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Monster Mayhem In Manhattan – CLOVERFIELD

Found footage films can be a pain in the ass: “shaky cam gives me a headache,” or “I get sick” being some common complaints made with regards to these types of films. And while Cloverfield (2008) isn’t exactly innocent of these charges, at a brisk 85 minutes (including credits) it’s a more than bearable experience that manages to outdo some monstrous expectations thanks to some good-old-fashioned storytelling. At movie’s outset an ominous governmental warning prefaces something truly unexpected: sweet n’ tender home video of two lovers – Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Annable) – deciding to take a romantic Coney Island (R.I.P.) trip together. But the narrative soon shifts, as the tape garbles and skips to surprise party preparations – turns out Rob is off to Japan and his friends have borrowed the camera, inadvertently recording over Rob’s “special moments” footage. This “tape skip” device – which soon skips back to Rob and Beth on a subway to Coney before taking us back to the party – continues throughout the film, and is one of the clever narrative elements that helps director Matt Reeves transcend other similar movies. Because just when we’re wondering whether we’ve inadvertently stepped into some mumblecore youngsters-with-problems-no-one-gives-a-shit-about involving our P.O.V. counterpart Hud (T.J. Miller, named after Bill Paxton‘s Aliens character) and his crush on Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) or Beth’s dramatic arrival to the party with another guy (OMFinG!), the true hero of the picture makes its appearance. BLAM! An explosion rattles everyone out of their pity-party and onto the streets, where a loud roar followed by the Statue of Liberty‘s head crashing through the city streets signals the beginning of the nightmare we were promised: A giant monster loose in Manhattan, hideous sacs inflating and deflating on its head, limbs too thin for its frame, looking like a Salvador Dalí-meets-H.P. Lovecraft concoction set loose on our planet. While we genre-lovin’ fanboys would love to study its features closely, we’re forced to run to survive, thanks to our first-person vantage point. But we get enough of a glimpse to register some definite horror, in the form of dog-sized parasites dropping to the ground, as dangerous as the hulking leviathan what spawned them suckers. The clever thing about Cloverfield is that the creatures themselves are a force of nature: they could’ve been a storm (like THE Storm – coming 2012), an impending nuclear attack (a’la Miracle Mile) or even zombies! Doesn’t matter – any freak event that puts loved ones in extreme peril and causes everyone to scatter like chickens with heads cut off. That’s what makes it so awesome – it’s essentially all about that target=”_blank”>”RUN!” feeling. I mean, for my money Spain’s [Rec] and [Rec] ² are the cream of the found-footage crop, but like the behemoths that roam its narrative streets, Cloverfield isn’t too far behind.

[Oh yeah – keep watching the credits and you’ll be treated to target=”_blank”>one of the greatest pieces of film score from Michael Giacchino – ‘Roar.’  It’ll make you feel like Monster Island’s throwing a party, after which they’re comin’ to kill us all!]

 

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January 19, 2012   No Comments

Nørdic Monster Flick – THE TROLL HUNTER

THE TROLL HUNTER is a fun romp through the Norwegian countryside – with Trolls thrown in for good measure.

If movies like Cloverfield and Monsters have taught us anything, it’s that filmmakers can sprinkle 5 minutes worth of special effects over 90+ minutes of documentary-styled narrative and create a healthy buzz by lumping all the “good parts” into a misleading, spectacle-laden trailer. Boom. Money in the bank, next project in the works. The only catch is that usually the resulting movie is so freakin’ thin that it doesn’t have a shelf life beyond the initial viewing. Writer-Director André Øvredal‘s highly-anticipated Troll Hunter [a.k.a. Trolljegeren] (2010) seeks to remedy this by keeping its CGI monsters in the background and placing a human character in the foreground – the titular Troll Hunter, played by Otto Jespersen, a man so fed up with his secret state-sponsored job keeping Norway’s trolls in check that he allows an amateur film crew access to his work. Off they go in search of trolls, the skeptical trio of non-believers (trolls can smell god-fearing men, so none are allowed on the trip) rolling their eyes and mocking their eccentric subject – until he delivers the goods. As monsters go, the trolls themselves are a welcome departure – goofy and oafish, they give the film a fantastical and comedic edge, albeit an esoteric one which non-Norwegians won’t fully appreciate. And besides these charming CGI concoctions there’s some good pacing, very dry comedy, and breathtaking, travelogue-like views of Norway’s majestic forests and Fjords to keep the viewer interested between troll sightings (the fact that trolls only come out at night serves the film’s structure well). It’s a fun movie, especially for fans of low budget monster movies, but despite its many qualities The Troll Hunter ends up feeling very much like a blown opportunity, which only just scratches the surface of its numerous subplots (the romantic life of our hero, the fate of our camera crew, the bureaucratic mysteries of the TST) and settles for predictable and contrived twists and turns. And even though filmmakers can chalk the lack of resolution up to the first-person, “lost-footage” trope at the heart of the film, I personally couldn’t shake the feeling that they should have squeezed more humor, magic, and wonderment of those darned trolls, and the man who hunts them.

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February 14, 2011   No Comments

LET ME IN trailer hits the internet

You can take a look at our review of the original, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, here. The remake is directed by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves. I’m still pretty sure it’ll suck, even if the trailer doesn’t seem all that bad… there’s just something mesmerizing about the slow Scandinavian pace of the original which I don’t think Hollywood can emulate. The special effects might be superior in this one, though. I dunno… again I find myself hoping against hope that it works. What do you think?

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July 1, 2010   1 Comment

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