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Posts Tagged ‘Cloverfield’

31 Monster Toys #31: Cloverfield

October 31st, 2013 No comments

The finale of this month of terrifying toys is the most spectacular one in my collection: the Cloverfield Monster. Standing 14″ tall, this beauty features interchangeable heads and an electronic roar. And remember when we were making a fuss about 16 points of articulated evil? Cloverfield boasts 70 points of articulation. (Personally, I identified only 46; I think Hasbro was counting some of them twice.) Its accessories include a bunch of “parasites,” the head of the Statue of Liberty, and a fancy box that serves as a display background. Yeah, it’s that nifty.

Well, that wraps up another October! I hope that you’ve enjoyed this look inside my toy box. And, of course…

Happy Halloween!

 

Categories: Toys Tags: ,

2008 At The Movies

January 7th, 2009 No comments

Another year, another movie wrap-up. Here’s the list of all 2008 releases I tramped down to the multimegaplex to watch. As always, films are listed in terms of domestic box-office because I’m lazy and therefore cribbing from the yearly summary at Box Office Mojo.

  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • WALL-E
  • Quantum of Solace
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Get Smart
  • Tropic Thunder
  • Cloverfield
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  • Baby Mama
  • Burn After Reading
  • Speed Racer
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars

That’s fifteen, two down from last year. And only five of the top 10, also down two. Maybe I should’ve seen Hancock and Madagascar 2? Eh, maybe not.

Going into 2008, a lot of folks–including myself–were seeing the potential for another 1982, a banner year for filmic geekdom. Certainly, there were a great many prominent genre efforts, despite Star Trek and Harry Potter being pushed back into 2009 for reasons known only to movie marketers.

I suspect that for many geeks and geeks-in-training, it was every bit as big as ’82. Theater clean-up crews are still wiping up the spooge deposited at screenings of The Dark Knight, the bestest movie EVER. Similarly, Iron Man had folks falling over each other on the way to the microphone to proclaim its sublime charms.

For me, 2008 was a little bet “meh.”

First, let’s get The Dark Knight out of the way. It’s telling that I not only didn’t run out and buy the DVD on its day of release (which you can damn well bet I did for Speed Racer), but I didn’t even put it on my Christmas list. Ultimately, I did receive a copy as a holiday gift, and I do intend to give it another whirl.

My relative lack of enthusiasm for The Dark Knight is for much the same reason as my muted reaction to the regenerated James Bond series: it just didn’t give me what I wanted from the franchise. Like Quantum of Solace, I respect the level of talent involved, as well as the need to curb the excesses of the past, but at the end of the day I guess I’m just not ready for a complete reinvention. For me, Dark Knight was only a superhero movie in that someone wore a cape; it was closer in feel to a modern crime drama or even a Silence of the Lambs-style thriller. And I’m sorry, but Heath Ledger is my fourth favorite Joker.

Iron Man was another one that had both fanboys and regular critics touching themselves, but again I struggled to see what the fuss was about. I did actually ask for this one at Christmas, and watched it a second time over the holiday break. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable film. Robert Downey Jr. is having fun, and it shows. On a second viewing, I still found it to suffer from a relative paucity of Iron Man; there are long stretches in which not much happens, and even the final fight is fairly brief. I actually found The Incredible Hulk a bit more satisfying as a superhero film.

The “meh” continued with Indiana Jones and Hellboy II. I enjoyed them, but neither knocked my socks off. I do think that public reaction to Indiana Jones was a bit harsh in that everyone seemed to be anticipating another Raiders of the Lost Ark rather than another Last Crusade. And all the indignation about “nuking the fridge” seemed more about trying to invent a new “jump the shark” meme than a legitimate criticism of a series that has always reveled in unbelievable moments. Back in the day, my dad complained mightily about Indiana Jones getting pulled under that truck in Raiders, and I recall similar audience reactions to Indy using a rubber raft to escape a crashing plane in Temple of Doom. The real problem with Crystal Skull was that damned crystal skull.

Another Lucasfilm release was Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which amounted to little more than a cash-grab culled from the weekly animated series. One thing that has become clear is that for as much bitching as we old-school fans do about the prequels, for today’s kids this is Star Wars, and they love it.

The other entry in the computer-animated space robot sweepstakes was WALL-E, which was a sheer delight, start to finish. I don’t go to enough movies to confidently claim that any of them is the “best of” a given year, but WALL-E was the best that I saw.

Long-time readers will of course know that I absolutely loved Speed Racer. And hey, there are at least two of us: Richard Corliss over at Time magazine put it on his top 10 list. It reminded me of another film I adored, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, not only because of its entirely green-screened sets and hyper-unreality, but because in both cases audiences just didn’t seem to care. A lot of folks who were perfectly okay with the likes of Transformers suddenly demanded complex plots and realistic characters from their popcorn flicks. Whatever. I think that blogger Chris Sims summed it up best when he chalked up its poor reception to people who actively hated joy.

Cloverfield was another movie made expressly for me. Despite my ongoing hassle with Hasbro over my duplicate Cloverfield monster, I really liked this modern take on the venerable giant monster movie subgenre.

I saw a few good comedies this year. Forgetting Sarah Marshall had a lot of good moments–especially the climactic Dracula puppet musical–but I could’ve done without having to see Jason Segal’s junk. Tropic Thunder was ridiculous fun, with Robert Downey Jr. once again the big draw, though no moment was funnier than one featuring Ben Stiller and his would-be adopted “son”. Despite my well-documented love of Tina Fey, I felt that Baby Mama went a bit flat, and wasn’t nearly as good as Mean Girls. Get Smart managed not to tread upon my affection for the original TV series, and I felt that both Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway acquitted themselves in the roles created by Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. Finally there was Burn After Reading, which alternated between hilarious and too weird for words.

Can’t say that there’s a lot I’m looking forward to in 2009, aside from the aforementioned Star Trek and Harry Potter (and it must be said that this is my least favorite story in the Potter series). Land of the Lost is on my radar, though the inclusion of Will Ferrell makes me wonder what they’re going for; at least it appears to include old-school Sleestak. Terminator: Salvation has my interest, if only because it’ll finally pay off the future war we’ve been promised since the original film. And the new Wolverine flick looks promising; while I don’t have the Wolverine love that most comics fans do, I’ll admit that Hugh Jackman was a lot of fun in the previous X-Men films. Oh, and Watchmen, assuming it actually comes out.

Crimson and Cloverfield

December 7th, 2008 No comments

Way back in February, I pre-ordered Hasbro’s super-deluxe collectible Cloverfield Movie Monster” action figure. Seventy points of articulation? Interchangeable heads? Comes with ten “parasites” and the head of the Statue of Liberty? I was so there!

In October, my order (in fact, all orders) were inexplicably canceled. After checking with Customer Service, it appeared that Hasbro’s computer automatically killed them once the toy’s original October release date had passed. However, I was told that it would indeed be coming out in December, and that I should place a second order. Which I did.

Sometime between now and then, my original order was just as mysteriously reinstated. Long story short, TWO of them arrived on my front porch on Friday. And trust me, at 14″ tall and a hundred bucks a pop, two is definitely one too many.

Two, two, two giant shipping cases!

I contacted Customer Service again, and was told that it was all okay. All I had to do was to affix the included return label to one of them and drop it off at the FedEx office.

Guess what wasn’t in either box? I called again yesterday and asked them to e-mail me one, but apparently they can only do it by “escalating” my claim and sending a return label via snail-mail. Bleah.

As for Clovey himself, damn, he’s impressive. They weren’t lying about the 70 points of articulation. Dude’s got joints everywhere. I’m sure that there are still some I haven’t found yet.

The box is equally impressive, though in hindsight I’m finding it a problem. As a high-end collectible, it comes in a super-fancy, full-color box (featuring the decapitated Statue of Liberty image from the movie poster) that lifts off to reveal a 3D cityscape. Clovey really wants to be displayed there, but damn, it’s big for an already crowded toyroom. And even storing it away somewhere safe may take some doing.

I was a bit disappointed in the accessories. The parasites and Liberty head are apparently in scale, which means that they are tiny compared to the creature. I would’ve thought Liberty’s noggin was bigger, but apparently not.

Hobbes says “What the what?”

On the plus side, there’s the scary, second head with its open mouth. Pushing its tongue activates its eerie roar, which my cat does. not. like. And did I mention 70 points of articulation? I remember when “16 points of articulated evil” was enough to impress me.

They Know Exactly How To Hurt Me

February 15th, 2008 No comments

Hasbro is offering a limited edition, 14″ tall, roaring Cloverfield monster. It’s got interchangeable heads, 70 points of articulation and ten detachable parasites. Oh, and it comes packed with the head of the Statue of Liberty.

Thank goodness it doesn’t come out ’til September. That gives me plenty of time to eBay my stuff…

Geek Connection

January 22nd, 2008 No comments

Here’s a favorite moment from Cloverfield, in which Hud (the geek holding the video camera) attempts to find common ground with Marlena, the object of his infatuation.

 

I have been that guy. I am still that guy.

Categories: Movies Tags: ,

Take That, Dean Devlin

January 19th, 2008 No comments

As you might expect, I didn’t waste much time before going to see Cloverfield. A major American studio releases a giant monster movie? Damn skippy I’m there.

In brief, I enjoyed it a lot. It offered no more than the contents listed on the label, but it accomplished what it set out to do. It took the traditional monster rampage down to street level and made it an intense viewing experience.

While it’s accurate to describe Cloverfield in terms of the original Godzilla and The Blair Witch Project, I think that you can throw a few more influences into the mix. As in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds remake, it never strayed from the protagonists’ view of events; we knew only what they learned from direct observation and second-hand chatter. It also reminded me of the cult classic Miracle Mile, which took place over a single night as the main character delayed his escape to safety (in that case, from a purported nuclear holocaust) to go back for his girlfriend.

Most obviously, it was reminiscent of the American Godzilla remake, hence the title of this post. In addition to the New York setting, here too was a giant monster which spawned a horde of ground-level critters to offer a more direct threat to the humans. I don’t know that anyone set out to throw it in the face of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich and show them how to make an effective monster movie, but there it was.

Japanese monster flicks rarely concern themselves with the humans inevitably seen fleeing underfoot. They tend to be about the spectacle of mass destruction and the response of scientists and armies. Giant Japanese monsters (colloquially known as “kaiju”) almost never target their rage on individual people. It’s that aspect of Cloverfield, rather than the “Blair Witch”-cam, that made it unique.

Another welcome aspect of Cloverfield was that it got back to the old idea of the kaiju as metaphor. The first Godzilla was, of course, directly inspired not just by the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also by American testing of atomic weapons in the Pacific. The American Godzilla, however, had none of that, and in fact went as far as to blame the big lizard on the French. With Cloverfield, the monster was very much a stand-in for the terror of 9/11, something a great deal closer to our anxieties than French nukes. It ain’t subtle, but neither was Godzilla.

While both films pretended to be “found footage” from a discarded camcorder, one advantage that Cloverfield had over The Blair Witch Project was that there’s deliberate planning behind-the-scenes. The camera might’ve been whipping around, but it wasn’t just capturing random, improvised footage. You saw what you needed to follow the plot.

Granted, it wasn’t all that challenging a story. There’s just enough of a boy-longs-for-girl thing to provide a reason to care about the characters. Still, I liked the way in which the romantic angle was worked into the film, with the narrative abruptly cutting away to brief flashes of the couple in happier times. (The in-movie reason for this was that the camcorder was taping over footage of a previous date to Coney Island, and bits of the old video can be seen when the camera was stopped and restarted.)

The monsters were effective, and for the most part the filmmakers wisely adopted a less-is-more take: there were only a handful of shots in which we got a good look at them. The main creature was some sort of anorexic, bipedal lizard (hmmm, like the American Godzilla?), and its parasites were nasty, screechy bugs.

Assuming that Cloverfield does as well as its opening night box office take suggests, I think it would be fun to see a “sequel” in which we get a more traditional take on the same events. While that might sound like just another kaiju flick, I think it would have the advantage that we, the audience, would know that even while we’re watching the destruction on the macro level, down on the micro level there are individual people we’ve already met fighting to survive.

1-18-08

January 17th, 2008 No comments

I’m very excited about tomorrow’s premiere of Cloverfield, which is shaping up to be exactly what last summer’s mysterious teaser hinted at: a Godzilla-style giant monster movie done entirely in a “Blair Witch” shakycam format.

However, I’ll admit that once I got a glimpse of the creature, I was less convinced by the filmmakers’ creative choices…

Okay, it’s an old joke. But I’m pretty old myself.

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