Tuesday, March 11, 2008


It's well late in the game, but here is a "Cloverfield" review...I saw the film about two months ago, and have been sitting on my ammo ever since....

Remember "Name That Tune"? The game show where the contestants challenged one another to name a song in the fewest possible notes? You remember..."I can name that tune in 3 notes!" "Ah, but I can name that tune in 2!"

Watching "Cloverfield" is like sitting through an extended episode of Cinematic Name That Tune. The film's aim is to elicit an empty emotional reaction out of innocent mainstream filmgoers in as few notes as it can muster. "I can impress you with 3 notes of suspense!" "I can make you cry with 2 notes of character development!"

Considering the film's $46.1 million opening weekend, the audience took the bait; judging by the film's subsequent colossal box office dip in the weeks since that opening, the audience then vomitted the shit up.

I don't know JJ Abrams, but he and I have a love-hate relationship. I loved "Alias." It was an ingenious concept and it brought a strong female to the forefront of a popular, slick, smart, involving television series. On the other hand, I can't drink the kool-aid on "Lost," which is yet another intriguing concept, only this time the enterprise is so fixated on said concept that I can't penetrate the show's arrogance layer to get into its story and characters.

I always said "Lost" reminded me of a movie that they stretched into a tedious, five-season TV watching bonanza, but on the basis of "Cloverfield," I take that back. If "Lost" was a standalone feature rather than a series, it would look vaguely like "Cloverfield": short, slick, and terminally empty in terms of story and character. And for those who were wondering, YES, that is about as close to a compliment as "Lost" will ever get from me. Go figure.

Back to the subject at hand...a lot of people seem to express disappointment that we never get a good glimpse of the monster at the center of "Cloverfield." I don't particularly understand that viewpoint, since the damn thing practically stares the audience in the face for the last 10 minutes of the film. I do, however, take issue with the fact that the monster looks like shit, as do all the film's special effects. It seems like Abrams and Co. spent the bulk of their money on high-end HD equipment and pristine 35mm prints rather than decent F/X...another questionable choice since the film is supposed to be from the POV of a shitty mini-DV camcorder. Honestly, "Cloverfield" looks so polished that it's as if the innocent victims of this horrible attack stepped out of NYU film school and into the story.

So where does "Cloverfield" stand in the JJ Abrams oeuvre? Well, it's certainly better than the Abrams-directed "Mission: Impossible 3," so we can thank him for at least not directing this one. And we can also be thankful that Abrams' "Star Trek" won't be released for over a year. For now, though, let's bask in the fact that "Cloverfield"-mania has died down, and hope that heroes like "Speed Racer," "Iron Man," and of course "Indiana Jones" can redeem the big-studio film from this vapid, self-important hole in the coming months.

Okay, "Lost"-lovers, unleash your wrath upon me...


Utah Savage said...

J, I haven't seen any of the films mentioned or either of the TV shows, but I agree with you completely. I won't drink the kool-aide. Love your writing. Glad you two are blogging again. For a minute there I thought if was just a ruse to draw us in.

Have you seen Taxi to Nowhere? Have you written about the Kite Runner?

J McKiernan said...

Glad you aren't a kool-aid drinker...

...but wait, you're drinking the Obama-aid, so...

(Had to, had to, had to...forgive me, forgive me, forgive me)

Anyway, what a cheap shot about us not blogging very often...true though it may be. We started this blog literally days before entering into one of the busiest stretches of our lives. I am taking 30 credit hours to finish school (finally) as soon as possible...we have been editing the short film we shot last summer...plus, with kids and such it is just not a good time for us to be unpaid bloggers.

But life is starting to calm down significantly...however, we also have lots of non-blog writing still to do. We are presenting a film-based paper at a conference in San Francisco next week (we will post it on the blog once we return), which we have yet to finish. That will take up plenty of blogging time for the next several days.

I do intend to keep writing, though. I love this blog, and I want it to continue growing. It has long been a dream of mine (and K's, too) to have an official outlet for all the writing I wanted to do. Right now I sort of wish we had a political blog of our own, but we hardly have time to keep up with this one, let alone two.

Thank you for the kind words. And stay tuned. We will be posting more reviews....sometime later this year.


J McKiernan said...

Also, we have not seen 'The Kite Runner'...honestly, in the midst of a busy holiday movie season, it just never compelled me enough to go see it. But I'm sure we will get to it eventually. Have you seen it?

Haven't heard of "Taxi to Nowhere." Any chance you are talking about "Taxi to the Dark Side," this year's Oscar-winning doc?

Utah Savage said...

Well J, I hate to state the obvious, but I have a political blog and your comments are a free ride on my ample coat-tails. You are welcome anytime. Love to find you there saying something smart and funny. Don't stop expressing your political opinions, just because I'm older and smarter. Just kidding.

Utah Savage said...

Taxi to the Dark Side. Yes, that's the one. Have you seen it? I haven't seen either film I asked you about. I read The Kite Runner. Often hate to see a movie made from a great book. So often mangled in the transition from page to screen. Would not see the movie made form the Ian McEwan book that made it as an Oscar nominee. And I'm glad I refused. I hear there were real problems with the soundtrack.