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Super 8, Little White Lies, Loose Cannons and more

Fire, action and mystery come large and loud in Super 8.

The film has been shrouded in mystery for months. Now, Super 8 is here and one of the best films of the season. There’s also a classic from many seasons past and new films from France, Italy and Palestinians inside Israel.

Here’s the list:

Super 8  3 1/2 stars

Little White Lies   3

Loose Cannons  3 ½

The Time That Remains   3

The African Queen   5

The Makioka Sisters   --

Judy Moody    --

Cell 213   --

SUPER 8: Here’s one of the undeniable treats of the summer. That’s if you’ve got a taste for nostalgia, can remember adventure as you perceived it in your childhood and can appreciate a good rousing tale with a lot of heart. Some call this a film like Steven Spielberg used to make, but that’s only because he produced it and it has echoes of his E.T. and Close Encounters. You’ll just as likely flash on Goonies and various other films about kids and strange fiction.

The year is 1979. Walter Cronkite still reads the news, My Sharona is a big hit and in tiny Lillian, Ohio, the guy down at the gas station has one of those new cassette players, the Walkman. A budding and rather bossy filmmaker is directing his teen friends to make a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera borrowed from his dad. (Spielberg started that way. So did J.J. Abrams, who created TV’s Lost and directed a Star Trek and a Mission Impossible film. This, his third movie, has been a mysterious secret for months).

Turns out it’s a straight forward story that’s elegantly told but not such a big mystery at all. The movie kids happen to film a train derailment (a spectacular one that goes on and on, far beyond reason) and then find that their biology teacher deliberately caused it. He warns them “Do not speak of this. They will kill you”. There are strange noises coming from one of the rail cars and soon the Air Force has the area closed off and is evacuating the town and searching for the kids.

There are strange happenings as car parts go missing, electronic equipment malfunctions and people are kidnapped. A creature is on the loose. The local deputy (Kyle Chandler) feels he’s being lied to and defies the federal agents to do his own investigation. His son (newcomer Joel Courtney) will be first to figure out what’s going on.

He is also experiencing the first tingles of young love, for the mini-film’s female star, excellently acted by Elle Fanning. The story starts with a mother’s death, which has repercussions — too often, actually — through the rest of the film, which features several big, action set pieces and some mildly scary sequences. The era is re-created with authentic detail, although two lines of dialogue stick out. “I totally am” is a pure anachronism and for some unclear reason the screenplay includes one f-bomb. Stick around for the end credits. You’ll see the entire film the kids made. (The Ridge, Rio, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres). (3 1/2 out of 5)

 

LITTLE WHITE LIES: A group of friends go away together and before long, lies and blunt truths are flying. Arguments, recriminations, fallings-out happen. It’s not unusual in the movies, this time occurring in France, with a bit of Big Chill flavor tossed in. These friends go every summer to a vacation home near Bordeaux invited by a self-satisfied businessman, played by François Cluzet. He leads a fine cast of French actors, including Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard. They have a brief display of sorrow when they visit a friend laid up in hospital with very serious injuries. Then they go to the country and the beach anyway.

The film, one by one, brings out their narcissism and various other problems. They’ll also each suffer a breakdown before the film is over. (At 2 ½ hours, it has room for lots of those). A chiropractor confesses an attraction for the host who is one of his patients, but says it’s not a gay thing. One guest is desperate to reconnect (by cell phone) with a girlfriend who left him. Another avoids commitment and Marion, well, she’s into one-nighters. There are others too. They’re all revealed as shallow and self-absorbed but clearly defined as individuals. The film starts strong and intrigues but then loses momentum as we get to know the characters better and lose patience with them. American records, including The Weight, by The Band, and My Way, by Nina Simone, underline a lot of the story points. (International Village)  3 out of 5 

LOOSE CANNONS: There’s a clever premise in this Italian film and considerable entertainment value as it plays out. The son of an overbearing father does not want to be dragged into the family pasta business in Italy’s conservative south. He wants to stay in Rome, work on becoming a writer and live with his boyfriend. So, he resolves to announce at a family dinner that he’s gay. But first he tells his brother, who then upstages him by announcing that he’s gay. That gives the father a mild heart attack and prevents our hero from coming out himself. Instead, he has to run the business, along with the wild and sexy daughter of a new partner.

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