Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Film Review: "Midnight Special" (2016).

"He's not like us." This is Midnight Special. This science fiction film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. The government and a group of religious extremists pursue a man and his son, a young boy who possesses special powers.

Nichols wrote the script as a reflection of him becoming a father. Nichols wanted final cut for the film, so he originally considered to make the film with an independent film studio rather than at Warner Bros Pictures. It wasn't until his last meeting with Warner Bros that he informed them of this. However, the producers at the company still agreed to make the film, due to the small budget needed for it. By late January 2014, Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard, Bill Camp, and Paul Sparks were cast. At the same time, with a budget of $18 million, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early March. Filming took place in New Orleans, Louisiana. Warner Bros initially set the film for a November 25, 2015 release date, but in July 2015, it was moved back to March 18, 2016.

The film stars Shannon, Edgerton, Dunst, Driver, Lieberher, Shepard, Camp, and Sparks. The riveting performances turn what on paper is a fairly simple climax into quite the emotional wallop. Shannon simmers for much of the film, anxious and always teetering on the borders of overprotectiveness - when these attributes are put to the test - he more than rises to the challenge, it's simply jawdropping. Dunst is just as preoccupying here as in the better films she's appeared in recent years.

Boasting an unstoppable intensity throughout, the tension builds to near unbearable levels in this effective and powerful portrait of a father's mission to protect his son. Dig beneath the surface and you'll find a sweet and very powerful tale about the strength and the resilience that can be found in the bond between father and son. While the film doesn't shrink from taking up an audience and playing with it, it's made with an exceptional eye and ear sympathetic to the anxieties that it dramatizes. What makes Nichols' film so satisfying, at least until the melodrama of the final act, is the deftness of the characterisations and the constant sense that things are probably considerably more complex than they're perceived. Nichols walks a tightrope between giving us a gritty science fiction thriller of a boy with special powers on the run with his father from the government and religious extremists, and a sobering lesson on the unbreakable bond between a father and his son. While the film isn't by any means perfect - Nichols could use a refresher course on editing - it's a powerful film, displaying a devolvement into insanity that ultimately proves to be quite visionary.  I would definitely recommend watching Midnight Special for the incredible action sequences and the great performances. It will definitely leave you thinking and there's something to be said for that.

Simon says Midnight Special receives:

Also, see my review for Mud.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Film Review: "Where to Invade Next" (2016).

"Michael Moore's most dangerous comedy." This is Where to Invade Next. This documentary film written, co-produced, and directed by Michael Moore. Moore visits various countries to examine how Europeans view work, education, health care, sex, equality, and other issues. From cafeteria food to sex ed, Moore looks at the benefits of schooling in France, Finland and Slovenia. In Italy, he marvels at how workers enjoy reasonable hours and generous vacation time. In Portugal, Moore notes the effects of the decriminalization of drugs. Through his travels, we discover just how different America is from the rest of the world.

Six years have past since the release of Moore's last documentary Capitalism: A Love Story (2009). According to Moore, the film was produced in secret. It was shot with a small crew and production took place on three continents. In addition, not a single frame of his documentary is shot on location in the USA.

Driven by Michael Moore’s sincere humanism, Where to Invade Next is a devastating and convincing, and very entertaining documentary about the state of America’s policies. Moore lets very articulate average non-Americans tell their personal stories of their country’s policies and philosophies. Moore criticizes America for their inability and, in some cases, their unwillingness to change their mindset of being "the greatest country in the world." The film truly reveals that Moore is still an auteur. It is a very strong and very honest film about a nation that’s totally blind and consumed in its ways that it fails to see its fundamental flaws which makes other nations around the world petty them. The film is wildly comic while tearing apart America’s policies. If other countries can provide their people with whatever they provide, why can’t America? If they can’t, who are they? Though the focus occasionally strays, the film emerges as a fascinating exploration and powerful indictment of a pressing national problem. This is Moore’s biggest, best, and most impassioned work. The film is a quieter, more focused and less feral beast than its predecessor, Capitalism: A Love Story, but that’s not saying much. One may quibble with Mr. Moore's anecdotal oversimplifications and his xenophilic fantasies, but he has struck a socio-psychic nerve in the American geo-political landscape, generating a feeling of outrage that seems to be reverberating in every theatre. This is the essential problem the film addresses, in an eruption that’s the most unruly and uncategorizable part of the whole movie, and the most unmistakably heartfelt. You want the truth? Moore can handle the truth. The film offers still plenty to get filed up about, but the firebrand ire of Capitalism: A Love Story seems to have mellowed a little. Though his politics have always been unmistakably left, Moore’s targets nowadays are almost exclusively the powerful and his recent work is fuelled by optimism rather than cynicism. More humble than Capitalism: A Love Story, and as enthralling as Sicko (2007), the film is another target hit square on the nose for America’s premier documentalist.

Simon says Where to Invade Next receives: