Saturday, January 19, 2008

REVIEW: Cloverfield


Year: 2008
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Odette Yustman, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Mike Vogel
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA: Rated PG-13

Cloverfield is a movie that's been hyped due to its lack of information. The teaser that came attached with the film Transformers showed only a brief section of the movie and gave us no name of the title, but only a release date of 1-18-08. After seeing that I thought to myself "what the hell was that". I was one of the many that was also intrigued by what I saw simply because I didn't know what I saw. A couple months later, we got the full length trailer for the film while watching Beowulf. The trailer was much longer than the teaser and showed some more footage of the film. It also gave us a hint of the story and how its a monster flick. Leading up to its movie release, Paramount Pictures showed various TV spots of the film, but with the monster still hidden and not publicly shown. With all this advertisement and hype this film has been making, was the final product even worth it?

Plot Outline:
Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) is leaving to Japan and his friends throw him a going away party. His brother Jason (Mike Vogel) hands the camera to Hud (T.J. Miller) to document farewells from his friends. During the party, Beth (Odette Yustman) arrives with her date which clearly upsets Rob since Rob loves Beth. Beth leaves the party early because she feels uncomfortable seeing Rob. While Hud and his brother Jason are trying to convince Rod to go after her, an explosion jolts the buildings of New York. Everyone rushes to the rooftop to see what's going on and more explosions sends everyone into a panic out into the streets. A building comes down and some of the party members hide in a shop. Dust clears and one of the girls from the party has seen something, something big. Something that is walking the city of New York and causing destruction every minute of the way. Rob decides to go look for Beth and to see if she is OK, but he has to go through the city streets of New York to reach her.

The story of the film is actually pretty good. Its not great, but its not bad either. The film has a very interesting plot with characters that make stupid choices. The film is meant to focus on the story of the characters and not the monster. While this is good that the monster isn't entirely the main thing in the film, but that it comes secondary. The monster looks to be an original design. What really makes this film not great is that it doesn't provide us with the origin of the monster. We don't get to know where and why the monster is here. The whole movie is filmed in hand camera work that add to the experience, but at the same time can make you sick because of all the movement. Someone up front at the theaters threw up because of this. The ending was pretty conclusive in my opinion. While alot of people felt alittle let down because we don't get a satisfying ending, I thought it had some meaning to it.

The cast of Cloverfield was decent. Their was some moments where the cast seemed alright, but at the same time their were some cheesy moments. There are alot of people in the film that aren't really famous, but low key celeb's. We don't get to really focus on 1 person, but rather a larger group. Michael Stahl-David plays the main character Rob in the film and he does an alright job at it, but since the characters make alot of stupid choices, it makes the cast seem alittle disoriented. We have the very sexy Odette Yustman playing Beth McIntyre who is the love interest Rob is looking for. She looks very pretty in the film, but even she doesn't do too good acting. Their also T.J. Miller who plays Hud the camera guy. He films most of the film so its pretty hard to tell if hes acting is good, but he does a pretty good job with the shaky camera work. The cast at times were acting good, but there also times where they just seem like their not stepping up.

The visual effects of the film are pretty fantastic. The movie is filmed using hand camera work so the detail at times look great, but also looks alittle soft in some areas. The film is 90% of the time at night so the sky looks very beautiful, but dark. The explosions look very crisp and pretty. Since people were interested in the film because of the monster, it was important for the crew to get the visual look of the monster to be great and most of the time, it does. The monster looks very creative and scary. The detail on its face was pretty clear and sharp. No, it isn't Godzilla, but it looks very cool. I would say that I'm impressed that this film has some great visual effects on a budget of $25 million.

The soundtrack in the film is almost transparent. We don't get any score built from the ground up, but we do get some music at the end. Since the film is filmed using hand camera, it wouldn't make sense to have music. We do get some music during the credit, but there nothing special. Their mostly music consisted of rock or something that would belong in a Godzilla movie. With all this said, the film's bass is cranked up to extraordinary lengths. We hear early rumbles from the beginning of the film that start to get really aggressive and loud through out the film's 1 hour and 24 minutes. The dialogue is very loud and crisp. The film definitely screams reference material if you were trying to demo your surround sound. Although the movie doesn't have a whole lot of music, it does feature one of the best sound designs ever that's impressive and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Cloverfield had alot of hype surrounding it before it released. With what little information we had on the film made the film more excited to see. I was really hoping this film doesn't suck since it was advertised alot and I'm happy to say it doesn't. The film has a pretty good story that really engages you into the experience with its shaky hand camera work. The cast is decent with some moments that end up good, but also some scenes were they make stupid choices. The visuals look very clear and made well with only a budget of $25 million. The sound design although missing some music is really crisp and will definitely blow your jaws away with its cranked up bass. I found the film to be a really good monster flick that kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat.

Grade: B

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