Knee-jerk review: "Super 8"

1. We went in with very high expectations. And mostly, we weren't disappointed.
2. The ending gets a little sentimental and implausible, which is to be expected from producer Steven Spielberg. Even so, it left us with a sour taste in our mouth. Some of those last beats just weren't needed. We got the point without needing the cinematic highlighter pen.
3. Elle Fanning. Wow. Steals the movie.
4. It's been compared to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., similarly unsettling sci-fi movies involving the otherworldly intruding on suburbia. Those films mostly played things very straight and skillfully evoked a grand sense of wonder and awe. But the closer cousin - especially in the above-mentioned, mildly disappointing finale - may be The Goonies, a fun movie that was proudly over-the-top in how it allowed a group of 13-year-olds to rather implausibly become action heroes.
5. In many ways, the outcast-friends-hanging-out scenes in 1979 suburbia (which crackle with Spielbergian attention to coming-of-age detail) are more engaging than the familiar sci-fi/fantasy subplots (enough with Area 51, please) that fill out most of the movie. Dealing with absent parents, struggling with crushes, finding your own voice. Those things are far more universal than dodging evil Air Force officers.
6. Stay for the credits.
7. A lot of people mock director JJ Abrams' visual style (seemingly started with the Star Trek reboot) that includes lots of blue-white lens flares in his shots. We don't understand what the big deal is. We like the flares. Something "real" about them, a messiness that suggests this is all really happening. If it were all make-believe, the cinematographer would have made sure to mask the flares, right?
8. We recently watched Abrams' Star Trek a second time and found it somewhat lacking. We wonder if our initial enthusiasm was mostly driven by relief that he and his team didn't screw it up. Strong cast saved a rather ordinary story and a completely impotent villain.
9. Yeah, if we saw what Martin saw, we'd probably throw up too.
10. That is one heck of a train derailment. The sound design alone is amazing.
11. We remain big fans of Kyle Chandler, even if his performance here is merely a darker, edgier version of his "Friday Night Lights" character Coach Taylor. That is, we never saw Coach Taylor throw a punch or handle a rifle.
13. The cube thing? Now that's cool. It's got to be so hard to surprise audiences who have seen everything and anything at this point. Never would have guessed what the cubes did.
14. We want Ron Eldard's car.
15. Good stuff.

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