There are so many things that I want to post about that I am sure no more than 10% of them will get posted in the final analysis. And that too over a long period of time.
Anyway, to start lets just talk about that favorite topic of mine - movies! Have seen Bunty aur Babli, The Negotiator, Kingdom of Heaven, The Dreamers, War of the Worlds, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and two more movies that I can't remember now, since coming back from India. Its amazing to see such a huge list because I was under the impression that I have been going through an unusual drought of movies since going to India. Only yesterday I was telling one of my friends that I haven't seen any movie since coming from India and intend to see quite a few over this weekend (and started the intended movie-marathon with WotW and Hitchhiker's Guide yesterday). And now I realize that I have actually seen 8 movies since June 14! Not quite upto the high standard I have set for myself, but not close to being a drought either!
Khair... saw War of the Worlds yesterday, even though the reviews aren't as great as I had expected. So, I was getting tempted to postpone it till it comes to the dollar theatre (sometime around september/october) but couldn't resist going for it in the end. And I didn't regret it. Its not one of Spielberg's better movies but is quite good nevertheless. Better than Jurassic Park surely, which seemed very tame when I caught a few glimpses of it on TV last week.
I had read the story when I was at IIT and found it quite lacking in imagination. I understand that is because we are now capable of imagining much ahead than anyone in late 1800's when the book was written and can see why it must've been a HUGE inspiration to most sci-fi writers that came after that, but now that we know so much more about everything, reading H. G. Wells' description of aliens really does put one off. That Spielberg decided to remain faithful to the author's vision in this respect is one of the weaknesses of the movie for me. I understand that ANY visualization of an alien is unlikely to be satisfying , yet, to see aliens that look little more than deformed versions of human beings with a little cross-over from two or three other terrestrial species is extremely off-putting for me. (something I like about 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact - they keep the physical form of the aliens away from the scene. They don't presume any particular form). It works in a charming movie like E.T. because that was less sci-fi and more a fantasy story for children but for a serious science fiction story/movie its not the best thing.
Also, I didn't like the Tim Robbins sidetrack at all. At the end of that sequence, one can see what Spielberg was trying to achieve by that, but it wasn't very well done.
So, that was what wasn't good about the movie. But there were a lot of good things too that made the movie definitely worth watching. And Dakota Fanning is probably the best among those things. I had read many times about how she is mature-to-the-point-of-being-spooky but after seeing her in this movie, I know what all those reviewers and interviewers meant. If she is anything like this in real life, she really must be spooky. As many people say, its almost as if she is a 40-50 year old lady in a 11 year-old's body. Or, as Spielberg (probably) said, its like she has seen all this many times before. The movie is a lot closer to being a horror movie than a sci-fi thriller and Dakota Fanning's performance is a huge plus in giving the movie that edge. Tom Cruise is pretty good in his role too and the father-children aspect of the movie is actually the best part. Spielberg got it correct in making THAT (and not the annihilation of the planet by the aliens) as the central theme of the movie. The movie concentrates more on the situation the protagonists find themselves in (the neighborhood highway being blown apart, the church in the nearby block collapsing, local cops trying their best to do something etc) rather than showing a famous monument or the president of US. The latter, as most sci-fi, apocalypse and disaster movies show, inspire awe but its the former that really makes one shudder.
See it whenever you can. Its not a movie you will talk about a lot 3-4 years from now, its not one of Spielberg's best, but its worth a watch nevertheless.