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DVD Review: Cloverfield (Blu-ray)
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Cloverfield Blu-ray EditionCloverfield
Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring Michael Stahl-David, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Vogel
Paramount Home Video
Release date: June 10, 2008

No other party could possibly be any worse than what’s depicted in the new fan-boy hyped YouTube generational movie Cloverfield. We’re introduced to a bunch of measly twentysomething-year-olds and just like that we’re supposed to be on board with them throughout the movie, which is, thank God, only 84 minutes in length. Six characters are introduced to us within the first scene, the first fifteen minutes, which is just like watching one of my drunk friends videotaping a party scene he was attending a week ago which is full of cheesy jokes and, of course, plenty of drama that seems nothing less than thrashed upon us.

We meet two brothers Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Jason (Mike Vogel). Rob, whom the party is being thrown for, is leaving Manhattan to take a job in Japan. He turns out to be the cool dude who also manages to conquer an insurmountable task that James Bond himself would be jealous of.

Let me round up the rest of the usual suspects: The crappy and ignorant Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) who doesn’t really want to be at this party in the first place (I don’t blame her); the man behind the handheld camera that we the audience rely on to show us the action is Hud (T.J. Miller), as he trudges through the people just to get testimonials about Jason; we can thank Lily (Jessica Lucas), Jason’s girlfriend, the woman who got this whole party started; and let’s not forget the drama part: Rob’s ex-girlfriend Beth (Odette Yustman) who he has an argument with just moments before the attack happens about her bringing her new boyfriend to the party, this sets up that insurmountable task. When director Matt Reeves believes he has accomplished his daunting task of “developing” the characters, if you can call it that, he throws the attack at them, which means he shoves it down the our throats, and hopes we can feel sorry for these shallow characters as they try to survive.

On the bright side, the film really works within the first ten minutes of the attack. To ignite a series of unfortunate events, a ship near the Statue of Liberty gets bombarded and before our characters know it the earth begins to rumble like an earthquake, a scary scene which has fireballs coming from the sky crashing into down town Manhattan, and of course that image of the Statue Liberty’s head getting hurled right in front of the party’s spot. Of course, watching this occur I’m nervous as well as anxious at this point. The Brooklyn Bridge even sees some cool action. Right here, is were Cloverfield had me at its luxury but low and behold as the movie progresses, in its short time, the attacks become less scary and more mandatory. The quick glimpses of the creature worked as it stirred my imagination of what this could possibly be rather than when we get the full view of it that really crushes my interest and creativity. Hey, maybe they didn’t need to show the monster at all. Blair Witch worked wonders with that technique. Made us all believers!

The only inventive idea that the movie, its director, and producer J.J. Abrams — who created one of TV’s greatest shows in Lost — has is capturing this rapture as it happens on a handheld-queasy-happy-for-the-entire-movie-handheld camera (Blair Witch-style) as it shows us information as it unfolds in real time. Hud does a fantastic job at never letting the camera get damaged and that battery sure is splendid not to run out. We do not know more or any less than our main characters do and see all that occurs through Hud as he continues to make pointless jokes even when his life is on the line. What I do know is that Cloverfield doesn’t quite live up to all of its hype: the worst complaint being with the monster itself. Expecting something along the lines of extravagancy the monster doesn’t take any form of that. Instead with all of the secrecy surrounding this creature’s appearance we are left with a normal looking beast that doesn’t necessarily break any barriers. Which the same thing can be said about the movie.

High Definition Quality
As I watched Cloverfield in the theatre earlier this year, I felt mauled and entrenched by the film’s queasy style camera movement which made it look as if it was being shot on a handheld video recorder: grainy and dark hues of black and blue dominated the viewer’s eyes to create a decapitated Manhattan. Now as Cloverfield hits the market on Blu-Ray disc, full 1080p transfer, it looks nothing like a budget film (which it was). To my surprise it looks stunningly crisp and alive and occupies a soul that was lost in the original theatre viewing. This can also be credited to the sound which captures each explosion with such precision that we never feel overwhelmed or want to lower the volume. The range that the sound showcases is very good as the dialogues coming from the actors could’ve easily got lost amidst all of the blasts and explosions, like it did in the theaters, but instead we every detail that is going on. Its looks alone can stand side by side with the summer blockbusters that spend millions up on millions of dollars to achieve the look that “Cloverfield” achieves on this disc. The quality of this high definition disc really boosts a powerful tandem of sight and sound, not to mention an array of special features presented in HD format.

Having a picture this good for this kind of low-budget movie may or may not evoke debates. To my opinion everything is much more crisp, clear and life like and brought the movie to an entirely new level for me; viewing of the monster in high definition is so clear that you’ll never question yourself what the monster looks like. It’s where cases like these that the disc proves to outshine the film.

DVD Bonus Features

Special Investigation Mode: (HD) – We all know what Blu-Ray is capable of but this special feature, exclusive to Blu-Ray, is pretty much a knockout. The movie itself is displayed in a smaller box with interesting pop-ups containing valuable and not-so-valuable information from the movie. The coolest feature here though is a grid map (taking up the entire left side of the screen) of New York City. With this map we follow where our victims are by red dots as well as the military by blue dots and the monster which is labeled on the key “Large Scale Aggressor.” Everything from the look, feel and style of this special feature is almost like it was given to us first hand by the FBI (there’s a Department of Defense seal on the top of the screen).

Commentary by Director Matt Reeves: (HD) 84 minutes – This feature could drag on a bit if you didn’t enjoy the film itself. All it is doing is combining all the other special features of the film and mixing them into audio commentary. While Reeves babbles his way through art and set direction, it’s producer J.J. Abrams who delivers some goods detailing the monster and how his ideas originated. Stick to the other special features in which you can view them talking instead of watching the film again.

I saw it! It’s alive! It’s huge!: (HD) – An infinite amount of information about the “Cloverfield” monster is demonstrated within this short documentary (6 minutes). If for one second you people thought that this was just a 30-story-tall human-devouring beast, you are all wrong! From the art designer to director to J.J. Abrams, all of them instill life into this beast and explain where their ideas stemmed from.

Document 01.18.08: The Making of “Cloverfield” (HD) 28 minutes – This is the special feature where everyone involved in the film comes out to give their first-hand experience of being involved in this “groundbreaking film.” The camera work is the main attraction here and it explains how it is used, especially in the opening scenes. There’s also a middle-aged crew member who plugs the movie “If I was a kid I’d be empowered by this movie and it would make me run out and try to make a movie!”

Visual Effects: (HD) 22 minutes – Without the amount of money Peter Jackson had to create his King Kong, we’re shown here how the Cloverfield team created a visual decapitation of Manhattan (which looks more believable and scarier in high definition). From the opening attack to the infamous Brooklyn Bridge catastrophe, all of it was shot on a green screen with complex computer gadgets. After viewing this and watching how the actors act on these “fake” sets more kudos goes there way.

Deleted Scenes: (HD) 4 minutes – Nothing worth watching that makes any impact on the film or any impact on your life. Stay clear. Director’s commentary is also an option here.

Clover Fun: (HD) 4 minutes – Everyone involved in the movie found time — the beast of a monster must’ve been sleeping — to goof around in front of the camera. It’s 4 minutes that actually has 2 minutes worth watching.

Alternate Endings: (HD) 5 minutes – The two alternate endings that are presented here are mirror images of each other and the original theatrical version until the last 12 or so seconds. These two alternates can be viewed with director’s commentary turned on. I recommend you listen people.

Easter Eggs: (HD) – With some help from a friend who knows a friend, I retrieved from him some Easter Eggs that have some decent qualities to them and one feature that is a total waste.

The first feature is labeled “˜Viral Videos’ and can be accessed by highlighting the chapters “13-16″ on the scene selection menu for one minute and seventeen seconds. Before you know it, a “17th” chapter magically appears and contains the coolest feature on the disc besides the interactive grid feature: the explaining of the Chuai oil rig destruction in news format by four different countries: America, Spain, France, and Japan.

Next is the tunnel attack scene that can be viewed while it was still being in the process of being completed: by highlighting scene “10” in the scene selection menu and pressing up an “X” appears click that and you’re automatically taken to the scene.

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  1. I remember you weren’t crazy about this one, but I thought and still do think it was one of better moviegoing experiences I have had in recent history.
    Good review, need to get a blu-ray player soon.

    Comment by Jerry — June 17, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  2. I wasn’t that thrilled now that I finally got it on BD. Should have rented :)

    Comment by Philip Masters — January 2, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

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