Cloverfield (Blu-Ray) Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: PG-13 (For violence, terror and disturbing images) Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1 Audio: English 5.1 TrueHD; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+ Time: 87 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-Ray Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2008 Blu-Ray Release Date: June 3, 2008 As a group of twenty-something Manhattanites throw a going away party for their mutual friend, Rob (Michael Stahl-David), a tremendous explosion rocks the apartment. Thankfully, Rob’s friend Hud (T.J. Miller) is filming the whole event and he takes his camera outside capturing the action. Rob and his friends run to the roof to see another explosion in the distance as well as streaks of fireballs heading their way. They scurry back into the apartment and out the front door to watch still more explosions a couple miles down the street, culminating in the severed head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the street. Unsure of what is happening, the group of Rob and his friends head for Brooklyn, but soon, their path is hindered. Rob is also dealing with the breakup with his girl, Beth (Odette Yustman), and when she calls him and says she’s trapped in her apartment, Rob decides to do as John Wayne might and rescue the damsel in distress. Manhattan is quickly becoming a war zone as the Army and anyone else fights this common threat with Rob and his friends caught in the middle. Cloverfield turns out to be a bit of a bugger to review. I’m half torn to review it as you’ve seen it or at least know what it’s about, or, error on the side of caution and reveal as little as possible. I’ve obviously gone with the latter choice since I think the way Cloverfield was marketed to us goes a long way in the movie going enjoyment. The picture, as written by Drew Goddard, directed by Matt Reeves and produced by Lost and Alias’s J. J. Abrams (all of whom work(ed) on both shows along with other Abrams regulars) seizes on our lingering fears of a 9/11 NYC coupled with our fascination of video-on-demand. As Abrams and others comment in the bonus material, future calamites will be recorded on cell phones and broadcast on You Tube almost instantaneously giving us an immediate sense of an event. No longer can we wait for the slovenly nightly news when the internet is always available. The first person viewpoint draws us into the story at all times making us just as panicky and scared as the characters. Reeves goes to great lengths to remain true to the idea that this “video” was recovered by the government and it is covertly leaking out to the viewer bringing us further “in” on the gag. Where as The Blair Witch Project spawned a whole slew of knock-offs, Cloverfield takes it as a foundation and adds to it one of the classical movie genre’s updated for our ADD addled brains. The camera movement is continuous and tricky and it may leave you nauseous but you’ll never have such a great time. I saw the picture theatrically earlier this year with the pleasure of being in a packed theater, and I couldn’t think of a better way to experience it. Bring some friends over, pop some Dramamine and let the picture do its thing. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. Cloverfield is encoded in VC-1 at 1080p with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. As is with the editorially portion of the review, the video is hard to review. The movie hinges on the premise that what we are seeing was a recovered home digital video recording of the event. As such, what is seen on the disc reflects this very well. The picture exhibits some video and digital noise as well as distortions and focus issues as if this was truly a home video. HD home video is still pretty spectacular these days, and I’m assuming there was plenty of post work done on the image which was captured by the Viper HD camera as well as Sony and Panasonic consumer cameras. Every aspect of this screams home video, with the inconsistent flesh tones, the spotty lighting and the issues with vibrations and movements. Black levels are deep as can be, but shadow delineation and detail is sacrificed. Sharpness and detail are, again, at the will of the post processing, but at times, both are spectacular. As much as I like having this film on Blu-Ray, it would almost have more of an impact on lesser quality formats such as laserdisc or even VHS. Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. On the flipside of my video critique is the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, which is a stunning achievement in sound mixing. From the second the film begins you are treated to some of the lowest bass I’ve heard come out of a subwoofer, enough for me to almost readjust the levels up to avoid stuff falling off shelves. As we move into the apartment party, there is constant panning of vocal effects as the camera whips around the room trying to capture testimonials by Rob’s friends. Meanwhile in the background is what sounds to be the play list of all the current popular alternative music (or they just had Sirius 26 on). The soundstage is encompassing as the songs echo around the room to great effect reflecting off what appears to be the rather hard surfaces of the apartment. Once the carnage on the street begins this soundstage becomes even larger as the noises of the antagonist(s), the destruction of buildings, the screams and the sounds of the Army doing there job toss us around with the images on screen. The story moves us into the subways and a leaning apartment building shrinking the soundstage down to make us feel claustrophobic and tense. Once the movie nears its conclusion and the hammer is coming down (you’ll get that when you watch it) this soundtrack engages all the channels across about every frequency range. Now, my one beef: this soundtrack is so good it almost takes you out of the idea that this is recovered home DV as I don’t think any home DV camera could produce such a soundtrack. This is a very small complaint to what is one of the best audio tracks I have ever heard. Bonus Material: All of the bonus material is presented in HD. Feature commentary with director Matt Reeves: Reeves expands on most of what we’ve already heard in the other docs. There are only a couple pauses during the whole track. I wish Abrams or some of the VFX guys would have been added on but it’s still an acceptable commentary. Special Investigative Mode: Enhanced viewing mode with GPS tracking, antagonist(s) radar, military intelligence and more: choose this feature and you are given an image of Manhattan on the left side of the screen showing where the action is at a given time with the characters and the antagonist(s), while on the other side of the screen is a smaller window with the movie itself playing. Below this is a message center that gives you more info about what is going on on-screen as if prepared by the government, such as who the people on screen were and their backgrounds, the locations and such. The most interesting thing about this is it establishes a potential mythology for this world and hints at the possible origin of the antagonist(s). This type of interactivity is one of the things I love about BD as it opens up another aspect of the picture. Time saving tip: turn this on while you listen to Reeves commentary. Deleted Scenes (3:25): four very short scenes with optional commentary by Reeves. Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield (28:22): Reeves, Abrams and the cast and crew don’t waste any time here as they cut right to the behind the scenes action to show us what a difficult technical process it was to make this picture, and make it believable. Cloverfield Visual Effects (22:32): jumping off the above doc is this more in-depth piece on the effects. Good stuff, especially how they composited various elements together. I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge! (5:53): similar to the VE doc but on another topic. To say more would be to ruin it, but it changed my view of the antagonist(s). Clover Fun (3:56): the obligatory gag reel. Alternate Endings (4:29): with optional commentary from Reeves. I was surprised the trailers weren’t on here as they were so influential in building the buzz for the movie, but methinks there may be an Easter egg lurking about… Conclusions: A high concept idea pays off in many different ways and Cloverfield is one of the best times I’ve had at a movie in a long time. Paramount gives us a great HD disc with an exceptional audio experience and a great set of extras. This one comes RECOMMENDED!