean, he cracks jokes all the time. He knows as soon as we get overworked, he's gonna make us feel better by just, like, being a kid."

To make the movie, Lee said, he and a number of the other child actors -- many of whom had never before been in a film -- had to be home-schooled because their "schools wouldn't cooperate."

"But it's a sacrifice worth making," he added.

Asked if they expect their lives to change after the release of the much-anticipated summer film, cast member Riley Griffiths had this to say:

"I'm not gonna say I'm not gonna enjoy the ladies," he grinned.


Arrival photos from the Kids' Choice Awards

Best and Worst of the 2011 Kids' Choice Awards

Kids' Choice Awards: Selena Gomez says next film role marks 'crucial turning point' in her career [Video]

--Amy Kaufman


Is J.J. Abrams' 'Super 8' this summer's 'District 9'?

February 7, 2011 | 11:31 am

A Super Bowl commercial let the cat out of the bag (the monster out of the train?) for J.J. Abrams' "Super 8."   But the big-game spot was only a small piece of the puzzle. The filmmaker behind the highly anticipated science fiction release opened up further to my colleague Geoff Boucher.

In an item posted on our sister blog, Hero Complex, the writer-director described the plot for "Super 8," for which an earlier teaser hinted at a monster escaping from a train in 1979: "[I]t’s an adventure about a small town and it’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s scary and there’s a mystery: What is this thing that has escaped? What are the ramifications of its presence? And what is the effect on people?"

Abrams had been toying with a different film about a similar set of characters -- a widower father and his son --  but as he began putting it together he realized it made more sense to combine it with a separate idea he'd recently sold to Paramount, about Area 51 and a train of classified material that never made it to its destination.

Abrams did, however, want to keep the emotional elements that animate films such as "E.T." (Steven Spielberg is a producer on "Super 8"). "This is a movie about overcoming loss and finding your way again and finding your own voice,” Abrams said. “A boy who’s lost his mother and the man who’s lost his wife. There’s this father who, because of the era, never really had to be the parent."

The director does worry that the lack of an established brand could dim the summer pic's prospects.  ”We have such a challenge on this movie,” Abrams said, adding that "we’ve got no famous superhero, we’ve got no preexisting franchise or sequel, it’s not starring anyone you’ve heard of  before."

Of course a novel concept and a director name has managed to turn a science-fiction film into a hit each of the past two summers: the Peter Jackson-godfathered "District 9" and Christopher Nolan's "Inception." Abrams may not have much to worry about.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: J.J. Abrams. Credit: Tracey Nearmy / EPA


Hero Complex: J.J. Abrams reveals the secrets of 'Super 8'



Who will win the Super Bowl (movie sweepstakes)?

February 4, 2011 |  5:47 pm

The Super Bowl is usually a good place to get a fix on upcoming movies. Last year, for instance, ads during the big game gave viewers a pretty decent idea of what "Shutter Island" was, and what "The Wolfman" wasn't (many things, not least of all a hit).

This year, the game's ads will feature a whopping nine films, most of them big summer releases,  including "Captain America," the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the Gore Verbinski animated film "Rango." And on more general cinematic subjects, there's also Volkswagen's rather inventive nod to "Star Wars." (You can watch the ad below if you haven't seen it yet.)

Perhaps the most closely scrutinized spot, though, will be for "Super 8," the J.J. Abrams science-fiction project that's been a more closely guarded secret than the events at Roswell. (More in this space on all of the ads after the game, and check our sister Hero Complex blog on Sunday for more details on "Super 8.")

In the past, Super Bowl commercials have tended to be heavy on pyrotechnics and explosions. We're not sure we'll avoid that fate this year, though one usual culprit, at least, shows some restraint: The "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" commercial, also below, is a car-morphing spot done in conjunction with General Motors.

--Steven Zeitchik





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