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: 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