Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016) 3/5 – overall, well executed. I really like Denis Villeneuve as a director, but this felt like a step back after Enemy and Sicario. An interesting premise, aliens arrive and each nation spends the film trying to decipher their language, all the while humanity’s fears and unrest cause diplomacy to breakdown and escalate to potential third world war. But after Contact, War of the Worlds and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I felt like this was a very easy Hollywood film for Villeneuve to make.
Swiss Army Man (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, 2016) 4/5 – Well. I liked it. The entire viewing felt a cult film, just as when I first watched Donnie Darko or Being John Malkovich, but alot closer to Pinnapple Express or Weekend at Bernie’s than anything highbrow. Surprisingly, The Guardian gave this film 1 star (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/02/swiss-army-man-review-daniel-radcliffe-dead) presumably because they found the image of a talented actor like Paul Dano riding Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe across the ocean powered by nothing but fartgas was simply offensive with no redeeming factors. I actually felt, like Darko and Malkovich, the weird offensive jokes were very funny and appeared to tap into the theme of male bonding and loneliness that was at the heart of the film. It also touches upon the theme of suicide and mental illness in away that is unashamedly crude but genuinely honest at certain times. Not for everyone.
The Free State of Jones (Gary Ross, 2016) 3/5 – Probably the most poignant and intersting film I’ve seen about slavery and the American civil war since Edward Zwick’s Glory. A not totally historically accurate parable about a confederate soldier who turns his back on the conflict to fight for his freedom and that of his fellow negroe runaways against the Southern state. At times it resembles Robin Hood or Braveheart with its share of violent battles and patriotic freedom speeches, but visually the film is interesting, and the narrative unfolds cutting between a modern court trial of the hero’s white son, accused of having black mother and thereby making his marriage illegal under the era’s segration laws of the 1930s.