Tag Archives: J.J. Abrams

Benedict Cumberbatch cast as villain in ‘Star Trek’ sequel

8 Jan

By Chris Engelhardt

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Credit: Benedict Cumberbatch Facebook Page

Benedict Cumberbatch, who was recently seen in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “War Horse,” has joined the cast of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” sequel.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Cumberbatch has been selected to play a villain in the unnamed project.

The film is due in theaters May 17, 2013.


Movie Review: Super 8

27 Sep

By Chris Engelhardt

J.J. Abrams, director of Super 8. Credit: david_shankbone, via Flickr

Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, is a fantastic mystery-thriller that comes billed as entirely science fiction.

Though centered around a sci-fi premise, the film, also penned by Abrams, remains a heavily human story. What we have here is a fantasy-drama juxtaposed with a love story that is as heartfelt as it is exhilarating–a masterful work that operates effectively as both a visual piece and an emotional work.

The film, set in 1979 in Ohio, follows youngster Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney), who is coping with the recent death of his mother. His father, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), is a deputy police officer entangled in an emotional web of distress over his wife’s death. The father and son hardly know one another. Jackson hides his sadness behind closed doors. Joe, often, refers to his mother’s locket which was retrieved from her body after the accident. Both are solemn, both miss her. We know it, and we feel it, too.

The movie moves four months forward , and Joe and his friends are enthusiastically working to create an amateur zombie movie to submit to a film festival. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is directing the project. The others all have their own individual roles (acting, applying makeup, etc). Charles manages to snag an attractive girl named Alice (Elle Fanning)—known to be something of a popular girl at school—for the lone female role in his movie. To put it mildly, Joe is excited by his friend’s decision. Shooting the film, in addition to Alice’s presence on-set, allows him to temporarily escape the unpleasantness of his father at home, and the harsh reality that his mother is long gone.

The irony, however, is that while Joe and crew seek to create their own horror story, they become a part of one in the process. While filming next to a nearby railroad, a mysterious collision between a freight train and truck results in a disastrous accident, and it’s Joe who notices afterward that something escapes the cargo of the train and heads into town. A string of strange happenings follow. Power outages ensue. Dogs go missing. Residents vanish. The military is soon involved, and with a growing panic among residents, Jackson and local authorities try to find answers as new questions and oddities continue to amount.

As its plot thickens, Super 8 builds on its mystery, ties us to its characters, and keeps us fixated throughout. Abrams’ strong screenplay engages on all levels, from its science fiction plot, to a developed love story, to the relationships between the characters we come to care for. He creates a magnificent, magical atmosphere that beautifully splices human sentimentality with mystery and suspense.

It’s important to note how effectively Abrams is in engaging his audience through his young cast. He allows us to view the film not from an adult perspective, but through the eyes of these youngsters. In their banter about their film’s script, the framing of scenes, and their love for movie-making, Abrams takes us through their journey while capturing the uncanny simplicity that comes with childhood, where all that matters is the moment.

Both Abrams and Spielberg, as youths, were constantly involved in making films with neighborhood friends, and smartly resort to their own experiences to craft a film that showcases youngsters doing what they did in their time. Super 8 is a remarkably pleasant surprise also in that it undeniably maintains the feel of Spielberg’s earlier films, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.—films full of life, energy, and excitement.

Though I won’t give away what that “something” was in the freighter’s cargo, as it would be a disservice to the film, it’s fair to say there’s a strong chance it may not exactly be human. Nevertheless, what can be said is that the collaboration between Abrams and Spielberg makes for a captivating, poignant, nearly-perfect picture.

Super 8, in the mist of its science fiction, is about how people react to the unexpected. How people cope with life, with sadness, with fear, and with one another. It’s a timeless tale of youth and adventure, of emotionality and growth, and of living, learning, and letting go. There’s a powerful scene when Joe faces losing his mother’s locket, the very item he has to remember her by. It’s moments like these that go beyond any special effects, any range of choreographed action sequences, or, for the matter, conversation. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Grade: A

This article was originally published on Suite101: http://christopher-engelhardt.suite101.com/super-8-movie-review-a376266