Mysteriously good

Half way through alien arrival movie Arrival (2016) there’s a fuzzy sense of plot which keeps you wondering about what is going on to extraterrestrial linguist Louise (Amy Adams). With the military backing her she’s trying to decipher the intent of aliens as twelve alien shells cause panic all over the world. Yet flashbacks seem to be Louise having a breakdown, or is stress fatigue, or she is really having meaningful, significant memories about her daughter.

Maybe she is going through something else, perhaps psychic phenomena giving her a sixth sense.

As everything in Arrival comes out in the wash, the resolution is meaningful. Does knowing what will happen to someone you love, whose death is impending, matter as much as celebrating the life itself?

Yes, Arrival is all rather mysteriously good.

No swearing, sex or violence, but there is psychic phenomenon and the presence of aliens which may put some viewers off. As a film, I don’t recommend it for fans of action science fiction because Arrival may be too slow—except this slow burn is very suspenseful. I found the film riveting and all very interesting.

However, on second thoughts, the drawn out, fascinating, edge of your seat communication process between human and alien—where the humans aim to find out alien intentions—is spoiled by making it obvious. The subtitles explain what the aliens are saying and reveals why the aliens are on earth, but they could have made it subtle. Though subtitles might have been necessary for story clarity.

However, that is overlooked in a terrific film.

Year: 2016, DVD release date: 14 February 2017 (North America)

My response: Better one. Experience positive, virtue positive.

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Easy on the ear song

Al Green’s and Annie Lennox’s Put a Little Love in Your Heart (1988) from the movie Scrooged makes better sense if you have seen the movie, but it is still pleasantly lightly textured and ambient. In the movie, the key character comes around to being generous after being greedy. As a standalone song, you may think that the song’s preaching at you. Happy song, though, which is well worth it: a song about loving your neighbor as yourself and the smooth, easy on the ear delivery is cheerfully good.

A little reading and reflection

What I’m reading. After reading and reflecting on the book of Job I went back to the start of the Bible with Genesis, with the intention of noting facts of the scripture rather than reading primarily for themes. Thematic analysis is what I had been doing, but I wasn’t sure if I was being true to the text by seeing themes that may or may not be there, for what was the purpose of writing devotionals.

I’ve also finished Star Wars, the original novelization of the film. This year it’s been re-published in a trilogy of books. This trilogy is the original Star Wars trilogy, from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, to Return of the Jedi. I was surprised how they condensed two hours that seems longish into a shortish book. I expected longer, but that’s how this film-tie in went.

Then and now

Most times watching movies it’s about what happens to your soul and mind and even body and spirit in the process of watching something. Personally, I have my virtues, but also my experience in watching movies. The virtues last. The experience fades, but experience was what defined the film for two hours–then. The effect of the movie can be the final judgment on the film despite the experience occurring years ago. One can view the movie through the lens of the past experience of it. For me, virtues may inform experiences. A few movies tend to linger or last in the memory that gives them the mantle of favourites.

 

Zathura: A Space Adventure

Zathura is a 2005 family film starring Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo as the young leads who play brothers and supporting them are Kristen Stewart (as the older sister), Tim Robbins (as Dad) and Dax Shepherd in a comic and serious role as an astronaut. It is an elaborate visual effects-laden game-based fantasy with a message for siblings about working together instead of apart (the parents are divorced and the brothers live with their father).

A game the younger brother finds in the basement somehow comes alive though this is not explained. When playing the game, the house is uprooted, and the brothers are surprised to find they are in deep space. To get back home they aim to keep on playing the game to the end, but they encounter a series of obstacles. For very young children some scenes may be too scary. For this reviewer it was all a bit of a drag. My rating: off-putting.

My response: Lukewarm. Experience negative, virtue positive.

Remixed review

Following on from my summary of Jack the Giant Slayer, here’s my official review:

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A rather underrated film is the medieval Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), but it delivers a wonderful fantasy experience.

It wasn’t that well received by the reviewers when it was released to theatres, but those in the public who saw it liked it more.

It is about commoner Jack (Nicholas Hoult) saving princess Isabelle (Eleanor Wilkinson) from giants, but he must climb a beanstalk to the land of giants and face all kinds of perils on the way.

This traditional fantasy action story, based on the famous fairy tales Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer, is well crafted. You’re made to follow this fantasy story closely but from a safe distance, which is a comfortable distance.

You don’t know what is going to happen to whom in scenes of peril.

It’s got recognisable actors in good and villainous roles. Ewan McGregor as the King’s commander and Stanley Tucci as the treacherous Lord Roderick fight it out, whoever is going to win I didn’t know.

A viewer does want their visual effects realistic or believable and this movie delivers that expectation in spades. The world of giants and humans merge seamlessly as if real and the motley giant’s, warts and all, convince me.

Jack must prove his worth when saving the princess and kingdom from the brutal giants. It’s also about chivalry and decency. This film brings back memories of Krull and The Never Ending Story, good old fashioned fantasy that is well done.

My response: Better one. Experience positive, virtue positive.

Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language

Old fashioned fantasy

A rather underrated film is Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), about a commoner saving a princess from giants, but he has to climb a beanstalk to the land of giants first. It delivers a fantasy experience in spectacle and keeps one involved while keeping a safe distance. You don’t know what is going to happen to whom in scenes of peril. That keeps you in suspense. It’s got recognisable actors in good and villainous roles. It’s about kingdoms and power and it’s a moral tale of good and evil. The visual effects are realistic. This film brings back memories of Krull and The Never Ending Story, good old fashioned fantasy.

My response: Better one. Experience positive, virtue positive.

Straightforward in a sense

Yes, The Lady Vanishes (1938) was straightforward in a sense.

But here’s a review:

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Travellers are stranded for a night at a Swiss hotel, after an avalanche, then an older lady mysteriously vanishes, on the train journey back home.

The event causes the lady’s new friend to enquire what happened, but ending up a dead end each time. It becomes apparent what is going on, after the mystery has done its dash.

Charters and Caldicott, played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, are a couple of refined gentlemen travellers, whose Britishness is disguised as wit in a number of comic moments. Absolutely hilarious. They are more fixated on the cricket match at home in Manchester than their immediate surrounds, which makes for several funny moments.

Margaret Lockwood and May Whitty as the friends on the train are both lovely.

Michael Redgrave plays a loveable rogue-type character which Lockwood’s character Iris tends to perceive as flawed as well as charming.

This Alfred Hitchcock film, made in Britain before the director departed for the U.S., was made with plot elements that are also familiar in today’s films. The engaged Iris (Margaret Lockwood) who meets a more exciting man than her fiancé is the precedent of a well used (by now) and tired out plot point where the fiancé is always awkward in comparison to the new man.

Another thread of an affair between married people ends up with one of them realizing what she’s done.

Suspense thrillers are not my favorites, they tend to be about hide and seek, where dubious parts of human nature are covered up in the pursuit of crimes, but other than that the thriller department is still in need of a mend, it tends to be straightforwardly told.

With good at its core and entertainment value running through it, it might have managed to rise above its limitations, and it does somewhat.

My response: Better one–with reservation. Experience positive or negative at times, virtue positive.

 

 

Master of suspense

Two weeks ago I watched a classic thriller. It was Alfred Hitchcock’s second to last British film. It was released in 1938 and Hitchcock released his first American film in 1940. But for all its very good humor, The Lady Vanishes was more straightforward in the thriller department. I was surprised. Presumably, the film came out before Hitchcock was labelled the master of suspense.