Movie of the Week 49
Passengers 2016 drama, romance, sci-fi
It's not a spoiler to say that you must watch this flick from the beginning. In the first minutes of the film we get a bird's eye view of a huge space ship, the Avalon, colliding head on with an asteroid swarm. Don't ask why this incredibly complicated ship couldn't/didn't attempt any evasive maneuvers. In any case the ship's automated systems are only partially successful in dealing with the asteroids, triggering a sequence of events ending with one of the passengers being awakened prematurely (by 90 years) from his hibernation pod. It's also important to know before the curtain goes up that the 5,000 passengers are not astronauts, they are pioneers on a space-borne cruise ship taking them, in suspended animation, on a 120-year journey to colonize a new world. There are a couple potholes in the story that I will mention below, but if you can suspend disbelief you will be very entertained by this movie.
A few highlights (No Spoilers). The production set designs are most impressive: truly a first class job. The space cinematography is jaw dropping and rivals some of the all-time great space travel films. Watch this on the largest screen possible. As expected from a movie starring two of the most popular, young male & female actors, the heart of the story is a romance. The space ship voyage provides the action, flash and tension. Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora) is the stunning sleeping beauty and love interest while Chris Pratt (Jim) again plays the heroic alpha male to perfection. There is no idiotic gender confusion here; the formula is normal and well understood. It is a boy gets girl, boy loses girl, and will they get back together (?) type of romance movie. Michael Sheen shines as the robot-bartender and adds plenty of much needed comic relief. Other than a brief (and mostly unnecessary) appearance by Larry Fishburne, the film has a minimalist three person cast. The sparse cast together with the thoughtful, lingering handling of the central moral dilemma may annoy some viewers, but it was engrossing to me.
The film is not without flaws. Common sense tells us that the super complex Avalon would require a small army of electro-mechanical technicians and computer aces working 24/7 shift work. In this flick the entire crew is dozing in the pods, so they are useless when TSHTF. But having the crew around would ruin the narrative of the film; let them sleep. Pothole #2 – Many viewers criticized the final action scenes as being over-the-top and unbelievable. Maybe so, but they had me on the edge of my seat. Finally, not to nitpick, but the sex scenes were too tame and brief. The lack of eroticism is another lame PC trend which encourages movie makers to play it too safe. A few nude scenes of Aurora would have spiced up the movie and transformed the film into a riskier, edgier classic movie.
Ignore the negative reviews. Passengers is something quite rare: a science fiction film that is entirely fresh and new, not part of a series, and not a reboot, remake, or rip-off of other films. Passengers has a unique visual style, first rate acting — and it tells a fascinating and conservative story.
Movie of the Week 48
The Gentlemen 2020 drama, crime
This new film by writer/director Guy Ritchie is his best movie in over twenty years largely because it is a return to his roots – a British underworld tale packed with a cast of colorful rogues. In this case, we have a gentrified, gleefully non-PC, full blown gang war in Merry Olde England.
The Gentlemen has A-list star power, and outstanding performances by lesser known actors. Matthew McConaughey plays the protagonist, Mickey Pearson, an ex-pat American weed kingpin, and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) play’s Mickey’s steely wife Rosalind. Mickey wants to retire and offers to sell his operation for $400 million in cash, but in a crucial scene, Mickey is warned by his wife, “The criminal underworld is a jungle, and it is dangerous for the king of the jungle to retire, for it signals weakness, and the jackals come running.” She, of course, is proven to be correct.
Mickey, however, is fortunate to have Raymond, his loyal, high IQ, right-hand man. Raymond, (well-played by underrated actor Charlie Hunnam) engages Fletcher, an evil tabloid journalist-cum-blackmailer, in a battle of wits akin to a chess match. The scenes with Raymond and Fletcher are tense, dark and strangely humorous. Veteran actor Hugh Grant plays Fletcher to perfection. Hugh Grant is noted for his trademark goofy charm in romance flicks; although, he's much better playing against type as a disgusting cad, and here he surpasses himself.
I won’t say much about the plot, because I actually want you to see The Gentlemen, but I do need to address the barrage of negative reviews by the PC media “movie experts” who were offended by this excellent movie. An entire Glee Club of SJW bullies pulled out the Race Card and sang “racist” and “anti-Semitic” in unison. Of course, the controversy this film has generated only makes it all the more enjoyable. The Jewish antagonist in the movie is not a good Jew; he is filled with Jewish greed and ambition. But this is a crime movie; what did you expect? Film critic Trevor Lynch sums it up best; “Ritchie has some plausible deniability on the anti-Semitic charges. First of all, there are no Good Guys in the movie, so the screenwriter [Ritchie] is simply being realistic when bad people say bad things. Beyond that, Guy Ritchie can probably say that some of his best friends are Jews, given that he and ex-wife Madonna were deep into Kabbalah [a mystic branch of Judaism] for several years. Also he speaks some Hebrew, and named his son Levi. I think Guy Ritchie [being a Jack Jew] is entitled to write a script with lines about Jews like they talk about themselves.”
I highly recommend The Gentlemen – it is without a weak link and the best film of 2020, so far. There’s a bit of ferocity but nothing too distasteful. Much of the violence occurs off camera. The clever script is a bit too vulgar for my taste, but my delicate ears have survived far worse. The plot has some surprising twists and turns, the performances are excellent, and the pacing never fails in this jolly good story.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2023. All rights reserved.