Sunday, January 27, 2008


DAN - Cloverfield is the second feature-length film from director Matt Reeves. Featuring a cast of relatively unknown actors, the film presents a first-person perspective of an attack on New York City by an unstoppable monster of gigantic proportions. Amidst the mayhem, five friends scramble to reach an injured friend who is trapped in another part of the city.

This film derives its inspiration from classic Godzilla films while simultaneously reinventing the genre. Unlike other monster movies that tell the story on a massive scale, this film puts the audience directly in the shoes of civilians who are struggling to survive. I haven’t experienced such a sense of helplessness in cinema since War of the Worlds in 2005.

The film is presented as though it were recorded entirely on a handheld camcorder. The cameraman, Hud (played by T.J. Miller), serves as the audience’s eyes and ears. We know what he knows; nothing more, nothing less. He often runs frantically, providing only glimpses of the terrors around him. This comes across as a believably realistic account of what a person might manage to record in the midst of such a tragedy.

There is no musical score in this film, save for a seven-minute operatic overture during the credits that was composed by Michael Giacchino. The absence of non-diegetic music adds to the realism of the film and was a wise decision on the part of the director. The visual and sound design of the film create an authentic and exhilarating experience that had me asking myself, “What would I do in this situation?”

It’s not often that a good monster film is made, but Cloverfield hits the mark. Relatable characters, immersive cinematography, and precise direction provide a unique and entertaining cinematic experience.


- After months and months of internet promotions for Producer J.J. Abrams (creator of Lost) newest baby, I made my way to the nearest theater curious to see if Cloverfield lived up to its interweb hype. Now I’ll admit I wasn’t too excited to go see this movie. I sincerely thought that Cloverfield was going to be a complete waste of my time. You have unknown actors, a relatively unknown director, all in a Godzilla meets Blair Witch type movie that’s told from the point of view of a character (that is ironically named HUD) that happens to have a video camera. Truth be told, the real reason I wanted to go see Cloverfield was because I had an inkling that the new Star Trek trailer was going to be in front of it. And it was… and it was AWESOME. So now that I have sufficiently destroyed any chance of dating a woman on this campus, allow me to give you my actual thoughts on the sure to be cult favorite, Cloverfield.

When I wasn’t to busy getting annoyed with the camera, which was rarely centered on the action so that I could barely tell what was going on half the time, or looking at people’s shoes (which you surprisingly do a lot of in this movie) I was actually, dare I say it, enjoying myself. Now mind you those moments were rare, mainly due to our point of view cameraman (HUD) who couldn’t run a camera or steady one if his life depended on it. All that aside however, Cloverfield really wasn’t that bad of a movie.

There were some pretty sweet special effects in this film. The monster looked great, and the movie did a successful job of scaring its audience. And even though I’m sure some if not most will hate the ending of this movie, I thought that it was great. Brilliant. Well done writer Drew Goddard, an innovative way to end the picture.

So overall, it looks like I’d have to say that I surprisingly enjoyed Cloverfield. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that the shaky, hand-held, point-of-view camera system ultimately made the film suffer. The technique, though unique and probably a great idea on paper, held the movie back from its full potential. Perhaps with a more cinematic approach, Cloverfield could have been the great American monster picture. Instead, I guess we’ll just have to keep watching dubbed-over Godzilla movies.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


DAN - Atonement is the newest film from Joe Wright, director of the recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. James McAvoy plays a man who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit by a little girl whose imagination and perception distort the truth. Kiera Knightley co-stars as McAvoy’s love interest who is separated from him on the brink of World War II.

At first glance, this film may seem like any other period romance, but it is something else entirely. The elements of cinema are used to surprising effect in this film; the editing, musical score, acting, cinematography, and direction are all in the hands of people who know how to use them. The result is an innovative film the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced.

Dario Marianelli’s score serves as an invigorating undercurrent for the film. It weaves in and out of the diegetic world, often directly coinciding with the characters’ thoughts and actions. The cast, particularly Knightley and McAvoy, deliver convincing and seemingly effortless performances.

The film is written and directed in beautiful fashion, creating a narrative that presents itself in multiple perspectives and various time periods. Director Wright and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey know how to use the camera to draw an audience into the film; the visual composition and physical movement of the camera combine to invite the viewer to experience the film from within.

The film’s themes of love, atonement, and the impact of imagination create a dramatic experience worthy of revisiting. It contains moments of humor, romance, hatred, and sorrow that are likely to have a powerful impact on any individual as it did for me.


STEVE - Adapted from Ian McEwan’s novel, Atonement has the essentials needed to make a great piece of cinema. All the elements are there. Terrific performances from actor James McAvoy actress Keira Kinghtley, and thirteen year old Saoirse Ronan, moving music, gorgeous cinematography, and an overall well executed film.

The film starts strong, with director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) using his skilled talents behind the camera to bring the story to life. Acting, dialogue, and plot are top notch here as the film begins and the story gains its momentum. However, once the plot has been built, the audience is thrown into the future four years later. From this point the story does a lot of jumping back and forth between past and present and here is where things began to fall apart for me. The momentum is slowed as you’re continually being tossed from past to present, virtually to a point where you’re not sure where exactly you are in the story line, and sadly you begin to stop caring. The script just doesn’t keep you interested.

Oddly enough, with that setback in mind, the performances and direction remain strong and the cinematography never lets up on being amazing. Actually it improves. There is a marvelous scene on the beaches of France that is filmed all in one shot and is absolutely incredible. I’m willing to bet that cinematographer Seamus McGarvey is going to be up for an Oscar nomination.

The movie does end on a strong note, bringing together everything in a nice neat package, even though during the second-half I felt like I was left stranded in the middle nowhere. Without a doubt Atonement is a skillfully made film with all the makings of an epic romance, but it’s not quite that epic.