Super 8 (Paramount, Blu-ray and standard  DVD, PG-13, 111 min.). Writer-director J.J. Abrams (TV’s “Lost”) produced this film along with his longtime idol Steven Spielberg, and there are lots of emotional echoes of Spielberg’s earlier films.

It starts off as a simple tale of a small group of junior high students (they call their school a middle school, but I don’t believe that concept existed back in the 1970s) who are making a zombie movie. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the director, while Martin (Gabriel Basso) is the lead, Cary (Ryan Lee) handles explosives, Joe (Joel Courtney) does makeup and special effects — and becomes the audience’s center point — and then there is Preston (Zach Mills) who throws up a lot. The group talks Alice (Elle Fanning) to join them and play the wife. They go out to the train station to film and, when they see a train approaching, decide to get some added production value. However, their biology teacher drives his truck onto the railroad tracks and creates a very impressive train wreck. In fact, the scene is quite stunning and worth watching over and over.

What their film later shows is that some kind of creature escaped during the crash. The Air Force moves into town (led by Noah Emmerich’s character) and things like microwaves and car engines start disappearing. The sheriff also disappears as a gas station convenience store is just about demolished. We don’t really see but bits and pieces of the creature until the end, when Joe, who has quickly fallen for Alice, must rescue her from the creature. Also running through the film is the now-difficult relationship between Joe and his father, Sheriff’s Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), as Joe’s mother has been killed in an industrial accident just prior to the film’s start

The production values are outstanding and the sound is absolutely terrific. The child actors all do a wonderful job. The film is full of exciting scenes, including the creature attacking a bus that carries four of the children as prisoners. Extras include audio commentary by Abrams, producer Bryan Burk and director of photography Larry Fong; 14 deleted scenes (12:47), one of which shows Joe actually wrote the additional scenes for the wife role and a nice, almost-kiss moment between Joe and Alice; an extensive, interactive look at how the train wreck sequence was put together; and eight featurettes that total 97 minutes. These include Abrams and Spielberg recalling their own childhood days of amateur movie making; a look at the casting process, including auditions footage (Courtney actually had 14 auditions before he got the role of Joe); a day on the set with Courtney; finding the town to make the film in; an extensive look at the development of the creature with creator Neville Page; making the music (a very John Williams-like score, I might add); cinematographer Fong revealed as quite the good magician, including Tom Cruise involved in one trick; and the 8mm revolution home film revolution. Grade: film 3.75 stars; extras 3.5 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Additional reviews are available online at and include “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil,” a comical twist on the college kids meet hillbillies theme, but still with several deaths; and season 10 of “Smallville,” as well as the complete “Smallville” box set.