Stowaway

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Netflix;
Sci-fi;
Not rated.
Stars Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson.

It comes as no surprise that science-fiction is often a breeding ground for morality tales steeped in the guise of fantastical fiction, the trappings of the genre providing unique options for new ways to explore a topic. The ethical dilemma at the core of Stowaway is one that has been debated in countless philosophy classes and is itself a sci-fi staple: Can taking an innocent life be justified if it means saving more?

The film, steeped in realism by director and co-writer Joe Penna, depicts what is supposed to be a routine mission to a Mars colony in the not-to-distant future. The crew consists of Commander Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) and medical researcher Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick).

Their method of travel between the planets is a Mars cycler — an intriguing concept that involves parking a large habitable vehicle in a stable orbit around the sun that takes it near Earth and Mars every few months. Since the ship, once it’s established as a cycler, doesn’t need to burn the massive amount of fuel required for an interplanetary journey (aside from slight course corrections), it offers an efficient method for travel between the two destinations, with crews simply needing to shuttle from the surface to the cycler when it’s in range (while also refreshing its consumables from time to time).

Follow us on Instagram

As the crew of MTS-42 settles into their two-year mission, they discover that a launch support engineer named Michael Adams (Shamier Anderson) was knocked out performing some pre-flight maintenance, and has accidentally become the stowaway of the title. With no way for the cycler to turn around, Michael is stuck with them on the trip to Mars, so they make him part of the crew. It turns out, however, that his presence threatens the entire mission. First, during the launch his unconscious body damaged a device that scrubs carbon dioxide from the ship’s breathable air. With no way to repair it, and with Michael’s unexpected presence putting more strain on the ship’s oxygen reserves, the crew will run out of air weeks before reaching Mars.

Mission control determines there’s no way to mount a rescue mission in time to save the mission. Biologist Kim’s planned experiments to grow algae on Mars, if implemented on the ship, might provide enough extra oxygen to get three people to Mars. That leaves the crew with the harsh reality of finding another desperate solution on their own, or ejecting Michael out of the airlock.

The dilemma, as it applies to spaceflight, has its origins in Tom Godwin’s 1954 short story The Cold Equations, which involved a medical supply ship loaded with vaccines and just enough fuel to reach an outlying world as quickly as possible hampered by too much weight when a teenage girl sneaks aboard because she wants to see her brother, forcing the pilot to consider her life against those of thousands of colonists dying from an outbreak. The short was the basis for a pretty faithful adaptation on an episode of the 1980s “Twilight Zone.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Like Cold Equations, Stowaway is bound to inspire discussion about the tragic circumstances that can often arise from the inherent dangers of spaceflight, and the best ways to deal with them, especially when there are no easy answers. Of course, like all works of fiction designed to twist the audience’s natural sensibilities, fate and plain old bad luck have their roles to play as well.

While the dilemma requires intricate plotting to serve the story, as a piece of speculative fiction Stowaway is methodically paced and a bit claustrophobic, bringing the audience along with the POV of the crew — which means Penna eschews any flashy visual effects or long lingering exterior shots of the spacecraft. The cast’s performances are engaging, with Kendrick playing the typical energetic, optimistic personality she usually plays, just as an astronaut.

Interestingly, Penna conceived of the film as the first of a loose trilogy of films involving Mars missions, though the story for the sequel apparently became the basis for Penna’s 2018 film Arctic, with Mads Mikkelsen awaiting rescue in the polar north regions of Earth, rather than somewhere on Mars had the trilogy panned out.

TV Time: Warner’s ‘Mortal Kombat’ Most Anticipated Movie in April

Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat was the most anticipated movie in April on the TV Time chart.

Based on the video game franchise of the same name, the film follows Shaolin Monk Liu Kang, from Earth, who gets invited as a competitor in a mysterious, intergalactic tournament of ancient martial arts. It premieres April 23 in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service.

A Whip Media company, TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by nearly 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, premiering on Amazon Prime April 30, took the second spot on the chart. The action thriller is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy and is a spin-off of the Jack Ryan film series.

Coming in at No. 3 was Netflix’s Thunder Force, premiering April 9 on the streaming service. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spenser and Jason Bateman, the film follows two childhood best friends who reunite as an unlikely crime-fighting superhero duo when one invents a formula that gives ordinary people superpowers.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Also from Netflix, Stowaway, premiering April 22, took the fourth spot on the chart. In the film starring Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson and Toni Collette, a three-person crew on a mission to Mars faces an impossible choice when an unplanned passenger jeopardizes the lives of everyone on board.

Another space story, Lionsgate’s Voyagers, landed at No. 5. Starring Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp and Fionn Whitehead, the film follows a crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission who descend into paranoia and madness, not knowing what is real or not. It hits theaters April 9.

Rounding out the chart at No. 6 was Concrete Cowboy, which began streaming on Netflix April 2. Starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin (“Stranger Things”), it follows a rebellious teen, sent to live with his estranged father for the summer, who finds kinship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys.

 Most Anticipated April Movies

  1. Mortal Kombat – April 23 (Warner Bros., theaters and HBO Max)
  2. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse – April 30 (Amazon Prime)
  3. Thunder Force – April 9 (Netflix)
  4. Stowaway – April 22 (Netflix)
  5. Voyagers – April 9 (Lionsgate, theaters)
  6. Concrete Cowboy – April 2 (Netflix)

 

TV Time features a global community of 16 million users who have reported more than 18 billion views of TV and movie content across 230,000 titles.

‘Trolls World Tour’ Chalks Up Art at The Grove

In celebration of Trolls World Tour, designer and illustrator Keith Kaminski created a 15-foot, 3D chalk illustration of the character Tiny Diamond at the center of The Grove mall in Los Angeles. In the animated film — currently available for digital purchase and due on disc July 7 — Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick), Branch (Justin Timberlake) and the rest of the Trolls are back for another musical adventure. (Photos by Daniel Byun)

Special Offer From ‘MPN’ and Lionsgate: Digital Code Giveaway to Titles Including ‘Bombshell’ for Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, Lionsgate and Media Play News are offering the first five readers who comment on this story ON INSTAGRAM and follow MPN on Instagram free digital codes for one of five movies: Bombshell, Judy, A Simple Favor, The Hunger Games and The Spy Who Dumped Me.

You can follow us on Instagram and see the story post here.

Title choice will be based on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Margot Robbie (left) and Kate McKinnon in Bombshell

Bombshell was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Actress (Charlize Theron) and Best Supporting Actress (Margot Robbie), and won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling (Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker). Theron, Nicole Kidman, Robbie and John Lithgow (as Roger Ailes) star in the film based on the real story of three ambitious, strong women who anchored one of America’s most powerful news networks, Fox News, becoming headlines themselves when they risked everything to stand up to the man who made them famous. The film also stars Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell and Allison Janney. Bonus features include a seven-part, making-of documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew.

Judy

The Judy Garland biopic Judy stars Oscar winner Renee Zellweger as Garland, 30 years after rising to global stardom in The Wizard of Oz, arriving in London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town. While preparing for the shows, Garland battles with management, reminisces with friends and adoring fans, and embarks on a whirlwind romance with soon-to-be fifth husband Mickey Deans — all while struggling to overcome anxiety and physical decline. Shedding light on Garland’s final years, the film features perfomances of some of her best-known songs, such as “Over the Rainbow,” “For Once In My Life” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.” The cast also includes Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon. Extras include the theatrical trailer, an image gallery and the featurette “From the Heart: The Making of Judy.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor stars Anna Kendrick (Pitch PerfectTrolls) and Blake Lively (The ShallowsThe Age of Adaline, TV’s “Gossip Girl”) in a thriller from director Paul Feig (BridesmaidsGhostbusters, TV’s “Freaks and Geek,” TV’s “The Office”) based on the novel by Darcey Bell. The film also stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians), Andrew Rannells (TV’s “Girls,” TV’s “The Knick”), Linda Cardellini (TV’s “Freaks and Geeks,” Hunter Killer) and Rupert Friend (TV’s “Homeland”). The story follows Stephanie (Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town. Stephanie is joined by Emily’s husband Sean (Golding). Special features  include three audio commentaries with the cast and crew, eight making-of featurettes, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending.

Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon in The Spy Who Dumped Me.

The comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me, starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, follows Audrey (Kunis) and Morgan (McKinnon), two 30-year-old best friends in Los Angeles who are thrust unexpectedly into an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail. Also starring in the film are Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, TV’s “The Leftovers”), Hasan Minhaj (TV’s “The Daily Show”) and Sam Heughan (TV’s “Outlander”). Special features include deleted scenes, outtakes and four making-of featurettes.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence in a dystopian story based on the book series. In the film, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the 12 Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death.

A Simple Favor

While a movie based on a dark mystery thriller novel might seem like an odd choice for a director known primarily for comedy, Paul Feig is able to deliver an entertaining adaptation of Darcey Bell’s A Simple Favor filled with plenty of twists and turns, driven by a pair of winning performances from his leading ladies, Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.

 

 

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Lionsgate;
Thriller;
Box Office $53.55 million;
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nude images, drug use and violence.
Stars Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Linda Cardellini, Jean Smart, Rupert Friend, Bashir Salahuddin, Joshua Satine, Ian Ho.

A Simple Favor exists in a strange Venn diagram where the dark mystery thriller aspects of Darcey Bell’s source material novel intersect with the broad comedic sensibilities of the film’s director, Paul Feig. The result is an oddly compelling mystery filled with its fair share of plot twists, intrigue and genuine laughs.

Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie, an all-too-sincere mommy blogger who runs a DIY video channel and seems to embody the usual quirks of a Kendrick character. Her worldview is suddenly challenged when she meets the bitchy Emily (Blake Lively), mother of her son’s schoolmate, and the two ladies unexpectedly hit it off over martinis.

One day, Emily asks Stephanie to watch her son after school, and promptly disappears. Days later, Emily’s body seemingly turns up in a lake near her childhood home, setting off all sorts of question about what she was up to. Stephanie, meanwhile, consoles Emily’s husband (Henry Golding), and as they grow closer, they seem to be haunted by Emily, who, it turns out, may not be so dead after all.

In his first directorial effort after the misstep of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Feig largely succeeds in maintaining a darkly comic tone throughout, buoyed by a strong cast. Kendrick and Lively give terrific performances as the unlikely friends. Lively in particular dominates the screen in her early scenes, establishing the kind of dominant personality necessary to draw out Stephanie’s meekness and force her to come into her own.

Feig’s intention to make a “fun thriller” ensures the film is never as dark or serious as similar fare such as Gone Girl. If anything, it could almost be seen as a parody of the absurdity of such stories if it weren’t taking itself just seriously enough. Still, in the various bonus materials in which Feig is quite ubiquitous he seems rather flippant about some of his directorial choices, none more so than his alternative to a big, Bollywood-style dance number meant to play during the credits.

The bonus section includes three separate commentaries, and Feig is involved in all of them. The first is the director by himself, relating his own experiences of making the film. The second is Feig with members of the cast, including Kendrick, Lively, Jean Smart (who plays Lively’s mom) and Bashir Salahuddin, who plays a detective. A third commentary finds Feig with screenwriter Jessica Sharzer, producer Jessie Henderson, cinematographer John Schwartzman and costume designer Renée Ehrlich Kalfus.

The filmmaker commentary obviously delves into more of the technical aspects of the production, while the cast commentary is more of a fun discussion about the making of the film, and thus is the more enjoyable of the three.

Having a comedic director such as Paul Feig adapt a mystery thriller novel seems like an odd choice

The disc also includes more than 16 minutes of deleted scenes, including the aforementioned dance scene that was cut for essentially trivializing a story about two strong female characters.

There’s also a three-and-a-half minute gag reel and eight behind-the-scenes featurettes running about an hour in total.

A Simple Favor

Thriller ‘A Simple Favor’ to Be Offered on Digital Dec. 11, Disc Dec. 18

A Simple Favor will be offered on digital Dec. 11 and 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD and on demand Dec. 18 from Lionsgate.

The film earned $52.3 million in theaters.

Anna Kendrick (Pitch PerfectTrolls) and Blake Lively (The ShallowsThe Age of Adaline, TV’s “Gossip Girl”) star in this thriller from director Paul Feig (BridesmaidsGhostbusters, TV’s “Freaks and Geek,” TV’s “The Office”), based on the novel by Darcey Bell. The film also stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians), Andrew Rannells (TV’s “Girls,” TV’s “The Knick”), Linda Cardellini (TV’s “Freaks and Geeks,” Hunter Killer) and Rupert Friend (TV’s “Homeland”).

The story follows Stephanie (Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town. Stephanie is joined by Emily’s husband Sean (Golding).

Special features on digital, 4K UHD and Blu-ray include three audio commentaries with the cast and crew, eight making-of featurettes, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending. The DVD special features include all of these except there are six making-of featurettes, instead of eight.

The 4K UHD includes Dolby Vision HDR.