After his last few films (and really since "Polytechnique" which is a shame so few people have seen), filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is, quite simply, working a higher level than most around him. With "Arrival", his plume of visual poetry becomes married with a heartbreaking piece of human fiction that gives to birth to a staggering science fiction film that left me breathless and gasping for my senses. Reaching far beyond the simple establishing premise of aliens visiting Earth and our clumsy, inconsequential methods of communication with them, "Arrival" is a riveting exploration of memory, language and compromise. As the linguist who unlocks the secret, Amy Adams delivers a wonderful performance, allowing herself no show-off moments and almost losing herself in the murky blacks and blues of Villeneuve's vision (shot by DP Bradford Young) before emerging as one of the year's strongest characters on screen. It's been said that "Arrival", whose screenplay is based on a story by Ted Chiang, is the closest we have to Tarkovsky-esque science fiction (or Russian sci-fi mind melts in general) and I tend to agree. Beautifully rendered in every moment and gesture, "Arrival" ranks as one of the most magisterial films of the year.
The Love Witch
A star is born in actress Samantha Robinson, the perfect embodiment of carnal treachery... sculptured cheekbones and all. Full review on Dallas Film Now.
The Edge of Seventeen
Equal parts formulaic and refreshing, there's certainly an honesty to Kelly Fremon Craig's debut that echos back to the 80's teen film in which everyone is either awkward or popular and the pitfalls of adolescence that erupt on either side. Led by Hailee Steinfeld in a performance that only shows how terrific a career she has ahead of her (as if "True Grit" didn't already solidify that), "The Edge of Seventeen" navigates in a precise and humorous manner, ably evoking those pimple-induced days of high school and the swirl of emotions that comes with it. Even though Steinfeld portrays a girl whose way-too-beautiful-to-be-this-awkward (aka the formulaic part), the film more than makes up for it in unexpected and moving ways.
Isabelle Huppert imbues the film with a perverse girl-power logic, seemingly more comfortable buying pepper spray and sharp objects than groceries. And I wouldn't want it any other way. Full review can be read at Dallas Film Now.