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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cloverfield DVD Review by Ian

It’s always fun when a street date gets broken :) Small note: I watched this on a Sharp Aquos ~42 incher HDTV.

Film: Cloverfield has been a bit of a polarizing film, but for me it’s the greatest monster movie I’ve seen in years. It’s everything that the American Godzilla wanted to be and failed miserably. While short, it has a lot in common with the 1950s Sci-Fi Monster movies of old (and not just running time). Simply put you a get a cool monster, lots of city destruction, and the military fighting said monster. It’s a simple formula, but a damn good one if you ask me and worked wonderfully. It also helped that the movie was filled with a cast that was very enjoyable and felt very natural in their roles. I never really paid to me attention to any of the online tie in stuff (too complicated for me and besides others will do it and pass on the info), so as a standalone it was a great movie. Movies like Cloverfield are why I go to the theater in the first place.

Video: Cloverfield comes from Paramount in an excellent anamorphiclly enhanced transfer. The transfer is very clean (no unintentional grain or video distortion effects) and the colors are perfect. The grain is just right, as it was meant to be in the film, but still clear and with a lot of detail. Since the film is so short, a high bit-rate was allocated for the main picture, meaning excellent picture quality.

Audio: You get English, French, and Spanish 5.1 tracks. The tracks are excellent with good directional effects and use of ambient sound. When there is intentional distortion, it’s carefully mixed so conveys the action, but isn’t painfully to ones ears. Considering the audio is meant to be coming from a source, while hi-tech, is not professional equipment, the mix makes excellent use of echoes and other audio effects to help create immersion into believing that anyone with commercial video equipment could be filming this. I’m really surprised at the lack of a DTS track as there was definitely enough space. Maybe it’s meant for a special edition, I assume the eventual Blu-ray will not just be a 5.1 mix. It’s funny since Skywalker Sound did work on the film, that there is only a 5.1 mix. Still, it’s a good mix and is quite enjoyable.

Extras: I was a bit fearful the DVD would be filled with a bunch of fluff pieces or Lost style games. Thankfully this was not the case as there is nearly an hour (give or take a couple of minutes) worth of features solely based on the making of the movie. One deals with the shooting aspect of the film and is a video dairy of the filming of the picture (setting up takes, stage dressing, etc). It’s excellent. My favorite is the visual effects one where EVERY visual effect is dissected and explained. It’s a lot of fun to watch and see just how much was done with green screen work. Matt Reeve’s commentary is an extension of these documentaries and talks about the production and the shooting of the film and overcoming various difficulties, such as the helicopter evacuation that nearly wasn’t shot and how the famous monster shot at the end was almost not in the movie. A really neat fact was that Akira Ifukube’s score for the original Godzilla was the temp tracking at the end. There are also some deleted scenes, mostly small dialog shoots, the hentai one is quite funny. The alternate endings are mostly just re-workings of the theatrical ending using the same concept, but with different scenes. Both of these also come with optional commentary from Matt Reeve’s. There are some cute outtakes too. There is a short fluff promo piece, its nice but, it is what it is. Rounding out the extra’s is a link to a website (which is not running yet) promising more info on Cloverfield. There are some trailers too (for the new Star Trek and Indiana Jones movies).

Overall: Unless you already have Blu-ray (which then I would save give the film a rental for the extras and hold out for the Blu-ray) and you liked the movie the DVD is a must buy, despite having some small misgivings on the lack of DTS, this is still an excellent DVD from Paramount. Nonetheless, I won’t be surprised if a Special Edition with more features isn’t in the work for later.

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