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Posts Tagged ‘Joel Edgerton’

midmaxresdefault“MIDNIGHT SPECIAL”  My rating: B

112 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There is almost no element of “Midnight Special” that hasn’t been already thoroughly mined by other science fiction/fantasy films over the last 40 or so years.

And yet through some sort of cinema alchemy writer/director Jeff Nichols makes it all fresh and compelling.

Nichols is the Arkansas auteur of oddball down-home dramas like “Shotgun Stories,” “Take Shelter” and “Mud.” Here he ventures into full-blown genre moviemaking, and for the most part sucks us in and leaves us wanting even more.

The film begins with three individuals on the run. Roy (Michael Shannon), his eight-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher, the scene-stealing kid from “St. Vincent”), and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are making their way across Texas and into Louisiana in a beat-up car that has more Bondo than paint.

Alton is a strange kid who sits in the back seat wearing sound-damping headphones and blue swimming goggles. Since they travel only at night he uses a flashlight to read a stack of comic books.

Turns out the trio are the object of a massive manhunt, not only by the feds (FBI, CIA, whatever else you got) but by the members of a Texas religious cult with whom Elton has lived for the last two years.

Apparently the kid has had visions which have now become as much a part of the sect as the shapeless sisterwife dresses worn by their womenfolk. Incensed that Elton’s dad has snatched him up, the cult leader (Sam Shepherd) dispatches a couple of heavily-armed members of the congregation (Bill Camp, Scott Haze) to recover the boy in the few days remaining before a prophesized day of judgment.

Nichols’ strength as a storyteller is that he doesn’t drop too much up front. His films are voyages of discovery in which audiences pick up the characters’ backgrounds and info about the plot in dribs and drabs.

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Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale as Rhamses and Moses

Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale as Ramses and Moses

“EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS” My rating: C

150 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” runs for almost 2 1/2 hours — and that still isn’t enough time for it to figure out why it’s here or what it wants to say.

It’s based, of course, on the Old Testament story of the exodus of the captive Hebrews from Egypt, but the filmmakers are obviously ambivalent over matters of faith. Heck, they explain away the story’s supernatural elements as the result of a bump to Moses’ noggin.

This is the second monster-budget biblical epic of the year (it follows Darren Aronofsky’s over-produced and over-thought “Noah”). If Hollywood doesn’t believe, why does it bother?

In a word: spectacle. Scott and his visual wizards pull out the stops to create the thriving Egyptian capital of Memphis, the parting and unparting of the Red Sea, a slam-bang  battle with an invading army.

But on a spiritual and dramatic level “Exodus” is a creaky affair.

Most of us are familiar with Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 “The Ten Commandments,” an alternately silly and awe-inspiring affair. DeMille may have had the dramatic instincts of a snake oil salesman, but he was a fierce believer in his own showmanship, and if you can ignore the absurd emoting, his epic remains ridiculously entertaining.

Scott, on the other hand, delivers a film that is, well, grumpy. For all the f/x wizardly, there’s not much joy or discovery to be had. “Exodus” feels like a paint-by-numbers job assembled by an indifferent committee

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead battles "The Thing"

“THE THING” My rating: C (Opening wide Oct. 14)

103 minutes | MPAA rating: R

We’ve already seen two very good versions of “The Thing” (based on the classic sci-fi/horror story “Who Goes There?”), so anyone making yet a third “Thing” had better bring some new ideas to the table.

In the case of the film opening today, first-time feature director Matthijs van Heijningen and writer Bill Lancaster attempt to stir things up by making our protagonist a woman.

That’s it?  That’s the big twist?

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“WARRIOR” My rating: B (Opening wide on Sept. 11)

139 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In outline there’s nothing terribly original about “Warrior,” which follows the well-tested dictates of your typical “fight” movie.

You’ve got your training montage. You’ve got your chatty TV sportscasters giving us the blow-by-blow even as we’re watching the bout unfold before our eyes. You’ve got your dramas outside the ring spilling over into the brawl inside the ring.

Happily this melodrama from writer/director Gavin O’Connor tosses in a few welcome changeups. And it’s been so well acted that even the familiar somehow seems fresh.

At heart “Warrior” is the story of a fractured family somehow coming together in the fury of a mixed martial arts tournament.

Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) returns to his blue-collar home town after an absence of nearly 15 years. He’s an angry young man (more…)

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