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.

Hannibal: Contorno (recap and review)

Will and Chiyo in Hannibal
Last week in Hannibal, Aperitivo teams or, more accurately, partnerships were formed. All following the Lector trail to Florence. Dr. Bloom and Mason Verger, Will Graham and Chiyo, Jack Crawford and Rinaldo Pazzi, are all on their way to Hannibal, and he is waiting with his own partner, Bedelia. In Hannibal, Contorno their paths are intertwining to a degree and some are closer than others. Verger is still the wheelchair commander having sent out his contract for a live Lector to be delivered to him and he is positive that he will win in this intense competition.

On their train journey, Chiyo and Will converse and analyze one another. She tells Will that he must kill Hannibal as he fears he will become Lector if he does not. Chiyo also reveals to Graham that “there are means of influence other than violence” but that violence is what Will understands. Highlight of their conversation, before she pushes him off the train, is their allegorical discussion of the snail. The allusion to the “belly of the beast” is perfect verbal imagery of what happens to most of Hannibal’s victims.

The most touching part of the show is when Jack releases Bella’s ashes into the waters of Florence, “Ciao Bella” and then throws his wedding ring in after. He then meets with Pazzi and his wife, where he talks about meeting his wife in Florence and the three toast the late woman. Pazzi reveals to Jack, inadvertently, that he will “sell” Hannibal to collect the “bounty.” He tells Crawford that he is disgraced and “out of fortune.”

Verger’s “armchair detective” Dr. Bloom, shows her collected evidence, wine receipts and bills for dinner service plates and cutlery, that proves Hannibal is in Florence. As she trots out her findings, Bedelia is shown going into a “fine grocer”and ordering the same thing once a week. During her presentation, Verger shows once again that underneath all those scars and that money, he is a crass disgusting individual.

Pazzi questions Dr Fell about the disappearance of his predecessor and of Sogliato who is the second man to disappear from the Palazzo. Hannibal; as Fell, asks the Inspector about his ancestors and the most infamous ancestor of all, Francesco who attempted to assassinate “Lorenzo the Magnificent” during Mass in 1478. Later in the episode, Hannibal will show Pazzi a woodcutting of the disemboweled Francesco just before killing him.

After their conversation, Pazzi rings Mason Verger’s hot-line number to claim the bounty for Hannibal. Later he goes to collect the first of two required pieces of evidence that will prove it really is Lector when the inspector dies, after being questioned by Lector, by hanging and being disemboweled. Hannibal cuts the man open before flinging his body out of the window leaving Rinaldo as a “living woodcut” of Francesco.

As Rinaldo’s body swings outside the Palazzo, Jack Crawford looks up at Hannibal. The two meet upstairs and Jack slowly and deliberately sets out to beat Lector to death. Lector fights back but the big man’s rage and focus is overwhelming. At one point Crawford shoves a grappling hook through Lector’s leg.

A bloodied and wounded Hannibal climbs to the window where moments before he had thrown the disemboweled Inspector Pazzi to his death and as Jack closes in for the kill, Lector uses his latest victim to escape.

The pretty one sided altercation between Jack and Hannibal is filmed against the score of Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie overture and it adds much to the scene. The use of this particular piece feels like a homage to A Clockwork Orange where Alex attacks his Droogs to prove leadership. In this case it is Jack attacking Hannibal to prove he is in control…almost.

Lector escapes and the teaser to the next episode shows that a beaten, bloody Hannibal is in danger of being defeated, not by Jack, but Chiyo; with a high-powered rifle. This show continues to amaze and enthrall. The music, the lighting, the cinematography, the acting are all top notch and the fact that NBC has axed the show beggars belief. Mad Mikkelsen, Lawrence Fishburne, Hugh Dancy, Gillian Anderson, Caroline Dhavernas and Tao Okamoto, along with the rest of the cast, all have brought multi dimensional life and depth to their characters and made this show a brilliant testament to the fact that some television is beyond what passes for entertainment on other networks.

Shame on you NBC.

The Colony (2013): Violence on Ice

Film Poster for The Colony
The 2013 film The Colony, starring Lawrence Fishburne (Hannibal, Predators) Bill Paxton (Agents of SHIELD, Nightcrawler) and Kevin Zegers (Gossip Girl, Dawn of the Dead) is about a second ice age caused by man’s tinkering with the planet’s global warming issues and survivors holding out against the big freeze. Directed and co-written by Jeff Renfroe (Sand Serpents, Civic Duty) The Colony is a post apocalyptic horror story set in the frozen remains of civilization that turns into a violence on ice escapade rather than pure science fiction.

The few groups of humanity that have survived do so underground. In Colony 5, Briggs (Fishburne) runs the population fairly but disease is a constant worry and his second in command, Mason (Paxton) has to eliminate the sick before they can spread the contamination and endanger the entire colony. An SOS from Colony 7, another nest of survivors that Briggs’ community have an agreement with, sends the leader, Sam (Zeger) and a young lad to see what is going on and to see if they can help.

Briggs leaves Kai (Charlotte Sullivan) in charge, much to Mason’s annoyance, and the three men go to the other colony to help. Once there they discover two things. A message from yet another colony saying that they managed to get the weather adapter to work and thaw out the permafrost and an insane group of cannibals who have killed everyone, bar one survivor, and are still carving the meat up when Briggs and company arrive.

The rest of the film is pretty much a race to first escape the cannibals and then to defeat them. The film does shift gear from its beginning premise, changing from a science fiction only film to one that includes quite a lot of fighting and action. The character interaction is still quite good and no-one plays an arse as good as Bill Paxton. Like his other roles, the man does have a sort of mini-redemption but it is too late to save many of his fellow colonists.

In movies like these, the “big” names, like Fishburne and Paxton, usually check out fairly early in the proceedings. The Colony allows Fishburne to live at least halfway through the film and Paxton’s character makes it to the last reel. Pretty impressive stuff and it was nice to see Lawrence used more than in other science fiction films; for example Predators, where the movie could have benefitted from seeing more of his insane survivor.

Zegers does a good job as the man saved by Briggs when he was a boy stranded in the ice land alone who then rises to the occasion to help save the day. Sullivan as Kai does a good job as the pistol packing girlfriend of Sam but she does not get a lot of screen time. Paxton is, as usual, excellent as the executioner who wants to kill off anyone at the first sign of a sniffle.

Dru Viergever (Survival of the Dead, Goldirocks) does a good job as the “feral leader” who rules the cannibals and leads the attack on the new colony. Granted most of his dialogue consisted of screaming and howling although when asked by Sam what he wants, the cannibal leader manages to roar, “More!”

Certainly not a bad film and it does benefit from Fishburne and Paxton being in the cast but this is not earth shatteringly different from other post apocalyptic movies out there. A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and worth watching, even though we know that the surrounding scenery is all CG. Streaming on US Netflix at the moment.

Hannibal: Cancelled by NBC aka Noxious Banal Cretins

Still of Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal
Let there be no doubt; NBC are a lot of noxious banal cretins who would not recognize class and quality if both of them came up and cut off their noses; sliced thinly and served on a silver platter with a fine Spanish red and a side of sautéed baby potatoes or however Hannibal himself might be tempted to serve up the powers that be who cancelled the show in its third season. This psychological horror series with its complex storylines and bucket loads of gore is easily the best scripted show on television and seemingly had something for everyone.

Certain episodes had scenes so horrific that what the eye did not see the imagination filled in handily and viewers must have known that these white knuckle images would come back to haunt their dreams. This violence and bloodshed, which to be honest was nowhere near as bad as it could have been, should have appealed to the younger demographic that television networks are so eager to please.

The complexity of the plot threads and the interaction between Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen), Dr. Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson), Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) and a slew of other fascinating characters were the draw for those more sophisticated than the usual market target.

Show creator Bryan Forbes is not too upset and revealed that he has enjoyed the ride. Other’s are implying that the series may have gotten the NBC axe but that Hannibal could live on in another “platform.” Shows like Longmire, which was cancelled causing fan outrage as the ratings were actually solid, have been picked up by Netflix who will continue the series. More recently Constantine; another NBC show with a solid fanbase which was cancelled, has been actively pursuing a Netflix or Hulu deal and fans are “petitioning up”  to help  make this happen.

Like Constantine, Hannibal has had a difficult time building up a large following. Fans of both shows were dedicated and as mentioned by Slate.com, the latter series has always had an active and prolific Twitter fanbase.

Season three of Hannibal has had an introspective dreamy aspect that may have helped along its demise. Scenes are darker than ever and the amount of time spent focussing on mealtimes, with swelling operatic scores accentuating the sheer opulence of the cannibalistic feast, is almost overwhelming.

It is, perhaps, the introspection as well as the complex and almost musical dialogue of the characters which has also been off putting to the younger demographic. With lines containing several layers of meaning and the increasingly complicated interwoven threads of plot and characters, this “look at Hannibal’s beginning” could be bogging the average viewer down.

This is nothing new, each of the first two seasons made the audience think. Certainly fans were wont to discuss the meanings of the symbology and the mythos in the show after each episode. Twitter has been, as mentioned above, the social platform of choice for most fans to talk implications and underlying themes.

With the news that NBC has turned its back on a show that is highly praised by critics but has a disappointing viewer rating, fans will have to wait to see if a new home can be found for the series and its incredible cast. Until then, the rest of season three can be enjoyed in spite of the noxiously banal cretins at NBC.