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By Mitch Emerson

Starring: Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Michael Stahl-David
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Produced By: Sherryl Clark, Guy Riedel,J.J. Abrams
Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Dramaand Thriller
Running Time: 1 hr. 24 min.
Release Date: January 18th, 2008 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terrorand disturbing images.
Distributors: Paramount Pictures

J.J. Abrams intrigued us last year with a teaser trailer that gave no name, just an explosion in downtown Manhattan and the head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the street and a date -- that was all. Genius if you ask me, but the real question is, does it live up to all of the hype and speculation that followed? I can attest that the answer is yes, it does.

Cloverfield is a Godzilla type movie yet both less and more at the same time. Innovative storytelling told through the lens of a video camera found in Central Park by the Department of Defense with no narration, explanation or anything. The whole story is told by the videotape recorded by a group of friends in an eight hour period as they try to rescue another friend and escape the city when a creature attacks New York.

On an intellectual level, Cloverfield should not work at all. What little character development there is comes from gaps on the tape where what was previously recorded comes through in between the current action, showing bits and pieces of the two main characters' past relationship. The ending really shouldn't work either. It's abrupt and doesn't finish the story, but it does give closure on our character's part. There is no explanation given about where the creature came from, what it wants, or where it's going. You never really even get a great shot of what the thing looks like. And, to top it off, Cloverfield had a budget of less than $30 to $50 million. For comparison, Will Smith's I Am Legend had a budget of $150 million and for the record, I enjoyed Cloverfield much more than I Am Legend.

The “acting” is phenomenal when taken in context. No deep conversations or useless dialogue to continue the story. Nope, this is just four young adults scared out of their minds and doing the best that they can. Due to the lack of character development you don't really care who they are. The raw emotion of the situation is enough to make you care what happens to these people who just happen to live in the wrong city at the wrong time.

Only two small problems with the film: 1) the movie is shot entirely with a hand-held camera, and if you are a regular reader of mine, you know how much I hate the“shaky-cam.” But, I can forgive it this time since the premise and style make up for it although some people have complained of motion sickness due to the movement. 2), I know Manhattan is a small island, but still, the creature just happens to be everywhere our group is. I find that just a tad unbelievable, but then again, it is a monster movie.

Except for those two minor issues, Cloverfield is one hell of a creative movie that delivers the terror and tension in a whole new way.


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