5.31.2008

Cloverfield (2008)

DIRECTED BY
Matt Reeves


STARRING
Michael Stahl-David - Robert Hawkins
T.J. Miller - Hudson "Hud" Platt
Jessica Lucas - Lily Ford
Odette Yustman - Elizabeth "Beth" McIntyre
Lizzy Caplan - Marlena Diamond
Mike Vogel - Jason "Hawk" Hawkins

Year -
2008

Running Time -
84 Minutes

Score -
3.5 Howls Outta 4



After an estimated $41,000,000 this opening weekend, CLOVERFIELD [thanks to producer J.J. Abrams] has pretty much brought back the "monster movie" back to the United States. It was hyped since July of last year and it seems to have worked on most of us. I know I was hooked after watching something knock the Statue of Liberty's copper head off into a Manhattan street. I had no choice but to watch this in the theaters.

Now normally I would do a quirky, sarcastic review with a list of 10 funny things. But something happened to me while watching this film. CLOVERFIELD honestly made me feel uncomfortable. Not because of the shaky-cam. Not because of the CGI monster. Not because of the ending [was expecting more answers actually]. But because as a New Yorker, seeing ANYTHING destroy The Empire State Building and pretty much Manhattan makes me feel uneasy. And not many films make me feel that way.

Let me just get the summary out of the way: Taking place on one night, Jason (Mike Vogel) and Lily (Jessica Lucas) decide to throw Jason's brother, Rob (Michael Stahl-David), a going away party since he's moving to Japan. Not wanting to be bored by filming the entire party, Jason hands the camera to Rob's best friend Hud (T.J. Miller). Hud uses the opportunity to get closer to his crush, Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), in vain. Rob arrives and he's surprised by the love and appreciation of his friends, but saddened about his ex-girlfriend Beth (Odette Yustman), who he had a falling out with. Beth arrives with a new man, which causes Rob and Beth to argue. Beth leaves, leaving Rob miserable. But he has no time to dwell on it as a monster suddenly attacks Manhattan. Receiving calls from an injured Beth, Rob and his friends decide to go save her - even if it ends up killing them in the process.

Let me just say that the direction was very good. I liked the shaky-cam alot here. I thought it really enhanced the look and experience of the film. I know people had problems with it but I dug it alot. I also thought the film was very intense and suspenseful. I even jumped towards the end when the monster surprised me. This was more terrifying to me than THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Matt Reeves did a nice job.

The acting was good too. Not great but it was good enough for me. Some of it felt scripted, which took me out of the film a bit, but I was actually involved in the journey of these people trying to find Beth. Yeah, they weren't developed at all and the relationship between Beth and Rob wasn't really established. But something clicked in me and I wanted Rob to find her. While I recognized some of the actors, especially Mike Vogel, Lizzy Caplan, and Jessica Lucas, it still felt kind of realistic on some level and I appreciated that.

I also thought the CGI stuff was also well-handled. Yeah, the monster didn't look totally realistic but it didn't bother me actually. I thought it looked very cool since I was actually expecting something worse that would let me down. And the use of the parasites was very cool as well. Maybe it was because I was in a packed theater but the whole audience totally bought it and got into it. Nice stuff.

But I gotta say, the reviewer in me totally left the window while watching this film. It actually started NOT when the Statue of Liberty's head made its appearance but when the monster destroyed The Empire State Building and all the dust covered Manhattan and people were screaming and running away from it. It just reminded me of 9/11 and how that day is still very sensitive to us New Yorkers. I sat there in silence, almost saddened by the image. Just reminded me of that day and how sad it made me feel. A lot of you probably don't know this but I was supposed to be in that area that morning [10-ish] to meet a friend who actually worked in the second tower of the World Trade Center. However, I overslept and didn't hear about the terrorist attacks until that 11 a.m. thinking it was a joke. That friend was lost that day and sometimes I think that it could of been me as well. Someone was looking out for me and made sure I went nowhere near there that day. I think about it every September 11th since and today I thought about it while watching CLOVERFIELD.

Watching scenes like that where NYC buildings and landmarks are destroyed symbolize the paranoia many New Yorkers live with. We can never forget about 9/11. It's always talked about somewhat on the news. There are cops in the subways who check your bags to see if you're carrying bombs or anything strange that could harm others. If Bin Laden releases a stupid video, the city is officially on alert. It hasn't gone away really since. And believe me, I worry that The Empire State Building may be a target. Hell, a news broadcast mentioned that something horrible could happen to that very building if homeland security doesn't stop terrorists from entering our country since supposedly it is one of Al Queda's targets. People expect New Yorkers to go back to normal and most of the time that is the case. But this constant lingering of paranoia and fear still exists in every one of us. And watching a monster destroy the city almost similiar to how terrorism did is very unsettling. Obviously, that is J.J. Abrams plan all along. Theaters in the Lower Manhattan area weren't even showing this film, instead endorsing 27 DRESSES and MAD MONEY. Not to say that I blame them for personal reasons.

I really enjoyed the film even though the ending was kind of flat for me. It was too open-ended for me, making it feel as if maybe there's a sequel coming [I hope not because I don't think it would be as effective as this film]. However, it was very much a thrill-ride I think you can really only experience once - and it has to be in a movie theater. Not sure if it will have the same effect on DVD, TV, or the computer. It's a must-see and it's nice that a great, blockbuster film was released in January and not in the summer. It's definitely worth any penny. But it may be hard to get over alot of the 9/11 symbolism. I read somewhere that people need to get over that reference because no monster like this exists, meaning Manhattan will never get this destroyed like in the film. Maybe he or she should try replacing the monster with hijacked airplanes, suicide bombers, and whatever sick measure of attack these terrorists have up their sleeves. If that's not being a big monster, then I don't know what is.

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