Passengers (2016): Lost and Found in Space (Review)

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in Passengers

Written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) and directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Headhunters), Passengers is a spectacular offering that runs the gamut from a Robinson Crusoe theme to one of heartwarming romance. In-between these two scenarios the film offers some brilliant action and soul searching moments. 

Chris Pratt is Jim Preston is the “everyman” engineer who wakes 90 years early because of the spaceship hitting a very large meteor. His existence is lonely, frustrating and desperate. In the year he faces life on his own, he finds Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and after an agonizing time of indecision, opts to wake the writer up early. 

Michael Sheen is Arthur, the ship’s robotic bartender. (A clear nod and wink to the film Arthur which was  about an alcoholic millionaire played first by Dudley Moore and later by Russell Brand.) The three spend their days interacting until another person wakes early; Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne). 

Gus, the only crew member to wake early, tries to find out what is wrong with the ship and works to fix it.

Passengers skillfully and deftly moves between its four acts and allows us the opportunity to really care for each character as they appear. Preston grabs our sympathy from the very start and later, when he and Aurora bond we feel for each person in this unlikely romance.

As the characters grow and change the atmosphere melds into one of unease as things go on in the background.  Each shift in the tale increases our interest in the people and their fate.

Each actor in the film knocks it out of the park. Fishburne is brilliant as the last minute guest. The casting of the actor must have been a homage to his doomed captain from the 1997 space film Event Horizon

Michael Sheen manages to not only shine as the android bartender who seamlessly blends in with the only two passengers on board but he also offers a delightfully odd air throughout the film. His drink and wisdom dispensing robot, with those overly pink lips, comes dangerously close to stealing every scene he is in.

Passengers offers up moments that feel like loving homages to scenarios in other films. Basketball, from Prometheus, the robotic cleaners; a nod to Silent Running, and other nods and winks are there for the movie fanatic to pick out at their leisure.

Tyldum, who specializes in the offbeat tale, manages to put everything together perfectly. The film looks brilliant and epic. The sets are spectacular while the editing and lighting are absolutely spot on.

This is a visual treat that may rely too heavily on a few cliches in order to offer up a pleasing payoff. Overall the film entertains, pleases and thrills so the manner of delivery does not, in the end, matter.

Rather interestingly, Andy Garcia has a cameo as the ship’s captain and his silent presence is somewhat puzzling although welcome. One can only assume that whatever lines the actor may have had wound up in the cutting room floor.

At almost two and a half hours long, the film could have drug in places but Tyldum keeps things interesting and the pace, while not too fast, works to keep the interest of the viewer at a constant rate.

This is another 5 star film. It could have suffered a half star loss, just for that “Hollywood” ending, but because we care about the characters there really was no other way for the film to finish.

Passengers is available on a number of platforms, i.e. Amazon, i-Tunes, et al and should be viewed immediately if not sooner.

Jennifer Lawrence to Join the Reboot Train: Oceans 11

Jennifer Lawrence on Graham Norton
On the  day where Jennifer Lawrence regaling the  Graham Norton audience with tales of being blanked by Harrison Ford and shot with a B.B. gun while peeing aired on Youtube, the news of an ‘Oceans 11’ reboot a’la ‘Ghostbusters’ was announced.  Initial reports indicate that Lawrence will be working with Sondra Bullock in this reboot of a remake.

IGN reported that Gary Ross (Hunger Games) will be heading up the project based on a script written by Olivia Milch(Dude). Apparently, Bullock is portraying the Danny Ocean role, although according to Indiewire the “real” Danny, George Clooney will be making cameo as Ocean in the film.

There have been “dream” cast lists and much speculation on what route this film reboot will take, other’s have complained that this last bastion of all “male” fantasy action and comedy should be left alone.

Quite possibly the same group who complained that the original Rat Pack film, made on location in Las Vegas while Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford were performing in the town. The movie was a lark, a way to capitalize on the swinging hipsters, in their mid-40s, who were pulling the crowds in at the casinos.

The film was rat pack gold despite having a thin plot and more holes than a backstreet in in small-town USA. It also featured the then hotter than hot Angie Dickinson as Frankie’s ex.

Years later a new “rat pack” was made with Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Julia Roberts as Clooney’s former squeeze.  Gone was the slick patter of yesteryear but it was replaced with wry humor and the essence that was Clooney, Pitt and a pretty comic turn by Matt Damon.

There is no comparison between the 1960 “made for a quick buck” film and the newer 2001 film that spawned a brief run of sequels that ended in 2007.  Different decades and players yielded a different movie both in storyline and feel.  (For one thing the new version did not feature the smooth crooning version of Dean’s “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.”)

Now the newest iteration of the film (listed  only as “Untitled Ocean’s Eleven Project” on IMDb) has Sondra Bullock penciled in on the Pro portion of the website and now has Jennifer Lawrence “attached” to the project.

Lawrence, who makes her last run as Mystique in X-Men: Apocalypse 27 May this year is also listed as being in an “Untitled Darren Aronofsky Project” in 2017. Neither Jennifer nor her camp have commented on this rumor while she continues on the publicity train for her last X-Men.

She does, however, talk about being embarrassed at the Star Wars guys not recognizing her, although Ford did immediately know James McAvoy.  She also tells about the X-Men guys pelting her naked hide with B.B.s while trying to pee. Lawrence explained to the audience and Graham that it was distracting as the whole process of urinating in her Mystique outfit was quite scientific.

If Lawrence is cast in the new ‘Oceans 11′ reboot, of a remake, Harrison may well recognize America’s sweetheart the next time she dances up to his and J.J. Abrams’ table.

Serena (2014): Jennifer Lawrence in Depressing Drama

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Serena

There may be a few films on offer that are more depressing than the 2014 drama Serena, but one feels it would be difficult to find them. The film, directed by Susanne Bier and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper is set during the Great Depression and tells the story of a lumber baron and his lady love who  lose everything by the final reel. 

The drama was a long time coming to the US, after premiering in London and doing abysmally at the box office, it took another year for the film to make it across the big pond to be shown in a limited release and then heading straight to on-demand streaming. While the film does look sumptuous, with the Czech Republic doubling for the Smoky Mountains, the plot is off-putting and contains too many holes and illogical twists to make it entertaining.

Bradley Cooper is lumber magnate George Pemberton, who falls in love with Serena Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence) at first sight. Apparently Shaw’s father, who died with the rest of her family in a horrific house fire, was a lumber baron in Colorado. The two marry after a whirlwind romance and Serena comes back to the Smoky Mountains to help George run his lumber business.

A number of things happen, George’s best friend and partner Mr. Buchanan (David Dencik) hates the new woman in his friend’s life. He makes no bones about his distaste for Serena who sets about winning over everyone else. 

Everyone, that is, bar Rachel ( Ana Ularu), the local girl who has had George’s baby “on the wrong side of the sheets.” She hovers around the lumber camp working her old job while Pemberton gives her money for his illegitimate son. Serena is soon pregnant and an accident on the mountainside results in her losing the baby. She will not be able to have another one and the woman becomes more than distraught. 

Therein lies one of the problems with the film. Lawrence, as Serena, certainly delivers in terms of performance literally chewing up great chunks of emotion and spewing them out. Then falling apart when things go wrong at the end. The loss of the baby is meant to be the main cause of her deadly turn but from the very first Serena Pemberton, Nee’ Shaw, has been proactive in terms of “taking out the opposition.”

She encourages her husband to murder his friend and  business partner and this before she miscarries. The backstory to her character could lead one to believe that there was more than one reason that she survived that house fire, but it is never addressed fully.

Serena’s change from strong positive role model, she trains an eagle to kill rattlesnakes to murderous b*tch from hell does not track, especially when considering her orders to George about killing Buchanan. The loss of the baby does not introduce her cold blooded side, that was present before, but that is what the film does seem to be saying.

Cooper does an adequate job as George but sadly his character is too cold, aloof and (Sorry Bradley) passionless to be likable. One feels it was his money that attracted Serena, just as it attracted the camp washer girl Rachel. There is never one thing that stands out about Pemberton apart from the clear lust he has for his new wife.

Perhaps the only thing that works well is the chemistry between the two, in the love scenes that is. It is, unfortunately, not enough to carry the whole thing along. The creepy Galloway (Rhys Ifans) “he has visions,” is odd enough that one wonders why he is kept on, especially after he becomes oddly devoted to Serena and begins to murder for her.

All the actors deliver. Toby Jones (Wayward Pines,  Berberian Sound Studio) is brilliantly annoying as the small town sheriff with big plans for a national park and a clear animosity towards Pemberton. Sean Harris, as Campbell, is excellent as the doomed chap with a conscience and Ana Ularu as the simpleminded single mom of George’s child is spot on.

*Sidenote* Ularu manages to be doubly annoying as she fluctuates between either moping around the camp or gloatingly playing with George’s love child in front of Serena. One can easily see the new wife getting fed up with having this local yokel hanging around.

For all the beauty of the cinematography and the powerhouse acting involved, the film is depressing  and lacking any real empathy for any of the characters. No one is likable enough  for the audience to care when these bad things happen to them.  Whether it is the fault of Susanne Bier or the script failing to make the characters more sympathetic does not really matter. The film just does not work.

At 109 minutes, the film feels longer and perhaps the pacing could have been picked up a tad although even that may not have saved this third outing of Cooper and Lawrence.   This is a 3 out of 5 stars, the movie does get a full star for the beauty of the locations, and is streaming on US Netflix at the moment. Overall a very disappointing offering from the duo who made Silver Linings Playbook sizzle and crackle.

Jennifer Lawrence Shouts Out on Facebook About Rumors

Jennifer Lawrence at Comic ConAs much as America’s newest sweetheart hates social media, Jennifer Lawrence shouted out on Facebook about those fight rumors with David O. Russell. Someone must be taking them seriously as the actress actively avoids the Internet, and did so before the hack that spewed inappropriate pictures of the star across the globe. It has already been reported that the “screaming” session between David and Jennifer was a preparatory exercise for an upcoming scene.

Read the rest of the article at Viral Global News…

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Beginning of the End (Review)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Beginning of the End (Review)

The third film in The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay Part 1 is the beginning of the end for this popular series of sequels. Taken from Suzanne Collins’ superb dystopian adventure tale of “everygirl” hero Katniss Everdeen and the world of Panem, a country of 13 districts ruled by one called the Capital which is run by President Snow.