Tag: Jeff Nichols

MOVIE REVIEW | Loving (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Breathes new life into the concept of the prestige, period piece biopic.”

Loving 1

“Tell the judge, I love my wife.”

With Shotgun Stories, Jeff Nichols made a movie based on, “understandable antagonistic acts [that] get the ball rolling, and they build so incrementally, that once guns are being shoved in people’s faces and the odd skull gets caved in, you’re totally on board.”  Mud made me describe it’s main, child character as, “a certain blend of innocence and naivety, while also coming off as someone who’s already been there, seen it all and has no time for your bullshit.”  And I described Midnight Special as, “sci-fi spectacle [as] a Trojan horse for some really intimate, internal story telling”.

What I’m getting at is, Jeff Nichols has shown a knack for making the sensational real, for using pulp hyperbole to sneak in characters of believable substance, and for using overblown genre tropes to tell stories of what real life is all about.  And it’s a knack that is evident again as Nichols takes on the prestige, period piece biopic, with Loving. (more…)

***2016 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Midnight Special (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The sci-fi spectacle is just a Trojan horse for some really intimate, internal story telling.”

Midnight 1
“You have no clue what you’re dealing with, do you?”

In just three movies, writer and director Jeff Nichols established himself as a new, unique voice of cinema about modern day, rural America, and what it means to be a family.  Shotgun Stories was a small story of loyalty, class struggle and standing up for something, even when you know winning is impossible.  Take Shelter took a possible paranoid schizophrenic and made an amazingly compelling and tragic story about the price you may pay by standing by those you love.  With Mud, Nichols took on coming of age with a story about a boy and a mysterious drifter, that was so much more than its pulpy plot may have indicated.  So when I saw that he had seemingly gone a lot bigger and more ambitious with the long awaited, long delayed Midnight Special, the wait only made me more intrigued and more excited.

Racing through back woods, Texas roads in the middle of the night, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are obviously trying their best to remain undetected.  It turns out, Roy has fled a cult and technically kidnapped his own son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher).  Cult leader, and Alton’s adopted father, Calvin (Sam Shepard) has sent goons on their tail, while the government is also in hot pursuit.  It turns out that Calvin’s cult is built around the visions and trance like ramblings of Alton, that also happen to contain top secret government information. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Midnight Special (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The sci-fi spectacle is just a Trojan horse for some really intimate, internal story telling.”

Midnight 1
“You have no clue what you’re dealing with, do you?”

In just three movies, writer and director Jeff Nichols established himself as a new, unique voice of cinema about modern day, rural America, and what it means to be a family.  Shotgun Stories was a small story of loyalty, class struggle and standing up for something, even when you know winning is impossible.  Take Shelter took a possible paranoid schizophrenic and made an amazingly compelling and tragic story about the price you may pay by standing by those you love.  With Mud, Nichols took on coming of age with a story about a boy and a mysterious drifter, that was so much more than its pulpy plot may have indicated.  So when I saw that he had seemingly gone a lot bigger and more ambitious with the long awaited, long delayed Midnight Special, the wait only made me more intrigued and more excited.

Racing through back woods, Texas roads in the middle of the night, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are obviously trying their best to remain undetected.  It turns out, Roy has fled a cult and technically kidnapped his own son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher).  Cult leader, and Alton’s adopted father, Calvin (Sam Shepard) has sent goons on their tail, while the government is also in hot pursuit.  It turns out that Calvin’s cult is built around the visions and trance like ramblings of Alton, that also happen to contain top secret government information. (more…)

***2013 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Mud

mud
A few of years ago, a bloke named Jeff Nichols wrote and directed his second feature, Take Shelter.  It starred the always impressive Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, before she hit really big with things like The Help and Zero Dark Thirty.  It seems like ever since then, I’ve been hearing critics bang on about how amazing Take Shelter is.  When I finally gave it a look, I thought it was OK, a great acting showcase for Shannon, but it didn’t really lift my skirt.  But it stuck with me in a certain way that when the same sort of praise started being bandied about for Nichols’ follow up, Mud, I felt like I shouldn’t be so slow in checking it out as I was with Take Shelter.   And I’m glad I did, because Mud is great.  Really, really great.

Tye Sheridan plays Ellis, a moody teen living in Arkansas.  Jacob Lofland plays his best friend, the awesomely named Neckbone.  They spend their days exploring the banks of the Mississippi, and one day set out to find a boat, high up in the branches of a tree on a secluded island.  Left there after a flood, the boys decide that if they find it, it’s theirs.  The only problem, when the do find it, it’s already been claimed by Matthew’s McConaughey’s titular Mud, a fugitive.

Straight away, McConaughey and the boys form a kind of mutual respect and he says they can have the boat once he leaves.  He’s on the run for killing a man over a woman, and he’s waiting for a rendezvous with that woman, played with surprising white trash authenticity by Reece Witherspoon.  Only problem is, the man he killed was the son of a criminal kingpin.  So the small town is flooded by henchmen in search of Mud and revenge.

There’s a side story about the disintegration of Ellis’ family and how this means he will soon have to give up the houseboat life of a fisherman he shares, and loves, with his father.  These sequences show Nichols at his absolute best.  Ellis’ life seems dirty, hard and in no way enviable.  Yet somehow, Nichols makes you totally believe how desperate the boy is to keep it.

Thanks to movies like Killer Joe and Bernie, McConaughey is in the middle of a career renaissance.  He’s no longer the good looking dude in cheesy rom-coms, he seems to have become a lot pickier about his roles and it’s paying off.  But as fantastic as he is in Mud, McConaughey is totally overshadowed by the two boys.  Sheridan has a kind of brooding intensity that has to be rare in actor his age, while Lofland’s Neckbone is brilliant whenever he’s on screen.  He has a certain blend of innocence and naivety about him, while also coming off as someone who’s already been there, seen it all and has no time for your bullshit.

Maybe watching Mud so much sooner after its release meant my expectations hadn’t been too blown out by years of positive reviews.  Or maybe it’s just a better movie than Take Shelter.  Either way, I really enjoyed it.  And it’s also made me want to track down Nichol’s debut, Shotgun Stories.

Mud
Directed By – Jeff Nichols
Written By – Jeff Nichols

MOVIE REVIEW | Shotgun Stories (2007)

Shotgun Stories (2007)
When I wrote about Jeff Nichols’ latest movie Mud, I talked about liking, but being underwhelmed by his second movie, Take Shelter, despite the masses of critical praise it received.  But now that I’ve seen all three of his films to date, I think maybe Take Shelter just suffered from being my first, and me not fully understanding Nichols’ world.  Because after seeing Shotgun Stories, I think I get it, and I know I really like it.


Jeff Nichols recurring player Michael Shannon plays Son Hayes, one of three brothers, along with Kid, played by Barlow Jacobs and Boy, played by Douglas Ligon.  Their father dies and it turns out he was one virile son of a bitch, having sired another four sons with another woman.  When Son, Kid and Boy show up at his funeral for Son to basically tell the mourners that their father was a prick before spitting on his coffin, you get the idea that maybe these two sets of half brothers don’t make up one big, happy family.

Tension between the two families grows and so do their acts of retaliation.  One of things I like best about Shotgun Stories is the believable way things escalate.  Early on, small, almost understandable antagonistic acts get the ball rolling, and they build so incrementally, that once guns are being shoved in people’s faces and the odd skull gets caved in, you’re totally on board with everyone and it’s hard to even remember who started and if either side is in the wrong or being unreasonable.

Michael Shannon really does have a certain quality about him.  I’ve heard it referred to as creepy, but I think that’s a little unfair.  Don’t get me wrong, I think he can be mega creepy, but it’s not an innate quality.  What makes Michael Shannon so entertaining is his intensity.  The look of absolute commitment and focused attention in his eyes means you believe him as a heartless hit man in The Iceman, you believe him as caring uncle in Mud, you believe his schizophrenic madness in Take Shelter and you totally believe his abused son, dedicated brother in Shotgun Stories.

Wherever Jeff Nichols goes next, I hope he keeps building on the world of his first three films and I hope Michael Shannon’s role is major.   So far he’s one of only three people listed in the cast on the IMDB page for Nichols’ upcoming Midnight Special.  And one of the other two is Joel Edgerton.  So it looks like I should probably start getting stoked for that one right now.  It also looks like I should probably give Take Shelter another chance, because I am well and truly on board with whatever it is Nichols wants to say.

Shotgun Stories
Directed By – Jeff Nichols
Written By – Jeff Nichols

MOVIE REVIEW | Mud (2013)

mud
A few of years ago, a bloke named Jeff Nichols wrote and directed his second feature, Take Shelter.  It starred the always impressive Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, before she hit really big with things like The Help and Zero Dark Thirty.  It seems like ever since then, I’ve been hearing critics bang on about how amazing Take Shelter is.  When I finally gave it a look, I thought it was OK, a great acting showcase for Shannon, but it didn’t really lift my skirt.  But it stuck with me in a certain way that when the same sort of praise started being bandied about for Nichols’ follow up, Mud, I felt like I shouldn’t be so slow in checking it out as I was with Take Shelter.   And I’m glad I did, because Mud is great.  Really, really great.

Tye Sheridan plays Ellis, a moody teen living in Arkansas.  Jacob Lofland plays his best friend, the awesomely named Neckbone.  They spend their days exploring the banks of the Mississippi, and one day set out to find a boat, high up in the branches of a tree on a secluded island.  Left there after a flood, the boys decide that if they find it, it’s theirs.  The only problem, when the do find it, it’s already been claimed by Matthew’s McConaughey’s titular Mud, a fugitive.

Straight away, McConaughey and the boys form a kind of mutual respect and he says they can have the boat once he leaves.  He’s on the run for killing a man over a woman, and he’s waiting for a rendezvous with that woman, played with surprising white trash authenticity by Reece Witherspoon.  Only problem is, the man he killed was the son of a criminal kingpin.  So the small town is flooded by henchmen in search of Mud and revenge.

There’s a side story about the disintegration of Ellis’ family and how this means he will soon have to give up the houseboat life of a fisherman he shares, and loves, with his father.  These sequences show Nichols at his absolute best.  Ellis’ life seems dirty, hard and in no way enviable.  Yet somehow, Nichols makes you totally believe how desperate the boy is to keep it.

Thanks to movies like Killer Joe and Bernie, McConaughey is in the middle of a career renaissance.  He’s no longer the good looking dude in cheesy rom-coms, he seems to have become a lot pickier about his roles and it’s paying off.  But as fantastic as he is in Mud, McConaughey is totally overshadowed by the two boys.  Sheridan has a kind of brooding intensity that has to be rare in actor his age, while Lofland’s Neckbone is brilliant whenever he’s on screen.  He has a certain blend of innocence and naivety about him, while also coming off as someone who’s already been there, seen it all and has no time for your bullshit.

Maybe watching Mud so much sooner after its release meant my expectations hadn’t been too blown out by years of positive reviews.  Or maybe it’s just a better movie than Take Shelter.  Either way, I really enjoyed it.  And it’s also made me want to track down Nichol’s debut, Shotgun Stories.

Mud
Directed By – Jeff Nichols
Written By – Jeff Nichols