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Cloverfield


Peter T Chattaway
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Cloverfield is a post-modern Godzilla. It shares post-modernism's beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses, and winds up being an entertaining enough film. Not a bad feat for a monster movie.

Post-modernism says that there is no objective meta-narrative, no overarching story into which our lives fit, just individual, personal narratives. Cloverfield is like that. We have no idea where the creature came from, what it is, what it's objectives are, whether it is unique or part of a group of creatures. We don't even know, in the end, what happens to the creature. Is he defeated? Does he take over the world? Does he even want to take over the world? We never find out. Instead, we follow the lives of some pretty twenty-something men and women, running and screaming and trying to survive in a chaos that they do not understand. These characters are not in the military, not scientists, not heroes in a traditional movie sense. They play no part in battling the creature. They follow their own story and nothing more.

Post-modernism questions the basic structures of society. In a traditional monster movie, the military or the scientists are trying to stop the monster, and the drama centers around whether their plans will work. Cloverfield doesn't really care about what the military and scientists are doing, except insofar as they intersect our characters' lives - which is minimally. There is one military guy who has anything approaching a full scene in this movie, and he just helps the characters on their way, and gives them their deadline for accomplishing their personal mission.

Post-modernism's weakness is the way it atomizes life and people, separating them into islands that cannot communicate with each other. These characters are like that, and so it's hard to care about them. The friend I watched Cloverfield with came to identify with the protagonist's journey, and began to root for him. I never did. In a very post-modern way, these characters are rootless, pale individuals. They are shallow and uninteresting, because they are unplugged from anything real and human. There was not one character whose death moved me in any way. (spoiler alert - some characters in this movie die!)

Cloverfield has been described as showing us what it would really be like to be on the ground for a giant monster attack. But I don't think that's entirely true. One deeply-missed aspect is any sense of religiosity on the part of any of the characters. One character asks why all this is happening, but that's as close as Cloverfield gets to looking for something beyond the individual. These characters don't even really have each other. All they have is themselves. It never occurs to any of them to pray.

Where the film breaks tone, it is to satisfy the very conventions that it spends most of its length flaunting. Audiences raised on Godzilla would have felt VERY cheated if you never got to see the monster clearly. Suffice it to say, you won't feel cheated. In the end, we see more of the monster than we probably should have, given the film's conceits.

All that said, I did enjoy the movie. It was fascinating to watch and made me wonder about the mechanics of filming a picture like this. I left thinking that I'd probably rather watch the extras on this film's eventual DVD than the film itself.

I'd recommend this film to people who like monster movies - it is a fresh take on the genre - with the caution that there is quite a bit of foul language in it, and a hefty bit of gore. It is a monster movie, so there is a lot of intense action and scary bits, though I was not particularly scared by any of it. There is discussion of a sexual relationship between two unmarried characters, and we see some footage of the two of them in bed, partially covered by sheets. Use discernment, know thyself, and make a wise decision whether or not to see this film.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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CrimsonLine wrote:

: One deeply-missed aspect is any sense of religiosity on the part of any of the characters.

Hmmm. I wonder if the kind of people who would run around videotaping their moment of peril are the kind of people who would turn to faith or religion in their moment of peril.

Incidentally, one thing I find really interesting, even subversively creepy, about this film's limited perspective is the way one of the characters says to the camera (just in case they don't survive and someone else finds the video), "You probably know more about this creature than we do." But the funny thing is, we in the audience DON'T know anything more than they do. And what makes it even MORE creepy is that the opening title card tells us the video was discovered in the ruins of Central Park and is now the PROPERTY of the United States government -- so the people who found the video probably DO know more about the creature than the characters do, but they are also almost certainly keeping this video secret and preventing most people from watching it. Our protagonists openly talk about keeping the camera rolling for posterity, because people will need to know what the monster's attack was like, yet we have every reason to believe that, despite all their sacrifices, the video produced by our protagonists is NOT serving that purpose. (Unless you trust the government to make the video public or to use the video wisely in some other way -- and who in today's audience would trust the government to do THAT?)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: One deeply-missed aspect is any sense of religiosity on the part of any of the characters.

Hmmm. I wonder if the kind of people who would run around videotaping their moment of peril are the kind of people who would turn to faith or religion in their moment of peril.

Yes, I'd describe these characters as not very self-reflective, and as I said in my review, shallow.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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Can anyone confirm this, reported by FilmSchoolRejects.com?

Note: big spoilers and a bad word are in the spoiler box below...

After seeing Cloverfield today, audiences around the country are still asking what the hell is the deal with the monster? Where the hell did it come from.

Well, Film School Rejects Brian Gibson and Chris Ilcisko got the inside track on the monster

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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This was a love story disguised as a monster movie.

It showed too much of the monster. Before, I thought Abrams was directing the film. If he'd have directed, I'm sure we would've seen a little less of the actual monster.

We went with about five hundred teenagers, and they all walked out saying, "That sucked," "Worst film I've ever seen!," etc. I don't know why though, I mean, I thought the film was driven and intense. Perhaps they were just being typical overreacting teens. I will say this in their defense -- they were the perfect crowd to be with last night. The atmosphere walking in was electric -- they were really amped up. Maybe that's it -- they were so amped up that they were let down in the end.

I found myself thinking that he'd never get reception in the subway, too, Peter. And I found myself wondering, "How can this guy keep filming all this?" Especially up on the roof of the skyscraper. But it didn't matter, because the energy and the special effects really were good enough to let me put my guard down and enjoy it.

The Hud guy was annoying though.

I didn't mind seeing him get eaten

.

Overall, I liked it, but I liked The Blair Witch Project a whole lot more, and that film barely had a special effect.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Crims, my wife just remembered that Hud began to confess his sins as the helicopter crashed. I remember this now that she brings it up. I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something like Oh God Oh God (which you wouldn't think is a prayer in the context at first) and I'm sorry, or Forgive me.

It's interesting that the "dumb" character (OK, maybe I'm being too harsh on Hud because he annoyed me. How about "simple minded character") would have been the only one to acknowledge a power greater than himself.

Can anyone who sees this in the future confirm it?

-s.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Crims, my wife just remembered that Hud began to confess his sins as the helicopter crashed. I remember this now that she brings it up. I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something like Oh God Oh God (which you wouldn't think is a prayer in the context at first) and I'm sorry, or Forgive me.

It's interesting that the "dumb" character (OK, maybe I'm being too harsh on Hud because he annoyed me. How about "simple minded character") would have been the only one to acknowledge a power greater than himself.

Can anyone who sees this in the future confirm it?

-s.

:spoilers:

Your wife is not misremembering it. Hud does say "Oh God! I'm sorry!", etc. while the helicopter is crashing. But what is he sorry for? His sins? Trash talking the monster 2 seconds before? I couldn't help thinking of The Blair Witch Project during alot of this. I was expecting a similar last minute confession by Rob that he caused all this. Overall this was a pretty cool monster movie but it didn't really add up to much more than that. I can't say the film makers earned the use of the 9/11 imagery.

Edited by Backrow Baptist
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stef wrote:

: The Hud guy was annoying though.

I dunno, he kind of reminded me of someone I know -- someone who used to follow me and our other roommates around with a video so that he could send a "video letter" to a girl he was interested in. (Naturally, we made copies, and some of us still have ours; when my family went to Alberta and visited one of the former roommates and his wife and child last summer, we ended up watching part of that video again -- and this video was made back in 1991, remember. That was weird on a number of levels, but anyhoo...)

Backrow Baptist wrote:

: I can't say the film makers earned the use of the 9/11 imagery.

I'm not sure they had much of an option, actually. We in the audience need to "accept" that this movie is "real" home-video footage, and now that everyone has seen what a shattered city really looks like, there are only so many ways that the filmmakers could have depicted it in their movie while maintaining its sense of verisimilitude.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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SPOILERS abound...

Actually, as one critic pointed out this morning, the party sequence shows us how the guy holding the camera is, himself, something of a wannabe filmmaker -- he's looking for drama, both Rob's (with Beth) and his own (with Marlena) -- and in a way, that makes it increasingly likely that such a person would keep the camera running while trying to escape from the monster.

Oh, I believed that a character like Hud would go around trying to film those conversations (and later, the End of the World). That was great. But I had trouble believing that the people he was filming would continue to have heated arguments, talk about their sex lives, etc. while he had the camera in their face. But again, we had to learn about the characters somehow and I guess that's the best way.

Which sequence in particular? There are at least two that, to my mind, could match your description. (I also thought the "night vision" effect undermined the scare factor in one scene.)

SPOILER: The scene where Hud gets eaten. The shot of the monster was a bit too clear and lingering to me. Plus, how does a monster the size of a skyscraper eat a person on the ground? It would be like a human trying to bend over and eat a grain of sand off the sidewalk. I dunno, maybe the monster flicked Hud into its mouth with its tongue, sort of like a fly? :)

I realize I'm being totally nitpicky here and I need to stress again that I really did enjoy the film overall. I agree with you, Peter, that the ending was magnificent. As for the "spiders" in the subway, they looked sort of familiar to me, like something from another movie. I can't quite place them though. The scene where the rats are running away from "something" in the darkness behind them induced an almost primal fear, though. That was awesome.

Can anyone confirm this, reported by FilmSchoolRejects.com?

I certainly didn't see anything, but the idea is intriguing enough to make me want to see the movie again and watch that scene very closely.

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Some first-draft thoughts on the film's central gimmick and what it has to say about memory, etc.

Re: the "easter egg" supposedly hidden in the movie's final scene, SlashFilm writes:

While I very much believe this subtle easter egg is probably in the film's final cut, I just don't buy the reasoning.

Beth and Rob's trip to Coney Island took place in late April, but the monster waited a full month until late May to destroy New York City

? Doesn't sound too logical, especially considering the whole Tagruato viral storyline which was to set up the monster's origins. But I could be missing something.
I haven't been following the viral marketing around this film AT ALL, so I have no idea what that bit about Tagruato is referring to.

morgan1098 wrote:

: Plus, how does a monster the size of a skyscraper eat a person on the ground?

Heh. A friend of mine -- a biology student, in fact -- had a similar complaint about Jurassic Park when it came out 15 years ago. Why would a giant dinosaur that wasn't obviously hungry go chasing after these people all the time? I think she compared it to a lion chasing rats all the time, or something like that -- it was an implausibility, for her.

: I certainly didn't see anything, but the idea is intriguing enough to make me want to see the movie again and watch that scene very closely.

I, for one, fully intend to watch the DVD frame-by-frame. :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Incidentally, Cloverfield grossed $16.8 million yesterday, which is almost halfway to the record for best opening weekend in January, set by the 20th anniversary edition of Star Wars way, way back in 1997 (it grossed $35.9 million) -- and it has two more days to close the gap.

FWIW, until now, the top weekend for a "new" film opening in January has been the $28.6 million made by Black Hawk Down in 2002 (though that film did open in limited release the month before); and the top weekend for a new film opening in January without any prior releases of any sort has been the $27.7 million made by Big Momma's House 2 in 2006.

And apparently you Yankees have a school holiday on Monday, so for what it's worth: The record for a film released on the MLK 4-day weekend is the $33.6 million earned by Black Hawk Down in 2002; and the record for a completely-brand-new-with-no-prior-releases-of-any-sort film released on the MLK 4-day weekend is the $32.4 million earned by Along Came Polly in 2004. Cloverfield looks set to beat both those records in its first THREE days, never mind the fourth.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Let me just say, I love some of the comments this movie is already getting here, especially CrimsonLine's and Peter's. I wouldn't have read so much into it. I did think that the occasional intrusion of the Coney Island trip on the film was one of it's best features, Peter, and it really did make everything else that much more unnerving for me-- and yes, that ending!-- but I never would have thought to articulate it like that.

I will add this, though: part of what made this film work for me is that I simply didn't feel as if I knew the rules. I had no idea if anyone would live, or how-- I didn't even know if Beth was going to

be alive when they got there

. And I was completely baffled as to how the filmmakers were going to offer resolution, if at all. And since I was so fundamentally disoriented the whole time, I was willing to consider any possibility with which the film teased me. Compare that to something like I Am Legend, where I never doubted the Will Smith character would be allowed some sort of triumph, and as such I was able to talk myself out of any suspense in that film. But Cloverfield really got to me.

If you watch the movie closely, you can see a hint of where the monster comes from.

No, not in the attack footage. Not in the news footage. In the footage from April that was accidentally erased by Hud.

This original footage doesn

Nathaniel K. Carter

www.nkcarter.com

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books." - C.S. Lewis

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In reading about the "easter egg" on several web sites today I discovered:

[finally figured out how to use this cool spoiler template]

1. There's debate over whether a dark, egg-like object falls into the ocean from the sky, or else something already in the water raises its head and then re-submerges. Either way, it takes place during the final scene of the movie after NYC is bombed. Up to this point I had assumed it was during one of the earlier flashbacks.

2. Even among those who saw the movie a second time specifically to look for the easter egg, many never saw anything. It must be really subtle!

3. From the descriptoins I've read, if there is a brief sighting of the monster, it appears somewhere on the far right side of the screen near a boat.

Wouldn't it be funny if this was just one of those "imaginary sightings," sort of like in Peter Jackson's "Fellowship of the Ring" where many people swore they saw a car driving down a dirt road behind a shot of Frodo and Sam, when in reality it was just smoke coming out of the chimney of a house?

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Knowing ahead of time about that scene, I went out of my way to find it. Didn't see it in the end (which makes the most sense, even though it could've been in the first 'taped over' spot when Rob and Beth are on the train and you see a lot of water), but I could see how it

could be there.

Overall: 3.5/5

I liked it. I didn't change my life (or my afternoon), but I enjoyed the 80-some minutes in the theater. The movie was at its best ratcheting up the suspense while remaining vague --

the brief glimpses of the monster, for instance, or Marlena's death ... I'm still trying to figure out what happened there.

There were some surreal moments that worked really well too: the rider-less carriage, the slant into the void in Beth's apartment, and so on.

The "flashbacks" worked for me, and I really didn't think the acting was horrible. In fact, I felt like they weren't acting in some ways, which works if you're trying to pass it off as a real video.

As for Hud, well -- someone said that *I* was a Hud-type person. Now I'm scared to talk ever again.

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The "flashbacks" worked for me, and I really didn't think the acting was horrible. In fact, I felt like they weren't acting in some ways, which works if you're trying to pass it off as a real video.

I didn't think the acting was great, but on the other hand, I think these unknowns did an admirable job that was at least as good as the acting by some "big name" actors in similarly-themed movies (ie the acting by Laura Dern, etc. in Jurassic Park wasn't great either).

The bugs in Starship Troopers.

Yes! They were also similar to the bugs in The Mist.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I thought Cloverfield was a pretty cool thrill ride. From studying point-of-view in writing courses I have taken, I found the limited first-person point-of-view of the camera to be interesting. The point of view puts the viewer right into the events the way the characters in the film experiences them. It also changes the way one looks at monster movies, and increases the fear of being clobbered/stepped on/eaten by the monster, in a way that an omniscient overhead-camera point of view can't capture.

I thought the film was constructed very well, and the ending was just right.

A sequel would ruin it though. What would be next, the monster goes up the coast into Boston? Cloverfield vs. Predator?

We went with about five hundred teenagers, and they all walked out saying, "That sucked," "Worst film I've ever seen!," etc. I don't know why though, I mean, I thought the film was driven and intense. Perhaps they were just being typical overreacting teens.

I had the same kind of experience. As the credit rolled, a bunch of people sitting behind me were saying, "that sucked". I don't get it. What were they expecting, Rambo to show up or something?

Edited by Crow
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There are rumors circulating that people are throwing up in theaters because of disorientation from the shaky camera movements. Any substantiation to that?

Well, for what it's worth, I saw someone leave the theater as they mumbled something about being dizzy, and there was a teen in the FRONT ROW (who was cradling a monstrous soda) who was staring at the ground when the credits were rolling. I thought the kid was going to pass out.

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Saw this last night. Adding to the comments here about the inconsistencies in the movie, I did think it strange that the U.S. military would need ALL that information from this video. For example, did they need the footage of the party itself? Sure, as a movie, you'd want character development, but as a military? What was THAT all about???

Second, during the movie when Rob was trying to find Beth I did ask myself, "What if my son Brandon was stuck in Manhattan? Would I go back and try to save him? Would it be hopeless? Given the circumstances? Brandon, you are on your own. Why? Because the chance of my going back and finding you alive would be almost nil. I think I'd rather wait to 'hear the news.' Now is this lame of me or what? Do I not have any courage? Is this unchristian of me? Or is it just a matter of pragmatics talk'n here?"

Now why I thought of only my son is really neither here nor there. It could have been any/all of my children. He just came to mind thats all. I suppose if it was all of them I may have taken the chance to go in and attempt to retrieve at least ONE of them as the chances are one of them may have survived. Either way, the point is that I really had lingering questions of what my obligations were and my own identity as someone who names the name of Christ is.

Edited by BBBCanada

Brandon

"God is so great and merciful that he does not require that we name him precisely. God is even willing to be anonymous for a time. Remember how God led the Three Wise Men from the East to Christ? The Wise Men did not know the God of Israel or Jesus. They worshipped the stars. So God used a star to lure them."--The Twelve Steps for Christians

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BBBCanada wrote:

: I did think it strange that the U.S. military would need ALL that information from this video. For example, did they need the footage of the party itself? Sure, as a movie, you'd want character development, but as a military? What was THAT all about???

I don't think they "needed" it. It just happened to be on the memory card that they found and kept. We moviegoers just happen to be watching what's on that memory card, without any editing or interruption. (And it would probably be more trouble than it's worth for the military to EDIT the memory card, or to copy-and-paste the bits that they want to keep before jettisoning the rest of the card, etc.)

Incidentally, I am wondering if, between Cloverfield and Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, we have a new trend emerging: movies which climax with

the military wiping out entire cities, knowingly killing their own fellow citizens in the process

. I can think of a number of films where

presidents and military leaders have had to CONSIDER killing innocent civilians, e.g.

Executive Decision where the president has to consider shooting down a plane full of hostages because the hijackers might be planning a terrorist attack that could wipe out an entire city

, but I can't think offhand of films where they actually DID it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I can think of a number of films where

presidents and military leaders have had to CONSIDER killing innocent civilians, e.g.

Executive Decision where the president has to consider shooting down a plane full of hostages because the hijackers might be planning a terrorist attack that could wipe out an entire city

, but I can't think offhand of films where they actually DID it.

The classic is 1964's Fail-Safe, starring Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau and Larry Hagman (!).

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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BBBCanada wrote:

Incidentally, I am wondering if, between Cloverfield and Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, we have a new trend emerging: movies which climax with

the military wiping out entire cities, knowingly killing their own fellow citizens in the process

. I can think of a number of films where

presidents and military leaders have had to CONSIDER killing innocent civilians, e.g.

Executive Decision where the president has to consider shooting down a plane full of hostages because the hijackers might be planning a terrorist attack that could wipe out an entire city

, but I can't think offhand of films where they actually DID it.

Don't forget The Simpsons Movie...

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytellingĀ is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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Incidentally, I am wondering if, between Cloverfield and Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, we have a new trend emerging: movies which climax with

the military wiping out entire cities, knowingly killing their own fellow citizens in the process

. I can think of a number of films where

presidents and military leaders have had to CONSIDER killing innocent civilians, e.g.

Executive Decision where the president has to consider shooting down a plane full of hostages because the hijackers might be planning a terrorist attack that could wipe out an entire city

, but I can't think offhand of films where they actually DID it.

28 Weeks Later.

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Steve Mason, Fantasy Moguls: "Cloverfield (Paramount) has absolutely 'fallen apart' in its 2nd weekend. It managed only $4.5M on Friday, and it'll lumber to a disappointing $13.1M for the weekend. That would be a horrifying 68% drop . . . "

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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