Video Rental Reviews: The Europa Report

This is part of a continuing feature where I rent old or out of the way movies from Family Video or watch them on Netflix and then review them for you.  This will be a curated list.  Few of these films will be movies I didn’t enjoy, but I look forwad to your feedback on these reviews.

A movie that I enjoyed (perhaps quite a bit more than its 2-star netflix rating gives it) on Netflix is the Europa Report.  It’s another one of these scifi films that’s cheap enough to make on an indie budget because it all takes place inside a capsule.  Now, I’ll say this.  Don’t watch The Europa Report unless you’re in the mood for something a little bleak.

The movie opens showing that we are seeing mission footage from a disastrous mission, the first mission of its kind, in which humanity was sent to investigate one of Jupiter’s moons for evidence of life.  The tone of this movie is very understated.  You don’t fall into the issue that some movies have that put a bunch of actors in a box, where their whole lives are melodramatic and they’re always shouting at each other and on the brink of a fist fight.  These are professionals who are on a mission.  You get an understated sadness after a valuable crew member dies and an air of depression comes from the crew.  They argue about the mission from time to time, but reasonably and like scientists.

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But there are some really interesting acting choices throughout the film.  There is a point in which a character (pictured above) is in grave danger and the performance is perfectly given to be ambiguous.  In an earlier scene you get terror and sadness, but at a later reveal it turns out to be something else.

I was surprised how much I liked this movie.  If you have the attention span to watch a movie that’s a little slow developing, it will pay off.  The characters are believable, and the journey is worth the watch.  There are a few plot issues, moments where you would think a team of astronauts wouldn’t do the thing that furthers the plot.

But if you’re in the mood for something sad and depressing, or you just like scifi, this movie is definitely worth a watch.

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).

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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.

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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.
-JS