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In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.
For more about Super 8 and the Super 8 Blu-ray release, see Super 8 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 6, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Elle Fanning, AJ Michalka, Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee
Director: J.J. Abrams
» See full cast & crew
Super 8 Blu-ray Review
Paramount's latest Blu-ray is mint.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 6, 2011
Bad things happen, but you can still live.
J.J. Abrams has moved on from "flavor of the week," has excelled far beyond "flash in the pan," and has proven to be every bit the "next big thing" and that he's definitely here to stay. And there couldn't be better news for fans of original thinking and great vision in a modern day Hollywood that's almost otherwise devoid of both. His storytelling ability, creativity, and naturally keen sense of filmmaking authenticity have turned him into one of Tinseltown's elite. His "Lost" is the very definition of sensational television. It was arguably the best, most complex, most comprehensive, most enthralling, and best-conceived program ever made. His Mission: Impossible III positively defines the summer Action movie spectacle. His Star Trek did the seemingly impossible, revitalizing and at the same time both re-imagining and staying true to the roots of a longstanding and unequivocally adored franchise. His latest, Super 8, is a movie that brings childhood fantasy to life. It's a movie born of a youthful imagination, a throwback picture that's modern-slick but classic fun. It's the fantastic personified, a picture that embodies everything that's good about the connection between filmed entertainment and the human imagination. Isn't that what moviemaking is really all about?
It's a sad time in the small steel town of Lillian, Ohio. A worker at the local mill has died in a tragic accident, leaving behind her husband, deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), and her young son, Joe (Joel Courtney). Fast-forward four months to the end of the school year. Jackson and Joe are still grieving, but beginning to move on with their lives. Jackson wants to send Joe away to summer baseball camp, but Joe would rather stay at home and help his best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) make a Super 8 Zombie movie that he hopes to enter into a regional amateur filmmaking contest. Joe's the group's expert makeup man, but it looks like a critical re-written scene won't get made when Alice (Elle Fanning) learns that Joe's part of the team. Fortunately for Charles, his lead man Martin (Gabriel Basso), background player Preston (Zach Mills), and zombie specialist/pyromaniac Cary (Ryan Lee), Alice chooses to shoot the scene, anyway, despite her misgivings which stem from her family's frayed relationship with Joe's. The scene is tremendous; Alice proves to be a wonderful actress, and Charles can't believe his luck when a speeding train approaches the station just as they're about to shoot the final take (production values!). But tragedy strikes when a pickup truck pulls in front of the train, derailing it and causing a spectacular wreck. The children are safe but badly shaken, even when they learn the identity of the truck driver and hear his ominous warning. Soon enough, the U.S. military is on the scene and things quickly unravel in their sleepy Ohio town. Things go missing, the power flickers, and people disappear. How is it all connected to the crash? Did Charles capture anything critical on film? Can the intrepid child filmmakers crack the case and discover why the town has descended into chaos and what could be behind the madness?
There's just so much to love about Super 8, but if one were forced to boil the entire thing -- story, characters, technical merits -- down to one word, that word would have to be balance. The film plays with an almost mystic harmony. It's so polished but at the same time seen through something of a rough filter, the eyes of children who come to understand human emotions and values well beyond their years. The story is as touching as it is exciting, as well developed and smartly assembled as it is rollickingly fun, as emotionally involved as it is fast-paced and superficially engaging. But it's that latter element -- the picture's genuine sense of heartfelt emotion, born of fantastic characters and a wonderful foundation -- that's its single greatest asset. From the film's incredibly moving opening shots forward, the picture's fundamental structure is built on a tragedy that will give rise to both the realization of and an appreciation for the purpose of forgiveness, the importance of letting go, and the need to move forward, all of which ultimately yield freedom from the past, a freedom that will figuratively -- and literally -- set a soul free. It's all personified throughout the film and its brilliantly simple finale, and that the film is as honestly heartfelt and touching as it is monster movie exciting is a testament to just how smartly conceived and brilliantly assembled a picture this really is.
Super 8, in a way, has a feeling of Abrams' own "Lost" in how the story is slow to reveal and in how its characters, themes, and situations take different shapes and meanings as the story unfolds. But it's probably more like a modern Stand By Me than it is anything else. Ultimately, Super 8 is a film of childhood discovery, a story of togetherness and an unbreakable bond formed in a time of great adventure that's made by and seen through, mostly, a child's perspective. Certainly the film strays from Rob Reiner's coming-of-age masterpiece with its Sci-Fi/Monster movie twist, but at its core Super 8 is a similar movie about the bonds of friendship and, more importantly and as explored through the wonderfully conceived connection between characters Joe and Alice, a story of discovery not necessarily of the external kind, but of the far more rewarding inward variety, of a connection made, a friendship formed, an unspoken love created through the prism of great tragedy. It's so simple but at the same time so brilliantly assembled. Super 8 never relinquishes its spell over its audience no matter where it goes, for it always comes back to that one simple truism that speaks on basic values that hold true no matter the circumstances, no matter the time or place, no matter how fantastic something may be. The characters are superbly realized, and the level of acting and palpable chemistry are nearly second-to-none for a movie built around child actors.
For as emotionally satisfying as it may be, Super 8 also succeeds at the same time as a classic throwback monster movie. It's deliciously corny in places and revels in building this part of its narrative with cookie-cutter characters and clichéd dialogue that hearken back to the simpler Science Fiction films of yore. That's the beauty of this piece of the puzzle, though, the realization of just how good the movie is at capturing the very essence of a worn-out genre and mixing it with honest heart, dazzling special effects, unbeatable characters, and a great story. It's perhaps best described as a classic B-movie given the high dollar modern-slick A-level treatment. Abrams can get away with this style because the monster movie angle is but a device used to bring the story's greater elements to the forefront, but at the same time have some big-budget fun. And fun he has. Super 8's meshing of retro amateur filmmaking, throwback Sci-Fi elements, and modern technical wizardry is a real treat for audiences who can appreciate the alchemic skill required to pull it off. Really, this is a complete package that has everything a movie of this sort should. "Fun," "fantastic," and "heartfelt" only scratch the surface of what this one is about. Here's to what may very well be the best movie of 2011.
Super 8 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Super 8's 1080p Blu-ray transfer is typical of Paramount new releases. It's gorgeous. This is a beautifully filmic transfer that retains a very light and balanced layer of grain that accentuates all the positives and gives it that fresh-from-theaters veneer. Colors are many, vibrant, and balanced. The palette is extremely well balanced, even if the movie favors a very slight warmth, which carries over to what are sometimes slightly rosy or bronze flesh tones. Black levels are exceptional, appearing deep and accurate but never crushing out fine foreground details. Clarity is superb, which in turn aids in the transfer's ability to yield balanced details and textures throughout. Clothing and faces take on natural, almost tactile textures, while general objects around the frame -- brick façades, weathered wear and tear on painted surfaces, clumps of trees and other outdoor vegetation -- are all wonderfully complex and realistic. The image also yields fine natural depth, which is evident even in the film's many dark, nighttime segments. It's a rather basic image, but that doesn't take away from the sheer beauty of it. This is one of those transfers that so wonderfully captures the essence of the theatrical presentation for home viewing, which is part of what Blu-ray is all about and everything a modern release should be.
Super 8 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Super 8's Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack is the stuff of Blu-ray legend. This is one stout, enveloping, energized, satisfying, and dare say perfect listen. The track handles both extremes and everything in between with equal flair, vigor, and authenticity. The track yields phenomenal ambience throughout. The light background clatter and chatter at the funeral home as heard at film's start practically transports the listener to the somber locale. Light background music in a diner plays with a realistic authenticity that might have listeners believing the jukebox is in the house, not on the disc. Outdoor ambience is wonderful, too, whether the din of a small town floating on by in the background or the most delicate trace of a chilly wind blowing through the soundstage. On the other end, the track delivers a wonderfully robust low end that will test the limits of the subwoofer, wake the neighbors, and plaster a smile across the faces of every listener. Whether heavy footsteps on an old rickety wooden platform at the train station or the sounds of destruction and chaos that define the film's climactic action scene, there's no shortage of crisp, accurate, and deep bass. The surround channels are extensively used in support of the film's action, ambience, and satisfyingly spacious and crisp music, both score and popular alike. Indeed, sounds maneuver through the listening area with such ease and natural flow that the listener will be pulled into every scene, whether in Charles' bustling and loud house or in the streets of Lillian that have transformed into a war zone. The track amazingly excels no matter the scene, even when it goes practically silent save for the ever-so-slight buzzing of an electric sign outside of a gas station in chapter six.
But for all the wonderful moments in Paramount's champion lossless soundtrack, there's one that stands above the rest: the train derailment sequence. It's not only the highlight of this track, it's a sonic marvel and a perfectly engineered moment that's frighteningly authentic, devastatingly potent, and chillingly enveloping, all of which make it, arguably, the finest demo-worthy scene ever. The scene yields incredibly tight and heavy bass. It offers a terrifyingly immersive structure that takes full advantage of all seven speakers, sending everything from debris to complete train cars, from whooshing fire to screaming children, all over the listening area. Both the bass and the seamless directional effects come together in perfect harmony to create a sonic marvel, a naturally high-energy, eardrum-devastating, and infinitely enjoyable moment, a powerhouse scene that should be the reference audio clip for some time. But what's perhaps best about this track is that, for as wonderful a moment as this is, it doesn't feel detached from the rest of the presentation. The track is so well-engineered and the movie so well-constructed that the entire thing just works together seamlessly, from this moment all the way down to that flickering sign in an otherwise silent environment. Supported by perfect center-focused dialogue that's never garbled or lost under the heavy effects, Paramount's track is an unequivocal winner and is well on its way to being the year's finest.
Super 8 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Super 8 arrives on Blu-ray packed with extras, including a good audio commentary track, several high quality featurettes, and plenty of deleted scenes.
Super 8 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Super 8 may represent the very essence of cinema. It's thrillingly escapist but grounded in real human drama and emotion. It has characterization to spare, wonderful acting, and perfect chemistry between its child leads. It boasts fantastic visual effects and all those glorious production values! that make a movie complete. It's basically a movie that embodies all of those simple elements that Charles wants to incorporate into his own Super 8 movie, and one can't help but wonder how much of J.J. Abrams' own childhood has found its way into Charles and his filmmaking buddies. Super 8 shows just how simple a formula it really is to make a good movie. It's all about heart, plot, and characters, with its supporting elements just that, supporting the bigger picture that's superficially dominated by the film's scope and special effects but thematically overwhelmed by the core story. Indeed, Super 8 is the embodiment of that one-word definition -- balance -- and is also positively a joy to watch and a modern marvel of real, genuine filmmaking. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Super 8 is every bit as excellent as the movie. Perfect video, perfect audio, and a nice assortment of extras round this into one of the year's finest must-own releases. Super 8 earns my highest recommendation.
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Super 8 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: November 22-28 - November 22, 2011
After successfully bringing Star Trek to the mainstream, director J.J. Abrams teamed up with legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg to create this generation's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. While the story behind Super 8 surrounds the aftermath of a train wreck, the ...
• $5 Off Coupon for Super 8 (Updated) - November 20, 2011
Amazon is offering a special $5 off coupon for Super 8. This promotional discount applies to the two-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack of director J.J. Abrams' nostalgic sci-fi/adventure; the coupon is available until November 27th.
• Super 8 "Hide and Tweet" Contest - November 15, 2011
In anticipation of Super 8's November 22nd street date, Paramount Home Entertainment has started a special "Hide and Tweet" contest. Using the film's @Super8Movie Twitter account and Super8Tweet.com, fans can locate advance copies of the film as well as special ...
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