Tag Archives: Amy Adams

Arrival – Movie Review

What’s the first thing you do when confronted with an unknown alien threat? Try to communicate with the aliens, of course. Arrival is this year’s science fiction entrant in the Oscar race stars Amy Adams as the nation’s top linguist charged with the mission of communicating with an alien race.

Release Date: November 11, 2016
Writer: Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Arrival starts with the arrival of 12 large alien pods scattered throughout the world. The US pod is located in Montana, while others are found in Russia, China, England, et al. The film’s main storyline follows Louise Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) as they interact with the seven-legged aliens they call “heptapods.”

The most fascinating part of Arrival is the process of deciphering language. Each pod has an access hatch where Banks and Donnelly can interact with the heptapods. The heptapod language is a unintelligible sounds of some sort, but their language consists of complicated circular symbols. Banks uses her name as a starting point. The heptapods respond in kind and now they are off to the races trying to find words and phrases that can be translated, such as eat and walk.

As fascinating as linguistics are, there’s a bigger picture. Why are the aliens here and what do they want? Are they a threat or are they friendly? The entire operation is lead by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) representing the military and Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlberg) representing the US government. At the same time, all of the other countries with pods are also trying to communicate with the heptapods and coming to different conclusions about the aliens’ intent.

Here you have the typical military tale of staying ahead of the possible alien threat and the lack of time the team needs to answer questions. Let’s also note that the world is falling apart wondering if these is the start of an alien invasion.

The story though is about Louise. Flashbacks abound as we look into the loner lifestyle of this college professor. We see that she is divorced and the parent of a child who recently passed from a terminal illness.

It’s hard not to liken Arrival with an episode of Star Trek. As with most alien films, there’s a lesson that we need to learn about ourselves individually and as a member of the global family of humans. The film also manages to tie the story of Louise, her past and future, together in a way that intertwines her life with the current mission.

Arrival has your riveted from beginning to end. You’ll marvel at the science of language and you’ll feel the sense of discovery as the alien language is slowly revealed. There is also the sense of urgency and frustration as our heroes must appease and outmaneuver the government with very little patience.

The best part of Arrival is its ending that sneaks up on you out of nowhere and begins to answer the question, you’ve asking from the very beginning. Arrival is a complex story that never gets confusing and ends in a nice tidy package. The ending is so strong, you’ll almost instantly need to see the movie again to catch things your missed.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Movie Review

Realizing they are falling behind, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the latest entry from Warner Brothers to cash in on their share of superhero dollars. Is this a cash grab or a serious attempt to be a real player in the superhero genre?

Release Date: March 25, 2016
Writer: David Goyer
Director: Zach Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a decent action movie. Unfortunately, it is loaded is popular DC comic book characters and has Marvel Studios setting a high standard for comic book movies. The movie delivers on its title. The all-powerful Superman battles the street-smart vigilante Batman and the battle itself is fun to watch.

The problem is everything leading up to this moment was thrown at us in rapid-fire succession and not developed well. Before we go into the problem, I’ll say what was good about the movie is Ben Affleck’s Batman was not bad, and the action/fights are good.

The main problem with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is its need to present a lot of information and only having two and a half hours to present this information. Sadly, the movie needs another two hours to tell its story and no one wants to sit through that.

The movie starting strong with the final battle between Superman and General Zod but seen through the eyes of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Bruce for some reason is in Metropolis, and he is trying to get to some guy trapped in building owned by Wayne Enterprises. Of course, this building is destroyed as collateral damage from the aforementioned fight and the guy, who we only know as Wayne’s good friend perishes. On top of that, we are once again treated to flashback memories of the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Already that is a lot.

Next, we jump to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in the middle east attempting to get an interview with some alleged terrorists. This moment serves only to reintroduce Lois as the main character and her relationship with her protective lover, Superman (Henry Cavill). Later, there is a discussion with Lois and Superman in a bathtub, which is super-hot. Other than that, Lois as a character serves only to expose ultimately Lex Luther as the mastermind of the tragic events that are about to happen.

The next storyline follows the newly discovered Kryptonite. Lex (Jesse Eisenberg) needs help from Congress, led by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), to import the substance to his lab in the U.S. so it can be used as a weapon against Superman. The twist occurs when the substance is stolen by Batman so that it can be used as a weapon against Superman.

Let us now return to Batman’s story. Haunted again, by the death of his parents, Batman sees the only salvation the world has is the death of Superman. Of course, Batman is conflicted. He also doesn’t trust Lex. Batman hacks into the phone of Lex’s henchman to discover the identity of four “meta-humans” who may be able to help defeat Superman.

Back to Lex, who is upset about his stolen Kryptonite, manages to blame Superman for another national tragedy, figures a way to instigate a fight between Superman and Batman and finally discovers all of Superman’s secret by accessing Zod’s ship from the first movie.

Now to Superman, who only wants to bring peace to his new home and protect his girlfriend. Look, this movie suffers from too much plot. There is so much plot going on that every strand of the plot is not serviced adequately leaving it weak and full of holes.

Another problem, secondary characters only serve to move story along. Lois Lane exists to slowly reveal the mystery of Lex and the Kryptonite and Lex Luther is the vehicle the film uses the pit Superman and Batman against one another and to ultimately unite them together. You could have interchanged Lex with other DC villains and still told the same story.

Lastly, the introduction of the Justice League is weak and underwhelming. As seen in the trailers, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is introduced late into the action. Very little is said about her and she kicks ass, which is what we want, but clearly anything related to the Justice League feels last minute and serves only to create excitement about the Justice League movie.

It’s hard not to feel like Batman v Superman is a movie that needed to exist because Warner Brother’s was falling behind in the superhero race. The difference is that Marvel built its universe over the course of 10 years and Warner Brothers started two years ago with Man of Steel.

The tone of Batman v Superman is dark and moody. There is very little humor in the film. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. One, it sets itself up as a different kind of filmmaking compared to Marvel. Two, it’s borrowing from brooding tones of the Dark Knight. My only problem is that Superman has always been a character of hope and justice. His storyline, beginning with Man of Steel, as the misunderstood alien just isn’t striking the right tone for Superman.

There you have it. A movie with both Batman and Superman, an introduction to Wonder Woman and soon the Justice League. That’s the best thing you could say about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Big Eyes – Movie Review – Tim Burton

Big Eyes is the most straightforward story told by director Tim Burton to date. With only accents of the Burton look-and-feel to a movie, Big Eyes is the true story of painter Margaret Keane and one of the most epic art frauds in history.

Big Eyes is a fascinating true story, but it is also a predictable story. Why was this film made? Maybe filmmakers Burton and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wanted Keane’s story documented for posterity. Otherwise, her story may have passed history unnoticed.

BIG EYESCredit goes to the filmmakers for telling a good story. There is nothing inherently wrong with Big Eyes. There is nothing special in the way the story is told. Amy Adams plays the insecure artist, Margaret Keane. Margaret is a role Adams has played to perfection.  Christoph Waltz (Walter Keane) plays the protagonist with ulterior motives flawlessly. But again, there are no surprises and you see the ending coming once the opening credit begin.

Tone is everything in this movie. The movie starts with Margaret and her daughter running from her first husband. As the saying goes, “Out of the frying pan into the fire.” Things never get better for our heroine. Almost immediately, Margaret marries a fellow artist, Walter Keane, who quickly sees potential in her art and becomes her biggest advocate. But you know that things are not as they seem. With warnings from best friend, Dee-Ann, played irresistibly by Krysten Ritter, Margaret chooses security over freedom.

BIG EYESThe movie takes place in San Francisco during the 50’s and 60’s. Walter’s artwork is boring and Margaret’s “Big Eyes” portraits of children are strange, but strange enough to catch the eye of the public. Walter loves the spotlight, while Margaret lives in the background. With little thought, Walter takes credit for painting the “Big Eyes.” It is here that we learn Walter is a charismatic manipulator. Walter brilliantly turns Margeret’s “Big Eyes” painting into a popular sensation that would put Thomas Kinkade to shame. At the same time, convincing Margaret to perpetuate the lie and, at times, help write Walter’s “inspiration” story to the press.

Do you think you know how this will all end? Yes, you’re right. When telling a good story, life often has to hit rock bottom before it gets better and it does.

Also speaking of tone, this is by far Tim Burton’s brightest films. He uses a great deal of light, white colors and contrasts it with 60’s pastels. There are a few moments, when Margaret has panic attacks and manifests itself surreal Burton-esque moments. Big Eyes may not find itself near the top of the pantheon of Burton films, but it is a nice palette cleanser for his next movie.

Before seeing the movie, I had never heard of the artist Keane, nor seen any of her paintings. I’m glad to have seen her story, because this fascinating event during the early 60’s, might have gone unnoticed if not for passion of Burton to make it. It will find its home on endless loops on Pay TV.