A sort of Sci-Fi Double Bill

Been a slack few weeks at The Fast Picture Show. I'd like to say it's been because of Real Life things like work and commitments and, you know, like, responsibilities? But in truth it's because......of the aliens, man. Don't laugh, You weren't there, man. I SAW!!!! Talk about a Close Encounter. Now I know how the guys in these films feel...


Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols, 2016) starts off in intriguing fashion as two men (craggy Michael Shannon and shifty Joel Edgerton) shepherd a young boy into a car in the middle of the night. Have they kidnapped him? Where are they going? And why has the kid got goggles and ear-protectors on? All is revealed as....No wait...some things are revealed, but actually we get more questions than answers here as the film progresses.  It's fine to ask the audience to think a bit, but too many things are left unexplored or unexplained here, so it doesn't really deliver on that promising set-up. Nonetheless it still works as an old-fashioned throw-back to sci-fi films from the 70s and 80s, where story and characters were the focus, rather than special effects. Spielberg is the easy comparison here, but John Carpenter's Starman is a better one, particularly given the evocative score. Or perhaps D.A.R.Y.L. if we want to introduce a little esoteric nostalgia in the Things This is Like game. Anyway, good performances help it along and it's another good film from Nichols even if it's ultimately Midnight not-very-Special.


10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016) also starts off with an intriguing hook. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakes after a car accident to find herself imprisoned in an underground bunker by Howard (John Goodman), who claims to have saved her from some sort of apocalyptic event outside. Is he lying? How can she find out? And why is there another person imprisoned in there too? The scene is set for a tense, claustrophobic thriller and for most of its running time that's exactly what we get, with good performances, especially from Goodman who veers between friendly and fearsome at the drop of a hat. So far, so good. But then there's a bit where Michelle exclaims 'Oh, come on!!!!', which echoes the disappointed cry of the viewer as the sustained tension is dissipated as soon as the film shows its hand. Here, all IS revealed and to somewhat underwhelming effect. And of course anyone who knows their movies will have unavoidably spotted a rather, well, avoidable spoiler in the title. What a pity they didn't stick with the original title 'The Cellar', which would have presumably taken more people unawares. Incidentally, I was reminded of another Jeff Nichols film as I watched this, the excellent Take Shelter, which I've reviewed here.

So there we go. I'm back to Earth and my brain hasn't been fried too badly by my alien experiences, so I'll be adding more stuff soon, like how this guy really knows what he's taking about.


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