400 Days

400Director: Matt Osterman. Starring: Brandon Routh, Tom Cavanagh, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman, Dane Cook. USA, 2015. IMDb: 4.5. Budget: unknown, but very low. Box office: $58. My rating: 0.5/4. Comatose fight of Solaris vs 2001 vs Alien vs Moon.

 What is your current mood?
 Tired… and a little hung over.
 Tired and hung over aren’t moods, I need something like happy, sad, depressed, angry.
(a dialogue between main characters)

400 Days” is a brilliant showcase of how with very little you can achieve even less. I found it on some faraway dusty sci-fi forums thanks to a viewer who complained about ”10 Cloverfield Lane”, criticizing it as a dull and uninspiring movie with bad acting. Thank you, dear unknown viewer! I must confess I feel like a snob by saying this, but… should a basic cinema education be introduced in secondary education program? At least, as a short course?

Still, I am particularly proud I have seen a movie that grossed $58.00 (fifty eight dollars). Way better than ”Man Down” with Shia LaBeouf that took just £7.00 at UK box office during its premiere, isn’t it? I am also deeply convinced that even worst movies can tell you something new – for example, this year NASA will be actually testing 6 potential cosmonauts for 8 months in closed environment to examine psychological issues. On Hawaii.

20170427_062257400 days is the length of the preparatory mission for a space travel to the Moon. 4 people selected. They will live together in a claustrophobic underground environment, kind of a spaceship simulator, in order to see how psychologically prepared they are for a real mission. As their voluntary imprisonment is reaching the end, something starts to go wrong. It seems that it wasn’t exactly a preparatory mission.

Sounds cheesy? Well, that’s actually the least cheesy part of the film. NASA actually is developing a similar program right now on Hawaii, it’s called HI-SEAS. 6 people, 8 months, Mars-like simulated environment and geology exercises. You can read more here, it’s interesting.  Here is a photo of how it actually looks like:

habitat

20170427_062124The problem of the movie is not the idea. It’s actually pretty good. The problem, as it often happens with the low budget sci-fi, is the realization. I also have no idea why exactly 400 days are needed, not 399? Doesn’t sound like a cool name for the movie? Pardon my vocal gymnastics, but it may give you a general idea of the internal logic of the film. Or, to be more precise, its absence. What is the characters background? What kind of program is that? Why20170427_062109 these 4 people are selected? Why one of them is taken right out of jail? Where comes from the image from the poster? Why the slogan is ”time to kill”? We will never know that.

Oxford Dictionary has a pretty good definition of this movie. “Comatose – of or in a state of deep unconsciousness for a prolonged or indefinite period, especially as a result of severe injury or illness.”

20170427_062223The first 40 minutes are particularly hard to watch, since this is how much the movie actually takes to arrive to the main point (which was already clear to anyone who read the description or saw the trailer). Damn, in Peter Jackson’s ”King-Kong” it took more than one hour to show us the ape… but at least we saw it!

20170427_062151To make it even worse, these 40 minutes are full of broad hints that there is something wrong with the future mission (as if it wasn’t clear already), boring wandering around the ship and weird behavior for no apparent reason when the characters start to go mad (probably because it was written in the script?). The sets look cheap – but still would do fine for some secondary “Outer Limits” episode, if cut by half. “400 Days” feels infinitely long. Like 400 minutes (God bless you, Peter Jackson).

20170427_062243The acting is on the same level as everything else. But it’s not the fault of the actors because we have some good names here. I mean, these people can act. I don’t know what Brandon Routh (Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns“, Egdar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” which I adore) is doing here. Tom Cavanagh dilutes the ongoing sleepiness with some sinister lines, but that barely saves the movie. And Caity Lotz? She did a brilliant performance in “The Machine“, a cyberpunk movie I just loved.

Oh. Almost forgot.

The characters here have one bad habit. They talk.

I mean, they comment literally everything that is happening around, often several times – like we, viewers, have a 3-year-old-kid brain and are not able to get it. There is a remarkable episode, when the main characters have been 20170427_062137hanging around in one place for roughly 2 minutes of the onscreen time and one of them finally says, ”Hey guys, how long we have been wandering around here?”, and his mate replies ”I think an hour or two”. It’s curtains.

20170427_062209The ending could provide some catharsis to all this like it often happens in ending-based movies, but there is virtually no ending. Yes – when the movie ends, you have barely no idea of what actually happened. It’s simply not shown. There are some clues here and there though, so basically here we have same story as with lots of other dull sci-fi like “Primer” or “Uncanny“, when various geeks will watch the movie over and over 93455 times to solve the puzzle.

Worth watching? I think the Oxford Dictionary has a pretty good definition of this movie. “Comatose – of or in a state of deep unconsciousness for a prolonged or indefinite period, especially as a result of severe injury or illness.” The Oxford Dictionary is right – with a huge choice of great sci-fi of all kind like we have now, there is very little reason to watch ”400 Days”.

But if you don’t take the movie too seriously, it can be plenty of masochist fun to watch too. It will be a tough experience you’ll never forget.

Watch instead: anything else. Perfect “Ex Machina“, ”Moon” & ”10 Cloverfield Lane”, quite good “Exam” & ”Signal”, all of these are valid flicks for some mind-bending thrills, not mentioning old classics like ”Solaris”.

0.5/4

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Triangle

TriangleDirector: Christopher Smith. Starring: Melissa George, Michael Dorman, Rachael Caprani, Henry Nixon, Liam Hemsworth. UK, Australia, 2009. Budget: $ 12 millions. IMDb: 6.9. My rating: 1.5/4. Unscary horror wrapped in a dull time-looped puzzle.

– Well listen we don’t have to go today if you don’t want too.
– No I do… I… I… I wanna go.
– You sure?
– Yea… yea!
– Yea? OK!
 Lets go sailing!
(a typical dialogue)

Most movies about time travel/time loops share one thing in common. No, it’s not what you thought. It’s an immense and inexplicable character obtuseness. I mean, what would a normal person do if he travels in time and meets his friends or even himself? Of course, kill everybody, do odd stuff he wouldn’t normally do, write scary messages to your counterpart and maybe slaughter him as well! Otherwise time travel is not fun, right?

It’s also the first thriller I have ever seen that takes its own plot so carelessly – the poster itself is already a spoiler. Continue reading

Coherence

CoherenceDirector: James Ward Byrkit. Starring: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugh Armstrong, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, Lorene Scafaria. USA, 2013. IMDb: 7.2. My rating: 4/4. A metaphysical jazz-like improvisation about your inner self and your choices, wrapped into a relationship drama and disguised as a science fiction puzzle.

– And then, he took me to some lawyer bar.
– A lawyer bar?
– Yeah. A lawyer bar, kind of. I don’t know. Everybody there seemed like a lawyer. I felt like I was the only person without a tie.
– Well, maybe we should get you a tie for emergencies.
– Yeah, wardrobe emergencies.
(a dialogue between Em and Kevin)

20170417_132232It’s surprising to see how easily “Coherence” operates on a multitude of layers. Apparently, it’s a mature and delicate observation of what happens when a group of seemingly adult people and old friends gather for a dinner (check out great psychological theatre-like movies like “Carnage”, “Little White Lies”, “Perfect Strangers”). Then it easily turns into a science fiction thriller in a minimal setting (“Moon“, “Resolution“), that soon becomes quite disturbing. Even when you understand what is happening, the film won’t calm down and stop there, but bring its premise further and further. Thirdly, it’s a mind-bending puzzle that almost causes a brain fracture – lots of other sci-fi will seem like a relaxing stroll on a beach after the labyrinths you immerse 20170417_132056in here. Like “Primer“, the film gained a huge notoriety between all kind of geeks because of its riddles. But while “Primer” was a film about nerds and brainiacs for nerds and brainiacs, “Coherence” could be easily appreciated by everybody.

But what makes me really praise it is that finally, all these things blend naturally to bring the viewer to a different kind of reflection – on almost metaphysical level. Whether to see it in that way, is your choice. “Coherence” works well on any of its layers, no matter how deep (or not deep) you want to go. Continue reading

Kin-Dza-Dza!

Director: Georgiy Daneliya. Starring: Evgeny Leonov, Yuri Yakovlev, Stanislav Lyubshin, Levan Gabriadze. USSR, 1986. Imbd: 8.2. My rating: 4/4. Absurd surreal dystopian sci-fi kin-dza-dzacomedy.

– Patzak! Where is your muzzle? Mister PG ordered – all patzaks should wear a muzzle. And
be joyful.
(Uef speaking to Violinist)

– When the society does not have a pants colour differentiation, it does not have the aim. But when it does not have an aim…
(Bee’s monologue)

20170320_014956Wanna see some truly unorthodox and brilliant sci-fi? Ever heard of “Kin-dza-dza!”? Probably you wouldn’t expect this from a Soviet science fiction, but it is actually a black absurdist comedy set on a faraway planet. It’s hilarious, weird and sad parody on both capitalist and communist societies. Continue reading

High-Rise

Director: Ben Wheatley. With: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Siena Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss. UK, 2015. IMDB: 5.7. My rating: 2/4. Psychodelic decadence kaleidoscope of a class conflict in one building.

highrise

– You know, Toby, when I was your age, I was always covered in something. Mud, jam, failure…
(one of the main characters)

– Do you want an autograph?
– I am actually searching for Riesling.
(dialogue between Hiddleston’s character and a famous actress)

– Keep the change!
– There is no change.
(dialogue between Hiddleston’s character and a shop assistant)

20170317_221720High-Rise” is based on the 1975 novel of the same name of J. G. Ballard. So maybe some of you have some idea of what to expect. I didn’t. The story is about a luxury tower building projected by a talented architect Royal (wonderful Jeremy Irons). It is fully functional and has everything necessary for its inhabitants, even a gym and a supermarket. A young psychologist (Tom Hiddleston with a very aristocratically sad face) has just moved in. However, soon the tension starts to rise between common families living on lower floors and an elite class living higher.

20170317_190118

It is an extremely cold-blooded movie. With all the atrocity, sex and schizophrenia that we20170317_221637 see, it leaves however no place for the compassion. There is too much of everything – too many characters that change each other too quickly, too much craziness that may appeal first but then falls into a self-repeating decay, too many straight-forward metaphores (for example, the surname of most important person in the tower is Royal). It starts pretty intriguing but soon, just as during the scene where Hiddleston’s character with no emotions is operating on a human skull in his laboratory, the director Ben Whitley tries to use same cold approach 20170317_221118on the novel’s metaphore about capitalism and social classes. From being just hectic and nervous, the movie becomes simply shizophrenic with the feeling of “let’s see what’s inside of this skull”. There’s some good satire and irony here, but it’s spread for almost 2 hours that feel infinitely long.

20170317_220853As the story goes on and the bloody revolution actually happens, it’s easy to lose track, like if the movie didn’t know in which direction move next. The photography is beautiful and the acting surprisingly is really very sturdy, balancing on the edge of excess (Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Elisabeth Moss, Siena Miller, Luke Ewans and many others – all did a good job!). Still, I couldn’t refrain from the feeling that instead of being means to express something, the redundancy and craziness became the aim, like here they were created just for the sake of it. It’s like fighting for freedom not because you want freedom but because you like to fight.

20170317_221039
High-Rise” is beautifully shot. Most scenes and just any random frame could be easily converted in great photograph or even poster. You get this feeling easily – just have a look at the trailer. But as I said before, our eye can be tricked with ease and it gets used quickly to the excess on the screen.

Worth watching? Decide by yourself. In first place, it would be honest to pay tribute to the20170317_185711 director – “High-Rise” is stunning visually and all actors are great. But that’s it. It’s not a bad movie, but it feels just… somehow unnecessary. “High-Rise” drowns in excess, just like the elite class it’s deriding. If you want to examine an ant hill that is put on fire, then go for it. Still, with a source like here it could have become something bigger, but it seems that this was more of a cool-looking exercise for Ben Wheatley without examining deeply what the story is really about.

The Lobster

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos. With: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C Reilley, Ben Whishaw, Lèa Seydoux, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed. Ireland, UK, Greece, France, Netherlands, 2015. IMDB: 7.1. My rating 4/4. Black weird absurdist tragicomedy set in dystopian future.

 Now have you thought of what animal you’d like to be if you end up alone?lobster
 Yes. A lobster.
 Why a lobster?
 Because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much.
(dialogue between Hotel manager and David)

– Can I come to your room sometime for a chat? I could give you a blowjob. Or you could just fuck me. I always swallow after fellatio and I’ve got absolutely no problem with anal sex if that’s your thing. My ex-husband always used to say I had the most beautiful thighs he’d ever seen, but let’s not talk about him.
(Biscuit Woman to David)

Yorgos Lanthimos likes to bring it to the extreme. In Dogtooth (2009) it was a family, now it 20170223_194523is the whole society. Or at least some imaginary city or country. We don’t know. He depicts a world in which single people have only 45 days to find a partner and are put in a special hotel facility. As this term expires, they will be turned into an animal they chooses. Welcome to the strange worl20170223_194143d of Lobster. There’s a lot to explore. It is the first movie Lanthimos made in English. With the budget of $4 million it grossed about $14 millions and received a whole bunch of awards. The scenario was co-written by Lanthimos’ long-time collaborator Efthymis Filippou. Continue reading

The Congress

Director: Ari Forman. Starring: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, John Hamm, Danny Huston, Kodi Smit-McPhee. France-Israel-Belgium-Poland-Luxembourg-Germany, 2013. IMDB: 6.5. My rating: 3/4. Trippy reflection about the modern world and cinema.

– Ralph, it’s dark in here or is it just in my mind?
– Everything is in our mind. If you see the dark, then you chose the dark.
(Robin Wright to a robot-bellboy)

– We at Miramount, want to… want to scan you. All of you – your body, your face, your emotion, your laughter, your tears, your climaxing, your happiness, your depressions, your… fears, longings. We want to sample you, we want to preserve you, we want… all this, this… this thing, this thing called…”Robin Wright”.
– What will you do with this… thing ? That you call Robin Wright?
– We’ll do all the things that your Robin Wright wouldn’t do.
(conversation between Jeff and Robin Wright)

Very confusing movie indeed. Both in terms of the story and structure. But I am not sure whether it would be a flaw in this case. By the way, in this review you will find more and bigger screenshots than normally. It’s worth seeing them, trust me.
Continue reading