December 21, 2016, - 4:32 pm

Christmas Box Office: Passengers, Lion, Sing, Assassin’s Creed

By Debbie Schlussel

Finally! Three out of the four new movies in theaters today are good–some very good. One, not so much. (Three more new movies coming out Friday, none of ’em good. Stay tuned for my reviews of those, then.)

* Passengers – PG-13: This movie wasn’t as magical or exciting as I was expecting it to be. In fact, it’s kind of sterile, and I think I liked the idea here more than its execution. But still, it’s good enough. It moves slowly at times, but that can’t be helped because of the story and the plot line.

Chris Pratt is his usual charming self and the vastly overrated, liberal, and anti-Christian Jennifer Lawrence is bearable, though kind of flat. The movie raises an interesting ethical question, and it’s entertaining. For a sci-fi movie, it’s–again–not the greatest. But it’s still good enough, though I didn’t really care for the cheesy, neatly-wrap-it-up last scene and ending, which wasn’t necessary.

The story: Pratt is a mechanical engineer aboard a giant spaceship traveling to a new planet from the “overcrowded” Earth. He is like over 5,000 fellow passengers aboard the ship: asleep in a pod for 120 years. All passengers are scheduled to be awakened four months before they arrive at their final destination. They’ve bought into a private company’s sales pitch of becoming pioneers and having “room to grow” on the frontier of another planet.

But the spacecraft collides with a meteor. And though it’s supposed to be meteor-proof, it clearly isn’t. The collision affects the ship, and Pratt is awakened from his pod . . . 90 years too early. This means–if he cannot find a way to go back to sleep in the pod–he will die on the ship long before it reaches the planet to where the ship is headed. For a year, he roams the vast ship trying to figure out what’s happened and trying to communicate with Earth or the crew of the ship (whom he cannot access). He has only the cheeky, robotic ship bartender to keep him company, and he’s bored. Soon, though, a female passenger (Lawrence) wakes up, too. And the two of them, predictably, get chummy and develop romantic feelings for each other. But everything is not as it seems–to Lawrence–or with regard to the condition of the ship. To go into any more would give away the plot of the movie.

While this movie has been described by those involved and many in the media as an “original story,” it reminds me a lot of a vastly superior “Twilight Zone” episode called “The Long Morrow,” which has some of the same story and plot elements.

Also, there are a lot of elements of the movie that remind me of other sci-fi space movies, including “Moon” (read my review),” “Silent Running,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Still, there is nothing new under the sun. And since everything coming out of Hollywood these days is generally form the mediocre sequel, prequel, or superhero movie (or some combination thereof), this is as original as they get. And there are some new elements to the story.

The movie is funny at times and very high on space-age style–which I love, and it does have some charm. The characters are likable enough, and it’s got a lot of mystery and some suspense. Since the movies put out this year are so vastly horrid, it’s better than most of them and definitely in my top ten list for the year (which I’ll likely post next week, if not earlier).


Watch the trailer . . .

* Lion – PG-13: This is also one of the great movies of the year and in my top five. It’s also truly original . . . at least to me. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. This movie shows that in spades, as it is based on the book, A Long Way Home: A Memoir, the real-life story of Saroo Brierley, who was recently profiled on CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” This film is moving, powerful, and impactful. And it also illustrates so well how technology has made the world so much smaller and the seemingly impossible possible. Moreover, although not explicitly stated in the movie, it’s quite obvious that the Indian Muslim kid in poverty gained a secular, non-Muslim Western life that made his life soooo much better.

The story: Saroo is a five-year-old Indian kid from a very impoverished area of India, where he and his family have been abandoned by their father/husband. Saroo’s mother goes away for days at a time to work gathering and moving rocks and his older brother spends nights at train stations and other similar locales, looking for spare change and items to sell. One night, Saroo begs his brother to come with him to “work,” but when he gets there–a train station–he is extremely tired and falls asleep on a bench. When he awakens, he cannot find his brother and searches for him, ultimately ending up and falling asleep on an empty train. The train travels over a thousand miles, and when Saroo wakes up, he has no idea where he is or how to get home.

So, Saroo lives on the streets, scrounging for food, and endures attempted-kidnapping and potential molestation incidents. Finally, he ends up with the police, but he cannot remember his full name, nor can the police locate the city where Saroo says he’s from. On top of that, nobody responds to newspaper ads looking for his mother. Soon, Saroo is at an Indian orphanage from which he is adopted by an Australian couple, the Brierleys (Mrs. Brierley is played by Nicole Kidman), who bring Saroo to Tasmania, where he lives his life.

In his late 20s, Saroo enrolls in a hotel management course, where he meets other Indians. Their food reminds him of his former life back in India, and he tells them his story. The Indians tell him that he can probably find out where he’s from by looking on Google Earth for landmarks and places he remembers, and they encourage him to do so. The Brierleys wrote down Saroo’s story when they first adopted him, and they helped him remember the details during his search that ultimately reaches it’s climax and resolution 25 years later.

I was very touched by this movie for a number of reasons (the story is amazing, so interesting, and real, and it’s ultimately very positive and uplifting), but I probably could have done without scenes of Brierley’s slightly-disturbed, fellow adopted Indian brother. I also didn’t need the melodrama and angst which afflict Saroo as he engages in his initally-futile Google search for his roots. But I understand that Hollywood feels the need to employ these plot devices to move the film along. Dev Patel is terrific as the adult Saroo, but the real breakout star of this movie is Sunny Pawar as the five-year-old Saroo, who acts with very little dialogue for about the first 45 minutes of this very fascinating, terrific movie. I can’t imagine a five-year-old kid surviving the conditions he endured.

This movie has the old-world charm, the better life of the new world, and a terrific way of bringing them together. And, again, as I watched it, I couldn’t help but think that even though a tragedy happened and a kid sadly lost his family, he got a better, Western life and a ticket away from Islam. Those are good things.


Watch the trailer . . .

* Sing – PG: This animated movie is funny, cute, entertaining, and enjoyable for families, as well as adults. It’s a lot of fun and manages to fit in snippets of a lot of current, recent, and much in the past songs and hits. It features a charming world in which all of the characters are animals and they assume the characteristics and emotions of humans. My one reservation with this was the tired, stale, old caricature of a father and husband as an uncaring, lazy oaf and out-of-touch idiot. That’s the last kind of sexism still allowed in Hollywood.

Matthew McConaughey is Buster Moon, the koala bear owner of a glamorous old-time theater. Times are tough for him. People don’t want to see the kind of entertainment–bands and other fare of yesteryear–that he books and presents on his stage. As a result, his checks are bouncing, the bank is calling, and he’s desperate to do something to get some money and survive. He must keep things going at the theater, for which his father washed cars with his own fur in order that his son, Buster, would be able to live a better life.

So Buster comes up with the idea of having an American-Idol-style talent competition for a $1,000 prize. However, his absent-minded, klutzy, old lizard (with a glass eye) assistant accidentally makes some typos, and fliers go out all over town for auditions and the chance to win a $100,000 prize. Soon, a bunch of various talented animals from different walks of life are at the Moon Theater, singing their hearts out.

There is a gorilla, who badly wants to be a singer and pianist, but his father and family members are robbers and thieves in a gang, and they look down on his legit aspirations. Then, there is a pig who is the mother to many piglets and the wife of an oafish, bumbling, insensitive, unappreciative husband (that’s the tired, sexist, anti-male Hollywood narrative I referred to earlier). And there’s a female porcupine punk rocker who wants to break away from her doubting boyfriend’s shadow. There’s also a shy elephant (whose mother and grandfather have Black accents and are voiced by Black actors, but she has a White one and is voiced by a White actress). Don’t forget the mouse who does a mean Frank Sinatra impression. And there are others.

As Buster auditions and then rehearses these various characters for the talent show, he gets caught up in a web of lies and problems, like the electricity going out, and the water, too. He also has to avoid Russian mobsters after one of the other characters. Very cool is the “squid lighting system.”

As I noted, the movie is charming and a lot of fun to watch. Other big names (such as Reese Witherspoon) also voice the characters. Great holiday entertainment that will actually entertain the whole family, including the adults.


Watch the trailer . . .

* Assassin’s Creed – PG-13: Absolutely horrible, totally stupid, and completely PC–Muslims are the good guys and Catholics are evil in this absolute piece of crap purporting to be a movie. Since this is based on a video game, I’m not surprised it’s so awful. But I am surprised it’s so politically-correct on behalf of jihadists.

For those who don’t know, the word, “assassin,” comes from the Arabic word, “hashishin.” The Hashishin were drugged with hashish (to dull their senses and consciences) and then sent out to murder and kill to claim their supposed place in Islamic paradise. In this movie, there’s a much more sanitized history and definition. And there’s no hashish, but there are hashishin, and they do their work to protect Sultan Muhammad XII (the Sultan of Granada) and his “holy grail,” the Apple of Eden from the “evil” Catholic priests and Christians.

The story: Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is on death row in an American prison, presumably having lived a life of crime after he witnessed his father murder his mother. But he is contacted–actually taken to Spain from an American prison where he is presumed to have died after being put to death. Those who take him are officials of a secret organization, which is apparently the Knights Templar to join them in regaining the Apple of Eden from the Sultan. They tell Callum that he is a descendant of assassin Aguilar, and they help him use virtual reality and special powers to be there in the late 1400s Spain and fight off Christian Knights in order to get the apple. He goes back and forth between past and present.

We see a lot of scenes of evil people wearing crosses and Catholic priest’s outfits and the “innocent” Muslim Sultan, who is victimized by those Christian warriors seeking the Apple of Eden. The Assassin’s ultimately end up killing all of those “evil” Christians who wanted the Apple and hurt the Muslim Sultan.

On top of all this political correctness, the movie’s a bore. And just a total mess.


Watch the trailer . . .

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9 Responses

I love your rating system so much lol. And your name for Moochelle XD

Anti-Globalist on December 22, 2016 at 8:30 am

The whole point of the Assassin’s Creed game is that you get to play a guy who does parkour.

Is the parkour good in the Assassin’s Creed movie?

(Keep in mind that you can go on Youtube and see parkour guys dress up like the Assassin’s Creed guy and do parkour if you just want to see parkour scenes. 🙂 )

Ingot on December 22, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Excellent insight by Debbie on “Passengers,” written by Jon Spaihts. Based on the quick synopsis of “Passengers” that I’ve read, I agree that the writer owes a debt to Rod Serling and his story “The Long Morrow” written for his now classic TV series “The Twilight Zone.”

Debbie suggests that Serling’s story is superior to Spaihts’s. And I think I know the reason why even though I’ve not yet seen “Passengers.” At the risk of being completely wrong, I’ll provide my theory.

Serling was a master of the “twist” story, in the great tradition of two earlier masters of that genre, O. Henry (William Sidney Porter) and Guy de Maupassant. And like those great writers, Serling’s story not only has a captivating storyline but a great message to show.

And that message is “great love can mean great sacrifice.” In fact, this theme in Serling’s story is also found in O. Henry’s famous masterpiece twist story, “The Gift of the Magi.” In a way, Serling’s story, though original, has, in a conceptual sense, a sort of component of “The Gift of the Magi” gone bad, where the decisions of the characters have more serious consequences.

If I were to guess at the reason why Debbie sees the Serling story as superior, it likely has to do with his theme “great love = great sacrifice.” Although Debbie isn’t giving away enough of the “Passengers” storyline, I would be very surprised if the movie has that theme or presents it with the same power. I find it hard to imagine that such a theme would be integral to a modern movie because, unfortunately, we live in much more selfish times.

By the way, if you should be intrigued enough to see Serling’s “The Long Morrow,” you have to get into the spirit of the times when this was made. As is usual with sci-fi scripts, Serling selects a date far too early for the technology involved to even be possible. This story written in the early 1960s takes place in the mid-1980s and involves space travel for a period of 40 years. (Kubrick’s 2001 is another example of the “way-too-early” sci-fi treatment.) The other potential anachronism is that a modern viewer could well question why the two lead characters in Serling’s story could not continue their relationship together, despite their differences (which I won’t reveal in case you haven’t seen it yet).

Ralph Adamo on December 22, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Aside from the usual whitewashing of Muzzies, one of the things they got wrong that one normally wouldn’t expect from these Libs who are anal about accuracy from their enemies: the locale of the Assassins.

The Hashishin were never based in Spain, and never came close. They were founded in Iran, and historically, they were present in Iran and Syria. In Iran, they were a threat to the local rulers until the Mongols destroyed them, while in Syria, they would target the crusaders as well as the Saracens, since they were Shi’ite.

If they wanted to show something where the Christians were evil and Muzzies good, they could have shown something from the Crusades in Syria, which would still have been downright defamatory, but have at least been credible in terms of the location, if nothing else.

It would also fit the tu quoque template of pro-Muzzie shills who rant about the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition whenever one brings up Jihad and Shariah law.

Infidel on December 22, 2016 at 10:22 pm

Off topic, but I wish all the Christians on this website a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.
I wish all the Jews on this website a happy Chanukah.

Miranda Rose Smith on December 23, 2016 at 2:13 am

Thank you once again Debbie for the thoroughly great reviews. I absolutely love your Michelle My Belle Obama rating. The poor dear doesn’t like being called an Angry Black Woman. Sucks to be her. Anyway out of all of these movies I’ll definitely be taking the kids to see Sing. It’s right up our alley. I won’t see ANYTHING starring that moronic know nothing Jennifer Lawrence. She has morphed into one of those young stars who thinks her stuff doesn’t stink and feels the need to let us little people know how brilliant she is. She just needs to STFU and sing. The other movies I’ll wait for them to come out on either Red Box or HBO. Have a Happy Hanukah Debbie and for all of the usual posters have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you all in 2017. Peace.

Ken B on December 23, 2016 at 11:35 am

Watched the Passengers over the weekend and liked it very much – thanks for the review.
Also, watched the “Lion” but were somewhat disappointed: too long, boring, and even though there’s a moving happy ending scene, the other stuff (some of which Debbie did mention – like the melodrama with the main character quitting job, hesitation to search or not to search – is completely artificial and idiotic) was not great at all. The most revolting though was when the adopting mother (Nicole Kidman) proudly proclaimed that the reason for the adoptions was not her inability to have own children, but their desire to avoid earth overpopulation(!??) — here you have it, the “liberal cretin of the decade” award!
I wouldn’t give this movie four Reagans – a Marx at best.

Alex on December 27, 2016 at 12:28 am

I too LOVED LION and am encouraging everyone to see it.
I hope the 5 year old makes an appearance at the Oscars!

Elaine Steffek on January 6, 2017 at 5:31 pm

The whole point of the Assassin’s Creed game is that you get to play a guy who does parkour. I love your rating system so much lol. And your name for Moochelle XD.

Norma Taylor on July 30, 2018 at 11:01 pm

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