At its heart, Arrival is a story about love, mortality and the power of a word. Montreal’s great filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s interspecies love story takes place in a universe where time, space and the limitations of the human mind are erased to reveal a fuller richer experience of being alive. Amy Adams is a linguistics professor summoned by the FBI to find a way to communicate with aliens suddenly discovered hovering in pods over Montana and eight international air spaces. She joins agents at the base camp and is taken up and into the alien pod where she meets two beings. Her powerful intuition shifts into high gear and the conversation begins. The alien words are actually ultra-dimensional experiences, sending her back into her childhood and recent tragic events and into the future. She experiences the aliens as loving beings in this wonderful, kind, full universe and develops a bond. She brings in her co-worker (Jeremy Renner) who also mysteriously appears in her alien word visions. However the peaceful mood is shattered when the aliens use a single word that could turn the fate of humanity on its ear. As in his previous films, Arrival is at times overwhelmingly beautiful and loaded with meaning and imaginative and inventive and non-linear in new cinematic ways. Villeneuve’s interpretation of the book Story of Your Life is uniquely a joy with a good shot at the Oscars.
Loving is based on the true life case of a white man who marries a black woman contrary to the Racial Integrity Act in Virginia in 1958. They are shamed, arrested and tried in a case with national implications. Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) took their case to the Supreme Court. It’s getting raves as a strong Oscar contender; filmmaker Jeff Nichols is one of my favourites (Mud, and the crazy good Take Shelter) whose films are quiet, simple, profound and deliberately paced. He manages to radiate the complexity of the human heart and mystical nuances of daily life. Nichols is a great artist with an exquisite touch. He’s catching up to the great Terrence Malick.
Naomi Watts and wee Jacob Tremblay of Room star in the horror thriller Shut In about a psychologist caring for her teenaged son who is unresponsive after surviving a car crash that killed her husband. She meets a boy who has lost his mother and takes him under her wing. He’s a handful, violent, hateful and energetic and then he suddenly disappears into a snowstorm and is presumed dead. Strange things happen in the house, the disabled teen comes under attack by invisible forces and the boy then makes his presence felt. This is Watts’ second film shot in Quebec. Critics were not shown the film so that’s all I can tell you.
Jean of the Joneses is an absolutely charming comedy three generations of African American women living in the same house in Brooklyn. One sunny day, the grandmother’s estranged husband who supposedly moved to the Caribbean decades earlier appears on the doorstep. Before he can state his business, he drops dead. His actions throw a real spanner in the works, as secrets, lies and resentments come spilling out. Turns out he was not in the Caribbean, he was in Queens. “Grandma” threw him out in order to carry on an affair and lived the lie all those years. A daughter of his they didn’t know existed shows up. All the while Jean, the youngest of the women struggles to get her boyfriend to take her back and discovers through stalking, that he’s cheating on her. Meanwhile there is a perfectly lovely young medic she met in the ambulance with her grandfather and he wants to take her out. The sisters, her mother and grandmother are dealing with the estate and piles of related woes, sparked by the man’s doorstep death. The dialogue sparkles with humour, irony and whimsy even as the air is filled with secrets, lies, accusations, confessions, revelations and unexpected pregnancies. It’s smart and funny and absolutely entertaining and BTW that fabulous comedienne Sherri Sheppard is icy hot as the middle gen alpha female.
Netflix’ new documentary Amanda Knox features extensive interviews with Foxy Knoxy and asks the timeless question “Was she a cold-blooded psychopath who brutally murdered her roommate or a naive study abroad student trapped in an endless nightmare?” Or from Foxy herself “”Either I’m a Psychopath in Sheep’s Clothing, or I Am You.” The headline grabbing sex murder of British college student Meredith Kercher allegedly at the hands of Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was an international sensation. On the outside it was a harsh evaluation of Italian police work and international justice but inside it’ was a sex and blood circus starring a real live blonde American cutie. Knox was convicted twice and today walks free in Seattle as a local newspaper reporter on the arts. The doc shows new materials and offers p.o.v.s of a British tabloid newspaper reporter and an Italian prosecution and the key players. Dressing it up as social commentary and the demand for justice, doesn’t make this a great movie, in fact, it’s a reflection on us wading through this particular quagmire again.
The Killing Season on A&E is a documentary series following the efforts of Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills to solve mass murders of ten sex workers in Gilgo Beach, Long Island. They connect with fellow cyber sleuths, victims’ families, and law enforcement and in hair-raising episodes, go into the homes of people they suspect may be guilty or connected to the guilty. It’s a strange sensation watching amateurs trying to do what police agencies haven’t done, to witness loaded and dangerous confrontations with evil all in order to make a film.
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