Monday, January 21, 2008

Let's Destroy New York: Cloverfield / I Am Legend

It was a dreary Sunday here in South Florida yesterday. The whole day was overcast, drizzly and a bit chilly - for Florida standards I mean - light jacket/long sleeve weather. What to do on such an uninspiring gray-sky-ed day-off? I went to a matinee to catch the latest disaster movie to come out here in the US - Cloverfield - produced by J.J. Abbrams, he of the gold touch behind TV's Felicity, Alias and Lost series.
I am not a disaster/action flick kind-of-guy, I might add. I deeply dislike overused special effects, explosions galore and slim plot lines, as in most blockbusters that crowd our movie screens. But there was something about Cloverfield's trailers that really instigated my curiosity and made me want to go watch it. I don't go see movies as often as I should/would like for several reasons (laziness, lack of company, etc) so when I make it to the local mega-plex I want to watch something that will blow my socks off. Cloverfield did not disappoint me, actually I liked it a lot. This is no Godzilla movie, by the way - no goofy Matthew Broderick running around in this one. I don't want to give away too much about the plot line so I will just mention the basics not to spoil it to anyone that might go watch it in the big screen.
The first 20 something minutes of the movie are spent on a going away party being thrown for the main character, who is soon to move to Japan. Big Lower Manhattan New York loft, tons of young hipsters, plenty of small talk, some relationship drama, blah blah blah. The whole party is being filmed on a hand-held cam and it's film will be a parting gift from the hostess to her fiance's brother that is going away. Suddenly a huge loud thump outside, lights go off, earth shakes. They all rush to the roof to witness a huge tanker, that just capsized on the not too distant harbor, explode into a meteor-like rain of flaming debris. As they rush to the streets buildings start to crumble, a New York tourist icon is decapitated and from afar they catch a glimpse of what's causing all this mayhem. And that's what is so cool about Cloverfield (the title refers to the Army's case-name for this occurrence), all you catch are dark glimpses of this "creature(s)" that terrorize the city. What is scary is what you can't see. This shaky-shaky flick is all filmed on the said video cam, a first-person view of the disaster. We see what the main four characters get to see and the effect is simply amazing. It is full of jump cuts, quick editing, blurry dark scenes and all that add to the sense of claustrophobia and panic that they/we experience. Sure there were a couple of "say whats??" during the movie (high heels on the rubble, that 50 plus floor hike) but nothing that really took away from it. I though the film was brilliant and loved it all the way to the (not so typical Hollywood) end.

Now, on the other hand...let's talk about "I Am Legend", that I saw 3 weeks ago but didn't get a chance to "review" here at Little-Pumpkins:

"I Am Legend" is another movie that it's great trailer made me want to rush to the theater to watch it. Just like Cloverfield's, IAL's trailer was all mystery, dark shadows, heavy breathing and despite Will Smith being the hero guy - not a plus for me - it intrigued me a lot.
What a let down this was... I should have listened to my instincts about Will Smith, great actor and all, but not a star that headlines movies that I enjoy watching. Men In Black is an exception, by the way, also a comedy. He is too "Will Smith" for me to really care for his character. Too Hollywood hero, too "I will fight till the end", too full of morals, too American I hate to say it. The problem here is that this movie abused of the special effects and was great all the way to the point where we actually get to clearly see the "creatures". Once again I will try not to spoil the "plot" here but this is a tough one.
We are back in New York City, this time it's in 2012. The city has been evacuated and quarantined after a man-made virus wipes out 90% of the world's population. Smith's character - an Army scientist - is part of the 1% that is immune to the air-borne virus and survived the plague. He must hunt for food and gather supplies during day light, with the aid of his dog Sam, as nightfall brings out what now the infected human population (and animals) have become - extremely aggressive vampire-like beings that are hyper-sensitive to light. Smith must take shelter during that time and is still in hopes of finding an antidote for the virus.
This was a very scary movie and I jumped my seat several times in the first 40 minutes or so (I actually cover my face when it gets scary in movies...). When it's all dark and mysterious, you know the enemy is lurking out there and you can't see where it is or WHAT it is. That is what makes a great scary movie! Now, the moment that you realize that the zombies (oops) are just fake-looking vengeful CGI monsters I lost all interest and respect for this movie.
Nah, didn't believe it at all. Thumbs way down.

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