I’m pretty sure that, “The 80s and the 90s consistently made the best movies, especially, but not limited to, family movies, and if you disagree shut up because you’re wrong,” is a statement of science. It goes: 1. Newton’s laws of gravitation; 2. The laws of thermodynamics; 3. General relativity; 4. If you don’t like 80s and 90s movies, shut up because you’re dumb and have no friends. I don’t even know if I could count all the movies I’ve done on this list so far (and that are yet to come) that come from the roughly ’79-’94 range that are amazing.
It’s something about the time period: digital effects were non-existent or so primitive that the film’s practical effects had to be on their A game, and if digital was involved at all, its presence was very limited and there to patch up the cosmetics; the story writing hadn’t yet become jaded and people were still trying to evoke genuine emotional reactions through AAA movies. Plus, there is an unboundedness to those movies as studios haven’t yet come upon the idea that there were magic ideas that would make millions of dollars appear. Because very few rules had yet to be established, they were more inclined to take on risky and unknown projects.
And what made family movies of this time period so meaningful and endearing is that they actually respected kids. It’s hard to place exactly, but kids were frequently extending beyond their reach going places adults were too afraid, jaded, or dumb to go themselves. They constantly put themselves in danger — real danger — that might mean even their death.
So when I saw Earth to Echo, the thing I was least prepared for was how earnest its story is. Yes, on one level it’s the story of three friends who find an alien on their last night together in the same town, but really it reflects what it’s like growing up: how unfair it is to have powers bigger than yourself impinge on your freedom forcing you to do things that, even in your admitted ignorance, you sense as short sighted and unnecessary. It reflects the heightened importance EVERYTHING carries because it’s the first time it’s happened to you, and you don’t know if it will happen again. And kids are crappy sometimes. It neither deifies nor villainizes them. They can be self-sacrificing (like when Munch is taken by a strange adult), but they can also be cowards (like when Tuck refuses to help save Alex from an arcade’s security guard). I admit to tearing up at least once.
On a technical level the movie shines. A few scenes feature CG that looks a little squishy, but there were times when I wasn’t sure if it was a CG alien on the desk, or a puppet. And it’s a “found footage” movie, which is usually the kiss of garbage, but it was utilized in a way to actually further the story and inflate the world rather than as an excuse for terrible camera work.
The best part, though, is how the movie shows your life can instantly become elevated above the lives of those around you if you’re willing and open for the right moment. In a world in which adults were willing to believe appearances and do as told, a group of kids were receptive to a moment of transcendence and change the course of lives and (inferrably) history. But that acts as footnote to the fact that this moment of transcendence allows the four friends to overcome their enforced isolation from each other. And it’s so touching.
From what I can tell, the movie didn’t get much traction: it didn’t cost much to make, but 3 times not much is still a third the budget of Avatar. It’s a little disheartening to see the only kid’s movie not made out of hot steaming garbage (since Harry Potter) pass by unnoticed. It’s on Netflix, and worth your time.
After a relatively quiet June, the summer really heats up with a slew of sci-fi thrillers, as well as a few comedies and independent films sprinkled in. If you’re a movie buff, you won’t be bored this month. Check out what we have to say about July’s films:
July 2 – Earth to Echo
Starring: Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese C. Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt
There is no way anyone can watch this preview and not feel a bit of a squeal emerge from their throats. There could be a way, but you have no heart. Earth to Echo follows a group of tweens who find “Echo,” an alien who looks like the cutest owl ever, and just happens to be the target of some things the group of kids aren’t ready for. The kids are sure to learn some lessons about themselves and about life. Earth to Echo may be this generation’s E.T. and is sure to be the family movie of the Summer. – Adrian
July 2 – Tammy
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd
O.K., I’ll admit it. As soon as I saw Melissa McCarthy walking through a parking lot to “Gangsta’s Paradise,” I immediately spat out whatever I was drinking and simultaneously snorted. While the teaser shows her sticking up a fast-food joint with her finger, the movie is about a woman caught between a rock and hard place. She just lost her job and her husband has been cheating on her. What better time than now to road trip with her grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon? Tammy looks hysterical. I just hope the film lives up to the hype of the trailer. – Adrian
July 11 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell
The much-anticipated sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is finally here! We pick up years after the last film and Caesar and the apes have made a city for their own but a virus wiped out a ton of humans, which will ultimately create a ton of enemies through out time. After a while of peace between Apes and Humans, a war starts to begin that will ultimately reveal whether or not Humans are actually more powerful than Apes – or if it is the other way around. The Planet of the Apes films of past and present have always intrigued me because of how realistic they can be, even though the idea is far-fetched, much like zombies. It obviously is not a film for most kids as you may never be able to take them to the zoo again, but ultimately, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is going to be one of the most popular films this summer and there is already a sequel being planned, which usually disappoints me when a film has not even been released, but is definitely awesome to me. – Jacob
July 11 – A Long Way Down
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collete, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul
A Long Way Down is based on the best selling novel by Nick Hornby, which follows the story of a band of four suicidal individuals coming from all walks of life. There’s Martin, the middle-aged, newly divorced celebrity, Maureen, the 51-year-old single mother, politician’s daughter Jess, and American immigrant JJ, all which meet on top a building one night, ready to jump. Deciding not to jump, they make a pact to keep living until Valentine’s Day. When the story is picked up by the media, they decide to put their own twist on what happened. Being the daughter of a therapist and having dealt with mental illness for several years, this intrigues me. I only hope they don’t romanticize suicide, but rather tell a story that shows how people with depression can find solace in one another. Knowing Nick Hornby, this dark comedy will probably do just that. I’m excited for this movie and will try to squeeze in time to read the book beforehand so I can get more out of it. – Charlotte
July 18 – Jupiter Ascending
Starring: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean
Jupiter Jones (Kunis) is a unfortunate janitor until she discovers her previously unknown genealogy destines her to greater things beyond Earth. Alongside genetically engineered interplanetary warrior Caine Wise (Tatum), she battles her way across the galaxy to take her rightful place at the throne of the House of Abrasax. This movie marks The Wachowskis’return of original screenplays and the science fiction genre. This movie looks to take place in a very complex world, the details of which aren’t likely to be skimmed. Douglas Booth, who plays a supporting role in the film, describes it as a cross between Star Wars and The Matrix. This makes the film seem promising and I’m interested to see how it will be received. My only fear is that it may be rather predictable, but the trailer leaves much to the imagination, so it’s hard to really say. – Charlotte
July 18 – Planes: Fire and Rescue
Starring: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Stacy Keach, Julie Bowen
Last year, Disney/Pixar tried their best to capitalize on their success with the 2006 hit Cars by basically giving all of the characters wings and making them fly. Planes was not nearly as well-received as Cars, so for whatever the reason, they decided to make a sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue. In this continuation, Dusty Crophopper, played by Dane Cook (that should be a red flag for most people) realizes he cannot race anymore, so he chooses to pursue more noble endeavors to become a firefighter, helping to put out forest fires with the help of a rescue helicopter named Blade Ranger (Ed Harris). Unless you have kids that really enjoyed the first Planes, you probably won’t be seeing this one. I’m sure that it has appeal to the much younger crowd, and like every other Disney/Pixar movie, there will be bones thrown to the adults and parents who happen to be taking their children, With veteran voice actors like Patrick Warburton, Regina King, and Brad Garret filling in the gaps in casting, there is at least some assurance that some of it will be funny. In the end, I’m not exactly chomping on the bit to buy a ticket to Planes: Fire and Rescue. But I also don’t have a kid who would be old enough to enjoy such a film. Although if you saw the first Planes and enjoyed it, there is no reason you shouldn’t head out and take this one in as well. – Scott
July 18 – Sex Tape
Starring: Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz
Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star as a couple who, in an attempt to reignite their love life, decide to make a sex tape. However, instead of deleting this video, they unknowingly upload it to the Cloud. They make a desperate attempt to try and get the video off the internet. Apparently nobody told them that there is no way to get something off the net after it has been uploaded. Watching this preview kind of reminded me of Road Trip. I also wondered what the point of trying to get this video off the net after the majority of the people they know have already seen it or why they didn’t make it on an actual video recorder. But this is a movie and there is no room for logic here. This should be a pretty funny movie and definitely looks like it would be worth seeing. – Robert
July 18 – The Purge: Anarchy
Starring: Frank Gillo, Carmen Ejogo, Michael K Williams
Even though the reviews for the first Purge were mixed, they still managed to surpass their budget by a very large margin. This time around instead of one story, we are given three separate stories that have people from all over the city coming together to try and survive the night. I was genuinely surprised when I saw that there was going to be a sequel to the original, I hadn’t realized that it had done that well sales wise. I can’t honestly see this being that great but I guess there is a market for these types of movies. I still haven’t seen the first one, so maybe I will rent that…….. and then wait for this to come out on Blu-Ray and rent it. – Robert
July 18 – Aftermath
Have you heard of this movie? Neither have I. But do not despair, according to the movie we are all going to die anyway, from what I’m not too sure. It could be some infection, a nuclear explosion, crazy people out in the world; our death is still somewhat unclear. Based off the trailer I really can’t give an accurate description of what we all need to start training for. This film seems to be one that you movie hop over to if the times fit with your first or second movie. I can’t really judge this movie though (I’m totally judging) because I am not a horror film kind of person. Director Peter Engert pulls together Edward Furlong (where the hell has that guy been the past ten years?), Monica Keena, Andre Royo (who played Bubbles in The Wire), and several other starts to create this horror film. With all the characters being stuck together in a barn or cellar, and just trying to survive, things are probably going to get a little crazy and bloody. Survive what, I’m not too sure still. This low-budget, post-apocalyptic film seems to have all the qualities of an good “B film”. So if any of you out there know exactly how were are supposed to die based of this movie, be kind and let the rest of us know. – Evan
July 25 – Hercules
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Rebecca Ferguson
IF YOU SMEEEEELLLLLL… WHAT HERCULES… IS COOKING, get your butt down to your local movie theater on July 25th because he is serving up some giant lion mane, some giant warthog meat, and a healthy dose of awesome. This film, directed by Brett Ratner, looks really cool. At first, I was skeptical of another Hercules movie; however, once I heard that Dwayne Johnson was going to be playing our very own demigod, I was on board. Hercules looks as though it is going to be a thrill-ride of non-stop mythological madness, and I am completely okay with that. This action also seems that it will have a darker side to it that fits perfectly in with the story of Hercules. After enduring the 12 labours and losing his family, Hercules seeks only the pleasure of battle. Being praised for his battle skills, the King of Tharce hires the demigod to trains his warriors to be just as rootless. Is it possibly that this may lead to some deep insight and perspective? I’m confident that this movie is going to lay the smackdown on the box office’s candy ass! (3 Rock references. Yes. I. Did.) – Evan
July 25 – Lucy
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Analeigh Tipton
This film is probably going to be categorized as a super hero film as it is a about a person with super human powers, but this film is so much more than that. It is set in a world that is run by criminals of all kinds and Lucy (Johansson) is a woman in Taipei, Taiwan who is used by these criminals as a drug mule for one of the mobs. But this is where everything goes bad for anyone who considers themselves a bad guy as the drug get released into Lucy’s system which opens up her mind to use more than just 10% of it at a time which gives her incredible memory, the power to move objects with her mind and she feels no pain and she obviously uses these powers to take down the mob and everyone in her way. Although the film could definitely be good I feel with the amount of advertising and word of mouth around the film it will likely be forgotten like Hancock, the last original super hero film I remember. – Jacob
July 25 – Wish I Was Here
Starring: Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Kate Hudson, Ashley Greene, Jim Parsons
A year and some change after Zach Braff became the poster boy for Kickstarter, Wish I Was Here is finally coming out in theaters. Reaching its goal of a $2 budget in three short days, it’s clear that this is a movie that plenty of other people want to see. Those unfamiliar with Braff’s work need only look at Garden State. Braff’s latest film is guaranteed to fill you with warm fuzzies, but not without a few tears along the way. The story revolves around Aidan (Braff), a mid-thirties dad who is trying to figure life out, while trying to keep his family afloat financially. To avoid the terrors of public school, Aidan home-schools his children – and in an attempt to teach them, he learns even more about life. Unless the genre is a no-go for you, this movie should be a sure thing. – Sherif