MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Movie Review – Arrival (2016) — December 18, 2016

Movie Review – Arrival (2016)

Movie Review – Arrival (2016)


Movie Synopsis:

When a number of strange alien ships begin landing in various places around the globe, and they do not communicate or engage in any behaviour whatsoever, linguistics expert Louise Banks is called in by the American army to try and make contact with the aliens at the ship in Montana. She works with another scientist to try and understand the aliens and make sense of their strange language, while also trying to work with other experts around the world. However, as time ticks, and public fear escalates, various governments begin to express the need to take more decisive action against these alien ships. Banks works to overcome the grief in her own personal life and focus on understanding these alien lifeforms before things get out of control, which could spell disaster for the aliens and humanity.

Movie Review:

This was an absolute fantastic film, hands-down.

Firstly, the story, taken from a short story by Ted Chiang, was absorbing and unique. It was unique in the sense the story was intelligent rather than the usual “shoot em up” alien film with violence everywhere. It was absorbing in the sense that there were a variety of twists and turns throughout, particularly some major surprises for the audience towards the middle and end of the film. Without giving anything away, the plot twists are amazing and very satisfying when you as a viewer realize what is going on.

Secondly, director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) has done a fantastic job with putting together a thoughtful film that has scenes of action but many scenes of character development as well, and scenes where the audience is challenged to understand what is going on. Subdued cinematography (by Bradford Young) and music (by Johan Johannsson) was thoroughly successful at building tension and creating both beauty and suspense.

Thirdly, the acting in this film was superb. Amy Adams plays Louise Banks with poise and grace, portraying the grief the character feels as well as the strength when she is able to focus on what she knows best, linguistics. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker turn in strong performances as a scientist working with Banks and a thoughtful army leader (turning stereotypes on their head, kudos to the writers and director).

Overall, this was a fantastic film. Although it sometimes felt a little bit long, with a runtime coming in just under 2 hours, this was pretty much a perfect film, and definitely not suffering from the problems of science fiction film Interstellar, which was way too long. In conclusion, this film is definitely worth seeing.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Church of Marvels – Leslie Parry —

Book Review – Church of Marvels – Leslie Parry

Book Review – Church of Marvels – Leslie Parry



Book: Church of Marvels
Author: Leslie Parry
Genre: Fiction
Year of Release: 2015
Read 308-page hardcover edition in November 2016.

Book Description:

In three separate narratives taking pal e in New York at the turn of the 20th century, we see a variety of strange occurrences and interesting characters begin to come together over the course of several days.  First, a man named Sylvan finds an abandoned newborn baby while cleaning pit privies at dark. Secondly, Odile has come over the water from Coney Island to search for her sister Bella, who has mysteriously taken off and left the cirus where they both work. Thirdly, a young woman named Alphie wakes up in a frightening insane asylum, and tries to determine why her mother-in-law and husband sent her here, and how she may be able to escape.

As the three stories develop, we start to learn frightening truths and begin to see how three separate stories converge together.

Book Review:


This novel had some definite successes for first time novelist Parry. First off, she did a fantastic job of creating some truly frightening scenes in the asylum. The asylum scenes were creepy and disturbing, creating a tone that fit the feeling of this dark novel perfectly.

Furthermore, there were a number of main and secondary characters in this novel that were unique, interesting, and worth exploring. Parry did a great job creating a complex storyline that brought them together in unpredictable ways, and adding some layers of diversity and thoughtfulness to the story.

However, a downside to this complex story was that at times the narrative moved forward in a slightly slow fashion, taking away from the page turning feel that appeared particularly in the ending sections of the novel.

Parry did a great job illustrating the setting of New York City in 1900 in her writing. There were some very descriptive moments where we could definitely picture what was going on and how things looked at this time.

The closing of the novel was interesting and complicated, which made sense given the storyline we had read. In some ways it left the reader a  little bit unsatisfied as there were many characters who needed some time for a closing, and not all of them had adequate time for us to see what had happened to them. Also, the closing particularly for one of our main characters seemed surprising and didn’t feel right after everything that had happened.

Overall, this was an interesting, dark novel, if not one that had some flaws with pacing and some inconsistency.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars