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Friday, January 25, 2008

REVIEW - "Cloverfield" (2008)

I'm a huge fan of the giant monster genre. It’s a concept I had wish more filmmakers would embrace. Only recently has there been a slight rise in interest for the genre. “The Host” brought to the table one of the most dramatic monster films in awhile. “The Mist” followed suit by delivering a great deal of suspense and an apocalyptic atmosphere. And J.J. Abrams' “Cloverfield”? For some, I assume, the shaky camera work will be the ultimate turnoff. But if the audience can look beyond the jolting frame they’ll find a very sublime film. I think “Cloverfield” may be the most unique and important giant monster movie since the original, 1954 “Godzilla.”

The entire film is told from the point of view of a hand-held video camera. Hud Platt is given the camera to document a farewell party for his best friend and main character, Robert Hawkins. The collection of happy goodbyes turns in to a historical account of a great disaster: Something has attacked the city. Amidst the confusion, Hud continues filming as Robert and others attempt to rescue Rob’s ex-girlfriend.

I guess I’m not spoiling anything with this next sentence: A giant monster attacks the New York. Surprise. From the moment the attack begins the intensity of the film hardly lets up. I felt like I was right with the characters running amongst falling debris, military firepower and giant claws. As soon as the monster’s attack began I started feeling the confusion and terror the characters were engulfed with. It is probably the closest a movie has come to making me feel exactly what the heroes feel—And it was terrifying.

Considering the entire movie is told from the perspective of a handy-cam I didn’t expect much story or character development. Oh ye of little faith. The first fifteen minutes introduces us to the characters and setting like clockwork. I loved how the camera's glitching evoked Robert’s feelings for his ex-girlfriend. During some very convenient scenes the handy-cam pauses long enough for the audience to see what was originally on the tape. Glimpses of Rob and Beth's prior relationship pop up like flashbacks. It’s very effective and a creative way to flesh out the lead.

The enjoyment of the characters was not crucial, but it enhanced the experience greatly. I cared about them and, because I felt like I was right beside them the entire time, I even grew attached to them. Their journey is a source of confusion and mayhem that could easily mimic emotions that were felt on 9/11. In comparison to its greatest inspiration, “Cloverfield” is to September 11th, what “Godzilla” was to Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It plays on current fears and our confusions. Similar to those who experienced 9/11 firsthand, "Cloverfield's" protagonists experience a disorientation from the terror of a sudden attack. Then there’s the big question: Who attacked us? There’s even a nod to the post-9/11 conspiracy theories as Hud begins wondering if the government had something to do with the monster.

These 9/11 emotions play a huge part of the film, but so does another aspect. Unlike the original “Godzilla,” there is no pseudo-scientific explanation for the monster's existence. We never find out what it is or where it came from. It simply is and that’s all that needs to be known. I enjoy this take on the creature because the unknown evokes true terror. It’s not the special effects and jump-out-at-you shots that make the movie truly terrifying, but the fact that it plays on so many real fears that dwell within us. It remains ambiguous to achieve the appropriate level of intensity. The experience is more important than the origin.

Eventually, I can see “Cloverfield” going down as one of the top great giant monster films. Granted, it’s not flawless. I don’t know how many people in the world would have kept filming all of that mayhem. I would have probably dropped the camera and run for my life. And I’m pretty sure the military would have confiscated it immediately. And why does the government claim they got the footage from the camera’s memory card when the characters constantly refer to the tape? Did I miss something? Then again, does it matter? Nah. There’s a much bigger picture that the movie paints at the expense of these flaws.

I’ve had a long time to think about it and I’ve decided to give “Cloverfield” four stars due to its ability to rise above and beyond a niche genre and breathe new life in to it. It’s a very effective movie with fun characters and a powerful awareness for today’s fears. Even with the camera’s shakiness there is a sense of creative cinematography. (Which is far more than I can say for the bland “Blair Witch Project.”) It is one of the most unique and overwhelming experiences I have ever had at the theater. A+ for the giant monster genre.

**** out of ****

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bond 22 Title Revealed!

As shown above, the title of the next Daniel Craig 007 is "Quantum of Solace." New plot details have also been released.

Picking up straight from "Casino Royale," James Bond (Daniel Craig) is now out for revenge as he looks to discover the truth about his lost love Vesper. His travels to Austria, Italy and South America lead him to another, agent seeking revenge for herself, and a company of ruthless villians aiming to seize economic control of natural resources.

While I've never been a big Bond fan, "Casino Royale" turned that all around for me. I'm very enthusiastic about this new Bond series and can't wait to see if it will continue down the strong, character driven course that "Casino Royale" set for it.

"Quantum of Solace" arrives in theaters this November.

Fantastic Four Three?

The humanity, right? Well, hold on. Apparently there were plans for it, but the writer's strike has put things on hold indefinitely.

"I have no idea."said star Jessica Alba, "I know the writers strike and the impending actors strike has kind of put a wrench in everything production wise. That film takes a lot of prep, a good six months of prep and about six months to shoot. With the strike, I think, maybe it's put on hold."

She also answered to how she felt about her character becoming a mother in the next film:

"Little Franklin? Yeah, I think that would be hilarious. He's so powerful, I think that would be a really interesting dynamic a mother-child dynamic. She's still a superhero but she's super-protective and he's wild, he can do anything and has no sense of what's appropriate, that would be really fun."

It would be really stupid. The Marvel movies have had its share of bad movies and I consider the "Fantastic Four" to be some of the worst of the lot. I hope the writer's strike discourages Fox from a third film. And "Little Franklin." Dear God...

TRAILER - Get Smart

So, am I the only one not laughing? I may have thought one or two shots were funny, but I certianly never laughed.
Granted, I'm not a big fan of comedies these days. They're either too grounded in obnoxious college humor or they're so child friendly that they come off as stupid. This "Get Smart" seems like the later.
I had some reservations for it when I saw the first teaser and ever since then my expectations for this movie have been dropping like an atom bomb.
Here's the international trailer (or so it looks). I'm sure North America will be getting an ever so slightly different trailer soon.

Norton Adds Some Clarification on Hulk

Edward Norton, star and co-writer of "The Incredible Hulk," recently clarified that this new Hulk has nothing to do with Ang Lee's film and he intends on sticking with it for awhile:

"First off it's utterly unrelated to that film. (Ang Lee's "Hulk.") This is in no way a response to it or picking up from it. I think like Chris Nolan and those guys did with Batman, we just said: 'We're going to start completely with our own version of this myth or saga.' To me the whole thing was to envision it in multiple parts. We left a lot out on purpose. It's definitely intended as chapter one."

Furthermore you can expect the first teaser for the film to be shown during the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Emmy and Eriko Talk "Dragonball"

Emmy Rossum, who plays Bulma, and Eriko Tamura, updated their respective blogs about "Dragonball." some interesting stuff is in there.

Emmy Rossum, updated her blog while traveling apparently:

"Since the new year I've been back on the set of "Dragonball." In addition to working in Durango, we've been shooting in some pretty remote yet stunning locations. So, I've been litterally "out of range" for a few days at a time. We shot in Mexiquillo, about 2 hours outside of Durango where the landscape is amazing and looks - in places - much like the forests of New England. The dense green trees reminded me of New Hampshire and Maine, and made me feel very at home. The sunrises and sunsets are really spectacularly beautiful.

Mexiquillo is pretty remote, and there weren't any hotels around, so we were actually "camping" in log cabins, all together. It was exactly what you'd imagine, campfires at night with smores and kumbaya... Okay,
maybe not kumbaya, but we did do the smores! Its been a LOT of fun, especially bonding with the cast. All the actors get along great! After only a few weeks shooting we already have inside jokes and pretty much know each others life-stories.

I've been listening to some harder music to access the edge inside me to bring to the character, some Linkin Park and Dream Theater. I'm enjoying developing the character and training, learning to ride a motorcycle has been thrilling.. Its manual, so I've been learning all about clutch and throttle (don't laugh, this is all new to me!) And I think I'll be able to drive a stick-shift car after this film too!

Right now I am writing from a helicopter (with my costars, Chow Yun Fat, his lovely wife and Joon Park). We are on our way to the desert where we will be filming for the the next few days. I am the lucky one who gets to sit up front with the pilot (who was very careful to instruct me not to touch anything; knobs, controls or otherwise) Chow and Joon are taking pictures in the back and we are having a lot of fun. The landscape is alternating between, rolling sand dunes, green mountains dotted with cactus and farms layed out in geometric order with terracotta colored earth."

Ms. Tamura had some interesting stuff to say about her costumes. (Translation by

"Shooting is going really well! Everyone is surprised. My part is very interesting, but I still cannot talk about it. Jim, Producer Tim, and Peter, who had flown to the set the day before yesterday, as well as the crew, are all in good spirits.

My wardrobe is very diverse, and it takes a long a time to put on the make up and decide the clothes I wear for certain scenes. Some of the wardrobe for certain scenes has not appeared as of yet. A studio movie like this is a very time consuming job for everyone.

Moreover, I am very honored to be working with the competent Chow Yun Fat. Our first scene filmed together was last week, for 2 or more hours, in the interior of a mountain. We met, and he greeted me very kindly. We were able to talk, and he seems like an interesting, gentle person."

Cool stuff. Good or bad, the movie will be interesting, that's for sure.

"Machete" Poster

Robert Rodriguez's faux trailer from "Grindhouse," "Machete," has been rumored to become a straight-to-DVD movie due how much the crew enjoyed the process of making the trailer. Sadly this poster really isn't proof of that and is simply something that was made for kicks. In any case it's a pretty cool poster and if Rodriguez's film does get finished and released on DVD I hope this is the cover we see on it. Click to enlarge:

Iron Man Picture... Again

They keep reeling these out don't they? This seems to be the second or third picture of a particular scene because it looks similar to some of the older ones. Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Farewell - Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

It is with great shock that I write this already well known information-- I just didn't feel right without putting it on my own blog. Heath Ledger, 28 years old, died in New York today, January 22, 2008. He died due to an apparent drug overdose. He was found in Mary-Kate Olsen's New York apartment in cardiac arrest. (As far as we know, no foul play was involved.) It is unknown what happened once the paramedics were called, but he died shortly after.
Ledger just recently finished shooting all his scenes for the upcoming "The Dark Knight," the sequel to "Batman Begins." The role of "The Joker" will be his last.
My deepest condolences to his family and friends. May God be with them and Heath.

2008 Oscar Nominations

They have arrived. Anything you agree with? I can very much say I'm unhappy that both "American Gangster" and "Zodiac" were snubbed. "American Gangster" is a bit more surprising I suppose, but the lack of "Zodiac" is disappointing simply because it was probably Fincher's best. But this is what happens when a high calibar movie gets released so early in the year: It becomes forgotten in the excitment of summer blockbusters. (I suppose "Gladiator" is one of the few exceptions.) "Eastern Promises" is, naturally, the movie I thought was screwed over the most. Meanwhile the glorified chick-flick "Atonement" gets its undeserved place in the best picture rankings.

I'm very, very happy to see "Juno" nominated for best picture and Ellen Page nominated for best actress. I predicted they would be nominated, but win? I wish. Viggo Mortensen was at least nominated for best actor. But due to the lack of his movie's popularity I doubt he'll get it. Yet again, I wish he would.

As of right now my greatest hope lies in "No Country for Old Men." I would love "Juno" to get it, but I don't see it happening. "There Will Be Blood" will probably get it, though I've yet to see it. So I don't know whether or not it deserves it. Perhaps I'll see it soon. (Not that any of this matters. The Academy is full of crap anyway, hence the lack of "Eastern Promises," "American Gangster" and "Zodiac." So naturally... I'm going to watch it.)

Overall, I'm disappointed in the best picture nominations, but most of the others make sense. Here's the list:

Best Picture

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman - Juno
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Actor

George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones - In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie - Away from Her
Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose (La môme)
Laura Linney - The Savages
Ellen Page - Juno

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Ruby Dee - American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Amy Ryan Gone - Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Best Original Screenplay

Juno - Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl - Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton - Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille - Brad Bird
The Savages - Tamara Jenkins

Best Adapted Screenplay

Atonement - Christopher Hampton
Away from Her - Sarah Polley
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Ronald Harwood
No Country for Old Men - Joel and Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood - Paul Thomas Anderson

Best Animated Feature

Surf's Up

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Seamus McGarvey - Atonement
Janusz Kaminski - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Roger Deakins - No Country for Old Men
Robert Elswit - There Will Be Blood

Best Art Direction

Arthur Max and Beth Rubino - American Gangster
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer - Atonement
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock - The Golden Compass

Best Costume Design

Albert Wolsky - Across the Universe
Jacqueline Durran - Atonement
Alexandra Byrne - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Marit Allen - La Vie en Rose
Colleen Atwood - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Documentary Feature

No End in Sight
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Taxi to the Dark Side
War Dance

Best Documentary Short

La Corona
Salim Baba
Sari's Mother

Best Film Editing

Christopher Rouse - The Bourne Ultimatum
Juliette Welfling - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jay Cassidy - Into the Wild
Roderick Jaynes - No Country for Old Men
Dylan Tichenor - There Will Be Blood

Best Makeup

Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald - La Vie en Rose
Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji - Norbit
Ve Neill and Martin Samuel - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Best Original Score

Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Alberto Iglesias - The Kite Runner
James Newton Howard - Michael Clayton
Michael Giacchino - Ratatouille
Marco Beltrami - 3:10 to Yuma

Best Original Song

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - "Falling Slowly" from Once
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "Happy Working Song" from Enchanted
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "So Close" from Enchanted
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "That's How You Know" from Enchanted
Nominees to be determined - "Raise It Up" from August Rush

Best Animated Short

I Met the Walrus
Madame Tutli-Putli
Even Pigeons Go To Heaven
My Love
Peter and the Wolf

Best Live Action Short

At Night
The Substitute
The Mozart of Pickpockets
Tanghi Argentini
The Tonto Woman

Best Sound Mixing

Scott Millan, David Parker, and Kirk Francis - The Bourne Ultimatum
Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, and Peter Kurland - No Country for Old Men
Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, and Doc Kane - Ratatouille
Paul Massey, David Giammarco, and Jim Steube - 3:10 to Yuma
Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Peter J. Devlin - Transformers

Best Sound Editing

Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg - The Bourne Ultimatum
Skip Lievsay - No Country for Old Men
Randy Thom and Michael Silvers - Ratatouille
Matthew Wood - There Will Be Blood
Ethan van Der Ryn and Mike Hopkins - Transformers

Best Visual Effects

The Golden Compass
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Best Foreign Language Film

Beaufort (Israel)
The Counterfeiters (Austria)
Katyń (Poland)
Mongol (Kazakhstan)
12 (Russia)

TRAILER - Star Trek (Teaser)

I've always been a casual Star Trek fan. I've enjoyed most of the movies and was a big fan of "The Next Generation" and "Voyager." Of course I've seen more reruns of the original series than I realize, but I could never get in to "Deep Space Nine." Now that I've described, in short, my enjoyment for the series I have to say J.J. Abrams may have transformed the franchise with his new Star Trek movie acting as both a prequel and restart to the original series. It feels darker, more alien and, as odd as this sounds, more down to earth. The teaser could be described with one word: Haunting. The idea of building a massive space craft to travel in to the unknown regions of space seems scary again. Lets hope the movie pulls off a feeling that's similar to the teaser:

Christmas, 2008.

Werewolves Attack in X-Files?

Some consider this a spoiler... I don't, it's just a matter of time until we get the synopsis anyway. It looks like the next X-Files will follow Mulder and Scully tracking werewolves instead of aliens. (Or perhaps werewolves and aliens? What if we get a double-doozy?) Anywho, here's some interesting pictures on the set of "X-Files 2." (No I will not announce what site it came from.) Click to enlarge:

New Narnia Stills

When I saw "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" I thought it was a fun fantasy adventure to be sure. But classic or groundbreaking? It seemed "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" had left "Narnia" in the dust. But with every passing trailer, picture and remarke concerning "Prince Caspian," I can't help but get excited. It really does seem like it will be better than the first and darker to boot. These new images enhance that prediction of mine as even the CGI looks better. Click to enlarge: