The Good Liar 2019 drama crime
The Geezer movie is becoming a recognized genre. The Good Liar is the latest example in 2019. Despite the famous lead actors, Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan, this film is a weak melodrama with zero comic relief. Watchable if you admire the leads, but not one for the DVD shelf or even pay-for-view streaming. I recommend getting a free library rental, and save your cash for a better movie.
The driver of the plot is Roy (Ian McKellan) as an elderly con man who, among his other scams, romances lonely widows of means and fleeces them out of their life savings. His newest target is Betty (Helen Mirren), a recently widowed Oxford professor who he meets on an internet dating site for seniors. The first two-thirds of the movie is Roy turning on the charm with Betty, and working the con in his unhurried, crafty style. It works, almost too easily, as Roy is invited to Betty’s home to be her roommate, and soon becomes her friendly financial advisor. But Betty seems far from clueless, so we keep waiting to see how Betty turns the tables on Roy, while he thinks he's playing her.
Now if the writer / director had stopped here, and not flashbacked to unnecessary plot-point on top of plot-point, revelation on top of bizarre revelation, we'd have had a fine time. But pile on they did in relentless fashion, and it was jaw-dropping, head-shaking as a result. These seem to come out of nowhere. So far out of nowhere (think 1940’s era Nazis) that even after the film attempts to explain these strange, backstory complexities, I did NOT buy the rickety plot.
The twist ending has zero tension, partly because we've seen it coming and partly because Betty sandbags Roy so completely that there's no real contest. After Roy gets his comeuppance, we get pounded again with heavy-handed, moralizing scenes that could better have been left out, leaving Roy's aftermath to our imagination. Recommended only for fans of cold-hearted characters and revenge tales. Do not be fooled; this movie is NOT a “thriller” as flogged by the media.
Only the Brave 2017 action adventure
In the first few frames of the film we read “Based on True Events” of the Yarnell Hill Wildfire in Arizona. Perhaps you remember the deadly forest fire south of Prescott, Arizona in 2007. I did not, so the movie was a revelation to me. As I write this review, thirteen years after the event and three years since the film release, much has changed. I now live in a forest on a mountainside, and am painfully aware of the dangers of wildfires. The summer of 2020 has seen one of the worst Wildfire seasons on record – here in Colorado massive burns have set new state records, and the monster fire at Cameron Peak is still burning strong, as I write this review. With my interest peaked about wildfires, I was glad to discover this excellent movie.
Only the Brave could have gone in any number of directions, but it’s not a documentary, by any means. The filmmakers have no particular responsibility to hew to the exact details, but they got the key facts correct. Instead they delivered a character study with plenty of exciting action. The movie seeks a greater truth; trying to get at what makes someone with courage and strength and weakness and fear and flaws decide to risk it all in the face of deadly danger — in other words, what makes a real hero.
This is an intense movie, and also very realistic. The movie makers did an outstanding job of putting the audience right in the center of the action, for an inside look at fighting wildfires, and introduces the audience to the complex nature of battling an ever changing relentless foe. If you’ve never seen Josh Brolin in a movie before, you might think Hollywood found a fire chief who could act and stuck him in front of the camera. He creates a character so real and believable and human. It is a powerhouse, Oscar worthy performance. The supporting cast of young fire fighters is solid and believable.
This review is purposely vague about the plot. It is best to watch the movie and experience the events as they unfold. Don’t read any plot synopses, because depending on which ones you read, the entire movie could be spoiled by the first sentence. The film gave me a better understanding of what it takes to fight a major wildfire. As depicted in the movie, battling wildfires is incredibly hard labor and definitely a younger man’s job. I enjoyed this movie and my only regret is that I did not get to see it on the big screen.
It was a shame this excellent film was ignored during the 2017 awards season, but the social climate of the year wasn’t in the mood to honor this type of movie – heroic white males fighting fires to protect their fellow American citizens. Instead the Academy chose to heap praise and awards on very forgettable, preachy propaganda flicks while bestowing the Best Picture award on The Shape of Water – an utterly strange, mind numbing movie about a love story with the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Are you kidding me? After you watch Only the Brave, you’ll realize how ridiculous those choices were.
Gambit 2012 crime comedy
It was the screenplay by the Coen brothers and a stellar cast led by Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman that convinced me to try this unheralded British film. And I am sure glad I did. This gem is a classic caper-comedy about art curator Harry Deane (Colin Firth) hatching a plan to sell a forgery of a famous Monet painting to his ruthless billionaire boss Lionel Shabandar (Rickman). Deane picks American rodeo queen, P.J. Puznowski (Diaz) as his accomplice, for very clever reasons that I will not spoil.
This very British comedy was written by the very American Coen brothers, with wry and witty results. This is simple and straightforward comedy with plenty of wonderfully eccentric characters. Harry Deane gets into the most unfortunate and ridiculous of circumstances that sometimes warrant a punch in the nose as his foolproof plan goes haywire. Alan Rickman plays a very rich, formal and ruthless CEO who becomes quite taken by P.J. Puznowski. Their conversations in the backseat of his Rolls Royce limo are some of the funniest scenes in the movie.
Cameron Diaz once again plays a very pretty, perky, unsophisticated girl, and is pure fun to watch as she busts loose one-liners in a thick Texas accent. Overall, this is one very entertaining film. I recommend it highly should you be looking for a good crime-comedy that never takes itself too seriously. This film is a rare bird: entirely free of vulgarity, annoying diversity casting, and political correctness (or propaganda of any kind, for that matter).I enjoyed it a lot.
I love October – the cool, refreshing air and the colorful autumn leaves put us in the mood for a few ghost stories, a haunted house, and let’s not forget blood and gore and Scream Queens. This week our scary movie selection is not for kids or the squeamish. We promised to ramp up the terror quotient as the month proceeds, so it is time for a well done movie with some surprising guest stars – Cannibals in the jungle.
The Green Inferno 2013 horror adventure
The movie follows a group of naïve, do-gooder college students whose bleeding-heart Liberal activism takes them off to South America on an eco-terrorism mission to “Save the Amazon forest”. After a disastrous plane crash, the survivors (4 guys and 3 girls) are captured by a tribe of stone age, cannibalistic savages; proving once again that the most horrifying creatures on earth are the two-legged sub-humans capable of unspeakable cruelty to fellow human beings. This film has plenty of terrible realism but also some dark humor when you consider the eco-terrorists goal was to save the native tribe along with the forest.
The seven prisoners are frog marched into the native village, locked into a crude cage, and before you can say “Jack the Ripper” one of the male eco-terrorists, Jonah, is on the sacrificial alter. The remaining survivors watch in horror as the village erupts in gleeful cheering as poor Jonah is butchered by the tribe’s headhunter. Next the women of the village prepare the feast of Jonah with well-practiced cannibal cooking skills. How is that for gratitude?
The three girls surviving the plane crash are the best collection of Scream Queens I have ever seen, and for a bonus they are all very attractive, white revolutionaries, unlike in real life where we see fat, ugly female mongrels waving protest signs. Justine played by Lorenza Izzo (Miss Peru 2010) is a real beauty queen. The tribal high priestess/witch doctor loves Justine, so they strip her naked, stake her out spread eagle and do some serious, head-to-toe body painting on Justine. Form a queue ladies for those interested in vibrant, diverse, bone-in-the-nose primitive cultures. Justine of course is not interested and is quite terrified to learn she has been selected to be the lip smacking main course for a special religious ceremony.
The know-it-all “woke” leader of the climate hustlers, Alejandro, collapses like a two dollar suitcase when the going gets tough. He slumps in the corner of the cage like a defeated loser. He lacks the courage and toughness to lead an escape. When the mask drops we see Alejandro for what he really is – a selfish worm of a latte Liberal with a private agenda. He cares for no one but himself. Under the intense pressure of horrible death, Justine emerges as the new leader and takes charge. And this change in leadership was, to me, the most interesting part of the film, and makes her the only sympathetic character amongst the band of eco-terrorists. In the adventure movie universe, there are only two types of people in extreme duress – those who crumble and “wait to be saved”, and those who keep a cool head and devise a good escape plan.
“The Green Inferno” is not for kids or the faint of heart. But it is a tasteful, dark comedy of a cannibal flick with a very subtle conservative message. And who would have thought that a plane crash was not the worst part of your day?
I love October – the cool, refreshing air and the colorful autumn leaves put us in the mood for a few ghost stories and a visit to a haunted house. This week our scary movie selection is rather restrained, with mostly psychological tension, and little to no violence and gore. We promise to ramp up the terror quotient as the month proceeds with nightmarish results.
The Haunting 1963 drama horror
Still the template for haunted house movies, accept no substitutes for the 1963 original and avoid the clunky 1999 remake. The bulk of the movie takes place at the Hill House, an old and remote mansion with a grisly past. Dr. Markway, who has spent his career studying the supernatural, believes that he can prove whether or not the house is truly haunted. Off we go to Hill House to find an iron gated, huge, jumbled example of dark and dreary Gothic architecture. The well detailed interior can be described as cluttered Victorian, suggesting the owners collected everything and never threw anything out.
The four main stars of the movie take up residence in the spook house; Eleanora aka Nell (played by Julie Harris), Theodora aka Theo (played by Claire Bloom), Dr. Markway (played by Richard Johnson), and Luke (played by Russ Tamblyn). The acting is first rate, with Dr. Markway and Luke correctly underplaying their roles to allow the two ladies to take center stage. Both Nell and Theo are excellent. Nell is nervous, introverted and caught up in the atmosphere of the house, it's the pivotal role of the movie and Harris instills a heart aching fragility into her character. She is every inch a virgin-wallflower with a touch of madness. For the first half of the movie, Nell is a sympathetic character, but as the film progresses she reveals herself as quite obsessive and delusional. The look in Nell’s eyes says it all; she is a vulnerable and needy young lady, and I can’t picture anyone else but Julie Harris playing Nell.
Bloom, as Theodora, on the other hand has mystical qualities, a sexiness and a devilishly playful disposition, qualities enhanced by her bitch charisma. She is also obviously gay. The sexual tension is high anytime Theo is around, and she seems especially attracted to Nell while being indifferent to the two men staying at the Hill House. Theo seems capable of reading Nell’s thoughts and some of the bedroom scenes hint strongly at Theo’s lesbian nature. Keep in mind the time period and the Hay’s Code for movie censorship and you have a movie walking on egg shells quite effectively.
I think what makes the film work so powerfully at its core is the way we come to know all the main characters, and feel like they're real people. We don't like all of them all the time, but they all have unexpected virtues and flaws. The compelling power of the film resides in the intense emotions felt by these characters, and the way they relate to one another. When the Hill House starts to come to life, the four of them band together and soldier on. It becomes quite clear that the ghosts of Hill House prefer Nell, but why?
The sudden arrival of Markway’s wife, Grace (played by Lois Maxwell), really gets the pot boiling at the old Hill House. Everyone knows (or should know) Lois Maxwell as the one and only "Miss Moneypenny", but there's much more to her acting career than just Bond flicks. Grace Markway, tall and shapely, really knows how to make an entrance at Hill House. She is the Queen Bee and instantly takes command, and starts giving orders. Grace has zero time for discussing the supernatural and considers the subject to be utter nonsense. She is concerned that Dr. Markway’s reputation will suffer should the press discover he is out “chasing ghosts”. Any negative press on her husband, of course, would reflect badly on herself.
Darkness falls on the angry House, and the ghost rampage begins. I will not the spoil the ending. This is low-key, sophisticated psychological horror film with a powerhouse of underrated (and unknown by me) UK actors. This is not the type film to trigger nightmares, so hardcore horror fans will probably be left wanting. I can do without nightmares, so I consider the film a must see classic.
Chernobyl 2019 docu-drama, horror
HBO mini-series 5 one-hour episodes
'Chernobyl' is scarier than most horror movies in that it is a dramatization of the actual, real-life horror experienced by thousands of people on that fateful April 26, 1986 morning and the years that followed. This excellent series puts a human face on a deadly man-made disaster. The Chernobyl catastrophe has haunted Russia, Europe, and the rest of mankind more than three decades later. And that creeping dread permeates the whole show. It's difficult to watch knowing that so many innocent people are doomed. But it certainly makes it a must-watch, and is truly an exceptional, important piece of dramatized non-fiction.
Covered up by a secretive Soviet Union at the time, the true number of deaths and illnesses caused by the [Chernobyl] nuclear accident are only now becoming clear. A group who bore the brunt of the radiation exposures in the hours and days after the explosion were those living in the nearby town of Pripyat and the surrounding area. It took a day and a half before the evacuation began and led to nearly 50,000 people being evacuated. Later an additional 42,000 people were evacuated from another 80 settlements in a 30km evacuation zone around the power plant. For additional details, see the BBC report here.
Putting a figure on exactly how many deaths around the world may result from the Chernobyl disaster is almost impossible. But despite the grim picture much of the research paints, there are some stories of hope too. Three engineers who volunteered to drain millions of gallons of water from tanks beneath the burning reactor in the days immediately after the explosion waded through highly radioactive water and debris to reach the release valves. Their heroics are one of the most dramatic moments in this disaster movie. Astonishingly, the BBC reporters found that two of the three men are still alive (in June 2019) despite having minimal protection from the radiation during their mission. The third engineer, Borys Baranov, survived until 2005.
Is the TV series historically accurate? Why not interview a Chernobyl survivor, who also happens to be a nuclear engineer? That is exactly what the BBC did. You can read the June 12, 2019 interview with Russian engineer, Oleksiy Breus, here. I have summarized and recapped the article below:
Chernobyl survivor assess fact and fiction in TV series - Hours after the world's worst nuclear accident, nuclear engineer Oleksiy Breus entered the control room of the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. A member of staff at the plant from 1982, he became an eye-witness to the immediate aftermath on the morning of 26 April 1986. The story of the reactor's catastrophic explosion, as told in an HBO miniseries, has received the highest ever score for a TV show on the film website IMDB. Russians and Ukrainians have watched it via the internet, and it has had a favorable rating on Russian film site Kinopoisk. Mr. Breus worked with many of the individuals portrayed in the HBO Chernobyl series, and has provided a few comments about the accuracy of the presentation.
For those readers interested in digging into a forensic analysis of the Chernobyl accident, I leave you with this link to The Chernobyl Reactor: Design Features and Reasons for Accident by Mikhail V. MALKO. I performed a technical literature search on the subject, and determined the Malko paper to be the best available in the English language. In any case, avoid the early studies submitted while the Soviet Union controlled the information flow. The Party Line was “Operator Error main cause of accident” and they stubbornly stuck to that false conclusion for years. Dr. Malko was free to make up his mind and came to some sensible and astonishing deductions about the shortcomings of the Soviet RBMK reactor design.
The ABC Murders 2018 crime, drama, mystery
(3 episode mini-series; stream via Amazon Prime)
One thing needs to be said at the beginning: Ignore the negative reviews by purists who have zero tolerance for any deviation from the Agatha Christie story. Question: I understand that, for many mystery readers, Agatha is the Queen of Whodunits, but since when did her fictional murder mysteries become sacred cows? She was a tier 2 mystery writer that I rank far below Robert Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Eric Ambler and Ross MacDonald. And I think Malcovich’s Hercule Poirot is the best ever. I always considered the David Suchet/Inspector Poirot to be effeminate and highly annoying. That said the mini-series is not for everyone. It's a kind of production one either loves or hates, with not much in between.
The thing that divides the viewers is the way Poirot was portrayed in the series, which is very different from what we are used to. Here we get a much darker and realistic version of this beloved character, and the whole world of the show is much more brutal as well. This is not the cozy, sanitized, light storyline shown in the old Masterpiece Theater versions. The new style and characterizations fit the dark story perfectly. The cinematography is a work of art and 1930’s England is faithfully presented.
I really enjoyed this new approach to the classic character. Otherwise it would be the same story with different actors, and I don't see the point in doing that. Resetting the story to a future point where Inspector Japp and Poirot are both retired gives the story a new perspective that I found to be brilliant. Gone are Poirot's silly, waxed mustache and oily, slicked down hair. The actors fit perfectly into this new "tougher, masculine Poirot". John Malkovich is brilliant as the shunned, half-forgotten detective dealing with past trauma, Eamon Farren is perfect as the confused Cust, Tara Fitzgerald nailed a complex, tragic character, and I even liked Rupert Grint even though he got off to a rough start.
To sum up, the 2018 ABC series is not for everyone. It's definitely not for the grannies, who want the show to stay rigidly truthful to the novels. Those types should stick with the Masterpiece Theater. But for people like me, who enjoy new tales about classic and intelligent characters and who love dark, hard-boiled stories, it is perfect. The next day I was thinking about how Poirot zeroed in on the real killer. It was so smooth and subtle – I had to watch it again the next day.
Top Gun 1986 action, adventure
I saw this film on the big screen when it was released over three decades ago, and was surprised to hear that a sequel will be released in late 2020. I was inspired to rewatch this movie and pen a review of this blockbuster (mild spoilers ahead). The premise of the story is very simple: Maverick (Tom Cruise) is a young hotshot Navy aviator who earns his chance to go to Top Gun, the most prestigious aerial combat school in the US military. Soon rivalries, friendships, and romance take hold along with really cool aerial sequences. The plot is simple; you could write it on the back of a stamp. The themes of American aviation superiority and the warrior ethos are hammered in. Of course, a romance subplot with Kelly McGillis is inserted for box office appeal, but it is the friendship between Maverick and Goose that really makes this film special. In military parlance, Goose is the Guy in Back (GIB). The GIB takes care of missile control systems, radar, and the ECM (electronic counter measures). With multiple instruments handled by the GIB, the pilot can concentrate on flying the F-14A Mach 2 jet fighter. In a recent contest ranking movie sidekicks, Goose (Anthony Edwards) was the winner; easily beating out second place runner-up Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski). Like all good sidekicks, Goose served alternately as a wingman, counselor, buddy and partner in crime. Goose snapped a Polaroid of Maverick flipping an upside down bird to a Soviet pilot, sang a duet of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” as part of Maverick’s wooing his new love interest, and took his share of the heat for Maverick’s fly-bys and other high-jinks. Goose was not only Maverick’s best friend, but also his only family. And the cherry on top: Goose also gets an emotional, heroic death scene. What more could you ask from a sidekick?
This film was a fantastic recruiting bonanza for the Navy in the midst of the Cold War. After this film premiered you could hear the noise of the competing Army, Marine and Air Force recruiters slamming their crew-cut heads against the wall in despair over the grand success of pro-Navy propaganda. An “AFTER ACTION PLAN” was set in motion throughout the armed services for the next terrific recruitment film. Keep in mind that Top Gun was Pentagon approved. If you, the Producer/director, want to play with the big military toys, you play by their rules. And that means a legal contract and script approval by Pentagon brass. Which brings me to the HARD question: How in the hell are they going to replace Goose in the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick?
From what I have read about the sequel, Maverick pilots single-seat jets, so the part for a GIB character does not exist. Goose may be gone, but remember he had a son that Maverick was very fond of, so expect an appearance of Goose Jr. Also Maverick has to have a love interest, right? The romance subplot will star Jennifer Connelly. In classic Hollywood fashion, Kelly McGillis (born 1957) was skidded for a sexier, younger actress. Raise your hand if that surprises you. As for our favorite high-flying Scientologist, he barely looks a day older when he climbed into the jet cockpit back in 1986. So with ageless Mr. Cruise heading up the cast, the sequel is a safe bet for financial success. I look forward to seeing Top Gun: Maverick, on the big screen (due to premier in December). Just remember you are watching sanitized, patriotic, pro-military propaganda, so just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
A few more thoughts about the original 1986 Top Gun:
Best quote: “I feel the need for speed”. [Maverick]
Best song on soundtrack: Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins
Wardrobe: Maverick’s leather bomber jacket.
Serenity 2005 sci-fi adventure
Serenity is the cinematic sequel to the short-lived 2002 science fiction TV series Firefly. I think it is safe to say that if you enjoyed the Firefly TV series, you will also like the movie Serenity. The actors, writers, director are same in both, and provide the essential blend of “Space Cowboy Si-fi” elements so stunning in the TV series. I also think that Serenity can be enjoyed as a stand-alone movie without watching the TV series, but being a big Firefly fan – I recommend binge streaming it before seeing the movie.
A brief review of the Firefly backstory goes like this: A giant civil war between the major planets erupts due to the Alliance forcing a “unification” of the free worlds, whereby they bend the knee to the Alliance. The Rebels or “brown coats” are defeated by the Alliance. The few surviving Rebels retreat to the wilder, remote “borderlands” of space that is under weak, or nominal, Alliance control. Certainly the most feared threat in the borderlands is the Reaver space ships. The Reavers are roaming packs of savage zombies who attack ships and raid settlements; torturing, and eating their victims, then paint their hideous ships with human blood. Don’t ask how stone-age cannibalistic barbarians can fly space ships. One of the mysteries left unsolved in the TV series is the origin of the Reavers. This movie provides the answers. The heroes are Captain Malcolm (aka Mal) Reynolds, a former Rebel commander, and the crew of his spaceship Serenity. Mal and his crew (also ex-Rebel soldiers) adopt the outlaw life as a means of survival by thieving and smuggling; yet they still maintain a chivalrous and disciplined code. The Serenity also discreetly hauls a few paying passengers; thereby, providing a steady stream of interesting new characters. Mal is a strong alpha male warrior and leader with a noble code of honor that values loyalty and social bonds. These bonds are often put to the test as the iron fist of the Alliance tightens and the crew of the Serenity is faced with higher and higher risk to avoid obliteration. Although Mal is a most wanted criminal by the Alliance, he is clearly the good guy of the story. End of Backstory.
Back to the movie (mild spoiler alert): The opening scenes revisit the escape of Simon Tam and his sister, River, from a secret, highly guarded Alliance medical facility. In the TV series, Simon and River are mere passengers and their backstory was shrouded in subplot mystery land. But in the movie, River Tam is a central character. We soon discover that she possesses psychic mental powers, e.g. reads people’s thoughts and can foresee future events. And when triggered by subliminal messages, she has remarkable hand-to-hand fighting ability. In other words, the quiet, reserved, bare footed River can suddenly transform into the ultimate bitch on wheels. Simon explains that the Alliance doctors selected River as a test subject for their ghoulish Nazi-like experiments to create superhumans and weaponized them. The Serenity crew, having seen River in action, is terrified to have her aboard. It also becomes clear that an Alliance task force is tailing the Serenity in search of River. The crew debates the wisdom of sheltering River and Simon, and decides it is time for the brother and sister passengers to leave the ship at the next port of call. Of course that does not happen with the Alliance battle fleet closing in on the Serenity. Mal refuses to turn over River to the Alliance and becomes increasingly determined to know the truth about River’s connection with the Alliance. Gradually bits and pieces of the truth emerge from River’s damaged, unstable psyche. The answers, River remembers, can be found on the planet Miranda. The pilot maps a path to Miranda and quickly discovers two big problems: the first being that Miranda is listed in the planetary database as a dead, or uninhabitable, rock; and the second being that the bulk of the Reaver space fleet is orbiting around Miranda. Mal has to make a tough call; pinned between Reavers and an Alliance task force, Mal decides to…
I will stop this review here. Highly recommended for fans of Space Cowboy films.
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.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2019. All rights reserved.