I went to see this film largely on the recommendation of Eli Glasner who gave it a rare 5-star rating. While I sometimes agree with Glasner this rating is a mistake. The movie is good and entertaining but not great and not 5 stars. I have always been of the opinion that movies are for entertainment primarily and occasionally they move above that but lists of the greatest films ever made tend to suggest an appeal to some universal principles of greatness that simply do not exist. So all that said Midnight Special is a sci-fi movie that may well fit into a class with some of the more loved films in the genre like Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Ex Machina or Blade Runner. The story is about a boy who appears to have special powers over which he does not have complete control. Everyone wants him from the NSA to the FBI to a crazy religious cult but none of them fully understand him. He is kidnapped from the religious cult and taken away by his father and mother who are chased down by the Feds but not before they are able to deliver their son to his ultimate destiny. The film is never entirely clear about how anyone knows about him, how he could possibly be the progeny of the two mortals or what really is going on. There are too many hiccups like this to make the film worth the 5-star rating in my opinion but I agree that it is a great ride with great acting and its not so bad that we are left with a few questions. Thanks Eli for making me go see this one and I will give it a 4-star rating so we are mostly in agreement.
I have to admit I liked this movie despite being very suspicious based on reviews. Lee has based his anti-violence, anti-gun, anti-war movie on Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata. The Greek play is about an Athenian woman who acts to end the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. She allies with the women of Sparta to swear a vow and deny their men sex until the war is ended. The original play works well in the context of gang wars in Chicago. Samuel L. Jackson plays the chorus/narrator and is perfect in the part. The rest of the cast is great and the story really works. Have to admit I found the dialogue hard to follow at times but the story is great fun and while essentially a comedy, Lee makes his political points. Guns are killing young black men, children and other innocents. Lee makes it clear that it’s the guns that do the killing. He condemns the violent conflict and points to its origins in unemployment, poor education, and poverty. The latter points are made in a somewhat ham handed way but on the other hand the story is portrayed in a classical theatric format rather than the realism we might otherwise expect. Its stage play on film and works really well. Good fun and with a message that we all need to hear.
I have now seen all the Wes Anderson films who is one of my favourite directors. Bottle Rocket is old – well 1996 – and puts together the Wes Anderson team that includes Owen and Luke Wilson. The story is odd and off the wall but lots of fun. You can see in this movie Anderson’s use of colour and framing that make most of his films really beautiful to look at while remaining totally odd and weird. Owen Wilson’s acting style is also a great part of the film. It tells the story of a trio of young men who have a career goal of becoming master thieves. They start small in a hilarious robbing of a local bookstore for a few hundred dollars and basically stay small until they join up with a real crook played by James Caan. This last caper turns into a sad but very funny ending to their ambitions. If you are also a Wes Anderson fan and have not seen this yet – it is highly recommended.
By the way, Bottle Rocket is based on a short that is Wes Anderson’s first film to win awards at a small US film festival. You can see it on YouTube here:
Everything is Copy is a tribute documentary to Nora Ephron, an essayist, humourist, screenwriter, and all round really interesting woman who died in 2012 of leukemia. It was made by her son Jacob Bernstein and covers really all aspects of her life from childhood through several marriages including Carl Bernstein of All the President’s Men fame. She was an iconoclastic observer of human foibles and of being a woman in a male dominated society. She took on all aspects of her life from divorce to aging to illness with an acerbic wit that attracted many to her despite the fear of being cut to the quick by her wit and observations. The film uses interviews with Ephron herself from the past as well as with the many creative film and publishing greats who knew and loved her including Carl Bernstein, Steven Spielberg, Mike Nichols, Meryl Streep and Carl Reiner among many others.
If you do not know her you need to know that she was the brains and writer behind films like Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, and Julie and Julia. All hugely successful and well reviewed. If you want to know her thoughts however read her essays and humour which are available in several books and the archives of the New York Times and Esquire. The film is one of the many HBO documentaries and can be seen on HBO on-demand channels.