"Star Trek 2" Pre-Production To Start in January 2011

The highly-anticipated sequel to J. J. Abrams’ 2009 hit STAR TREK is slated to begin pre-production in January 2011, according to a TrekMovie.com interview with producer Bryan Burk. Though actor Bruce Greenwood (Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike) had originally told Hollywood.com that the film would begin shooting as early as January, it turns out he was misinformed.  According to Burk, shooting will begin in late spring / early summer 2011. We still haven’t seen any confirmation that Greenwood will even be a part of the still-untitled project, which everyone is affectionately referring to as STAR TREK 2.
What we do know about STAR TREK 2 is that director J. J. Abrams will be returning, along with the main cast members: Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura, and so on. Also, Damon Lindelof is said to be working on the script with Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci.
The STAR TREK sequel is set to hit theaters on June 29, 2012.

Simon Pegg in Mission: Impossible IV?

Simon Pegg is reportedly in talks to return for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE IV, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Pegg would reprise his role of lab geek Benji Dunn. Similar to his portrayal of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in STAR TREK, Pegg brought much-appreciated comic relief to MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III and would make a welcome addition to the cast of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE IV.
Interestingly, Both M:I III and STAR TREK were directed by J.J. Abrams, but for M:I IV, Abrams will only be contributing as a producer. Though the project has not yet been officially greenlit, the film is likely to being shooting this September and is set for a December 16, 2011 release.

Abrams’ Super 8 Teaser and Info

J.J. Abrams (STAR TREK, CLOVERFIELD) and Steven Spielberg (E.T., JURASSIC PARK) have been working together on a rather hush-hush project called SUPER 8 over the last year, and the first teaser trailer has begun showing before screenings of IRON MAN 2. You can watch the teaser on the left, and we also have new information regarding the film, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, below.
So what is SUPER 8 all about? Contrary to earlier rumours it’s not connected with CLOVERFIELD in the slightest. It will, however, share a tonal similarity with the sci-fi monster hit as it revolves around ordinary people encountering something most extraordinary. Abrams has written the script and will directing the film himself while Steven Spielberg will serve as producer. The film, which is rumoured to be about a group of teenagers stumbling upon alien lifeforms whilst shooting an amateur film on super 8,  will not be shot using ‘shakey-cam’ and is being given a budget of between $45-50 million.
If you don’t want anything spoilt for yourself, read no further and instead visit the official site here as it’ll soon be hosting the teaser in much better quality than the bootleg available on YouTube. Said trailer is simply brilliant as it continues Abrams’ gift for creating a mystique around his films and in turn, generating hype. We don’t see much, but what he do see is more than enough to have me thoroughly excited for the film.
Abrams and Spielberg are currently working hard on SUPER 8 in time to release it next year.

Star Trek: One Trekkie's Contrarian Thoughts – Film Review

Okay, boys & girls, this little look at the 2009 STAR TREK movie is gonna get a tiny bit nit-picky and point out a few details that some other folks are letting slide. It also assumes that you’ve seen the film. So if you’re one of those viewers who thinks the new picture is ‘totally awesome,’ then you’d better not read on. Because although I enjoyed it quite a bit, I’ve got a few thoughts & questions I’d like to get off my chest. Sure, you’ll no doubt think they’re petty, but I happen to think some of those little details can hinder the film’s chances at being taken seriously as big screen cinema and something that works on a global level.
Now, remember, I did enjoy the new STAR TREK film; I just didn’t love it to death. There were certain aspects that seemed to pull it back into the realm of that television feel I’ve never liked from the films. The impetus behind the baddie’s desire for revenge and the new timeline that develops because of his embittered actions smack of been-there-done-that, and it feels like the type of plot structure we’d see on the itty-bitty screen. Besides, it’s pretty hard to beat Khan in that realm.
There’s the obligatory mind-meld scene in which young Kirk (Chris Pine) is told why angry Nero (Eric Bana) is mad at well-meaning Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy/Zachary Quinto) and wants to destroy Vulcan. It’s supposed to be important for Kirk to go through the mind meld to better understand what has transpired, but then we’re subjected to a flat and redundant voiceover from future Spock (come on, doesn’t that stick in your craw even a little?) explaining everything to Kirk — and us. Crikey, if that’s all there was to it, they could have sat down by the fire while Spock simply wove his tale verbally. The meld came off as superfluous, and again, the whole explanation felt like TV.
And what about that mining drill in Nero’s ship? What was that all about? They lower this thing down from on high via what looks like some sort of mangled bicycle chain just so they can shoot a ‘drilling’ beam into the body of the planet. Uh, in the STAR TREK universe, why can’t they just shoot a beam from the ship itself to achieve their end? Heck, they’ve done it plenty of times before for other purposes. Oh wait, but then we wouldn’t have that cool skydive & fight scene.
Here’s another question about the whole drilling thing. Why do they have to drill into the center of the planet to set off the red matter and generate a black hole? It seems to me that if they just shot it into the surface of the planet and let it explode the hole would generate just the same and consume any surrounding matter, so Spock’s planet would be toast anyway. Oh wait, but again we wouldn’t have that cool skydive-and-fight scene. Jeez though, didn’t that come off a little gimmicky?
What about the monster chase? Seriously, if you were really hungry and somebody set a nice plump chicken to the left of you and a scrawny rat to your right, and then said, “Take your pick.” Would you really throw the chicken aside and go for the rat? Then later, of course, all it takes to scare the giant beast off is a measly puny torch being waved in front of it. Yeah, the chase was kind of fun, but the motivation and resolution? Homey, don’t buy that.
Something that really grated on my nerves was watching certain bit actors come off as though they were just playing dress-up for a Star Trek convention. That screamed geekboy TV show. Frankly, so did the red academy uniforms; scenes with cadets dressed up in those things felt un-cinematic and yanked me completely out of my suspension of disbelief.
Now I know STAR TREK’s visual effects have been getting solid word of mouth; though some of them did look quite nice—especially on good ol’ planet Earth—I gotta say some others simply looked like pumped up versions of what we’ve been seeing on TV for the last few years (did Titan honestly look real?). It was easy to feel the CGI. Some of the sound effects lacked a true big-screen punch too, especially gun battles — I’m sick and tired of pew-pew futuristic weaponry visuals & sounds. When is somebody going to sincerely get innovative in that area again?
Speaking of weapons fire, if Nero’s ship was getting consumed by a black hole, why did Kirk have to order for all weapons to fire at it? I’m just askin’, but it seemed to me that it was for little purpose other than to show us some more visuals. In the time they sat around doing that and watching things, they could have skedaddled and Scotty (Simon Pegg) wouldn’t have had to save their butts. Oh, and Eric Bana? He struck me as a very forgettable member of STAR TREK’s  ‘pained’ villain roster – less a character than a device for the plot to hang its hat on.
Here’s another pet peeve most of you will wanna slap me for: I hate the words “space dock!” Every time I hear ‘em it’s like Quint from JAWS scraping his fingernails across that chalkboard. It sounds so 1950’s or Saturday morning TV (anybody remember SPACE ACADEMY or JASON OF STAR COMMAND?). The only classy and time-honored way to refer to a docking status is “dry dock!” Grrrrr!
Yes, I know how I sound grousing about stuff like this. Yet, it’s little weaknesses like these — to my way of thinking — that make me wonder if the film can play world-wide. I was really hoping this movie would kill off that American-TV-centric feel that only STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (think of it what you may) was able to avoid. In many ways this TREK did that, but in other, important ways it didn’t and me thinks that can hurt its overall world market potential.
I know after that big list of peeves it’s gotta sound like I have it out for poor STAR TREK. However, after having said all that, I can still tell you it was a very fun, zippy ride that is much livelier and more colorful than all of the past films and most of the TV incarnations. They went in a direction I’ve long felt they should go – the early days of the original crew. I dug Scott Chambliss’ production design, and the young cast is extremely likeable in their roles. Everyone got their moment to shine too. Chris Pine made for a witty, rousing young Kirk (though I did think he seemed just a little too eager to blow everyone off and become boss) and I very much enjoyed everyone else as well, save for the bloke who played Bones (Karl Urban). He looked great, but came off as playing (and over playing) his character instead of being his character.
One of my favorite performances came from Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike. That man’s got style and presence. I’ve always really liked him and look forward to him one day receiving an Oscar nomination (he’s already been nominated for several other awards). Heck, he practically deserves it in this film. He delivers his lines with an expertise and commanding control that should elicit more attention and mention. Many of those lines might come off like geekboy talk were it not for his smooth, reasoned delivery. He also managed to pull off a big-screen feel in an outfit or two that wouldn’t have looked thus on someone else.
Lastly, I hold Michael Giacchino higher than most in terms of the newer film composers, so I was hoping to be wowed a bit more by his music for the new STAR TREK film. Though it’s a pleasant and workable enough offering, it lacks that certain zing. Still, he’s got two other big summer movies coming out this year (UP, LAND OF THE LOST), so I know he’s been a busy boy and probably had to work quickly on this one. And we’ll see, sometimes it takes a little while for a work to grow on ya.
Look, folks, all I’m trying to tell you is that STAR TREK, though a mighty good ride, ain’t perfect and wasn’t quite able to shed some of the small screen feel and sensibilities that have virtually always plagued the other big screen efforts. Nonetheless, it was brisk, clever, funny, sexy, nostalgic, contemporary, forward-thinking, optimistic, and even moving at times. It was certainly made with love and respect. So before you diehard fans come looking for my head, remember, I give it all that. That’s quite a lot.
STAR TREK (Bad Robot/Paramount Pictures, 2009; 126 min.) Directed by J.J. Abrams. Screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Based on the television series by Gene Roddenberry. Produced by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and David Witz. Executive produced by Bryan Burk, Jeffery Chernov, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. Cinematography by Daniel Mindel. Production Design by Scott Chambliss. Costumes by Michael Kaplan. Special Effects Supervision by Roger Guyett, Matt McDonald, Thomas Nittmann, Kelly Port, Daniel P. Rosen, Stefano Trivelli, and Edson Williams. Music by Michael Giacchino. Edited By Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey. Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, and Jennifer Morrison. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.

Paramount planning Trek sequel

Star Trek (2009)Variety reports that Paramount is already preparing a sequel to STAR TREK, their franchise reboot that does not open until May 8. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof have been hired to script the follow-up, which will be produced by J. J. Abrams, who may or may not return to the directing chair. A draft is supposed to be ready by Christmas in hope of having the film ready for release in 2011.

There’s obviously a lot of hubris involved in signing on to write a sequel of a movie that hasn’t even come out yet,” said Lindelof, co-creator with Abrams of ABC’s “Lost” who produced the upcoming “Trek” but did not contribute to Orci and Kurtzman’s screenplay. “But we’re so excited about the first one that we wanted to proceed.”
As for potential storylines, Kurtzman stressed that the writing team will wait to take a cue from fan reaction about which direction to go.
“Obviously we discussed ideas, but we are waiting to see how audiences respond next month,” he said. “With a franchise rebirth, the first movie has to be about origin. But with a second, you have the opportunity to explore incredibly exciting things. We’ll be ambitious about what we’ll do.”

Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof are currently writing COWBOYS AND ALIENS for DreamWorks.

TV News: Abrams on the Fringe

Mark Valley and Anna Torv in the series from J. J. Abrams

FRINGE is a new fantasy-themed show from producer J. J. Abrams (LOST) that will debut on Fox this September 9. It follows the adventures of three characters – a young FBI agent (Ann Torv), a demented scientist (John Noble), and the scientist’s son (Joshua Jackson) – who combine forces to solve inexplicable mysteries each week. Continue reading “TV News: Abrams on the Fringe”

"Shutter" Star Joshua Jackson Goes Beyond the "Fringe"

Joshua Jackson as an American photogrrapher haunted by a ghost in Japan.Actor Joshua Jackson (DAWSON’S CREEK) was at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood on Friday, promoting his new horror film SHUTTER, which opens March 21. While discussing the challenges of shooting an English-language remake of a Thai ghost story, shot in Tokyo with a Japanese director, Jackson offered some comments on FRINGE, the upcoming sci-fi television series that earned a bit of buzz last year when Fox plunked down big bucks to purchase the spec script for the pilot. Written by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, all of whom serve as executive producers, the $10-million, two-hour opener of FRINGE stars Jackson as Peter Bishop, the estranged son of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), who is described as a cross between Albert Einstein and Dr. Frankenstein. The show, which will combine elements of horror, science-fiction, action, and comedy, will focus on a female FBI investigator who teams up with the brilliant but possibly unstable doctor to find rational explanations for apparently preternatural phenomena. FRINGE also pays homage to ALTERED STATES, David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, and medical science thrillers of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, with a “slight TWILIGHT ZONE vibe” according to Abrams. Alex Graves directed the pilot. The cast also includes Charlotte Rampling, Kirk Acevedo, Lance Reddick, Mark Valley, and Blair Brown.
Describing his work on the new show, Jackson says, “We’re actually almost finished. We have about a week and a half left. If this movie [SHUTTER] is in the paranormal, that one’s on the outside of normal. It’s the science side of science fiction. It takes the physical world that we live in and goes just past that edge.”
FRINGE sounds like an attempt by Fox to recapture the ratings success of THE X-FILES. The new show will even feature stand-alone episodes, plus a long-term mythology. Jackson, however, indicates that FRINGE is not another series about paranormal investigations.
“X-FILES to me would be a paranormal detective show – these ideas that are slightly outside the rest of our experience,” he explains. “FRINGE takes the world that we all live in and says, ‘What you think you know about this cup, you don’t actually know, because if you look at it from over here, it’s something entirely different.’ That will be the thrust of the show. The physical world that we live in, without the addition of any magic or anything supernatural, is far more than we all see it as being.
FRINGE marks the first television commitment for for Abrams since LOST became a hit. Since then, the Abrams-Kurtzman-Orci team have been busy with the feature films MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III and the upcoming STAR TREK revival. Jackson also has been away from the small screen (not counting a couple episodes of GREY’S ANATOMY), and it took some convincing to get him to sign a six-year contract. 
“Working in television is as close to a real job as an actor will ever have, and life has been pretty good for the last five years,” he says of his film career. “So yeah – it took not convincing, but me convincing myself and really making sure that I was ready to make [the commitment]. The crazy thing about television: you’ve got to sign a contract for six years, so you psychologically have to prepare yourself for that amount of time, and then most things don’t make it past the second season. So it might all be over tomorrow. But I had to be really ready to go back.”

Part of the decision was based on the desire to work with Abrams. “He was the reason I was interested in the beginning. He got me to the shore, and then I sort of backed away from the shore a little bit. The guys who wrote STAR TREK for him and TRANSFORMERS, with Rachael [Taylor, who co-stars in SHUTTER], wrote this script, and it’s an incredibly dense two-hour pilot, the likes of which you don’t see…well, you don’t see it in film either, but you really don’t see it in television. It’s really layered to give you the possibility for just about anything from here on out. So that got me into it. It’s a rare type of character – especially in television, but in film as well. Usually, if you’re smart, you are inert, and if you are capable, you’re a moron. Well, this person is a smart, capable person. You put the two together, which is not often the case. You hire the lunk-head guy to go do the stuff, and the guy with the glasses to figure stuff out.”
Jackson has had some opportunity to be creatively involved behind the camera with his film and TV work, directing an episode of DAWSON’S CREEK and serving as executive producer on his recent film ONE WEEK. On FRINGE he was happy to find himself part of a creative team that welcomes input, even on an unofficial level.
“I’m not one of the producers on the show, but as I’m learning, one of the great things about J.J. and his whole company is that they work always with the same people. By promoting from the inside there’s this very open group of people, which is not usually the case. Usually, it’s the Big Brain, and everybody else just does the job.”
Jackson was attracted by the science-fiction aspects of FRINGE, which he sees as a natural progression from his previous small screen roles. “The last time I was on television…the dreams [had] to be smaller about what can happen to the character. But if you can dream it, we can do it on FRINGE. Nothing is taboo. If there is any semblance of an explanation for any phenomenon, it will be in the show. That’s cool.”

Cloverfield (2008) – Opening Night Reaction

After all the pre-release hype, CLOVERFIELD seemed like the kind of movie worthy of a trip to Hollywood, where one could enjoy the experience in a truly grand theatre, in this case Graumann’s Chinese on Hollywood Boulevard. Besides a wonderful setting and state of the art projection, this has the added advantage of allowing you to immerse onself in the film while surrounded by an enthusiastic opening night audience, eager and pumped up – the sort of people who not only could not wait another minute to see the film but also chose to see it in the finest theatre available.
After taking the Red Line Subway to Hollywood and Highland, we hurried down the walk of fame, passing Godzilla’s star on the way – a double reminder for me: ten years ago, I suffered through the disappointment of seeing the American GODZILLA on opening night in Hollywood; four years ago, we were fortunate enough to enjoy the world premier screening of GODZILLA: FINAL WARS in the Chinese Theatre. Those two films set the outer limits on my spectrum of expectations for the evening’s experience, but in the end CLOVERFIELD was very little like either of them, despite being a giant monster movie.
Outside of the theatre was a ten-foot-tall miniature mock-up of the film’s iconic advertising image: the decapitated Statue of Liberty. We entered to find the seating crowded but not sold out. During intermission, there was some annoying video programming on the big screen that could not be seen clearly because the house lights were on and could not be heard clearly because the audience was buzzing – so why bother?
Thankfully, when the lights dimmed, the real buzz began – that of eager anticipation. The traditional THX clip (designed to impress the audience with the theatre’s sound system) consisted of a humorous bit with Barry B. Benson (from the animated BEE MOVIE) doing some foley work that blasts out the amplified sound system of the on-screen control room. As with the promo spots that preceded the release of BEE MOVIE, this was funnier than anything actually seen in the film.
Up next was a handful of trailers, which were appropriately matched to the subject matter of the feature film. I am sure I have mentioned somewhere, probably more than once, that I do not find the “Starfleet Academy” premise of the upcoming STAR TREK feature to be particularly promising, but I have to admit that the teaser trailer does raise a pleasant sense of expectation: It consists of shots of outer space construction, with Leonard Nimoy’s voice supplying the familiar narration, finally revealing that we are seeing the Enterprise.
Based on the preview footage, I cannot say I have high hopes for 10,000 B.C. Whether or not the movie is any good, sabre-tooth tigers and wooly mammoths do not have the same appeal as dinosaurs. THE RUINS looks like low-budget horror junk. But on the positive side – the really positive side – the trailer for IRON MAN is one of the best I have ever seen – a little mini-movie that stands on its own as a work of art. That strategy of the preview is based on surprise: you don’t know what you’re seeing until the title character makes its appearance, accompanied by the familiar strains of the titular Black Sabbath song. That kind of surprise revelation, obviously, cannot exist in the film itself, where people have paid for their tickets knowing what they will see. I just hope the film itself has its own qualities that will live up to the preview. In any case, the trailer certainly does its job: as it faded out to the title card “Coming May 2,” the young woman in the seat next to me whispered in frustration, “Why couldn’t it be coming out tomorrow?”
By the time the main feature began to unspool, the audience was primed and ready, and for the most part they were not disappointed by what followed. CLOVERFIELD is far from perfect, but it proves that a good concept can focus a movie in a way that blurs the flaws around the edges, keeping audience attention on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.
In this case, the concept is to tell the story of a monster movie from Ground Zero, seen through the eyes of civilians who barely have an clue of what is happening. This is achieved by filming all the action as if it were seen through a camcorder – a dangerous gambit that pays off. Yes, the sloppy hand-held work can grow tiresome and even give you a headache (as the movie wears on, you wish that Hud, the character behind the lense, would learn how to operate the camera properly), but it keeps the action believable and locks the director into a point-of-view that precludes a lot of the usual manipulative Hollywood filmmaking techniques: there are no Michael Bay montages, no crane shots or Steadicam moves.
Most important, the conceit forces the director, except for some brief moments (e.g., on board a helicopter) to keep the camera at ground level, which means that the monster, when it is glimpsed, looms high above, emphasizing the sense of gargantuan size. (This is often a problem in Japanese giant monster movies, which fell into a habit of filming Godzilla, Gamera, etc. at eye-level, destroying the sense of perspective that would have made them seem huge.)
The blurry shakey-cam technique serves one other purpose: it keeps us from getting a clear look at the monster. As frustrating as this is, it is probably a good thing, because from what we see, the monster design is not particularly impressive. It’s a fairly generic ugly beastie, and the film wisely allows the destruction it causes to upstage the actual creature. The monster does have one good moment near the end, when it confronts one of the major characters (sort of a sinister spoof on the eye-contact scene with Matthew Broderick in GODZILLA). Unfortunately, even this scene has problems, but more on those later.
Deliberately referencing September 11, 2001, CLOVERFIELD captures a chilling sense of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives until something catastrophic intervenes to rupture the well ordered calm, throwing them into pandemonium. In this regard it supremely trounces the recent THE MIST, which tried a similar strategy but succumbed all too easily to bad computer-generated imagery and a silly, manipulative twist ending. Unlike THE MIST, CLOVERFIELD actually knows how to make its monster action frightening (which is all the more impressive when you realize that, unlike Frank Darabont, director Matt Reeves did not have the option of using slow-motion, insert close-ups, cutaways, and other standard elements of film technique).
Again, in this regard, CLOVERFIELD trumps most of the famous giant monster movies of the past, such as the clumsy 1998 GODZILLA, which tend to emphasize spectacular destruction at the expense of genuine suspense. This is definitely not an “ain’t it cool” movie, wherein you cheer on the special effects; you really are on the edge of your seat, afraid that the characters will not survive the night.
Despite the mostly convincing verisimilitude of the approach, the film does succumb, especially in its last act, to some cheap manipulation, one or two bad stereotypes, and some cornball Hollywood schmaltz.
The first sign of trouble occurs shortly after evacuation from Manhattan has been cut by the monster’s destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge: we see a bunch of black people looting an electronics store. That’s right, folks: in a disaster, African-Americans are less interested in self-preservation than in grabbing some free merchandise. Rather conveniently, the broken doors allow our white hero to step in and get a new battery for his cell phone, so that he can make contact with his estranged girlfriend. Whether accidentally or intentionally, the contrast between the two behaviors (one from greed, one from altruism) feels like an echo of media coverage of the Katrina disaster (in which photographs of black people were captioned as “looters” while photographs of white people were captioned as “scavengers”).
The next doubtful moment is the result of a scary subway encounter. The Cloverfield monster sheds smaller, arachnid like creatures; although the film never specifies, they seem more like parasites than off-spring. The nimble little monsters are not as impressive as the big fella, but they do generate some creepiness in the subway confrontation. Unfortunately, we get the first “exemption pass” of the movie: although our camcorder jockey has previously captured televised footage of fully armed soldiers being overwhelmed by the parasites, our nimble band of civilians manages to fight them off with nothing more than a few improvised clubs.

However, one of them is bitten, and the payoff is handled in a way that is deliberately confusing. Although this is part and parcel of the film’s overall strategy – with the characters swept along by events and unable to take stock of what’s happened – the scene is needlessly frustrating, especially because there is a hint that the rescue workers on hand have some idea about (or at least some expectation of) what is happening. (Apparently, this is the umpteenth variation on the old cliche of what happens when you are bitten by an alien: you are either infected or impregnated; either way, you come to a messy end.) It seems a like a cheap ploy, leaving unanswered questions to be sorted out in a sequel. Also, the execution of the scene is  arbitrary – throwing in a gratuitous dollop of bloodshed just because that’s the sort of thing you do in these movies.
These early missteps are not enough to send CLOVERFIELD stumbling; one easily overlooks them as the film sweeps along. Only in the final act does the movie stagger and drop like a rhedosaurus after being shot with a radioactive isotope. The plot thread motivating the characters (besides survival) is that Rob (Michael Stahl-David) has alienated the affections of Beth (Odette Yustman), who is now lying wounded in her apartment in midtown Manhattan. Driving by a combination of guilt and love, Rob risks his life to get to her, leading to some hair-raising moments inside a high-rise building that has been reduced to the modern equivalent of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When he finally reaches her, we are treated to this dialogue exchange (quoted from memory, so it may not be word-for-word):

BETH: You came back for me.
ROB: Sorry it took so long.

Frankly, it sounds uncomfortably like the intentionally bad Hollwyood dialogue from the film-within-a-film at the end of THE PLAYER:

JULIA ROBERTS: What took you so long.
BRUCE WILLIS: Traffic was a bitch.

Suddenly, and irrovocably, we have left the world of convincing pseudo-cinema verite behind, and we are now in Hollywoodland, where all kinds of crazy things happen just because the screenwriter says so:

  • Beth is impaled by an iron bar, but a few minutes after being pried off of it, she is running around as if nothing happened.
  • Like the titular shark in the JAWS-ripoff GREAT WHITE, the Cloverfield monster will pull a helicopter out of the air.
  • The crash will kill the pilots, but our heroes will get a “lead character exemption pass.”
  • At least Rob injures his ankle, but he exhibits the same miraculous recooperative powers as Beth, so that he is soon running around again like normal.
  • And finally, the monster’s one genuinely frightening scene is undermined by the its extremely unlikely surprise appearance. Critics who accused the T-Rex in JURASSIC PARK of turning into a stealth dinosaur at the end will have a field day with this. Although the scene retains its power to throw a scare into the audience, the ridiculous contrivance, coupled with the sloppy point-of-view camera work, had me half-hoping that the filmmakers would go all the way into parody and show a night-vision shot of the camera sliding down the creature’s gullet – and possibly out the other end as well!

In spite of all this, the film ends up on a reasonably effective somber note that seems directly lifted from the 1988 sleeper MIRACLE MILE (another ode to seeking out your true love in the face of apocalyptic disaster). Staying true to its concept, the film finishes with the end of the camcorder recording, offering no day-after denouement to make sense of anything. One has to give the filmmakers credit for not copping out, but the effect is frustrating, and you could feel the sense of disappointment settle over the audience in the Chinese Theatre.
Nevertheless, they applauded appreciatively as the credits rolled, willing to forgive the flaws in favor of celebrating the successes of the film. As one might expect in Hollywood, it seemed as if discrete chunks of the audience were friends of some of the filmmakers: as obscure names in the cast and crew slide by on-screen, there would be small spatterings of exuberant shouting and hand-clapping from different corners of the theatre.
My own personal reaction is that CLOVERFIELD is the second film in in little more than a month that is three-fourths great, only to fall apart in the final reel (the previous being I AM LEGEND). In an era when junk like THE MIST is treated as if it were the best the genre had to offer, even three-fourths of a good film is nothing to sneer at. It’s not a masterpiece, and I doubt it will go on to become a classic, but it does much right that other films of its type do wrong. In a way, I almost look forward to a sequel that might take a different approach to the material, expanding on the limited point of view used in CLOVERFIELD and answering some of the nagging questions.
CLOVERFIELD (1/18/2008, Paramount). Produced by J.J. Abrams. Directed by Matt Reeves. Written by Drew Goddard. Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman, Anjul Nigam, Margot Farley, Theo Rossi, Brian Klugman.