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Midnight Special

Everybody Wants Some

April 21, 2016

Midnight Special

(** ½) PG-13

Director Jeff Nichols is one of the current crop of directors—and they’re getting fewer and fewer, I might add—whose work I eagerly anticipate. Like many serious fans of cinema, I was enraptured by his second film, Take Shelter, and was also quite enthralled by his next outing, the 2013 effort Mud. And now we have the director’s current film, a take on the sci-fi genre entitled Midnight Special. It’s a film that I really wanted to like but one that ultimately left me wanting more than what it was able to provide.

Things start out with a bang during the picture’s opening section. There are television reports that a boy has been kidnapped. The narrative focuses in on a hotel room where an eight year old boy sits draped in a sheet, wearing goggles and reading a comic book, a setup that definitely piques viewer interest.  Also in the room are two men, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton), who are obviously the boy’s captors. The action then shifts to a religious cult leader (Sam Shepherd) speaking to the authorities about the boy’s disappearance and being questioned in said kidnapping, a story thread that, strangely enough, simply vanishes after the film’s setup. We soon learn that the boy has special powers—he can read minds and pick up radio waves—and that Roy is exactly who we think he is, the boy’s father. Roy and his pal, Lucas are on their way to reunite Alton with his mother (Kirsten Dunst) but it’s best to stop there in the interest of not giving away the film’s denouement.

The problem with Midnight Special is it’s a film that sets itself up as a mystery but proves to be exactly what it looks like on the surface and never seems to reach what appears at first to be lofty goals.

Jaeden Lieberher in Midnight Special

Nichols knows how to tease his audience and lead them in a way to assume that something bigger is going on. The trouble here is that the film doesn’t surprise, especially for anyone who’s been witness to director John Carpenter’s Starman or Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, of which this film feels like an uncomfortable mishmash. The only real surprise is in the final scene and by surprise I mean that it doesn’t give closure but instead compounds the problem by offering a befuddling final shot that’s likely to leave viewers scratching their heads.

Midnight Special is the kind of film that I hate having to give a mixed review to and this is mainly due to my allegiance to the film’s director. Still, a critic must be honest and let’s just say that I’m looking more forward to Nichols’ next effort, Loving, more than I am revisiting Midnight Special anytime in the near future.

Everybody Wants Some (** 1/2) R

A colleague of mine brought up an interesting point as the two of us exited the theater following the press screening of the period comedy Everybody Wants Some. After much reflection, I have to admit he was definitely on to something. The basic argument was that if one wanted to make a film celebrating the decade of the 1980s then setting the film in late summer of 1980 was probably not the best idea due to the fact that the decade had not yet come into its own. If one were to truly pay homage to the heady eighties then they would have to set the film at least two or three years later because August 1980 is virtually indistinguishable from, say, August 1979.  It’s a valid point to make and one that will probably determine who the best audience for this film might actually be.

Everybody Wants Some is being touted as a quasi sequel to Dazed and Confused, the 1993 film that used the early days of summer 1976 as its setting and launched the careers of many of its cast members. Though both films are directed by the always interesting Richard Linklater (Boyhood, the Before trilogy), that’s about where the similarities end. Linklater’s current nostalgia trip offers very little in the way of emotional takeaways and also very little subtext or nuance. I prefer to call it Linklater lite, if you don’t mind, although I mean that in the best way possible.

Everybody Wants Some follows the exploits of a group of college students of varying ages during the two days leading up to the first day of school. Blake Jenner of Glee is something of a center to the film as the character of Jake.

Blake Jenner & Wyatt Russell in Everybody Wants Some

Jake is a freshman at Southeast Texas University and as the film opens he’s moving into an off campus house to the strains of My Sharona on the soundtrack (Linklater’s song choices are all excellent, by the way). Jake and his roommates are all baseball players for the school team and the film mainly consists of them smoking weed, drinking beer, chasing women and playing baseball and not necessarily in that order. There’s not much more to it than that but the film is so spot on in its recreation of the time and place that it’s something akin to getting into a time machine and heading back to August 1980. That alone may be enough for some to enjoy the film on a non think level.

If you’re looking for a plot and life changing emotional arc for the characters this definitely isn’t the film for you. Yet another of my film critic colleagues made the comment after the screening that he felt he had been drinking beer for two solid hours. I can see why one would have cause to feel that way but for what the film doesn’t have in plot it more than makes up for in its meticulous recreation of a time long past. That was, almost, enough for me.

These movies are playing in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.



The Jungle Book

I Saw The Light • The Boss

Hello My Name Is Doris & Krisha

Divergent: Allegiant & Batman v Superman

10 Cloverfield Lane & Brothers Grimsby

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot & London Has Fallen

Triple 9 & 45 Years

Eddie The Eagle• The Witch

Where To Invade Next & Son Of Saul

Deadpool • The Choice • How To Be Single

Hail Caesar & Fifty Shades Of Black

The Finest Hours & The 5th Wave

Mustang & The Lady In The Van

Anomalisa • 13 Hours: The & Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi

The Revenant • Youth

Carol • Joy • The Hateful Eight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens • The Big Short • Concussion

Daddy’s Home • Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip

In The Heart Of The Sea • Krampus

Creed • Brooklyn


‘Mockingjay Part 2’ • All Things Must Pass • The Night Before


Spectre & The Peanuts Movie

Steve Jobs & Our Brand Is Crisis

Crimson Peak & Room

Bridge Of Spies & Goosebumps

99 Homes

The Martian • Sicario & The Walk

The Intern • The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials • Everest

The Visit & Black Mass

Mistress America

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl A Walk In The Woods

American Ultra • No Escape • Sinister 2

Straight Outta Compton, The End Of The Tour, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Irrational Man & Fantastic Four

Ricki And The Flash & The Gift

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation • Southpaw • Vacation

Ant-Man & Trainwreck


Amy • Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys

Me & Earl & The Dying Girl, Ted 2

Inside Out & Dope

Love and Mercy & Jurassic World

Insidious Chapter 3

San Andreas & Aloha

Poltergeist &

Mad Max: Fury Road

Hot Pursuit

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Ex Machina

While We’re Young & Unfriended

The Longest Ride

Fast & Furious 7

It Follows




Focus & The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Fifty Shades Of Grey

Jupiter Ascending

Still Alice

The Imitation Game A Most Violent Year

American Sniper Inherent Vice

Selma & Taken 3


Big Eyes • The Interview

Night At The Museum The Secret of the Tomb • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Top Five • Wild • Annie


Whiplash & The Theory Of Everything

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 • Horrible Bosses 2

Dumb And Dumber To

Birdman & Interstellar




The Judge

Annabelle & Gone Girl

The Equalizer & Happy 75th, GWTW!

The Drop • A Walk Among & The Tombstones

No Good Deed

The Identical

As Above, So Below & November Man

If I Stay & Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

The Giver • Code Black & The Expendables 3

Boyhood • Into The Storm & Magic In The Moonlight

Get On Up & Guardians Of The Galaxy


Begin Again & The Purge: Anarchy

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Chef & Tammy

Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Jersey Boys

22 Jump Street & How To Train Your Dragon 2

The Fault Is In Our Stars & Edge Of Tomorrow

A Million Ways To Die In The West

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Maleficent

Godzilla • Summer Preview

Neighbors • Godzilla

The Amazing Spiderman 2 & Belle

The Other Woman & Brick Mansions

A Haunted House 2 & Heaven Is For Real

Oculus & Rio 2

Captain America: The Winter Soldier



The Grand Budapest Hotel & Veronica Mars

300: Rise of the Empire

Non-Stop & Son Of God

Three Days To Kill

Robocop & The Past • About Last Night

The Monuments Men

Labor Day

I, Frankenstein

Inside Llewyn Davis & Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Lone Survivor & August: Osage County

Her • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom & The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, American Hustle, Anchorman 2

The Hobbit: The Desolation & Of Smaug • Nebraska

Dallas Buyers Club & Oldboy & Out Of The Furnace

Philomena & The Book Thief

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & Delivery Man

About Time & All Is Lost

Thor: The Dark World & 12 Years A Slave

Ender’s Game & Last Vegas

Bad Grandpa &The Counselor

Carrie & The Fifth Estate

Captain Phillips, Enough Said & Machete Kills

Gravity & Runner Runner

Metallica: Through The Never , Rush & Don Jon

Prisoners & Rush

Insidious: Chapter 2 • The Family & The Spectacular Now



The World’s End You’re Next

Lee Daniels’ The Butler • Jobs • Blue Jasmine

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters & Elysium

2 Guns

Blue Jasmine • The Wolverine & Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station • The Conjuring & The Way Way Back

Pacific Rim & Grown Ups 2

The Lone Ranger & Despicable Me 2

The Heat & White House Down

Monsters University, World War Z, Before Midnight & The East

Man of Steel & This Is The End

The Internship & The Purge

After Earth, Now You See Me & Frances Ha

The Hangover Part III Before Midnight

Star Trek: Into Darkness & Fast and Furious 6

The Great Gatsby & Frances Ha

Iron Man & Peeples

Pain and Gain & Mud

Oblivion & Lords of Salem

42 and Scary Movie 5

Evil Dead & Jurassic Park 3-D

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Tyler Perry’s Temptation

Spring Breakers Admission

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone • The Call

Oz: The Great And Powerful West Of Memphis

Jack the Giant Slayer The Last Exorcism, Part II

Dark Skies & Snitch

A Good Day to Die Hard & Safe Haven

Side Effects & Identity Thief

Bullet To The Head Warm Bodies




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