This Week's Review: "Cloverfield"

On the eve of my sons birth, my father-in-law bought our family a video camera. I immediately put it to good use by recording the fear and general anticipation that my wife and I were feeling about becoming parents. I also wanted to capture the beauty of the ensuing event not only for my wife and me, but for my son in the event that someday he would be interested in how it all went down. That was almost four years ago and I havent stopped filming. Birthdays, holidays, beach vacations - you name it, Ive taped it. I try not to be ridiculous about it; I never get in peoples faces or record for an inordinate amount of time. I simply stand in the background and capture a minute or two for posterity. Then I quickly tuck the camera away. At the end of the year I compile all of the best moments into a few short videos. I set them to music, add some titles and descriptions, and burn several copies to share with friends and family. Its a bit of work but the end result is immensely satisfying. Inevitably as I trudge through the hours of tape, I find numerous instances of serendipity. Like the time I had the camera rolling in the backyard when a huge blue heron swooped down not more than fifty feet from my son and me. On another occasion, as I was videotaping my boys golf swing, a neighbor accidentally backed into a parked car (I turned when I heard the crash and caught him screaming at himself). And then there was the time when we were celebrating my sons second birthday when he promptly buried his face in the cake as we were all singing to him. Ive often thought that there might be a day when Im taping that something monumental occurs. I think of the people who happen to be filming the Twin Towers when the planes hit on 9/11 or the tourists who were capturing images of the Indian Ocean coastline when the 2004 tsunami was unleashed. But imagine if someone was casually recording when something really insane occurred like, say, an attack by an alien creature? Well, thats exactly what transpires in this weeks feature, Cloverfield. Cloverfield is one of the most unique films I have ever seen, not in subject matter, but in approach. What starts out as a friend capturing video testimonials at a going-away party turns into the documentation of a major cataclysmic event. The entire movie is the playback of that videotape. It should be noted that this film can be unsettling to some people, not because of the monster, but because of the shaky camera that is utilized throughout the picture. As you can imagine, running from a giant creature does not lend itself to stable camera work. Ive heard several people say that watching this film made them queasy in the stomach. The media has also reported that in a few rare instances seizures have been triggered. Personally, the filming techniques did little to annoy me. In fact, I found that the approach lent an air of authenticity to the experience. If youre a fan of a good monster film and are willing to take a shot at something totally different, I highly encourage you to give Cloverfield a try. And if suspension of disbelief is huge on your list of requirements when choosing a film in this genre, I can honestly say that few pictures have handled it better. Ill definitely slap the polarizing label on Cloverfield since Ive found that people either love or hate this picture. For me it was a unique, edgy, and surreal theater experience. I cant say that I want to see every film delivered in this manner, but in this case it definitely worked. Had producer J.J. Abrams (creator of TVs Lost) opted for a standard delivery, I undoubtedly would be giving this film a much lower grade. This is what going to the movies is all about, folks. Take a chance on Cloverfield even if you shy away from the monster genre. The shared experience of something totally new might be just the thing to warm you up on one of these cold winter nights. A voyeuristic B+ for Cloverfield.

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Video Pick Of The Week
Dont Look Now Here's a little known gem from 1973 starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. "Don't Look Now" is a psychological thriller involving a husband and wife who are working in Venice, Italy. Having just lost their young daughter in a horrible accident, the two take to grieving in different ways: the husband by immersing himself in his work, the wife by clinging to her memory. Enter a blind soothsayer and Christie's character begins to heal in unexpected ways, causing friction in the marriage. Beautifully filmed within the architecture of Venice, "Don't Look Now" is not only a visual delight, but also a clear psychological puzzle. When you think you have an idea where the plot is headed, something quickly turns you in another direction. Check this one out if you're in the mood for a slice of the '70s wrapped inside an intriguing storyline.

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