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Surprisingly effective, even on a second viewing, CLOVERFIELD ($40) proves itself to be a perfectly constructed piece of genre entertainment. Utilizing modern techniques, CLOVERFIELD is able to take past cinematic conventions to dizzying heights; thus serving up its audience a new fangled take on the old-fashioned monster movie. Story wise, CLOVERFIELD serves up nothing that is particularly new. In fact, most of what we see up on the screen has appeared countless times before, starting as far back as the silent era. However, it is the filmmakers’ execution of CLOVERFIELD that is utterly superb.

CLOVERFIELD is clever, scary and takes its audience on a nearly unrelenting eighty-five minute thrill ride. The best way to describe CLOVERFIELD… think of this sci-fi monster movie mish-mash, as the end result of dropping elements from GODZILLA, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and WAR OF THE WORLDS into a blender, along with some really cool digital effects, and then hitting the frappe button. Much of the movie’s dizzying intensity comes from the "you are there" guerilla documentary approach that producers have applied to your standard giant monster rampaging through a city storyline. Had CLOVERFIELD taken the standard filmmaking tact, its doubtful the end results would have been as electric.

The premise of CLOVERFIELD involves recovered camcorder footage, taken by a group of twenty-something year old friends, on the night that a giant monster attacks Manhattan. However, before we get to the monster, the footage starts off with a romantic liaison between two of the characters. The romance then segues to a going away party for one of those two characters, who is leaving the country. The party is interrupted by what sounds like Manhattan being struck by a tremor or earthquake. However, when the partygoers head outside to see what has happened, they discover the city is under attack by something huge. Of course, our protagonists keep the camera rolling to document their experiences, as they try to make their way up town to rescue a friend, while at the same time, trying to avoid a skyscraper sized monster, smaller parasitic monsters, as well as collapsing buildings, military forces and erupting heavy weapons fire. The cast of CLOVERFIELD features Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel and Odette Yustman.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made CLOVERFIELD available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Since CLOVERFIELD was supposedly shot on a consumer camcorder, I wasn’t expecting the 1080p presentation to be significantly different from the standard definition counterpart. However, the high definition version of CLOVERFIELD delivers pleasant surprises. Overall, the image is stronger here, than it was on DVD. Sharpness and image detail are better in hi-def, but not so significantly improved that one’s mouth is left agape. Even with the improvements, CLOVERFIELD still looks like recovered camcorder footage, so it comes across as slightly soft and a little bit noisy compared typical high definition fare. Still, CLOVERFIELD seamlessly weave tons of digital special effects into the story and even on Blu-ray they appear as though they were shot live on a consumer camcorder. Colors are generally good and appear fairly lifelike. However, the hues can appear washed out to some degree, as they do on consumer video equipment, especially when the lighting is less than ideal. Neither the blacks, nor the whites are at the theatrical level. Contrast is improved on Blu-ray, but still isn’t quite prefect, due to the movie’s production conceit. Darker scenes introduce more video noise than those shot with better lighting.

CLOVERFIELD is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. CLOVERFIELD shatters its own illusion of being recovered camcorder footage in the arena of sound, since the audio portions of such recording are usually of low fidelity and lack directionality. However, not only does CLOVERFIELD reproduce its sonics with excellent fidelity, directional effects are delivered in abundance. Additionally, the bottom end of this track really shakes the ground… as if that would ever be captured with a camcorder microphone. Dialogue is generally crisp and highly understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a selection of special features. Starting things off is an informative running Audio Commentary by director Matt Reeves. Next we have a very cool viewing option for the movie billed as the Special Investigative Mode: Enhanced Viewing Mode With GPS Tracking, Creature Radar, Military Intelligence And More, which place the movie in a window, while on screen displays offer location, tactical and ancillary information to what is happening during camcorder footage playback.

Document 01.18.08: The Making Of Cloverfield runs nearly a half hour and provides a fairly in depth look at the production. Cloverfield Visual Effects spends twenty-two minutes looking at various set pieces and other important aspects of the movie’s digital effects work. I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge! takes another five minutes to expand upon the previous program, this time focusing on the monster itself. Four Deleted Scenes and Two Alternate Endings are also provided with optional director’s comments. Outtakes and Bonus Trailers close out the extras.

Although little more than an old-fashioned rampaging monster movie with modern conventions and modern special effects, CLOVERFIELD delivers tremendous entertainment to genre movie fans. The Blu-ray disc certainly improves on the DVD, but the production methodology prevents this from being an outstanding hi-def experience. Still, the Blu-ray disc comes absolutely recommended.



Cloverfield [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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