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Rampage HD: Cloverfield Review!



Hollywood has stolen, er, “re-imagined” Asian cinema, most notably in mediocre horror films with no cultural base to translate the themes conveyed by their Far East predecessors. While cute Japanese girl-ghosts haunt the reception of dumb American teenagers’ cell phones, we can look back at 1998's monster dung “Godzilla” (fan-reviewed on Bitter Balcony on Sept 30th) as a prior failure to adapt a Japanese icon into American lore. Terrorizing poorly developed disaster movie archetype characters, calamity master (in more ways than he'll ever know) Roland Emmerich made the menacing “Godzilla” as threatening as Minilla. Thankfully, “Godzilla” tanked at the box office, putting the American update peacefully to rest at the bottom of the Hudson River.

For several years, we did not get a great, new monster film with a creature destructive enough to crumble buildings and resonate fear (Peter Jackson's “King Kong” was an exciting theatrical adventure, but it serves as homage more than cotemporary reflection). It took a trip by American producer extraordinaire J.J. Abrams to the Land of the Rising Sun to finally get it right with “Cloverfield.”

With the tragedy of 9-11, Americans witnessed the effects of terrorism unfiltered. Much as the horrors Fat Man and Little Boy unleashed in Japan at the tail end of World War II led to the Birth of “Gojira” (aka “Godzilla”) in 1954, the image of the collapsing Twin Towers left Americans in terrified awe. “Cloverfield” is not the first film to deal with 9-11, but it was the first to deal with the subject as a veil for the rampage the monster wreaks on Manhattan.

Unlike the somber political undertones in “Gojira,” “Cloverfield” finds its melancholy in a tale of star-crossed lovers Rob(Michael Stahl-David) and Beth(Odette Yustman). Rob’s brother Jason(Mike Vogel) and his fiance Lily(Jessica Lucas)throw a going-away party for Rob as he is set to leave New York for a new career opportunity in Japan. Beth appears at the party with a new beau, much to Rob's displeasure. Filming the drama is Rob's best friend, jokester turned cinema verite auteur Hud(T.J. Miller), who has a knack(or imprudence) for prying into the dilemma while keeping his eyes on Marlena(Lizzy Caplan), a sarcastic and disinterested acquaintance of Rob. As Hud captures the events of the party, and eventually documenting the monster's destructive path, scenes of Rob and Beth post-sex and Coney Island visit add romance to the Cloverfield's inevitable and exhilarating overthrow of New York.

Matt Reeves, who wrote “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” and helmed that “friend” you wished you didn't have, David Schwimmer in “The Pallbearer,” directed “Cloverfield.” Fortunately, Abrams overlooked these clunkers when he read Mr. Reeves' resume (or maybe he's great at bullshitting upper management), but whatever the case maybe, Mr. Reeves added knee-jerk realism to the monster movie. Furiously paced, Mr. Reeves is merciless in execution, loading the film with shaky camera angles and relentless action. With the exception of the so-so climatic close-up of the creature, the monster's appearances are perfectly timed while feeling unpredictable. He also manages to get credible performances from the young and unknown cast, a solid feat considering how one dimensional the protagonists could have turned out in a reliable but simplistic love story arc written by Drew Goddard.

We at Bitter Balcony enjoyed “Cloverfield” during its theatrical run in 2008, extremely impressed by the use of visual effects incorporated into a film shot handheld and on video. After a couple of viewings on DVD, the technical advancements of this film still hold a “how did they do that?” thrill that will keep the film viable for future audiences. The movie's relatively short running time of 85 minutes is just right, bowing out before pushing the viewers' tolerance level. If only J.J would have done the same for “Lost.” The potential for sequels is there, but if this monster is not given another round to destroy New York like the innumerable times Godzilla got to plummet Japan, then “Cloverfield” is a one well-landed haymaker.



Official website:



Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Drew Goddard
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Michael Stahl-David, Odette Yustman

Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

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