An extremely astute and intelligent director who has a penchant for both mega-buck blockbusters (Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mission: Impossible III) as well as flicks with relatively smaller budgets (Super 8, co-produced by Steven Spielberg) but still pack a hefty punch in terms of cerebral cool.

As Emmett and Michelle learn to adapt to their subterranean life without getting homesick or the blues, they stumble upon something that should have ideally been left undiscovered. Is Howard really a psychotic, deranged bad guy or is he just a lonely old fellow in desperate need of some company, while god only knows what has blighted Earth.

The bold part in 2nd paragraph seemed a bit weird to me.Does it make any sense?

  • You should use a dictionary or google to look up "pack a punch" (the metaphor will be relatively obvious once you're exposed to it), as well as the adjective cerebral. I assume you're already familiar with cool. The bolded sentence in your second paragraph is straightforward English, and unless it's a dialectical thing, I doubt any native speaker would regard it as weird. – Dan Bron Jul 5 '16 at 15:44
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    "Have powerful effect" in terms of "intellectual sophistication". But the sentence is mishandled: it should say *flicks which have relatively smaller budgets ... but still pack ..." – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 5 '16 at 15:48
  • It could also be 'but still packing a ...'.Right? – Anubhav Singh Jul 5 '16 at 16:18
  • In a addition to what StoneyB has pointed out, the main clause is missing a verb (it has only a relative clause), and both is used with as well as. – Cascabel Jul 5 '16 at 18:53

pack a hefty punch in terms of cerebral cool.

There are three ideas here:

1) to "pack a punch" means to have power, often hidden power. "Packing" means to store or carry something, so someone who packs a punch is prepared to deliver that punch. In this sense, the punch isn't necessarily violence, but something that is powerful, surprising, and explosive. For instance, I might say "That hot sauce really packed a punch!"

2) Cerebral means having to do with intelligence or the mind. In the context of films, it means that the film requires and/or deserves thought. The author contrasts films that are expensive spectacles with less-expensive films and points out that the cheaper films are still cerebral.

3) Cerebral cool is an unusual phrase. Cool means something that is interesting, appealing, and mysterious. To judge something in terms of "Cerebral cool" means it must be appealing to those who want to really think deeply about it.

Putting all three ideas together means a film which brings an unexpected, powerful thrill for someone interested in a smart film.

As Emmett and Michelle ... adapt to their ... life without getting (homesick OR the blues)

Here we are talking about two people trying to adapt, without getting either of two unfortunate conditions. Homesickness is a longing to return to a more familiar place. "The blues" in this context means depression.

Is Howard really a psychotic, deranged bad guy or is he just a lonely old fellow in desperate need of some company, while god only knows what has blighted Earth.

This is pretty confusing. It makes a little more sense if we break it up:

Howard believes the Earth has been blighted by "God-only-knows-what".

Given that Howard believes that, but it might not be true, there are two possibilities:

It's possible Howard is a psychotic, deranged "bad guy".

It's also possible that Howard is innocent and right.

You had asked about the meaning of "God-only-knows-what". Much like "You-know-who" from the Harry Potter books, this is a phrase that stands in for a proper name. In context, it means it is unknown to all but God.

  • I think there's an article missing in "while only the god knows".Isn't it? – Anubhav Singh Jul 10 '16 at 15:28
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    Well spotted! That is grammatically correct, and considering the author used a lower-case "g" it seems correct. However, the phrase "God only knows" is often spoken by Christians, and in that context God is singular and a proper name. (Consider "while only the producer knows" vs "while only Spielburg knows".) Similar phrases use "Lord" or "Heaven", like "Heaven help us" or "Lord knows I tried". I hope this helps! – user11628 Jul 10 '16 at 17:27
  • If the author had used capital "g"? – Anubhav Singh Jul 10 '16 at 17:30
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    My interpretation as a native speaker from the USA is that the author is not from a branch of Christianity that capitalizes God, but they are still using the common phrase "God only knows" (ref. here for more on that: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/3309/… ). It would be very strange for a native speaker to change this phrase without a very clear subject. Doing so would be intentionally subverting a well-known phrase to make a point (or joke) about who was really in charge. For instance, a Soviet saying "Only Stalin knows." – user11628 Jul 10 '16 at 17:55

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