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Super 8 is admittedly not a perfect film, but I enjoyed it so much, and was so taken by the characters and the actors playing them, that I didn't really mind the occasional inconsistency or lingering "awed expressions" scene.

Set in a small town in Ohio in 1979, the basic plot centers around Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a 13-year-old boy whose mother recently died in a factory accident, leaving him with only his father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler), a sheriff's deputy who's a more than decent man but who has never known how to really be a father. Jackson's escape is burying himself in his work, while Joe's is helping his best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) make an amateur zombie movie with the help of their other friends Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso) and Cary (Ryan Lee). But Joe's involvement becomes truly committed when Charles persuades Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), a girl he secretly has a crush on, to join the project.

Things taken a sudden turn when, in the midst of shooting a midnight scene at the local railroad depot, Joe sees a pickup truck suddenly drive onto the tracks, directly in the path of an oncoming freight train, resulting in a spectacular crash that sends freight cars derailing everywhere and the shocked kids running for cover. The plot quickly thickens when Joe gets a glimpse of something bursting out of one of the freight cars, and when they find the driver of the pickup, badly injured, is Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman), their biology teacher, who warns them to get away and to never speak of what they've seen to anyone or they - and their parents - will be killed. And then there's the knocked over Super 8 camera that has been continuing to roll throughout everything, capturing something that no one else saw while they were busy tried not to get crushed by flying debris. Something that will become important later as strange things begin to happen: dogs fleeing the town for no apparent reason, car engines and other pieces of machinery being stolen, people suddenly disappearing. And of course the massive influx of military personnel who are crawling all over everything while their commander, Col. Nelec (Noah Emmerich) blandly insists that there's _nothing_ going on.

The characters are well drawn, fleshed out with real personalities, quirks and flaws, and you very quickly come to care about them. And the actors, most of them either fairly unknown or newcomers, are marvelous, the kids in particular as they're at the heart of the film, but also the adults, particularly Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard as the two fathers linked - and separated - by tragedy, each not doing so well at dealing with it. Joel Courtney as Joe has one of those faces that projects everything he's feeling, from the distance he's experiencing with his dad to the secret yet painfully obvious crush he has on Alice. Riley Griffiths as his best friend Charles is a perfect counterpoint, pursuing his film with single-minded determination but holding other things in. Ryan Lee's pint-sized braces-laden (and explosives-crazy) Cary is a riot, as is Gabriel Basso's Martin as the zombie film's leading man who has an unfortunate tendency to puke a lot, while Zach Mills' Preston has the healthiest fear-instinct of the crowd. And last but not least, Elle Fanning's Alice is a wonder, a sensitive girl with her own father issues whose unexpected natural talent at acting leaves the boys with their jaws hanging.

Super 8 is highly derivative, but in a good way. It draws on the best parts of any number of movies from the past, most notably E.T. (1982) and The Goonies (1985) but also films like Joe Dante's Explorers (1985) , The Bad News Bears (1976) and, more recently, Son of Rambow (2007), a little seen but marvelous independent British film about a couple of boys with family issues who bond over making an amateur movie.

Note: in one scene, there's a definite tip-of-the-hat prop taken right out of Spielberg's E.T. Just keep your eyes peeled when the camera closes in on the water tower near the climax of the movie and see if anything looks strikingly familiar.

There are admittedly weak points in the film, mainly where it seems uncertain of just which direction it wants to take or where inconsistencies tend to be glaring. Is the alien dangerous and deadly... or just misunderstood? Is the alien killing people... or just holding on to them for a while? The trouble is that in different parts of the film it's definitely one, but in other parts of the film it's the other. And the climactic lingering "awed expressions" scene does feel at odds with the the life-threatening dangers the characters were experiencing earlier (not to mention the burning shambles half the town has been reduced to). Another weak point is the villain, Col. Nelec (I suspect the name Nelec is an in-joke of some kind), who is never anything but a cliched military bad guy. But as I said, while these things do keep it from being a perfect film, they don't in the end get in the way from it being an engaging and enjoyable one.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes an engaging film that sucks you in and keeps you involved all the way through, and that values story and character over special effects and stars.
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on November 24, 2011
I've read bad things about Super 8. After watching it, I don't really understand what some peoples' issue is with it. There was an almost constant smile on my face. The characters were generally likable, the action sequences were well done (though admittedly, the train crash scene probably brought a tear to Michael Bay's eye), the story was simple yet effective, the production values were off the charts. Will this movie be heralded in the future as a classic like, perhaps, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or E.T.? No. But it's still a great movie, and a lot of fun to watch. J.J. Abrams is quickly becoming one of my favorite modern Science Fiction directors.
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on July 17, 2011
Every now and then, a film comes along and reminds you of the way it used to be. Back in the eighties, blockbusters were made with heart. Everything from the acting to the direction was top-notch, especially if the film in question was a Spielberg film. Steven Spielberg is one of the best film directors in the industry. His love of the medium shines in just about every project that he has been a part of. Some of the most influential films of the past have his name attached to them, namely E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jurassic Park. He deals with fantastical themes with a heartfelt, childlike curiosity - a definite trademark that appears in many of his films. Recently, director J.J. Abrams made a film which can be seen as a love letter to Spielberg. This film is `Super 8', and it is one of the best offerings of the summer, as well as one of the best films of the year. And, for those of you who have followed me over the past two years, the mere fact that I am glowing over a mainstream blockbuster is nothing short of a miracle.

The film opens in Lillian, Ohio in 1979, and follows a group of close-knit boys during summer break, as they attempt to film a zombie flick with a Super 8 camera. Young Joe Lamb has recently lost his mother in a steel mill accident, and as a way to cope with his loss, he vows to help his best friend, the film-obsessed Charles, complete his latest cinematic masterpiece. Together with three other boys, and his latest crush, Alice, Joe slowly begins a journey of self-discovery. Everything changes one night during a film shoot, when the boys witness, and barely manage to escape, a horrific train wreck. The kids flee the site, as the U.S. Air Force arrives.

This leads to strange phenomena in the town; pets running away from their owners, the disappearance of car engines and power lines, and people being abducted. Soon after, the boys discover some disturbing footage which was caught during the train crash, while the camera was still rolling film. Something crawls up out the wreckage, and dashes out of the frame. The boys decide to delve into the mystery themselves, and the adventure begins.

The performances in this film are amazing, especially from newcomer Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, and Elle Fanning. Each delivers an incredibly genuine performance, and I was blown away by the raw energy displayed on screen. The direction is perfect, with splashes of J.J. Abrams idol, Spielberg, splashed about the screen in nearly every frame. The musical score is magical. The mystery is involving. It all makes for an excellent time at the theatre, and will make you long for the days when summer blockbusters had a soul. With strong messages of hope and forgiveness, it is also one of the most touching films to come out in a while.

Super 8 is rated PG-13, and is 112 minutes.
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on June 10, 2011
I saw Super 8 at IMAX today. LOVED it and want to see it again, soon! I laughed, I cried, and I jumped up out of my seat 8 times! It was a fun, fun nostalgic ride on an early summer afternoon. The late 1970's music, costumes, location, and set props were right on. Fantastic cinematography, sound design, and special affects.

Ahhhh, but this movie has heart in the story and in the acting. Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, and the new young actor who plays Joe Lamb steal the movie. This 'coming of age' story is set in a more innocent time, before middle schoolers began 'hooking up.' The rest of the kids who make up the motley film crew are believably hilarious. Each cleverly has his or her own specialty in film making. You can only imagine a young JJ Abrams doing the same thing when he was a boy.

Super 8 is not the BEST movie I've ever seen, and the ending is somewhat predictable. But it is the BEST movie I've seen in a long, long time.
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on October 22, 2011
First off, I just finished watching an advance blu-ray copy of this film and the movie and blu-ray transfer blew me away. IMO, this film is one of the very best of 2011 and if you are a fan of "old-fashioned" type drama/suspense films that have to do with extra-terrestrial life and what happens to a small rural community in the late 1970's is truly a film that will stay with you long after the movie's end. To give any more away would be a sin, so I won't.

The blu-ray video and audio is fantastic. The aspect ratio is what appears to be 2.35:1 or thereabouts (Amazon has it wrong at 1.85:1). The video throughout is pristine with vivid colors in the daylight scenes and ink blacks in the night scenes. Details are vivid as you would expect from a top-notch blu-ray transfer. The audio equals the quality of the video and I've had to monitor the volume because I live in an apartment and use a 9.1 speaker configuration. Vocals came mainly from the center speaker along with the two front speakers that sometimes spilled over to the speakers located in the right and left middle ends of the room. Music and sounds were extremely active in all the remaining speakers. This film's sound truly rocked my movie room.

I have over a thousand blu-rays and this film is in the top two of all films made and released in 2011. YES, it is that good!!!

I just pre-ordered this from Amazon.com at the price of $24.99 and that's more than I usually pay for a new movie on blu-ray. I usually wait until the price comes down (which almost always happens) a few months down the road. But this is one film I have to have on release day.
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on December 18, 2011
I have read alot about parallels to E.T. and such regarding this movie. I would say those are loose comparisons at best. While there is a scene that is specifically reminiscent of E.T., this movie is quite a bit different.
The alien, for one, actually eats people, and is far from the small, cute, and cuddly alien featured in E.T...also, it doesnt really develop relationships with people. It is seeking a way to "go home", as it were, and there is a military quarantine.
Anyway, the cast was pretty good, and the interaction between the featured children (of tween age i think) was decent. The premise that they were filming a zombie movie when they end up witnessing a train derail, which ends up freeing the alien, was pretty cool. The local animals fleeing the area (presumably due to the presence of an unnaturally large predator) seemed like something that would actually happen.

Where the movie falls flat to me is...the alien is a massive predator, eating people, and destroying a bunch of stuff, but is also cast as a sympathetic character. They try to rationalize this approach by saying that it learned to hate humans after it was initially captured (Roswell), held prisoner, tortured and tested upon by our military scientists. It is able to communicate telepathically through contact (would that be empathically?). Still, it doesnt seem to care about the humans it captures for food, even though they are just ordinary folks with no ties to the military or their scientists. Yet, when the star tween touches him, he suddenly decides not to eat anybody else, and rather focus on finishing his ship and leaving.

There is no fond farewell, no conversation outside of a single empathic moment between the tween and the alien. It just kind of ends. The alien leaves and everybody is left to pick up the pieces of a shattered town. Presumably, the gov't would later say a hallucinogenic gas was released into the air accidentally by way of a weather balloon causing the locals to see things as they destroyed their own town (at least, i figure that is how this would play out in real life). The movie though...it just kind of ends. The alien leaves and everybody is happy (outside of those people who were killed by the now seemingly misunderstood alien). To me, the movie was basically a big build up where everybody is scared which then shifts suddenly and tries to become a social consciousness type message about kindness and understanding. Didnt really work for me. No real peak...the movie just kind of flatlined.
Had i known before watching this that JJ Abrams was the responsible party, i would probably have skipped this one, since i know better than to trust any project he is involved with. Nonetheless, i dont regret watching this movie, but i was far from impressed.
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on February 23, 2015
This is a great movie. The way it's shot really gives it an early 80's Spielberg feel... almost ET-like. The musical score is fantastic and will linger with you after you're done watching.

The story seems to be pretty much par for the course for J.J. Abrams: Starts very strong, great character development, lots of mysteries to solve... and then about halfway through it seems like the story doesn't really have a clear ending and they just threw together the ending at the last minute. This seems to be the case with almost everything from Abrams... Alias... Lost... etc.

Even with the somewhat lacking ending the film is still very enjoyable. There's a lot of nostalgia tossed in and the kids that make of the cast really work great together.

So I would give this five stars based on the technical merits of the cinematography, the scoring, and the cast... but only two or three stars for the story... so in the end I give it four stars mainly because I enjoy the visuals over the actual story.

The Blu-ray edition looks fantastic and there are some scenes that will absolutely shake your whole house if you have a decent speaker setup. There is also a great making of featurette that I enjoyed.
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on October 14, 2015
Good movie by Spielberg. Sort of a cross between the Goonies, War of the Worlds, and an angry eerie version of ET. There is lots of tension, mystery, some violence, and excitement balanced with ilky humor. Dont have the little ones watch this below teenage I think. A bit gory in one or two places but it won't mess with your digestion over dinner.

I think the ending was shorted out a bit. For all that build up, I think there could have been a bit more on the Visitor that would have made it worth the wait. Still, after seeing this in the theater, I did enjoy adding it to my collection of movies I know I will watch and enjoy again now and then.
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on September 5, 2014
I give this movie 4 stars really because I love the setup. The first 40 minutes of this film are superb. The next 40 are still good, but as a viewer you start getting the impression that the movie is taking a wrong turn and focusing on the wrong plots. The ending is rather boring and uninspired.

I don't know how they are presented on the DVD/Blu Ray, but the end credits are phenomenal.

This would have been an exceptionally awesome movie without any of the alien monster stuff. I am good with there being something weird happening that draws everyone together but the monster ends up being extremely cheesy. I don't know if it is killing people or making friends half the time. It is enraged but then it is friendly. Sort of what you would get if you had a schizophrenic ET who had an Alien personality at times. It really threw the entire story off. I was so disappointed that the movie turned spent time focusing on the alien doing weird and sometimes monstrous things.

The part with the kids and making the movie (within the movie) was exceptional though and those parts were amazingly inspired. I just wish the entire movie was that part. I honestly think it could have won an Academy award. Abrams is a master at directing personal interactions. He knows how to move people to believe in characters. When he gets weird though he goes off the rails. I'd love to see him write and direct a film about people doing something extraordinary but not supernatural or with science fiction. Spielberg went on to direct Oscar films like Schindler's List. Super 8 shows moments of greatness that demonstrate that Abrams could be just as good if he could just find the right film.
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on November 24, 2011
Cinematography was superb. Exactly the quality you expect from Spielberg and Abrams. It reminded me of Cloverfield, E.T., and The Goonies all rolled into one. The kids were excellent actors.

However, once you reach the end of the film you feel as though you missed something somewhere, as though this film was part 2 of a 2-part film. Something was greatly lacking in the story. In E.T. for example, the alien and the boy slowly build a relationship so that you feel for them in their emotional parting. But in the case of Super8, the alien and boy are total strangers but behave as though they had built some wonderful relationship between them. The boy seemed to have discovered something endearing about the alien that the audience is not privy to and is unrealistically brave and devoid of fear when put face to face with a nightmarish creature that hardened military men feared. As the alien sailed away in his spaceship, all I could think was, "Farewell... who ever you were...".
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