10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

clov12016.59: 10 Cloverfield Lane (Amazon VOD)

10 Cloverfield Lane is a very effective thriller, with a taut script and an excellent cast. As its title suggests, it is loosely connected to the original monster movie Cloverfield (just how loosely I won’t go into). Thankfully however this film drops the found-footage stuff and is a wholly more traditional film, and much the better for it.

It also boasts an absolutely wonderful score by Bear McCreary. There is a lot of the feeling of The Twilight Zone watching this film, and much of it stems from McCreary’s Herrmann-esque, evocative score. It immediately places us into a particular sense of mood and place, of a 1950s, 1960s tonal quality, quite non-contemporary. It’s so refreshing to watch a modern film that isn’t saddled with a Hans Zimmer-like score, and it is interesting that this is from McCreary, one of the most exciting talents in television scoring over the past ten years (Battlestar Galactica, Da Vinci’s Demons, The Walking Dead, Outlander etc.).

So anyway, this review is old-hat for many since it’s months since the films theatrical release, so I guess spoilers are ok. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is literally driving away from some unspecified relationship woes when she is run of the road in an accident. She awakens in a strange, spartan room – an IV attached to her arm and a brace on her knee that is, alarmingly, chained to the wall. She’s greeted by her captor, a man named Howard (John Goodman), who claims he’s saved her life. He tells her there has been an apocalyptic event, and that he has brought her to his survival bunker. Immediately there is something ‘off’ about Howard. He describes the event on the surface as an attack; maybe by the Russians, but casually also suggesting it was maybe by the Martians. At any rate, the surface has been rendered uninhabitable, and Howard, MIchelle and his other guest, Emmett (John Gallagher) have no choice but to wait it out – maybe a year or two.

As time passes, Michelle begins to doubt Howard’s version of events, but various things seem to corroborate it- Emmett himself witnessed the beginning of the attack and fought for entry to the shelter, and when Michelle gets a glimpse of the outside world she sees a bloodied, poisoned woman desperately trying to gain entrance herself. Howard is evidently unhinged and his story is crazy, but this is afterall a Cloverfield movie- should Michelle really risk everything to get outside and what will she find if she gets out there?

clov2Winstead is terrific in this. She really deserves better and more substantial roles in future genre films- she’s vulnerable but strong too, with a great physicality to her role that really brings to mind Weaver’s Ripley in Alien. Winstead is that good (but then again, I also thought she was the best thing in that The Thing prequel some years back). Goodman is naturally as dependable as ever, and it’s nice to see some of that old disarming charm of his (remember Always?) with the hints of deranged darkness he brings to his role here.

By the time the film ends and (most) of its secrets revealed in a final twenty-minute flourish, I was left with a desire to see more of these Cloverfield films. They could become a great little franchise of Twilight Zone-like stories. That does however come with one caveat- yet again we see here a JJ Abrams project that really harkens back to older originals than really doing something new and unique. He did it with Super 8, Star Trek, The Force Awakens and here The Twilight Zone- he seems adept at reinventing or reinterpreting old material or classic pieces of mainstream culture for new audiences (the Herrmann-like score by McCreary is surely no accident here, and the claustrophobic setting of the shelter has all the hallmarks of The Twilights Zone‘s adept use of working within its limited television budgets) but where is the really new stuff? Is there really nothing new under the Bad Robot sun?

 

 

Hannibal and Da Vinci’s Demons Renewed

Well, here’s some good news from tv-land; both Hannibal and Da Vinci’s Demons have been renewed for third seasons. These are two of my favourite shows at the moment. Currently I have my Tivo recording both their second seasons for me to watch when the complete seasons are ready (I have the first seasons on Blu-ray which I plan to re-watch prior to each).

Hanniballpic1

Hannibal has suffered from poor ratings since it started (it’s second season renewal was uncertain) but has rightfully enjoyed critical success- thankfully international financing helps covers its costs which makes it easier for NBC to renew it- importantly this also helps avoid network interference with the show. Considering how great Hannibal is, its ratings are odd (if this show was on HBO it would be huge, I’m sure) and I’m frustrated by how it gets lost in the schedules over here in the UK on a fairly minor satellite/cable channel. Nobody I know watches it. It feels like The Wire all over again; I expect word of mouth to ensure healthy DVD/Blu-ray box set sales in years to come. The writing is brilliant and the acting superb; this kind of stuff is better than what we see in movies, frankly. But anyway, a third season is great news and I can relax when eventually watching season two knowing there is more to come (I think the producers intend it to run seven seasons in order to tell the entire Hannibal storyline from the books and movies).

Da Vinci's Demons 2012Da Vinci’s Demons is the real guilty pleasure of these two shows. Its got a thoroughly preposterous premise but nevertheless its a joy to watch- I wasn’t sure for the first few episodes but once I ‘got’ what the show was I settled into it. Its really an adult comicbook, a what-if kind of thing, a flight of fantasy set in a strange sexy  medieval world in which fictional characters like Dracula exist in the same world as dashing hero Da Vinci. It seems to take its cues from conspiracy theories and political/religious intrigues – sort of  Dan Brown but wilder. Thanks to its period setting it looks and feels different to most everything else I see. Yes its daft but great fun. The performances are very good, the scripts imaginative and the production amazing considering its filmed here in the UK.  Its also graced by a terrific, highly ambitious music score by Bear McCreary that is, like his BSG work, a whole additional character in the show. Again, it seems to have a long story-arc in mind across several seasons and in many ways its clearly a harder sell than Hannibal so confirmation of a third season is brilliant news.

So anyway, anyone reading this who hasn’t tried either of these shows- give them a shot, you may be very pleasantly surprised.