FlixChatter Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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Talk about a “sequel” that no one saw it coming huh? I don’t believe anyone except the filmmakers and studio folks knew that this movie even existed before the trailer was shown a couple of months ago. A sort of “blood relative” to the 2008 found footage Cloverfield, this new movie is more of a Twilight Zone episode and it’s 10 times better than the original “movie” (both are produced by JJ Abrams).

A young woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) decided to leave her boyfriend and while on the road, she got a call from him. But as she was about to answer the phone, she got in a car accident. Hours later she woke up and handcuffed to the wall and had nothing on by her underwear. A mysterious man named Howard (John Goodman) said he rescued her and brought her to his secret underground shelter. He told her that there’s been an attack and many people have died. If she wants to stay alive, she needs to follow his orders. Later she meets another man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) who she thought was Howard’s prisoner but Emmett said he fought to get inside the shelter.

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The whole movie is about these three characters interacting with one another and if I can’t really say much without giving away spoilers. The performances by the actors were quite good, especially Goodman. You don’t really know if he’s telling the truth or he’s just crazy. Gallagher provided the humor but deep down he’s a beaten man who has regrets about his life choices. But the movie belongs to Winstead. Unlike many of the female leads in other thrillers, her character is smart and always on guard about her surroundings. She never trusted Howard and when it’s time to take action, she’s the one in charge.

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Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, the movie felt like a very good episode of The Twilight Zone. Trachtenberg was able to create some tight tension moments and keep all of his actors on their toes. Since this is his first feature, I thought he did an impressive job. But like many young filmmakers, he couldn’t resist the use of hand-held shaky cam on some scenes. I don’t know if it’s being taught in film schools regularly or what, but it needs to stop.

Despite the good performances and tight direction, the movie’s finale was sort of a letdown for me. I wouldn’t go into it but I thought the writers should have come up with a better way to show the audience of what really happened to the world. That said, this is a good thriller and you don’t need to see Cloverfield to enjoy this one.

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Have you seen 10 Cloverfield Lane? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter [Guest] Review: Dark Places (2015)

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After a tragedy occurs, what happens next? When a child loses their whole family to darkness and death, where do they go from there? When a teenager is accused of an atrocity they didn’t commit and is sentenced to life in a prison cell, what kind of person will they become? When a stranger knocks on the door with the idea to set the story straight, what kind of truth will they demand be acknowledged?

Dark Places (available on demand now via DirecTV, and in theaters on 8/7) is the second film to be made based on a bestselling novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Charlize Theron plays Libby Day, a woman who has locked herself away from the world after the majority of her family was brutally murdered one night when she was very young. Her testimony helped put her brother behind bars, and since then she’s lived off the monetary kindness of others and by selling her story to the highest bidder. But now the money has run out and her only financial assistance is coming from a group of would-be detectives who think there is more to the murder of her mother and two older sisters than was previously known. Libby agrees to work with the group, at first hesitantly and later because of her own desire to know the truth. What really happened that night long ago when she lost everyone she loved?

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Like Gone Girl before it, Dark Places is a twisty thriller that showcases multiple sides to the story. Libby was just a little girl when she witnessed the murder of her family and her memory of that night is spotty at best. She knows she had a mother and sisters and a brother and that in the middle of the night she woke to find most of them dead and what appeared to be her brother responsible. But she was not the only one in the house that night. Her brother remembers his own side of the story, which involves sex and drugs and Satan and a desperate need to do the right thing for the girl he was in love with. And the film also shows, through flashbacks, the side of Libby Day’s mother – a woman with four children and no money to support them, a farm that was worthless, and a town demanding blood after her son was accused of a terrible crime. To solve the great mystery of the film, Libby has to follow the trail of all three stories and see the truth where they converge.

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Unfortunately, unlike Gone Girl, Dark Places fails to truly take viewers along for the emotional ride it wants them to experience. Though Charlize Theron is an extremely talented actress and plays prickly, angry, closed-off Libby Day to the best of her ability, there is very little to like or relate to in the main character. She’s a beautiful woman leading an ugly life who gets dragged into a mystery for selfish reasons and stays because she can’t seem to help herself. She is surrounded by two-dimensional characters (including Lyle, played by Nicholas Hoult who recently starred alongside Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road) who do little to enrich the story and who really seem superfluous the plot most times. And the ending, while surprising in some elements, feels forced and contrived in others.

Overall this film leaves you feeling like there should be MORE. More story, more character development, more time figuring things out and revealing the truth of the central mystery. Which is surprising considering how much voice-over and exposition there is to deal with. Every moment of explanation feels forced, as if filmmaker Gilles Paquet-Brenner is desperate to cram as much back story as possible down your throat. But without likable characters or a proper build-up to suspenseful moments and the big murder mystery reveal, Dark Places falls short of taking viewers on the dark journey it intends.

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Brittni Williams is a freelance writer and blogger from the Midwest. After finishing up school in Arizona, she picked up and moved to Chicago where she currently resides with her cat, Pockets. She primarily covers entertainment topics and the occasional DIY piece. Her interests include playing tennis, traveling, and scouring the city for the best tacos. Find her on Twitter @brittni303


Have you seen Dark Places? Let us know what you think!

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