Cloverfield

Plot: A monster attacks New York and some twentysomethings capture it all on their camcorder as they try to regroup and escape from the city before it is destroyed.

Who’s it for: This film is for the younger crowd. Also, you probably need to pop a couple of Excedrin before you see this shaky film. There are light humor and scares throughout.

Expectations: I had seen only one teaser beforehand, and with J.J. Abrams’ name attached that was enough for me. Besides “Lost” and “Alias,” I even watched his first show, “Felicity.”

SCORECARD
Actors:
Michael-Stahl David as Rob: A party is being thrown in Rob’s honor because he is moving to Japan (a nod to “Godzilla,” I assume). He is supposed to be the emotional center of the film as we watch him try to rescue his friend and deal with those who die, but it just felt like I was watching a YouTube clip about a guy I didn’t really care about.
Grade: 6

T.J. Miller as Hub: Hub holds the camera almost the entire film, choosing to capture the monster attack on Manhattan for posterity. Remember the “Chris Farley Show” on SNL when he messed up those interviews? That is exactly how Hub acts the entire time. Sometimes it’s perfect comic relief, other times you can’t believe the dumb guy got stuck holding the camera.
Grade: 6

Talking: There is a ton of one-liners, and the opening party works perfectly because “Cloverfield” lulls you into a false sense of security before Lady Liberty’s head comes flying through the air. Eventually though, the film is reduced to repetitive “Oh nos” as the gang runs for cover.
Grade: 6

Sights and sounds: I seriously had to look away from the screen for a few seconds. This is the new king of SCS (Shaky Camera Syndrome). Sitting in the back of the theater might be a good idea. And shooting the entire film with a handheld camera creates a claustrophobic effect that is a negative and a positive. You are constantly desperate to see more than what they are showing.
Grade: 7

PLOT SPOILERS
Best Scene: The subway system in New York can be a scary place. You know what is worse? Walking down the dark tunnels and then switching on night vision. It’s the best setup and then scare of the whole film.

Ending: As soon as I saw the beginning, I had a good hunch on the ending. That removed me emotionally from the film. In an attempt to make it seem more authentic by saying it was government-seized footage, they achieved the opposite.

Random Thoughts: The film has a fantastic soundtrack (Spoon, Bright Eyes) and it’s a shame we hear it only in bits and pieces during the party. Couldn’t Hub have had an iPod that he brought along? Also, nothing happens beyond a little static during the closing credits, but if you want to hear the perfect monster movie score, stick around.

Rewatchability: This is an odd dilemma. On one hand, I don’t want to see it in the theater again because of all the shaking, and I already know about the film’s big payoffs. Yet on the other, I feel “Cloverfield” will lose a lot of impact if I saw it on the small screen. I guess the answer is simply to buy a bigger TV.

OVERALL
The film can really only be described as “The Blair Witch Project” meets “Godzilla.” If anyone attempts to use two other movies, he’s just plain wrong. Technically, this is the closest a film has ever gotten to a roller-coaster ride. The camera work will definitely nauseate, it feels claustrophobic, there are sudden scares, and it also peaks too early. One more thing, it’s over before you know it. The film is just an hour and 15 minutes long (plus credits). With all that being said, “Cloverfield” is quite an achievement, and is now one of my favorite monster-destroys-city movies. Even though I was never emotionally invested, it was full of humor that sometimes worked and scares that always achieved.

Overall Grade: 7

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