Double Feature: Arrival (2016) & The Burrowers (2008)

After some pondering, I’ve decided that I’d like to go back to double features. The only exceptions, which are quite a few, will be theatre viewings, festival screenings, screeners, Disney and Hong Kong film reviews.

The first double feature to kick off the year are back to somewhat of a alphabetical order formula. Hopefully this time, I’ll get through the alphabet a second round although I can already see it being double featured somewhat scattered as there is at least one Disney title in between. I’ve been meaning to watch Arrival forever and it finally landed on Netflix and then as I try to get through a lot of the titles I’d like to watch on Shudder, my husband chose The Burrowers.

Let’s check it out!

Arrival (2016)

arrival

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma

When twelve mysterious spacecrafts appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors. – IMDB

I always end up slapping myself everything I finish up a Denis Villeneuve as to why it took me so long to catch up with his film. Although, I’ve seen more of his films before he broke out in Hollywood which are also titles that I always suggest everyone to watch. Arrival is a breathtaking experience, both in its story telling execution and its character development as well as the cinematography and the setting (in the beautiful province of Quebec more rural areas).

Let’s start with the cast. The main players is Amy Adams who plays Louise Banks. She is fantastic as she is not only smart but also incredibly sensitive as a character that always gets questioned for her risky approach and dedication and fascination of deciphering this alien language and her defense of the situation. There is a level of obsession as she is constantly surrounded by the symbols that she is given as she dives into learning the language. Playing opposite here is Jeremy Renner who is more of the scientist of the operation who is fascinated not only by the situation but seemingly more so by Amy Adams character here and rightfully so. He defends and supports a lot of her decisions. Playing the Colonel, who pretty much runs the operation here is Forest Whitaker who is amazing as always. To be fair, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker are all actors that I absolutely enjoy watching so Arrival already had the winning cast for myself.

With Denis Villeneuve at the helm of this, there is always a darker atmosphere here. The urgency of the situation and the threatened environment of the world is definitely a selling point here as it feels quite authentic if the world were to have 12 alien spaceships land in 12 difference places how everyone would react. However, as the story unfolds and Louise Banks figures out the linguistics of it all, we also get brought into the world of what this all is about and to avoid any spoiler territory, it is a thought – provoking and meaningful sort of ending. Arrival is a definitely a must-watch!

The Burrowers (2008)

The Burrowers

Director (and writer) J.T. Petty

Cast: Clancy Brown, David Busse, William Mapother, Jocelin Donahue, Karl Geary, Doug Hutchison, Laura Leighton

In the Wild West a rescue party sets out to find a family of settlers that has vanished from their home under mysterious circumstances. – IMDB

We’re huge fans of monster movies. Tremors is a hit at our house and The Burrowers honestly reminded us a bit of that when we were just looking at the poster. However, The Burrowers is a rather Western style horror film as it is centers itself around a feud between the Americans and their prejudice thoughts on the Amerindians being involved all the deaths and disappearances happening. For that reason, it does sometimes feel like the movie forgets what its trying to do. It does do a good job at the hatred between certain characters towards the Native Americans  and while the story wants to use that as well to drop the little clues here and there to show what The Burrowers are actually and their goal, at point, it goes so slow that it seems to lose its momentum and heads directly into the boring spot more frequent than I’d like.

To be fair, I’m not one to pick at slower paced films. However, The Burrowers seems to be just a lackluster experience. Somehow, I ended up being more affected by the brutality and the depth of the hatred and the actions of a certain character towards Amerindians than actually the threat of The Burrowers themselves. The idea of The Burrowers was a good villain when the whole story pieced together however, the execution of the story itself just didn’t work for me.

Sicario (2015)

Next up in the Oscars 2016 movies, although not up for a Best Picture nomination, it is one that I’ve been more intrigued to watch.  I’ve rented Sicario for quite a while and now that its almost hitting the end of my rental period, we decided it was a good time to give it a go.  Emily Blunt is painting herself as a female action hero of late.  I haven’t caught up with Edge of Tomorrow although I did get it so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Sicario (2015)

sicario

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya, Victor Garber, Julio Cedillo

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.-IMDB

Its a really great feeling to not fall asleep during a movie.  Sicario is a tight-knit action thriller right from the start.  We actually started this up for dinner and the opening scene made us have to kind of pause it until after we ate to resume.  However, the powerful beginning makes the subject of this thriller even more poignant and important.  That might seem brutally intense but it was also only the start of the thrilling Sicario.  It set the tone of why our main character had to go on this journey.

Sicario

Sicario never really gives you time to breath.  It has slower moments and even those moments are full of intense situations.  We’re trying to figure out what is going on.  Why is Emily Blunt’s character, Kate recruited to do this? We know why she wants to be involved but then they seem to just place her on the sidelines and when they ask her to do something else, they don’t really tell her whats going on? For that reason, us as the audience is also kept in the dark with all those questions in our heads. With that said, Emily Blunt captures her role very well.  I like this newly discovered side of Emily Blunt.  I mean, I like her in comedies and dramedies and whatnot but her as an action hero seems to work so very well also.

What does change the game quickly is the introduction of the character of Benicio del Toro. His character is mysterious and quiet. In fact, a lot of the movie is pretty quiet.  There’s some action sequences and talk but its a lot of observing and analyzing. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie with Benicio del Toro that I’m completely enthralled with but then I haven’t seen that many of his in general but this one was amazing.  He was the show-stopper.

Sicario

Other than some great performances, a lot of credit goes to creating the atmosphere.  Watching Sicario felt like we were in on the action with the way the cameras moved and the movie was filmed.  Like the scene on top, they were rumbling down the streets and it felt like we were right there rumbling along.  On top of that, its a forte of Denis Villeneuve’s to choose a very analytical sort of approach to things, making it dark or mysterious, suspicious if you will and creating those feelings.  He picks topics which will impact the viewers a lot whether it was Sicario and the drug cartel or if its going back to his Quebec roots and looking at the Polytechnique massacre or making us think super hard about the meaning of Enemy. Its his style and I feel like Sicario really accentuate and could see how he is a very good filmmaker.

I don’t really have a lot to say about Sicario.  It took me a week to write up this review because I just didn’t know how to approach it.  Overall, Sicario is an exhilarating experience, putting you straight in the issue and the action and surrounding you with standout performances by Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro. I’ve always been a little skeptical on Denis Villeneuve but I truly want to visit and revisit some of his previous films. If you haven’t, you definitely should check out Sicario.  It might not be Best Picture material but its well worth a watch.

Have you seen Sicario? What stood out (or failed) for you in this film? 

Enemy (2013)

I don’t really know why I chose to watch this early in the morning on a plane, but Enemy had me intrigued since its theatre run. However, its limited release was also the reason I didn’t get the chance to see it then. My goal on this flight, as you will soon realize, consists of movies that are more limited and independent and I felt would add value to watching them since they are less available. Either way, lets check out Enemy 🙂

enemy posterDirector: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon

Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal),  a monotone history teacher sees his double spontaneously in a movie and decides to track him down. His search leads him to Anthony Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is a married soon to be father and third grade actor. Despite the reluctance, they finally meet and realize that it is perhaps more than they bargained for.

Its hard to sum up this movie without some form of spoiler alert. For the most part, I’m not really sure I completely understood what happened after the ending. If any of you saw it, please tell me that they didn’t waste 90 minutes of my life. Maybe there was something more and I need to give it another viewing.

Enemy

Its the first time that I encountered Denis Villeneuve’s work. Villeneuve seems to have a rather dark style, at least for Enemy, it was almost completely in the dark. Maybe its the watching it on the tiny in flight entertainment system but I do appreciate what it was trying to do. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I disliked the movie. To me, it had a really good suspense and psychological thrill factor going until the last shot. I can’t say if that destroyed the sum of its parts but it could. It still boggles my mind and I believe that I might need to catch some more detils with a second viewing to catch its full meaning.

Enemy

Our main focus in Enemy is Jake Gyllenhaal who spends a good part of the movie playing off himself. Hats off to him for a job well done. I’m also a pretty big fan of Melanie Laurent so as minor as the women in this film were, they helped reveal a bit of a deeper hidden character in both Anthony and Adam. Although both of them are physcially identical, as the movie goes on, it reveals how they have different personalities. I guess you could say it asks the question if its possible to have an evil twin? With no blood bonds, it does beg the question of why they look similar in appearance. To be honest, I think it would be interesting to watch the special features if I got the chance.

Enemy

Overall, there isn’t a lot that I can say about this because I feel like I am missing something but at the same time, it might be just my wondering whether I get the sudden last twist in the final shot. Feel free to email me about your thoughts so as to not spoil it for others.However, there are a few pretty genius points to Enemy. The first is Denis Villeneuve’s talented way to build a tense and suspenseful atmosphere throughout the entire movie. Second would have to go to Jake Gyllenhaal’s quite masterful acting abilities on playing almost completely against himself in this kind of weird story about doppelgangers. Although as a whole, I haven’t quite formed a concrete opinion, it still did manage to have me intrigued throughout. Deep down, I feel like it might have achieved something pretty amazing, if only I wasn’t so confused. Do I make any sense?

What did you think of Enemy? Are you a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal and/or Denis Villeneuve?