Commentary

March 8, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Dark Skies’, ‘Super 8’

In theaters:

dark-skies-poster

In theaters….

‘Dark Skies’

Not your common alien invasion story

Moviegoers might be pleasantly surprised with producer Jason Blum’s (“Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious”) latest offering, “Dark Skies.” It’s “Paranormal Activity” meets “X-Files” with a hint of M. Night Shyamalan.
The story opens with Lacy and Daniel Barrett (Keri Russell, “August Rush” and Josh Hamilton, “J. Edgar”) grilling burgers and setting a table in the backyard. Their son Sam (newcomer Kadan Rockett) is busy with the serious concerns of a young boy — tending to a lizard missing its tail. Lacy calls her other son Jesse (Dakota Goyo, “Real Steel”) and tells him to come home for dinner. After hanging up, Jesse goes back to watching an adult film and learning “life lessons” from it with his best friend Kevin (L.J. Benet, TV’s “Wizards of Waverly Place”).
Later that evening, Jesse tells Sam a bedtime story about the “Sandman” who steals children’s eyes.
Things take a sinister turn at this point with a series of mysterious events. Groceries are stacked in the kitchen, family photos disappear, birds fly into windows and the house alarm is tripped with no signs of entry.
Strange things happen to each member of the Barrett family on top of these events. Sam spaces out at the playground and asks his dad how he got there. Lacy loses six hours of her day, Daniel sleepwalks and ends up in the backyard, while Jesse experiences a seizure of sorts.
Lacy finally does some research on the Internet and discovers other families have gone through similar experiences. These strange events are linked to aliens who have targeted these families.
Further research uncovers the name of an expert on extraterrestrial phenomenon, Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons, “Juno” and Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy). Lacy tries to convince Daniel to see Pollard but, understandably, he’s skeptical about Pollard’s expertise and the existence of aliens. Daniel eventually comes around and agrees to see Pollard with Lacy.
During the consultation, Pollard tells Lacy and Daniel about “The Grays,” one of three classifications of extraterrestrials. Lacy sees newspaper clippings of abducted children on Pollards walls. Pollard advises Daniel to do everything he can to protect his family.
“Dark Skies” is a slow-paced movie with several creepy-yet-entertaining moments. I appreciated the fact this was not the usual ghost story nor was it an action-packed alien invasion movie. The intent was there — a suspenseful tale of alien abduction — but the execution could have been better.
The supporting characters come in and out of the story without leaving their mark. I was disappointed with the misuse of J.K. Simmons’ talents on a minor role. He was such a delight in “Juno” and the “Spider-Man” trilogy, so I had high hopes when I found out he was in this movie. Simmons did his best with the role he was given, so I blame poor directing and bad casting. Such a minor role should have been given to a lesser or even unknown actor.
Overall, “Dark Skies” was decent entertainment for a night out with a group of friends, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a date or watching solo (which goes against my first rule of movie watching “Never go alone.”)
This film is rated PG-13.
 
…..and on Netflix
 

Matilda-Movie-Poster

‘Matilda’

There’s always one childhood movie that kept each child captivated and was watched over and over so many times that the parents eventually couldn’t take it anymore. For me, “Matilda” was that movie.
I came across it one day while perusing my Netflix account and decided to watch it. Perhaps I was curious to see if I’d still enjoy it or if the special effects were as cool as they seemed 17 years ago. It was as I remembered.
The movie begins with a newborn baby girl, Matilda (Mara Wilson), being taken home from the hospital. Matilda’s father, Harry (Danny DeVito), and her mother, Zinnia (Rhea Perlman) toss her into the back area of their vehicle and speed off with Matilda sliding around the backseat.
Once they arrive home, Matilda’s parents and her brother, Michael (Brian Levinson) run into the house, forgetting Matilda in the car.
From that time on, Matilda is forced to take care of herself. She grows up quickly, and even as a 3-year-old she can cook pancakes from scratch.
Being home alone most of the time, she teaches herself how to read and reads every magazine in the house. Once there is nothing left to read, Matilda asks her father to take her to the library. He responds in shock asking her why she’d want to read, then tells her to just watch TV.
Knowing her father won’t take her to the library, Matilda looks up the address to a local library and at age 4 walks there by herself. She starts going to the library every day, and finally, she reads every children’s book there. She then makes her way to the adult-level books.
By the time Matilda turns 6, it’s clear she isn’t only different, but she’s become the outcast of her family. She spends her days alone while her father works as a dishonest car salesman and her mother plays bingo. Although her father knows she wants to go to school, he keeps her at home to check the mail and make sure car parts have been delivered.
Matilda’s world changes when Harry sells a car to Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris). On that same day, Matilda is enrolled at Crunchem Hall where Agatha happens to be the headmistress. There, Matilda makes several friends while also having to deal with Agatha. Agatha, who is known for giving children unusually cruel punishments, ends up being another bully figure in Matilda’s life.
Although Matilda’s life at school isn’t perfect, she meets Miss Honey (Embeth Davidz) who welcomes Matilda with open arms into her classroom. Miss Honey ends up becoming the first person to recognize something special about Matilda. She encourages her to keep learning and even asks Agatha to put her in a higher class. Although Miss Honey doesn’t know it yet, with her help, Matilda’s life will be different.
The great thing about “Matilda,” the movie, is the underlying theme of overcoming hardships and finding a way through them.
It is also an even blend of sadness, joy, comedy and suspense. There were several times I cracked up laughing and also found myself scared for some of the characters.
Pam Ferris played her villainess character very well. Similarly, Danny DeVito matched the essence of a father who really doesn’t care and portrayed it nicely in the scenes where he picked on Matilda.
Even as an adult I feel the same way about this movie as when I was 6-years-old. I could watch it over and over again for the funny and suspenseful moments. This movie is great fun for adults and children alike.
This film is rated PG.




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