Review: “Cloverfield”

So I finally saw Cloverfield, which I had been wanting to see ever since I caught the trailer when we watched Transformers last summer.  (NOTE: Transformers did not put my wife to sleep.)

Now that I’ve seen Cloverfield all I can say is, God am I glad I didn’t see that on a big screen.  Even on our relatively small television (36″ — it seemed big when we bought it eight years ago …), the shaky-cam style made me a little uncomfortable.  In a real theater with a screen the size of a barn wall, I would’ve been yakking all over the person in front of me.  (I’m extremely susceptible to motion sickness.)

Anyway, aside from the shaky-cam issues that made me watch a good part of the film sidelong, I liked Cloverfield a lot.  I’m a sucker for giant-monster movies and this one was about 100 times better than the sad-sack remake of Godzilla from several years back.  Watching Godzilla I just felt sorry for the monster; this one scared the crap out of me, and the weird little critters that fell off of it were pretty nasty pieces of work, too.  (Have I mentioned that I periodically dream about one or more giant monsters rampaging through the city where I live?  Is that weird?  Doesn’t everybody have that dream … ?)

Interestingly enough, in the special features for Cloverfield, we learn that the monster is just a frightened baby and when it roars it’s calling for its mother.  So we were supposed to feel sorry for the monster this time.  Ummmm, okay, if you say so.  I thought it was just some badass trashing New York City for reasons unknown …

As per usual with a “rescue” movie, we have our little band of heroes who are risking their own lives to save a friend.  (The lesson of Cloverfield might be “After you sleep with the girl, call her and tell her you love her; it’ll make things a lot easier on you when a giant monster starts chewing up Manhattan.”)  I’d heard bad things about the performances, but I thought they were quite good.  In particular, T.J. Miller as Hud, the “guy behind the camera”, managed to make his character sympathetic with next to no screen time, just voice work.  Lizzy Caplan was terrific as Marlena, making me completely forget about her character from Mean Girls.  The other actors were fine and believable as well, but they were saddled with less interesting characters than these two.  In particular, I found the Robert Hawkins character, the putative hero, to be kinda one-note and boring.  Useless and uninteresting trivia:  In the late 80s I played a play-by-mail (PBM) game of space exploration called “Beyond the Quadra Zone”.  (This was before we had online gaming.  Hard to believe, eh?)  Anyway, the name of my character was Robert Hawkins.  Mr. Abrams, I’ll be expecting my royalty check in the mail.

The shaky-cam invites comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, but it’s really the only similarity between the two.  (I hated The Blair Witch Project.  Blech!)

My wife more or less completely ignored Cloverfield the whole time it was on (all 84 minutes of it!), so I can’t really give it my usual rating of how long it took to put her to sleep.  But she must’ve spent at least a little time paying attention to it, because she said she also thought the performances were good.  Draw your own conclusions …

WARNING:  Comments on this review may contain spoilers.

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9 Comments

  1. I think I would also have hurled in the cinema. Watched it at home on our 42″ HD TV instead. Really liked the monster. If that was a baby, how big are it’s parents and where are they?!? I was a bit disappointed with the ending because I’m a sucker for a happy ending and with not ALL of the characters were killed! (with the possible exception of the girl in the first helicopter) The film was somewhat disturbing but quite the ride!

    Jim says: Hmm … if you like happy endings, you may want to avoid my horror novels …

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  5. I found your site while doing a web search for the old PBM game, Beyond the Quadra Zone. I never played that particular play by mail game, but I do recall the name. I run a PBM gaming oriented website called PlayByMail.Net. I looked for an e-mail contact for you on your site, here, but I didn’t see one, if there was one. I wanted to invite you to my site, and see if you had any tales to share from your experience with that game. Not finding an e-mail contact address, I decided to leave a note for you, here, instead.

    – Charles –

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  6. Been searching the web for any remnants of “beyond the Quadra Zone”. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left out there. I contacted TSI directly, amazing they still run Hyborian Wat and a few other pbms, and hope to get some stuff from them if any of it still exists.

    You wouldn’t happen to have any of the original game maps, rules, or even issues of the monthly newsletter, which my group always submitted drawings and entries in?

    Either way, drop me a line and we can reminisce about those good ol’ days.

    Thanks!

    Rob 🙂

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    • Hi Rob,

      Wow, they’re still in business? That’s impressive! It was fun playing BtQS back in the day — I remember walking to the post office on the days that I expected to get my update. I even had colonized my own planet, as I recall, before I stopped playing in college. Unfortunately I never got to test out the orbital defense systems. 😉

      I doubt I have any of the old materials, but if I did they would be at my parents’ house back in New York. I dropped them a note and will let you know if they come across anything.

      Regards,

      Jim

      On Tue, 29 Jan 2013 07:01:09 -0800, James Viscosi's Scribblings

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      • Jim,
        Thanks so much for taking the time out to respond. Nothing yet from RSI but I’m hopeful they will be able to provide some of the old materials. My friends and I played in several games. We were all allied all the time and it was fun hooking up with others as well. We even made it once to the universal invasion! These unknown vessel entered known space and I had a colonized planet close to the border. Those were the days!

        Trying to see if there is any hope for reviving the game or even possibly recreating it in some fashion. Let me know if your patents find anything from the game. I really appreciate your help and will keep u updated as to any progress . Thanks again!

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