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Arrival: when aliens make contact in twelve different countries the race is on to find out why they are here. The main themes and purpose of the movie is revealed very slowly, in tiny pieces that don’t slot together at all until the very end, where – if you’re still paying attention – it should hit you like a ton of bricks. Because of this, it’s the type of film that I imagine would be more rewarding on the second viewing, knowing how it plays out and fits together from the start. There’s a lot of nice details & observations about language; and Villeneuve’s recurring themes of repetition, circularity, loops, and significant numbers (12!!). Other than the director, as mentioned everywhere else Amy Adams puts in a great shift; although I’m not so sure she’ll be taking home an Oscar as there’s a lot of CGI reaction shots, and not many big acting ‘moments’. With the critical praise, box-office hype, and an alieninvasion trailer I felt that arrival suffers from the ‘Sicario Effect’ in that it’s smarter, lower key, and more nuanced than the film it’s been sold as; with absolutely massive ideas and questions thrown at the audience, played though one character’s story and experience. Is Arrival intelligent? Yes. Interesting? Yes. Thought provoking? Yes. Compelling? … Somewhat. A ‘great’ film? I don’t think so. For me it feels like Villeneuve spends too much time setting up his ideas instead of telling a grand story.

Score: 6.5/10

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Staff Benda Bilili, Renaud Barret, Roger Landu, Vincent Kenis, Coco Ngambali, Cubain Kabeya, Djunana Tanga-Suele, Zadis Mbulu Nzungu, Leon Likabu, Theo Nsituvuidi, Paulin Kiara-Maigi, Montana, Maria Barli Djongo, Makembo Nzalé

Benda Bilili!: documentary spanning five years from the creation, to the eventual success and acclaim, of a street band from the Congo, 5 of whom happen to be paraplegics. Given the tough upbringing and background of the musicians, it’s truly inspirational to see them always looking at the plus side, as well as their determination to succeed. Your shanty house burnt down? Things like this happen in life, get over it! The music is excellent, given that it’s self-taught musicians, playing beaten up guitars and homemade instruments (like a string and stick attached to a can). Unfortunately, the doc gets pretty French in parts, with some long spiels of philosophizing on the streets, rather than just telling the amazing story. The balance of the movie is also a little off, with most of the runtime dedicated to the struggle and hardship, and not nearly enough celebrating the success and rewarding good times. Still, Benda Bilili is an uplifting tale of adversity against all odds.

Score: 5.5/10