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The Midnight Sky

Since his directorial debut with 2002’s ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’, actor George Clooney has helmed a film every three years. His acting gigs between directing movies seem to influence his creativity as he’s developed a consistently solid library of work. ‘Good Night and Good Luck’, ‘The Monuments Men’ among others have shown his interest in exploring fractured characters in unusual situations. Based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s science fiction novel, ‘The Midnight Sky’ adds another interesting layer to Clooney’s stellar filmography.

Based in the Arctic, Augustine (George Clooney) is a lonely scientist working amongst the Arctics’ endless white expanse. Alone on earth, he tries to warn interstellar travellers of earth’s environmental collapse. This takes a more urgent tone when a group of astronauts, including Sally (Felicity Jones), Tom (David Oyelowo) and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), are due to return home. Utilising all his skills to stop them, Augustine’s insular existence quickly reaches levels of major importance.

‘The Midnight Sky’ is an interesting sci-fi drama filled with Clooney’s usual visual flourishes. He knows how to tell a story with striking visuals, adding much to a character’s mindset. ‘The Midnight Sky’ is filled with startling imagery mixed with a generally involving story. As an actor himself, Clooney knows how to draw out good performances with his cast making the thin material stronger than it is.

Where ‘The Midnight Sky’ falls down somewhat is in its characters. Whilst you understand their actions, most appear as being cold and aloof. This has befallen other Clooney-directed projects. He doesn’t seem to yet have the ability to fully master emotionally-driven characters, although he gets better with subsequent films. There’s enough to maintain interest despite an abrupt conclusion.

Even a lesser Clooney directed movie is still interesting. ‘The Midnight Sky’ effectively showcases his skills although there are still areas he needs to improve upon. It will be intriguing to see what he does next with his story choices offering a variety of topics any budding director should go for.

Rating out of 10: 7

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX

Annabelle Creation

After the inexplicable success of its first entry, the ‘Annabelle’ series continues with ‘Annabelle Creation’. As a prequel, it charts the beginnings of everyone’s favourite evil dolly. Unlike its dreadful predecessor, ‘Annabelle: Creation’ is easier to watch. Due to better direction and fine acting, it also remembers to be scary. Having a Grimm’s Fairy Tales-like atmosphere, it offers evidence, that with a bit of creative flair, a decent horror film can be made on a micro budget.

Several years after the tragic death of their daughter, doll manufacturer Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto), take a group of orphans into their mansion. Janice (Taitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson) are taken care of by nun Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). Exploring the sprawling mansion, Janice comes across a locked room containing a doll named Annabelle. Unknowingly releasing an evil force, Janice and her friends have to fight against the powerful entity before Annabelle’s porcelain-made hands grips them in her clutches.

The best thing one can say about ‘Annabelle: Creation’ is that it makes an effort. That isn’t a bad comment as David F Sandberg’s direction makes the most of the story. Infusing a bit of mystical folklore as well as examining issues of grief and isolation, this entry is more substantial than the last. Whilst still relying too much on jump scares, Sandberg also knows how to hold back occasionally with scenes of dead silence. Those are more effective in conjuring spooky frights with the cinematography perfectly capturing the gloomy mood of the mansion and its inhabitants.

The performances also make ‘Annabelle: Creation’ watchable. Although it’s unusual seeing LaPalgia and Otto in a horror movie, their stoic presence elevate the tone, making it more interesting. Wilson and Bateman are also especially good as the little girls caught in Annabelle’s deadly trap. Their co-stars rise to the challenge of actually giving believable performances amidst the horrific shenanigans. Thankfully there isn’t much blood on display, as Sandberg seems keener on the unseen which is more imaginative.

‘Annabelle: Creation’ is far better than the first entry. It still isn’t the best of its genre but the attempt in making the fairly predictable screenplay work is commendable. Spending a bit of money on good actors and writing isn’t such a bad thing which can pay dividends even when trying to scare viewers silly.

Rating out of 10: 6

CURRENLTY STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME