Cloverfield (DVD & Blu-Ray)

Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover of this disk is a very interesting shot of New York, and more specifically the Statute of Liberty. The interesting part is that the statute is missing its head, which we actually get to see flying through New York City in the middle of the movie. The background is the city skyline with smoke bellowing out. I like the cover, as it portrays the destruction of New York City from the movie without going to far and giving us a glimpse of the monster.

The menus are also well done, as you are presented with clips from the movie. It sure beats a purely static menu any day.

Features: 8/10
The Cloverfield DVD is chock full of extras, even though it is one disk. There is the obligatory commentary with director Matt Reeves. As far as commentary goes, this one is well done. Reeves spends a good deal of time discussing the specific scenes, and he goes into depth about technique and scene set-up. It is well done and he was easy to listen to.

Also included as extra are two shorts, entitled “Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield,” and “Cloverfield Visual Effects.” Both shorts are around 25 minutes long, give or take a few minutes, and they are very similar in terms of what is presented. The first short deals more with the scene set-up and location shots. It is very informative, and it ties in with the second short, which is a more technical view of just how the computer generated effects were added to the movie. The combination of the two shorts is definitely worth watching, and it amazed me just how much effort was put into the film that thankfully I just took for granted. There were very few scenes in the film where the CGI took me out of the moment, but I was shocked to see just how much of the film was CGI. They really did a fabulous job of creating the look and feel of this movie with the effects, and it was cool to see just what was done.

There is also a six minute short called “I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge!” This is a quick look at how the monster was created, and the original artist’s take on the origin of the monster. The amount of thought that went into making this monster come alive on the screen is nice to see, especially due to the fact that in the film you get very little in terms of information on the monster itself.

Finally there are some gag scenes from the party, about four deleted scenes, and two alternate endings that really were not what I would call “alternate endings” as they were minor variations of the original ending. In my opinion all of the deleted scenes and alternate endings were really pretty weak, and they were not really worth including with the otherwise great extras on this DVD.

Special Blu-Ray Features: (By Ascully)
Special Investigation Mode Enhanced Viewing Mode With GPS Tracker – This feature which is Blu-Ray exclusive pushes the movie to the top right hand corner of the screen and lays a huge GPS view of Manhattan on the main part of the screen. There are small dots on the map that show the military, the heroes of the movie and Clovers location, its pretty cool and gives you more of a idea of the damage Clover is doing to the city as the film unfolds.

Movie: 8/10
Cloverfield is fun. That is basically the best way to describe the way I feel about this film. The acting is not great, the story seems a little bit flimsy in spots, but it just seems to work. The handheld shtick seems a bit contrived in parts, but overall Cloverfield is what it is; a fun monster movie. Apparently I have missed those fun monster movies, because I had a great time watching this film.

Cloverfield starts out with what is presented as home movies of our main characters, as found by the government. The first 20 minutes is footage of a party for Rob (played by Michael Stahl-David) as he prepares to leave New York for Japan. Rob’s camera has been borrowed to chronicle the party, and is given to one of Rob’s friend Hud (T.J. Miller, who is hysterical) for the night. The camera has video also of a brief romantic encounter between Rob and Beth (Odette Yustman), who as we find out has been Rob’s friend for years. The party is full of drama as the awkwardness of the fling, mixed with Rob leaving makes for an uncomfortable evening.

As the evening wears on, the city is ravaged by what at first appears to be either an earthquake, or some sort of terrorism. The views from the rooftop of the apartment building bringing to mind shots of 9-11, but soon we discover in a roundabout way that it is some sort of creature that is wrecking havoc on the city. The group of party goers scatters, but Rob decides after a phone call that he is heading to Beth’s apartment in Midtown, as she left that party and now is in trouble. The rest of the film is the story as it unfolds in front of our group’s eyes.

The fact that the actors were not known actors really helped me get engrossed in Cloverfield. For this whole thing to work, you have to suspend your belief to some extent, and with the pace of the film and the brief glimpses of the monster at the beginning, I was swept up by the feel and the journey of Cloverfield. There are issues with the film, like the beginning 20 minutes, which was the party scene. I found that I was not really into any of the characters, and I didn’t really care what happened to them, but when the group gets knocked down to the 5 or 6 main characters, and the action and suspense ramped up, I found that I was past not liking any of them. I also think more could have been done with the ending, but it was decent.

The monster is initially presented in just glimpses, and I think that it also helped me get on board with the whole movie. It is not until the end of the movie that we get full shots of the creature, and I liked that. It really added to the feeling of terror and hysteria that the group is forced to deal with.

The use of the camera as a homemade movie was done in a way that was not too much (many theater goers were reported feeling nauseous, which is not really replicated at home on DVD) but it was still annoying at times. Overall I thought it was well done, and even though it brought to mind the Blair Witch Project in a weird sort of way, this was much better looking.

I have to say that after watching the extras that are included on the Cloverfield DVD I was brought to the realization that I may be predisposed to liking Cloverfield due to my age. When I was young, I remember staying home sick from school and watching Godzilla movies on TV. Apparently some channel in my area seemingly ran Godzilla films all day while I was at school, because I recall seeing them every time I was sick. I loved Godzilla films, and apparently I had been missing them for some time without knowing it. It is hard not to mention Cloverfield without talking about Godzilla, because Godzilla was the idea behind the film. I know I am a bit older, but I imagine that there are a lot of people younger than me that were not exposed to the great Japanese Godzilla movies, and so this may be a new type of movie for them (please don’t talk about the Matthew Broderick Godzilla film, because that does not count.) For me, Cloverfield was a great new twist on the classic monster movies, and I enjoyed it.

Video & Audio: 9/10
The video for Cloverfield was really crisp and well done. Part of the appeal or impact of the film is due to the fact that it is filmed in a style that emulates a handheld camera style. Obviously great effort was made to make this appear to look like it is the discovered footage taken from a home movie camera. That being said, they did a great job of making the movie “appear” to be homemade without using the crappy home video cameras. The effect is a super sharp looking film, with the appearance of being shot by one of the characters. The output is a great looking, sharp film, that still seems to be done in real time. There are really sharp edits to the film that are obviously done to wrap things up in a neat, hour and a half time slot, but overall it is great.

The coloring and the effects blend perfectly with the action of the film, and it really looks spectacular. The video itself worked really well, even though most of the film took place in dark scenery. I was very impressed with the look and feel that was accomplished by this movie.

Likewise, the sound was incredible on this DVD. Obviously a handheld camera would not capture surround sound quite like this, but I thought that the sound was great. My subwoofer got a workout from the monster’s footsteps alone, and the use of the rest of the 5.1 was noticeable, and good. I have to point out that I thought the sound was very consistent also, without a lot of super quiet scenes as compared to the action scenes. Overall the audio and video were great, but not so great as to take away from the believability of the movie.

Video & Audio Blu-Ray Version: (By Ascully)
Cloverfield is a hard one to judge in terms of video quality, as most if not all of the movie is filmed on a handheld video camera. Paramount have done wonders here though using the VC-1 Codec and a average bit-rate of 35 mbps on a 50GB Blu-Ray Disc. It’s not immediately obvious where the differences between the standard DVD and the Blu-Ray disc are, but after a lengthy side by side viewing on my 100 Inch Home Theatre Screen, the increased resolution of the Blu-Ray Disc adds more detail and a depth of field effect that really brings the image to life. Blacks are also much deeper on the HD version but this isn’t a night and day difference like There Will Be Blood is on the new format.

Audio on the Blu-Ray version is a different story altogether though while the standard DVD had a good soundtrack the lossless TrueHD soundtrack on this version of the movie is incredible. If you are a Bass head and are into your Subwoofers and the like, this is the new reference movie to test out that equipment. The first scene in which the party are out on top of the building witnessing Clover’s first attack on the city has to be heard to be believed, the deep bass penetrates your room and can be quite overwhelming at times. There are also some quiet scenes like later in the movie in the subway that have a lot of subtle sound that comes from behind and sometimes above which is a nice effect.

Overall the Blu-Ray version is the version of this movie to have the presentation here surpasses the presentation I saw in the theatres early this year and that is something that to me is worth the extra few bucks.

Value: 7/10
I recommend that you see Cloverfield. It is one of those movies that you can sit down and enjoy on a Friday or Saturday night. I can also say that I will watch it again, so perhaps if you are into action/monster type films (and I never thought I really fell into that category) you may want to add this to your collection.

Overall Score 7/10