Posts Tagged ‘J.J. Abrams’

Anton Yeltsin

“LOVE, ANTOSHA” My rating: B+

93 minutes | No MPAA rating

I knew who Anton Yeltsin was, of course.  I’d seen the young actor as Chekhov in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboots, and in a couple of other movies like Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver.”

And of course I knew he died in 2017 at age 27 in a freak accident, pinned against a metal gate by his rolling automobile.

None of which prepared me for the gut punch that is “Love, Antosha,” a love letter to the late actor signed by his parents, his boyhood friends, and his heavy-hitting acting colleagues.

It seems nobody who knew Yeltsin had anything but love for him. And that emotion comes roiling off the screen.

Garret Price’s documentary opens with home movies from Yeltsin’s childhood. What we see is an impossibly handsome kid with a big performer’s personality that fills the room.

We also get a bit of back story about his parents,  competitive Soviet ice dancers who emigrated to the U.S.A. to get away from growing anti-Semitism in the new Russian Republic.

Here’s something I did not know:  While a teen Anton was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the devastating lung condition (the average life expectancy of a sufferer is 37 years). He was so full of energy, so good at masking his symptoms and plowing ahead, that many of his show biz colleagues were unaware that he had gone through life essentially under a death sentence.


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**, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman

John Gallagher Jr., Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman

“10 CLOVERFIELD LANE” My rating: B

105 minutes | MPAA rating:PG-13

Intensely claustrophobic and impeccably acted, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a mind-messer of a thriller with a forehead-slapping payoff.

In the wordless opening sequence, a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packs her bags and flees her apartment, leaving behind a wedding ring and a ring of keys.

She’s cruising through the Louisiana countryside at night — listening to radio reports of a catastrophic electrical blackout along the Gulf Coast — when she’s involved in a bone-jarring accident.

Michelle (that’s her name) awakens in a musty cinderblock room, her leg in a splint and a chain limiting her mobility. Enter big beefy Howard (John Goodman), who explains that he pulled Michelle from the wreckage of her car and brought her here, to a bunker beneath his farmhouse. She should be thanking him for saving her life.

According to Howard, the world has come to an end. He’s not sure if it’s the result of nuclear or chemical war. Maybe it’s the doing of the Russians. Or possibly space aliens. (The film’s title, a reference to the 2008 found-footage alien invasion flick “Cloverfield,” should put canny viewers on alert.)

In any case, the air above ground is deadly and Howard announces that they’ll be holed up here for at least a year or two.  But not to worry — he’s been planning for this day for a long time. The bunker has enough supplies and equipment to easily keep three people alive.

Oh, yeah, there’s a third resident of the bunker.  Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) is a mildly goofy good ol’ boy about Michelle’s age who for the last decade or so has been hired by Howard to work on the bunker.  At the first sign of trouble he showed up at Howard’s door. He seems like a doofus, but he may have more going on than can be gleaned at first examination.

Emmett assures the panicked Michelle that despite Howard’s ever-present sidearm and rampant paranoia, their host is an OK guy.


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Star WarsChristopher-Skinner_star_wars_force_awakens


135 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“The Force Awakens” washes away most of the bad taste left by George Lucas’ three “Star Wars” prequels.

It’s not perfect. It’s practically a remake of the original “Star Wars.” But it’ll do.

J.J. Abrams, the guy who reinvigorated the “Star Trek” franchise, here turns his imagination loose on iconic characters like Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie.

He and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt affectionately mine our memories of past “Star Wars” films (or at least Episodes IV, V and VI) while laying the groundwork for an entirely new set of adventures in that galaxy far, far away.

Most importantly, they come as close as anyone will to recapturing the original “Star Wars’” blend of corn, comedy and cosmic adventure. If it doesn’t have the same impact this time around…well, we’re all older now.  You’re only a virgin once.

From the opening credits — that familiar written prologue scrolling into the distant stars —  to John Williams’ music to dozens of outright borrows and homages, “The Force Awakens” tips its hat to the things that made the original “Star Wars” such giddy fun.

As we learn up front, 30 years have passed since the destruction of the second Death Star. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil, now bearded and wrinkled) has been laying low; meanwhile the evil galactic Empire has mutated into the First Order.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.


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“SUPER 8” My rating: B-

112 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

J.J. Abrams’ highly-anticipated “Super 8” is a riff on all those Spielberg-inspired films from the ‘80s in which suburban kids got sucked into other-worldly adventures.

“Goonies” is a big influence here. So is “E.T.,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and a half-dozen other titles.

As a work of homage, “Super 8” will have you tabulating references to all those movies. It makes for a diverting parlor game.

The film itself is a mixed bag. The first half is excellent, with Abrams and a spectacular cast of young performers delivering several strikingly original sequences.

And then “Super 8” becomes a movie we’ve already seen way too many times. It’s not awful, just discouragingly familiar.


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