To be fair, George Clooney’s character in the new Netflix thriller “The Midnight Sky” doesn’t actually go into space. Clooney also is the director and producer of the film adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s book.
Set in 2049, the story splits its time between brilliant scientist Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney) left on Earth, monitoring the last deep-space exploration crew heading back toward Earth, and aboard Æther, as the crew races to understand what has happened to their planet. Felicity Jones (“The Aeronauts”) and David Oyelowo (“Selma”) are two married crew members.
Following “Solaris” with Steven Soderbergh and “Gravity” with Alfonso Cuaron, this is Clooney’s third space film. Not only does Clooney as a director take experiences from working on those films, but he compiles that with elements of other recent space films like “Interstellar,” “Ad Astra” and even “Passengers.”
“Midnight Sky” is short on thrills and even shorter on emotion. Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water”) provides what little feeling the sterile film musters through his memorable score. “Midnight Sky” is so restrained — whether by budgetary limits or leaning into the nuance of the subject matter — that you keep expecting more than what’s offered.
The biggest downfall here is a trailer that hints at far too much; the twist ending is easily predicted by the preview. “Midnight Sky” mirrors a collection of moments inspired by better films. While some of the set pieces and location landscapes are transportive in their moment, what you remember most is how bad the CGI/Greenscreen of Jones standing on the moon of Jupiter.
“Midnight Sky” is now playing in select theaters and on Netflix.
In early 2019, director Deon Taylor and actor Michael Ealy collaborated on “The Intruder,” one of the worst films of that year. They have re-teamed for “Fatale,” which again finds Ealy being terrorized by a crazy white person.
The big difference between the two movies is Hilary Swank, as the top-billed star and a producer of this gutter-worthy thriller. Being chock full of poorly written dialogue like, “We ‘bout to get turnt,” and, “You used me in Vegas, now I’m going to use you,” reduces it to bottom of the bargain bin status of movies.
Ealy plays Derrick, a weathered business owner in the PR world who is having some trouble at home with wife Micaela (Kali Hawk). On a vulnerable trip to Vegas for a bachelor party, he meets Val (Swank), who explains she has a stressful job and just goes to Vegas for a therapeutic getaway. After Derrick returns home from his infidelity and makes a solid attempt at putting his marriage back together, an intruder breaks into his house.
Detective Valerie Quinlan shows up at his door with the police, but Derrick never got specifics about her job. This coincidence is where everything in Derrick’s life begins to go south.
Every scene pivots the story toward the most overly dramatic scenario possible. The outcome of stories like this becomes extremely obvious as one character turns into a psycho and the other a victim.
Swank’s role isn’t different from Dennis Quaid’s madman in “The Intruder,” not that the two-time Oscar winner dives to the same insanity Quaid managed.
“Fatale” has zero creativity in the filmmaking, the performances are hollow and, despite plenty of shooting, stabbing and manipulating, the story is quite dull. It’s more soap opera than it is film.
“Fatale” is now playing in theaters.