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Movie Review: ‘Passengers’ Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence Proceed Passively Through Sci-fi Shmaltz

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Chris Pratt awakens from hibernation on a spaceship transporting humans to a new world. He has awoken about ninety years too early and will not survive the trip, with no means of going back into hibernation or alerting the crew. He thankfully has the entire ship to himself with plenty of dining and entertainment to be had, but has no one to share it with.

What does he do with his limited life aboard a starship? He drinks, plays video games, watches movies, plays basketball and chats with a robot bartender (Michael Sheen). It’s fun for a year, but then he grows bored and aimless. And the plot that follows is just as boring as a mash between a lackluster romance and by-the-numbers action. After all, you can’t put Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in a big-budget sci-fi picture without having some sex or blowing something up.

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Pratt’s character of Jim is an engineer, but is restricted access to certain areas of the ship. The blips of power failure don’t weigh heavily on his mind, figuring that it’s either out of his control or a story element that needs to be reserved for the third act. For most of the movie, he’s hanging out on the ship trying relieve his loneliness and come to terms with the fact that he’ll die on a spaceship.

To alleviate this pain, he decides to awake and sacrifice the life of one of the other passengers to have a companion during his remaining days. He studies up on and selects writer Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) to be his traveling buddy and hopeful girlfriend. I’m not sure why he’d choose a writer considering we don’t see too much him indulging in literature. Perhaps he has admired authors since he was a boy. Or maybe Aurora was just the hottest of the lot.

So now Jim has a female companion to share this immense ship with and has even lied about her pod malfunctioning to save as a future conflict. What do they do now? They drink, play video games, watch movies, play basketball and chat with the robot bartender some more. Does Aurora write a new book? Sure, but you’ll never know much about it as that arc is too boring. The movie is much more content showing Lawrence swimming in a pool or Pratt creating robots to give her love notes. Couldn’t Pratt use those engineering skills to rewire the robots to open engineering doors and find out what’s causing the power outages? Those are third act questions and the second act is reserved for Pratt and Lawrence becoming lovers.

But the chemistry between the two is about as artificial as the gravity on this ship. They don’t share too many interests in conversations and spend most of the movie either drinking with Arthur, eating out, indulging in the ship’s entertainment or having sex. Is that all there is? One would think they’d have more to talk about with their skills, their pasts, the world they left behind and the flawed company they put their faith in promising them a new world they’d never see. Apparently such words escape them when they both take in the majesty of going on a space walk.

The ship they occupy, Starship Avalon, is about as gorgeous as its leads and perhaps has more personality. The design of everything from the cafeteria to the concourse all have a large scale and a slightly eerie sterility, with its faceless robots and assuring computer voices. There are even some surprising special effects set pieces, as in a scene where Aurora swims in a pool when the gravity gives out and struggles to prevent herself from drowning in clashing blobs of water. Logic goes out the window, however, for how she gets to this scene.

What’s most insulting about the picture is that there is no urgency to the issue of the ship. Even when Jim and Aurora find their way into the ship’s engineering section that is in need of repair, they decide to take a break, get some exercise and rest. When they awake, the ship is mere hours away from destruction in a fury of action movie cliches. The two must vent the reactor, but, uh oh, the vent won’t open automatically. They’ll have to open it manually, but, uh oh, it needs to be opened from the outside. And so on and so on the movie desperately attempts to mount last minute tension, hoping to inject a little testosterone into this sappy sci-fi tale.

Passengers begins with grand ideas and dazzling special effects, only to end up as contrived and predictable as substandard science fiction. Pratt isn’t up to snuff as his usual snarky self and Lawrence is working without much in a role that mostly finds her gasping and shouting in agony. Any moral topic, such as Aurora’s bitter mistrust of Jim awakening her early, is quickly glazed over so that the two can stare lovingly at each other. It’s an insulting excuse for science fiction, proving that the biggest stars and the best special effects in the world can’t make up for a script that is lacking in ideas and morally adrift.

Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Have you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. 😉

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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