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Jeff Nichols
Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Sam Shepard, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver
Writing Credits:
Jeff Nichols

A father and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child's special powers.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$190,012 on 5 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 6/21/2016

• “Origins” Featurettes
• “The Unseen World” Featurette
• Preview


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Midnight Special [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 13, 2016)

Though you can’t tell from its generic title, 2016’s Midnight Special offers a supernatural thriller that introduces us to Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) and his eight-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). As the story begins, Roy takes Alton and flees a religious cult compound in rural Texas.

Why does Roy run away with his son? Because Alton possesses amazing powers that the cultists want to use for their own ends. Along with his childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), Roy tries to get Alton away from the atmosphere, and this sets off a massive manhunt.

Midnight Special came and went from movie screens without much impact. I don’t think I even heard about the film during its theatrical run – I gave it a look on Blu-ray because its cast appealed to me, but I knew nothing about it from its brief run in multiplexes.

I wish I could claim Special got the shaft, but I don’t think that was the case. Though it can be intriguing at times, the movie lacks a lot of narrative heft and it becomes a slow slog without great payoff.

Part of the problem comes from the movie’s derivative nature. As I watched Special, I felt like it wore its influences too heavily on its sleeve. It takes little effort to see hints of Close Encounters, ET the Extraterrestrial, Starman and Jesus, all in a pint-sized package that resembles Cyclops from X-Men.

In Special’s defense, it doesn’t come across as a blatant rip-off of its sources – it branches out just enough to avoid that. Still, the surfeit of obvious influences becomes a burden, as the film lacks to ability to really break free from them. No matter how hard it tries to go its own way, reflections of those earlier works remain clear – and too dominant.

It probably doesn’t help that Special tends to be awfully vague in many ways. Not that I want it to spell out everything, but I think Special lacks much narrative clarity, and this feels less like an active choice and more like an attempt to hide story holes. It seems more like the film leaves ideas up for grabs to avoid serious introspection, not to create an involving tale.

The actors manage to do well enough in their roles, even if the parts don’t demand much from them. None of the characters comes across as especially full-blooded; they tend to serve as plot motivators and little else.

And that occurs even though Special really doesn’t have an especially deep narrative line. It’s largely a collection of chase scenes framed by the occasional glimpse of Alton’s gifts. The framework doesn’t allow the characters to develop much beyond the basics.

At no point does Special turn into a bad movie, but I also don’t think it ever threatens to become particularly compelling. An occasionally interesting sci-fi thriller, the movie seems average to me.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Midnight Special appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a good but unexceptional image.

Sharpness was usually fine, but some inconsistency occurred, and that led to interiors that could look a bit soft. Most of the movie offered nice delineation, though. Shimmering jaggies failed to appear, and I saw no edge haloes or print defects.

Orange and teal? Orange and teal. Though not oppressive, those tones dominated the film. Within their constraints, the colors looked fine. Blacks were fairly dense, and shadows seemed mostly positive; some evening shots were a little murky but not to a problematic degree. Overall, this became a satisfactory transfer.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it offered a subdued mix punctuated with occasional moments of intensity. Sporadic scenes – car chases, falling space debris, supernatural elements – added zest to the proceedings.

These stayed in the minority, though. That meant most of the film combined good stereo presence for the music with general ambience. Though not tremendously ambitious, the soundscape felt appropriate for the story.

I also thought audio quality worked fine. Music was bold and peppy, and effects showed similar tones. Those elements came acrosa as full and dynamic, with good punch. Speech appeared concise and natural. The soundtrack served the movie pretty well.

Two featurettes accompany the movie. Origins goes for 12 minutes, 36 seconds and offers notes from writer/director Jeff Nichols, and actors Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher, and Adam Driver. “Origins” provides background about the movie’s characters as well as some thoughts about the actors. These add a smidgen of development to the various roles.

The Unseen World lasts five minutes, 12 seconds and features Nichols, Lieberher, Shannon, Edgerton and producer Sarah Green. “World” discusses influences and what prompted story/character elements as well as production design.

The disc opens with an ad for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. No trailer for Special appears here.

On occasion, Midnight Special starts to kick to life. However, it so heavily wears its influences on its sleeve that it never quite turns into something that stands on its own. The Blu-ray provides mostly good picture and audio but it lacks substantial bonus materials. Midnight Special keeps us mildly involved and that’s about it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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