*NEW* ARRIVAL REVIEW *NEW*

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The next Interstellar. Brilliant . . . if you liked that movie.

Unfortunately, I didn’t. You can see where I’m heading with this.

A linguist (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

The endless Twitter trends, the crazy hype train. I was actually excited to see what the man who brought us Prisoners could deliver.

I’m not going to lie. By the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

An emotionally charged opening sequence (that rivalled Up) plucked on the heartstrings as we followed Louise’s (Adams – Nocturnal Animals) relationship with her daughter over the blossoming years. Right up to her swift and tragic illness.

Bleak, heartbreaking and we hadn’t even got to the aliens yet. The pace was left to simmer away and I was happy to allow the bubbling tension and theorising develop as Louise was recruited by Weber (Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland) after 12 strange objects descended from the sky.

Adams was superb and delivered a sterling turn. She really carried the film for me.

I wish more was made out of the supporting cast. Whitaker disappeared into the background far too much and Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire) was completely wasted in his role as the shady Agent Halpern. Just another generic government agent.

The only other actor to make a memorable impression was Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). His quips and chemistry with Adams was a much needed presence as the pair worked together to assess whether our new visitors were friend or foe.

I was actually quite impressed by how writers Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang thought up such a situation. It was almost believable in a way if a superior race were to suddenly appear and try to communicate in an indecipherable and unknown language.

The special effects and CGI on the strange tentacly guests were fantastic. The motion capture methods to create their movements was impressive. They reminded me a little of the jellyfish things from Monsters.

The cryptography and puzzle solving as Louise and co. tried to form a dialogue was intriguing enough BUT by the 60 minute marker, I could feel my patience wading. My interest lost. I didn’t even mind that we hadn’t received any answers or real questions to ask the sinister looking squid things.

BUT the pace really did drag and it was like pulling teeth out to get anywhere. The constant flashbacks to Louise’s daughter and bizarre dream sequences (at first haunting and hypnotic) soon irritated and numbed me into a mini-coma.

Thankfully as the growing tension and civil unrest across the world forced the UN to make a (predictable) decision, I was soon pulled back in.

The paranoia and suspense finally going somewhere with the military desperate to scratch those itchy trigger fingers.

The rising insurgence among the ranks. The hidden agendas from the international compatriots. The world in arrears. If anything, this was all too realistic with China and Russia refusing to share information and desperate to cut ties and eradicate this unknown presence.

All spurned on from one word (Finally deciphered) as “WEAPON”. A reference? A threat? A simple misinterpretation from the linguistic team?

The final 20 minutes was frantic, thrilling and . . . unexpected BUT rewarding?

I won’t say too much about the ending. BUT I will admit that I’m NOT the biggest sci-fi fan. Blade Runner, Alien, Twelve Monkeys, Looper; sign me up. Anything else . . . meh. Once I heard the phrase, “non-linear time difference”, the wind had been knocked out of my sails.

Like Interstellar, Arrival delivered a cleverly woven ending with time paradoxes and hidden meanings galore.

I was afraid that I missed something. I checked the forums and discussed theories and realised I had it sussed the first time. BUT for all the hype and twists and turns, it just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t caught up in it as much as I hoped.

It was good BUT . . . a defining science fiction film? 5/5? Film of the year? I don’t think I’ll remember this by next month.

Maybe it was a case of hype hindering rather than helping. I felt the same for Sicario. Wondering if people had never seen a movie about the underbelly of the Mexican border before.

If Adams wasn’t at the helm, I don’t think my interest would have been grabbed at all. I felt for her character, shared in her grief and frustration as the ever-impending deadline pressed on.

I didn’t hate it. There were genuine moments of suspense and tension. I don’t know how Bradford Young’s grainy cinematography could make a scene look so bleak and beautiful at the same time.

Johann Johannsson’s musical score was sublime. It was perfectly composed and really heightened the mood and emotion of the scenes. Especially in the closing moments.

A clever, well acted, if muddled and drawn out affair for me. It certainly left for food for thought BUT one to remember?

I’ll leave that to you.

3/5

*NEW* NOCTURNAL ANIMALS REVIEW *NEW*

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Strange, hypnotic, tense, nail biting, different. Certainly one for the books.

An art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel (Jake Gyllenhaal), a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

I hadn’t even sat down and got comfortable before I was wondering what the hell I was getting myself into.

I never like to read too much about a film. All I had to go by was the hype. The endless promotion and tweets. I had to seek it out. The eye popping opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention as a bunch of morbidly obese elderly naked women gyrated and flaunted their money makers across the giant silver screen.

I kid you not. I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with the first 15 minutes BUT director Tom Ford’s (A Single Man) hypnotic visual style (aided by Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful cinematography) and Adam’s (Arrival) presence kept me going.

Abel Korzeniowski’s musical score was something else. Perfectly balanced against the haunting backdrops.

It was only when Susan (Adams) received a mysterious manuscript from her ex husband that my interest was peaked. A dual narrative set with Susan’s (Adams) cynical lifestyle and unhappy marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer – The Man from U.N.C.L.E) running alongside Edward’s (Gyllenhaal – Demolition) story.

Gyllenhaal was superb. He really excelled in playing both the author and his fictional counterpart Tony. Nightcrawler certainly marked a turning point in ol’ Darko’s impressive career and he delivered yet another sterling performance. Oscar?

The film flicked back and forth from Adams’ past to Tony’s fictional struggle. The only problem was that I was found myself more interested with the fictional world than the real one. I’m sure that was supposed to be the point BUT it was a little frustrating watching the talented Ms Adams become increasingly more passive. A mere spectator in her own narrative.

The cut backs conveniently appeared at the tensest moments of Tony’s traumatic journey in the desert as his family crossed paths with some unsavoury characters.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) was superb as the demonic Ray. A complete change of role for him. A revolting creature lurking in the darkness. Dare I say, a nocturnal animal waiting to strike. I really detested him. A great performance.

The suspense had me on tenterhooks as the family feared for their lives. BUT every time we cut back to Susan dealing with her empty and frustrated life, I was urging the film to get back to Tony.

The questions piling up. Why is Susan so captivated with this story? Did this happen to her? Is this why she is no longer with Edward?

The supporting cast were impeccable. Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) was equally good as Bobby. The cop with nothing to lose. Ready to do anything to help Tony get justice. Made a change to see him play something less sinister.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) and Anne Riseborough (Birdman). Reduced to passing cameos as Susan’s gallery friends. Shame. Laura Linney (Mystic River) made more of an impression in her minute role as Susan’s controlling mother.

Despite that bizarre opener, I was hooked to the very end as you began to peel beneath the layers and realize that there is more than meets the eye. Gyllenhaal and Adams had good chemistry as we finally delved into Edward and Susan’s relationship.

My only qualm on first watch was the ending. It was a little abrupt and left me baffled. I actually looked around the cinema, wondering “Did I miss something?”. Perplexed, I went to forums and discussed heavily on Twitter about the ambiguous finale.

BUT for the first time in a while, I was left talking about a film for days. It actually made me have to think. I actually wanted to watch it again. An impressive feat in itself. Especially if you look back on my last months review backlog.

It was suspenseful, engaging and brilliantly acted. There was even a moment that took me completely off guard and made quite a few people jump in the screen. One chap actually yelped in surprise (No, not me!)

If you’re in the mood for something a little different to the norm, I would heavily recommend.

4/5 (Just)