Is it seriously almost time for finals again?  Where do the semesters go?  I suppose that also means some of you folks will be graduating and moving on from here.  But don’t forget about your old buddy, Collin.  I’m still here for you.  We can still hang out.  I promise, it won’t be weird.  We’ll always have the movie reviews.

And this month’s reviews are out of this world!  Oh, man, that’s a terrible joke.  I’m trying too hard, aren’t I?  Let’s try that again.

This month, we review two recent science fiction films.  One is a new take on an old story, and the other is a new story with an old take.  Shall we begin?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) [PG-13]
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Poster (2016)I waited on this one because I was a little afraid this was going to be just a cash grab.  The idea of a new Star Wars movie coming out  essentially every year is both exciting and frightening.  They can’t all be enjoyable, right?  With that kind of turn around?

Turns out, this was one was pretty fantastic.  I don’t know that I would recommend this to someone new to the Star Wars universe. But at this point, I have to wonder, how many people are there that haven’t seen at least ONE of the Star Wars movies?  That’s either a conscious choice or you just live somewhere that doesn’t have a theater or TV reception.

This isn’t your typical Star Wars movie.  And that was something I really enjoyed.  It’s dark and brooding and sad.  There aren’t any cute, fuzzy creatures.  Where the most recent Star Wars movies have been light and “fun”, Rogue One is decidedly serious.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining and exciting.  In fact, the climactic battle scene at the end was probably my favorite action sequence in a Star Wars movie since the first movie’s Death Star battle.  Director Gareth Edwards does not gloss over the grit and consequences of war, and I think that makes for a more compelling, more, dare I say, realistic Star Wars movie.

You’ve probably already seen this, but if you haven’t, it’s coming out on DVD and Blu-ray the first week in April, so go find it.  I think you’ll find it well worth the effort.

8.5 paws out of 10

Passengers (2016) [PG-13]
Passengers (2016) PosterAll right.  I want to talk to the folks that marketed Passengers.  I totally thought this was going to be some sort of exciting, brainy science fiction movie.  Don’t be fooled.  It isn’t.

But let’s talk plot, shall we?  Jim Preston, played by Chris Pratt, is a passenger on an interstellar voyage to another planet.  He and the other passengers and crew are hibernating in stasis pods when something goes awry.  Preston is awoken 90 years too early.  Faced with the prospect of spending the rest of his life on a journey he will never see the end of, Jim tries to make a life for himself, alone, on a giant interstellar cruise ship.  After a year, however, Jim is going crazy from lack of human contact.  That’s when he stumbles across the pod of Aurora Lane, played by Jennifer Lawrence.

She’s hot.  He’s lonely.  So he starts researching everything he can about it, reading everything she has written and watching her interviews.  He’s falling in love with not just her outer beauty but her inner beauty as well.  Or, at least I suppose that’s what the film wants you to think.  Seems a little stalker-ish to me, but hey, I’m just a cougar.  Then he makes a terrible choice.  Preston decides to sabotage her pod and wake her up.

Preston lies to her about how she has wound up in the situation, and they start the difficult process of trying to find a way to live with their situation.  Aurora begins to fall in love with Preston until, of course, she finds out the truth.  Preston has doomed her to the same fate that he must endure.

Interesting premise, right?  And you’ve got actors that can carry that sort of tension and emotional weight.  Should be awesome, right?  Except, it turns out that Passengers really isn’t interested in tension.  Unless it’s the sexual tension between Aurora and Jim.  There is plenty of moral and ethical tension and drama here to mine, but instead they give us maybe 15 minutes of indignation from Aurora.  We spend more time watching them in various stages of love than we do exploring the very raw and unnerving situation that has brought them together.

But hey, I get it.  Pratt and Lawrence are both pretty to look at.  I’m fine with watching a romance movie with those two.  But that’s not what you sold me.  You sold me on sci-fi action.  It’s the old bait-and-switch.

Maybe I’m being overly harsh here.  I have some buds that really enjoyed Passengers.  It’s not terrible.  It’s pretty to look at.  But I also feel like it’s a missed opportunity.  Lawrence says in the movie “You can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be, that you forget to make the most of where you are.”  And I feel like that is exactly what director Morten Tyldum has done.  Or maybe it was the studio that wanted something a little more “friendly”.  Either way, instead of trying to make it an old-timey, feel-good romance, I feel like Passengers could have been much better with just a little more exploration of the moral and ethical decisions that were inherent in the setup. 

6 paws out of 10

As always, if you have a movie you think I should check out or you want to talk further about one of these reviews, drop me a line at collincougar@collin.edu or leave me a message on Facebook.