Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008, in theaters

You should know
My instinct is to say that I’m a big fan of J. J. Abrams, but the truth is, I never really watched Felicity or Alias, and I’m still a fan of Lost, though Abrams has long since moved on to other projects. I’ll dabble in his viral marketing, but I never lose the sense that it’s just a commercial – and if I’m going to take the time to go Online and watch commercials, the Mac vs PC series tends to be more entertaining.

Dan had seen Cloverfield and loved it; Chris saw it and wasn’t especially impressed – and some of his friends absolutely hated it. Since my taste in movies doesn’t precisely match either of theirs, I had no idea with whom I’d agree.

I’m a member of AMC’s MovieWatcher program, and I had received a free movie pass that expired the day I saw this movie. Dan was eager to see it again, so he joined me.

By the way, I’ve been very disappointed with the bathrooms at this particular theater lately. They can do better; I’ve seen it.

So… it’s a monster movie. What did you really expect?

All right, so it’s a monster movie told from a fairly interesting perspective. Normally, you see the monster from the monster’s eye-level, or from the perspective of the scientists who accidentally created it and must stop it, or from the government/military figures who must stop it without killing more people, or from the one environmentalist who wants to save and protect the monster until it eats his girlfriend.

I think. I’m not exactly a monster movie aficionado, and it’s been a few years since I’ve watched Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Anyway. This movie is literally from the perspective of the man on the street. Hud is tasked with documenting his friend Rob’s going-away party, and takes the camera with him as he and his fellow party-goers run for their lives – the video, he reasons correctly, will be part of the historical record of the monster attack.

The dynamics of the film constantly shift as the varying personalities work their way through assorted stages of grief. Shock, anger, denial, and really terrible jokes all make an appearance. There’s also a love story that seems pretty tacked on – OK, sure, Beth provides Rob with motivation and a reason to stay alive, but I don’t believe she’s that good a person. After all, she brings a date to Rob’s party just to make him jealous (it works), but once the monster attacks, she doesn’t even seem to care if her escort is dead or alive. You’d think maybe a tiny bit of guilt would rise up…

Yes, I know, of all the places to have trouble suspending disbelief, it’s a strange choice. I don’t care.

Now, the camerawork. It did not nauseate me as it did some moviegoers (one of Chris's friends was hit with a migraine), but then I usually only suffer motion sickness when something else bothered my health first, and motion aggravated it. As if you wanted to know that.

The movie did, however, bother my eyes. It had been a long day, my contact lenses were on the dry side, and any time the screen went out of focus, my horribly myopic eyes tried to compensate the way they do every other waking moment. But you can’t bring out-of-focus film into focus with your eyes alone, so I walked out with tired eyes.

A bit of advice
If you’re going with people who’ve seen the film, particularly those who then proceed to get really enthusiastic with the viral marketing, make sure they know when to keep their mouths shut.

And if you’re the enthusiastic fan, note well: saying that a favorite review mentions that:

“Just about the time you start wishing that a monster would attack the city and start killing these people, a monster attacks the city and starts killing these people.” funny. Saying it right before the monster attacks ruins the suspense and takes away from the effect – that is, it steals from your companions the very joy you felt when you first saw it. That’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to you, either, because now they won’t be nearly as enthusiastic as you are.

Avoid it if…
…You have young kids with you (there’s quite a bit of gore and a lot of cursing), you’re prone to motion-sickness, or you just plain don’t like monster movies. Otherwise, check it out. Although if you decided to wait for the DVD, I wouldn’t blame you.

Maybe the special features will reveal secrets otherwise found only in the viral marketing.

The rest of the Internet
Beware of spoilers.

The IMDb page.
Decent, though not incredible, reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.
The Wikipedia page.
1-18-08 Project Cloverfield follows Cloverfield and other Abrams-related news.
Ty Burr at the Boston Globe rates the film highly: the shallowness makes the plot holes go down more easily, he reasons.
Robin Rowe at rates the film highly.
Stephanie Zacharik at Salon, by contrast, rates the movie very poorly.
Russell Goldman at ABC News reports on Cloverfield-related motion sickness (and, along with his editors, gets extra credit for using "Nauseated" instead of "Nauseous.")
Alex Billington at enthusiastically predicts that Cloverfield will be remembered as a classic.
Roger Ebert ejoyed the film but had some trouble suspending disbelief.
Manohla Dargis at the New York Times was not impressed.
A Cloverfield sequel seems inevitable.
According to Gabriel Mckee at Religion Dispatches, Cloverfield's monster provides cosmic punishment for the sin of self-absorption.

Awesome link of the week
Television Without Pity has been around for some years now, but ever since it was bought by Bravo, the good folks at TWoP have had more resources and have been branching in new directions. Whereas the site used to only do full recaps of a certain number of dramas and reality shows, they've added "Weecaps" of shows they might not otherwise have done: sitcoms, for instance, or shows they used to recap, dropped, and then decided to pick back up in abbreviated form.

In the last few weeks, they've also added a few great video series. I'm loving The Week Without Pity, which outlines the week's highs and lows. No Prior Knowlege also has potential, but the whole premise is that the host hasn't seen the shows he's describing -- and yet he admits to having seen the first three seasons of Lost, the show he's currently describing in a multi-episode arc. It's only the third week!

The fora are actually very well-kept and intelligent as well, which we all know is something of a rarity on the Internet. So go, check it out, read some recaps, and enjoy!

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