Directed by Matt Reeves.
Written by Drew Goddard.
Starring Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Lizzy Caplan and
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 1/15/08
Ross and I had freebies to catch "Cloverfield"
a few days before it opened, so that plus the chance to get some
Five Guys before the movie made this a no-brainer. I was
initially intrigued to see this film when I first saw the trailer in
"Transformers" many moons ago; the trailers since then have
slowly given away what the film is really about, but I still came in
with an open mind even though I was worried that this would be
another Aliens Attack the City movies featuring a band of hapless
I was right and wrong about that. One
night in late May, a few friends are having a surprise party for
their friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David) at an apartment in New York
City. The action is being filmed by Rob's best friend Hud (T.J.
Miller), who becomes our vantage point for the remainder of the film
as the surprise party turns into an even bigger surprise: a big
fucking alien/dinosaur that drips evil blood-thirsty spiders has
mysteriously dropped into the city and is randomly attacking every
person in sight. The party breaks up and various people begin
to run everywhere...except for Rob, Hud, Rob's brother Jason (Mike
Vogel), Jason's girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas) and Lily's good
friend Marlena (Lizzy Caplan). You see, Rob's got a crush on a
girl named Beth (Odette Yustman), and when Rob learns that Beth may
or may not be alive and trapped in her apartment building in
midtown, Rob decides that--alien/dinosaur be damned--he must attempt
to rescue Beth before the military takes out that alien or the whole
damned city in a carpet bombing.
The 80-minute film is brisk, and starts
slowly/badly as we meet Rob and his friends and get the skinny on
the whole Rob/Beth thing. The first 20 minutes really blow,
but once it gets moving, at least "Cloverfield" is a ride all the
way to the finish line. But, it was a ride that I did not love
as much as Ross did, who loves these kinds of movies. Once you
stretch beyond the fact that the fucking alien/dinosaur is attacking
the city (a required stretch of the imagination, fine), I had a
really hard time just with the logistics of the human behavior in
this film, and it was something that usually doesn't slow me down
this much. In fact, at times, "Cloverfield" is a strange mix
between thriller and comedy, with Hud cracking jokes even as or just
after he has been in direct contact with ALIENS.
The behavior things were really a stretch.
Am I going to try to rescue a girl that I've got a crush on in a
building that looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa amidst an alien
attack where we have already determined that tank shells and bazooka
rockets don't even make a dent? When I watch buildings explode
and see shots of a fucking alien/dinosaur on CNN, am I going to loot
the local electronics store for a new TV? Am I going to run
full-bore from previously mentioned alien with a video camera
essentially attached to my face? Will I be making comic book
reference jokes in a dark tunnel that might be infested with
previously mentioned spiders? With most of these questions, I
am guessing that no, I will not be doing any of these things.
But, in "Cloverfield", not only is this okay, it seems like one
should never even question these kinds of things. (Don't even
mention to me the fact that one character's cell phone battery dies,
and to fix this, the character walks into a store, pulls a boxed
battery off the shelf, shoves it in the cell phone WITHOUT CHARGING
IT and suddenly the phone works again. Or that the phone can
receive calls in a New York City subway station, where it is
famously tough to get a signal.)
This, plus the fact that we have to watch
the whole film through the video camera's eye (and, trust me, if you
get motion sickness easily, you do NOT want to go see "Cloverfield"),
made this film a tricky proposition. Despite all of this, the
film is watchable; its pace is occasionally relentless and one of
the chase sequences was pretty cool to watch even as I had to
occasionally close my eyes to keep from getting sick from Shaky
Camera Syndrome. Using unfamiliar faces (all of the main
characters are played by TV actors that you may recognize only if
you watch a lot of TV on the WB, CW, or ABC Family) was a good thing
for "Cloverfield"; keeping the film short and to the point was also
a great idea.
But, overall, I did not enjoy "Cloverfield",
and I suspect that folks will be a mixed bag on this film.
There's really only an hour's worth of movie thanks to the slow
start, begging the question of whether or not this would have been a
better TV movie instead. And, the ending is revealed at the
start of the movie (although the "how" is not), so some of the
suspense is taken away in that respect. Catch it in a theater
but maybe on a Saturday afternoon in a couple of weeks at a theater
outside of town, where you can save yourself some bucks.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard