Movie Review: “Passengers”

Starring
Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Director
Morten Tyldum

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum may not be as flashy as some of the other filmmakers who’ve broken into Hollywood recently, but between his little-seen 2011 thriller “Headhunters” and his Oscar-winning drama “The Imitation Game,” it’s evident that he has serious chops behind the camera. Despite that past success, Tyldum’s latest project is easily his biggest movie to date – a heady slice of genre-hopping sci-fi developed from one of the hottest scripts in town and starring two of its most bankable stars. Though the film fails to reach its lofty ambitions, “Passengers” is still a surprisingly thought-provoking holiday release that’s biggest misstep is succumbing to the very formula that it works so hard to resist.

Sometime in the distant future, interstellar space travel has not only become a reality but a way for humans like blue-collar mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) to immigrate to other planets. Jim is one of 5,000 passengers traveling aboard the Starship Avalon, a luxury cruise liner currently en route to the colony world of Homestead II. The Avalon is just 30 years into its 120-year journey, however, when it sustains damage during a meteor storm that causes Jim’s hibernation pod to malfunction, waking him up 90 years too early. Stranded on the ship alone with no way to contact the sleeping crew and only a robotic bartender (Michael Sheen) to keep him company, Jim spends the next year slowly spiraling into depression until he becomes smitten with a fellow passenger named Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and decides to wake her prematurely against his better judgement. Jim keeps his involvement a secret from Aurora at first, but as the two grow closer together over time, he becomes racked with guilt. Meanwhile, a larger threat looms in the background when the spaceship inexplicably begins to break down.

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DJI Mavic Pro: Great drone for travelers and hobbyists

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Drones are one of the hottest gadget gifts this holiday season, and new models are also driving sales for consumers and hobbyists who love exploring all the fun and interesting uses for these devices. New features, particularly built-in camera technology, make these gadgets interesting for so many more potential consumers, particularly adventure travelers, hikers, etc. who want to capture video of their adventures. It’s safe to assume drones will be one of the most popular self-gifting options this holiday season.

The DJI Mavic Pro is one of the best drones on the market and is available at many retailers, including online at Amazon.com. This drone is packed with an amazing bundle of features that make it easy to take amazing video; it’s also portable, so you can easily take it with you on your travels.

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Drink of the Week: The Cabaret

The Cabaret.It’s just a few days before our fate is decided at the ballot box — or at least that’s usually the way it goes — and so I have a drink that is, cinematic and theatrical associations excluded, apolitical yet strong enough to help you stand up to the stress.

The provenance of this week’s cocktail, a sweetened-up martini of sorts, is not too obvious. There is a significantly different drink of the same name in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” which calls for a now mostly unavailable sweetish fortified wine called Caperitif. (A revival of the product seems to have been attempted, however, so that may change.) These days, that Cabaret cocktail is sometimes made with Dubonnet Blanc or Lillet Blanc, so we may give it a shot at some point.

The drink will be making now, however, is an apparent adaptation/reboot that comes from Robert Hess’s “The Essential Cocktail Guide.” While Hess has also promoted a smaller version of the cocktail on his online video channel, and there are a few other versions of it online, I’m partial to the recipe in the book. It’s a bigger, bolder tipple and quite user friendly. It also gives us a reminder that Benedictine is good for something other than just going halfies with brandy.

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Alternatives to Tennis: Popular Paddle Sports for Fun and Fitness

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Tennis is a popular sport, a unique feature being the need of a racquet. Tennis is widespread, yet other activities are strangely similar, requiring a racquet or paddle but differing in rules. It’s ironic that tennis-playing adults and kids seek additional pastimes when a range of popular paddle sports are at their fingertips – table tennis, pickleball and badminton, to name a few.

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Blu Tuesday: Warcraft, Central Intelligence and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Warcraft”

WHAT: When an evil sorcerer named Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) sends a small war party of orcs through a portal to the peaceful realm of Azeroth in the hopes of conquering the land, the human forces – led by King Llane (Dominic Cooper), heroic warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and powerful magician Medivh (Ben Foster) – scramble to defend their kingdom with the help of Garona (Paula Patton), a human/orc half-breed who must decide where her true loyalty lies.

WHY: Hollywood has a pretty awful track record with video game adaptations, so when it was announced that director Duncan Jones would be bringing the mega-popular “Warcraft” franchise to the big screen, many people believed that he would finally break the curse. Sadly, it doesn’t even come close. Any hope that “Warcraft” would be the first great video game adaptation is promptly squashed within the opening 30 minutes, and it only gets worse from there as the audience is forced to suffer through the incredibly convoluted and disjointed plot. Although Paula Patton and Toby Kebbell (as conflicted orc warrior Durotan) deliver fine performances in their respective roles, the rest of the cast doesn’t fare quite as well, unable to rise above the hackneyed script and two-dimensionality of their video game counterparts. There are some enjoyable bits scattered throughout, and the motion capture technology is truly remarkable, but while that may be enough to please its legion of diehard fans, everyone else will see “Warcraft” exactly for what it is: just another bad video game film.

EXTRAS: In addition to a six-part making-of featurette that covers everything from pre-production and casting to visual effects and stunts, there’s a look at the Madame Tussauds exhibit created in promotion of the film, the supplemental motion comic “Bonds of Brotherhood,” deleted scenes, a gag reel and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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