Movie Review: Arrival

When the movie was over, I got into some banter with two total strangers about its meaning and message.

arrival_movie_posterI went to see the movie Arrival at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany alone; I’ve discovered that there are lots of people who won’t do that. A few days later, the Wife did the same thing.

Going in, I knew it was some sort of science fiction drama. Odd-looking spacecraft show up at 12 different locations around the globe, including in, or more correctly, over Montana. The military guy (Forest Whitaker) calls on an expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try to figure out what they want. Louise works with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and their teams to try to communicate with these alien beings.

But this takes time. People around the world are nervous. In a nod to the know-nothing media, we see some yahoo on the TV bashing the “do-nothing” government for failing to act promptly against this potential threat, yammering, though he has no idea what he’s talking about.

I liked this film enough to try to be relatively vague about it, lest I spoil it. Interesting that on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics like it a bit more (93%) than the fans (83%). It is generally a cerebral film. And when the movie was over, I got into some banter with two total strangers about its meaning and message, and whether the Louise character should have taken a certain actions, a conversation that I really enjoyed.

As a teacher of English as a New Language, the Wife really enjoyed the struggle to try to understand the language – if it IS a language – of the visitors. I was disappointed in not hearing why Portuguese is so different from other Romance languages.

The director of the film is Denis Villeneuve, who has a well-regarded body of work, but this the first film of his I have seen. I suspect Amy Adams will be nominated for an Oscar this season, if not for Arrival, then for the gritty-looking Nocturnal Animals.


With all the big, Oscar-bait movies coming out in the fall, what is the one movie I wanted to see most of all this week? If you’ve read the title of this piece, you already know. I think it’s in no small part to a very clever campaign of faux trailers online – Green with Envy is still my favorite – that kept up the interest and bringing the Muppets back in the limelight.

The movie is about two big Muppet fans, Walter, and his brother Gary (Jason Segal). They and Gary’s long-time girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) take a trip to Los Angeles and discover, though, that lots of people HAVE forgotten Kermit the Frog and his cohorts. Worse, there is an unfortunate contractual provision that will make things worse.

I didn’t see most of the movies, but I was a huge fan of The Muppet Show TV program. This entry, which we saw at the local Madison Theatre at a not-that-crowded Saturday matinee, seemed like a logical extension of where the various Muppets have been over the years. I sought out the three critics (out of 125) who panned the film. One said, “Except for a few good zingers from balcony dwellers Statler and Waldorf, there isn’t much here for mom and dad.” Oddly, I had just the opposite sense; I went with the wife and daughter, and I’m convinced that the adults enjoyed it more than the daughter did. And SHE said she wanted to watch it again.

Another: “The Muppets has none of the easy confidence of the original TV show or the 1979 movie.” Well, yes, and that is precisely the whole point. And finally, “The Muppet charm, always more at home within the intimate frame of a TV set, is gone here.” A paean to nostalgia by someone who just didn’t get it. This is a film where classic 21st-century copyright infringement plays a pivotal role.

I loved this movie. My wife and I laughed out loud, even when the daughter didn’t. The guest performers – Mickey Rooney? – were well used. Segal was very good as both writer and actor. Ever since I saw her in Enchanted, I knew Amy Adams would be great. Chris Cooper, unsurprisingly, is a great villain. My favorite moment in the movie involved two instruments and two/four people. Yet there is a bit of melancholy as well, as happens sometimes when old friends try to rekindle the past.

I’d give it a 3.8 out of 4.

Oh, on the way home, a total stranger and I were torturing my daughter by singing a song from the end credits, which is one of the Muppets’ 20 best musical moments, complete with video.
Lest I forget, a quite decent Toy Story short, Small Fry, precedes the movie. Is that how therapy works?

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