What I Watched This Week:

Midnight Special (Netflix)

Another of those acclaimed films that Netflix seem to let plop onto their platform with nary a word, while pushing stuff like Mute (or whatever Adam Sandler helmed dreck they've financed this week) at the viewer constantly. Anyway, this is a sci-fi tale of a young boy with some kind of mystic power. Those around him don't understand it (and nor does he) but he inspires a fierce loyalty, and parallel to that, a dangerous need to capture him. The cultish church that wants him to be within their fold; the government agents convinced that he has some insight into their secrets, and his family, who we hope have his best interests at heart, although they seem like dangerous people too. Michael Shannon is typically brilliant as the boy's father.

The film is part chase, and part mystery, as we, and the participants begin to discover the true nature of the boy's powers. "The Next Picture Show" double billed this with ET, and while there are some similarities, this is a harder edged film, with a less clear message. Very good.

The Florida Project (Prime)

Ted will hate this, I'm sure, given that in pace, it's rather like the aimless summer days that its young protagonists enjoy in a down at heel Florida resort ("The Magic Castle") not far from the delights of Disney geographically, but a world away for them. The film follows a group of children (probably around 7 or 8 years old) from families on the verge of financial disaster, either because of the precarious nature of their financial circumstances, or unwisely chosen friends or ways of making the rent payments.

No one in the Florida Project is perfect, and everyone, from children to adults is at turns likeable and infuriating; these are people, one senses, whose stories are not frequently told on film, and this feels important because of that. We follow the children for the most part, and start to see the way that the adult world impinges on them, and how the precarious existence of their families affects them. At times, it's genuinely joyful, troubling, and at the end, absolutely heartbreaking. By that point, it felt like the emotional journey of the largest part of the film had been necessary to make the finale so devastating, but I understand why not everyone would stick with it.

The cast are all good, but Willem Defoe, in a relatively small, unglamorous role, is terrific, and Brooklyn Prince is excellent.

Captain America: Civil War (Netflix)

If the Florida Project meanders to its conclusion, I could argue that this does to, although it does so through a series of very loud, occasionally breathtakingly spectacular scenes. Although there is a through line, it can feel a bit like a sort of cinematic exquisite corpse, with the film makers pulling the locations, and things the protagonists will bash each other with, out of a large hat.

Thankfully, it majors on two of my favourite characters in the Marvel Universe, Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man/Tony Stark, and Chris Evans' Captain America, with great turns from (relatively) new additions Ant Man and Spider Man. It's too long (and boy, do some of the fights go on) but pretty good.

The Ritual (Prime)

Recommended to me by a friend, this story of a group of hikers straying from the trail, only to be menaced by supernatural forces, is fairly standard stuff plotwise. It's raised from the run of the mill by some great performances (Rafe Spall in particular as the man haunted by the death of his friend in an earlier incident, and his guilt at not intervening), spectacular locations, and an excellent creature design. Nothing groundbreaking, but a good example of the genre.

Nightcrawler (Netflix)

Superb, disturbing film about Jake Gyllenhall's sleazy, obsessive news cameraman, and the lengths he will go to to get his story. His pushing of moral boundaries is encouraged by the channels he sells footage to, and he begins to go further and further in order to get the most lucrative stories.

It's difficult to say more without spoiling the story completely, but it deserves the praise heaped upon it. I think it would make a good double bill with Network, personally.

The Santa Clarita Diet s2 (Netflix)
An excellent second series ends on another cliffhanger - I'm looking forward to seeing where they take things in s3!

I'm also still watching (see reviews passim) iZombie, The Looming Tower, Black Lightning, Designated Survivor (all Netflix, save the Looming Tower, which is on Prime).
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