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: 12 Monkeys (the syfy series), Season 1

This is a new series of articles where I review movies and tv shows that are in my local Family Video rental store.  In my first post I talked about 10 Cloverfield Lane and the re-emergence of John Goodman on the acting scene.  This week we will be discussing the first season of the recent SyFy series named after the popular Terry Gilliam movie 12 Monkeys.

So I decided to rent the first season of 12 Monkeys the other day.  I am a huge fan of the movie, but didn’t know what to expect with someone other than the brilliant Terry Gilliam running the show.  It also took me until the final episode of season one to be able to figure out the relationship between the movie and the series I was watching.

I’ve concluded that 12 Monkeys is a reboot of the Terry Gilliam movie.  Maybe if I’d remember the character name James Cole from the movie I would have figured this out sooner, but now I know.  12 Monkeys the tv show is simply telling a very similar story to that of Terry Gilliam’s show.

12 Monkeys will touch on a number of beats that seem familiar to those familiar with the movie, and that is a good thing.  The story still centers around the mystery of how the world-ending disease gets spread to the world, and there remains throughout the story a sneaking suspicion that everything the time-travelers are doing is just contributing to the deterministic story of how the disease arose and killed everyone in the first place.  As with any good serial mystery, we are strung along with little clues along the first series.  The series does different things with some of the other characters, but the acting and the characters are really solid.

One highlight of the show is Emily Hampshire playing the series’ version of the Brad Pitt character in the original movie.   She plays the crazy daughter of the billionaire who is suspected of developing the disease, who is our heroes’ on-again off again frenemy throughout the series.  She is compelling and eminently watchable and moves some way toward capturing the intangible magic that Pitt had in the original series, which is an quite a feat.

Despite some small criticisms, such as a couple characters whose arcs are a little sudden and unrealistic, I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the original movie (and to anyone who isn’t, but likes mysteries or race-against-time thrillers).  This is really a compelling series.

Peace be with you.
-JS