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Archive for January, 2017

WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS

If you watch the trailer for the movie Passengers you will know that it is the story of a starship on a 120 year one way trip to colonise a new world. Two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) wake up from cryosleep 90 years prematurely. With no way of going back to sleep and no one else due to wake up until the final stages of the journey, they are in effect, the only people alive, or two survivors on a desert island without the possibility of escape or rescue. The latter part of the trailer tells of how their love story gives way to action and adventure as they have to save the ship.passengers-movie
I was fortunate enough to see a preview of the film without hearing anything or reading any reviews. The first review I heard came a few days later from Mark Kermode on the BBC. Normally very careful not to give away any spoilers Kermode gave away a key point in the plot. As we know from the trailer, Jim Preston (Pratt) is woken 90 years too soon, but what we didn’t know is that he was responsible for waking Aurora Lane (Lawrence). A quick search online will tell you that Kermode’s newspaper of choice, The Guardian published not one, but three reviews of the film by: Wendy Ide, Peter Bradshaw and Andrew Pulver. They all give away this key plot point, the later even mentions how the marketing doesn’t mention it: “All the pre-release material – trailers, marketing trails and the like – suggest that Lawrence’s character, a whimsical writer called Aurora Lane, is woken in a similarly accidental way to Preston; or at least they wilfully gloss over the actual reason.”passengers-jim-and-aurora
Both Kermode and Pulver point out that it isn’t a spoiler, I have also hear other reviewers suggest the marketing isn’t designed to avoid spoilers, rather to hide a more icky side to the story. However, I think it is a spoiler. The film is very bright and is directed with a light touch, it has plenty of comedy. A lot of the comedy is provided by a brilliant Michael Sheen as Arthur, the robotic barman reminiscent of Lloyd, the bartender from The Gold Room at the Overlook Hotel. This brevity gives the films darker underbelly a more menacing and disturbing context. Many of the films detractors will tell you that the moral question of what the Jim does in condemning a another person to the same fate that as his own is glossed over. Others will tell you that that the overriding plot lets the character off the hook. Both of these are true to a certain extent. There are clearly extenuating circumstances, not least Jim’s state of mind, remember he was on the verge of suicide!passengers-michael-sheen
Ultimately the film is good, but not great. The best thing about it is the concept and the likeable cast. The worst, the holes in the plot. But this isn’t a review, it isn’t about how good or bad the film is, more how it was marketed and reviewed. From my point of view the trailer was spot on. To see the amount of time Jim spent onboard alone before waking Aurora both gave the film a different context but also provided a more interesting second act than I was expecting. The twist doesn’t come when Jim wakes Aurora, but the moment you realise he is going to and that she won’t wake up by accident the way he did. This would have been destroyed by giving too much away in the marketing. What about the reviews? I am a firm believer that if you want no spoilers avoid all reviews and trailers, but in this case I do think they have gone a little too far.

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2016 Box-Office

  1. Comic book franchise
  2. Animated sequel            
  3. Original animation          
  4. (mostly) Animated remake   
  5. Original animation          
  6. Comic book franchise    
  7. Part of multibillion dollar franchise          
  8. Comic book franchise    
  9. Part of multibillion dollar franchise                          
  10. Comic book franchise

Captain America Civil WarYou have probably already worked out that the above list is the top ten grossing movies of 2016 (worldwide box office).  The only two original stories in the top ten where child friendly animations (one Disney, the other Universal).  Numbers 11 to 20 are much the same with a few more comic book movies, animations and a video game adaptation. The Jungle Book

The big winner of the year has been Disney with a box office gross of around $8billion, most of which came from movies that follow the trends mentioned above (Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Zootopia, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Moana).  They also had a couple of smaller releases: The Light Between Oceans and Queen of Katwe.  And a few that under preformed: The Finest Hours, The BFG, Alice Through the Looking Glass and Pete’s Dragon.  Expect more of the same in 2017 with Disney releases including the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars Edisode VIII, Cars 3 and a live action version of Beauty and the Beast.Zootropolis

The problem with this?  With the number of films released by the major studios dropping by nearly half over the past decade, they are not taking many risks on new unproved properties.  Clearly production companies, whether they be major studios or small independents are in the business of making money and not art.  But maybe it is time for studios to take a few more risks on unproven properties and remember Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s official motto, “Ars Gratia Artis”, or “Art for art’s sake”.mgm logo

On a side, Sci-Fi is often considered a niche genre with a slightly geeky reputation, it is has proved to be the highest movies of the decade that are not either animated, a remake or part of an existing franchise, they include, Interstellar, The Martian, Gravity, Inception.  But making a Sci-Fi movie, isn’t a guarantee of a hit, they have also been resulted in some of the biggest flops too: Cowboys & Aliens, John Carter, Jupiter Ascending and Tomorrowland."JOHN CARTER OF MARS"

While I fully expect one of the usual suspects (Star Wars or Marvel) to top the box-office in 2017, it would be nice to see a few original movies in the top ten too. 

In case you are wondering the 2016 top ten was: 1: Captain America: Civil War, 2: Finding Dory, 3: Zootopia (Zootropolis in the UK), 4: The Jungle Book, 5: The Secret Life of Pets, 6: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 7: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 8: Deadpool, 9: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, 10: Suicide Squad.        

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Just five movies seenin December taking my total for year to 107, but which is movie of the month?

Edge of Seventeen: The best and most original teen movie in years is made even better by a fantastic lead performance from Hailee Steinfeld and fantastic support from Woody Harrelson.edge-of-seventeen

Sully: The true story of Chesley Sullenberger the pilot who landed his damaged plane on the Hudson River following a bird strike.  Directed with a light touch but a strong political message by Clint Eastwood. sully

Snowden: The true story of Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked thousands of documents exposing government surveillance techniques.  As you would expect from director Oliver Stonesnowden

 

Rogue One: Described as an anthology film rather than one of the episodes, it is actually a direct prequel to the original 1977 movie. Essentially a war movie set within the Star Wars universe, it has action, adventure and comedy, but it is also darker than any of the other movies. The cast is fantastic particularly Felicity Jones in the lead.rogue-one

Pasengers: Lightweight but largely enjoyable Sci-Fi.  The concept isn’t entirely new but has enough new ideas to keep it feeling fresh.  The execution is a little ham fisted and all surface but does hold the interest largely thanks to strong visuals and a likeable cast. 

A close call between Edge of Seventeen and Rogue One, the winner being: 

 

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