Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending is the next film from the Wachowskis, who’ve brought us The Matrix series, V For Vendetta, Cloud Atlas, and Speed Racer, among others. Nothing they do is simple. They definitely swing for the fences in every project they’ve made, and Jupiter Ascending is no exception to that rule. This Science Fiction epic contains a lot of detail, whether it’s needed or not.

That said, the plot is relatively straightforward. Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a maid who lives in Chicago. Through a set of convoluted circumstances, she is the heir to a dynasty that has existed for thousands of millenia. Humanity, as it turns out, did not come into existence on Earth first, but has been around elsewhere for a very long time. There are currently three siblings within the dynasty who need her, and each attempts to take her from Earth, to serve their own selfish reasons.

The one that succeeds sends a ‘hunter’, played by Channing Tatum, who is a half-human/half wolf hybrid. While others are trying to kill her, he wants to protect her, for his own reasons. Deals are made, and double crossings emerge. Sean Bean also plays a role, but I will not divulge his fate. There are dire circumstances that push the story to its conclusion. In My Opinion, the end leaves open the possibility of a sequel, but I suspect that it will never happen.

Jupiter Ascending started as a good idea, but just became too much. This movie is a cacophony of ideas that don’t entirely mix well. Many of them spill onto the screen, and only some are played out. Others just end, and are forgotten, perhaps because they were cut for time. The movie, as it is, runs for 127 minutes, but it probably could’ve used another half hour to 45 minutes to resolve the other bits of story. I had a lot of questions leaving the theater about the movie, most of which were about the storyline, but there were some were regarding why this film was made the way it was. JA is visually stunning, and may have looked better in 3D, but in the 2D version I saw, the overuse of shaky-cam for all the action scenes really ruined my appreciation of this movie.

I cannot recommend this movie. I can admit to being disappointed, but I also can’t really say it’s bad. I leave it up to you to decide for yourselves.

The Wedding Ringer

The Wedding Ringer is the latest in a stream of Kevin Hart movies. In this one, he plays Jimmy Callihan, a guy who runs a service for men. He plays a fill-in guy friend, for when those men need someone to fill out their wedding party. He will pretend to be someone’s lifelong friend, and stand up for them at the wedding, usually as Best Man. He spends the time to get to know the groom, spends a few days preparing beforehand, even going so far as to fake some events they shared, to build the backstory of the character he plays. Once the wedding and reception are over, he’s off to his next client, with no one but the groom any wiser.

The movie starts with him meeting his next client, Doug Harris (played by Josh Gad). Doug is a lawyer, who took over his father’s firm after he passed away. He devoted his life to the firm, and nothing else. No family, and no time for friendships. Somewhere in there, he met Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), and they are going to be married in two weeks. He needs seven groomsman, and FAST. Jimmy calls this the Holy Grail of cons, and admits no one has ever pulled it off. Does it happen? Does it work? You’ll have to see for yourself.

This movie follows the rom-com scheme movie trope, where the protagonists create a deception in order to seal a relationship deal. The movie is a bit crude, but not continuously. This movie runs at a brisk pace, and it’s suited to Hart’s fast-talking style of comedy. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and, it all seems plausible, but more importantly, it works. There are many moving parts and they mesh well. The groomsmen are a motley crew, each with their own diverse background. I have to admit I’ve disliked Josh Gad for a while, mainly for ruining the show 1600 Penn. I dismissed him as an annoying Jonah Hill wannabe, but his performance here is decent, passable, even. Hart and Gad have decent bro-chemistry. There are some cameos here that were a surprise, and actually fit the story, given the circumstances. I’ll not spoil them here.

There is additional footage at the end of the credits, if you want to sit and wait for it.

Recommended

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water

Yes, I saw it. Yes, it was funny and entertaining.  Yes, I do recommend it.

SpongeBob Squarepants, as you know, is an animated cartoon on Nickelodeon. He lives in Bikini Bottom, in a pineapple under the sea. He has a pet snail named Gary. His best friend is a Starfish named Patrick. He works as a cook at The Krusty Krab, frying up Krabby Patties. Yes, I said frying. They have fires underwater. They have electricity under water. They use paper, too. There are some things you just don’t ask about when discussing his world.

SpongeBob was never really intended for adults, and yet, many enjoy it. SpongeBob and Patrick are definitely children. Man children, but definitely children. They are also hedonists, and always have their own interests in the forefront. They don’t often care about the bigger things, and certainly live in the moment. They are absurd. They are ridiculous. The show definitely has a certain silliness to it that reminds me of the old Looney Toons shorts. Some jokes and gags work on several levels

That said, The SpongeBob Movie starts in the real world, with a pirate (Antonio Banderas) stealing a treasure chest. In there, he finds a book, and starts telling a tale about SpongeBob to his seagull ‘friends’. SpongeBob’s nemesis, Plankton has mounted an attack on the Krusty Krab, in yet another attempt to steal the secret formula to Krabby Patties. At the last moment, when victory is within his grasp, the secret formula disappears from his hands. The loss of this secret formula plunges the whole town into a panic, forcing SpongeBob and Plankton to work together to find it and restore order. Their travels force them to go ashore, into the real world.

There are a lot of sight gags, and there’s a lot of kidding around. This movie is clearly for the kids, but adults will not be bored, nor will they feel like they are enduring something just to appease their children. I went alone, and did not have any regrets. I suspect you will, too.

Cake

Cake is a movie about chronic pain.  Jennifer Aniston plays Claire Bennett, a woman who is suffering from unspecified injuries.  The film starts at a support group, where the group leader, Annette, meekly played by Felicity Huffman, is discussing the loss of Nina (Anna Kendrick), due to her suicide.  Claire reacts poorly, and is invited to leave.

We see this consistently – Claire is not a nice person.  She lashes out at everyone. She’s rude to her maid Sylvana (Adriana Barraza), who keeps her going.  She’s awful to her physical therapist, and other patients. We find she has an interesting relationship with Nina, to say the least.  Claire is clearly in hurting, but we find that there’s as much emotional pain as there is physical. Where she goes with it, I leave to you to discover.

I expected a few things from this movie, given the subject matter. As you would expect in a movie like this, there is drug-seeking, there is a lot of hostility. I was pleased  that it did not fulfill all of those expectations.  Relationships barge in to the story, and help muddy the story. Several people appear at random times throughout.   Not everything was spelled out, which leaves you to connect the dots and decide the exact nature of those missing details. The choice of spirit animal is appropriate.

Jennifer Aniston puts in a good performance here.  I’ve always said that she’s the best actor from the cast of Friends, and this only solidifies it.

Recommended.

Afterthoughts –

  • I do have to point out what I see is becoming a movie trope.  Much like actors have to be in a prison movie at some point in their career, actresses are finding it necessary to play against their normal glamorous nature – Charlize Theron in Monster, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, and so on.  I’m not against that in the least!  I welcome the change, but I hope that doesn’t become an obligatory thing.
  • FYI, the name Claire Bennett stuck in my craw for a while, until I realized that Claire Bennet was a character on the NBC show Heroes.

American Sniper

I caught American Sniper this weekend. It tells the story of Chris Kyle, a Texan who became a Navy Seal. This is based on the book of the same name. Though he started older than most of the cadets, he becomes a sniper and is deployed for the invasion of Iraq, acting as part of an ‘overwatch’ (support unit) for Marine troops tasked with clearing out cities of enemy combatant. You’d think that the role of a sniper is fairly straightforward, however, since the conflict involves moving through the civilian population, some moral judgements are required.

Along the way, he meets Taya, the woman who becomes his wife. They are married right before a deployment, and keep in touch, via satellite phone, while he’s out there. Taya and Chris struggle to keep the family together in the midst of all the turmoil (sometimes during!), and it leads to an interesting dynamic between the two. Chris is redeployed several times, between the arrival of their two children. His military career is a legacy that I hope lasts for a long time.

The story is pretty linear, but there are some flashbacks, and a flash-forward at the start of the movie. Before sitting down in the theater, I tried to stay ignorant about the goings-on in the story. The movie itself necessarily continues past the end of the book, and has its own significance, considering what happened.

Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, and Sienna Miller plays Taya. Sienna, to me, melts into the role (I’ve seen her in several films, but couldn’t place her), and Bradley is quite effective, but in a way, aloof. I don’t know how detailed the book was about Chris’ psyche, but in the movie, he’s portrayed as distant, and a bit cold.

There is significant wartime violence, as well as some that is morally objectionable. Be forewarned.

Recommended.

Welcome to the Aisle!

Hello everyone!  I like movies.  No, scratch that, I LOVE movies!  I go out to the theater quite frequently, and used to post quick movie reviews online.  If you’re interested, take a look at some reviews  here

More recently, I’ve been posting them on Facebook, and they’ve gotten hard enough to find, so I decided to start this blog, where you can find them easily. I will be reposting those reviews from the last year’s movies in the near future.

 

Enjoy!

 

Unbroken

Unbroken, the retelling of the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American immigrant whose parents spoke no English. This is an adaptation of the NY Times bestseller of the same title, written by Laura Hillenbrand. This movie also has many flashbacks, and jumps between events. In his teens, Louie is an outcast, picked on for his ethnicity. He manages to overcome that, and participates in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. He becomes a bombardier in World War II, in the Pacific theater. While on a search and rescue mission, his plane goes down and is cast adrift with two survivors. They are eventually captured by the Japanese and interned in Japan. He suffers through the abuse of a Japanese soldier, and tries to survive.

It’s a very compelling tale, directed by, surprisingly, Angelina Jolie. The flashbacks disappear before the final third of the film, and you’re left wondering what will happen, in the end. Jack O’Connell, as Louie, was the only memorable prisoner. Takamasa Ishihara was the prison guard Wantanabe, who became the major tormentor, and he provided the right amount of intensity. This film represents prison life, and is quite brutal. I was quite stunned when I saw that Joel and Ethan Coen were listed as the first and second screenwriters (two others besides Laura received credit), but given the story and nature of the film, it seems about right.

It seems that most American movie actors, at some point, have to star in a prison film, and this film allows Jack to make that check mark. WIthout straining too hard, Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, Paul Newman, Robert Redford (twice!), Burt Reynolds (and Adam Sandler in the remake) immediately come to mind as also having that check mark. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, so no need to point them out.

I really am on the fence with this film. I can say with certainty that if you want to see it, you don’t need to see it in the theaters. Most of the cast exist to serve the plot, but the ‘atmosphere’ didn’t quite gel for me. None of the other prisoners were all that memorable to me, as was also the case for entirety of the Japanese captors, besides Wantanabe. They seemed to exist just there as filler. I do want to grumble a little about the trailer, but I don’t want to say more.

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, a dramatization of the life of Alan Turing. Turing is considered one of the fathers of modern computing. His main accomplishments took place during World War II, when he became a part of the British effort to crack some of Germany’s codes. The codes would be changed daily, frustrating much of the efforts for timely work. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who most people will recognize as the current incarnation of Sherlock on BBC TV. Turing was antisocial, didn’t understand most people, and IMO, borderline autistic, and that is demonstrated in the film.

 

The film itself takes place in three times during his life – school, WWII, and postwar, and jumps between the three periods quite well. I do not want to spoil the outcome of the film, but I do have to say that this is one of the best films of last year. Highly recommended, despite casting Kiera Knightley.

Top Five

Originally posted on FB on December 14, 2014 ·

I saw Top Five, Chris Rock’s new movie. It’s pretty much a more Rom-Com version of Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. A comedian who’s made a successful string of cornball movies about a bear who works for the police is now trying to break away from what everyone expects of him.

His new film is a serious one, about a slave uprising in Haiti. It’s just premiered, but it’s being ignored in favor of his upcoming wedding to a reality TV star played by Gabrielle Union. She’s a borderline Kardashian, backed by Bravo, who’s filming it. Chris Rock’s character has been able to avoid the reality TV limelight, and is in NYC to promote the film. The pressure’s on and no one wants to take him seriously. Several well known interviewers appear in the film. Somewhere, he’s been convinced to let a reporter from the Times to trail him for the day, and and was played by Rosario Dawson. She starts out by asking him why he isn’t funny anymore, and it goes downhill from there. If you know the rules of Rom-Com, you know what happens. They wander the streets of NYC, visit his childhood home, and so on, all while the reporter is trying to grill him for actual details of what’s happened.

It’s a very funny movie. There are some unexpected comedic moments that help this film from being the typical no-brainer crap that Hollywood churns out on a regular basis. The end was just the icing on the cake, IMO.

Recommended.