Matt Reeves’ "Cloverfield," produced by J.J. Abrams of "Lost" and "Alias" fame, is an 84-minute rollercoaster ride of a monster movie that should be a big hit.
But Cloverfield also inadvertently disses New York for what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, by re-enacting scenes of buildings exploding and massive clouds of debris for fun and profit.
Does no one recall what was said following the World Trade Center disasters? There was such sensitivity about the huge human losses that images of the Twin Towers were erased from movie posters and excised from films.
Yet six years later, the "Cloverfield" gang is cool enough with it to show New York being pulverized. Very quickly and without warning, downtown New York is destroyed. The first bit of damage is depicted by a World Trade Center-like structure exploding and collapsing downward, sending off a cloud not unlike those my friends ran from that day.
Later in the film, the main characters go to the city’s new Twin Towers, represented by the Time Warner Center. The structure looks so much like the World Trade Center that you have to wonder what these people were thinking. "Cloverfield" was truly made by California movie people. No one in New York would ever be this insensitive.
But I suppose I’m being too sensitive. "Cloverfield" is just commercial entertainment. If you don’t read anything into it, this slightly plotted edge-of-the-seat nail-biter is a good big studio take on "The Blair Witch Project." It’s the perfect winter doldrums popcorn fest.
The clever aspect of Reeves’ film is that it’s all shot with a handheld camera that’s supposed to be the camcorder belonging to one of the main characters. This gives the film an intimate feel, and the look is very personal as the city is devoured.
Reeves and Abrams do not supply much information, just that good-looking young professionals are interrupted from their partying by the the destruction of the city.
Screenwriter Drew Goddard, who comes from Abrams’ TV circle with "Lost" and "Alias," has only turned in two acts — which is fine for the small screen but lacking for the big one. Hence, "Cloverfield" ends abruptly and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. (Shades of "Lost.")
"Cloverfield" boasts a small but plucky cast of young unknowns, and they’re not bad, although none of them really breaks out. Lizzy Caplan as Marlena, who is bitten by the monster, does the most with the least in the Ally Sheedy role from "Breakfast Club." The others — Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas and Odette Yustman — must bear the brunt of the script’s lack of humor or wit or any subplot. Give them points for that.
What will happen with the Hollywood strike of the Writers Guild of America?
Right now, the story in Hollywood is as confusing as a "Mission: Impossible" movie. No one knows what the outcome will be of a strike that began on Oct. 31. Yet everyone has a different idea.
Listening to all the opinions reminds me of the summer when everyone was guessing Who Shot JR?
All of the scenarios revolve around one thing: the Oscars, set for Feb. 24. Producer Gil Cates insists they will happen, one way or another. But down deep, everyone knows this is not possible. If the strike is still in place, then the Guild will picket, the Screen Actors will respect that and no one will be there except members of the Hollywood Foreign Press.
Some insiders are hoping that the Directors Guild will announce a new contract with the studios on Wednesday or Thursday. That, they say, will force the WGA to accept similar terms and return to work.
Here’s how one big insider explained it to me Tuesday night: The DGA settles, and then it takes two to three weeks for the WGA to reach the same conclusion.
"We’ll throw them a bone," says this studio insider, "so they save face." The idea here is that by Feb. 15, Wolfgang Puck is minting his chocolate Oscars and Vanity Fair is already ordering In-N-Out Burgers for its party.
However: there is also speculation that the WGA, having successfully shut down the Golden Globes, is not going to pass up a chance to do the same with the Oscars. After all, the WGA has gone this far, say some local philosophers. They’re not going to back down so fast.
Of course, then there is the issue of financial pressure. There is talk of writers in danger of losing their homes. People are suffering, and not only in the union. The strike creates a domino affect. Truthfully, the town is silent. You can hear the wind whistling down Wilshire Boulevard.
"You can get a reservation in any restaurant," one agent said on Tuesday.
At Wanna Buy a Watch, the great second-hand timepiece and jewelry shop on Melrose, my friends there say Christmas wouldn’t have happened if not for foreigners. The clock is literally ticking now.
On the picket line near Warner Bros. in Burbank, I heard plenty of conflicting opinions the other day. Older writers are in it for the long haul. They have enough savings, and they know how important it is to get the new media payments sorted out.
Younger writers are not so sure. They’re just starting out, and they’re not so well-paid in the first place. Impatient to earn a living and sell some projects, the new generation doesn’t care much about the Internet. It’s ironic, because you’d think they would understand its grasp all the more.
Some writers have gone back to work anyway. At low-rated ABC soap "All My Children," I am told all the writers went "fi-core" and took a package that allowed them to return to business. This is frowned upon, and the soap scribes are unpopular. (CBS’ "Guiding Light," on the other hand, is on strike. Scabs are writing scripts.)
And the estimates of an ending? "April," says one writer. "July," says another. "Mid-February," answers my studio guy.
One thing’s for certain, though. If the writers give on new media, just as Apple announces movie downloading and Amazon revs up its own site, the movie and TV businesses could end up like the music business: dead.