2.5 stars out of 5
Approaching Midnight stars Sam Logan Khaleghi, a West Bloomfield High School alum, who also wrote and directed the film. In addition, Khaleghi is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and most of the movie was shot here in Michigan. The movie premiered at various Emagine theaters last week, and this week, starting Friday, September 13th, it moves to Grand Rapids' Celebration Cinemas and theaters in Jackson, MI; on the 20th, it opens at Cobb Theaters in Clearwater and Tampa, Florida, and on the 27th it opens in Chicago at the Wilmette Theater.
The film follows Staff Sergeant Wesley Kent (Khaleghi) as he returns home from war, and finds that his girlfriend Aspen (Jana Kramer) has died in a car accident. He's also still devastated from the death of his longtime buddy, Corporal AJ Culpepper (Brandon T. Jackson, shown in photos/home videos only), and he has to bring A.J.'s effects to AJ's widow and daughter. Kent starts to think that maybe Aspen's car accident is being covered up by her father, the town mayor who seeks re-election, and he makes friends with Natalie (Michelle Lynn Balser), the mayor's events manager, to try and make sense of the accident; what he finds is an interesting cover-up that he wants to expose.
There were a lot of things I liked about this film and some that I disliked. I loved all of the Michigan references - Emagine Novi appears in one of the flashbacks, and in the home movie that Brandon T. Jackson is in, I recognized my high school (I'm also a WBHS alum), and it appears to be a real home movie from when he was younger. During Khaleghi's scene with Jackson's character's widow, there was a DVD of Tropic Thunder displayed prominently in a bookshelf, which was a fun "wink" - Jackson acts in that film, too. The acting in Approaching Midnight was also good, considering the budget (less than $1M) with which Khaleghi was working. The Afghanistan flashback scenes were actually filmed in Milan, MI, and if I didn't know that ahead of time, I would have truly believed they were in the desert - that's how realistic the landscape looks.
The flashback scenes at the beginning of the movie, though, were a bit choppy, and a lot of the film was hard to hear, although that could have been because I watched it as a screener on my home computer. In addition, a few of the scenes were definitely a bit "cliche" - during a funeral scene, it starts raining, and everyone's umbrellas open at the same time, for example. However, the storyline was interesting and held my attention for most of the movie's runtime and that doesn't always happen.
See this film at a matinee if you can bear slow movies - if you live in Grand Rapids, parts of Florida, or Chicago, you can check it out on the big screen soon - otherwise you can order from Amazon or other retailers once the DVD is released on October 3rd.
Approaching Midnight is rated PG with a runtime of 86 minutes.
*Disclosure: I received a screener of this movie for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.