To those film nerds, or those who just want to spend some quality time in a theater this winter, below are some films you can look forward to.
When twelve gigantic spaceships arrive at different locations across the world, linguistics professor Louis Banks must race against time to communicate with these extraterrestrials before consternation about their ambiguous intentions triggers a global war. While at first glance, this sci-fi plot may seem too familiar to conjure up any excitement, Denis Villeneuve, the film’s director, successfully manipulates the genre to explore both the grand themes of life and time and the intricate matters of love and destiny. Arrival, with its sharp cuts, low key lighting and solemn atmosphere, is a pleasant continuation of the director’s persistent attempt to investigate the complexities of both the outer world of politics and the inner world of emotions—a major topic that most of his previous works, such as Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario seek to tackle. On the other hand, however, the film also signals a departure—it has an emotional core that is stronger and milder at the same time, wrenching its audience in a more subtle but equally impactful way that induces a potently contemplative power in its audience. In short, Arrival is unique in many ways, and each way can serve as a good enough reason for you not to miss it.
To most of his fans, the talented director Paul Verhoeven is still associated with his mainstream commercial hits like Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct and Hollow Man. However, through his new film, Elle, Verhoeven aspires to usurp that stereotype, as this smart and pungent satire/thriller demonstrates his ability to probe deeply into gender and class-based power dynamics. As Michele, the independent and strong female protagonist of the story, slowly uncovers the true identity of her rapist—Verhoeven’s biting critique of humanity is intelligently brought out, evoking self-reflections among the audience that are certain to abash a few while delighting the others. Featuring Isabelle Huppert, whose impeccable performance firmly grounds the film’s absurd moments in reality, Elle is highly recommended for those who enjoy dark comedy or those who just want to feel the film’s magic.
Nocturnal Animals, the second film by the eclectic Tom Ford, is dazzling in every sense of the word. It is elegantly dark and seductively dangerous, exploring the themes of love and revenge, dream and reality through luring its audience into both the materialistic art world of LA and the lawless wilderness of Texas. The film tells the story of Susan Morrow, a successful art gallery owner who receives the draft of a novel by her ex-husband that is dedicated to her. As Susan becomes absorbed by the violent tale of her ex-husband, remnants of their past intertwine with the present to create a harrowing nightmare that haunts its audience with one hard question: Why do we almost always become the people that we don’t intend to be?
La La Land
To those who still have no idea why they should watch it—go see the trailer. And to those who saw the trailer and still need one more reason to assure themselves of the film’s quality—it is directed by the same person who brought you Whiplash. Writer-director Damien Chazelle, in this universally acclaimed musical that stars an adorable cast that includes Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, once again devotes his immense passion for jazz to the creation of, in the words of Vanity Fair, a “soaring and gorgeous” urban tale about dream and love. In theaters next month, the story of Sebastian and Mia’s bitter-sweet pursuit of ambitions and their heartbreakingly beautiful romance is bound to be an all-year favorite for a lot of us.
Assassin’s Creed would have been expected to be another popcorn video game adaptation franchise if not for its maverick director and impressive cast. Justin Kurzel, whose unorthodox and bold directorial style turned the Shakespeare classic Macbeth into a visual miracle with an extraordinary historical touch last year, is almost definitely going to alter all of our preconceived notions of this contemporary classic adventure story. In addition, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, two of the greatest actors of this century, playing the leading roles serves as another great cause for heightened expectations. All of that said, one can claim with confidence that it will simply be a matter of time before the world welcomes another thoughtfully engaging commercial masterpiece.