This review is for The Arrival from 1996
Tagline – “The greatest danger facing our world has been the planet’s best kept secret…until now.“
Who’s our hero today?
Young Gun’s Dick Brewer’s great great grandson Charlie Sheen plays Zane Zaminsky.
Had I seen this one on VHS/DVD back in the day?
This came out in the golden era for alien sci-fi geeks. You had The X-Files going alien crazy on us with their extraterrestrial continued episodes which later got released like TV movies on VHS. You also had the Alien Nation TV movies alongside that short lived and completely underrated conspiracy series called Dark Skies. They all come out around the same time. I couldn’t get enough of these sci-fi adventures. Total geek-out. So The Arrival fitted in well for me and my brother.
Quick plot run down.
Whilst working for the SETI Institute exploring the universe for knowledge and life, a radio astronomer discovers an extraterrestrial radio signal. Managing to record and track the signal to a star, aptly named WOLF 336, 14 light years away. When he reports it to his supervisor he soon finds his enthusiasm shutdown and his findings dismissed. Soon after he find he’s been fired due to budget cuts and prevented from working anymore on his research. Desperate to carry out his research he creates a large array in his neighborhood. Tracking down the radio signals he discovers they are being received by a Mexican radio station. Packing his bags, this intrigued researcher’s world will soon be turned upside down. Suspicious deaths, unexplained phenomena and the possibility of an alien invasion! Can he help to save the world?
Tagline – “Mankind has long pondered the question: Are we alone in the universe?“
Does the hero have a day job?
Zane Zaminsky (Charlie Sheen) is a dedicated radio astronomer obsessively buried into his work.
What’s our heroes special skills?
Well if you want free cable TV Zane’s your guy.
Heroes weapon of choice?
Zane just uses his brain. Pretty sure he didn’t use any fire arms in this film?
Heroes drink of choice?
Zane keeps off the booze after his friend tell’s him “I get so damned apocalyptic when I drink.!” so he just keeps to the Tiger Blood!
Does hero have a sidekick?
He has three. You got Ilana Green (Lindsay Crouse) a climatologist scientist who has noticed the worlds climate is being changed and it seems to be orientating from Mexico. She get’s to do a tiny little milfy flirting with Zane. Then there’s Zane’s buddy and radio astronomer work mate Calvin (Richard Schiff). And thirdly Kiki (Tony T. Johnson) the local young black kid who’s bored and intrigued by whatever Zane is up to in his loft space. Lending a helping hand were he can, if Zane will let him.
Hot girl? Damsel in distress or ass kicker?
To be honest this spot could be for Ilana Green mentioned above. However I’ll put Zane’s, not amused by the whole situation, girlfriend Char (Teri Polo). Now Teri Polo might not have a big part in The Arrival though she will be most known to many as a soon to be Focker! She played Pam the daughter of Robert De Niro character Jack in Meet The Parents (2000) and the sequels.
Who’s the main baddie?
Ok a bit of a half-arsed spoiler alert coming for who the baddie is but hey when you see Ron Silver in the opening credits you know it’s him. Ron plays Phil Gordian a supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Wanna see Mr Silver in another naughty role then look no further than Timecop (1994).
Psycho baddies rating out of ten? 8/10
On his own not too much. He doesn’t want to raise attention to himself. He has a series of henchmen to do his cleaning so to speak. With the help of a black hole ball!
Heroes balls of steel and anger ratings out of ten? 8/10
Pure obsessive determination to find out the truth spurs our hero on.
Surely it features a training montage scene?
Yes it does. A build an array montage. Our Zane goes around the neighborhood selling satellite TV packages to everyone. His plan is to rig up all the dishes to make one giant space sound receiver. In the scene he puts on different accents, different glasses and fake names! Not sure why he does that!
Does it feature an impossible mission?
Going into the alien hub, base command, would be one thing but getting out would be completely impossible UNLESS you could somehow bring out your Grandfather Francisco Estevez Spanish genes and look a little more Mexican. If only there was a Mexican making machine when you need one!
Does the hero get a chance to show off their muscles?
Zane gets to stand on his porch all sweaty and naked as the neighbours look on!
Will I be needing to pause the video player? AKA are there any boobies?
Random naked Mexican lady in a sink? It’s a pretty bizarre scene to have been added!
Zane’s lady is up for some action but Zane’s got aliens on his mind and that deflates the situation. Just like the aliens he see later….. No junk in the trunk!
Any good totally random surprise scenes?
There’s a whole collection to honest. Here’s three random scenes. 1) The bathtub scene must be the most ridiculous way to try to assassinate someone ever! 2) An alien skin bag transformation machine that turns you Mexican. 3) Sheen and Silver as Mexicans.
Films body count? Low/Medium/High?
Gets close to the top of low. Depending on what you class as high.
Explosion ratio? Low/Medium/High?
A few explosions but it’s the implosions that are more devastating here.
Any cool car chases?
No real car chases but Zane owns a really cool 1968 SAAB Station Wagon V4.
Zane – “Actually I look like a can of smashed assholes!”
Any other familiar faces and actors pop up?
Leon Rippy is a familiar face. He plays one of the alien clean up men. You’ll recognise the face. He’s been in Eight Legged Freaks (2002), Universal Soldier (1992) and what I most remember him in, that brilliant western series, Deadwood.
The Arrival is written and directed by David Twohy. He would follow up this with directing the superb sci-fi action movie Pitch Black (2000) which showcased the awesome anti-hero Riddick (Vin Diesel). Twohy and Diesel would team up for two sequels in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) and Riddick (2013). They never matched the first adventure but still have a few good moments. Twohy would also write the Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones chase movie The Fugitive (1993) and also the wet sci-fi saga of Waterworld (1995).
Charlie Sheen’s doesn’t go all over the top Rookie cheesy on us here. I think it sits bubbling near the top of low cheese but feel free to spin the cheese-o-meter to where you want. Depending if you have Mulder’s “I want to believe” poster on your wall or not.
IMDB score rating – 6.3/10
Wolfman ACTION & FUN rating – 9/10
Wolfman over all film rating – 7/10
I read it pretty much got washed under the table by the release of bigger budget Independence Day (1996) in the same month. I do think us science fiction lovers lapped it up on the home movie rental market and hopefully raised it’s capitol. A sequel was made! The Second Arrival (1998) and it was really terrible. Luckily Charlie bailed on this rehash.
The Arrival is surprisingly effective. Even when it takes itself seriously it doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard. Charlie’s does well in the dramatics and is very likable. It’s probably the first time he manages to shake off the parody of himself after the brilliant fun of the Topper Harley films. Of course if you don’t like alien nonsense then you’ll probably hate this but it’s hearts in the right place and it’s a good fun sci-fi yarn. Worth a look if you haven’t seen it. Even if it’s just for all the random stuff.
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or else what’s Heaven for?” – Robert Browning
Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the films if you want. However, most important just have fun with the movies.
Keep it filmy…. Mikey Wolf.