Paramount rolls in the 'Cloverfield'

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While unleashing "Transformers" onscreen this week, Paramount also lifted the lid on a top-secret project in the form of a teaser trailer for a new film, "Cloverfield."

"Cloverfield," which revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people, is being produced by J.J. Abrams. It is being directed by Matt Reeves, who co-created "Felicity" with Abrams, and is written by Drew Goddard, who has worked with Abrams on "Lost" and "Alias."

Paramount greenlighted the project under a veil of heavy secrecy in February, about the same time that Abrams agreed to the take over the directing reins of the new "Star Trek" film.

The casting process was just as mysterious. No scripts or even scene pages were sent out; agents who were contacted were simply asked if their client wanted to be in the movie or not. Eventually a cast, made up mostly of relative unknowns, was put together; it includes Michael Stahl-David ("The Black Donnellys"), Odet Jasmin, Mike Vogel ("Supercross") and Lizzy Caplan ("The Class").

The movie, which is believed to have a relatively modest budget of about $30 million, began shooting in mid-June in New York. With "Transformers" generating huge tracking numbers in the weeks before its release, the studio decided to put footage from "Cloverfield" in a teaser in front of "Transformers" to build buzz.

After first presenting the Paramount and Bad Robot logos -- Bad Robot being Abrams' shingle -- the trailer opens with scenes from a surprise going-away party in a New York bar with a view of the city. Before long, a thundering roar is heard, and by the time guests run downstairs, pandemonium and flaming debris are hitting the streets. After a huge explosion at the lower end of Manhattan, what appears to be the head of the Statue of Liberty comes hurtling up the street like a giant projectile.



The trailer's footage is shot by a hand-held camera, home-movie style, giving it a sort of "Armageddon" meets " The Blair Witch Project" feel, though it is not clear if the entire movie follows that style. While the trailer does not reveal the name of the movie, it does announce a release date of Jan. 18.

Several copies of the trailer, seemingly shot in theaters with a camcorder, were posted on YouTube by Thursday morning. But by Thursday afternoon, some links had been taken down, replaced by an advisory saying, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Paramount Pictures Corp."

Producing the movie along with Abrams is Bryan Burk, who has worked on such Abrams shows as "Lost," "Six Degrees" and "What About Brian." Guy Riedel and Sherryl Clark are executive producing.

"Cloverfield" is shooting in New York.
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