Well I finally saw Cloverfield. It is one of those movies that demands viewing on a large screen - anything less than a 50 inch television won't do it justice. Fortunately, I have a projection TV in my basement, so I'm covered.
I really liked it. It was a fun monster movie that was not clouded by unnecessary gore or "where did it come from" subplots. These days, it is becoming a bit cliche to have a movie presented as a "hand held home video" - like The Blair Witch Project (the first film to succeed, at least financially, on this level).
J.J. Abrams and his team kicks it up a notch, and deliver some great effects and thrills as a group of young, white professionals get chased through the city by a giant monster (anybody else feel like they were watching a Friends episode gone horribly wrong? I would have paid money to see Ross get chewed up like monster beef jerky).
Anyway, what I most wanted to write about was the presentation - the movie "home video." Some people may think it is becoming cliche to present a feature film as something filmed on a home video camera. I disagree, only in that in can be a very effective story telling technique for engaging "realism." A monster movie is a monster movie, but I think trying to disguise a film as something that actually happened adds to the fun. I think it makes it easier to immerse yourself in the fantasy - it might be the closest thing to making a movie into a roller coaster ride (outside of jostling the theater around with a crane arm). In fact, many people experienced motion sickness while watching the film in theaters.
The main drawback is that it is hard to keep a believable narrative going. The dialogue and such didn't ring true, and I found myself completely uninterested in their various relationships and emotional detachments - I just wanted to see the damn monster. Its like trying to watch a video on YouTube of some insane "caught on video" moment, and you just want to fast forward it through the crap so you can get to the nitty gritty. But I understand the need to build up some kind of narrative and plot (in this case, guy wants to rescue girl), but let's try to be more creative here - maybe next time (Cloverfield 2: Monsters in the 'Hood?) the guy just wants to scrape some scales off the monster so he can sell them on eBay for mucho dinero.
Risking life and limb for cold hard cash? Now that's realism!