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CLOVERFIELD ($30) is a new fangled take on the old-fashioned monster movie. Sure, nothing we see in CLOVERFIELD is particularly new. In fact, most of what we see up on the screen has appeared countless times before, but the execution of CLOVERFIELD is utterly superb; allowing the movie to take the audience on a clever, scary and nearly unrelenting eighty-five minute thrill ride. The best way to think of this movie is if one took elements from GODZILLA, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and WAR OF THE WORLDS and dropped them in the blender and the resulting sci-fi monster mish-mash was CLOVERFIELD. Much of the movieís 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, the footage starts with a romantic liaison between two of the characters, which segues to a going away party for one of those two characters. The party footage is then interrupted by what sounds like a tremor or earthquake. When the partygoers head outside, 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 parasite monsters, collapsing buildings, the military and 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 DVD in a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. Okay, hereís the dealÖ CLOVERFIELD is supposedly recovered consumer camcorder footage, and on the level it really looks terrific. However, those expecting the DVD presentation to reflect a major Hollywood blockbuster shot on film, or even on pro hi-def equipment will be disappointed. For the most part, the image is slightly soft and a little bit noisy, thus looking like the camcorder footage it is supposed to be. I will give the production team behind CLOVERFIELD a ton of credit because they have woven tons of digital special effects into the film and make them appear that they were shot live on a consumer camcorder. Colors are generally good and appear pretty much 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. Black, whites and contrast arenít at the theatrical level, but are very good for the production choices. Digital compression artifacts are not a concern.

CLOVERFIELD comes to DVD with a surprisingly good Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Considering that the movieís conceit is that this is recovered camcorder footage, one should not be expecting there to be directional effects, but there are, and in abundance. Additionally, one should be expecting more audible distortion from the microphone on a consumer camcorder, but the soundtrack for CLOVERFIELD is pretty clear and professional sounding. Fidelity is great and the bottom end of this track really shakes the groundÖ like that would ever be captured on a camcorder mike. Dialogue is generally crisp and highly understandable. French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene/episode selection and set up features, as well as some nice extra features. Starting things off is an informative running Audio Commentary by director Matt Reeves. 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 movieís digital effects work. I Saw It! Itís Alive! Itís 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 directorís comments. Outtakes and Bonus Trailers close out the extras.

CLOVERFIELD provides a marvelous update on the old-fashioned rampaging monster movie. The DVD release really delivers the goods in regards to video and audio quality. Considering the production methods, I donít know if the eventual Blu-ray release can offer any significant improvements, but it might make for an interesting comparison. Anyway the DVD comes highly recommended.



Cloverfield (2008)



DVD 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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