Cloverfield – A Movie Review

(Notice:  Spoilers Ahead)

By far, the best thing about Cloverfield was the previews hyping its release.

Granted, by the time I finally got around to watching it on DVD, I’d seen the creature, but that’s really about all I knew.  I hadn’t heard much about the storyline or any major revelations.  Of course, I now realize why that was-there aren’t any.

Here’s what happens: Some twenty-somethings are throwing a going away party for their friend.  They document testimonials from friends and the pre-party preparations on a video camera so he can watch it when he gets to Japan.  He shows up, is surprised, and loves it.  His friend who he happened to sleep with a few weeks before shows up with another guy, they fight, she leaves.  He reveals to his friends that he never called her after their “special day.”  Then a giant monster attacks Manhattan, and they all flee in terror as the military shows up and shoots ineffective rockets.  They capture their exodus on the same video camera, and when the scorned girl calls the “hero,” she pleads for him to come save her, she’s trapped under some rubble.  He and his friends then risk life and limb to find her and rescue her, which they do, only to be killed by the monster’s parasites, the monster itself, as well as the eventual bombing of Manhattan by the military.  But the good thing is, it was all caught on a camcorder which was eventually found, and that’s how we get to see the unfolding of what the military dubbed “Cloverfield.”

The narrative technique really astounded me.  The movie starts off with a recording of the “hero” and his love’s special day after they sleep together, then moves into the going away party because the “hero’s” brother and friend don’t realize they shouldn’t be taping over it.  When they turn off the camera in the “real-time” of the movie, it reverts back to the special day from weeks previous, which was a pretty cool touch.  That, along with the hand-held feel of the movie, truly gave me a sense that I witnessed the events of the film as they actually unfolded.  That practice heightened the tension and made for an exciting visual experience.

Speaking of which, the special effects were beautiful as was the method of revealing the monster only in glimpses and snippets.  Remember, we were virtually getting a “first-person” view of events, so if the shaky hand-held didn’t go for a close-up on the creature, we didn’t see it. 

Sadly, that’s where the good ends.  The acting was atrocious, the dialogue lowered my I.Q. by at least twenty-points (and I can’t spare them!).  They somehow took my favorite word, “dude,” and made me hate it.  What little story existed was clichéd and insulting.  Those looking for answers as to what the monster was, where it came from, and why it attacked Manhattan got absolutely no closure at all.

With J.J. Abrams producing (he of LOST fame), I really expected better.  He says he was inspired by seeing Godzilla everywhere in Japan toy shops while there promoting a different movie.  He’s gone on record professing the wish to create an “American” monster that clawed its way into the social conscience as had Godzilla in Japan.  What he failed to realize, though, is that we actually have to care about the monster and the people its killing.  I, for one, was so annoyed by the whining and obnoxious external ponderings of the primary video taper, I couldn’t wait for him to cash it in so I wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore.

Finally, I really thought it was in bad taste to mimic so precisely the fall of the Twin Towers and the terrible events of that day.  A building can fall in a movie-I get that-but to copy people running down the streets and taking shelter in storefronts so exactly, I found it offensive and creatively apathetic.

Cloverfield would appear to be a movie totally dependent upon its marketing and hype.  I’m sure for those who saw it in the theatre and were firmly entrenched in the “now” of its mysterious campaigns, it was quite satisfying.  Months later, though, now that it’s out on DVD, it doesn’t hold up on its own merit.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – A Movie Review

Due to Judd Apatow’s involvement with Walk Hard, I really had high hopes.  I’m afraid those hopes were dashed.  Walk Hard was an exercise in gratuitous vulgarity that totally doused the few truly funny moments that existed. 

While the lyrics to Dewey Cox’s songs were uncouth, they were so creatively dirty you couldn’t help but laugh.  But that’s where the creativity ended.  Unfortunately, they decided to go overboard with the easy profanity, sex-jokes, and visual crudity so often I was rolling my eyes at the sheer stupidity of it all.

And that sums up Walk Hard pretty well.  They just tried to do too much and took the easy way out too often.  It got to the point I was watching the clock because I was bored out of my mind with the movie, and that’s never a good thing.

Avoid this movie and spare yourself the pain.

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt – A Book Review

For some reason, and I don’t know why, I had it in my head that Angela’s Ashes was about Frank McCourt and his brothers returning to Ireland as adults and fumbling about as they tried to decide how to dispose of their cremated mother’s ashes.

It’s not.

Angela’s Ashes is actually a memoir essentially detailing Frank McCourt’s life from the age of three through nineteen. 

Born into a life of poverty, McCourt’s immigrant parents decide to return to Ireland.  Unfortunately, conditions are actually worse for them in Ireland.  Add to the equation that McCourt’s father is an alcoholic who thinks nothing of drinking away what little money they come across while his family starves … well, the book gets more than a little depressing.

And that’s the real magic of McCourt’s writing.  For as awful as things are (and they get pretty awful), McCourt’s wicked sense of humor has you laughing at things that shouldn’t be the least bit funny.  I actually felt guilty at times as I couldn’t help but chuckle at McCourt’s description or use of dialogue.

Make no mistake, however, like in his memoir Teacher Man, McCourt does not try to deceive us into thinking he’s the hero of the story.  He’s tough on everyone, but he’s toughest on himself.  He reports to us misdeeds and lewd thoughts that most of us would never dream of sharing, and that sort of honesty is quite refreshing.

Though funny, the book was also so disturbing (especially McCourt’s father) that I really wanted to get through it as fast as I could.  I absolutely appreciate both McCourt’s humor and charismatic writing, but I won’t lie to you and say this was one of my favorite reads.  But, life is hard and disturbing for many people, and my perspective of the world improved thanks to the Pulitzer Prize winning Angela’s Ashes.

“A Turn for the Worse” – My April Short Story in Bloomington News & Views for the Young at Heart

I’m particularly excited about my latest story in Bloomington News & Views for the Young at Heart.  It’s called “A Turn for the Worse,” and I have to tell you it’s one of my favorites in recent memory.

Kent Carter is a  man who enjoys the simple things in life, such as his favorite magazine and a quiet morning at the coffeehouse.  But when a distraught stranger enters the establishment, Kent’s perspective on humanity radically changes.

You can find Bloomington News & Views for the Young at Heart, a free periodical, at virtually any Bloomington-Normal medical facility.  You can also find it at the following locations:

Suds Subaru on the corner of Fort Jesse and Towanda
Busey Bank on Fort Jesse
Kroger on the corner of Landmark and Visa
Commerce Bank on the corner of Towanda and College
Tuffy Muffler on Vernon
Kmart behind Kep’s restaurant on 1AA Drive
Eastland Mall at the main door between JC Penny and Macy’s
Kroger on Oakland Avenue
Schnucks
Jewell-Osco on Veterans Parkway
Borders bookstore
Kroger on Main Street
Bloomington Public Library on Olive Street
Drop Off Laundry on Main Street, across from Kroger

I realize this story may be a little controversial.  If you’d like to share your thoughts on it, feel free to contact me at scottwilliamfoley@gmail.com.