A good movie, but not the instant classic it's been touted as. A gang of kids in a pre-Internet, post-Star Wars Middle America have their plans for a home-made horror movie (and the hapless protagonist's crush on their female lead) literally derailed when a train carrying something cracks open in front of them with the camera rolling. Where it goes from that sprightly opening is straight into Spielberg Love Letter territory — a little Close Encounters, a little Poltergeist, a little E.T., a little — make that a whole lot of — Jurassic Park, etc.
Even without Spielberg's shadow over the film, the emotional side of the movie is quite likable — the banter between the kids could have supported a story all by itself. And maybe it should have, since it makes the effects-driven side look all the less necessary, especially given how many pieces of other films it's been cobbled together from. J.J. Abrams is as technically adept as any director around, but he needs to make his next big personal project personal and not just nostalgic. I want to see a film from him that comes from someplace inside him, not from other movies.