This week’s movie releases

This week’s movie releases

Amy Adams, a pleasing actress at the best of times, surfaces here in an alien visitation drama with eerily poetic undertones. It may not have the majestic awe of Steven Spielberg’s epic ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, but it feeds enough information to the viewer to make Denis Villeneuve’s production a relatively compelling experience.

Review of the week

FILM: Arrival
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nathaly Thibault, Mark O’Brien.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Classification: 10-12 PG
Reviewer: Peter Feldman

Rating: 3/5

Amy Adams, a pleasing actress at the best of times, surfaces here in an alien visitation drama with eerily poetic undertones. It may not have the majestic awe of Steven Spielberg’s epic ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, but it feeds enough information to the viewer to make Denis Villeneuve’s production a relatively compelling experience.

As a spectacle ‘Arrival’ is a slow-burning affair, but it takes its subject matter very seriously. This sombre fantasy about an alien arrival and how a group of gifted scientists attempt to communicate with these beings from outer space, is a fascinating addition to the genre. Films such as  ‘Contact’, ‘Signs’, ‘District 9’, ‘Interstellar’, ‘Independence Day’ and Spielberg’s own ‘The War of the Worlds’ took different tracks, but didn’t always succeed in their cinematic endeavours.
‘Arrival’ is a more serious slice of sci-fi to ponder over and that’s what makes it so interesting. Villeneuve has made excellent movies in the past (‘Prisoners’ and ‘Sicario’) and he once again applies his mind to the subject matter.

The production opens with the TV news footage that spaceships are hovering over earth in a low-key, un-sensational manner. The authorities are frightened and their response would be to attack these aliens before they attack earth. This, of course, would lead to another ‘Independence Day’-type saga with nothing for an intelligent viewer to savour.
Adams, as linguistics professor Dr Louise Banks, has been taking all this in and observing the growing fear and chaos around her. A no-nonsense Army colonel (Forest Whitaker) shows up in her office to recruit her help. He plays a recording of the attempt that has been made so far to communicate with the aliens, who respond with what sound like the voices of whales. It’s eerie and entrancing.

The aliens have parked spaceships in 12 locations around the world (including America, Russia, China, and Pakistan), and Louise is taken to the one in the United States: a vast green meadow in Montana, surrounded by hills and rolling clouds. Here the smooth, egg-shaped ship (it looks like it’s been cut in half) is hovering like a silent watchdog monitoring the activities of those on earth.

It’s Dr Banks’s task to draw on her language skills to find a way to communicate with the aliens, and to that end she’s teamed up with Dr. Ian Connelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist with a cut-and-dried view of things.

Renner, who often plays the action hero, has a modest role by comparison and it’s left to the charming Adams to effect a linguistic breakthrough. She is the strength of the production and one almost wills her to succeed. She makes every moment vibrate with discovery, as she develops a unique system of communication with the aliens.
Director Villeneuve employs great flair as he builds expectations of what to expect as the two world experts stand beneath the ship waiting for it to open. They are then ushered into what appears to be an abandoned lift shaft with walls made of carbon, where gravity disappears. After navigating their way to the top they encounter a rectangle of light, which turns out to be a clear pane behind which the aliens appear, shrouded in billows of smoky white.

How Dr Banks manages to fashion key words that these giant creatures, dubbed heptapods, can understand and respond to is the film’s defining factor. It also proffers the notion that if you learn a new language, it can rewire the way you think.
And while she is slowly connecting with these beings, the military are getting edgy and China has laid down the gauntlet and is demanding to know what the aliens want otherwise they will attack them.
Cinema-goers seeking an adrenalin rush will have to go somewhere else, because ‘Arrival’ is a far more cerebral look at alien invasions and makes for a refreshing change from the often excessively explosive action of previous incarnations.

Other Releases (synopsis)

junior-and-tulip-in-a-scene-from-storksFILM: STORKS
VOICE CAST: Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Katie Crown, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo
DIRECTOR: Doug Sweetland

Storks deliver babies…or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for global internet retail giant Junior (voice of Andy Samberg), the company’s top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when the Baby Factory is accidentally activated on his watch, producing an adorable – and wholly unauthorized – baby girl.

Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip, the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop, in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks’ true mission in the world.

The action-packed animated adventure from directors Nick Stoller and Doug Sweetland, takes audiences on a road trip like no other, as the super-focused stork with big ambitions, and the sunny 18-year-old orphaned girl with some wild ideas, rush to make one very special delivery. Braving danger and unforeseen setbacks, not to mention completely opposite points of view on almost everything, this unlikely pair of couriers makes the transformative journey of their lives, in an original story that celebrates friendship and family, amidst laughter and poignant moments of discovery.

Andy Samberg, who gives voice to ace delivery stork Junior, says, “The great thing about ‘Storks’ is that the emotion of the story is real and something I feel audiences can connect with.
One of the characters is a child who really wants a sibling and there’s a whole family dynamic there that’s really sweet and will resonate with a lot of people. But at the same time, it’s jam-packed with jokes.”

Samberg’s interest was not only piqued by the story but the filmmakers behind it, including executive producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of ‘The LEGO Movie’, with whom he first worked on ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’. “I have a ton of respect for Nick Stoller and Doug Sweetland.

They showed me an early, loose animatic and it was already great, so I was in!,” he continues. “And we know Phil and Chris make incredible movies.”
For a big-screen experience in which the visual storytelling had to be as engaging as the action and themes, it made sense to join the talents of noted comedy writer and director Stoller, of ‘Neighbors’ and the ‘Muppets’ movies, and state-of-the-art digital animation whiz Sweetland, whose repertoire includes ‘Toy Story’, ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Cars’. Long aware of each others’ work and reputations, the two were eager to collaborate.
Stoller additionally wrote the ‘Storks’ screenplay, and served as a producer alongside Brad Lewis, another respected animation vet, with ‘Antz’ and the Oscar-winning ‘Ratatouille’ among his credits.