J.J. Abrams may be the king of lens flare on screen, something I don't mind at all, and this tale of children discovering an alien in their neighborhood is truly poignant at times, fun at time, action at times, etc. Spielberg would probably be proud. Abrams doesn't make a mockery of the genre and mixes E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and sometimes Jaws (for some suspense) for a superb result. Actors (even the kids) give believable and touching performances, the special effects are great, and the reconstruction of the 80s is, quite frankly, mind blowing (having lived through them). Dialogs are spot-on, and the metaphors and horrors (the beginning is brilliant under-play) finish bringing Abrams' tale to cinematic life.
Special features are interesting and lengthy: a nice commentary track, loads of featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes, etc. You won't get bored with these selected bonuses. I honestly didn't expect to get close to 2 hours of stuff, but having 2 hours of comprehensive and entertaining as well as informative behind the scenes segments really honors the film.
Personally, I just loved the movie, even though I didn't know what to expect at first. Having said that, I would advise any newcomer of this movie to try and not remember everything your friends may have told you beforehand.
Brilliant filmmaking, nice homage and never a boring minute (for my tastes, of course)... Add this to your collection, you won't be sorry.