PITTSBURGH MADE: Super 8 (2011)

Well, maybe Weirton made. This was shot in West Virginia, about 36 miles from Pittsburgh, but when it comes to something made that close, the Steel City will claim it. Super 8 is set in Lillian, Ohio and if you’ve been to the place where PA, WV and OH all touch, it’s hard to tell when you’re in each state. It’s such a nexus of all realities that there’s still a Sam Goody — one of two in existence — in St. Clairsville.

Directed and written by J. J. Abrams, who produced with Bryan Burk and Steven Spielberg (who this movie is beyond in debt to), Super 8 is about Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his friend Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths) making a zombie movie in their backyard. Their friends Preston Scott (Zach Mills), Martin Read (Gabriel Basso), Cary McCarthy (Ryan Lee) and Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) play the various roles, with Joe and Alice growing close despite the hatred between their fathers. This is due to Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard) showing up drunk to work and Deputy Jack Lamb’s (Kyle Chandler) wife Elizabeth (Caitriona Balfe) having to cover his shift and dying in an accident. Jack blames Louis and as a result, Louis won’t allow his daughter to see Joe. Small town drama, let me tell you. It’s still real, as my mom just informed me of so many crazy things she just learned getting her hair done.

One night, the kids sneak off and film at midnight. They accidentally see a pickup truck driven by their teacher Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman) ram the train and cause it to explode. They try to help him as he pulls a gun and tells them to forget what they have witnessed.

Soon, people are disappearing, dogs are running away and the military — led by Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich) — have declared martial law. When Alice disappears, the kids all had to their school where they find a film that Woodward made when he worked in the government. They learn that the Air Force captured an alien which eventually formed a psychic connection with Woodward, asking him to help escape our planet. The Air Force wanted to make it into a weapon, so Nelec destroyed Woodward’s standing and discharged him.

I really loved this movie and what follows, a harrowing take on the Spielberg kids racing round their backyard to save the world, a storyline that would become much better known when Stranger Things ran with the idea. The kids look like kids, their love of making movies is something I felt at the same time in my youth and it’s awesome seeing a neighborhood that looks like the one I grew up in on film.

That said — no movie has more lens flares. Seriously, there’s even an extended one at the end that twinkles out. Another takes up the middle of the frame. Lens flares for everyone! You get a lens flare! You get one! Look under your seat! Everyone is going home with a lens flare!

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