Moon (2009) - 3 out of 4 (A film made for less than 5 million
I'll be honest and say that I was slightly disappointed by this one. It came highly recommended, and while it was effective science-fiction, it didn't blow my socks off like I expected it to. Part of the reason is that I'd already seen Oblivion before it. So my experience with that one meant I was able to guess the premise of this one pretty easily. That somewhat diluted the effectiveness of the film's reveal for me. Also by the film's end, it's tone entirely becomes anit-capitalistic. Nothing wrong with that, since I do agree with what it's trying to say. but it's also a theme that's been done to death.
Sam Rockwell is brilliant though. (My first exposure to him was Seven Psychopaths, which was also a terrific showcase of his capabilities.) And for a budget film, the film is visually splendid. Great cinematography, and music that borrows a lot from 2001 (in terms of how to use music and silence effectively) add a lot to the film's mood. I may not return to this one as frequently as I do with the best of sci-fi, but it was a worthy watch in its own right.
Fear and Desire (1953) - 3 out of 4 (First film by a director you like)
Kubrick's first has more thought and filmmaking put into it than most director's entire filmographies.This film follows the psychological effects of an unnamed war a group of soldiers after they crashland in enemy territory. There's not a whole lot I can actually say about it. It is very small, running in at just over one hour in length. For his first film, you immediately know you're in Kubrick-land. All those shots just feel meticulously crafted. Not a single frame is wasted for something that doesn't belong in the film. And you also get a sense of what Kubrick wanted the background score in his films to do. Just like his masterpieces, the music/silence in this film is very effective in setting the mood; especially during a critical scene where one of the soldiers loses his mind.
That's pretty much it. I would recommend it, just like I recommended Who's that Knocking at My Door as well. You get a sense of how both Kubrick and Scorsese knew exactly what kind of filmmakers they wanted to be in their first films itself.
Jaws (1975) - 4 out of 4 (A PG-rated film)
I had to push this one to the top of my weekend viewing file when @Ken called it Spielberg's best. I wouldn't quite go that far (Schindler's List is forever destined to hold that place), but it is definitely in his top tier.
I feel what separates Jaws from all its subsequent copycats, imitators and clones (Deep Blue Sea, The Lake Placid series) is its treatment of the Shark as a character in its own right. The conversations between Brody and Hooper right at the beginning give off a sense of the kind of respect they have for this creature. And this only intensifies when they join Quint on the boat. Quint's story also serves to heighten this impact. So as a viewer, every time the shark was shown, I shared their respect for the Great White. Having seen a lot of these kinds of films over the years, this is the first time I've ever felt like this. That's bloody brilliant.
I also greatly enjoyed those little personal touches Spielberg was able to bring to scenes. Like the dinner scene where Brody's son imitates his every action. Just a beautiful and tender moment that comes at the right time in the film. It helps you identify with these characters, but also alleviates the tension from the earlier scene as well. The film is chock full of scenes like that. I also enjoyed the scene in the boat where Hooper and Quint share their war stories of the ocean, before Quint narrates his tragedy.
I don't want to dwell too much on the score, since that's been done to death elsewhere. It's John Williams. And it's pretty terrific. I admired the production values, especially in recreating the Great White. I've read this about how Spielberg came up with the perfect way to do it, but still seeing it is something to behold. Not once (except probably when Quint is devoured) do we get the feeling that this is anything other than a real Shark. There are times when I felt as if I was watching something out of National Geographic.
I've recently come to know that they're remaking Jaws as well after the success of Jurassic World. You can put a million effects on the screen and create the best digital Shark there will ever be, but it is not even going to be half as good as the original.