Paramount Previews Super 8 , 2011 Line-Up


Earlier this evening, Paramount Pictures previewed their 2011 line-up at the Walter Reade Theater in New York with much of the focus put on J.J. Abrams’ third movie Super 8, this one produced by Steven Spielberg, with Abrams in attendance to introduce roughly 20 minutes of footage!

Paramount CEO Brad Grey was on-hand to introduce the proceedings, beginning with a tangent to acknowledge the passing of Elizabeth Taylor earlier today, before giving a presentation that felt a bit like a shareholders meeting with a montage of footage that’s probably going to be similar to what they’ll be showing next week at CinemaCon–that’s the new name for ShoWest and we’ll have a lot more about it soon! Besides including a good amount of well-deserved back-patting for Paramount’s abundant successes in 2010 and so far in 2011, it also gave a quick preview of their summer and fall releases.

The footage for upcoming movies included a lot of what we’ve already seen from Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1), the two Marvel Studios films Thor (May 6) and Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22), plus DreamWorks Animation’s two 2011 offerings, Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 26) and Puss In Boots (November 4), both of which you can read more about in our earlier preview.

The highlights of the montage were a few brief action bits from Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (December 16), a movie we haven’t seen anything from, and that included a scene of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt climbing up the fa├žade of a glass building with Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton watching him from an opening in the building. Renner calls out, “You’re not going to make it!” and Ethan responds “No sh*t!” before trying to rappel into the opening on ropes; the footage ends with him falling down the side of the building. Oops. We’re pretty confident we’ll be seeing the first trailer for this sometime this summer, if not with Thor than with Super 8 for sure!

The other movie that we got to see our very first footage from was that of Craig (Hustle & Flow) Brewer’s remake of Footloose (October 14) starring newcomer Kenny Wormald in the role of Ren McCormack (made famous by Kevin Bacon) and Dennis Quaid as the Reverend Shaw Moore who opposes McCormack’s introduction of dancing to the community. The brief tease for the movie showed a lot of dancing as well as a scene of Julianne Hough on train tracks being pulled off of them just as a train rushes by.

Other fall Paramount releases teased in the presentation reel included Jason Reitman’s Young Adult (just a tease with no actual footage), Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy–a movie we fell in love with at Sundance–and a tease for David (“The Sopranos) Chase’s very first feature film which at one point was being called “Twylight Zones.” Since that title wasn’t mentioned, was can probably assume it was just a working title.

Finally, we got to what everyone had showed up for on the rainy evening, and that was to see more of J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, and that part of the program did not disappoint!

After being introduced by Grey, Abrams first told a couple of stories about his interactions with his producer Steven Spielberg over the years including a story of when he and Cloverfield director Matt Reeves were 15 and 16 and they had films entered in a Super 8 Film Festival that got the attention of Spielberg who asked them to repair his own early Super 8 films. A few years back, Abrams called Spielberg to pitch an idea of a group of kids making Super 8 films in the ’70s which Spielberg loved but even more when Abrams suggested combining it with another idea he had involving a train traveling from Area 51 to Ohio which crashes unleashing a captive alien.

Abrams seemed nervous to show the footage, not that he needed to be since the Super Bowl spot and recent trailer have gotten a lot of people excited for his new movie, but he also felt that it was important movie writers were made aware what he was trying to do with the movie. He also wanted to showcase the talent of his young cast, a couple of whom had never been on any kind of set of any kind, and even more than that, he really wants to keep a lot of the movie a secret so that there are surprises for later, which certainly makes sense to us, so we’ll be keeping details to a minimum.

Abrams introduced the first clip by saying that it took place roughly ten or eleven minutes into the movie and talked a bit about the lead character of Joe, played by Joel Courtney, who had lost his mother in an accident. Joe has an obvious crush on the slightly older Alice, played by Elle Fanning, who he has convinced to be in Charlie’s movie and she has agreed to drive them to the train depot.

After a touching scene between Joe and his father, the town sheriff played by Kyle Chandler, as the two eat dinner in a bar and clearly not really connecting, we get to meet Joe’s friends. Riley Griffiths is Charles, the guy who lives across the street from Joe who enlists the local kids to help him make Super 8 movies. As we meet this group of friends sitting on the curb waiting for Alice to pick them up to take them to the train depot, we’re reminded of movies like The Goonies or Stand by Me. Once they arrive, they rehearse the scene and all the boys’ jaws drop when they see how good Alice is. When they hear a train coming, Charles’ frantically calls for them to start filming because he is obsessed with having better production values. As they do the scene over, Joe sees a pick-up truck driving along the tracks which the train plows into. Now, one thing you can’t tell from the recent trailer is that this train crash is WAY bigger than anything you can imagine with train cars flying everywhere as the kids scramble to get out of its path. Once things die down, a train car in front of Joe starts shaking violently and the door goes flying into the air. (It was kind of odd that we didn’t see the shot of the train car being pummeled from the inside that’s been shown in both previous trailers.) The kids then go over to what remains of the pick-up truck to see who was driving it and learn it’s their biology teacher who seems to know something about the contents of the train he just derailed. Before we can learn more, the kids are told to run and not tell anyone what they saw, and a group of soldiers led by Noah Emmerich show up on the scene with flashlights.

The second shorter clip was a scene of a couple of humans falling foul of the unleashed creature, as a police officer filling up his car at a gas station has an encounter with something we don’t actually get to see. (Abrams mentioned later that he wants to try as best he can to keep how the alien looks a secret a bit better than they did with Cloverfield.) It was a fairly intense and scary sequence where we don’t exactly know what’s going on, but it ends with the clerk at the register being dragged off, something that we do see briefly in the trailer during the montage section of it.

The footage really looked great–abundant lens flair and all!–though Abrams warned us that the FX weren’t finished, and though he also said it was mainly temp music, the use of tunes from the times like Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” “My Sharona,” and the Cars really helped create the feel of 1979, the year in which we were told the film takes place.

At the reception that followed, spoke briefly with Abrams about the movie as he was quickly swarmed by the press in attendance, all eager to talk to him about the footage we’d just been shown.

We mostly wondered how Spielberg felt about some of the more obvious homages the film pays to his body of work and his involvement in creating that feel. “When I wrote the script, he was incredibly helpful with the script and as a producer can and this time did, he was very helpful with the development of the story and had a voice in the casting and he’s always a part of the project,” Abrams told us.

Presuming that the movie is going to be PG-13, we wondered how young an audience Abrams felt the movie would be appropriate for, since normally movies featuring kids would be PG. “I have friends who show kids their movies and they’re five years old. I’m like ‘What?!’ but my feeling is that if I’m 11 I want to go see this movie, and hopefully get in,” Abrams said. “If I’m 13, I’m definitely seeing this movie and anything older than that, I’ll be in line to see this movie as well, but this is not an R-rated movie by any stretch, but there are some moments that are intense enough that I’d have discretion about who to bring.”

Considering the amount of action and scares in the 20 minutes of footage we were shown, we also asked how much of that is representative of the movie as a whole. “There’s more tension and suspense over the course of the film and it’s not a constant action movie, but that was partly because I wanted the film to feel of the era. Movies that bombard you to death with action can be really fun, but I wanted to make a movie that was as much about the characters as possible and had some action in it.”

“I can imagine that some of them will have a bright future,” he responded when we asked if he thinks any of the young cast of newcomers will continue their acting careers following Super 8.

Super 8 opens everywhere on June 10. Stay tuned to for more about the entire Paramount Pictures line-up!