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On the eve of his departure for Japan, Rob (Michael Stahl-David) sees his going-away party as an opportunity to confess unresolved feelings and tie up loose ends. His agenda takes an unexpected turn when a jolt shakes the revelers. The crowd quiets down to watch news reports of an earthquake, then rushes to the roof to assess the damage. A fireball explodes on the distant horizon. A power failure follows. Confusion gives way to panic as the partygoers stumble through the blackout and into the streets. Amid the human screams and one inhuman roar, Rob and his friends must traverse a landscape that has changed, overtaken by something otherworldly, terrifying, monstrous...
For more about Cloverfield and the Cloverfield Blu-ray release, see Cloverfield Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 31, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Annable (Yustman)
Director: Matt Reeves
» See full cast & crew
Cloverfield Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 31, 2008
You said it was 'alive.' What was it?
I usually don't say things like this in a review, but Cloverfield rules. Without a doubt, this is the finest monster movie ever made, and the various Godzilla and King Kong movies pale in comparison. Even as a movie reviewer, someone who makes his living on critiquing movies and Blu-ray discs, I'm not always enamored with a lot of what gets made today. Much of it is repetitive tripe (even the mindless entertainment types), and most of what we see today lacks much, if any, originality. I've got to give credit to Hollywood for finally getting one right, creating an original, truly edge-of-your-seat, mind-boggling movie that stands almost alone as a movie that is so intense, scary, and real, that it's difficult to classify your emotions after watching it. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. Is it horrific? Sure is. Does it feel completely real? No doubt. Director Matt Reeves (The Pallbearer) and producer J.J. Abrams (director of Mission: Impossible III) have re-invigorated a tired, dull genre, and taken the trite "let's destroy New York City" theme and created a masterpiece that unequivocally accomplishes what it sets out to do.
What is "Cloverfield?" At the beginning of the movie, the audience is told that the following "footage" is a video recording recovered from Central Park. As the footage begins to roll, we're introduced to the characters, and it takes some time to figure out who's who simply because of the home video nature of the imagery. Our primary characters are Rob (Michael Stahl-David, TV's "The Black Donnelly's"), who is leaving for a new job in Japan and is the center of attention at a surprise going-away party; Hud (T.J. Miller, TV's "Carpoolers"), Rob's friend and primary camera man throughout the film; and Beth (Odette Yustman, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), Rob's best friend and the girl he secretly loves. There are others, but part of the joy of Cloverfield is allowing yourself to become part of the movie, join the party at the beginning, and mingle vicariously through the camera. Just as the movie's brief introduction begins to get just the slightest bit long in the tooth, a rumble is heard in the distance and power is briefly lost throughout New York City. There is word on the news that a tanker has capsized near the Statue of Liberty, and moments later, with our gang of new friends now on street level, a large explosion rocks the city, and the head of the Statue of Liberty comes crashing into the street. Panic-stricken chaos ensues, and only elevates in intensity when it becomes clear that this is no accident or even terrorist attack. "Some thing" is loose in the city, and it's out to destroy.
I refuse to go on the description from there. What I've described is about all I knew of the film going in, and it all came from the trailers. There are far too many plot twists and developments from here on out, but suffice it to say, Cloverfield should easily keep you engrossed during its all-too-short 80 minute runtime. In fact, it moves along at a breakneck speed and is over almost as fast as it starts. Cloverfield is so good, so chilling, so emotional, and so effortlessly real that I sometimes found my hands shaking while trying to type up my notes. Let's not even try and imagine my heart rate, either. The acting is first-rate; the movie is absolutely perfect in its attempt to be what it is, a recovered tape of a monstrous tragedy in New York City at the hands of a creature we know nothing about. These actors bring a complete sense of realism to their roles, and the fact that they are far from household names and faces definitely helps the realism of the movie. Cloverfield would not have worked nearly as well had someone like Tom Cruise been the lead. It might have been a movie on the level of War of the Worlds, but definitely not a genre-defining, classic picture I have no doubt Cloverfield is destined to become.
If there are any potential faults to be found with Cloverfield, the primary one may be that it just feels too real. I'm not talking about the shaky camera style (which didn't bother me or my wife, for what it's worth) but instead about how some of the movie's scenes brought back memories of September 11, 2001. The way that soot and debris caked streets and people recalled the news coverage of that day, and I couldn't help but think that the stylistic look of the movie may have been "inspired" by that tragedy. It definitely adds to the realism of the movie, but it did momentarily take me out of the action. This inspiration is discussed in various supplemental features, and amateur footage of that day (as well as parts of the film United 93) played a role in influencing the look and feel of the film. It's definitely disturbing, but it adds a realism to the movie that's nearly second-to-none in Hollywood history, sadly in part because the film's audience now has a real-life frame of reference with which to relate the horror seen in the film.
Cloverfield Blu-ray, Video Quality
Paramount Pictures proudly presents Cloverfield on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition and framed in the movie's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For what the movie is, it looks great. The "prosumer" (as described in the commentary track) handheld high-definition camera used in the film offers up some solid definition and details. It's not as sharp and professional, obviously, as the high-end cameras generally used these days on your "normal" Hollywood film, but the grittiness and less-than- pristine nature of the source adds to the feel, tension, and horror of the movie. This looks far better than 28 Days Later, but has been filmed with a higher quality camera. Still, both Blu-ray discs represent exactly what the cameras captured; nothing more, nothing less, and tweaking the image to make it "look" better than the director intended would be a disservice to the film. This style of shooting is unique, obviously, and puts the viewer in the middle of the action. There is some inherent and expected noise to be seen throughout the image. Not every shot is in perfect focus, either, again as is to be expected from a camera of this type, and the untrained operator behind it. For example, when various people wish Rob farewell at the party, some shots are clearly soft and out-of-focus. Again though, this isn't supposed to filmed by a professional, just by a "Joe" with a camera.
Details look good. Liquor and beer bottles at the party, when we catch glimpses of them, are remarkably clear and their labels easy to read. Fine details in the background of the apartment -- the bricks on the wall, the various decorations, and other random household items -- also look rather good. There are some surprisingly solid black levels, evident when the quartet of survivors is walking through the subway tunnels to cite just one example. Some shots exhibit much more noise than others, especially in select darker scenes. There is really nothing to complain about here. Much like the aforementioned 28 Days Later, some viewers may be put off by the lack of fine clarity and sharpness associated with the best, shiniest, and most pristine of Blu-ray transfers, but please keep in mind that what you are seeing is exactly what the filmmakers intended for you to see, and this disc definitely provides viewers with the raw feel and gritty look that is the true star of the movie.
Cloverfield Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Cloverfield devastates Blu-ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track. Yet again, lossless audio proves to be the only way to go, and like the track found on Rambo, this one could be considered the best on the market, a sound mix many other movies of this sort could and should aspire to, and is certainly exemplary demonstration material. One thing this track does well is to mix the feeling of a camcorder-quality sound with a top-flight action movie extravaganza soundtrack. Sometimes, we'll hear some brief audio dropouts and other minor anomalies attributable to the quality of the microphone on the camera. Sometimes, the person behind the camera sounds muffled when he speaks due to the placement of the microphone, but those in front of the camera are generally heard clearly. Most dialogue reproduction in the film is fine, proving to be well-defined and easy to hear. The audience is treated to deep, foreboding bass as the movie begins, teasing audiences with just a small sample of what's to come. The surround channels are used to wonderful effect at the party early in the movie, truly creating an immersive atmosphere that, along with the handheld camera visual style, places us in the middle of the festivities. Surround channels are active with the beats of the party's music; every channel plays a part and they work together to create a pleasing mood that sets the pace for the rest of the movie.
When the action picks up, the soundtrack becomes one of, if not the, finest around. All of a sudden, a rumble interrupts the party, and soon thereafter, a tremendous, booming explosion devastates the city, your eardrums, and the foundation of your house. In fact, many of the film's explosions prove interesting to listen to. Even though the sound far surpasses what would be captured by the camera's microphone, the audio takes its cues from the video, cutting out when the picture does. Some explosions and other random sounds of destruction cut in and out momentarily, adding an eeriness to the movie that definitely helped elevate its effectiveness. The track also features solid presence in the rear channels during the film's hectic final hour. From the minor, such as when a helicopter pilot is instructing people to keep moving across the Brooklyn Bridge, to the major, as heard when the monster shrieks or when rockets and jet fighters scream from the rear to the front (and from side to side), the feeling of chaos, confusion, disorganization, violence, horror, and even wonderment is more than palpable; you'll swear its real. The collapse of the bridge is so astounding from a sonic perspective that it's one of those moments that is beyond words -- just have a listen (and for goodness sakes crank it up!). The entire soundtrack is awe-inspiring, remarkable stuff. Kudos to Paramount -- what a fantastic way to truly kick off their return to Blu-ray.
Cloverfield Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cloverfield smashes its way to Blu-ray with some extras that help to tie up some of the ambiguity of the film (but not all of it, thankfully). First is a commentary track with director Matt Reeves. Reeves' comments are both informative and entertaining, going in-depth through the process, from the origins of the idea, to the parallel stories (the monster story and the love story), the filming process, and where many of the ideas came from, some of it from the drama of raw online footage from the Iraq war. Reeves seems very approachable and willing to share his thoughts, including the film as a way of dealing with the trials, tribulations, and anxieties of our time, namely September 11. Despite the film's short runtime, Reeves crams in plenty of information and makes this track well worth listening to.
Next up is Special Investigation Mode. This is a clever and entertaining way to watch the movie. The movie plays in a box while the remainder of the screen provides a map showing the current location of the "large scale aggressor," "human subjects," and the "primary military activity." Facts about the characters, the monsters, and various locations around the city also appear at regular intervals in another box. Document 01.18.08: The Making of 'Cloverfield' (1080p, 28:22) features interviews with J.J. Abrams, producer Bryan Burk, director Matt Reeves, and various members of the cast. This is one of the less entertaining features on the disc. It's a fairly standard and bland look at the making of various aspects of the film, including a tunnel attack, the military command center, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Cloverfield Visual Effects (1080p, 22:32) is more making-of material, this time looking at the creation of the film's computer-generated special effects.
Moving along, I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge! (1080p, 5:53) examines the origins of the creature, the creation of its final design, and the creature's motives and stage of life. Clover Fun (1080p, 3:56) is a series of outtakes from the film. Four deleted scenes (1080p, 3:25) with optional commentary by director Matt Reeves are next, and are followed by two alternate endings to the film (1080p, 4:29), again with optional director commentary. Unfortunately, there are no trailers or extras pertaining to the marketing campaign of the film, something I would have liked the disc to touch on.
Cloverfield Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Filmmakers should take note that it's not always what we see and what we hear that makes a movie great, but instead what we feel. Cloverfield's distinct style places us smack-dab into the middle of the story, and never before have I felt this close to the action. I'm certainly not advocating every movie from here on out be shot in the style of Cloverfield, but what the movie has done is show what great storytelling in film is all about. The movie is direct, to the point, never superfluous, and quite possibly the most fun I've had at the movies in quite some time (not to mention being scared out of my wits more than once). This Blu-ray screening was the first time I'd seen Cloverfield, and I cannot wait to watch it again, especially now with the review complete so I won't be hindered by a computer on my lap and my brain and fingers taking notes. Cloverfield is Paramount's finest Blu-ray disc to date. The video quality is exactly as it should be, and the audio is astounding. The extra features are solid and numerous, and at times fairly entertaining. I cannot guarantee you'll enjoy this movie as much as I did, or not feel any motion sickness, but if you love the movie, are dying to see it for the first time, or need a reference disc, buying this disc is an easy decision to make. Highly recommended!
Cloverfield: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Cloverfield (1 bundle)
Cloverfield Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Cloverfield Blu-ray Gets Detailed - April 30, 2008
Official specs on the Blu-ray release of the J.J. Abrams-Produced hit film 'Cloverfield' are in from Paramount. As hoped by many, this Blu-ray release will include full 1080p video as well as Dolby TrueHD audio. Video codec information is currently unavailable ...
• Paramount Further Details Their Blu-ray Plans - April 30, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment today revealed further details about their upcoming Blu-ray plans and in addition to releasing 'Bee Movie', 'Face/Off' and 'Next' on May 20th, they will also be releasing 'Blades of Glory', a quirky comedy about the competetive world ...
• Paramount Reveals Initial Blu-ray Titles - April 29, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment have finally unveiled their long-awaited first wave of catalog and recent hit titles that they'll begin releasing May 20th. "We will have a strong slate of titles for Blu-ray release throughout the year, worldwide, and are enthusiastic ...
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