I have been anticipating Arrival since I saw the trailer running before Ghostbusters this summer. It didn’t disappoint. Sicario director Denis Villaneuve’s adaptation of a short story by sci-fi author Ted Chiang is a thoughtful and mature genre piece that delivers on its premise in a way most similar films fail to do.
The world has been visited by twelve huge, Pringle-shaped monoliths, each in a different country. These “shells” open up every eighteen hours, allowing a small number of human beings to enter and have an audience with their occupants.
Arrival doesn’t waste any time building up to the reveal of the extraterrestrial visitors — it thrusts linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) into their presence before she even has time to decide against becoming involved. What the creatures look like, a mystery that so many films of the alien subgenre rely on for suspense, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what they have to say, and how they say it.
While the trigger-happy military brass look for the first excuse to open fire on the shells, Banks methodically works to understand the visitors and their intentions. What they learn from each other ultimately transforms them both.
The Trolls property is nothing more than a line of weird little poofy-haired dolls, so the creators at Dreamworks had a pretty blank slate to work with when developing it into a feature film. In the mythology of the movie, the tiny, colorful Trolls are menaced by the frankly much more troll-like Bergens, who must eat them in order to be happy. This is a refreshingly dark premise for a film geared towards children.
While the plot doesn’t take the setup to a very interesting or original conclusion, Trolls’ style makes it worth seeing, especially for well-versed animation fans. Both the humor and animation call to mind the goofy, left-field sensibilities of Cartoon Network’s current creative renaissance, including shows like Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Uncle Grandpa.
I was rendered a little skeptical by this film’s marketing campaign, which heavily featured characters with A-list celebrity voice talent singing pop songs. The musical numbers are a little hit-or-miss, but the best ones are cleverly chosen and accompanied by delightfully weird visuals; the Bergens’ stomping rendition of Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood in a declaration of their Troll-starved misery is possibly one of my favorite movie moments of the year.