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cloverfield.jpgDirector: Matt Reeves

Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman

Writer Drew Goddard, and director Matt Reeves, both of whom have mostly little screen resumes, have come up with what will certainly be the first water-cooler-talk movie of 2008. This ambitious, small budget, (by Tinsel town standards, anyway) film got rung up for around 30 million. These days 30 large (ok, really large) will barely get you an A-list star, and these guys made an entire monster movie with it! Hats off and some applause for them on that! But, what about the end result? Is this movie any good? Well, yes, it is pretty good as well. This is film-making in the true reality TV style. The entire movie is seen through the eyes of a video camera being carried by the characters and takes place in a 24 hour period. It starts slow, but when it picks up speed, it doesn’t slow down. The small cast all have TV backgrounds, except for Mike Vogel, and all were unknowns to me. They do a good job with a script that mostly calls for running and saying ‘Oh my God’ a lot. The characters are not well-developed and that is an area that could have been improved, but I don’t think Reeves wanted to slow down, once he got moving. The story is simple and incomplete, since we only know what the characters see and they don’t know what’s going on, either. The results are effective, and create a mood that is unlike virtually any film I have ever seen.

Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is enjoying his last day in New York with his friend, Beth (Odette Yustman) before heading off to work in Japan. Things move rapidly to an evening surprise party for him, put on by his brother, Jason (Mike Vogel), who is told by his gf Lily to video tape the festivities so Rob has something to take with him. Jason promptly passes the task off to their friend, Hud (T. J. Miller). The story spends longer at this party than needed and still doesn’t let us get to know the characters well enough, but things pick up when their building is rocked by something that feels like an earth tremor. The group takes to the streets where they are soon bombarded with the detached head of the Statue of Liberty. Hmm, that seems unusual. Soon, the small group is fleeing Manhattan (like everyone else, except for incoming military forces), only to try to return when Rob gets a call from Beth, who has been trapped in her apartment.

Cloverfield is packed with tension and has an original style that has really only been seen in the Blair Witch Project previously. Imagine Blair Witch turned into a monster movie with a lot more cash to spend, a far better script, and you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. If you have any emotional issues in seeing New York in an authentic state of panic, or have tendencies toward motion sickness, then this may not be the best choice for you, but, besides that, I recommend it if for no other reason, than being a movie that really is different. That is a rare sight, indeed…

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