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1-18-08 aka Cheese aka Slusho! aka Cloverfield

Let's start with a spoiler free overall reaction to the movie that finally settled on the title Cloverfield (also the name of a street near J.J. Abrams' LA offices). Woah. I'm very pleased that I only finished half of that hummus wrap before going to see this, and no theater nachos for me this time round since I was running a little late at meeting a friend for the show. Not to mention that my stomach has been a little off lately after having recently returned from a trip and a little pre-move life-transition kind of anxiousness. But I'm tough. I grew up sailing, skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, skiing, slam dancing, gore movie watching, and other equilibrium churning activities. Granted I'm not the adrenaline junkie I used to be...

The severe hand-held filming method used throughout this film will jar even the toughest stomachs. To my great chagrin I admit I stepped out twice just to gain my footing. Several people left the theater mid-show, never to return, and my friend took a step out as well. The thing about it is that there is just so much shaky movement and the audience is cooped up in a dormant state in their seats. If there were a little bit of physical stimulation, like in a flight simulator or those rumble seats some theaters have, it might have been much more bearable. Strangely, I found that when the action within the movie became elevated and frantic (the bulk of the middle to end) the camera movement was easier to stomach. This is definitely a horror-thriller flick, but the gore was at a minimum, or at least the realistic trauma was flashed so quickly it didn't even have time to register before you were jarred by a subsequent explosion or other distraction.

Update - After reading some reviews around the web, it looks like the motion sickness issues are widespread. Some theaters even posted disclaimers about it as shown in this blogger's review (Just click the picture in the entry if you don't want movie spoilers).

Let the spoilers begin (but scroll down to end for more spoiler free commentary)...

One of those distractions were a very well done build to the unveiling of the "monster", which is undeniably comparable to Godzilla. The first two films that come to mind that executed the monster reveal as successfully were of course the original version of The Thing and Signs. All of these films gave you very brief glimpses of the monster somewhere after the first act, leaving you glued to the screen for a better view. It's such a simple but effective trick, and Cloverfield follows this method perfectly. I really appreciated how well crafted the monster reveal was, and it was certainly the main factor that kept me coming back in from my "breaks". The pacing helped too, but I think they stretched the stomach churning moments out just a little too long for most movie-goers. Once the camera movement started to match the action happening within the frame, there was another moment of relief.

Certainly anyone who was more directly affected by the events of 9/11 should not be referred to see this movie, unless they are such huge Godzilla and horror/thriller fans that the latter overrides the former.

The casting was a good ensemble of twenty-somethings who all played out the natural home video style convincingly. The story was glued together by the "transitional relationships" and actions of a core group of about 6 characters who dwindled as the story (or should I say simply "action") progressed. It was all amazingly simple but well balanced.

The effects are really one of the best components to Cloverfield. It's a prime example of the culmination of FX techniques we've built up to over the years to this era of unbridled creative cinematic glory. Everything looked completely real. The camera movement certainly covers up any flaws there might have been in the compositing and CG, but presenting it that way just makes the movie all the more realistic, as preposterous as it all is. If you haven't seen the movie but are still reading this spoiler zone, the movie is filmed entirely from the POV of a home video camera that was being used by the group of friends to capture a going away party, and followed a small group as they carried it during their attempted escape - very much in the style of The Blair Witch Project.

It's been many decades since the original Godzilla showed eastern and western audiences of the nuclear age what civilization may have to face, but even so - there ain't no giant sea monster attacks listed on the US government's checklist for disaster readiness. I think that might change if Will Smith gets elected this November, since the Fresh Prince is prolly the only one who could save us from such an event ;)

End of spoiler zone

The trailers were a definite bonus - Iron Man, Hellboy, Jumper (I've been waiting for this one, and it looks better and better every new trailer I see. Hayden and Sam fans alike should rejoice!), and a HUGE chill for the all too brief Star Trek XI trailer which flashed Abrams' name leaving me thinking this was the beginning of our feature for a split second. I'm not even a Trekkie!

This shouldn't be much of a spoiler (I hope) - If you've seen Cloverfield, you might remember a flash on one of the party attendee's Slusho! t-shirt, a fictional product some might recognize from other Abrams projects. Gotta love those Easter eggs, and the general production nods to people who pay attention to this stuff. If you haven't seen the movie yet, look for it, and if you want to play at a pretty cool Flash site and maybe even enter the contest - check out the Slusho! site and/or view the Slusho! commercial below.

*Removed video due to annoying inability to stop autostart function. Check it out at the site linked to above*

In summary, I usually make the bank-busting trip to the theaters for things that I expect to be worth the big screen experience, whether it be for cinematography, FX, or engrossing in the action. If you really think you can take it, this is certainly worth a theater visit - although I might contradict myself by saying that the shaky home video style in which it's filmed might be even more effective if viewed on the small screen - just as if you found the footage yourself. Having access to the DVD remote, the bathroom, and the ability to get up and move around will be some pretty handy resources. They are of course developing a game for this, and I think it should prove to be a huge hit for Wii users if they make it interactive with a treadmill and an obstacle course. If you do make it to the theater - Good luck, and be prepared.


nob01 said...

Here's a funny thing - despite my jk heart breaking comments recently about my dislike for shaky-cam in such movies as the Bourne franchise - I had no qualms with this one - and absolutely LOVED the movie.
Did you sit a way back in the auditorium? I made sure we did, as I find this helps a lot to cut down on sea-sickness during a handheld movie.
Despite the slightness of the plot, this film sucked me in big time - and I found myself grinning wildly while simultaneously wringing my hands during the army attack scene about a third of the way in.
I got a bit antsy during the slower scenes - the scenes that were there for character development and exposition - as I wanted more monster carnage, but things certainly picked up, and overall I came out quite satisfied.
Funnily enough, a bunch of guys a few rows down didn't enjoy it as much as I did, and left to a chorus of "That's it?", "I paid money for this shit?" "What the hell happened?"
Ah well - they'll probably enjoy Meet the Spartans more than I ever could...

BTW - we got jipped - no Trek Trailer - Paul was sorely disappointed!

starthunder said...

usually my choice seat is the very last/furthest back row, in the center, directly under the projector - but that seat wasn't available so i was pretty much in the dead center of the theater. i hate looking up.

i loved it too, as tough as it was to sit out - and those character development scenes are pretty much what killed me too, even though they were breif enough and necessary. i just wish they could have shown the friends setting up a tripod at the party heh. those slower scenes where the camera was still jolted about were what was hard for me to stomach. otherwise, the shaky cam brought me right into it during the real action.

i heard some hems and haws about the end too.

nob - i'm putting up an entry right now with that very same trek teaser trailer. it's very sweet. show paul.