Arrival: a Review

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I went to the theatre with my husband yesterday. We both had the day off work; the kids were in school and this film had a matinée showing. My husband and I were itching to see it after hearing/reading a lot of positive reviews. And I simply love the lead, Amy Adams (not enough to watch her in the most recent Superman movie, but still) and greatly admire the director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario).

Wow! I loved this film and so did my husband. In fact, as we left the theatre, he said that this was one of the best films he saw this year.

This film is not for everyone; it is thoughtful, deliberately paced (some would say glacially so) science fiction (not hard science like The Martian) with twisting emotional core. This is not an action movie. The CGI is minimalistic.

 

 

Aliens have arrived in 12 space pods, hovering above land in 12 different parts around the world. Nobody knows why. Amy Adams is a linguist professor who is recruited by the US military, along with Jeremy Renner, a theoretical physicist, to lead the attempts at communicating with these other worldly beings. During this procedural-like plot, we learn about Amy’s character’s life and how this assignment becomes so intricately woven into the person she is. To say more would reveal plot twists and be too “spoilery”. It is a very emotional journey. I had tears welling up and could hear a few sniffles around me as the credits rolled past.

This movie touches upon love (romantic and paternal), global politics, time-travel and militarism. There is no gratuitous sex or violence. Denis Villeneuve seems to enjoy immersing the viewer in the main character’s experience. This film reminded me of Sicario in that way. I was confused for the first 2/3 of the 2 hour run time, because everyone on-screen was too. My patience was rewarded. I am not a science fiction fan, in general, but I do like contemplative stories that give me hope for the future. This movie does that and is so much more enjoyable than the recent onslaught of dystopian fantasy films that have been hitting the multiplex.

If you like thoughtful films, don’t mind a slower pace and a bit of confusion, then check this one out. But get ready for your heart-strings to get tugged.

American Hustle: A Review

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I found myself home alone recently and took the opportunity to catch a movie. I decided on catching up with the Oscar contenders. Because I really enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook, I chose American Hustle as it shared a director and several actors. The fact that my friend Karen recommended it didn’t hurt either.

Well the title says it all! This was a good film about a wild scam, a fictionalization of infamous Abscam, actually. Everyone seemed to be conning everyone else and I had no idea how things would resolve until the satisfying end. It was a good film, not a great film and I was surprised at all the Oscar hype. I usually enjoy a good grifter movie, especially if it is done in a film noir style.  American Hustle was not filmed with typical film noir elements. Rather it was done as a period piece, taking place in the 70’s, at the height of the polyester disco era. Which for some, would lend some nostalgic charm.

This was a film about 2 scam artists, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). This star-crossed pair was nabbed by an eager young FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). In lieu of jail time, the pair of hustlers were coerced into cooperating with DiMaso’s scheme to lure and then take down corrupt politicians, mobsters and other high rollers. Quelle surprise, things did not go according to plan and chaos ensued.

The soundtrack and costumes were spot on and transported me back in time. The acting was good, really, really good. The 3 main leads were transformed and convincing. Additionally, I enjoyed Louis C.K. as Bradley Cooper’s reluctant FBI supervisor. The poor man didn’t know where to look before he was reluctantly dragged into DiMaso’s plan. Jennifer Lawrence did a phenomenal job in a pivotal role that had surprising little screen time, as Bale’s volatile neglected wife.

There were comedic elements in this film (Christian Bale’s character’s ridiculous comb-over comes to mind) but they were far too few. The dialogue was witty at times. So why did I think this film was good and not great? I guess it was because there was very little character development, at least not enough for me to care about the fates of anybody. With a film focused on people doing despicable things, the onus is on the director (David O. Russell in this case) to persuade me to care about what happens to those people. Some times I don’t care but the laughs along the way or the clever plot twists are enough to wow me. Not in this film. It often boils down to relatability, which, granted, is entirely personal. Still glad I saw it and I would definitely watch it again. And I probably will, as I know my husband wants to see it. Who knows? I might have missed something and reserve the right to be wowed after a second viewing.

Man of Steel: What I Liked and What I Could Have Done Without

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I saw the early showing of this movie in 2D with my family last night. If you like a fair amount of character development, mundane dialogue and endless scenes of CGI urban destruction, then this movie won’t disappoint. Warning, minor spoilers follow.

This is a reboot of the franchise and I was looking forward to a new twist on Superman’s origin story. I really enjoyed the first part of the movie, which depicted the death of his home planet Krypton. I enjoyed watching him wander the earth like Kung Fu’s Caine, helping people out when needed and avoiding the spotlight. This was done with subtlety and rare humor. When Clark figured out the secret to his awesomeness which coincided with being introduced to Lois Lane, I was onboard. However, when he battled General Zod (Michael Shannon), an outcast from Krypton, for what seemed like forever, this movie eroded much of the goodwill it had stockpiled. The second part really dragged; clocking in at 2h23min, this movie felt much longer. My 10-year-old daughter fell asleep. She declared herself bored at the 35 min mark, poor thing. My 11-year-old daughter stayed attentive throughout the film. She liked it but was quick to elucidate this film’s flaws.

This promising origin tale threw a few twists into a familiar story and then devolved into a bloated disaster spectacle. I do not want to spoil major plot points, and this movie was not all bad. Virgo that I am, I thought I would make a couple of lists (in no particular order of importance).

Things I liked about Man of Steel
No opening credits sequence
Henry Cavill as Superman, so beautiful and a good actor (talents underutilized here), I could watch him in anything (except the Immortals, that I simply couldn’t get through)
Henry Cavill shirtless
Henry Cavill shirtless with chest hair
Henry Cavill with chest hair tufting out of the collar of his Superman suit
Amy Adams as Lois Lane; fabulous and feisty
Amy Adams is 9 yrs older than the leading man
Lois Lane was not portrayed as an idiot; i.e. someone who could be fooled by a pair of glasses
Lois Lane’s role was more than just a damsel in distress and contributed to the conflict resolution
Lois Lane’s wardrobe may bring vests to the forefront of ladies fashion
Lois Lane’s clothes stayed on
Multiracial cast
Superman’s youth told in flashbacks
Russell Crowe, still has a presence
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Pa and Ma Kent
The motivation of villainous General Zod made for understandable conflict, within the confines of a superhero plot
The Kryptonian technobabble wasn’t too cumbersome to follow

Things I could have done without in Man of Steel
Too long  (failed Ann’s watch test, repeatedly)
Very little humour, took itself way too seriously
Forgettable soundtrack
Stadium-sized plot holes, won’t list them here for fear of spoiling the film, but feel free to ask me to elaborate using the comments.
Endless unimaginative scenes of destruction
Poorly choreographed fights
Lois Lane wearing stiletto heels, ridiculous for an intrepid reporter
Lois Lane referring to herself as a Pulitzer prize winner in conversation with Perry White,  in a word, is awful (Only an insufferable jerk would do that; clearly she wasn’t that type of person. Perry White should have refered to her as such if it was an important expository fact – it wasn’t).
Mundane to really bad dialogue (see point above)
Pretty low emotional stakes during the climax
Pa Kent, farmer, makes a huge sacrifice for a dog? Hardly!
Waste of a great supporting cast, Laurence Fishburne, Chris Meloni and Harry Lennix come to mind.

I won’t be watching this again. Ok, maybe the first half, I might revisit when it is on DVD or TV. Which is a shame, as I am a fan of Cavill’s (the main reason I watched The Tudors to the end of it’s run). I also really like Amy Adams, ever since I was pleasantly surprised by Disney’s Enchanted. I think ultimately this film was not made for me. Let me know what you liked or didn’t about this film. I am always willing to revisit a film with a new perspective.

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