Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

Lost in Space

Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence heat up sci-fi mush of ‘Passengers’

Chris Pratt; Jennifer Lawrence

Passengers
Starring Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Morten Tyldum
PG-13
In theaters Dec. 23, 2016

A gigantic rocket ship on a 120-year journey to a faraway space colony has a glitch mid-route, mistakenly waking up one—and only one—of its 5,000 passengers from suspended-animation hibernation early.

Ninety years early.

And once your personalized alarm clock goes off on this intergalactic cruise, there’s no way hit the snooze and go back to deep sleep—you’re up.

That’s what happens, alas, to Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), who awakes to find himself all alone on a big, spinning luxury cruise liner of a spaceship auto-piloted to a lush new world, set to arrive…well, a couple of decades now after he’s dead.

Michael Sheen plays the android bartender Arthur.

Michael Sheen is android bartender Arthur.

Jim at first explores the ship and avails himself of all its amenities (holographic dance-offs, no lines in the food court, great robotic restaurant service). He finds a “companion” in the lounge’s android bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen from TV’s Masters of Sex). But he’s smitten when he catches a glimpse of one of the other hibernating passengers, a writer named Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).

Weighing the moral and ethical considerations against his own crushing loneliness, Jim eventually makes the decision to rouse Aurora from her hibernation—without telling her he did so. What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her, right? Right???

The starship in Passengers runs on a whirring nuclear reactor. But the movie itself is powered by two of Hollywood’s hottest, most likeable, bankable stars, and the film’s storyline bends around them and the heat they generate. There’s a genuinely creepy, unnerving nugget of a tale—of obsession, desperation and survival—in Passengers about what might happen under the futuristic circumstances it depicts, but it mostly gets lost in the sweet, sci-fi mush—and rush—of its intergalactic romance.

Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) swims...a lot.

Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) swims…a lot.

Things get better for Jim, then worse—much worse. He grows a beard. He shaves off his beard. Aurora and Jim walk among the stars—a big-ticket “shore excursion”—and make out in spacesuits. Aurora laughs. Aurora cries. Aurora rages. Aurora attacks Jim. Aurora swims—a lot. She gets trapped in a big, floating water “bubble” when the ship’s artificial gravity goes out.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, nominated for an Oscar for The Imitation Game, creates a space-station world, and an atmosphere, that feels like a cross-pollination of a Carnival Cruise, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Robinson Crusoe and The Twilight Zone. He pays attention to small details and never lets his “big” space movie get overrun and overblown with special effects.

Another big-name star, also awoken early by a system malfunction, makes a late appearance, mainly to sound the alarm that things have really taken a turn for the worse. Can Jim and Aurora right the ship—and realign their own stars?

“Lay some bartender wisdom on me,” Jim implores Arthur at one point. “I feel like I’m lost in space here.” After riding along in Passengers’ interstellar love boat for two rocky hours, you may agree that some course correction might have indeed been helpful—especially when this rocket lands on one of the cheesiest spaceball wrap-up endings of anything this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Future is Finished

‘Hunger Games’ finally runs out of gas in ‘Mockingjay 2’

Final Poster crop

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutherson, Donald Sutherland and Liam Hemsworth

Directed by Francis Lawrence

PG-13

Opens Nov. 20, 2015

“Mandatory Viewing” is the directive that pops up on holographic screens across all of post-apocalyptic Panem when dictator Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) beams a transmission to the masses.

That message couldn’t be truer for Hunger Games fans, especially as it pertains to this movie, the final film of the four made from author Suzanne Collins trilogy of best-selling dystopian young-adult novels. This is the end, the big finish. The Games have come to a close—mandatory viewing for the masses, if ever there was.

The first Hunger Games, in 2012, made Jennifer Lawrence a household name as Katniss Everdeen, the galloping, galvanizing firebrand who became the leader of a revolution and an icon of female empowerment. As Katniss fought and forged her way to freedom in brutal, futuristic “games,” fans faithfully came back, movie after movie, to follow her—and to see just how faithfully Hollywood kept to the details of Collins’ books, which melded a young-love triangle with wicked satire on reality TV, media propaganda, social stratification and war.

Fans will be satisfied with Mockingjay—Part 2. It covers all the bases and ties up the loose ends, and everybody’s back on board: Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), President Coin (Julianne Moore), Primrose (Willow Shields), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Johanna (Jena Malone). Even Phillip Seymour Hoffman returns, and he died in early 2014. It could have used a bit more of the colorful Games escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and wackadoo master of ceremonies Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), but hey, you can’t cram everyone front and center, even in a movie that runs two hours and nearly 20 minutes.

And about that: Most of those minutes are filled with chatter. Characters talk a lot—about what they’ve done, they’re doing and going to do. Occasionally they get up and actually do something—like Katniss throwing a cup at a cat, or heading out on a covert, high-stakes mission, which sets up the two big action scenes. One (a subterranean attack by a horde of hissing, spastic lizard-people) looks like something out of a horror flick, with a nod to Alien; the other involves a massive, surging wave of sludge and oil, which everyone outruns like it’s only slightly more terrifying than an overflowing toilet—or the not-even-there computer effect that it really is.

Donald Sutherland

And it’s dark. Yes, people die. But it also looks dark, dim and dull—greys, browns, blanched-out, bleach-y, blahhhh tones that seem to blot out the sun. Sure, it’s a grim, wintry, wartime world. But why did director Francis Lawrence (who’s helmed every Games movie, except the first) make every scene look like it was lit with a 40-watt bulb? Did he blow his lighting budget on CGI sludge and lizard people?

And does everyone in the movie have that “over it” look because they’re tired of all that fighting for the revolution—or because they really are? As Mockingjay flutters and flaps to a close, this victory lap looks and feels like a slog.

The Hunger Games franchise made billions of box-office bucks and became a pop-cultural phenomenon. But finally the Games have run out of gas. Jennifer Lawrence, now 25, has become a global, Oscar-winning superstar, above and beyond the YA bow-and-arrow heroine, the “girl on fire” she started out playing four years ago.

“I am done,” Katniss says in one scene. Yes she is. Congratulations and good job, everyone. Now proceed toward the exits, and let’s all just keep moving.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Hungry For More

‘Hunger Games’ semi-finale is light on action but heavy on build-up

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman & Liam Hemsworth

Directed by Francis Lawrence

PG-13

Fans of The Hunger Games will be thrilled because the latest installment—the next-to-last movie, the result of splitting the final book of author Suzanne Collins’ smash trilogy into two movie parts—has hit the screen. But that excitement might be tinged by some disappointment in watching the feisty, girl-power heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) sit out much of the drama on the sidelines.

Mockingjay—Part 1 begins where last year’s Catching Fire left off: Katniss, the victor of the first two movies’ kill-or-be-kill games, has become a refugee from the totalitarian regime’s brutal President Snow (Donald Sutherland), living underground with a group of rebel insurgents and their leader, President Coin (Julianne Moore).

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Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore

A revolution is brewing, and the rebels want Katniss to become its poster girl. “We have to have a lightning rod,” says Coin. So Katniss is recruited to make a series of propaganda videos—or “propos”—to spark a rebellion in the miserable masses of Snow’s repressed citizens.

“It’s the worst terror in the world, waiting for something,” Coin tells Katniss. A lot of Hunger Games fans might agree, given that so much of the movie feels like waiting around for the real excitement to start.

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Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence

Katniss, the rousing action figure around which the entire franchise is based, appears in only one scene that would quality as an action scene, in which she gets to actually un-sheath an arrow from her quiver and fire it from her bow. But then it’s back to the bunker for more plotting, more prep, and hanging out while other people get down to the nitty-gritty. There’s other action—a big dam blows up, a bunch of forced-labor lumberjacks turn the tables on their “Peacekeeper” guards, and a daring nighttime rebel raid on President Snow’s compound looks like a mash-up of Mission Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty. But Katniss sits it all out.

Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer), who also steered last year’s Catching Fire, keeps things looking drab and dreary, to match the mood of repression, doubt and dread. Obviously, he’s holding back, saving the story’s knockout punch for its final act, the big show. OK, I get that—but frequently this warm-up seems like it’s huffing and puffing without generating a lot of real heat.

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Josh Hutcherson

The movies’ main cast returns: Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and (the late) Philip Seymour Hoffman. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are back as Peeta and Gale, the two hunks competing for Katniss’s affections, although the storyline puts them in very different places and situations.

There’s a lot here for Hunger Games fans to digest—political undertones, the drumbeat of war, public executions. And it’s got another great performance by Lawrence, who makes almost everything she does (even playing a bad actress, who struggles to get her propos lines right) fun to watch. She even breaks out in song, a haunting, dirge-like ditty called “The Hanging Tree.” There’s some real dramatic tension, a good deal of emotion, and one heck of a setup for the next movie.

But as for a big, “fiery” showdown that fans have been waiting, and waiting for, well, they’re just going to have to stay hungry a bit longer—until next November.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Con-Fabulous

Swirling scandal saga based on real events from the 1970s

American Hustle

Blu-ray $40.99, DVD $30.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

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Director David O. Russell’s sprawling, swirling ‘70s saga, nominated for 10 Academy Awards, is a tale of con artists, FBI agents, a fake oil sheik, real gangsters, crooked politicians and others hustling to make it or break it against the backdrop of a real-life American scandal. The fabulous ensemble cast of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner keeps the show rolling; the colorful clothes and disco-era hairstyles are dy-no-mite; and the soundtrack rocks with tuneful tracks of the era. Extras include a making-of documentary with the filmmakers and cast, plus deleted and extended scenes.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Who’s Hungry?

‘Catching Fire’ sequel quenches ‘Hunger Games’ appetites

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Blu-ray $39.99, DVD $29.95 (Lionsgate Home Video)

Things are pretty bleak for young folks who have to fight to the death in The Hunger Games. But on the bright side: The sci-fi trilogy’s second blockbuster movie, the No.1 box-office hit of 2013, is well on its way to cracking the billion-dollar mark in sales. So don’t feel too bad for Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, or Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland, all of whom reprise their original parts (plus an appearance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, in what would become one of his final roles). Bonus features include a nine-part behind-the-scenes documentary, commentary from director Francis Lawrence, and deleted scenes.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Do The Hustle

A sprawling, swirling period-piece parable of swinging ’70s greed

Christian Bale;Jeremy Renner;Bradley Cooper

American Hustle

Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence

Directed by David O. Russell

R, 138 min.

“Some of this actually happened,” a placard playfully informs us at the beginning of American Hustle, director David O. Russell’s swirling, swinging tale of a pair of con artists in testy, zesty cahoots with an FBI agent to catch even bigger prey in the 1970s. It’s loosely based on the FBI’s real-life ABSCAM sting of the era, which ensnared several high-ranking politicians in a bribery and corruption investigation.

Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld, a small-time Bronx con artist who’s made out pretty well in forged art and bogus loans. But his graft really kicks into high gear when he hooks up with Sidney (Amy Adams), a former stripper who sees a way to broaden their scams—and pave the way to a much bigger, richer life for them both.

But hold on: Irving’s a married man, and his wife (Jennifer Lawrence) is a real suburban scrapper.

Christian Bale;Amy Adams;Bradley CooperRichie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) is the hyper-adrenalized FBI agent eager to make his bones who brings down both Irving and Sidney, then uses them to make an even bigger sting, an elaborate affair that eventually includes a fake sheik (Michael Peña), a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner), a slew of politicians and the mafia.

The movie is a deep, delicious dish of late-’70s detail, from the music to the clothes to the hair—and oh, the hair! Bale’s character sports one of the most outrageous comb-overs in the history of cinema, and agent DiMaso reveals that his teeny curls don’t come easy (or natural).

Amy Adams;Jennifer LawrenceBale is always fascinating to watch as he burrows into a role, but Adams and Lawrence bring the heat that makes this sexy story sizzle. And Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) juggles his ensemble of complicated, conflicted characters with an orchestral touch that often recalls the mastery of maestro Martin Scorsese—especially in a Goodfellas-esque casino scene with a gaggle of Las Vegas mobsters….and a very special surprise cameo.

It’s all hip, humorous, sad, edgy and immensely entertaining, this sprawling period parable about a group of gaudy, needy, greedy people who aren’t who they purport themselves to be—people with fake tans, fake nails, fake hair, fake lives, people who aren’t “real,” who are always conning somebody, everybody, each other, even themselves.

As Irving says, there’s “a lot of grey” in the muddled middle ground between good and bad, right and wrong, between the forger and the artist, in a world where it seems that everyone’s on the make, on the take, on the hustle, on the scam. Especially when, as Lawrence’s character says, all you’ve been dealt in life are “poisonous choices.”

When that happens, as Russell’s outstanding American Hustle suggests, all any of us might do is whatever it takes to survive.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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