Sunday, January 20, 2008


Beginning on July 3, 2007, patrons venturing out to see Transformers were treated to a movie trailer filmed from the perspective of a video camera and depicting a going away party for some guy named Rob. In the preview, the party is interrupted by the building shaking, lights flashing, an animal-like noise and a news report concerning calls pouring in about a thunderous roaring sound, which prompts the suggestion of going to the roof in order to possibly see what's going on. Once on the roof, an explosion is seen in the vicinity of the harbor and flaming debris begins to rain down in all directions forcing everyone back into the stairwell in a frenzied attempt to get to safety. The picture and sound cuts in and out as everyone races down the stairway and finally stabilizes as they exit the building and find themselves in a scene of utter chaos and disruption. The street is filled with people running in all directions (mainly away from the explosion) while other people are striving to see what's going on near the harbor. "What is it, is it coming this way?" is heard, followed by, "I saw it! It's alive! It's huge!" Unusual roaring noises reverberate in the distance and as party recipient Rob attempts to coral some of his friends, an exceptionally large object comes hurtling through the air, ricochets off a building about 40 floors up, smashes into the street displacing cars and SUV's and as it rolls to a stop amid screams of terrified people (Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!) you can see that the object is in fact the head of the Statue of Liberty. Oh my God! The preview then cuts to a party goer saying it was going to be the best night ever followed by a black screen with the words: In Theaters 1-18-08. And that was it. No title. No credits, other than the fact that whatever the film was, it was being produced by Alias and Lost creator and Mission Impossible III director J.J.Abrams. Transformers was a smash and was reported as such but, the mystery trailer was also in the news because everyone wanted to know what the heck it was but nobody was talking. Following months of viral marketing, the movie, known only as it's codename, 'Cloverfield' was finally talked about by Abrams and the true title revealed: Cloverfield. Other than the title, the only thing that Abrams disclosed was that the film was a modern monster movie filmed from the perspective of a video camera over the course of a single night. Well, now it has officially arrived and here's the synopsis with absolutely no spoilers:

Rob Hawkins(Michael Stahl-David) is moving to Japan and on his last night in the city he is surprised with a going-away-party populated by all of his friends, including his brother Jason(Mike Vogel), his brother's girlfriend Lily(Jessica Lucas), Beth(Odette Yustman) the girl he's been friends with forever and cares for more than he'll admit and his most loyal but dimwitted friend Hud(T. J. Miller). Hud's purpose is to man the camera throughout the party and record farewell testimonials for Rob to keep and cherish forever, and he does an adequate job when his attention isn't being diverted by Marlena(Lizzy Caplan), the newest acquaintance of the group and, obviously, the object of his desire. The party and typical accompanied drama are interrupted just like we saw in the trailer. Once on the street and after Lady Liberty's noggin has come to a rest, the core group of friends decide they should make their way out of the city posthaste because, yes, there is a monster and, yes, it's alive and it's huge. Oh my God! However, a plea for help in the form of a cell phone call alters their path and leads to the heart of the movie.

Absolute fun! This movie was extremely entertaining and held firm to what it aspired to be from the opening scene to the fade to black. I was especially pleased with the cast of near nobody's (although I was familiar with Lizzy Caplan from a few episodes of Tru Calling - yes, I watched the show, now let's just move on) and how well they came across as relatively average people who were somewhat cool (even the uncool people were kinda cool) and doing their best to deal with the situation of upset reality rather than lose their heads (like the Statue of Liberty). I didn't have a single issue with any member of the cast, their motivations or their actions in regards to the storyline and the situations in which they found themselves. Granted, it's easy to be more judgmental from the comfort of a theater chair but, given the intensity of their plight, I doubt their choices were much different from what mine would have been in a similar scenario, and, again, I feel that the non-famous cast helped me identify with the story on a more basic level. I did recognize one actor (Chris Mulkey - I looked it up), who turns up briefly as very minor character two-thirds of the way into the film, from his portrayal as a deputy in the original Rambo movie, First Blood, and also from his role as a bank robbing, fast car driving alien host in The Hidden but, for the most part, the people in this movie are no different than anyone you might see at any mall in any city. Very realistic.

My only complaint, and it's very minor, is in regards to another aspect of the film's 'realism'. While I appreciate the idea of the events in the movie all being captured on a video camera, I really wanted more. The shaky quality at some points or the realistically bad lighting didn't really bother me, in fact, none of the quality bothered me in any way because I understood the concept and limits of the perspective, however, I would have liked to have seen some aspects of this film from a secondary perspective. Judging from how good some of the effects shots looked through what is supposed to be a video camera, I couldn't stop myself from imagining what a wide aerial shot with full out digital effects would have looked like, but I'm sure that's what what the film makers were after considering the fact they were limiting themselves in the way they were. The film makers wanted to keep this story personal and on a smaller level, and they achieve that brilliantly - the movie plays like a small singular perspective of an exceptionally large and catastrophic event. Did I mention I really wanted more? I understand that the budget for the movie was around 25 million dollars, which is nothing when it comes to some films, and I really have to give director Matt Reeves kudos for what he was able to pull off when you consider how huge and expensive this movie could have been. So, for an unproven director, a fairly new producer (J. J. Abrams) and a unique concept for a classic genre, the studio forked out 25 million bucks to see what they could accomplish and the result is an engaging 84 minute monster movie that made 41 million dollars in four days. Having more than proven themselves, I'm really hoping their accomplishment will lead to a significantly larger budget for a sequel that will tell a bigger story from a grander perspective (maybe two cameras) and provide me with a few more details and deeper understanding of the events or, in other words, more.

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