Sunday Sesh: Let’s Just Watch Arrival

Old Man Doom checks out Denis Villenueve’s Arrival

Howdy, Flushers! Old Man Doom here, subbing in for W. this week on Sunday Sesh. Today I want to talk about a film that has been receiving a lot of hype recently. That film is Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Adams plays a linguist (as a linguist nerd, I appreciated the representation) who is recruited by the military after extraterrestrial craft touch down in Montana and all around the globe. Her mission: to make first contact and translate the alien language of the spacecraft’s occupants.  Jeremy Renner is her physicist counterpart, and together they start the process of interpreting the aliens’ motivations and plans for humanity. But as the language barrier beings to drop and motivations become clearer, things get complicated. In an effort to avoid spoilers – as this film is still in theaters in the US – I’ll just say that for all the centuries of recorded history in which we humans developed hundreds of languages and nuanced ways of communication, our fate comes down to just a single word in the end.

This film is also Denis Villenueve’s follow-up to last year’s masterful exercise in tension and brutality, Sicario (W. liked it too).  And because Sicario was my favorite film of 2015 (and has broken into my top 10 favorites of all time), I, of course, have to compare the two.  So, here’s the question: does Arrival stand up next to Sicario or some of the other intense dramas/thrillers of the year so far?

Here’s a hot take for y’all (‘cause that’s what we do here in the turlet): No, no it doesn’t. Pump yo brakes, hype train. Arrival just doesn’t cut it for me.

It’s a mess. The intensity of the first and second acts cannot keep the film moving when it enters the somewhat confused and flaccid third act. I compare it more accurately to the gradual breakdown of plot and plot device that Interstellar suffers from (or at least that’s what people say it suffers from; I fucking love Interstellar). The problem is not necessarily that viewers are thrust headlong into a twist in the final act, but rather that it seems kinda pieced onto the end – forced into the story, if you will.  While Sicario fully exercised it’s tense musculature through out its runtime, arrival lacks a resolution that makes any real impact, like slowing down just before reaching the finish line instead of speeding up. It’s there – the resolution is there.  It’s just not the one I hoped for or wanted. The desaturated color of film contributes to this sense of dullness not by inspiring awe and terror at what is Earth’s most significant visitation, but rather presenting a sense of sameness, reinforcing the not-so-unique-anymore, washed-out “gray” vibe on screen that filmgoers see constantly.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Arrival is a pretty great movie. All the performances are relatively restrained in the best possible way, something I find Villenueve does best. And the creature design actually drives home the awe for viewers, evoking a disturbing revelation that sentient, intelligent life may not ever look or sound the way we do. That said, the emotional and narrative impact still loses something for me at the end. So, when it comes time to make that end-of-the-year film list, I’m not sure if Arrival is going to be on it. I would recommend seeing Arrival, but if I had to choose, I’d say that Sicario is the superior Villenueve film. And I’d even say that Midnight Special, with Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton, is the superiror Sci-Fi drama of the year. In fact, go buy Midnight Special and watch that. Do it now.

So, there’s my hot take on Arrival. What did y’all think of it? What some other hyped movies of the year that disappointed? What are you looking forward to seeing the most before the year’s out?

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Published on: November 20, 2016

Filled Under: Open Swim

Views: 767

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  • Sir Crawfish The Based
  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY
  • that’s a great review, OMD! i’m beyond excited to see Arrival, as with most sci-fi films. and of course i’m going to take your rec of Midnight Special (Joel Edgerton >>>>>)

    i fucking disliked Insterstellar because A) Christopher Nolan is OVER* and B) the writers took a few heady sci-fi concepts but then mixed in emotional mumbo-jumbo like “love transcends space and time” and the audacity to have characters willing to sacrifice important mission objectives for selfish goals.

    *is there any director who has made such a drastic nose-dive in quality from his early works to cog-in-the-Hollywood-machine as Christopher Nolan? it feels to me like after creating The Dark Knight (the most over-praised film in history, as far as i’m concerned) his ego grew to the size of Montana and the producers are throwing seemingly unlimited amounts of money at him for his projects. this guy needs to hire an editor, for one: no movie of his needs to breach the two-hour time limit. Inception crumbles under the weight of its exposition-spewing characters and side plots. same with Insterstellar, the first thirty minutes contain exposition delivered in such an obvious manner that it feels as if the Nolan brothers are metaphorically handing the audience a book of “pre-reading material” in order to understand the plot — but we possess the ability to deduce these concepts without the spoon-feeding.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      I fucking disliked Interstellar because A) Christopher Nolan SUCKS

      • Sir Crawfish The Based

        Christopher Nolan? More like Christopher Nogoodmovies.

        • Crawfish>>>>>>>>>>>>

        • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

          You guys are fucking nuts lol.

    • KyleJMcBride

      The end of Memento was so fucking D…U…M…B.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Yet Memento, Insomnia and (one of his older movies) Following are the only Nolan movies I still like. At least Memento and Insomnia had a solid atmosphere (opposed to the sterile shit he’s doing now) and Following features British gangsters. Always a plus.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWz52Rj4q2Q

      • No.

        • KyleJMcBride

          Oh my yes.

        • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

          I really liked it. I think that’s kind of what made the movie for me.

          I don’t mind when a character abandons their directive/objective/etc for personal reasons, as long as it’s believable. That guy’s entire point in life was revenge, and with his memory problems, not like he’d know the difference, so it made perfect sense to me.

      • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

        I almost forgot to tell you that Ellsworth couldn’t make it. He had a pre taped promo from Toronto and Kevin Nash faced the Brooklyn Brawler in his place. Big Sexy was going to powerbomb the Brawler but he gave him a mulligan because he went to Nash’s mothers funeral. He instead chokeslammed and pinned the manager.

        • KyleJMcBride

          Ellsworth has Survivor Series tonight so it’s not surprising he wouldn’t show. WWE has to be his top priority right now.

    • KyleJMcBride

      Dark Knight was crap on a stick. Mark Hamill is 1,000 times The Joker that Heath Ledger was.. Heck, I’d take Caesar Romero over Ledger.

      • ME GORAK™✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ
      • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

        Heath Ledger is still leagues above Leto’s Joker though. Hes no Mark Hamill though.

        • KyleJMcBride

          I’ll probably never see Suicide Squad.

          • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

            I really loved Heath Ledger’s joker, but I’m with you on that one. No desire whatsoever to see it. Part of me wants to see it just so I can feel more justified criticizing it, but I really don’t want to sit through it.

      • Óðinn
        • KyleJMcBride

          You know it.

          • Óðinn

            Some of the animated stuff that DC does is actually pretty good on a consistent basis, unlike their live-action feature films which are rarely good.

          • KyleJMcBride

            The mid 90s FOX series was excellent.

          • Depechemodeisgangsta

            That 90’s Batman cartoon is amazing, even the plot was good, i believe they are on Netflix, also the Dark Knight cartoon was awesome, i can’t even believed how they shit the bed with a easy story to tell when they decided to make Batman vs Superman.

          • Óðinn

            Yeah. I just saw Captain America: Civil War. It’s not the greatest movie in the world, but miles ahead of the abomination that DC released with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which really made no sense. Marvel did a decent job, even with too many characters to handle properly in terms of character development.

          • Depechemodeisgangsta

            I feel like Marvel is trying to tell good story on their movies, and DC is just in it to make that box office, IDK if you heard the rumors, that Affleck wanted to change some of the script on his upcoming Batman movie, since you know he is also a director, and has a couple of decent films under his belt, and the studio told him basically, don’t worry about that, as long as we make $ on box office, that’s all that really matters.

          • Óðinn

            I hadn’t heard that. Although, I work in the film industry so I’m not surprised that the bottom line is the biggest consideration.

    • Old Man Doom

      I think you’re dead on about Nolan.

    • Hot Take: Nolan has not made a very good film since Memento.

      • EsusMoose

        no. The prestige is very good at it came out in 06

      • No heat felt here, my armless m8. I only enjoyed that one and two others

    • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

      I prefer Jonathan Nolan. He’s the director of the Westworld TV series.

  • KyleJMcBride

    I’ll see this when it comes to blu-ray. I thought Interstellar was pretty bunk.

  • Abradolf Lincler

    i dont even be watching movies, yo.

    we watched that pontypool movie.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Pontypool = good shit

      • Old Man Doom

        Dude… Pontypool is love, Pontypool is life

    • KyleJMcBride

      I watched A Field In England last night, again.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Ever watched Kill List?

        • KyleJMcBride

          So many times I’ve lost count. Heck, I may watch it tonight. I saw Field because I was already a Ben Wheatley fan. I need to see High Rise soon.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Haven’t watched High Rise myself. Kill List is a superb movie imo. It combines many things I like to see in movies: it’s got mobsters, it’s got horror and it’s got Lynchian weirdness. It’s been way too long since I last watched it. I need to rectify that asap.

      • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

        I keep meaning to watch that one, but haven’t yet. I did see High Rise recently, though. I liked it.

    • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

      Not even the movie McCabe and Mrs Miller? The soundtrack was by Leonard Cohen and it was so good.

      • Abradolf Lincler

        not even that one, JJD

        • KyleJMcBride

          There’s better Altman movies you could watch anyway.

          • Óðinn
          • KyleJMcBride

            A prime example.

          • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

            I enjoyed it when I watched it.

          • KyleJMcBride

            All Altman movies are good. Some are better than others.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Sounds interesting, will check it out. Honestly don’t get the hatred for Interstellar, the thing I remembered about that movie wasn’t the “love transcends” dialogue, but the facts about time dilation around black holes. So goddamned cool.

    My CPU (a neural net processor, i.e., a learning computer) tends to reject sappy shit in favor of focusing on good shit.

    • Abradolf Lincler

      i wonder whos neural net pathways are better designed, yours or Data’s?

      perhaps you two should play a game of strategema
      http://cdn-static.denofgeek.com/sites/denofgeek/files/star_trek_tng_2-20_0.jpg

    • i’m sorry for trash-talking your movie earlier. that’s just me being critical. as with all non-Five Finger Deathpunch works of art, i can understand how everyone’s taste in material — and even their scoring system — is going to be different than mine. but i definitely give the T2 “thumbs up” gif for the sciency portions of Interstellar. And the music. And the black holy parts. And the sassy robits. And the Jeffrey Wright time-shifty part.
      (see, i like a lot of stuff but just become too critical)

      • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

        I loved the soundtrack for Interstellar.

    • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

      I thought Interstellar was great. I think it’s just anti-hype backlash. Christopher Nolan is like a metal band with mainstream success. Some people would praise him no matter what he did, so in turn others will find something to hate about anything he does.

  • Pentagram Sam

    Gonna put this on tha list o shit to watch on the internets. Didn’t know it was Sicario dude directing. Gotta be honest here, I mainly watch movies online. Not camcorder shit, but if some movie gets printed in Taiwan it gets released early with sub titles.

    Another thing too is shit man, my enjoyment of the movie is correlated with how much I spent on it. If it’s fuckin free, at my pad, with food, beverages, and bud of choice… this seems to make shitty movies less shitty.

    But if I spend 13 bucks for a ticket, 6 bucks for candy and drinks at the gas station, 9 bucks for popcorn for “two” cos you can’t sneak a Rico’s popper in there and the movie better be goddamn fucking amazing. My criteria for enjoyment goes into OCD overdrive if I spent 25 bucks plus.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    This looks pretty rad, I’ll have to check it out.
    Interstellar is a bad ass movie, I don’t understand you haters.

    Gonna go see Fantastic Beasts here in a bit, because nerd.

  • Hubert

    Midnight Special is great. Go see that you garbage humans,

    • Old Man Doom

      DO IT NOW

  • Max

    Haven’t seen it. But Amy Adams? Count me interested.

    Sacha Baron Cohen is a very lucky man.

  • JWEG

    Arrival just sounds like they figured they’d “borrow” (what they thought were) the best parts of Close Encounters, 2001, 2010, The Day the Earth Stood Still (either version), and ‘To Serve Man’ from The Twilight Zone.

    Whether or not it’s a good film, I think I’d just rather see anything from that list of “inspirations” (excluding the Keanu DTESS) again, instead.

    • KyleJMcBride

      Exactly. I’ve seen all those other movies far too many times.

      • JWEG

        That said, I also expect Passengers to also be a mess of unoriginal Sci-Fi tropes (example: based on vague descriptions by a family member about the trailer I thought they were talking about some kind of way-too-soon Pandorum remake), but I might see it anyway.

  • CT-12

    Not related at all, but this movie looks fucking sick, can’t wait to see it (horror fans, take notice).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gp2adx_ScA8

    • NDG

      Yeah man, keen to see this.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Ooooh…

  • Óðinn
  • Ohhh, I want to see this flick. I’m conflicted based on your review and your comparison of the plot breakdown featured on Interstellar. I liked Interstellar, for sure, but the second time I saw it, it wasn’t that great. It’s one of those movies that you only have to watch it just for once.

    If I ever check Arrival, I will tell you how it was my experience 😉

    Thanks for this review, man. I love Sunday Sesh, even when I read them on mondays, jajaja!

  • sweetooth0

    yeah we went and saw this on Friday. It was alright, but I don’t get the hype. I’d read it was supposed to have this powerful emotional climax that had people crying in the theater but I’m not sure what movie they were watching…