Video Rental Reviews: 400 Days

Welcome back to the feature where I review movies and tv series that are at my local in my local video rental place.  Previously, I have reviewed 10 Cloverfield Lane and the SyFy Series 12 Monkeys.  Today I will be reviewing the indie scifi thriller called 400 Days.

First, I’m going to say this.  After your first watch of this movie you may be a little pissed off to start.  It’s sudden and difficult to understand.  But after thinking about it for a little while, I think this is intentional.  I will get to this after a brief synopsis.

400 Days is set mostly in a mocked-up spacecraft.  We are led to believe that the four astronauts we have just met are being put into the ground as a test of the effects of long-term space travel on the human mind.  There is some drama as the main psychological officer has just dumped Brandon Routh, our main spaceman.

There is some interesting character work in this movie, with Dane Cook, Brandon Routh, and Tom Cavanagh making for some interesting character work.  There is a twist at the end of the first act where something seems to have gone wrong with the experiment.  This generates much of the drama for the rest of the story.  We see various things happen that stretch these individuals to the breaking point through the course of this experiment.  But there is a third act twist that I won’t ruin for you.

I think this is trying to be one of those trippy psychological thrillers which plays with your perception and then leaves you with a question.  Were the events of the movie real or were they all in the character’s minds.  It doesn’t pull it off perfectly, but oddly the last twist of the movie, although it may piss you off, will leave you wanting to watch the movie again very carefully.  Ultimately the last series of twists makes some sense, but there is still some missing in the film.

If you are a fan of the psychological thrillers this movie is worth watching.  I found it quite enjoyable despite the rage-inducing ending.  The rage will wear off and curiosity will set in.  Ultimately the story has some holes, and you’ll be left scratching your head even after the second viewing, but I still think genre (and love story) fans will get enough enjoyment out of this to drop the dollar or two it takes to watch 400 days.


Video Rental Reviews: 10 Cloverfield Lane and the Re-emergence of John Goodman

I finally saw 10 Cloverfield Lane the other day.  It is an amazing film.  The bulk of the film takes place in a doomsday-prepper style bunker, where John Goodman’s character has apparently captured our hero (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  The movie is essentially a three-hander, where we spend most of our time discovering more about three characters who have apparently been thrust together by fate (or perhaps by John Goodman’s evil intentions).


I can’t say enough about this movie.  You should watch it.  And Mary Elizabeth Winstead is amazing in this film.  But I want to spend some time talking about this most recent phase in John Goodman’s career.  John Goodman is, in my opinion, giving some of the best performances of his life in the last few years.  This phase of his career started, to some extent, with his role in Kevin Smith’s Red State (and I think Red State’s–and the new Kevin Smith’s–influence is fairly apparent in 10 Cloverfield Lane).  The experimental shifts in tone at act changes along with the way these tone shifts work in 10 Cloverfield Lane, I feel, is very similar to Red State if not influenced by it.  But John Goodman, in both works, masterfully plays characters, conveying deep sadness and world-weariness while retaining a sort of ambiguity in intent and attitude that makes the viewer want to delve ever-deeper into the character’s psyche.


In Red State, John Goodman is an FBI agent that is called out to deal with an out-of-control religious cult who are out killing those that they take to be morally reprehensible.  The cold FBI exterior of his character is clearly tempered by a compassion that is deep and beaten-down, but clearly operative in his work.  The characters are clearly similar in some ways, but the subtle differences that make them very different are beautiful to see.  If you want to see John Goodman’s masterworks, I recommend taking a look at Red State and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

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Peace be with you.

Why can’t we hug? Men, Touch, and Social Norms

Do you ever notice how little we touch each other as a culture?  I’m pretty sure I could count the number of times I’ve hugged anyone but my wife and my parents/siblings in the last five years on my hands.  But hugging is great.  The following blogpost will be from my perspective as an aspiring touchy feely male who feels deep discomfort with being touchy-feely.

In every culture there are norms for touching.  Usually there are different norms for nonsexual  intergender and intragender touching.  That is, usually the cultural rules that govern how and when men and women  are allowed to touch each other are different from the rules that govern how women are allowed to touch other women and how men are allowed to touch other men in polite company.  I’ll mention intergender touching norms briefly, but I’m more interested in discussing the norms for nonsexual touching amongst men.

Let me paint a picture that should sound familiar.  Two couples finish a double date and say goodbye for the evening.  The women hug goodbye.  The men hug the women goodbye.  The men proceed to shake hands.  Perhaps, at most, the men will bro-hug, which is a hybrid hug/handshake meant to avoid the intimacy of a hug.  Anything beyond a bro-hug, for anything but the closest of friends, is nigh out of the question.  The stronger taboos against touch for men with other men is confirmed by a recent oxford study.

But touch is a very important and fulfilling part of human life.  So let’s assume that the strong norms against male/male touching is a problem.  The question I think is interesting is this: What is the cause of the problem?  Maybe touch is too highly sexualized for men.

This seems to be suggested by the response a homophobic high school bully has to male touch.  The bully conceives of male/male touch as gay and thus as a thing he must struggle mightily against, worrying that such touch will awaken something within him.  A friend comes into the bully for a hug and comes away with a black eye.  This seems to assume that, at least for this one case, the bully’s reaction is connected to conceiving of male/male touch as sexual.

Then again, maybe there’s some other reason why male to male touching is considered more taboo than female/female and male/female touching.  I’m not sure.  But there’s one thing I am sure of.

Men need to start hugging more and becoming more comfortable with touch in general.  I’m tired of touch being unsettling.  We’re human beings.  Human beings are mammals and mammals are cuddly.  It’s time that men remembered this.  Next time you see me, give me a hug.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the social norms surrounding touch in our culture are out of wack?  Should we touch each other more?  Let me know in the comments

Peace be with you.