Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Arrival

The only image you'll find in my look at The Arrival, the promotional art, should speak volumes about my affection for this film.


It almost seemed wildly appropriate to soak in the madness of a Charlie Sheen film with his publicity tour in full swing during the first half of 2011. The irony of The Arrival [1996] landing in my lap with Sheen as the primary couldn't be more perfectly timed. But, would I be "winning" with his film? I know, "winning" is quickly becoming an overused catchphrase isn't it? Once upon a time, before the crazy set in, Sheen was a steady customer in Hollywood. He was less the deranged personality natural we see today and more the young stud version of his father Martin Sheen attempting to navigate his way through all of the stardust. What is it about Hollywood that's seemingly in the water magnifying the personality extremes of these entitled actors?


Oliver Stone's Platoon [1986] was the first big film I remember enjoying in my youth. It was perhaps the biggest, coolest, most startling war picture I could recall to that point. Of course the equally astonishing Full Metal Jacket [1987], by Stanley Kubrick, soon followed, but Platoon was probably the biggest genre event I remember outside of seeing bits of his father's Apocalypse Now [1979] by Francis Ford Coppolla. Though, apparently, young Sheen was an extra for that film.


Now by no means am I a fan of the work of Charlie Sheen. But, there seemed to be some potential there inside of Platoon. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't Willem DaFoe or Tom Berenger, but there was some flashes of inspiration there a la Tom Cruise in Stone's Born On The Fourth Of July [1989]. Sheen might become something. John Sayles' Eight Men Out [1988] was good, but otherwise he's been a fairly big non-event. In fact, I would not sign up and pay money for the Charlie Sheen Torpedo tour. Seriously, who is going to this show? Somehow along the way I sort of lost track of Charlie's work never finding myself all that drawn to him as an actor. I'm sure he's delivered some serviceable work. He's certainly a likable enough character. For me, he'll always be remembered for his work in Platoon as Private Chris Taylor, oddly enough. I've never actually been a Two And A Half Men kind of guy and he was fairly good on Spin City following the departure of Michael J. Fox. Those were big shoes to fill, but Charlie knows spin. He's amusing, but let's face it, it's not science fiction. Despite the insanity of his TV success, Sheen has clearly bought into the elixir of his own success. His belief 9-11 was an inside job by the federal government and other assorted rants have cropped up along his journey into weird.


Today, Sheen is fully uncorked, unleashed, "one gear, one speed, go!" and "bangin' 7 gram rocks." He's his own drug called "Charlie Sheen" according to Sheen. Tiger blood Sheen is driving in radical coke mode and that's how he's rolling. To be honest, the Charlie Sheen world tour is as weird and wild and as sad as those media displays and soundbites would no doubt have you believe. He is completely unrestrained and out of the box. His fate seems somehow sealed, but the man is a character and in the land of plenty there's always room for redemption, just look at Mickey Rourke and Robert Downey Jr.. It can happen. It will be interesting to see how it all ends, simply because you just can't turn away from that massive train wreck. The media gives us a piece of the man wherever he goes. I can't imagine it will end well, but he is a fascinating, entertaining kind of nut. But, this really isn't about the war genre or all about Charlie Sheen.


Oddly enough, Director David Twohy teamed with Charlie Sheen for a little known science fiction film called The Arrival [1996] years before Sheen went on the bender. I wish I could call it a little known gem. Twohy has come up with interesting, if not always perfectly executed material in films like A Perfect Getaway [2009] and Pitch Black [2000], in my opinion his two best attempts to date. Twohy has made a name for himself as a scriptwriter too. He even had a hand in the disappointing Impostor [2002] as well as Kevin Costner's Waterworld [1995], Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane [1997] and Andrew Davis' The Fugitive [1993]. The big picture on Twohy does begin coming together as something of an uneven run. His career has not been a shining example of excellence and I sincerely enjoyed some of those aforementioned scripts. But Twohy has also written and directed his fair share of films and A Perfect Getaway does give me hope.


Somehow the pairing of Sheen and Twohy screamed for a viewing. I happened upon it in a rare non-on-line appearance at Best Buy. I picked it up. The time seemed oh so right to see what this strange offering might bring. I wish I could have my two hours back. This is my warning to you to run far and wide. It's too late for me. I'm a goner. I've lost two precious hours of my life never to be returned, but this is my chance to give something back to humanity even if it's my last selfless act. Okay, dramatic. Well, there's no lack of that here, but it's of the cheese spread variety.


The Arrival was adorned with a 25 million dollar budget and made roughly 14 million back. I'd say dead on arrival is a little more like it.


Sheen plays the part of a technician, Zane Zaminsky [as in zzzzzz], who stumbles upon the makings of an impending alien invasion in progress. Yes, these things have already arrived. Vintage 1996 alien special effects get disguised as humans in what comes off like a cheesy sci-fi, comic, thriller. But this isn't as good as those B movie Creature Double Features we loved. It simply straddles the line of dramatic, sometimes comic and Twohy seems to suck the excitement and tension out of every scene with Sheen offering little to the material. In many ways, this is a far less effective riff on John Carpenter's superior They Live [1988] minus the classic Corey Hart sunglasses concept. Honestly, many adjectives come to mind for this film: hokey, poorly-executed, poorly-acted, ill-conceived, insignificant, unoriginal, and boring. A few nouns come to mind too, shite and abject failure, a dismal one. I'm sorry to have to report that I missed this one along the way, but somehow it still found me. I guess they really are here to stay. I'm not sure what I was hoping for, but this failed to satisfy this Fanatic on almost every level including its denouement complete with more achingly bad dialogue.


I wish I had better news. I thought a film like The Arrival, with its concentration on character over special effects, might have been more pleasantly substantive than some of today's fast food science fiction. It certainly could have been, but it swings and misses badly. What I've come to realize is Director David Twohy is neither a terrific director [at this point] or writer, of which chores he handles both in the case of The Arrival. He also wrote and directed A Perfect Getaway. His skills behind the camera have much improved since the making of this Sheen disaster, but even A Perfect Getaway has its writing problems. He never quite delivers the proper balance and some of his strongest works have benefited from the assist of co-writers. I can get by the cheesy special effects, but bad writing and uninspired direction and casting make The Arrival wholly unwelcomed.


Close Encounters Of The Unwanted Kind. Close Encounters Of The Worst Kind. In fact, GET Close Encounters Of The Third Kind [1977]. See it again all over with new eyes. Heck, The Fourth Kind with Milla Jovovich [2009] would probably be better, but that's a guess.


Unfortunately, The Arrival is the kind of thing that has defined Twohy and Sheen's often sub par careers [with exceptions]. This is an unexceptional movie and one that really never should have happened. Granted, this is my take on it and yet, oddly, there is enough here to give others a counter argument. I understand this is less a proper film review than a stream of consciousness-styled attempt at humor, but I simply cannot relive this film in detail- that might be considered masochistic. The Bill Of Rights strictly forbades Cruel And Unusual Punishment and as an American I must respect the will of the framers.


Well, there's a sequel out there called The Second Arrival. Is this the second wave? Did the others leave? Stop! I don't want to know. You don't want to know. Don't look for coverage of it on this site. Good grief. Stabbing my eyes with a fork might be preferred.


Friends. My apologies for being so quiet of late, but getting to the keyboard has been difficult to fit into a tight schedule. Still, I love writing and I love taking time out to write and exchange ideas with everyone who visits. Thank you for your continued support for all things sci-fi here at Musings.

9 comments:

John Kenneth Muir said...

Hi SFF:

Great and timely look back at The Arrival (and Charlie Sheen, pre-mental breakdown tour...). I think I'm a bigger Twohy fan than you are, and perhaps enjoyed the film more than you did.

But maybe that's also because I watched The Second Arrival, and it is seriously one of the lousiest, dumbest movies you'll ever see. The original Arrival looks much, much better in comparison.

Seriously, The Second Arrival is unbelievable in its badness (starting from the fact that NASA is operated out of a mom and pop, small town shop in the film...)

Great retrospective!

All my best,
JKM

J.D. said...

I'm with JKM on this one for being an admirer of Twohy's stuff. I really, really dug this film in a big way as an extended riff on THE X-FILES. I liked how Sheen's character was a raving paranoid from the get-go and how that paranoia ends becoming justified. I dunno, it just had an entertaining B-movie vibe from the get-go.

I think my fave film that Twohy has directed to date is BELOW, a haunted submarine tale set in WWII starring the always watchable Bruce Greenwood and a slew of character actors, like Holt McCallany, (pre-HANGOVER) Zach Galifianakis, Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher. I think that this film may be more up yer alley. Also, Darren Aronofsky co-wrote the screenplay so there's that. I hope to tackle it on my blog some time soon.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

John

Well, thank you as always for your input and if there was any possibility that I might consider The Second Arrival you have sealed its fate for certain with your always terrific final words on a subject.

Sincerely, I wasn't big on this film, but I definitely had a bit of a laugh writing about it and probably was a bit harsh. I do think there were some genuinely good science fiction concepts and communications ideas in play in this film. Twohy does write those good conceptual ideas into the film.

I would have to relent to those ideas which I did not spend time covering because the film really lost me on an entertainment level. It wasn't very compelling from a character standpoint so not one of my favorites.

I wasn't a big fan of Chronicles of Riddick as another example.

I truly did like A Perfect Getaway, like you covered in your terrific review and would give that one a marginal thumbs up for a whole host of reasons: casting, visuals, drama. I also enjoyed Pitch Black despite the poor CGI, because the story and tension was really just right. I think we would agree on those.

Someday I will have to give Waterworld another look. The fugitive is solid and G.I.Jane is a personal favorite. So, if I came across harsh, I might have been writing after a few drinks. : )

But, I have to admit, the thought did cross my mind, "I wonder if John likes this film?"

****

J.D.

Always a pleasure to hear from another respected voice on film.

It's interesting to hear your perspectives on this film.

It does have a kind of Fight The Future vibe, a film which I love by the way, and you're right I must admit, Sheen does play the paranoia card quite well even if I wasn't totally convinced by the script.

I loved hearing your thoughts on this one too. Admittedly, I watched this film over the course of three evenings. I simply couldn't get through it thanks to distractions so that may have hurt me.

I've been really wanting to see BELOW. It's on my watch list. You may have given me what I needed to hear to pull the trigger on that film J.D.. I suppose the fact that I knew Twohy did that film and that I was still interested in seeing it speaks to the fact I am interested in his work despite some disappointments.

Thank you both.
SFF

le0pard13 said...

Always glad to read your take on films and the like, my friend. THE ARRIVAL is definitely a B-flick, but I enjoy it a little more than you. Though, I can't fault your points. I hope Sheen comes up with Mickey Rourke/Robert Downey, Jr. landing in his future. But those two had the benefit of hitting bottom... Sheen hasn't seen the floor, as yet.

I enjoyed Sheen in PLATOON, but also WALL STREET, MAJOR LEAGUE, and the odd little film, NO MAN'S LAND (with Sheen in the rare villain role). And speaking of his old man, I absolutely love that scene with Charlie Sheen doing the voice-over (à la APOCALYPSE NOW) in HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX on the river and he crosses paths with Capt. Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen in the uncredited cameo). That was the best thing in the movie!

Always happy to see you online (and I completely understand the pulls and pushes of a tight schedule). Thanks for this.

le0pard13 said...

And here it is!

"I loved you in WALL STREET!"

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Ouch! You really didn’t like The Arrival, did you oh Fanatic of the Sci-Fi!?

I haven’t seen The Arrival since it first arrived on DVD back in ’97, but even by the standards of the day, I felt it didn’t offer much in the way of originality. This was David Twohy’s second film in the director’s chair, so it does have a more polished look to it than a film of this type might ordinarily have. I’d like to have seen Twohy’s first film, Grand Tour - Disaster in Time, originally titled TimeScape (1992) – but it hasn’t been available on DVD since 2002. The Arrival does show some hint that Twohy was able to combine character, action and science fictional ideas well, which he made much better use of in Pitch Black (2000).

Pitch Black is still my favorite film by Twohy, but I liked The Chronicles of Riddick almost as much. This is actually a better science fiction film than Pitch Black, which is essentially a horror movie on an alien landscape. Yes, Riddick is riddled with some implausibilities, but overall it portrays a large scale space opera plot in a more realistic way than most films.

Below is a nice mood piece. However, it suffers from a somewhat unconvincing ending. I too liked A Perfect Getaway. It did not telegraph its plot twist, which is a difficult thing to do in this sort of thriller.

As much as you may have disliked The Arrival, I can’t stress enough that you stay away from The Fourth Kind! This is the anti-Close Encounters of the Third Kind! I felt bad for Milla Jovovich, who spends much of this dark dreary film talking to dull-eyed actors portraying abductees and the rest yelling at people who don’t believe her evidence of her child’s abduction. The end of The Fourth Kind is disturbing on many levels – and not in a good way.

I concur with JKM: The Second Arrival is a direct-to-video effort that makes the original look like a masterpiece!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

L13...

Thanks so much for your input as always.

It's becoming quite clear I'm in the distinct minority on this one, but I'm okay with that.

I really must have missed the boat ont his one. I must admit I have no desire to see it again anytime soon.

I fear you may be right on Sheen. He's still falling from grace. I hate seeing Mel struggle. He may be my personal favorite especially when he has a great movie like The Beaver out.

You clearly get SHeen's style and humor and seem to appreciate it more than myself. I should look at his work a little more I suppose.

Thanks again my friend
SFF
*****

DOC my friend!

Well, you kind of nailed it for me. The Arrival feels too damn polished. Squeaky polished.

You make a good point that The Arrival does offer a glimpse of things to come in fairness.

Like you, I really enjoyed Pitch Black. Your points about Chronicles are very good as far as creating a science fiction world, but it was still a little too messy I think for my taste. I guess I really enjoyed the simplicity and focus of Pitch Black eventhough it was a bit like Alien on a planet.

Anyway, I feel I might come closest to your opinion of The Arrival here out of all the fine commentaries on offer.

I am drawn to Fourth Kind like a bug to a light thanks to Jovovich, but I am skeptical and delaying the inevitable I suspect.

Thanks for all of the wonderful thought here.

Best,
SFF

Sean Gill said...

A fine writeup! Once or twice I've toyed with renting this sucker, and though I don't mind Twohy in general, I've thought his Sci-Fi work has probably been all downhill since co-writing the screenplay to CRITTERS 2 (i.e., Vin Diesel movies adapted from Mountain Dew spin-offs).

And J.D. has now got me also wanting to see BELOW.

Side note: Twohy himself kinda looks like the vanilla version of Lance Henriksen!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks so much for dropping by Sean. I appreciate the kind words. I agree. Below is is on my list. Keep up the fine work over at your site! Best, SFF