Review of Jupiter Asending – Just don’t bother

Drink in that picture isn’t it very pretty? Yep it’s lovely. Congratulations you’ve got the best that this film has to offer. Which film is it you ask? Why it is Jupiter Ascending of course the latest offering from the Wachkowski’s of Matrix, Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas fame.

Review

Typically, I put a plot synopsis before these reviews afterall it good to give everyone an idea of the film. I’m not bothering in this case though because, the plot of this one is almost completely non-existent. No one connected with the writing of this film spent anytime looking at the script of dialogue for this one and boy oh boy does it show.

I’m a fan of the Wachowski’s and I’m a fan sci-fi who enjoys space opera. It isn’t a genre that gets put out much in blockbuster form in the cinema anymore. In fact big budget action films don’t get put out anymore unless they are a Marvel properties.

Finding myself unexpectedly with a free afternoon and finding that Ex Machina wasn’t on for hours but Jupiter Ascending in 3D was I took the plunge and stumped up for a ticket plus 3d glasses. I’m not asking for my money back but it was close.

To give the film a brief bit of praise it is visually stunning and if you are going to see it you might as well see it in 3D. The extra dimension whilst not in any way necessary does at least provide an extra veneer of entertainment and as 3D goes it is done really well.

I can’t put it off any longer lets talk about the “plot”.

The main character is a princess who gets to inherit Earth as her birthright. Far enough you think lets run with that only it isn’t that simple because, technically she is a reincarnation of the mother of this family that owns the planet Earth along with thousands of other planets. How is she a reincarnation you ask?

Well as a brief bit of dialogue tells us it is spiritual for these space humans so we wouldn’t understand it but be assured audience that the main character is an exact genetic replica of the ruling matriarch of this space royal family and therefore she can inherit. Do her children like this though? Well the daughter kind of seems to. One son wants to marry his mother so he can then kill her and get Earth (talk about mommy issues) and the other son (Eddie Redmayne) just wants mommy dearest dead.

You might be confused by all that but let me assure I’ve given it as much thought if not more than the film makers did. Theoretically, this reincarnation idea that could be interesting and the directors have certainly shown themselves willing/able to deal with complex issues in other sci-fi films they have done.

In this case though there is no explanation or thought about the plot or Lord forbid any themes. Instead I found myself wondering about incidental things such as how stupid is the dad to fight over and get killed over a telescope when the robbers are leaving? If the main character is meant to be an exact genetic replica of the mother shown in the stature then why doesn’t the statute look more like her? Or even more puzzlingly if the main character has a Russian family but has lived and worked in the USA all her life then why does her Russian/American cousin have a broad Aussie accent? When you are watching a sci-fi film with talking dinosaurs, bee-man hybrids, wolf-man hybrids and you are wondering about such things than you know the film is in deep smelly trouble without a paddle.

If the film isn’t a classic then you might hope to enjoy it either as cheesy fun or as so-bad-it’s-good fodder. Sadly, it doesn’t do either. The actor performances are all very toned down save for Eddie Redmayne who is doing some bizarre low voice thing that might be his attempt at scenery chewing camp but succeeds neither in being entertaining or making you think he is a villain of any note.

The film then lacks any interesting characters, plot or stakes. The characters kind of wonder from one event to another without ever being in any threat.

Even when Channing Tatum’s character is dumped out of an airlock there is no sense of peril. There is no hint at how he will survive but you can’t believe that the film would kill a character off or come up with a clever way for the character to live and so it doesn’t. Tatum’s wolf-man hybrid survives because he kicked off a piece of the space ship as he was ejected and this piece of spaceship apparently doubles as a space suit. So the bad guys are so incompetent that when executing someone by spacing him they leave behind a spacesuit for him to survive! WTF! If I wasn’t so bored by this point that a nap seemed interesting I might have got annoyed.

Jupiter Ascending has little to it apart from looking good. Given how they adapted Cloud Atlas to the big screen one can only presume that the Wachowski’s felt the need to do something more narratively simple as a palate cleanser. Unfortunately, Jupiter Ascending doesn’t cleanse the palate but leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Review of Foxcatcher (SPOILER WARNING)

So in my attempts to keep this blog up to date with nothing but the latest cinematic offerings (and since it is Oscar season) here is my thoughts on Foxcatcher.

Foxcatcher Synopsis (off wikipedia)

When wealthy John du Pont (Steve Carell) invites Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to move to his estate and help form a wrestling team for the 1988 Olympics, Mark sees a way to step out of the shadow of his charismatic brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). However, du Pont begins to lead Mark down a dark road, causing the athlete’s self-esteem to slip. Meanwhile, du Pont becomes fixated on bringing Dave into the fold, eventually propelling all three toward an unforeseen tragedy.

Foxcatcher Review

It seems that Foxcatcher has received nothing but lavish praise. Critics love it and it has been nominated for five Academy Awards including for Script, Director, Leading Actor and Supporting Actor.

Given this and my knowledge of the ending I went into Foxcacther expecting to see something special. Review spoiler alert I didn’t.

Yes, the film is really well acted (and the makeup is great) but the characters are one note, the film is overly long and in short the film is not as interesting or clever as the critics and director think it is.

Foxcatcher revels in explaining or attempting to explain character motivations not with dialogue but with actions. The film begins with a long twenty to thirty minute sequence or wrestling and day to day routine. Little to nothing is said but the characters are being developed anyway.

The main character Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) for instance is shown to be leading a lonely life in which he is overshadowed by his brother Davis Schultz. This is interesting enough in theory and in particular you can see why the critics loved it.

As the film drags on though the one-dimensionality of the characters becomes painfully apparent and the film collapses under it. You see exposition through lack of dialogue only works where there is ambiguity where there are multiple interpretations for the actions of characters i.e. in situations where the characters are interesting. The problem is though that the Foxcatcher characters aren’t interesting.

Mark Schultz didn’t know his dad and is looking for a father figure whilst trying to climb out of his brother’s shadow. John ‘Eagle’ Du Pont (Steve Carrell) meanwhile has crippling emotional issues with the distant mother who he cannot please. This is told in cliched and hamfisted ways. A ‘key’ character moment for example is when Du Pont tells Mark that his mother paid his only childhood friend to be his friend. David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) meanwhile is essentially perfect.

If the dialogue lacking and the characters flat the director then doubles down on the film with an overly long run time and lots of scenic shots of the Foxcatcher estate.

After giving Foxcather a good kicking I will conclude by giving it some deserved but qualified praise. The murder scene at the end it is brutally arresting and dramatic. It comes about 30 minutes too late to save the film even more disappointingly it may have succeeded if the scene had been edited into the beginning and everything had been shown in flashback.

As it is then Foxcatcher just didn’t grip me.