Arrival (2016): Amy Adams and the Hectapods (Review)

Amy Adams

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (the chap who helmed “Prisoners” and “Sicario“) with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer – based on the Ted Chiang short story “Story of Your Life – Arrival is a slow, moving and methodical delivery of almost unconsciously epic proportions. It features the ever watchable Amy Adams meeting some “hectapods” and Jeremy Renner in a different mode than his usual heroic onscreen presentation.

Some critics have commented on the uniqueness of the aliens in the just under two hour film and stated that they are unlike other alien depictions in the past.

Oh, contraire, ‘mes amies.’

Monsters, the 2010 guerrilla-made-on-a-budget film featured multi-limbed creatures that were huge and looked not too dissimilar from these aliens. “Battle for Los Angeles” also had multi-legged, or armed (it was hard to tell) aliens who took on a squad of Marines and one Air Force Technical Sergeant.

Leaving aside the small duplicity issue of this film’s version of little green “men” Arrival manages to hit a lot of notes in the time given. It stresses the need for communication above all else and throws a game changer into the mix with a time conundrum of sorts.

The film starts with what we assume to be memories (although in essence they really are just “future” remembrances) of a daughter who dies an early death and the mourning of the parent left behind. It then moves into the day of linguistic professor Jesse Banks (Adams) going to work and finding her class decimated.

Turning on the news, we learn that 12 alien spacecraft, looking like ovoid versions of Kubrick’s obelisk from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” have arrived, hovering above the earth in odd locations across the globe. In short order, Banks is approached by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who wants her to translate the newcomers version of language and she is joined by Ian Donnelly (Renner); a scientist.

The build up to the underplayed epilogue of the film is slowly paced. This gives us an idea of how long it would take to learn an alien communicative system as well as giving us a reason why the creatures write in a circular manner.

Non-linear time-lines are the basis for the language and the gift that the visitors mean to bestow on a hostile planet. It is the crux of the plot and the thing that drives Banks throughout the film. Somewhat amazingly, for what is in essence, a science fiction “creature feature” Arrival is a bit of a “tear jerker.”

This is only accomplished by a subtle delivery of moments of truth along the film’s own timeline. Renner’s character’s clear excitement and delight at the prospect of entering the alien spacecraft.  Adams’ tough fragility and the emotions that she displays while “remembering” her dead daughter are just part of the mixture that really sells the film and its off-center plot twist.

Even the moment where Abbott, or Costello, tap the glass with one hectapodal limb (a clear gesture meaning, “it’s behind you” toward the end of the film) feels true and rational. After all, in terms of non-verbal communication, it makes sense that even aliens could point at something and it would mean the same thing in any world: “Look at that.”

The ending is sad, yet defining, and perhaps only Adams could have pulled this one off so perfectly. Renner makes the perfect partner for the actress in this scenario and he plays the enthusiastic scientist to perfection. At no time do we confuse Ian with that arrow slinging Marvel hero that the actor is so associated with.

Villeneuve has managed to put together a tale that relies on memory of things to come with a major plot device of “seeing” things in the future at the “right time” to affect the present.  The editing and the pacing of the film makes everything come together beautifully at the end. 

Arrival conveys the strictness of a military response to an alien visit adroitly. The humorless approach, by personnel used to dealing with threats, mixed with the more aesthetic players on the team works well and also has that ring of truth to it.

Somewhat surprisingly, Arrival only garnered one Oscar (for Best Achievement in Sound Editing) as it is a full 5 star film.  It never really misses a beat and hits all the right notes throughout. It is available to watch via streaming online or on DVD.

Catch this one if you can and have a box of tissues handy just in case. Check out the trailer below:

Time After Time: Yes, Yet Another Time Travel Show (Review)

FREDDIE STROMA, JOSH BOWMAN

ABC have entered the overflowing time travel game with Time After Time, a downsizing of the 1979 film starring Malcolm McDowell and David Warner in the leading roles of Wells and Jack the Ripper. This introduction of yet another time travel series could well have potential viewers shaking their heads, but this is not on par with the current shows on offer.

For a start, the film, which was a cracking story with some excellent performances, provides the series with a good template to start with. It also benefits from moving the action forward by a good 38 years, or nearly four decades. The pilot works overtime to make this time machine journey arrive in a modern and topical USA. Trump is seen on the big screen television in the hotel bar and cell phones add an interesting facet to the tale.

In essence, Wells introduces his friends to his time machine. As they poke fun at the writer his friend Dr. Stevenson, aka Jack the Ripper is busy killing yet another London prostitute. Stevenson arrives one step ahead of Scotland Yard who are conducting a house to house search.

Anyone who has seen the 1979 film will know what happens next. Stevenson uses Wells’ machine to escape to a future time in New York. Not having the key, the time traveling device returns to Wells home. The writer then follows Stevenson to the future.

As pilots go, this one is full of clever bits and some pretty impressive acting by the leads. Genesis Rodriguez is alluring, endearing and plucky, in turns, and Stroma, along with Bowman, are beyond brilliant in their respective roles.

The Brit actors do a cracking job bringing their interpretation of the roles played by McDowell and Warner in 1979 to the small screen. Show creator Kevin Williamson, the man who teamed up with Wes Craven to create the wildly popular Scream franchise,  has given us a villain and a hero that we can sink our teeth into.

Stevenson is thrilled to find that the future is violent and full of promise.  Wells is horrified that his friend is a murderer who used his contraption to escape being caught back in Victorian England.

Time After Time looks brilliant. Director Marcos Siega is running a taut ship for the pilot and the quality of the production feels more like a film than a weekly television series. The sets are spectacular and the quality of the camera work is reminiscent of the cinema.  This new series screams big screen from the very first frame.

Unlike NBC’S Timeless, or the Netflix offering of Travelers, Time After Time  is not about preserving history or trying to fix a problem in the past that affects the future. This series is more personal and intimate.

Sure Timeless has a team chasing a villain but it all amounts to a much broader brush stroke. It is a group of people fighting to defeat an evil organization versus a single man trying to catch a killer across time.  The two shows may well be a tad similar in their plot devices but the ways and means differ enormously.

Time After Time is set to air in early 2017 with ABC not yet revealing a premiere date. Looking at the show’s pilot episode however,  one thing is certain, whenever the series arrives it will definitely impress.

Cast:

Timeless: Atomic City – Oops (Review)

 Timeless - Season 1

Timeless “Atomic City”sees the team travel back to 21 September, 1962 where JFK is visiting his pal Frank Sinatra with his mistress Judith Campbell.  Three episodes in and Timeless has committed its first “oops” moment.

It is surprising that the writers and producers would assume no one remembers, or had read about, the distance put between then President Kennedy and Frank Sinatra.  Frank was caught on camera hugging known Mafia mob boss Sam “The Weasel” Giancana.

Kennedy dumped Frank like a nuclear rock and it caused a rift between Peter Lawford, married to Pat Kennedy, and Sinatra that lasted till Lawford’s death. By March 1962 the president changed plans that would have had him staying with Frank on the west coast. JFK, with his brother-in-laws help, stayed with Bing Crosby instead.

Frank went ballistic.

By September 1962 the president would not have been attending a show with Frank and by that time the “Rat Pack” were cooling down their intermingling acts. The height of the Sands Summit was in 1960, during the filming of “Oceans 11.”

Clearly the storyline was meant to capitalize on the Cuban Crisis, which happens a month later, and the Judith Campbell connection between Giancana and Kennedy.  But placing Kennedy in Vegas at that time was a big boo-boo.

Timeless this week saw Flynn (who still resembles Clint Walker so much that it is slightly disconcerting) go back to Las Vegas in 1962 to steal the plutonium core to an atomic bomb. He enlists the aid of Judith Campbell who agrees after he blackmails her with pictures of Judith and the president.

As Wyatt, Lucy and Rufus try to first learn what Flynn is up to and  then stop him, Rufus learns that  Anthony is not a reluctant prisoner at all. He is helping Flynn willingly.

Campbell is portrayed as a somewhat sympathetic character in the episode. Although she is looking out for number one, she also cares deeply that the photographs could harm Jack’s career.

Timeless - Season 1
Wyatt shooting it out with Flynn

She helps Flynn by getting a general’s keys to the holding area where the atomic weapon is stored. Later, when she is rescued by Wyatt and the others, Judith confesses if she had known what Flynn was after she would have refused to help.

There are a few gags about Vegas and the time period. Rufus finds Lucy a cigarette girl outfit which she refuses to wear. She tells him to find her a waitress outfit instead. The punchline is that the waitress outfit is the same.

Another gag has to do with Wyatt, although this one has a slightly bittersweet taste to it. He sends a telegram to his dead wife, to be delivered 11 February 2012.  It is a lump in the throat moment that is alleviated by his saying defensively to Lucy:

“Well it worked in Back to the Future II.”

It does not work in this episode of Timeless. Despite Wyatt warning his future wife to come home with him on the night she dies, when the team return she is still dead.

This appears to be one of those “fate” issues, something the show touched upon in the pilot episode when the journalist; Drummond, dies the next day after being saved by Wyatt. Some things, it seems, cannot be changed after all.

While any change in the past causes differences in the timelines, some things may not be changeable.  Drummond survived for one day and then died anyway.  Of course the idea of the telegram Wyatt sent to his wife in the future was not necessarily “fate” when she dies anyway. It could have more to do with telegrams being phased out by 2012.

Back in the present, Lucy is still engaged to Noah and living with him. She decides to move back in with her mother. She tells her confused fiancé that she needs to get her head on straight.

Meanwhile, Flynn and Anthony dig up the plutonium core that they buried outside of Las Vegas  back in 1962.

Timeless continues to entertain and manages to ask the question of just what we, the viewers, would change if we could go back. Clearly, Lucy wants her sister back and Wyatt is trying actively to bring back his dead wife.

Another theme has to do with Lucy being there to keep history on the straight and narrow. Despite her presence each trip has resulted in something changing, sans the most recent one, and only the Hindenburg mission altered the present.

 Timeless - Season 1
Lucy and her fiancé

It will be interesting to see where this show heads. Hopefully they can avoid any further historical boo-boo’s in the future (pun intended) and keep the mysteries  coming.

Timeless airs Mondays on NBC.

Cast:

Guest starring  Elena Satine  Judith Campbell and Daniel DiTomasso as Noah.

Valeria Lukyanova: Human Barbie to Live on Air

Valeria Lukyanova: Human Barbie to Live on Air

Valeria Lukyanova, the “Human Barbie” from the Ukraine, has revealed that she will live on air, and light, from now on as she does not need food to exist. The 23 year-old model has revealed that she has converted to Breatharianism. This “new-age” cult believe that food and water are not necessary to survive as they can get all their nutritional requirement from “sun-gazing” and from absorbing energy from a giant invisible spacecraft that is stationed over the U.S.

Teen Beach Party aka Back to the Future in the Sand Breaks Records

Teen Beach Party aka Back to the Future in the Sand Breaks Records