Passengers : Style over Substance

Fortunately, we have seen a revival of good space ferrying films, some of my favorites of recent years have been Interstellar and The Martian, so I was highly anticipating watching Passengers with the cross genre between Romance and Science Fiction.

Set on the self-navigated spaceship Avalon, 5000 people are travelling in hibernation pods to start a new life on the colony Homebound 2. The trip should take 120 years but due to an unexplained jolt in space, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and then Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are awoken 30 years too early. The story revolves around Jim and Aurora accepting their 90-year journey together forming a deep and meaningful bond. However, not all is quite what is seems when a series of supposed malfunctions put the lives of the 5000 unconscious human beings under threat, and it’s up to the only human passengers, Jim and Aurora to save the day. There is a short guest appearance from Laurence Fishburne which keeps the film ticking along, but the most notable performance goes to the Android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen).

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The overall premise of the film is compelling, but the first 30 minutes of the film is a disappointment mostly due to Chris Pratt’s lacklustre performance, as he tries desperately to illustrate the highs and lows of living alone. From waking from his chamber, Jim tries to make the most of his unfortunate circumstances and turns his attention to the delights of the ship including holographic dance offs to indoor space basketball. This quickly dissipates into Jim becoming depressed knowing he would never speak to another human being again. It reminded me a little of the loneliness portrayed by Tom Hanks in Castaway, a forlorn soul longing for human contact becoming more disheveled in appearance as the days go on. However, Chris Pratt is no Tom Hanks nor can he shine in stand alone scenes.

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The story becomes a lot more watchable when Aurora steps into the picture. Jennifer Lawrence stuns in every film, not only visually, but her wit, charisma and has a good backstory to her character. As a writer, Aurora start to narrate the story of her life on board the starship, telling the viewers she wanted to travel to Homebound 2 to be the only writer  on ‘overrated Earth’ to share the experiences of colonist life. Her character has purpose, momentum and sass, in stark comparison to Jim’s weak performance and lack of character development. There is some chemistry between the two main leads, but you quickly feel that the plot was designed to showcase two beautiful individuals on screen together.

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The saving grace of this film is the android bartender Arthur. Michael Sheen effortlessly conveys a witty and heartfelt performance still maintaining mechanical expressions, which is a difficult feat in itself. Even Michael Sheen said it was hard to ’make drinks and not look down’. I especially loved how Arthur had a human body and electronic legs to remind the audience that Arthur is a part of the Ship and Jim and Aurora are really alone.  The film also uses Arthur as prop to become a sounding board to the main characters, which allows the film to explore the depths and questionable ethics the characters must face, being the only conscious human beings in space.

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Overall this film fails to be a cutting edge science fiction debut or memorable romantic comedy. I think the film’s greatest strength was the notion that perhaps one day that we will be able to travel in space cryogenic-ally frozen, but for now as the film likes to remind us, that we are simply passengers on this journey, and its far better to be happy to accept our surrounding than long for a life that’s unobtainable. Would I see this film again, no, but if you want to sit and watch two beautiful stars for 2 hours then by all means watch this film.

 

Halloween Review-Ouija:Origin of Evil

Director: Mike Flanagan

Starring : Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas

The marks of a good horror film are that you leave the cinema reeling from what you just witnessed, heart racing, dreading the long, dark walk home. If you are looking for a thrill this Halloween, then I would highly recommend this Prequel Ouija (Origin of Evil), as this film does not disappoint for these reasons. I am told it’s a huge improvement from the first film, which in itself is an unusual anomaly.

Set in 1965, a recently bereaved wife Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) enlists the help of her two children Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson) to scam the locals with their Séance act. After catching Lina using an Ouija board at a house party, Alice brings this classic prop into the scheme. Unknowingly this time, the evil spirits through the Ouija board, speak through Doris and eventually gain full control of her. With the help of the School Head teacher who is also a priest (of course he is a priest!) a series of gruelling, nail biting scenes unfold as Doris starts to take over the little suburban house.

From great recent Netflix shows like Stranger Things, we know that an all-star child cast can lead the way ahead, however I couldn’t quite get to grips with Lulu Wilson’s transformation from a sweet innocent girl to her work as a mediatory. I would assume any child would be pretty petrified if they started hearing the deceased! What lets the film down even more is how quickly Alice believed in the paranormal, for a scammer she shows little cynicism. I am a great believer in taking time to build an incredible storyline before anything jumps out at you! I felt the most convincing performance was played well by Annalise Basso, her journey was reflective of the viewers own, from distrust of the other worldly phenomena, to her sweet romance with the dreamy Parker Mack (who plays teenage heartthrob Mikey).

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The shivers do set in when Lulu Wilson’s acting is enhanced by the CGI effects. Seeing the innocent Doris becomes engulfed by evil spirits, watching her bright doe blue eyes turn deep white and the cracking of her vertebrae itself, would be enough to make a cat’s hair stand on end. The film strongest point was building tension between scenes. Whilst the audience lets their guard down with some off beat comedic scenes, the ghouls come out to play. I know I was scared!

When I hear the words Ouija board, it conjures fear into me. I am a big fan of this amazing horror prop. Think Exorcist and Paranormal activity.  As far I am aware, not other film has inventively used the board in this many ways. I loved how the writers used the board not only to summon spirits, but used the pointer as a looking glass to see into the spirit world, creating another visual dimension to the film. In the final scenes we see that the board itself isn’t necessary, as Lina discovers a way to transform to board through blood and her spectacles as a pointer. This continues the fear, as the medium of the board can be transformed.

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Having watched the trailer, admittedly I was most excited to see this horror film because its set in 1960’s! Visually I enjoyed watching the late 1960’s design styles with the sleek flicked our hair, bright pastel tones and long ruffled dresses. As an avid horror fan, I very much horror set time periods without modern technology. It’s not scary when you can phone or email a friend with your smartphone. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule like The Ring.

The ending of the film encompassed many clichés of horror films, spooky basements, historically haunted houses but hey you could argue that this is what audiences are paying for, to see a story arc that had predictable scares in it. Overall, picture this, a group of your best mates sitting down this Halloween, clutching their popcorn tightly and enjoying this good horror film. It’s a thumbs up from me.

 

 

 

 

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