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September 4, 2008
Cloverfield Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
17/1/200813/8/2008ParamountMatt Reeves
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1Dolby TrueHD 5.1MMichael Stahl-David

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Michael Stahl-David as Rob in Cloverfield.
If you love your monster movie, then Cloverfield is one you have probably been keeping an eye on. The movie did fairly well at the box office, and for good reason. The producer, J.J. Abrams, has had a string of hits including Mission Impossible III and TV series Alias and while he didn't direct here his passion, and that of director Matt Reeves is clear.

On the eve of his departure for Japan, Rob (Michael Stahl-David) sees his going-away party as an opportunity to confess unresolved feelings and tie up loose ends. His agenda takes an unexpected turn when a jolt shakes the revelers. The crowd quiets down to watch news reports of an earthquake, then rushes to the roof to assess the damage. A fireball explodes on the distant horizon. A power failure follows. Confusion gives way to panic as the partygoers stumble through the blackout and into the streets. Amid the human screams and one inhuman roar, Rob and his friends must traverse a landscape that has changed, overtaken by something otherworldly, terrifying, monstrous…

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At the party prior to, destruction!
Throughout the entire production Cloverfield was a movie I was so keen to check out. Everything was kept under wraps, J.J. Abrams was producing and I have been a fan of his for many years, and the trailers looked gripping. Why then didn't I go to the cinemas to check this movie out? It was due to the way it was filmed with jerky, handheld camera, movements. I suffer motion sickness at times and this movie certainly wouldn't have gone down to well on the massive cinema screens.

All this movement though really drags you into the picture with an immersive sensation of 'being there'. The movie takes a little while to get going with about 15 minutes looking around a farewell party for Rob who is heading off to Japan, but when the power cuts out, and the first explosions in New York take place this movie soon becomes a non-stop roller coaster road and struggle for survival. The set pieces, including a wonderful rescue across two buildings with the monster approaching, is well worth the price of admission. This is a pretty short movie, and the ending is a little abrupt, however there is certainly room here for many sequels in future.

Cloverfield is a great movie which offers a unique twist on the standard movie monster fare. The acting is solid, set pieces rather exciting and there are plenty of thrills. If you enjoy this genre you would do well to check out Cloverfield.

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Running from the Cloverfield monster.

Cloverfield is one of Paramount's first discs since going on hiatus from Blu-Ray releases, but you wouldn't know that they had gone away. Presented using the VC-1 codec at 1080p in the films original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 this is a brilliant looking disc. With the feature movie having a runtime of only 85 minutes (and probably closer to 70 minutes if you take off the opening and closing credits) there is certainly plenty of room for this movie to breath in terms of bitrate, and it does constantly hover around the 30-35Mbps range according to the PS3's stats.

With such a jerky, movement filled, film I was surprised at how impressive the video quality was. Despite the majority of the movie taking place at night, and as a result having a pretty dull colour palette there are some moments of brilliance such as explosions, or even when they enter the shop to get a phone battery. The image is not quite perfect though with the darker scenes in particular suffering from some grain and lack of detail. Still, this is a very solid looking Blu-Ray disc.

Ermm, if you're filming on a handy cam you shouldn't really have surround sound now should you? This movie does, though, provide surround sound which goes against how the movie is set up, but does actually assist in drawing you into the picture and contributes to the sensation that you, rather then Hud, is the cameraman. Audio in the movie is haunting and it does a great job of building the suspense.

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There's something night right in New York!
Besides the brilliant effects, which make great use of the surround sound channels we might add, this movie is very much dialogue driven. This remains clear at all times, even during the busier sequences. It is interesting to note that there really isn't any music in the movie besides that playing during the opening party sequences, but I never realised that until the movie kicked in about a minute after the final credits started to roll.

In terms of technical features Cloverfield on Blu-Ray includes a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track which is certainly a substantial improvement over the Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps) track provided on the DVD release.

Besides the brilliant English track Cloverfield comes to Blu-Ray with French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 640kbps. Sampling each of these tracks wasn't a disappointment either with each providing wonderful clarity and clear dialogue. Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese and sampling the English track showed that it accurately represented the dialogue on screen.

Cloverfield comes to Blu-Ray with some solid extras, not least of which is a great Java based trivia track and location map, and a solid commentary. Let's check each out in detail...

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One of the most intense sequences in Cloverfield!
Audio Commentary with Director Matt Reeves: A rather interesting commentary in which Matt details many aspects of the production including the visual effects, set locations and storyline points. It's not the most entertaining track (solo efforts rarely are), but it is worth a listen.

Special Investigation Mode: Exclusive to the Blu-Ray release this featurette put the movie in a window, and then includes a trivia box with various notes about the story and movie, a proximity radar so you can sense where the monsters are, and a large map of New York which tracks the monster, the characters in the movie, and the military. Combine this with the audio commentary at the same time and it's a great overall experience.

The Making of Cloverfield (28:22/HD): Sadly this is actually a pretty standard making of documentary which has plenty of on-set footage and interviews but never really gets into a lot of detail about any aspects of production. Worth a look, but its unlikely to be one you'll return to.

Cloverfield Visual Effects (22:32/HD): The visual effects were a standout in Cloverfield, especially so considering the low budget nature of the movie. This featurette goes into detail about how these effects were created, and while I would like them to push the detail even further, it remains an impressive inclusion on this disc.

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The US military will save the day!
I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge! (5:53/HD): This very short featurette (well compared to the importance) shows the creation of the monster, both digitally and as a physical model, for the movie.

Clover Fun (3:56/HD): A series of goofs, fluffed lines, and misadventures on set while filming. Most of this stuff is actually pretty good - I love the street light in the last shots!

Deleted Scenes (3:25/HD): Presented with optional directors commentary these four deleted scenes were cut simply as they didn't add to the story, and would have slowed the movie down.

Alternate Endings (4:29/HD): Two endings are presented here, both very similar to the final ending, but with slight tweaks. Fortunately an optional commentary explains why each was not used.

Easter Eggs: There are several Easter Eggs on this disc which have small clips attached. Start searching around - we've found three so far (hint: the hardest one to find sees you having to sit on the chapter selection for chapters 13-16 for around a minute before a "Chapter 17" appears!). In all these Easter Eggs probably add up to a further 10 minutes of footage in total.

If you like your monster movies then Cloverfield is well worth your time and effort. A quite brilliant transfer ensures that this 'handy cam' movie is presented at its best while the extras are also deserving of your time. Add it to your collection now.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.