Blu-ray Review: ARRIVAL

While the sheeple of Earth may never truly know if life outside our own has made first contact, I’ve always pondered over how the scenario would play out on a global scale. And in the crazy times we live in, that thought has crossed my mind more frequently than ever. Thankfully, Arrival has made first contact.

Of course there’s Independence Day, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Mars Attacks, and War of the Worlds among others, but they narrowly focus on aggressive aliens threatening our planet and how the two-time, undefeated, back-to-back World War champions from the United States of America must find a way to put an end to their existence. Then on the other side of the coin we have Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Abyss approaching the situation with no aggression, but very intimately and impacting only a certain group of people and not the world. Arrival bridges the gap of the entire spectrum of first encounter cinema and absolutely sticks the landing.

Arrival Movie Amy Adams

Its well-crafted narrative blends science fiction into a political thriller with a sense of urgency unmatched by the big popcorn blockbusters of its ilk. The tension it so carefully builds reaches incredible heights all the way up to the final moments of the film thanks to the varying degrees of cultural perspective in handling the global encounter. The many layers of Arrival evoke a satisfying thirst of Inception-esque conversation as it delicately balances its enriched themes without feeling overstuffed, preachy, or derivative, which help lead up to its powerful ending.

Director Denis Villenueve is no stranger to this caliber of storytelling as seen from his earlier work in Sicario and Prisoners. Not only has he assembled a stellar cast led by Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker – of which Adams was completely snubbed from this year’s Academy Awards – but the technical prowess behind Arrival is sensational. Bradford Young (Selma; A Most Violent Year), the second black cinematographer to ever be nominated for an Oscar, paints a chilly canvas of epic proportions complemented by a uniquely haunting score by Oscar-nominated Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario; The Theory of Everything). Additionally, the eerie sound design and original look of the aliens along with the production design of the interior of the spaceship is top-notch.

Arrival Movie Jeremy Renner

One of the most important factors that makes Arrival shine, aside from Eric Heisserer’s (Lights Out; Final Destination 5) screenplay adapted from Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” short sci-fi story, is its editing. Standing atop an intricate glass house of panels consisting of suspenseful plots, engaging themes, and riveting emotions, editor Joe Walker (12 Years a Slave; Shame; Sicario) has elegantly constructed each element to nurture an astounding and moving story.

But if there is one thing that left the biggest impression on me, it is the way the movie approaches communication. In an age where technology has brought us closer together than ever before, it has also torn us apart. Technology has evolved mankind to speak and conduct social interactions with one another differently now than how we used to five or even ten years ago. Imagine bringing an alien species into the mix, one we cannot understand, and having to make sense of it all. It’s difficult enough for some to communicate with another human who comes from a different background and speaks a foreign language – a topic of which Paramount hits outs of the park with a video entitled “Common Ground” that premiered during its theatrical run. Arrival tackles this unfamiliar territory like a house of cards ready to crumble under the vast pressure from every country trying to understand what the aliens want. As Louise (Adams) and Ian (Renner) inch closer to the unveil the truth, others become tired of waiting and have their phones dialed-in for all out war. To provide a less straightforward narrative and achieve maximum feels, congruently the film sprinkles in glimpses of Louise’s family life that adds to its one-two punch climax. With such brilliant direction from Villenueve, Arrival is able to capture the bigger picture in how reshaping the way we think can lead to forward progress among each other and within ourselves.

Needless to say, Arrival is a master class film with nuance and nail-biting suspense that is too important to miss. Firing on all cylinders, Villenueve has created a work of art that entertains, arouses wonder, and sparks discussion that can resonate across the world. Effective communication is key, and Arrival delivers its message with grace.

Arrival Movie Aliens

Special Features:

  • Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival – Featurette
  • Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design – Featurette
  • Eternal Recurrence: The Score – Featurette
  • Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process – Featurette
  • Principles of Time, Memory & Language – Featurette

The bonus material is very solid for those who love filmmaking, especially for a science fiction think piece like Arrival. All of the featurettes are inherently fascinating thanks to the level of craft that went into its development. Everyone involved fawns over the story, with each vignette explained in meticulous detail. Although you won’t find high-energy special features on this disc as you would an action blockbuster, the Arrival Blu-ray special features leaves you with no doubt that Villeneuve approached this film with the utmost respect and care.

What did you think about Arrival? Tell us in the comment section below. [Watch the trailer]


Review: ‘Slow West’

Slow West 2015 Movie Review

As far as Westerns are concerned, until this week, I thought I’d seen it all. With such films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven, High Noon, and Once Upon a Time in the West among others, what more could filmmakers draw from this genre that hasn’t been said already? Enter Slow West. What I would consider more of a dark, comedic tragedy, the movie embarks on an original story that has little to say, but presents itself in such a manner that leaves you forgetting you’re watching a Western. Continue reading

Review: ‘Pitch Perfect 2’

Pitch Perfect 2 Movie Screenshot Anna Kendrick Beca 3

Pitch Perfect will always hold a special place in my heart. It proves that something so terribly marketed can overcome even the lowest of expectations. It came across as a mashup between Stomp the Yard and Glee. I wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this as for the most part it is, but Kay Cannon’s (30 Rock; New Girl) incredibly slick script and Jason Moore’s (Dawson’s Creek; One Tree Hill) keen direction pulled together one of the most entertaining movies of 2012, in my opinion. Pitch Perfect 2 delivers a few good surprises, but comes off slightly disjointed within a familiar routine. Thankfully the film maintains the franchise’s quick-witted dialogue and provides exciting new performances with its delightful cast. Continue reading

Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Mad Max Fury Road 2015 Movie Review

Thirty years after George Miller’s last romp in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of future Australia, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ delivers on all cylinders. Read my review of one of the most insane action films of recent years. Continue reading

Review: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

The Avengers Age of Ultron Screenshot Group Hero Action 2

Have we reached a superhero movie plateau? That’s a question I’ve been struggling over since I left Avengers: Age of Ultron with deeply polarizing thoughts on the film. Writer-director Joss Whedon has spent an impressive amount of time shaping the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to culminate to this very moment that I would consider to be the biggest nerdgasm cinema has ever achieved thus far. It’s a spectacular ballet of many moving parts. And as breathtaking as the movie may be, Age of Ultron definitely has the feeling that this marvelous house of cards producer Kevin Feige has built could come crashing down at any second. Continue reading

SDAFF 2014 Review: Hayao Miyazaki Documentary ‘The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness’

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Movie Review

Much like Willy Wonka, opening his chocolate factory to five golden ticket claimers, Oscar-winning Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away; Howl’s Moving Castle; Princess Mononoke) has given audiences an in-depth look within the halls of Studio Ghibli in the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. Offering incredible insights into one of the most celebrated animation studios in the world, fans will be overjoyed to see not only the animation process, but also gain a unique perspective of Miyazaki himself. Continue reading

SDAFF 2014 Review: ‘Revenge of the Green Dragons’

SDAFF 2014 Revenge of the Green Dragons Review

Rarely have gangsters been depicted in cinema beyond Italian or Irish lineage. When the mob is brought into the conversation, more than likely such classics as The Godfather or Goodfellas come to mind. The Martin Scorsese produced Revenge of the Green Dragons pulls the curtain back on the lesser known Chinese gangsters that ruled Queens in the 1980s. Unfortunately, however, lack of focus and ugly storytelling does little to bring the subject matter into exciting territory. Continue reading

Movie Review: ‘Big Hero 6’ Radiates Colorful, Heartfelt Action Within the Marvel Superhero Formula

Big Hero 6 Movie Review

It’s been 10 years since Pixar’s The Incredibles made their big screen debut, and now Walt Disney Animation Studios has taken a crack at the superhero genre with their acquired Marvel Entertainment property Big Hero 6. Loosely adapted from the comic source material, this animated feature infuses that heartfelt Disney sensibility with Marvel‘s action-oriented storytelling. But as the influx of superhero films plague cinemas, Big Hero 6 presents little to differentiate itself from other superhero origin stories. Continue reading

SDFF 2014 Review: ‘Whiplash’ Runs on Raw Emotion and Powerful Energy

Whiplash 2014 San Diego Film Festival Review

Whether it’s concerning the state of jazz or the film industry, there has been a certain lack of vitality within both camps. They just don’t make ’em like they use to. But in this particular case, Whiplash radiates such remarkable, raw energy that it sticks with you well after the last cymbal crash. A movie so intoxicating that you’ll forget you’re watching actors and not the real thing. Continue reading

SDFF 2014 Review: ‘Laggies’ is Uncomfortably Genuine, Funny, and Simple

Lagies SDFF 2014 Movie Review

It’s been said that your twenties are about self-discovery as well as finding your people and place in the world. That’s pretty overwhelming if you think about it: placing the fate of your existence on a single decade of your life. Embarking on an adventure to punch existentialism in the face, Laggies fails to push past conventional storytelling, but does so with a very delightful cast and off-the-wall attitude. Continue reading