Thursday, April 14, 2016

Midnight Special and Everybody Wants Some!!

                                        I See My Light Come Shining

                                                         Reviews by Ken Burke            
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                              Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols)
A young boy with mysterious powers is taken away by his father from the west Texas religious compound where he’s understood as some sort of savior, although the U.S. government’s also after him as a type of powerful weapon; after reuniting with his mother, the son is driven by his parents to a rendezvous point in northern Florida as his various pursuers close in.
What Happens: 8-year-old Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher), adopted son of religious cult leader Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard) at a countryside-compound called the Ranch (near San Angelo in west Texas, out in the direction where Boyhood [Richard Linklater, 2014]—a minor element of the next review below—ends up), serves as the unwilling “prophet” because he says things that seem to pulse with significance so it’s assumed that he can predict the future, leading to the group’s preparation for the all-important-date of Friday, March 6 (we later see that Alton’s able to shoot powerful beams of light from his eyes as well as create earthquake-like-damage around himself).  However, his biological father, Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon)—also part of this evangelical group—essentially kidnaps his son, then goes on the lam with his childhood friend, Lucas (Joel Etherton), in hopes of reuniting with his wife, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), who was expelled from the compound a couple of years ago, as well as finding peace for his mysterious boy.  While fleeing, Roy, Lucas, and Alton are stopped by a state trooper (Sean Kaplan) who ID’s their car (an alert's out about the kidnapping) but is shot by Roy (with Lucas’ help, which brings him great distress because we later learn he’s also a trooper) in order to keep their escape in motion to a safe house where former-cultist Elden’s (David Jensen) figured out that what’s Alton’s noted in some of his proclamations amounts to coordinates, which will ultimately take them into northern Florida; Elden makes the mistake, though, of encouraging Alton to manifest his powers which leads to another hasty retreat. 

 Hot on their trail, though, is an FBI team also very interested in Alton’s unique abilities, joined by NSA specialist Paul Sevier (Adam Driver), who knows that much of what’s in Alton’s prophecies is top secret information gathered from satellites so the boy's possibly seen as a threat to national security; after talking with Elden in the partial-wreckage of his house the pursuers soon have a fully-destroyed-site to examine because when Roy stopped at a remote filling station the boy became aware of an Air Force satellite tracking their movements (he leaves quite a nuclear footprint) so he brought it crashing down from the sky, creating further havoc when the gas station exploded.

 The escapees finally make it to Louisiana where they connect with Sarah; however, her location’s also been revealed, under pressure, by her mother, Jane Adams (Sharon Garrison), to a couple of hunters from the Ranch assigned by Calvin to bring back Alton.  By now, Sarah’s joined the other 3 as they continue toward the unknown reason for the coordinates but she and Lucas must hole up in a local motel while Roy and Alton hide in a cave to escape detection from an air patrol.  Alton then senses that he must view the next day’s sunrise in order to reinvigorate himself (previously he’s been kept in dark rooms during daylight so as not to trigger his violent reactions), after which he and Roy find Sarah and Lucas, with the boy explaining that he now knows there’s a parallel Earth in another dimension where beings are like him (the Multiverse territory that I explored some in my review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Zack Snyder] in our April 1, 2016 posting) so the coordinates are the location where he’s to meet those other-Earthlings to be returned to his true home (how he got here through Sarah’s birth canal isn’t an item that Nichols cares to explain; in the group interview found far below in the links to this film he admits that “Clarity is not my main goal” compared to audiences experiencing the events he presents).  Before they can set out the next morning for the rendezvous point, though, the Ranchmen attack them, wound Roy and Lucas, capture Alton, then speed away.  As our determined protagonists attempt to catch up they find themselves caught in a huge traffic jam, eventually drive past the wrecked car and dead bodies of their attackers, realizing that Alton’s been taken by government agents.  That’s verified in the next scene where Alton convinces Sevier that he’s essentially an alien but rather than continue to confine the boy, likely to be harnessed for weaponry purposes, Paul sneaks him out of the holding area (after Alton cuts all power in the facility), contacts Roy and company for a return of Alton, then sets up a fake story that he was abducted by them, forced to surrender his captive.

 As our protagonists near the coordinates-location (heavily guarded at its entrances by troops) Sarah and Alton sneak through a swamp to the precise site while Roy and Lucas drive through a barricade so as to create a major distraction at the precise time of the other-worldly-appearance which occurs as futuristic buildings begin to appear on the Florida landscape (reminding me a bit of EPCOT at Disneyworld, quite appropriate a comment because the sudden-connective-point between the 2 separate dimensions might not be that far from Orlando), followed by roving, illuminated eyes that we understand are that world’s inhabitants as we begin to see the outlines of bodies (along with a cutaway to a very wide shot of the southeast U.S. now covered by a sort of dome of light, implying a major conjunction of these universes).  In a flash, everything strange (including Alton) disappears in another massive explosion, leaving Sarah to go into hiding while changing her appearance, Roy and Lucas as government captives but with implied assurance (during an interrogation scene with Lucas) that their complicity in Alton’s escape will eventually result in their release because Paul now seems to be in charge of the investigation with no intention of forcing the truth from them.

So What? A good many other cinematic experiences easily come to mind in watching Midnight Special, among them the various X-Men episodes as Alton at first seems to be a mutant whose powers haven’t fully come under his control, then E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial  (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and Starman (John Carpenter, 1984), where, in these respective movies, young and adult aliens need to arrive at specific meeting points to be taken back to their home planets (government agents also try to prevent these departures in both cases); 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968), where mysterious beings from another dimension are ultimately the ones responsible for advances in human evolution; The Day the Earth Stood Still (I prefer the 1951 Robert Wise version over Scott Derrickson’s 2008 one) where aliens far superior to us come to warn nuclear-weapon-happy-Earthlings to cooperate in the peaceful stability of the galaxy or face annihilation.  I’m not saying that Nichols consciously borrows from any of these possible resources but elements of them certainly do feel familiar as Midnight Special races toward its semi-understood-closure.  However, the plot here’s a bit-semi-understood as well with the opening-cult-situation being underdeveloped (especially with the potential of someone like Shepard at a director’s disposal, unless his schedule simply didn’t allow him to take a more active role in this film) or maybe it’s because of the director’s decision to not use all that his screenwriter (also Nichols) provided, as he notes in that insightful, aforementioned interview below that he wrote extensive episodes that precede and follow what we see on screen but those were cut to focus more on the tense action around the escape and pursuit, with little concern that we’d have all of our questions answered as we prepare to leave the theater. 

 Still, the added wrinkle of the Ranch “hands” as almost-forgotten “bounty hunters” operating in parallel with the more-formal-tracking-plans of the government don’t do much to enhance what we see of Alton’s predicament except provide us with a sudden, brutal assault on our fleeing 4, leaving us initially thinking that both Roy and Lucas have been killed in the surprise attack, even though they’re barely wounded enough to slow them down as they later race after Alton following Sarah’s mighty yank of a shower railing out of its wall to free herself, then the quick use of a knife to cut all of their bindings—the plastic kind rather than metal handcuffs which would have left all of them helpless, not that it would have mattered in keeping the kid from the government trackers but they did need to eventually get loose so as to meet up with Paul, keeping the rendezvous plan intact.

 When you add to this the completely unanswered—not even explored, really—question of how Alton managed to jump from one dimension to another as a fetus (we’ll just have to assume) then you realize that what you get is a fast-moving, well-acted story with quite enough mystery and tension-driven-scenes to keep you very interested the whole way but with as empty a feeling of what it was all about afterwards as the many government agents felt when the aspects of the parallel world that briefly overlaid our Earth just simply vanished, with them not yet knowing what they’d seen (bringing to mind another Spielberg connection, Close Encounters of the Third Kind [1977] where again there are strange premonitions of something extraordinary about to happen but in the end only 1 Earthling is brought into direct connection with a benevolent force from beyond, at least as far as being able to travel onward while the rest of us simply watch them leave without even hints—or sequels [Yet! But never underestimate the resiliency of Hollywood bean-counters.]—of whatever becomes of this initial contact [maybe you have to turn to the backstory of the Star Trek adventures to fill in this gap]).  For that matter, we get the global-view of the extra-dimensional- “dome” covering an area that includes several states yet we get no sense of whether any other manifestations of this parallel Earth popped up throughout this huge space or are they confined to “ground zero” where Alton needed to reach in order to “get back to where he once belonged.”  (Courtesy of The Beatles’ “Get Back” from the 1970 Let It Be album, but don’t start tapping your toes yet because it’s not time for The Midnight Special’s Musical Metaphor—unless you insist on an appetizer!  “Alright, alright, alright” [another vague reference to the next review below] then, here you go, Jojo and Loretta [from the famous 1969 last-live-performance shown in the 1970 Let It Be documentary {Michael Lindsay-Hogg}, although the head and tail of the clip are chopped; sorry].)

Bottom Line Final Comments: Now that we’ve “gotten back” to the review at hand, I must say that I liked a lot of Midnight Special because it was quite engaging in its slowly-revealed-plot-points without becoming predictable, at least until the chase got into its final act as Alton and his companions approached their destination—even though that required another leap of faith in the writer-director’s favor to explain (because he never does) why Paul’s so attuned to Alton’s weird situation, so sympathetic to his plight.  (Maybe Driver’s still trying to make up for killing Han Solo—oh, you didn’t know that yet?  Then I guess you don’t want to read my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens [J.J. Abrams, 2015] in our December 31, 2015 posting.)  Nevertheless, in retrospect Midnight Special just feels too aligned with the (director’s unknowing?) source-elements I noted above, not quite able to fully capture the grandeur in its climax that it seems to be shooting for, and a bit too unconnected in its God and government elements, which could have made for quite a revelation if either or both of those religious- and military-based-viewpoints had been made to more actively confront the reality of a parallel dimension, where maybe scientists could come to the fore as the best hope of giving direction to humankind (as they did so very long ago in the original telling of The Day the Earth Stood Still).  Other reactions to this film have been quite high in some quarters (Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty gave it an A- [“… Nichols keeps us guessing in a way that evokes Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  {Obviously, I agree.}  Midnight Special is a more modest, more enigmatic film than that one was, but it’s no less gripping.”]), while my local guru Mick LaSalle (of the San Francisco Chronicle) picked a midway point on his 1-5 scale (even as his comments imply far worse [“…the goal of the screenplay, or so it seems, is to keep audiences in the dark as to what is happening, on the assumption that, once we know, we won’t care.  That’s a safe assumption.”]).  My 3½ stars (70%) falls between their positions, is also a bit below the 83% positive of Rotten Tomatoes, 76 average of Metacritic (more details in the links to this film far below if you want) because I liked what I saw when I saw it but it didn’t stick with me enough upon further reflection.

  While you might have reason to assume, based on some of my previous choices for Musical Metaphors (used to offer some final—even if obtuse—comments on the film under review) that I’d just take the easy way out here (as I will do in the next review below) and use the traditional folk song “Midnight Special” (that’s seemingly been around since at least the 1920s, recorded in various versions by many singers ranging from Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter to Johnny Rivers to Creedence Clearwater Revival; you’re welcome to look up a version, or several, on your own if you like), but that’s not my plan because all the business about watching out for the law in Houston lest you rot away in prison doesn’t really factor into this film too much, except for the legend referred to (obtusely as well, in the versions I’ve heard) which inspires the hope that if the lamplight from that storied train should fall on you while you’re in your Sugar Land (near Houston) prison cell then you can plan to gain otherwise unlikely freedom; I guess that someone could make an argument that this aspect of the song refers to the freedom from our Earth that Alton yearns for, so much so that when he’s agitated he creates his own “special light” that disrupts the elements around him, reaching out desperately for release from a dimension that he doesn’t belong in, that imprisons him.  However, the rest of the song is too far afield from what the movie Midnight Special is about so I’m heading in another direction.  (OK, OK, don’t look so sad. I wouldn’t want you to have to search all by yourself to find this song for a listen, so how about a Lead Belly version [date unknown; lyrics below the screen insert] or this one from CCR [live at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1970—not great video quality but also with lyrics below the screen; recording on their 1969 album Willy and the Poor Boys].)

 Where I’m going musically instead is to Joni Mitchell’s “Come in from the Cold” (from her 1991 Night Ride Home album; see, I do know something written after about 1980) which we’ll start with at http://www. joni-mitchell-come-in-from-the-cold/28701, a shorter version (3:26, but you get to see footage of Joni performing her touching song) which I highly encourage you to watch in full-screen-version so as to eliminate even more clutter than you get on a YouTube page; however, to fully appreciate these lyrics 
(as well as to hear all of them) it would probably be best to see them on screen while she’s singing so here’s another, longer version (7:34) at which I think works well for what I intend with these Musical Metaphors (the more serious ones anyway; maybe not so much with the ones below attached to Everybody Wants Some!!) when connected to an angry, troubling, contemplative film such as this where the burdened family of Alton, Roy, and Sarah, along with the help they get from renegade law-enforcers Lucas and Paul, are all embodying—in their individual manners—Mitchell’s lyrical-direction overall but especially in the 2nd verse: “We really thought we had a purpose We were so anxious to achieve We had hope The world held promise For a slave To liberty Freely [we] slaved away for something better And [we were] bought and sold And all [we] ever wanted Was just to come in from the cold” and the 7th:When I thought life had some meaning Then I thought I had some choice (I was running blind) And I made some value judgments In a self-important voice (I was outta line) But then absurdity came over me And I longed to lose control (Into no mind) Oh all I ever wanted Was just to come in from the cold.”  Each of them finally does come in from the cold in their own way, as Roy and Lucas potentially sacrifice their freedom in order to get Alton to his needed destination, Alton’s taken back to his proper-Earth-home in the alternate dimension, Sarah quietly goes off the grid, while Paul will work surreptitiously to undermine his governmental task of understanding who Alton was and how to access his power as well as (hopefully) get leniency for Roy and Lucas as seemingly not really understanding Alton’s existence so that they weren’t really complicit in his disappearance.  Ultimately, they’ll all be able to celebrate being “flesh and blood and vision” rather than just “howling in the dark.”  However, we’re about to move on to a story where howling for its own sake is a different form of celebrated independence.
Short(er) Takes (I still haven’t found “concise” in the dictionary)
                        Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)
A relatively plotless exploration of a 1980 Texas college baseball team where new freshman Jake finds out in the weekend before classes begin that to bond properly with his teammates he’s going to have to consume a lot of beer and pot, find female companionship wherever available, celebrate his ego’s inner craziness, and forget about rules of proper conduct.
What Happens:  
On a Friday in late summer 1980 freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at (fictional) Southeast Texas State University (which certainly feels like many aspects of my beloved alma mater, the University of Texas, especially given that this silly movie was shot in and around Austin) as a new member of the baseball team, giving him some status on campus because members of this group are the most successful athletes (with regular nationwide recognition) even though other teammates are skeptical of Jake as they think pitchers are weird (given what we experience of self-absorbed-hothead-freshman [recruited from Detroit] Jay Niles [Juston Street, brother of actual Los Angeles Angels {of Anaheim—absurd name for a team!} closer Huston Street], knuckleheaded-knuckle-thumping-champion Nesbit [Austin Amelio], and laid-back-California-stoner-Willoughby [Wyatt Russell]—a 30-year-old not good enough for the pros who keeps changing his name and college affiliation so as stay in the game, there’s good reason to believe that, although Jake seems the sanest guy in this story).  About all that happens from this start to the finish in a history classroom on Monday morning, when Jake and his fellow-freshman-teammate prepare to sleep through the lecture after having been out all the previous night, is watching these 25 self-absorbed-goofoffs (who must have talent to be put directly on the team but neither Jake nor Niles are as sharp on the mound as they think they are when ultra-type-A-senior-teamleader Glen McReynolds [Tyler Hoechlin] gets hits off of them in a practice game on Sunday—before yet another party that night) break their coach’s rules about no alcohol at all nor women on the 2nd floor of the 2 houses they all occupy off-campus, visit every dance-hall-hot-spot in their unnamed town (when I came to college in Texas in 1966 you had to be 21 to drink legally [the marvelous Scholz Garten—near the state capitol, so a lot of unofficial business was conducted there—gave you a free pitcher on that momentous day {yes, I enjoyed it}] but in 1973 the age was lowered to 18 [raised to 19 in 1981, back to 21 in 1986]), consume as much beer (mostly Lone Star and Schlitz) and pot as possible, as well as get the semester started with random sex and wild parties, although Jake settles for actual romance with dance/theatre-major-Beverly (Zoey Deutch), the reason for that sleepless Sunday night (although the next morning scene implies they’re saving sex, probably for Monday night).

So What? While Linklater calls this a “spiritual sequel” to his famous Dazed and Confused (1993) about graduation night in 1976 for some central-Texas-high-schoolers he also emphasizes that his latest effort isn’t a direct sequel to the story back then that introduced us to Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Parker Posey (among others) because of the slight chronological difference and the much-more-important-reality that the new movie doesn’t follow the same characters.  However, in addition to getting us back into the mindset of mostly-mindless-youths (not that I was any better at that age, I was just too shy, living with relatives instead of a dorm or frat-house [the Everybody …’s team quarters are neither, set up supposedly for these guys due to overcrowded campus facilities], and unprepared with a fake ID [I should have come out to California then to meet my distant-future-wife, Nina, as her older brother had quite a thriving business making those for his friends] to quench my undiscovered-at-the-time-thirst for brewed beverages, so I fault them not for age-appropriate-ridiculous-behavior, I just honestly wish I’d been able to get a little more into their lifestyle-level a bit earlier—although the environment of Texas campuses was considerably more conservative in 1966 than what they enjoyed in 1980, by which time I was teaching freshmen at another school, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where I now know I identified with the students too much, to my brief demise when I was denied tenure in 1984 but at least that helped finally get me to California where Nina was waiting a mere 3 years later), Linklater says his latest film is a bit of a sequel to his acclaimed Boyhood (2014; review in our July 31, 2014 posting) in that its finale gave us another young protagonist just going to college
(although in west Texas)—also, like Jake, far enough from home to be without close parental supervision—where a new world awaits him, along with a sweet new girlfriend he meets just at the start of the semester (I did have that latter experience, although it didn’t even last through football season when I took her to an afternoon game only to find out that she had another date for the dance that night)Everybody …’s cast is a delightful bunch of seeming-idiots (especially the aforementioned McReynolds, Niles, and Willoughby), Jake and Beverly are pleasantly-free-spirited but decent at heart, and there are even some higher-aspirants in the crowd: Billy Autrey (Will Brittain)—not his real name but he’s another freshman, stuck with the ruling group’s decision that he’s too much of a hayseed to be called anything else—who’s willing to marry his girlfriend back home if she’s really pregnant (but it turns out after he rushed home to visit she’s just a day late with her period) and senior Finnegan—Finn (Glen Powell)who truly does seem to have learned a few things in the classroom over his years despite his essential purpose of getting Jake comfortable in these new surroundings (even after he makes the mistake of beating McReynolds at ping pong).  It’s hard not to like their easy-going-attitudes, even though there’s little of substance on screen here for the movie’s 116 minutes beyond the marvelous sight of so many nubile young women in shorts (the guys are hunky too—except for a couple of the lanky pitchers—if that’s your preference).

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: However, the pleasure of following such rambling adventures of young adults on the prowl (for constant fun with their teammates, hook-ups with anyone available, which Jake’s also ready for on Saturday night before connecting with Beverly on Sunday morning) doesn’t leave me as enthused about these groovin’ good times as I have been with other explorations of Linklater’s over the years, so despite the rousing 91% positive reviews noted in Rotten Tomatoes, 85% in Metacritic (see below on how the folks that run this latter site are positioning themselves as box-office-prediction-gurus) I just can’t get too much excitement going for Everybody Wants Some!!  (Unlike with Midnight Special there’s nothing cognitively-cerebral about the title here; it’s as obvious as the Van Halen song of the same name [on their 1980 Women and Children First album]—from Linklater’s soundtrack—which you can find here if you want further immersion in the implied-bodily-fluids-exchanges in both the song [carried on in my cited link for 12:09 by lead singer David Lee Roth, although there’s only about 4:30 of it before 6 min. of increasingly-graphic-dialogue from him before a brief reprise of the music] and the movie.)  This is true escapism at its best, which makes for an enjoyable diversion of memory back to the raunchiest times of young adulthood (or provides a nice fantasy of what that was like for those who never got far enough out of the library, laboratory, or studio to have enjoyed it firsthand), but as a cinematic experience of any sort of significance I’ll just say that if there’s anything even remotely autobiographical about Everybody … then I get why Linklater has such fond memories of this not-forgotten-time of his life, but this is the stuff that wet dreams are made of rather than what was lusted after in classics such as The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941). 

 Accordingly, for my actual Musical Metaphor here I’ll borrow directly from … Some!!’s soundtrack, the 1st tune we hear (on Jake’s radio as he’s driving to college) which is the Knack’s “My Sharona” (from their 1979 Get the Knack album) at just 
because it’s simple, active, written from a 14-year-old’s-horndog-perspective (says songwriter/lead singer Doug Fieger), reminds me in its own way of early Beatlemania (effectively taking me back to my own high-school-to-college-transitional-years), and—unlike with Van Halen—I saw this group sing this song at a club in Santa Cruz, CA in 1986.  “Ooh, you make my motor run, my motor run.”
And, On Another Note … 
 In that I’m one of the few reviewers who found very much to like about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (I had some complaints about it too, giving it 3½ stars of 5 [April 1, 2016 posting]; however, compared to me the surveyed Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores were considerably lower, with 29% positive reviews for the former, 44 average for the latter) I found this article within the Metacritic site to be fascinating as they chose to survey 1,158 movies that had opened in at least 2,000 theaters in the domestic market (U.S. and Canada) between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2015 to see what correlations there are between Metacritic scores and domestic box-office-income, relative to opening weekends, drop-off on 2nd weekends, and overall grosses (those parameters obviously skew the results toward mainstream fare so that the smaller-rollout-independent films and overall-worldwide-income aren’t factors in their various charts).  According to their calculations, there’s a very clear relationship between higher critics’ scores and all of those other concerns—giving some credence to the argument that reviews do have an impact, even for opening weekends but more so for a movie’s ongoing life in release, with Avatar (James Cameron, 2009—still the worldwide box-office champ with $2.8 billion) making the most money while falling off the least (domestic gross $749.8 million, 2% dropoff in the 2nd weekend, Metascore 83).  The best scores (96 each) went to Gravity (Alfonso Caurón, 2013; $274.1 million, 23% dropoff*) and Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava, 2007; $206.4 million, but with a notably higher 38% dropoff, showing that some anomalies will manifest themselves in any charted data); their Bad Reviews group overall (323 with scores of 0-39) showed an average of 50.4% 2nd-weekend-dropoff while their Positive Reviews group (286 with scores of 61-100) showed an average 42.8% dropoff so you could argue that both examples I just cited are also anomalies in an even more positive direction.  

 To further show some expected-inconsistences within Metacrtic’s generally-stable-trends, of their 14 overall biggest 2nd-weekend-dropoffs 5 of them come from the Bad Reviews group (with the worst of all being Friday the 13th [Marcus Nispel, 2009; 34 rating] at 80.4% dropoff), 3 are from the Positive group (with the worst of that bunch, #4 overall, being Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows—Part 2 [David Yates, 2011; 87 rating] at 72% dropoff), and the others are from the Mixed Reviews group (40-60) with Fifty Shades of Grey (Sam Taylor-Johnson, 2015; 46 rating*) at 73.9% dropoff.  

*Reviews for these 2 are in our respective October 9, 2013 and February 26, 2015 postings.

 Batman v Superman … (44 Metacritic rating) ties with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 (Bill Condon, 2012; 52 rating)—both from the Mixed Reviews group—for #’s 13-14 overall on Metacritics’s worst 2nd-weekend-dropoff-list with 69.1% each, fulfilling that website's glowing, self-congratulatory premise that the initial low scores would have predicted a notable downturn in income for this multi-superhero-movie as it continues its theatrical run; however, even the highly-rated (a grand 82 average) The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) had a 52.5% dropoff into its 2nd weekend on its way to gaining the most-successful-domestic-income of any recent (or older, according to my explorations of Box Office Mojo charts) Superman or Batman movie ($534.9 million, #6 on Mojo’s all-time-domestic-list) so … Dawn of Justice may well somewhat confound its naysayers when all of the returns are finally in, especially as it’s currently pulled in about $300 million domestically (#58 on the all-time-domestic-list, better than any other Superman or Batman movie except for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises [Nolan, 2012; $448.1 million {78 score}]); further, it's now up to $787.7 million worldwide (#57 on that all-time-list), with only The Dark Knight Rises (#16, $1.1 billion) and The Dark Knight (#24, $1 billion) ahead of it.  Critical scores may well indicate ultimate audience response more than they’re usually given credit for, but I still am considerably more positive than not about … Dawn of Justice based on its content, with its income (domestically and globally) showing that it does have some substance beyond what the Metacritic charts might indicate on a purely percentage basis of ongoing success (for many of us, that substance includes the long-awaited debut of Wonder Woman, who’ll be back in 2 movies in 2017 [with her male counterparts in 1 of them, the long awaited debut of the full Justice League]).
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Here’s more information about Midnight Special: (27:33 interview with director-writer Jeff Nichols and actors Jaeden Lieberher, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton)

Here’s more information about Everybody Wants Some!!: (or if you’d prefer a trailer with the movie’s R-rated-language here’s one at (in the true spirit of this film here’s a 1:39 short video of some of the cast doing a dramatic reading of Madonna’s song “Like a Virgin”)

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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Nice paper on Midnight Special (can't really call these treatises normal movie reviews). I agree 100% with your take on this one. I would add that the film's rather poor title probably cost it millions (anyone remember Helen Reddy and Wolfman Jack introducing lipsyncing "stars" on tv's Midnight Special?).

    I may not have gone to this film at all if not for the dearth of options and Special's decent one line reviews and meta ratings (a case for critics again). I also thought the last act was too predictable, especially coming soon after Cloverfield 10 which had an equally interesting buildup and largely "expected" aliens at the end. The classic scifi films you somewhat backhandedly compared it to are all great examples of excellent scifi storytelling.

    E.T., Starman, 2001, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, all join my list along with the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing and maybe even Back to the Future. Low tech but effective screenwriting in each.

    Certainly Batman and Superman movies are guaranteed money makers crossing generation lines (how many films attract six and sixty year olds) but that does not make the special effects extravagances into classics or any less tiresome. Now we are getting "Civil War" where Captain America is deemed too rouge and powerful (where I have seen that recently?). The producers apparently synchronize their plots even before release these days. Midnight Special could have been more, but as is, it is enough for a decent Matinee Special.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for the comments and compliment (I agree that the other films you've noted here are great ones as well, all of them solid favorites of mine too). You're correct on the ultimate emptiness of special-effects-laden superhero movies also, although I'm still in a bit of a rejoicing mode to see Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. just because they're the ones I grew up with rather than the Marvel bunch who've dominated the screen in recent years, but they'll quickly get tiresome too unless they can rise to the level of The Dark Knight. Ken

  3. Just caught Everybody Wants Some primarily because of it's reported Boyhood connection and also due to a continuing drought of decent cinematic options in our amazingly cool and wet Texas springtime. My take was again similar to yours, although I kept thinking their fictional "Southeast Texas State" was actually San Marcos' "Southwest Texas State" (now Texas State). San Marcos has the nice tubing river with Live Oak canopy immediately adjacent to the campus. According to the credits (which have extra footage at the end), the film was shot in Bastrop, San Marcos and Austin while Linklater himself was a baseball player in Huntsville's Sam Houston State, a far north suburb of Houston with little hill country charisma. The country bar with the mechanical bull was obviously a takeoff of Gilley's in southeast Houston. Personally, I don't remember any freshmen quite as well read as some of the characters; perhaps Linklater was the exception. Overall a mild diversion but not quite up to Linklater's best. A more positive (and equally wordy) review: here.

  4. Hi rj, Thanks as always for your contributions. I certainly agree that much of what we see in Everybody Wants Some matches the actual characteristics of the school and locale of what's now called Texas State as well as the bull riding at Gilley's; thanks as well for the NY Times link, well-explored and wonderfully-wordy. Ken