Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reviews: Midnight Special, Everybody Wants Some

Jeff Nichols is a rising young writer/director in Hollywood who has received critical acclaim for his earlier films Mud and Take Shelter.  His latest original story is the sci film Midnight Special, a supernatural fable that focuses on a young boy with special abilities and the government's attempt to harness those abilities despite the protective acts of a concerned father.  The film is unique, sounds great, means well but ultimately isn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

Michael Shannon stars as Roy Tomlin, the father of Alton Meyer (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) a boy born to Shannon and his estranged wife Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and adopted and raised on ranch by a colony of farmers.  The film starts with Alton in the care of his father and his father's close friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) who have kidnapped the boy from the ranch in an attempt to get to a critical location by a certain date.  I don't want to get into the fine details of the plot as there are a lot of aspects that are more enjoyable to discover on your own as you watch the movie.  Federal agents and government officials (led by Adam Driver) are trying to find Alton in an attempt to study his abilities.  The effects of Alton's powers are well done.  His eyes light up creepily during key moments in the movie and Nichols does a great job of combining effective musical cues that pair with the on-screen tension.

This film is slow at times and I wish more aspects of Alton's powers were explored.  What saves this movie is the acting overall.  EVERYONE brings their A-game in the acting department.  Dunst and Shannon truly care about their son.  Edgerton and Driver (actually filmed pre-Kylo Ren) are solid as always and Nichols really lucked out in casting a likable young actor in Lieberher.  Similar to Jacob Trombley in Room, Lieberher has to carry a lot of this film and does an admirable job.  He is neither annoying or a burden in any way.

I wanted more out of the ending of this film.  The reveal about the purpose of Alton and what he is meant for is pretty evident, but there are so many questions left unanswered.  The ride itself is worthwhile though and I really would recommend this to any supernatural / sci fi fan.  There are a lot of Close Encounters elements here and it's nice to see an original story about a child with special powers.  I have to give this film 4 out of 5 JRs for a solid thrilling film that means well but doesn't quite deliver in the end.

Everybody Wants Some is Richard Linklater's latest slice-of-life youth portrait which shares a lot of DNA with Dazed and Confused.  In a follow-up to his Oscar nominated Boyhood, Linklater is back to a conventional filming schedule (not shot over 12 years).  This film looks at all aspects of college life in the 1980's with drinking and sex serving as the focal points.  Linklater leans on a cast of no-name actors who all blend into the narrative and are all extremely likable.  Blake Jenner plays Jake who is an incoming freshman at a Texas university who joins the school's baseball team and lives in their off-campus house.

I have to give Linklater some credit in that he is able to make films like this that put you in the era directly with the actors.  You feel as if you are living the carefree college life that you remember from your youth.  I laughed a lot at the whip-smart wise-cracking dialogue throughout but overall I just was underwhelmed.  I'm not a big fan of Dazed and Confused (haven't fully watched it all the way through in fact) and this movie just didn't really speak to me.  I feel like I was just watching a bunch of people hang out for two hours.  And while that is appealing in a way, I wanted a little more in the plot department.

Basically, if you are a fan of Linklater and these types of films, then by all means, run out and watch this movie.  You can cer.  I enjoyed parts of this and can't give it any more than a 3 out of 5 JR rating.  It's good to see Linklater ease back into his sweet spot but I can't help but think he pushed the envelope more in Boyhood and made a much better film with that effort.