Tag: Michael Shannon

***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…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FRIEDKIN WEEK*** Bug (2006)

bug 2
A formerly A-list director…  A formerly A-list leading lady…  A soon to be A-list actor…  A soon to be sought after screenwriter…  I can see why this movie was under seen at the time.  The biggest names could have been easily written off as well past their prime.  And no one could have predicted the two unknowns would both be a big deal just a few years later.  But these random ingredients all went together to make an amazingly interesting and original movie like nothing you’ve ever seen before, Bug.


Ashley Judd is Agnes, a waitress in a trashy bar who lives in a trashy motel.  One night, she and workmate RC (Lynn Collins) bring Michael Shannon’s Peter back to Agnes’ room for a night of booze and cocaine.  Peter stays the night, sleeping on the floor and making no advances.  The next morning, Peter and Agnes are interrupted by a surprise visit from Jerry (Harry Conick Jr), Agens’ ex-husband who has just been released after two years in jail.

Not long after, Peter and Agnes realise each might just be the kind of support they need to help them through their lives. Both depressed and paranoid in different ways and to different degrees.  The more reliant they become on each other, the more dangerous, and possibly delusional, that reliance seems to become for both.

Bug was made at in an interesting time in the careers of all the major players.  Director William Friedkin was considered a genius film maker in the 70s with movies like The Exorcist and The French Connection.  But the major bomb Sorcerer in 1977 had him on the ropes pretty much ever since.  The only thing that stops Sorcerer reaching Heaven’s Gate levels of flop notoriety is the fact that we already have the actual Heaven’s Gate to fill that space.

Ashley Judd was a solid decade past her headlining days in second rate, yet box office smashing, crime thrillers like A Time to Kill and Kiss the Girls. Harry Conick Jr is a guy who has delivered plenty of consistent work over the years, but has never been able to quite break away from being seen as a singer who acts sometimes.  And Michael Shannon was still half a decade away from his small screen breakthrough in Boardwalk Empire and big screen attention getter, Take Shelter.

Even screenwriter Tracy Lets, who had already found plenty of playwriting success, was having his first crack at being a screenwriter.  Only a few years later, he’d also have screen credits for Killer Joe (also directed by Friedkin and the real start of Matthew McConaughey’s huge comeback of the last few years) and August: Osage County to his name.

Yet in 2009, these five people, all at amazingly different places in their careers, somehow came together to make this pretty amazing movie.  Judd gives the kind of ego free, almost ugly performance that I can’t imagine she would have even considered in her marquee days of solving crazy crimes with Morgan Freeman.  And as gripping as Michael Shannon was for me watching Bug in 2014, I can only imagine how intense it would have been eight years ago, if I was seeing him for the first time.

Like Judd and Shannon’s performances, Bug is ugly and intense.  I can’t remember a movie making me squirm as much as this for a long time.  It’s one of those movies that makes you uncomfortable and nervous, but you can’t look away.  I can’t imagine wanting to watch Bug again anytime soon, but I do know I’ll be recommending it to anyone who hasn’t seen it before.

Bug
Directed By – William Friedkin
Written By – Tracy Letts

***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

MOVIE REVIEW | The Iceman (2012)

The-Iceman-Poster
Unfortunately, there’s no Academy Award for Best Casting.  Because if there was, The Iceman would have blitzed any competition.  If you want an almost-1950s-era-all-American-Dad, with more than a hint of menace and balls out absolute bat shittery, you want Michael Shannon.  Which is why his casting deserves more credit than the direction and screenplay for all the best parts of The Iceman.


Shannon plays Richard Kuklinski, an almost-1950s-era-all-American-Dad, with more than a hint of menace and balls out absolute bat shittery.  When the movie opens, his source of income is copying porno films for local small time gangster Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta).  Soon, he’s dating, and not too much later married to, Wynona Ryder’s Deborah.  Sidenote re. Wynona Ryder…  You still definitely would.  When Liotta shuts down the porn dubbing operation, Shannon takes the opportunity to secure a bump in pay by becoming Liotta’s go to hit man.  You see, it turns out Richard Kuklinksi is a sociopath and feels absolutely no emotion, guilt or remorse.

After a decade or so of top notch service, Shannon is put on the reserve bench.  Liotta’s bumbling off sider, played surprisingly awesomely by David Schwimmer, has brought a little too much heat their way and they all need to lay low.  Only problem is, Shannon’s wife and two daughters have become accustomed to a certain quality of life that he feels like they deserve to keep.  So Shannon hooks up with a local ice cream / hit man played by Chris Evans.  Their partnership leads to plenty of money and their body disposal methods lead to the nickname given to Kuklinksi by the media which leads to the title of the film.

The Iceman wrings most of its drama, not from the killings and violence, but form constantly showing the juxtaposition between Kuklinski the killer and Kuklinksi the family man.  His merciless acts of murder are jarring by themselves, but when the next scene shows how completely and how easily he tricks his family into thinking he’s a good man, he becomes all the more terrifying.

The movie has a cool way of dropping bits and pieces of Kuklinki’s back story in here and there, never resorting to shoehorning in a flash back, or massive expositional monologue, or clunky confession where Kuklinksi tearfully tells his origin story.  Instead, the audience is given little fragments over the course of The Iceman that eventually give you a solid idea of who and why Richard Kuklinksi is.

>The Iceman is based on an HBO documentary called The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman.  If it didn’t sound fascinating before, watching the dramatized version has made me more than just a little stoked to see the doc.

The Iceman
Directed By – Ariel Vroman
Written By – Morgan Land, Ariel Vroman