Jupiter Ascending: Review

Jupiter Ascending

Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending.
Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending.

3 stars

Written & Directed by Andy & Lana Wachowski; Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne

The Wachowskis really need Warner Brothers to tell them no. Or at least rein them in. Because ever since The Matrix, they’ve been, at best, too scattered and in their own way. Speed Racer aside, of course, that’s a highly underrated film.

Jupiter Ascending, as a film, tries to be too much. There’s too much going on that the great film it should be, and could be, becomes lost amid the overly convoluted universe the Wachowskis attempt to build. The potential to be a great, THE great sci-fi film is there, it’s right within reach. But that doesn’t wholly prevent the film being enjoyable. I still had fun watching it. It certainly wasn’t the mess it was made out to be. It was just a little… muddled

The Wachowskis build a universe with its own rules and operates fully abiding by said rules. And as long as you, the viewer, accept that, not expecting it to play by another universe’s rules, then you’ll walk away mostly satisfied. The problem is that the whole thing feels rushed. They crammed way too much into the film that it everything that should have been fleshed out gets glossed over, and before you have a chance to contemplate it, the film has moved onto something else for you to get confused by.

Tatum has done well to prove himself as a not terrible actor. He flexed his comedy muscles in the 21 Jump Street films with surprisingly good results, then flirted with awards season recognition in Foxcatcher, despite not quite sticking the landing, granted that’s through no fault of his own, the film kinda sucks. He handles the unique-ness of the sci-fi world extremely well, diving into the character to really sell the story. He really tries, to his credit.

That credit can be given to everyone else. From Kunis, Bean, Redmayne and the rest of the cast, to visual effects team, the cinematographer, everyone. It’s a pure exercise in “Best with what they’re given.” Maybe not Redmayne, I don’t know what he was going for with that voice he affected. Just a loud whisper

The problem is 100% the Wachowskis. They’re afforded too much creative freedom and too much money by Warner Brothers, and it feels like they’ve let it go to their heads. They’ve still got the ideas, but they need help focusing those ideas to be more concise. This is one instance where I think studio interference would actually be a good thing.

All that said… I’d still definitely recommend this film to sci-fi fans. Worth it if you find yourself with a few hours to kill on a lazy weekend afternoon and this pops up on Netflix.

Reviews: 21 Jump Street & Casa de mi Padre

21 Jump Street
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

4 Stars

Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson and Ice Cube

The box office is littered with failed big screen updates of long gone TV shows. For every The Fugitive, there’s an I Spy. Fortunately for us, “21 Jump Street” wasn’t a television icon, and the film version is a surprisingly daring comedy.

Both Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are treading new water. Hill’s not known for action, Tatum’s not known for comedy, but both are able to keep the other afloat in their respective genres of expertise, which in turn allows each to shine their unfamiliar genres. Hill is completely capable as an action star, though I doubt he’ll make that his career focus. Tatum surprises. I’ve tried over the years to give him a chance, but has yet to impress until now. Amongst some very funny people, including Hill, Rob Riggle and Ellie Kemper, Tatum holds his own, and shows that he’s actually got some talent under those chiseled good looks.

The biggest obstacle this film had to overcome was creating a plausible scenario, especially in this day and age, for two 25 year-olds to be able to pass as high schoolers. And they address this issue in some very hilarious ways, with various characters calling Hill’s Schmidt and Tatum’s Jenko out for being overly physically developed, having antiquated views on high school, and their tastes in music.

The film has a sloppy first 20 minutes, that really struggles to capture your interest. The set-up feels rushed, and feels lacking. It just jumps straight from “We’re not friends in high school,” to “let’s be best buds at police academy” without any real intermediate exposition. But once it gets over that hump, it’s perfectly paced and keeps the laughs coming non-stop. It just could have used with a little bit more upfront.

Definitely worth a look in theatres, and when you do, keep an eye out for some fun cameos from the original TV cast.

Casa de mi Padre
Will Ferrell in Casa de mi Padre

Casa de mi Padre

1 star

Starring Will Ferrell, Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal and Genesis Rodriguez

Grindhouse cinema has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, much to my delight. And with a genre’s popularity, comes parodies. Unfortunately for parodies, there’s a fine line between brilliance and utter stupidity, and Casa de mi Padre falls into the latter.

One of the numerous Grindhouse sub-genres was Mexploitation, films focusing on Mexican characters and plot lines (similar to Blaxploitation and Ozploitation) and Will Ferrell takes aim squarely at the genre. The film provides some decent enough laughs, as well as such respected actors as Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna getting silly, but over all, it just completely falls flat.

The problem comes from the fact that this doesn’t lovingly take the conventions and turn them on its head. It more makes fun of them. Where as 2009’s Black Dynamite not only serves as a parody, but could also actually exist inside the genre, Padre just looks at the camera and says “Look how goofy these movies were, huh?!”

Major props to Ferrell though, for stepping outside his comfort zone and try something new. He even did his whole role in Spanish. It’s commendable, but he soon dives into his usual bag of tricks, and just becomes “Will Ferrell… EN ESPANOL!” Which is somehow more annoying, even though I can’t understand him.

The most enjoyable parts are Bernal when he’s letting loose, being funny. It’s a side of him we don’t normally get to see. That’s the only nice thing I have to say about Padre. Don’t even wait for the DVD on this one. If you find yourself bored on a Saturday afternoon in a few years, and this comes on cable… maybe watch it. If you still have cable by then.

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