Review: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is a Throwback to Classic ’80s Sci-Fi Movies

I was very impressed with writer/director Jeff Nichols' two most recent films, Take Shelter and Mud, so I was slightly torn when I heard he was going to be directing his first studio film. Would this new project retain the qualities that made the aforementioned movies so enjoyable, or would a bigger budget and navigating the complicated landscape of studio filmmaking soften the style I enjoyed so much? Thankfully, Midnight Special is a mostly-satisfying thriller that tells its own story while feeling like a throwback to classic sci-fi movies like Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Starman, and E.T.

Nichols avoids the exposition dump that so often happens in movies like this, instead choosing to drop us into the middle of the action and slowly reveal information about the characters we meet. Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are armed and on the run in a dark motel room with a young boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) in tow. They see a news broadcast about Alton's disappearance which pegs Roy as a kidnapper, but we quickly find out that Roy is actually Alton's biological father, and the boy isn't distressed or bothered by their circumstances. Alton just sits quietly, reading comic books through blue swimming goggles with a flashlight and wearing massive headphones when it's time to sleep. There's something strange about him, but it's not until later that we find out what he's capable of. As for how Roy and Lucas know each other and why Lucas is even there, that isn't revealed until deep into the story, finally sating our curiosity about his motivation.

Meanwhile, the FBI raids a compound called The Ranch, where a cult pastor (Sam Shepard) shares sermons that quote dates and coordinates instead of Bible verses. The cult worships Alton, who lived with them for two years and who possesses some extraordinary abilities that the government is extremely interested to examine more closely. Ranch members and government agents — including NSA communications expert Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) — separately set out to find the boy, with only four days until a mysterious prophesied event that could change the world forever. It's a hell of a hook, and the story gradually reveals information about the backstories of the various characters, including Alton's mom, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), who hooks up with the guys as they head toward a specific set of coordinates in time for the impending event.

Nichols takes his own road trip through the films of Spielberg and Carpenter, tipping his hat to those titans of the genre and deftly incorporating references to their work that don't ever feel annoying or winking. The look of the movie is always filtered through the director's style and sensibilities — the closest he gets to outright homage is one shot of light emanating from a car that's a clear riff on Close Encounters — and Nichols' contemporaries should take notice of the way he captures the feeling of other films without crossing the line of taking nostalgia too far. The story shares similarities to things like Starman and E.T., but there's enough original world-building and mysterious backstory to unravel that you never get too caught up in the nods. There are also a couple of familiar elements from more recent movie history; I was reminded of Rian Johnson's Looper a couple of times when presented with Alton and his abilities, and there's some imagery in the final act that recalls one of last year's failed would-be blockbusters — to say which one would spoil this film, but you'll instantly know it when you see it. But for the most part, this feels very much like a Jeff Nichols movie.

Shannon, ever the ace up Nichols' sleeve, is understated and authentic as Roy, who is super protective and clearly loves his son, but here's one area where the film's tendency toward mystery results in a hazier characterization than it should. We discover that Roy was once part of the Ranch, but we're never sure whether he really believes in Alton as a savior. He's willing to sacrifice everything for him and he talks a lot about the child's importance, but Shannon plays Roy with so much subtlety that we don't get a full read on his personal beliefs; since faith is one of this movie's major themes, this seems like a pretty egregious shortcoming. Dunst and Driver acquit themselves well in utilitarian roles, and surprisingly it's Edgerton that comes out as one of the most fascinating and fully-formed characters.

By the end, the film veers into territory one could describe as "corny," but David Wingo's towering score keeps us grounded in the emotions of the moment. Still, the climax raises so many unanswered questions that, combined with the litany of purposefully murky character backstories, Midnight Special struck me as a movie that's almost aggressively uninterested in providing a tidy conclusion. It's far more concerned with finding emotional truth in its characters than explaining the consequences of Alton's revelation. It's a little off-putting and feels a little disappointing after the whole story builds up to this moment, but I suppose the ending sort of works as a strange sort of reflection of the beginning: it's a story that feels very much like we're only seeing the most important segment of it, where both the inception and the completion happen off screen.

Midnight Special runs out of steam by the end, but for the most part, it's a riveting, enjoyable thriller that further cements Nichols as a talented filmmaker to keep high on your list of must-watch directors.

DEADPOOL Gets a VFX Breakdown Video

Considering that director Tim Miller spent years working in the visual effects industry, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that Deadpool, his feature directorial debut, featured a ton of visual effects shots. Atomic Fiction has released a new video showcasing the highway crash/shootout sequence, and that alone was almost entirely created inside a computer.

It's no secret that I didn't like the movie very much, but it's impressive that Miller and his team were able to get results that looked like this with what was, comparatively speaking, a much smaller budget than many of its superhero movie contemporaries are granted by studios.

Via: io9

Watch: BATMAN AND ROBIN Recut into Christopher Nolan-Style Trailer

Batman and Robin is the agreed-upon low point of the Batman film franchise, but Joel Schumacher's garish sequel at least looks palatable thanks to a recut trailer from YouTuber The Unusual Suspect. He uses the score from The Dark Knight and minimizes Schwarzenegger's terrible puns (I'm sure it was a Herculean task to find moments of the movie in which he isn't making a godawful pun), and the result is...well, I'm not going to say it's good, but it's a lot better than the actual movie turned out to be.

Via: Uproxx

New Trailer and Poster For HIGH-RISE, Starring Tom Hiddleston

Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing sent over this new trailer and poster for Ben Wheatley's newest film High-Rise, and it's another good reminder that this movie looks super interesting. I haven't seen the film yet, so I'm not sure if it gives away any of the story's best moments, but just to be safe, I'd say if you're already intrigued by the premise and the cast — which includes Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Moss, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, and Luke Evans — it might actually be worth skipping this trailer just to be safe. This one seems to put more of an emphasis on the societal allegory than any of the other trailers, and it looks like it could get pretty trippy. Wheatley is a hell of a filmmaker, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this adaptation of J.G. Ballard's novel turns out.

High-Rise hits theaters on May 13, but will be available On Demand starting on April 28.

HIGH-RISE stars Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing, the newest resident of a luxurious apartment in a high-tech concrete skyscraper whose lofty location places him amongst the upper class. Laing quickly settles into high society life and meets the building’s eccentric tenants: Charlotte (Miller), his upstairs neighbor and bohemian single mother; Wilder (Evans), a charismatic documentarian who lives with his pregnant wife Helen (Moss); and Mr. Royal (Irons), the enigmatic architect who designed the building. Life seems like paradise to the solitude-seeking Laing. But as power outages become more frequent and building flaws emerge, particularly on the lower floors, the regimented social strata begins to crumble and the building becomes a battlefield in a literal class war. HIGH-RISE is the latest film by cult British director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England), an ambitious adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel of the same name.

How To Make The Utility Belt From Tim Burton’s BATMAN For Only $9

The utility belt is one of Batman's greatest assets in his fight against crime in Gotham City. While many incarnations of the character tend to de-emphasize the belt and its seemingly infinite compartments in order to make the character feel more realistic, Tim Burton's version in his 1989 Batman film is bright and cartoonish, serving as a bit of a throwback to the comics and even, to a lesser degree, the ridiculous and campy Adam West TV show and movie.

DIY Prop Shop has released a video that teaches you how to build your own replica for only $9. It isn't perfect, but it's about as close as you can get for under ten bucks. Check it out below if you're interested:

Disney and Lucasfilm Narrow The Search For Young Han Solo

Disney, Lucasfilm, and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are still on the hunt for an actor to play young Han Solo in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off film. As you might expect, finding someone to fill Harrison Ford's shoes has been a huge challenge. After narrowing the search from 2,500 actors down to about ten, THR reports that "a final shortlist has quietly emerged" for the coveted role.

Though the outlet cautions that there could still be a few other names on the list, they reveal that tests were conducted in London this past weekend that involved Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!), Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction), and Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eddie the Eagle). While Ehrenreich was terrific in Hail, Caesar!, I don't know if he's the best fit for the swaggering Solo. Of this trio, I'm leaning toward Egerton right now, but that's because I've only seen Reynor in Transformers 4, which was basically a pile of hot sewage. I've heard he's really good in the upcoming film Sing Street, and he definitely has fans who know his range goes far beyond what Michael Bay required in that garbage pit of a movie.

Variety reporter Justin Kroll chimed in on Twitter to add two more names to the list of contenders:

Blake Jenner appears in Richard Linklater's upcoming Everybody Wants Some!!, while Jack O'Connell delivered standout performances in Starred Up, '71, and Unbroken. I'm still leaning toward Egerton because I haven't seen a lot of those films from the other actors yet. If it gets narrowed down to just these actors, who do you think would make the best Han?

Lionsgate and Comic-Con Set to Release New Streaming Platform

Lionsgate and Comic-Con International have teamed up to create a new video-on-demand streaming platform called Comic-Con HQ. 

Last year, they announced that Comic-Con HQ was in the works and yesterday, word came out that a free beta for the streaming service will debut May 7, and the full version will be released sometime in June. The cost of the service is unknown at this time. Hopefully, this will give them enough time to work everything out before the main event in San Diego actually begins in July. 

Here are some definite features the service will provide: original series (scripted and unscripted), with one of those being the series Kings of Con; two roundtable discussion shows, one featuring female perspective of pop culture; and a 1:1 interview series from Adam Sessler (X-Play).

As for coverage of the con, not much has been verified as to what the service will actually host. We do know that the Masquerade and the Eisner Awards will be featured, as will "select" panels, and there will be some convention floor footage.

The service was created in order to appease the overwhelming number of people who make up the Comic-Con community and an attempt to reach out to those unable to attend the actual con. Comic-Con International Vice President Seth Laderman stated:

"There is a demand for Comic-Con. And until now, it was an experience that only lasted five days a year with only so many badges to buy and so much floor space to give. So Comic-Con International and Lionsgate –- two companies who know and respect genre entertainment -– teamed up to launch Comic-Con HQ, because there is a strong need and equal opportunity to provide our community with a premium platform that uniquely and authentically extends everything we love about Comic-Con all year round."

While I agree with his sentiments — I would probably crawl under a blanket and cry for all of July if I missed a year of Comic-Con — I haven't really made up my mind on how I feel about the actual streaming service. Do I think Comic-Con should be enjoyed by everyone? Of course. But do I also think that people will PAY to see the things listed above? Maybe not, unless they start streaming Hall H panels or even the very intimate Nerd HQ panels, I don't think the demand for this service exists. However, if they start streaming those things (including the exclusive footage in the halls), I think I would feel under-appreciated as a fan who battled, Hunger Games-style, to get my badge. 

I'm still very unsure about this, but it will definitely be interesting to see what happens.