2011, J.J. Abrams -- download
In normal Hollywood, the movie would have been completely focused on what was on the train, the military response and the terror and chaos that happens. Oh, we have all of these in the movie but at it's heart, it is really about these kids. We are seeing the alien monster movie mostly from their perspective and are as much wrapped up in their lives as they are in the events happening in their small town. And these kids are such great characters! Not Goonies or Stand By Me exaggerations of childhood, they are toned down in reality. The leader is the fat kid and the leader is not the main character. The nice guy likes the pretty girl and the pretty girl actually responds to his kindness. It makes all the heroic decisions these kids make all that more heroic.
The movie is also just shot plain beautifully. Set in the 80s, I immediately noticed the elements that define a big Hollywood movie for me -- how they can dress a scene completely in the period. The movie doesn't focus on small tight shots where we can see the dressed up product of the period, we see wide glorious scenes of neighborhoods and businesses so complete in their transport back in time. We watched it on a great Blu-Ray rip so were able to enjoy the fine details we missed from the theatre. While defining myself as a pseudo-film geek, I don't often pay attention to the cinematography of movies where it isn't completely meant to be obvious but in this one, I just kept enjoying so many of the full, lush scenes, understanding that this is where budget should go, not just in the few short scenes of CGI.