Writer/director J.J. Abrams handles the individual divisions of Super 8 just fine; it’s bringing them together where the movie falls very short. One section involves a group of middle school students creating a movie for a competition, and the other follows the results of a giant alien escaping from its military confinement and running amuck. The first plot is wholly self-aware, as the kids’ movie-within-the-movie begins to reflect the movie itself, and the creature attacks are staged well. The climax depends entirely on our emotional investment in the characters, and the final cathartic moment, which imagines a symbolic letting go in a literal one, is unearned. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Dominic Cooper gives virtuoso dual performances as Uday Hussein and his double Latif Yahia. Uday is a murderous psychopath, and Latif is a blank slate. Neither offers us an entryway into the story of The Devil’s Double, and the fact that Uday is intrinsically more interesting of a character on a first-impression basis goes against the movie’s moral center. It is, by the way, that Uday Hussein was a horrible excuse for a human being who did terrible things and that his death did not come soon enough. Why we need to recall these facts is uncertain. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Conan the Barbarian, which only borrows the title and central character’s name from the 1982 movie, wallows in misanthropy because that is all it knows. There are ways to pull of this sort of unbridled machismo, but director Marcus Nispel instead gives us a humorless, half-hearted, and clunky affair. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D.