[NOTE: I may “spoil” some details about the movie. At the same time, that’s a risk of reading reviews to begin with. There, I said it]
Every once in a while, one sees a film which is hard to either condemn or praise. Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report is one such creation. Released in 2013 and certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, the film is about an obviously ill-fated trip to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In fact, it seems any such trip would be a harrowing journey, and tough to return from. One would be headed to Jupiter, after all. Nevertheless, Europa Report will likely keep a viewer’s interest, if they’re into films about space journeys where things go wrong. Otherwise they may struggle with it.
While this has some vague aspects of a sci-fi horror movie, it’s very much a soft-pedaled thriller. There is tension, and one may care for the characters (unlike many straight up horror films where, frankly, you might be glad when some characters go). The result is that Europa Report has more muted drama tension than thrills.
It should come with a fair warning, though: You will not want to watch this film if you are tired, as it is not exactly a fast-paced thrill ride. It’s not a tedious movie, either, but one should be in a certain mindset to appreciate it. There are more daunting situations than haunting ones. It’s about sacrifice more than some endless array of action and horror tropes.
Is it a Monster Movie? Just Ask the Blair Witch
A basic premise of Europa Report is that they are seeking intelligent, alien life, and it may be hostile. However, this movie plays it really subtle. Even as the characters are in panicky situations, they try to be as calm as possible (just as they would be trained). Really, the point isn’t that there’s some fierce presence looming at all times.
It’s sort of the Blair Witch style anticipation, and the feeling of being in a tight situation. This is, in a way, another slight homage to that great (and often hated) ’90s film. Just like with The Blair Witch Project, there are suggestions of a possible menace, but much of Europa Report is about that feeling of being lost, or in a situation far bigger than ourselves.
Okay, So Who’s In It?
Embeth Davidtz is Dr. Unger, or the primary narrator. Horror fans might know her from Army of Darkness. Specifically, she’s the lady Ash says “Give me some sugar baby” to. Also, fans of Dexter‘s first season will recognize Christian Camargo as Daniel Luxembourg. Obviously, Camargo played Dexter’s brother, or the Ice Truck Killer. Here he is not a maniac, but an intrepid hero-type hoping to inspire faith in humanity’s ingenuity.
Of course, there’s a sense that, even if we do discover sentient (or intelligent) life, it might not make that much difference. After all, we have intelligence, but just look at what we’re doing with it (it isn’t all good, folks). Also, are we all going to Jupiter’s moon in the future? Is that part of the plan? Not sure. Anyway, Europa Report also features Anamaria Marinca as Rosa Dasque, Daniel Wu as William Xu, Sharlto Copley as James Corrigan, and a few others (including a surprise appearance by Neil deGrasse Tyson, in archival footage form).
Final Thoughts on Europa Report
I like “Europa Report” mostly because it doens’t try to do anything special. At the same time, that’s probably a mark against it (oddly enough). It’s one of the weird struggles of artists anywhere. You want to essentially be yourself in the vision you present, yet you still must cater to an audience. This film, while well done, could have maybe benefited from more conventional, blockbuster-style action.
I actually hate typing those words, yet nevertheless honestly feel that way. It seems like it could have been more epic in scope somehow, and maybe should have had a less restrained, less somber tone. Again, I feel like a real jerk for saying it, but there it is. It honestly seems like more could have been done with it It’s by no means a bad movie, and I’ll probably even watch it again at some point to see if I missed something. Nevertheless, I doubt this will be most people’s favorite, even among space movie fans.
What are your thoughts on Europa Report? Have you ever fought a space octopus? Let us know in the comments!
Movies n TV
You Reap What You Woe
Episode five of Tim Burton’s Wednesday was very busy. A lot is going on here, and most of it is quite fun. So let’s not waste any time getting into it.
First, we must discuss the fate of poor Eugene. If you’ll recall, the last episode ended with Wednesday finding him in the woods, covered in blood.
Despite Principal Weem’s insistence that he’s resting up and healing, he’s actually in a coma in the local ICU. But maybe she has reason to gloss over that unfortunate fact. It’s parents’ weekend, after all. Probably not the best time to admit that a student was grievously injured.
While there are certainly some Nevermore students who are happy to see their parents, none of our main characters are among them. We know that Wednesday isn’t thrilled to see her family, as she’s still resentful that they left her there.
Still, she’s not exactly pleased when Gomez is arrested for the murder of a man named Garrett. This devastates the family and forces Morticia to reveal a secret she’s been keeping from Wednesday.
Morticia also finally gets a chance to talk about Wednesday’s visions with her. She tells her that Goody Addams, who’s made psychic contact with Wednesday several times, is there to teach her about her visions. But Goody Addams is also super vengeful, and not to be trusted. I wonder why.
While much of the episode is about freeing Gomez from jail, the subplots are no less interesting.
Let’s start with Enid. As we know from the first episode, she has yet to grow into her full werewolf potential. If she can’t do this, she’ll be shunned by her kind and likely abandoned by her family pack. Her mother wants to help her, by sending her to a summer camp meant to help werewolves wolf out. Enid refers to these as conversion therapy camps. Which is clearly a problem.
The story that shook me was Bianca. She’s outright afraid when her mother shows up. And the reason is soon made clear.
Her mother is part of a cult called the Morning Song. Bianca’s mother is married to the leader. She’s been using her siren song to trap people in the cult. But her powers are fading. She wants Bianca to come take her place. If she doesn’t, she’ll reveal a terrible secret of how Bianca got into Nevermore Academy in the first place.
I honestly don’t have a lot of bad things to say about this episode. Except that wolf out is a ridiculous term and I cannot take anyone who uses it seriously at all. The characters were fun, the storyline was interesting, and it was satisfying to start getting answers. It helped that this episode included some real-world bad guys, like conversion therapy and cults. If every other episode of this season had been as good as this one, the show would be top marks from me all around.
This episode was a dramatic example of exactly how parents can fail at their job of raising their kids. And, thankfully, how they can succeed. We see Enid’s mom refusing to let her grow at her own pace. We see Sheriff Galpin ignore a clear cry for help from his son Tyler. We see Bianca’s mother, involved in a cult, using her child for her siren powers. And of course, we don’t see Xavier’s parents at all.
But we also see Morticia being a good mom to a difficult kid who’s rebelling against her. We see Enid’s father supporting her, exactly as she is. We see Eugene’s moms by his side at the hospital. At the bedside of their son, they are still able to give comfort to Wednesday. That is some strength right there.
Overall, this was a fun episode. We got some answers and were introduced to even more questions. I had fun watching it, and I’m looking forward to the next episode.
(4 / 5)
Movies n TV
Solace, a Film Review
Solace (2015) is a mystery thriller directed by Afonso Poyart. This R-rated film stars Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Morgan and Abbie Cornish.
Solace (2015) is a mystery thriller directed by Afonso Poyart. This R-rated film includes Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish, and Colin Farrell. As of this review, it is currently available to Netflix and Hulu subscribers.
As a string of murders leave FBI agents Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish) perplexed, Joe turns to an old FBI contact and friend, Dr. John Clancy. Dr. Clancy possesses psychic abilities that make him an essential asset, but tragedies in his personal life leave him distant and broken. Fearing a person with similar gifts as himself, Dr. Clancy cannot help but lend his assistance.
What I Like
This cast is great, with notable legends living up to their reputation. While by no means career-highlighting performances, they work well together and provide a weight that pushes past lackluster character roles.
As the main character, Anthony Hopkins’s Dr. Clancy stands out above the rest. Given the most screen time and plot relevance, this opinion comes easily. His role has the most opportunity to make us care for his character.
Solace creates fun and engaging scenes that tie directly to the characters’ psychic abilities, adding tension in unique ways. While other movies with psychics utilize similar strategies to convey this power–the movie Next comes to mind–the scenes add variety to otherwise lackluster cinematography. This decision also adds a somewhat strategic nature to the psychic battles.
Originally intended to be a sequel to Seven, this idea, thankfully, does not follow through to the final product. The story behind that is the typical Hollywood shuffle and brand recognition. I can’t exactly figure out a place to put this interesting fact, but the choice remains a benefit to the film.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Slight spoilers ahead! Read this section with that in mind.
A closeted man contracts AIDS and infects his wife. As this goes into rather old homophobia and fears, I felt it needed mentioning. Considering the film’s release date, 2016 (US), the plot point feels uninspired.
Some gratuitous sex scenes tie into the above reveal. The dramatic reveal and voyeuristic nudity (of the wife) make for an odd viewing experience. When the reveal isn’t shocking, it doesn’t exactly add much weight to the elongated scenes.
What I Dislike
There are no tactful ways to go about the low effort of the film. It’s surreal to see the names attached, the concepts addressed, and how it all fumbles. I imagine this discrepancy has something to do with the original sequel idea, but that remains speculation. Ultimately, the film feels awkwardly low budget for the cast it possesses.
Adding to this weakness are the underdeveloped characters and rushed plotlines. The film feels unfocused in direction, revealing things as they become relevant with fluctuating degrees of foreshadowing. Some of these revelations work, with some speculation, but adding them all together makes Solace weaker as a film.
This film isn’t scary, despite the premise being extremely promising. The idea of a potentially psychic killer does evoke a lot of possibilities, added with the exceptional cast, and it seems destined for success. Yet, the horror is middling at best.
Solace wants to be more and achieves some success in certain areas, but its inability to build and support these ideas hinders the overall quality. Perhaps Solace desires to upstage the twists of the typical mystery thriller that makes the film grasp too many new and interesting ideas. Regardless of the reason, the film suffers, and the viewing experience becomes underwhelming.
For a thriller killer, Solace doesn’t hold much water to competition. While the cast performs their roles perfectly and works well with each other, the notable weaknesses in writing and lackluster visuals don’t do the acting justice. A surprisingly exciting cast becomes a disappointing letdown. (2 / 5)
Movies n TV
Woe What a Night
Episode four of Tim Burton’s Wednesday was one that plenty of people have been talking about. And now that I’ve seen it for myself, I can see why. It was memorable. Just not always in good ways.
We start the episode with Wednesday and Thing breaking into the morgue for clues. They discover that each of the monster’s victims has missing body parts. If you’ll recall, a homeless man was murdered at the end of the last episode.
While investigating, Wednesday finds Xavier’s secret art studio. He’s been drawing and painting the monster over and over. So, at least someone else has seen it.
Of course, Xavier catches her skulking around his studio/abandoned building on school property.
I honestly don’t understand why this school has so many buildings around campus accessible to students without teacher supervision. I wonder what the teen pregnancy rate is at this school.
Cornered, Wednesday invites him to the RaveN dance. This, of course, pisses off Tyler, who has a thing for her. An unrequited thing, might I add.
Not surprisingly, Wednesday doesn’t care about the dance. She cares more about getting information about the monster. She goes to Sheriff Galpin, who does seem to be an ally. At the very least, it seems like the two of them are the only ones taking the literal monster in the woods who is eating people seriously.
They agree to work together, to a point. She brings him concrete evidence of the monster, and he agrees to do a DNA test for her.
Of course, we couldn’t just focus on that. There’s a dance to go to.
If you haven’t seen a single episode yet of Wednesday, you at least know about this goofy dance the title character does in this episode. Everyone was doing it, from morning shows to teenagers on Tik Tok. And it’s fine. It reminds me of some dance scenes in Addams Family Values. It was awkward and a little funny. It wasn’t worth the hype, but it was charming.
Of course, while the kids are dancing, the town kids are planning to prank them. I mean, I guess this is a prank. They pump paint into the sprinkler system and set it off during the dance. Of course, everyone but Wednesday is wearing white.
In the resulting chaos, Wednesday has a vision of Eugene, who went into the woods looking for the monster’s lair. This, of course, is exactly what she told him not to do. She runs out to find him but doesn’t beat the monster there. Strangely, she’s not the only one running around in the woods covered in blood. So is Ms. Thornhill.
Overall, this was a rather cliche and dull episode. But it wasn’t without its moments. One thing I appreciated was Bianca’s response to Xavier at the dance. Even though she was pretty desperate to go to the dance with him, she doesn’t allow herself to be disrespected. I appreciate that. She didn’t take her anger out on Wednesday, either, which was nice. It’s 2023. We don’t need girls being cruel to each other over boys.
I also like Wednesday going to Sheriff Galpin, and him believing her. We did not have to suffer through the cliche of a teen who doesn’t trust the adults around her. Neither did we see the pompous adult who doesn’t listen to the teens when they bring evidence to them. And this was so refreshing. I loved to see it.
Now, let’s talk about what didn’t work here. Specifically, there were too many teenagers with moody, angry brooding moments. Everyone has a crush on everyone else, and nobody is handling it well. Shocker.
I am not entertained by teenage love triangles. Tyler likes Wednesday, who doesn’t care. Bianca likes Xavier who likes Wednesday, who still doesn’t care. It’s an irritating subplot and could have been replaced by any number of good stories. And yes, I understand that this is a kid’s show, intended for kids. Kids deserve smarter subplots. Kids are worthy of smarter subplots. If Disney can realize not every story needs a love component, everyone can.
All in all, this wasn’t a great episode. But it wasn’t terrible. There was way too much focus on dances and teenage relationships. But at least it moved the mystery forward. So there’s hope for the episodes to come. (3 / 5)