January 18, 2008, - 4:19 pm

Weekend Box Office: Cool “Cloverfield” Update of “Godzilla” And a Couple of Chick Flicks

By Debbie Schlussel
None of the new releases out this weekend are too bad, but “Cloverfield” is the best of the bunch and the only one I wholeheartedly recommend. I was unable to screen the new Woody Allen flick, “Cassandra’s Dream“–out in limited release–and will have to review it later (it’s getting mostly bad reviews).
* “Cloverfield“: I really liked this tight, well-done movie that is sort of an updated, hip version of “Godzilla,” including a touching, but not chick-flickish love story. If there is one drawback, it is the jerky, shaky, constantly moving “Blair Witch Project”-style the movie in which the movie is shot, on a hand-held camera. It will give you a headache, unless you sit farther back in the theater.
Using all unknown–but still good-looking and well-acted–actors, a group of 20- or 30-something Manhattan friends are at a good-bye party for their friend, Rob (very hot actor Michael Stahl-David, one to watch). We watch the movie through the lens of a video camera that Rob’s friend, Hud, is using to film the good-bye party.

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Rob is in love with his long-time friend, Beth, but they are not together and she leaves the party in strife. Soon, though, New York under attack. Buildings are blown up and it seems like there is an earthquake. Rob and his friends escape the apartment building. On the streets of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty’s head falls right near them. This is another error in the movie–methinks the head is too small versus the real size on the real Lady Liberty. More shots of buildings being attacked are very vivid and disturbing, reminding you of 9/11.
Soon, we see what is attacking Manhattan–a giant creature that looks like a cross between a dinosaur and a bony creature from “Alien” v. “Predator.” Rob and his friends are told to evacuate Manhattan by the national guard, but Rob gets cell-phone calls from Beth that she is trapped. Rob and friends crawl through Manhattan’s subway tunnels, walk among rats, fight off giant spider-like creatures, and traverse destroyed buildings to rescue Beth and get out of Manhattan before the last military helicopter takes off and bombing of New York begins.
The movie is very short–just under an hour and twenty minutes. And it’s tight and fast-paced. There is no slack or boredom here. It’s equal parts action, adventure, romance, sci-fi, and horror.
A fun, escapist, light movie that is highly recommended, but not for kids–there’s a little blood. In case you were wondering, Cloverfield is the name of the operation to evacuate Manhattan and eradicate the giant monster and his spider spawns, but it’s not too important to the movie.
* “Mad Money“: This is basically a chick flick, with a bank robbery thrown in to make it seem kosher for the boyfriends/husbands/significant others who get dragged along for the ride.
Diane Keaton is an upper class housewife in a swanky house in a swanky neighborhood. But her husband, Ted Danson, loses his job, and they’re up to their ears in bills. She’s unqualified for any jobs and can only find work as a janitor at the Kansas City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, where $1 million in worn out dollar (and other denomination) bills is shredded. There, she schemes with fellow employees, single mother Queen Latifah, and trailer chick Katie Holmes to steal the money, instead of shredding it. Each has needs that the money will satisfy.
There have been several movies like this about women robbing banks. And this one, for me, was considerably less exciting than the others. It was more predictable and less believable. For instance, if you steal thousands in dollar bills, unless you are Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana, you’d presumable be smarter than to stash it in and around your house.
And you and your boyfriends and significant others wouldn’t be spending like millionaires while still working as janitors . . . at a bank, no less. It sets off too many alarms and red flags. And smart robbers, as smart as these women appear to be, wouldn’t get so greedy as to repeatedly steal more and make stupid mistakes.
Then, there’s the ending, which as a lawyer that I am, is really hard to believe would happen.
There are some funny lines and moments, and it’s entertaining enough. But it’s not a great movie. Not even close.
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* “27 Dresses“: This one is a definite chick flick. And although mildly funny and entertaining, it’s mostly cliche and predictable.
The movie has some really funny moments. The problem is, they’re all in the first ten minutes, when we see always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride Katherine Heigl running back and forth between two weddings at which she is a bridesmaid, to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Yes, a joint Jewish-Hindu wedding where the plump Jewish bride wears a sari and a diamond dot on her forehead is funny . . . the first time.
A glammed-down Heigl–whom make-up artists transform into an unremarkable Plain Jane–has been a bridesmaid 27 times and saved all the tacky dresses to prove it. She has her heart set on her boss, Edward Burns, who barely notices her. But when her gorgeous, narcissistic model sister comes to town, Burns falls for the vapid model and asks her to marry him. Guess who gets stuck planning the wedding?
And in planning the wedding, Heigl meets James Marsden, the wedding columnist for a New York Times-esque daily newspaper. She doesn’t know that Marsden is her favorite columnist, though, and she repeatedly blows him off, as he tries to get to know her. Soon, she falls for his charm, while he is working on a cynical expose of marriages and the wedding industry, using Heigl as his “subject.”
I can’t tell you what happens next because it would spoil the predictable, hackneyed-if-romantic ending. You get the picture. There’s nothing deep here. But it isn’t horrible.

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