Simpler time: 'Super 8' a nostalgic thriller

With its night skies filled with mystery, its kids racing around town on bicycles and its flashlights forming visible beams in the air, Super 8 has the visual signatures of an early Spielberg movie. Its earnest young heroes stumble upon an awesome mystery and try to investigate it themselves. And as a small town in Ohio experiences frightening events, we feel poised between The Goonies and a 1950s sci-fi picture with the characters lined up side by side and looking in alarm at an awesome sight.

The associations are deliberate. Steven Spielberg produced the film, and its director, J.J. Abrams, worked in lowly roles on early Spielberg pictures before going on to make Mission Impossible III (2006) and Star Trek (2009). What they're trying here is to evoke the innocence of an E.T. while introducing a more recent level of special effects. There are really two movies here, one about the world of the kids and one about the expectations of the audience, and Super 8 leads a charmed life until the second story takes command. Full review.

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