Monday, February 9, 2015

Jupiter Ascending

I usually don't pay the general critical consensus on a movie much mind, as many of my favorite movies have been panned by critics. So I went into this thing with an open mind, thinking it looked genuinely interesting based on trailers and such, and having enjoyed most of the Wachowski siblings' other movies. However, sadly, it would appear that the critics are right on the mark about this one. Jupiter Ascending is nothing more than a steaming piece of dog shit.

Reportedly, when this played at a recent film festival, there were a lot of walkouts from this movie, and I gotta say that I can completely understand, because my god was this movie hard to sit through. I can't even recall the last time I was so antsy at the theater, just praying for it to roll credits already.

And I can't even tell you why I bothered to stick it through to the end. Maybe just to see if it would ever get better? After all, there were two specific exchanges between its stars (Mila Kunis as Jupiter and Channing Tatum as some sort of human/dog hybrid person thing) that I especially enjoyed, and that happened back to back. The first involved a joke where Jupiter wanted some privacy to change her clothes, alluding to a weird scenario from earlier in the movie, and which had some nice comedic timing from Tatum. This was then followed up with another nice little moment between the two and a joke about Jupiter loving dogs, which actually got a good chuckle out of me.

It was around this time that the film started to give me some hope of perhaps having a bit of a turnaround, and I was open for it to wind up being perhaps something decent after all. However, immediately following these two moments, we're then sent on a tedious montage segment of sorts in which our characters keep running back and forth between legal departments to try and make Jupiter's royal heritage official. And after this little departure finally wraps up, Jupiter cracks a joke about never complaining about having to go to the DMV after having gone through all of that, and I couldn't help but agree more. I would gladly visit the DMV over sitting through this shitty movie again any day.

I mentioned the previous scene as being tedious, and really, that word can be used to describe most everything else in this god forsaken thing, not the least of which would be the action scenes. I swear, they just drag on and on and on, and they're so sloppily pieced together, with so much going on so quickly that you can never really register quite what's happening, which isn't aided at all by the fact that they're all so god damn boring that I found my mind wandering against my will constantly. It is very possible that the action scenes in this movie are the absolute most mind numbing and incompetent action sequences that I have ever seen in any movie. Ever.

And the writing, god, lines such as "You're my own personal Jesus Christ" from The Matrix are subtle compared to some of the schlock we get here. The freaking aliens flat out name drop Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, for those of you in the audience too dumb to pick up on some of the "inspirations" (god does using this word to in any way describe this movie make me cringe) behind this plot. And wooden delivery of lines such as a commander telling Channing Tatum to "aim true" will just leave you sighing and rolling your eyes in agony.

But god damn, there's so many stupid and pointless aspects to this movie, I don't even know where to begin. Maybe with the damn bees...

... which is how we initially discover that Jupiter is really of space royalty, by the fact that she can apparently control them. Except, after this initial scene, they literally do nothing else with the bees. No, really, nothing at all. They never return again, they're just randomly there to randomly deus ex machina Jupiter to royalty, and just as randomly disappear for the remainder of the movie. Seriously, why give this girl the power to control bees, and then proceed to do exactly nothing with that?! What is the point?! And this isn't even a one-off occurrence, as the movie introduces several seemingly important characters and plot elements all throughout, only to then completely abandon them without any sort of resolution.

But returning to our royal heroine, Jupiter is also just about the most useless character around, playing the damsel in distress who Channing Tatum has to race to save at the very last second, shit, I forget how many times throughout the entire course of this thing. I mean, not only is this movie a redundancy of just about any other sci-fi flick or space opera you may have seen, it's a fucking redundancy of itself!

Speaking on those other sci-fi flicks for a second, hell, have you seen any of them? Any other sci-fi movie ever? Well then good, then you should be well prepared for what to expect from this movie in terms of its visuals, because this just looks like an absolute mish-mash of every sci-fi movie out there, with some of the least inspired designs this side of the galaxy. The god damn Green Lantern movie (another movie I'd much rather watch again than this) had more inspired character designs and locales than what's seen in this dump heap of science fiction rejects.

And then the movie contradicts itself by having Channing Tatum literally riding a spaceship from the outside to another planet. This was dumb as hell, sure, but from this happening, we should at least be able to ascertain that surely this means Tatum's character can breath and survive in space, right? Except, no, that's not right, because later on, when he's ejected from a ship into the vacuum of space, he desperately scrambles to fit himself into a spacesuit so that he doesn't suffocate and/or freeze to death. Er, 'kay, way to keep consistent there, guys.

And don't even get me started on freaking Eddie Redmayne's character. I'm not even gonna blame that on the actor, though, that comes squarely down to some truly shit direction with what they gave to him, having him speak in "ominous" (emphasis on the quotations there) whispers, only to burst out into screams at absolute random. It was a level of over-the-top that wasn't even entertaining to watch, just groan inducing, like you couldn't believe that you were actually seeing this shit play out like it was. Unbelievable.

Oh yeah, and Sean Bean doesn't even die. I swear, only the worst movies like Silent Hill: Revelation and this shit actually let Sean Bean live. I mean, really, what the hell, how do you fuck that up?

Okay, I might not be too serious about that last offense, but as for the rest of this thing, well, let's just say that I had the urge to chuck my drink at the screen on so many occasions throughout, because this movie was just infuriating. There were no stakes to be had at all, because the movie gives you no reason to give a shit about anything, despite the mountains of expository lines being spewed out at any given moment. No, the only thing this movie gave me was a god damn headache.

If I'm being fair, I should admit that the lead performances from Kunis and Tatum were perfectly fine for the most part, and the sound design was pretty admirable as well. But honestly, that's about all the praise I really have to give this thing, which really has nothing else going for it at all. And after coming off such a strong year for science fiction movies last year, to have to start off the new year with this, well, it's a little disheartening, to say the absolute least.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I don't want to see a Dredd sequel

I love the movie Dredd, and I still think that it was the best movie released in 2012, hands down. That said, and contrary to popular opinion for fans of this flick, I have no desire to see a sequel to this movie.

I felt that Dredd was a perfectly fine film on its own, and one that really doesn't require a sequel. It gets in, it does its thing and tells us a complete story, and it gets out in satisfying fashion. Now, I'm not saying that a sequel to this movie would inherently be a bad thing or anything, just that it feels an unnecessary direction to go.

With so many movies these days being pointlessly split up into multi-parters or drawn out tirelessly with sequel after sequel, I've found myself growing more and more appreciative of the stand-alone movie. Not everything has to be a series, and not every good movie needs a sequel. I'm perfectly fine with letting a good movie stand on its own, and quite frankly, I'd kinda like to see more of that.

But looking at just how bad movies have gotten in this regard as of late, you need look no further than the likes of The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and just about every YA series adaptation whose final film is pointlessly split into two. It's kind of a shame that this trend has caught on, because now there are so many film series that conclude so unsatisfyingly, because their final installments aren't being presented as complete stories.

I went on about this in my review of The Battle of the Five Armies, but I'll reiterate how the last two Harry Potter flicks were especially affected negatively by this. Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a great film, until it suddenly ends in anticlimactic fashion, because they decided to split the story in half. And then Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is now merely the missing climax to the previous film, only without any of the set-up, making for an ultimately unfulfilling experience on its own.

And now, as I look ahead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and see that the third Avengers flick is similarly going to be split in half, I'm sorry, but this makes me really not look forward to those far off films. I mean, it really isn't that hard to tell a complete story within the confines of a typical movie run time. And if you, the filmmaker, are finding problems in this regard, then perhaps the medium you should be really working in is television.

Now sure, I understand the financial reasons behind this trend of splitting up big franchise movies, and as long as people keep paying up, then we can expect for the trend to only continue. But in the end, while the studios are making bank with this model, they're also leaving behind a legacy of incomplete movies that, on their own, just flat out do not work. Hell, just recently I finally got around to watching Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, and it was only after watching those two movies back to back that I actually felt that the story as a whole really, truly worked. Because previously, having only seen Vol. 1 separately, I honestly didn't think it was a good movie, and it really boiled down to it being an incomplete story on its own.

But going back to the Marvel Universe again, I would say that in terms of a series of films, on the whole it's done really well, and a lot of that can be attributed to how most of the individual movies within the series also work so well on their own, and in many cases don't necessarily require the other movies to make them work. But they've created a working model that a lot of studios are eager to jump on the bandwagon with, and, well, it remains to actually be seen, but just based on the information that keeps popping up on some of these copycat projects, I don't have much faith that some of these other studios will be able to mimic Marvel's success in terms of actual quality, let alone in actually allowing for their brands to truly exist on their own, removed from their given "universe".

But I digress, and though I do speak of my growing appreciation for the stand-alone movie, that's not to say that there isn't a market for movie series at all. For instance, there's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which really wouldn't work as a one-shot deal. And it's a series of movies that not only tells a full story over the course of the three films, but each film within the series feels like a complete piece of the story on its own as well, which is largely why it works on the whole so well.

Where as, on the other hand, something like The Matrix trilogy doesn't quite work, since the first part feels like a complete story that probably should have been a stand-alone, but needlessly had two sequels tacked onto it. And not only that, but the two new entries weren't even complete stories themselves either, what with Reloaded's obnoxious cliff-hanger ending.

And then, of course, there are those big franchise movies, like the Marvel flicks, that feel like they're naturally setting up future installments, hence the first of these series typically being an "origins" movie of sorts (which also just happens to be another currently over-done movie type that I'd like a breather from, but that's another rant entirely). And in such cases, these movies are being made with multiple movies in mind from the outset. Like, when you watch the first Spider-Man movie, it explicitly uses its run time to establish who this character is and how his powers work in this world, leaving room to be further explored in depth in future installments.

In fact, another recent movie that I've heard a number of people say that they would've loved to see play out as either a mini-series or something expanded like that was Interstellar. And, while I can see where those people are coming from with this mindset, I really couldn't disagree more.

Interstellar was a movie that easily could have been played out as a TV mini-series or, in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, split into a multi-part movie series. But that's one of the things I truly loved about that movie, is that it went in and told its complete story in one go, and it didn't feel the need to leave anything open to return to and revisit in a possible future installment. It was just absolutely perfect in this regard, and it gave the movie such an all around complete feeling to it that so many "open-ended" movies just lack, and it made it all the more intensely satisfying as a result.

But now we get back to Dredd, and, as with Interstellar, that's just one of the things I really appreciated about the movie. Despite being a comic book movie, it didn't feel the need to delve in an origin story for our central character, nor did it feel the need to pointlessly sequel bait itself either. It was perfectly confident in just going in and telling its full story, and leaving it at that. And I really dug that about it.

And yeah, sure, of course there's the possibility for a sequel. After all, the Dredd rip-off, The Raid (that's right, look it up, The Raid copied Dredd, not the other way around), had a phenomenal follow-up, and who's to say that Dredd wouldn't be able to follow suit? But the point I'm trying to make is that it's not a necessary route to take. There's enough series and sequels out there as it is without dropping another one on us.

That said, I do love that the movie has enough passionate fans willing to support a movie such as this. But for me personally, I like to look at my support for the movie as not being towards making more future installments of the same thing, but rather, to show support towards filmmakers willing to take similar risks in order to get their original ideas put out there, even if in this case it took utilizing an established property to do so. But that's what I support, and it's what movies these days could definitely do with just a little bit more of, is some good ol' fashioned originality.