Wednesday, March 16, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane and Barney Thomson

                               A Matter of Trust

                                                           Reviews by Ken Burke
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg)
A woman escaping from a relationship is involved in a car wreck, awakens to find herself in an underground bunker with Howard, a survivalist who claims he helped her avoid being killed by some horrible attack, an odd story confirmed by another survivor; together, though, they begin to suspect Howard of some combination of sinister motives and gruesome actions.
What Happens: We watch a young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), quickly pack a suitcase, leave a brief telephone message (as well as an engagement ring and her house keys on a table), then drive away in an ominous pre-opening-credits-scene made all the more sinister by the lack on any audio from within the story, only disconcerting music on the soundtrack.  While she’s on the road she hears a radio report of power outages in Southern coastal cities (as this movie goes on we understand that it takes place in Louisiana), receives a phone call from her fiancé, Ben (voice of Bradley Cooper), but doesn’t respond to his pleas not to leave over a simple argument, finally hanging up on him just before an unexpected, frightening crash knocks her car off the highway, then we’re left in darkness.  When a new scene opens she’s regaining consciousness, finding herself in a small room that locks from the outside like a prison cell, furnished only with the mattress she’s lying on; further, she’s got an IV in her left arm, a leg brace around her right thigh, and a chain on the brace handcuffed to a pipe on the wall by her mattress.  She finally manages to retrieve her purse, only to find her phone has no service, so she’s trapped until her captor, Howard Stambler (John Goodman), noisily comes to her room, tells her he found her after the crash, saved her life, and expects some gratitude (rather than the desperate, frightened responses she’s giving him).  Ultimately, he gives her a key to unlock her restraint, prevents her from later attacking him with a spike she’s carved into one of her crutches, tells her there’s been a big attack (from either the Russians or the Martians, he speculates) leaving the outside environment contaminated, from which they’re safe in a bunker under his farmhouse near Lake Charles; he also tells her there’s another guy with them, Emmett DeWitt (John Gallager Jr.), who enters the story a bit later (with his left arm in a sling), explaining to Michelle that he helped ultra-survivalist-Howard build this shelter, then forced his way into it when he saw a huge red explosion.  Howard says there’s no one else out there to help (he gets no signal on his CB radio), so they’ll just have to stay in his well-stocked, air-filtered, water-supplied bunker for a couple of years.

 Initially, Michelle’s determined to escape, grabbing Howard’s keys at one point, racing up the stairs, then hesitating to unlock the final outer door because she’s suddenly confronted by a bloodied neighbor outside demanding entry.  Eventually the 3 evacuees settle into a routine of preparing meals, putting puzzles together, playing games, but all the while Michelle and Emmett aren’t sure what they’re dealing with regarding Howard, who’s easily agitated, unpredictable, demanding, tense, constantly impressing on them how thankful they should be that he’s saved them.  They also learn of his love for his daughter, Megan, taken by her mother to Chicago (she must have been at least a teenager by that time in that her clothes, offered by Howard, fit Michelle comfortably).  One day, the air-filtration-system malfunctions so Michelle has to crawl through the ducts (she’s the only one who can fit) to reach and restart the power source; while there, though, she finds a ladder to the outside (blocked by a padlocked skylight) on which “HELP” has been scratched from the inside (backwards, to read properly from outdoors) by an earring Michelle sees on the floor.  Later, Michelle and Emmett confer, see the earring on a girl (looks barely teenage to me) in a photo with Howard (earlier identified as Megan by Howard to Michelle), but Emmett says this is another girl, Brittany, who disappeared from the local high school a couple of years ago (in an additional strange turn at another time, the 3 play a Password-type-game where the clue from Emmett is “Michelle is a _____,” but Howard can only come up with “child” or “Little Princess”-type words rather than the obvious “woman,” so his “guests” are further freaked out about their “host”).

 Working with a shower curtain, duct tape, etc. Michelle and Emmett try to construct a hazmat-type-suit for a plan where they overpower Howard, then one of them will venture outside for help. However, he’s on to them, threatening injury with a vat of perchloric acid, so Emmett tries to take the blame only to be shot pointblank in the head.  Everything continues in a frantic pace to the end from that point, with Michelle donning the survival-suit, partially wounding Howard by tipping over the acid barrel (which also starts a fire), escaping to the outside (before the bunker blows up) where she realizes that the air is breathable, all giving us reason to assume that Howard was just evilly-insane (Emmett said he had “a black belt in conspiracy theories”) only to suddenly find he was right as she sees a UFO flying by, then has to flee from some sort of hideous alien (about the size of a sheepdog, but more like a giant worm with teeth).  In an attempt to avoid both her grotesque pursuer and lethal gas emitted from the UFO (which might have been the cause of death for that frantic neighbor, so Howard was right about that as well, although it seems to be only a temporary contaminant rather than something permanently poisoning our atmosphere) Michelle takes refuge in an old pickup truck (her car’s long gone; Howard’s is there, with the evidence on it of
how he’s the one who rammed into her—supposedly as an accident because he was rushing home when the attack started—but she has no keys for it) the alien plops onto her windshield but then the entire truck is lifted up into the UFO (seemingly by tentacles, so maybe the ship is part of a larger machine-organism that the smaller alien is an ambulatory version of); however, as a vicious mouth on the bottom of the ship is ready to bite into the truck as well as our determined survivor she tosses a quickly-fashioned-Molotov cocktail (from ingredients found conveniently laying in the truck’s interior) into the beast, with the ensuing explosion blowing up the ship while Michelle survives the truck’s short drop back to Earth.  Locating keys on the dead neighbor, Michelle drives away in her car, finally hearing a radio broadcast that human forces are now winning against these invading aliens with a safe zone now in place from north of Baton Rouge; however, there’s still need in somewhat-nearby-Houston for those with medical or military experience to help finalize the battle and treat the wounded there.  She, again conveniently, comes to a crossroads where one sign points to Baton Rouge, the other to Houston; emboldened by her recent victories over Howard and the creatures she turns toward Houston as the final credits roll.

So What? The grim content of 10 Cloverfield Lane, as has been noted by co-producer J.J. Abrams (of new Star Trek [2009, 2013; review of the 2nd one in our May 24, 2013 posting] and Star Wars [2015; review in our December 31,2015 posting] episodes’ fame) isn’t a sequel to the previous story elements of Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008; also co-produced by Abrams)—which was presented as a 1st-person-viewpoint through a camera that lets us see the chaos of a giant monster attacking NYC through supposed-later-found-footage as the city’s rebuilding itself (with Central Park now known as Cloverfield)—but instead is a “spiritual successor” to that earlier-alien-invasion-tale, with no information yet on our side of the screen if these monster attacks are part of some outer-space-coordinated-effort or are just separate stories told in a manner intended to keep us in the dark for a good bit of the movies’ running times as to exactly what’s going on in their narratives.  Despite the lack of direct connection between these Abrams-alien-invasion-vehicles (maybe it’s not appropriate to give the much-more-famous-producer the “star” credit here, rather than his directors, but, as was the case back in 1982 with Poltergeist [Tobe Hooper], it’s hard to not assume that such a strong creative force [Steven Spielberg in the case of this older movie] in the cinematic world doesn’t have a major influence when something connected to him in such a prominent role gets on screen, in the same way that 2 of the 1st 6 Star Wars releases [The Empire Strikes Back {Irvin Kershner, 1980}, Return of the Jedi {Richard Marquand, 1983}] weren’t directed by George Lucas but it’s impossible to think that he didn’t have a major presence in how these stories were conceived, written, filmed, and post-produced—however, when you put Lucas and Spielberg together respectively as story originator/ executive producer and director of the Indiana Jones movies [1981, 1984, 1989, 2008—and another to come in 2019]—I’ll leave it up to someone else to decide who contributed what), they both do an excellent job of keeping the audiences in constant tension as to how close our protagonists are to extinction from monsters, either extraterrestrial or just mentally-unbalanced.

 The ambiguity about Howard is what fuels the highly-effective-aspects of the first ¾ of this movie's constantly-unnerving-presence, as we have good reason to believe that Howard’s either gone off the deep end in imagining this attack (verified by the clean air that Michelle discovers upon her escape from the bunker) or that he’s really just using this whole traumatic-catastrophe-scenario as a ruse to have captured Michelle, for what devious intentions we can’t be fully sure (What did happen to Brittany?  Did she finally end up in that all-consuming-acid, as did Emmett’s corpse?  Howard talks of the 3 of them functioning as a reasonably-normal-family, so is he just trying to capture another “daughter” while tolerating—for whatever reason—the intrusion of Emmett whom he could easily have killed [he’s injured throughout our story] before Michelle even regained consciousness?).  Whatever his motives or mental state, Howard’s a dangerously-complex-man who constantly gives us reason to assume a motivation on his part, then reconsider it as new evidence arises, then wonder if we weren’t right the first time, although it’s clear that something killed the 2 dead animals just outside the bunker door that Michelle sees upon her 1st escape attempt just as something vicious has happened to that desperate neighbor, verified by Emmett’s testimony coming from a guy who seems to have no
ulterior motives at all, even to the point of making no romantic moves on Michelle despite both of them now convinced that Ben’s no longer in the picture, no matter what the reason might be for his sudden disappearance.  Between Howard’s quick temper, the eggshell-unease that Michelle and Emmett attempt to hide as the "daughter"-complication arises, and the loud, occasional noises that they hear outside (which Michelle anxiously hopes mean some sort of help from their dilemma while Howard says it’s proof of the invaders’ presence), we’re given a constant helping of at-times-contradictory-clues that keep us guessing, on edge, confused as to where this story’s headed which makes it an enthralling adventure that could veer into resolution as Outer-Space-Sci-Fi or Psychological Horror—what are we experiencing here, a replay of Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996) or Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)?  Or maybe it’s cut-rate-current-Oscar-allusions with aspects of Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015; review in our November 5, 2015 posting) collaged with The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015; review in our October 8, 2015 posting)?

Bottom Line Final Comments: After all of that great build-up, though, what we’re left with in the active-but-increasingly-expected-turn-of-events in the finale is a bit of a mashup after all, combining prominent aspects of the properly-aforementioned Independence Day 
(where a carefully-directed-explosive brings down a threatening alien ship—an ending which itself far too easily evokes the destruction of the Empire’s deadly Death Stars in both the original Star Wars [title now expanded to Episode IV—A New Beginning {Lucas, 1977}] and Return of the Jedi) plus Signs (M. Night Shyamalan, 2002) where there are mysterious occurrences on a farm that do indeed result in an alien intrusion (with that creature eventually felled by water, harking further back to the death of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz [Victor Fleming, 1939]).  All of this activity in 10 Cloverfield Lane’s final ¼ is exciting, perilous for Michelle (effectively keeping our attention in the process), and a great stirring together of everything we’ve been encouraged to think/feel previously in this narrative in terms of fears about what Howard’s true motives are (Why does he chain Michelle in her cell when she’s unconscious yet not do it again after she’s tried to attack him or attempted an escape?), verification that just because he’s paranoid about a monumental disaster doesn’t mean that he’s completely crazy (Or does it?), and ongoing proof that whatever drove Michelle away from Ben in what must have been a fierce lovers’ quarrel doesn’t mean that she’s fragile or overwhelmed by circumstances because as the horrifying-challenges continue to mount she proves herself increasingly capable of meeting them.

 However, despite the overall effectiveness of the elements of mystery, suspense, and confusion being so cleverly woven together for most of 10 Cloverfield Lane, I can’t help but feel that the combination of so many plot strategies gets a bit fragmented at times, as we’re led in too many different directions that don’t resolve themselves in the final accounting although they prove impactful in scene-by-isolated-scene as we go along.  I realize that Trachtenberg (working from a script by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle—along with how much input from Abrams I have no idea) isn’t trying to produce a confusion-in-progress-with-sufficient-wrap-up-explanation in the mode of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie stories, Perry Mason, and Jessica Fletcher, with an intention of keeping a lot of things vague so that we’ll have plenty to talk about afterward while Michelle’s on her way to further adventures in Houston, but all of these exquisite individual pieces just leave too much unanswered about the coherence of the plot elements that we’ve just witnessed—Why was Michelle chained at first but not later? Did Megan simply go to Chicago with her mother a few years ago?  Was there a Megan at all?  What happened to Brittany?  Did Michelle end up in this bunker (prison?) by accident or design?  Was Howard constantly shifting in personality from benign to deranged or what other reason did he have for accepting Emmett’s presence in the shelter?  Are we supposed to just flow along with the easy parallels toward the end with other movies I’ve mentioned or was this the most convenient way to show Michelle’s evolution into a newly-emerged-road-warrior now ready to take on any obstacle that might come her way?  (For that matter, does she now believe that Ben and just about everyone else south of Baton Rouge has been wiped out or is she ready for a new life no matter what might remain of the previous one?)

 You can get replies to some of the questions I’m raising here—but not many of them—in this short interview with Trachtenberg, but most of what I’m curious about (Including the use of Frankie Avalon crooning his 1959 hit, “Venus,” on the soundtrack when we initially find Michelle in her bleak cell; is this some indication—even a false one just to throw us off-trackabout why Howard’s brought this attractive young woman to be held captive in his alternative home or is it meant to be a seemingly-random-tune in the air from Howard’s massive jukebox farther away in the “entertainment” sector of the bunker?) isn’t going to be answered, at least for now and maybe never unless yet-another-Cloverfield-episode might emerge in the future giving more context to these annoying alien interferences with normal American life, above and below ground (at least we finally find out the meaning of the title as Michelle zooms away at the end, knocking over the mailbox/address post of Howard’s house, which, of course is “10 Cloverfield Lane”).  For now, though, I’m throwing my lot in more with the reviewers surveyed by Metacritic (an average score of 76%) rather than the more enthusiastic ones at Rotten Tomatoes (90% positive reviews; more details on both of these sites in the links far below connected to this movie), as I had a lot of tense fun watching it but ultimately think it’s a collection of well-polished-stones that don’t fully unify into
a cohesive necklace of scenes.  However, I’m sure the filmmakers (and many audience members, as this movie scored a healthy $24.7 domestic million box-office-splash on opening weekend) are quite happy with what they’ve got, confidently assuming that “I Think We’re Alone Now” with the fanbase-clamor that will spawn another one of these stories, so just as that song (on the 1967 album of the same name) from Tommy James and the Shondells was another soundtrack-commentary on the state of the movie’s characters (also used to convey that sense of them in the trailer, which you can see as the 2nd link to this movie in the Related Links section far below) I’ll send it to you again as my chosen Musical Metaphor for what summarily speaks to 10 Cloverfield Lane with a video of Tommy and his boys at (made at the song's time of release; the opening of this version’s a bit clumsy but it’s the only option I can find of the group performing rather than just a bunch of stills of them linked to the recording, but if you’d like to see what these ‘60s rockers look like after some aging here they are again at https://www. youtube. com/watch?v=wIeRqPFJvXM—I’m not sure when this live performance was captured for posterity but Tommy’s a few months older than me so it might have been awhile back as he looks pretty good here for 68 [and I’m not talking about the long-ago-decade when this hit record came out]).
                           Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle, 2015)
This obscure Scottish farce is hilarious (as long as you have a warped sense of humor) as we watch a middle-aged-washed-out-barber suddenly become confused with a serial killer stalking Glasgow simply because he accidently kills one of his co-workers, then finds that his mother’s chopped up the body and stored it in her freezer; from there, it all gets even crazier.

What Happens: 50-year-old Barney Thomson’s (Robert Carlyle) a barber in the Bridgeton district of Glasgow, Scotland, a depressive little man with little to live for:  His browbeating Mum, Cemolina (Emma Thompson), is always pushing him to do favors for her and her bingo buddies, he has no social life except for his odd magician friend, Charlie (Brian Pettifer), while he’s worked for 20 years at Henderson’s Barbers (originally hired by the owner, James Henderson [James Cosmo]) but has been given his 1-month-notice by Henderson son Wullie (Stephen McCole) because Barney’s combative personality (“like a shitty cloud”) keeps leading to rows with the few customers who’ll actually allow him to cut their hair.  In a parallel story, Detective Inspector Holdall (Ray Winstone) and his partner Detective Sergeant MacPherson (Kevin Guthrie) are under fire from both their boss, Chief Superintendent McManaman (Tom Courtenay), and an aggressive “colleague,” Detective Inspector June Robertson (Ashley Jensen), to make some progress on a baffling case where men keep disappearing only to have a severed body part mailed to their family’s home address from a variety of locations, with the police boss demanding action to soothe the public outcry while Robertson makes belligerent noises to be put in charge of the case.  These plots intersect through Barney’ accidental killing of Wullie (they’re tussling over who’ll get the mop for the slippery shop floor, only to fall down with Barney’s scissors stabbing Wullie); when Barney attempts to drag the trashbag-covered-body to his car boot (that’s “trunk” to you, Yank), Charlie comes along, helps with the lifting, sees a bit of Wullie’s face, leaves.  Barney wants to dump the body in a remote loch (OK, Yank, you’d say “lake”) but instead gives in to to Mum’s insistence that he take her to bingo.  Later that night he stashes the body in her high-rise-flat, but the next day is questioned about Wullie’s disappearance by Holdall who’s suspicious of Barney’s nervous reactions and knows from Wullie’s Da (Yank, it’s just “Dad” without having to say all the letters!) that Barney was set to be fired.

 With Mum now briefly away on a bussed-bingo-tour, Barney goes to retrieve Wullie's body but finds it’s been hacked up into pieces—each one wrapped, labeled, and put away in Mum’s freezer. Back at the barbershop the next day he finds fellow-haircutter-Chris (Martin Compston) also suspicious.  Barney admits Wullie’s death, but then they struggle.  Sure enough, Barney soon has yet another accidental corpse on his hands so he hauls it to Mum’s flat as well, intent on dissecting Chris just like Mum did Wullie but finds he has no stomach for such butchery; however, when mulling over Wullie in the freezer he realizes that there are other body parts in there as well, forcing him to understand that Cemolina’s the serial killer (verified when he realizes that she’s placed ads enticing men to her flat where she kills them, keeps most of their flesh in the freezer but sends a piece to the family on one of her bingo trips, so that we have an early, hilariously ghastly scene [I guess you do have to have a sick mind like mine to truly appreciate this 
film] of these “mailings” [most prominently a pair of buttocks] piled up in the police station).  Wullie finally heads out to the loch to dump Chris’ body (after having to backtrack a bit to buy an inflatable boat), then tries to save himself by incriminating Chris through leaving various victims' frozen body parts in his flat. Meanwhile Holdall’s convinced that Barney’s the full-blown-serial-killer, Robertson laughs at that, Charlie has a falling out with Barney so he snitches on his now-estranged-friend to the cops, leading to Barney being enticed through a phony phone call to return to the loch where 4 cops show up (including Robertson’s partner, Detective Sergeant Sam Jobson [Sam Robertson]), verbally assault each other, then all die in a cross-fire-shootout arguing over who’s going to arrest Barney (meanwhile, Mum’s returned, Barney confronts her at a junk pile [although I forget why that location, it really doesn't matter all that much], she suddenly dies from a hate-spewing-heart-attack, so he just covers her up with the junk).  When the press is through with the story Chris is accepted as the serial murderer, the cops are put into a negative light over completely different situations, Barney’s shop becomes a pop-culture-location because of scandal about Chris, Barney and Charlie agree to restart their friendship, and Da makes Barney head barber.

So What? Barney Thomson (as it’s now being called in the U.S. domestic market [which also includes Canada]; prior to that it was named The Legend of Barney Thomson) just came out last weekend on our side of the Atlantic, although it was released last July in the U.K. and may well have made its way around Europe already so possibly its most likely target audience has already moved on way beyond its existence while those of us north of the Rio Grande may hardly be aware of it yet (if at all) in that Box Office Mojo doesn’t even have it among the top 102 domestic grosses for the weekend of March 11-13, 2016 with fare such as The Peanuts Movie (Steve Martino, 2015; in release for 19 weeks), Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (Panahi, 2015; out for 24 weeks), and Theeb (Naji Abu Nowar, 2015; out for 19 weeks) apparently selling more tickets despite their lengthy time already in the market (hell, #102 was Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art [James Crump] which seemingly made only $112 in just 2 theaters so I’m beginning to wonder if the 4 people I saw Barney … with at the small but grand old Rialto Elmwood in Berkeley, CA are the only ones in northern North America who even saw this crazy movie).  Well, if so we’re 5 lucky folks because this is one hilarious bit of British comedy that soon will likely be accessible only via video, although I highly encourage you to seek it out however you can find it if you have the ability to laugh at dead bodies being hacked up into meat-market-sections and characters—including Cemolina—who say “fuck” or “shite” about every 5th word, easily earning the appropriate R rating once that designation-process is complete (yes, people die in it as well, but most of them are off-camera while the ones we see expire spurt very little blood and there’s no on-screen-dismemberment).  

 I realize that one aspect of British humor that can hinder its cross-Atlantic-acceptance (even beyond the often-bizarre-storylines such as this one) is the difficulty of understanding less-than-aristocratic-accents (even the servants on PBS’ Downton Abbey are more comprehendible than almost anyone in Barney …) but for those of us with such difficulties we blessedly have subtitles here, although those who don’t care to read them in films from Spanish, French, Chinese, etc. speaking-countries might be even more adverse about having to do it with actual-English-speakers.

 I have to admit, though, had it not been for my inquisitive wife, Nina, I probably wouldn’t have seen Barney … either because except for 10 Cloverfield Lane there wasn’t much else around that intrigued me a lot (sorry big-box-office champ Zootopia [Byron Howard, Rich Moore] and other fairly-successful-offerings such as London Has Fallen [Babak Najafi], Whiskey Tango Foxtrot [Glenn Ficarra, John Requa]—although I like the military-alphabet-implications of that title—and The Perfect Match [Bille Woodruff]), but Nina found a listing for Barney …, looked at the trailer, and off we went for some Scottish insanity.  That we found with no trouble as the craziness just kept rolling out, especially with Emma Thompson’s transformation into an ugly, foul-mouthed murderer with no particular motivation beyond possessing a roomy freezer and some butcher knives that would have fit right in for Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 (Quentin Tarantino; 2003, 2004).  This narrative form is one of the oldest in cinema, the Comedy subgenre of Task Accomplishment in which our beleaguered protagonist is not only beset with physical difficulties (like the constantly-put-on-leads in the even-older-format of Man Against the World, as with Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops crashing into walls or splashing into the ocean) but also must work to achieve a desired outcome such as finding a fortune in The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925) or stopping the theft of a stolen locomotive in The General (Buster Keaton, 1926)—with a romantic factor possibly in play also but not necessarily, as there’s no aspect of that in Barney Thomson.  

 The familiarity of this old-school-idiocy is no hindrance to appreciating Barney …, though, as the accumulating absurdities evoke the great complication-structures of another subgenre, Situation Comedies, so well perfected in both the silent and sound eras by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, where the simplest event could continue to grow out of proportion until chaos is the only possible result.  Carlyle manages to capture the spirit of all of those renowned predecessors, as Barney the barber ultimately triumphs due to no ability of his own, just a continuing progression of dumb luck.

Bottom Line Final Comments: However, unlike with 10 Cloverfield Lane, I’m not in sync with either of the most-well-known-critical-collectives because the Tomato Tossers gave Barney Thomson a paltry 63% cluster of positive reviews while the snobs at Metacritic went even lower with an average 59% score, both far below the mathematical equivalent of at least 80% that my 4 of 5 stars indicate (with a hidden subjective possibility of those lofty 4 implying even a higher percentage-number given that I so rarely allow myself to bestow a 4½ or 5 rating on anything [see the Two Guys Summary for more details on those chosen few]; you just have to read into the context of my comments to see whether I’m implying a solid 4—one of the best of the current releases—or an even-more-hearty 4—one that will truly represent to future viewers what top-quality-cinema for the ages is all about [with those elusive higher numbers reserved for items of near-or-absolute-masterpiece-quality]).  I admit there’s nothing sublime nor intellectually-confounding in Barney Thomson, merely one silly scene followed by another, yet with superb writing, delivery, character exaggerations that don’t grow old, even with constant exposure (although the parallel plot lines do allow us to not overdose on the grand extremes of the Thompson and Winstone characters, while stoic-yet-flustered-Carlyle provides us with a marvelous presence in practically every scene without dominating any of them except by his terrified-exasperation).

 As for a Musical Metaphor to cap off my comments on Barney Thomson I’ll turn once again to a song used successfully in the film, Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” (a 1963 hit single from that year’s In Dreams album) at (in appropriate black & white for achromatic Roy whose soaring voice belied his mundane appearance, along with the equally-appropriate 1960s video format of 4 x 3 [like our TVs used to be]) as it’s used on the soundtrack to accompany Barney’s clumsy attempts to dispose of Chris’ body in the remote loch with the great counterpoint-irony of those wistful lyrics: “I feel so bad I’ve got a worried mind I’m so lonesome all the time Since I left my baby behind on Blue Bayou … All those fishing boats with their sails afloat if I could only see That familiar sunrise through sleepy eyes, how happy I’d be.”  In the end, though, Barney's not “Saving nickels, saving dimes, working ‘till the sun don’t shine Looking forward to happier times” because his barbershop is now a media sensation (due to the grotesque association of one of its employees being hacked up by the notorious serial killer and another successfully misidentified as that twisted murderer), so in its own metaphorical manner this story’s end allows Barney to stumble into a situation “Where you sleep all day and the catfish play on Blue Bayou.”  

 My only hesitation with using this song (even though it allows me to once again visit Roy, one of my favorite musicians [and a fellow Texan to boot—so to speak]) is that I’ve used it before which I try not to do so to provide a sense of variety I’ll also offer you Linda Ronstadt’s well-known-hit-version of this soothing song at (from her 1977 Simple Dreams album), which takes us completely away from Barney Thomson—although you shouldn’t do that too long, if you have a taste for this type of twisted humor—but still is a pleasure to listen to as we drift away with “the silver moon and the evening tide” until I come sailing back to you next time.

Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:

We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.  Other overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepageIf you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

Here’s more information about 10 Cloverfield Lane: (4:42 interview with actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead by CBS Late Show’s Stephen Colbert, but they don’t talk all that much about the movie)

Here’s more information about Barney Thomson: (trailer, but with no subtitles like the movie has, so listen carefully if you want to have any idea what anyone’s saying) (3:29 interview with director/actor Robert Carlyle—much more comprehendible in diction to my Yank ears)

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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. I am in the "Like it a lot" camp on 10 Cloverfield, but I saw it without any significant knowledge and subsequently suggested others see it cold so that the clues and misdirections are there for them to experience. This is a candidate for a second viewing to judge the production's honesty. Clearly Abrams wanted it that way. He stated as much on Cobert's Late Night show the week of the premier. The movie had only two months worth of advance billing in order to preserve the unknown. Mary Elizabeth was equally non-committal the following day on the same show.

    Regarding the questions posed:

    1. Why was Michelle chained at first but not later? Goodman's character could have feared she was infected by the Martians or the poisonous atmosphere.

    2.Did Megan simply go to Chicago with her mother a few years ago? Was there a Megan at all? What happened to Brittany? Goodman's character was crazy and still lucid. Happens all the time with mental illness.

    3. Did Michelle end up in this bunker (prison?) by accident or design? Goodman does tell her that he ran her off the road by accident when he was racing back to his bunker after the attack.

    4. Was Howard constantly shifting in personality from benign to deranged or what other reason did he have for accepting Emmett’s presence in the shelter? The mentally ill have moments of sane clarity and he realized it was going to be a long haul by himself. Plus Emmett had helped build the bunker and would therefore be useful.

    5. Are we supposed to just flow along with the easy parallels toward the end with other movies I’ve mentioned or was this the most convenient way to show Michelle’s evolution into a newly-emerged-road-warrior now ready to take on any obstacle that might come her way? Definitely an origin story for Michelle and the whole plot works as if Rod Sterling had wrote it himself.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for the comments and clarifications, to which I reply: 1. Seems reasonable. 2. OK on the mental illness part but I'd still want more precise answers to my questions. 3. Sure, he tells her that, but based on what we see of him should we take much of anything he says at face value? 4. That seems reasonable but if things had worked out with Michelle in the manner that Howard wanted (whatever that was) I still think that Emmett would have presented a problem down the line (which is why I think Howard was so quick to pull the trigger). 5. If you're correct (strong possibility), I'm certainly ready to see more of Michelle's adventures, with even more intense Rod Serling twists.

    Always great to hear from you; thanks for your useful enhancements to this review. Ken

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