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Passengers (2016)

My Rating: 2/10 – Space has been called “the final frontier” but what good is space to an explorer all by his lonesome? That’s what we have with Chris Pratt’s character: a lonely man living out a full year knowing no one is there to spend time with him much less save him. That’s what we begin with, what ends is the opposite.

Passengers“A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.” -IMDB

Cast

Jennifer Lawrence Aurora Lane
Chris Pratt Jim Preston
Michael Sheen Arthur
Laurence Fishburne Gus Mancuso

Directed by

Morten Tyldum

Written by

Jon Spaihts

Other Info

Adventure, Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
PG-13
Wed 21 Dec 2016 UTC
116min
IMDB Rating: 7.0

Director Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game, Headhunters, provides us with some truly incredible sets. When the doors swish open, they are indeed metal and laden with decor that looks like an Alien ship or even Star Wars one. In fact, this film must have spent most its budget on sets and cgi. It’s truly breathtaking. Unfortunately, the amazing look of this film is in direct contrast to its unaffecting story. I wonder is even the best directing can make a bad story interesting.

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt need no defense. They are both stellar in what they do and they do an ok job here again, bearing through this awful script and concept. I must note that Lawrence Fishburne is in it too, but just for about 2 scenes that are only partially worth it to the plot. I felt it was a waste of such an amazing actor to have him in this miniscule, needless role.

The story is this: A man is part of a colonizing group that are all asleep in hibernation for 1,000’s of years. He wakes up to find he is alone on a spaceship with all these sleeping people. He wakes a woman up to have a partner and when she finds out she may never make it to the promised land, she mas mixed emotions. The ending shows us what the author think her final resolve would be.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a shiny, good looking sci-fi film. Unfortunately it relies too heavily on a simple premise that fails to become interesting even when beaten into the audience’s collective head over ad over again throughout the long middle of the film. The beginning was interesting, it drew me in. The ending was at least a resolution, which not all films have of course, but I do not know how the writer could have come to this conclusion. I was not moved. If you believe you were murdered, would you forgive that person? This is the premise and my response is “who cares, you’re dead.”

2/5

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Passchendaele

My Rating: 6/10 – This is a good film that lacks in its script and there is no clearly discernable message. I think great war movies have that. It’s meant to show the passion of a country for its cause, namely Canada in WWI.

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Passchendaele (2008)
Cast
Paul Gross

as Michael Dunne

Caroline Dhavernas

as Sarah Mann

Joe Dinicol

as David Mann

Directed by
Paul Gross
Written by
Paul Gross
Other Info

Drama, History, Romance
Rated R
1h 54min

A war film should have a tangible, good story woven throughout and I didn’t feel like one existed here. We see the empty eyes of a woman bereft of her lover. We also see a man who survives war and loves the best way he knows how. The road to these conclusions is peppered with war violence and reverie of a war long past and I wasn’t really into it.

This film is a pride to the Canadians. It shows the role Canada played in the war. That was an important factor of this film and I liked it for that. Did I mention Canadian pride in war is rampant here? If you’re Canadian or you treasure grim war scenes, you will like it for that reason. Otherwise, you might agree with me that the writing was thin and there was no universal, apart from Canada, message being put forth in the story.

I don’t normally put a caveat on my reviews but in this case I think it’s appropriate to inform the reader that I am a pacifist. I try to discourage my kids from joining any military system.

I do think that my global view on war affects my interpretation of war movies so, there’s my caveat.

I do enjoy some war movies when their message is clear and well delivered. I don’t like being among the bombs and bayonets when I see no real purpose. An example of a war film that gets its message out clearly is “Apocalypse Now.” This is no “Apocalypse Now.” People talk quickly and there were no real memorable dialogs or monologues in my opinion. Stabs with a bayonet don’t count as intriguing moments for me.

There is excellent cinematography and the wardrobe is all retro and in sync with the time being portrayed. There is a romance, it’s not thrilling.

War is hell and this film takes you there.

I did get some positive messages from it but overall I found it to be a dismal account with no apparent purpose or moral at the end. For that reason along with poor acting and script, I took away a few stars. Some may like it but this is definitely not a pacifist’s film. I am glad I saw it for the historical aspects and the cinematography. I never knew Canada had such a role in the war, I didn’t need a two hour History Channel TV movie to understand that though.

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Somewhere in Time (1980)

Great time travel/romantic flick.

mv5bmti3mti4mze3mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwotmznzawmq-_v1_-6791715“A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to travel back in time and meet the actress whose vintage portrait hangs in a grand hotel.” -IMDB

Cast

Christopher Reeve Richard Collier
Jane Seymour Elise McKenna
Christopher Plummer William Fawcett Robinson
Teresa Wright Laura Roberts

Directed by

Jeannot Szwarc

Written by

Richard Matheson, Richard Matheson

Other Info

Drama, Fantasy, Romance
PG
Fri 03 Oct 1980 UTC
103min
IMDB Rating: 7.3

Director Jeannot Szwarc is known for Jaws 2 (1978) and Santa Claus: The Movie. These two samples show his work has a variety to it. Both also reflect the sing-song incredibly fun style of the late 70’s and early 80’s. With this film, he dips into both colors and paints a lovely portrait that still stands up today.

Christopher Reeve plays the lead role of Richard Collier. His stoic charm is unique and his acting skills truly make this character come alive, especially in the latter scenes. I’ve seen this film 2 or 3 times and I can’t imagine any other actor playing this role.

Jane Seymour is Elise McKenna, the arcane, beautiful, mysterious woman of the past. She plays well with Reeve and the other Christopher (Plummer) who takes the role of the nemesis William Fawcett Robinson. These three famous actors alone are reasons to love this film. They work together well and it is an excellent, heart-rending script.

There’s something different about this old woman. Collier senses he’s met her before. The butler at the hotel senses he’s met Collier before as well. There’s a whole lotta sensin’ going on! We have a time travel component here. How appropriate for a film made in 1980. Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married, would soon follow. Will he discover who she really is? Time will tell. Therein lies the romance and this film is highly romantic. The ending can be debated but I contend it is one of the most romantic endings since Romeo and Juliet. One last mention: the piano driven soundtrack is heavenly.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Reeve and Seymour are in love and they shine like a cotillion. They aren’t like the cotillion you feel sick at due to formality though, this is the place where legends and dreams of true romance play out. I love this film, it’s another one like the Big Blue that puts me in a trance I don’t want to get out of.

10/10

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Somewhere in the Middle (2015)

This film is streaming now on Netflix. Why do lovers do what they do? What if you knew what happened ten minutes before a breakup, what would you do differently? The viewer gets that opportunity in several situations in this film and that makes it a compelling, alluring comedy, romance, drama. By splicing in what happened before and a little after scenes, we see the situations twice and we have more insight into the relationships on-screen.

The director, Lanre Olabisi, is not clearly known by name but he does a great job in this independent drama. It’s a delight to find relationship films that really work like this that are in the independent realm. I hope to see more from him.
Charles Miller is the strongest actor in the film. There are also some honorable mentions in the talents of Cassandra Freeman and Marisol Miranda.
In the story, Sofia is a relationship addict and is seeing a therapist in his home office. On her first visit she meets someone in the home who she is not clear the identity of. The brother of the therapist is having troubles with his marriage and appears to be the stalker sort. As more is revealed, initial scenes reveal a truth “somewhere in the middle” about these characters. It’s true to life because sometimes when we know more of the whole story, we realize first impressions are not always the truth.

I liked the characters and the story was well written. Some of the sex scenes are a little brazen and therefore unbelievable but for the most parts, I felt the characters could be real people. I identified with some of the significant parts because they were true to life.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This film is streaming now on Netflix. It’s a gem in the romantic drama genre. If you’re looking for a film to talk about with your wife/husband/spouse, this is a good one for that. It is an independent small budget film with no movie stars but the performances are solid along with the writing (also written by the director). For fans of the genre(s), though there isn’t much comedy here, I recommend this film.

7/10

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Sleepwalk With Me

image6-4562897Title: Sleepwalk With Me
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Bio
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2012
Director: Oren Moverman. Known for The Messenger (2009), I’m Not There. (2007) and Love & Mercy (2014).
Top Billed Cast: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose
Brief Synopsis: A wannabe stand up comic has to decide if he’s going to marry his girlfriend of 8 years. A running theme throughout is Mike’s sleepwalking diagnosis.
My Word to the Wise: This started out a pretty great movie. It’s as if they lost steam in the writing and acting 3/4 of the way through. Still, it stands up as a decent drama/romance flick. The comedy is sorely lacking. I really felt for the main character’s girlfriend. I was shocked she stayed with him for 8 years in the story.


He’s a deadbeat, marginally funny, stand up comedian. I don’t think any woman would wait that long to be married. I won’t offer any spoilers. It holds your attention and raises questions about relationships. Sleepwalking, I’m afraid, is just not all that interesting. The over reliance on that as a theme made it lose a star. Other than that, the jokes weren’t very funny so that subtracted another. It’s decent though, worth watching. Not a must see though.

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Between Us (2016)

Streaming now on Netflix! This is an independent film that tries to show the reality of fights in a couple that probably shouldn’t be together but stay that way out of comfort. It shows we can get comfortable in familiar torture.

Director, Rafael Palacio Illingworth, has directed 3 films as near as I can tell. Another film of his, “Macho,” is described as having a lot of sex scenes in between titles. He seems comfortable shooting sex scenes, there are many in this film as well. Mayeb it was just me but it seems these were forced and served to show how the lovers were incompatible.

The actors include Alison Sudol, Analeigh Tipton, Olivia Thirlby They all do a pretty good job but in my opinion the script isn’t realistic and that takes away from their impact.

A man and a woman feel pressured to get married so they begin to question why they are together.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This film is not very well made. Still, it does fit into the “chick flick” category. There is a coupe and they fight, a lot. They explore things and it’s a great film to discuss at Starbucks later. Expect little and be impressed as well as entertained. Please leave me a comment! This title is streaming now on Netflix!

8/10

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‘The Planet of the Apes’ (1968)

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‘The Planet of the Apes’ (1968)
Cast

Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter

Directed by

Franklin J. Schaffner

Written by

Michael Wilson (screenplay), Rod Serling (screenplay)

Other Info

Adventure, Romance, Sci-Fi
Rated G
1h 52min

Writing this review now in 2016, I was shocked to find this film had a G rating. As a kid growing up 0-10 in the 70’s, I remember certain images from this film that used to creep me out. Plus, it’s so rare that you find a G rated sci fi nowadays. I didn’t understand it in those years but when I hit my twenties, this was one of those films my scooter buddies and I would rent along with other classics like The Godfather and Blade Runner to just trip out on and talk about. It’s of course a timeless classic now and there has been a resurgence of the franchise with a whole new set of CGI movies that are surprisingly good in a different way.

The concept of the franchise is pretty simple: Apes have evolved above man and use him as their slave. In the 60’s the evolution arguments were rampant of church and university grounds so this fit right in with that. Actually seeing these apes likely had a polarizing impact on the religious folk who saw man as greater tha ape. At the same time, I think it infused strength to the IMG_0626argument that man was just another animal and we shouldn’t rule over animals in the sometimes harmful ways that we do. BUt that is just the “ape level.” There is much here about science and faith. In the original film, there is talk of “scrolls” and “heresy” by the humans and apes who help them. f you know Christian subculture or have observed it, these references are accurate and quite funny.

I love the prosthetic masks in the movie. They look camp at first but you really get used to them after a while because the costumes and backgrounds are so masterfully crafted. It reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode for good reason: Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone, co-wrote the screenplay. This movie is something to look at. Most the outdoor footage was filmed at Lake Powell. It resembles Mars or some other uninhabited planet. In this film, a crew was sent into the future but something went wrong. As a result, they have to try to survive and escape from a civilization of apes that speak and are much like intelligent humans.

While there among the apes, they see the effects of man’s greed and imperfections. The apes have an opportunity to see themselves as well but they are not as interested. There is a bit of a “not-friendly” history in the scrolls and therefore humans are not to be listened to.

Charlton Heston plays the lead human, George Taylor, and he is so much fun to watch. He has interaction with a slave who cannot speak and there is some chemistry there but hardly enough to call the story a romance, as IMDB does. Roddy McDowell plays Cornelius, the scientist ape that buys in to the intelligence of humans. His partner Zira, played by Kim Hunter, is devoted to humans as much as she can be in her society. It was sort of like a Jane Goodall and the chimps kind of thing. At the end Taylor asks her for a kiss and she says shyly, “But you’re so ugly.” That is a fun scene because it’s an opposite scene. If you recall the Twilight Zone episode when the woman is in face bandages the whole episode and at the end you find out they are trying to make her ugly, she is actually beautiful. It is in the eye of the beholder. Serling loves taking structures apart and letting the audience put them back together, or not. Planet of the apes is one of the most classic examples of his style in doing that. We may not question our own systems but if we see an ape and an actor talking, maybe we cab deconstruct theirs and return smarter, changed for the better. Most of all, this movie is for the open-minded or those who are open to becoming more open-minded. *raises hand*

Speaking of being open-minded, the stunts in this film are about as real as an outdoor rodeo during the clown show. When Taylor gets sprayed with a firehose, you see every sinew in his neck flexed. I love his over acting. The movie is meant to be serious sci-fi but watching some of these stunts makes you think of the comedy of later decades like Airplane or Scary Movie. Other props and effect in the film are almost comical in their representation of seriousness. There is a cadaver in the space pod that looks just like Norman Bates’ dear fake looking mummified mother in Psycho. My point is not to jeer or belittle these poor effects but rather to praise a film that evokes such a powerful response from so many people worldwide in spite of these simple stunts and props. Once again it is proof that directors don’t need a palette of CGI to make a film popular with audiences. This film evokes a response and takes itself seriously. If you have a good story, this film proves that is just about all you need to make a hit.

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In conclusion, I had a lot of fun going to see this film recently in the theaters through Fathom events’ TCM series. I was just as entertained as I have been with any recent films I really liked. I know almost every director out there has seen this film but I hope they can start to follow its movie making wisdom more closely. We need less CGI (done badly, I don’t mind it when it’s done well) and more good story surrounded by people with passion and the desire to evoke an audience response.