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).

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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.

Check back every MWF for more content!
Peace be with you.
-JS

2 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Batman v Superman

Spoilers!

Perhaps I’m late to the Batman V. Superman lovefest that occurred in the reviews for the movie.  Wait, there wasn’t a love fest?!  Wait, the movie only got a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes?!  Wait, the movie made $900,000,000 and no one seems to like it?  Everyone hates it?  What’s wrong with it?  Well, there are two sequences that are fairly universally panned which everyone seems to get wrong, and these are the scenes I most often see appealed to by BvS haters.  In this post I will show that everyone gets these two sequences wrong.

The Martha Scene

“Save…Martha…”  Batman finds out that he and Superman’s mom’s have the same name, and Batman and Superman  instantly become friends.  That’s how this scene works.  So stupid, right?! Wrong! This scene comes after Batman has come to think that Superman is an alien that cares very little for human life.  For Batman, Superman seems to be an amoral creature who caused the equivalent of 12 9/11’s, blew up congress, perhaps indiscriminately killed a bunch of people in Africa, and could do much worse at any moment.  Superman is an alien with no connection or care for humanity.  Batman says as much in the fight over and over.

But Superman starts telling Batman he should save Martha.  This leads Batman to get even angrier.  Batman has seen 20 years of Jokers and Two-faces playing cruel tricks on him and emotionally manipulating him by appeal to his loved ones and their life or death.  This is when Lois Lane comes in and informs Batman that Martha is Superman’s mother.  This piece of information, along with it’s being shouted by Lois Lane, gives Batman all the information he needs to put together that he was wrong.  Lois Lane, the sole survivor of the attack Superman supposedly perpetrated in Africa, is deeply in love with Superman.  He thus puts together that his conception of the Africa case was wrong, and that Superman has at least one person that he cares for or loves.  Second, he finds out that Superman was willing to lay down his life so long as Batman saved Superman’s human mother.  Superman has a human mother who he loves just as much as any other human loves his/her mother!  Batman has put together that he has deeply misinterpreted the situation with Superman (and probably that Lex Luthor is to some extent behind it) all from the facts he becomes privy to in the end of the fight scene.  He then realizes that he’s been blind with rage and ignoring the clues all along that Superman is not such a bad guy.  This is when he drops his spear.  Their having the same mother only caused Batman to pause to figure out Superman’s evil plan, but then Lois Lane’s barging in saves the day and gets Batman to wise up.

For a beautiful youtube video that actually takes the “mother’s have the same name” thing to be a very touching and beautiful moment but which also holds the popular misinterpretation while getting the emotional force of the scene down beautifully, follow this link.

That Floating Dirt Doesn’t Mean Superman’s Alive!

This really annoyed me.  Everyone was all up in arms that they took away Superman’s death with the floating dirt.  But, and I’ll keep this one brief, when have you ever seen dirt float over a coffin when the person inside in fact turns out to be alive.  Dirt floating says nothing about the individual inside the coffin.  It says everything about an individual outside the coffin exerting some force pulling on the coffin.  All the floating dirt in the end of the movie indicated was that someone is stealing Superman’s body.  And yes, everyone knows that Superman is going to come back, but this scene did not in any way indicate that Superman is currently alive in the casket which we are zooming in on.  Superman is still dead at the end of the Batman V Superman movie.

The movie has its flaws, but it is beautiful and I was moved by the Martha scene.  Now, you can hate BvS, but don’t  hate it for the wrong reasons.  If you’d like to talk about it, leave a comment.

Come back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for  new post!

Peace be with you.
-JS