Arrival is an intelligent, engrossing science fiction film. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, The Enemy, Nightcrawler) Arrival presents a plausible look at humanity’s first meeting with alien life forms.

When 12 alien space ships appear over 12 locations throughout the world, expert linguist  Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) is tasked with figuring out how to communicate with the aliens aboard the ship hovering over Montana in the United States. Assisting her is a theoretical physicist (played by Jeremy Renner). Rounding out the cast is Forrest Whitaker as US Army Colonel Weber who is leading the American effort to find out what the aliens’ intentions are.

Arrival is a slow-moving film. Tension in the plot revolves around whether or not Dr. Banks can interpret what the aliens want. But more importantly, even if humanity is successful in communicating with the aliens, humanity still fails at communicating with each other. At first the 12 different groups cooperate with each other, sharing information about the aliens. But as time goes on, relations break down and it appears as if a human attack on one of the alien ships is imminent. Arrival captures the paranoia and distrust very well: humanity turns on itself as the inferred threat of the aliens looms ever present.

As always, humans are quick to assume ill intent on the part of the aliens despite the fact that the aliens have traveled light years to get to earth in spaceships that defy human understanding. If the aliens truly meant harm to humanity, it is unlikely the anything could be done to stop such a sufficiently advanced life-form.

Worth a look if you like intelligent, thoughtful science fiction films.

Skip it if spacecraft dogfights and laser-gun battles are more your thing.

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morganMorgan is yet another movie which explores AI (artificial intelligence) and the its ramifications on society. It isn’t a particularly original film and seems to draw from other films such as Bladerunner, Hanna, Lucy, Splice and Ex Machina.

Kate Mara plays Lee Weathers, a corporate risk-management consultant sent to evaluate (and terminate if necessary) an artificial, humanoid being named Morgan (played by Anya Taylor-Joy). Although only five years old, Morgan appears to be a young woman in her early 20s.

Weathers is dispatched by Corporate to evaluate Morgan after she attacks and brutally maims one of the scientists studying her. It is up to Weathers to evaluate the efficacy of Morgan and the L-9 program, which spawned her.

Morgan appears to be demure and shy but as the story develops she becomes increasingly aggressive.  Another vicious assault during an evaluation by a psychiatrist (played by Paul Giamatti) leads to a violent confrontation and a surprising revelation.

Morgan is entertaining despite being mostly derivative. The movie is well cast and the actors turn in good performances. Anyone paying attention to the clues the movie gives will see the twist coming a mile away.

Morgan does pose some interesting questions: what is it to be human? What rights (if any) do artificially-created humans have? If a corporation creates a humanoid being does the corporation own the being? If so, what is the extent of the corporation’s ownership? Should artificial humans even be created? The movie doesn’t really answer any of these, so those looking for answers will be disappointed.

Worth a look if you like sci fi movies which deal with artificial intelligence and the ramifications on society.

Skip it if you don’t like derivative movies.

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Cerebral Movies: Predestination

predestinationPredestination is a modern-day adaption of Robert Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies.”  The story revolves around a character played by Ethan Hawke named The Barkeep. It seems he is a Temporal Agent whose job it is to travel through time to prevent atrocities before they happen. He never seems to be able to catch one elusive criminal who always seems to be able to set off a bomb which ends up killing thousands.

One night in the past, The Barkeep strikes up a conversation with a character who looks like a man, but is named The Unmarried Mother (played by Sarah Snook.) She tells him the fantastic, almost unbelievable story of her life.

As the fantastic story unfolds, The Barkeep finds his fate inexorably intertwined with that of the Unmarried Mother. The truth emerges and builds to a horrifying conclusion.

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Worth a look if you like heady, time-travel stories.

Skip it if you don’t like science fiction.

– Steve