Jupiter Ascending Review

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Dir: The Wachowskis

Writer(s): The Wachowskis

Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Tuppence Middleton, and Eddie Redmayne

Synopsis: In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by a ruthless son of a powerful family that live on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

The Wachowskis broke on to the scene with their smash and cult-hit The Matrix. Everyone fell in love with them, and then they started to go downward with a lot people after the sequels to The Matrix and Speed Racer, even Cloud Atlas had fans divided. Nonetheless, The Wachoski siblings have always been passionate about their projects and put a lot of work into creating the world and trying to get the audience into the world as much as possible. All of that can be said for Jupiter Ascending, problem is the film falls flat in areas and while there are highlights, ultimately the film is nothing more than an tiny bit average film.

 

The film follows Russian immigrant Jupiter Jones (Kunis), who works as a house maid but unbeknownst to her, she possesses the same genetic makeup from a powerful galactic royal family the Abrasax’s. She then finds out that she has some rights to Earth, (yes, the planet Earth). Because of this Jupiter is targeted by the three Abrasax siblings; Balem (Redmayne), Titus (Booth), and Kalique (Middleton). Lucky for Jupiter, she had a hybrid soldier turned mercenary in Caine Wise (Tatum) to help her. Unfortunately, they get caught up in a family feud and have to try to survive with the help of only a limited few.

 

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Again, Jupiter Ascending isn’t a perfect film and while it has some great things about it, it fails to capture on those things to help it move forward. The set design and costumes are beautiful to look at and add to the  whole building a bit, in the sense that you get where these characters are coming from and how they go about their life, but that’s all they are there for, to look pretty.

 

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Even some of the cool straight sci-fi stuff, like Caine’s gravity boots are really cool to see the first few times, but after a while they lose a bit of their specialness. The guns make the sound you would think sci-fi intergalactic weapons would make, and while cool to look at, they stop using them around the first half of the movie. The ships are another story. One of the main ships the characters use is nice to see fly through the streets of Chicago and destroy any building in sight, but once they get into actual space it, again, lose something at it even though the design of the ship looks great.

 

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The real problem with Jupiter Ascending is the story itself. While it’s nice to know what the creatures are and how everything works for these galactic characters, sometimes it is just better to let the audience enjoy the film and everything around it. I don’t really consider this nitpicky, just an observation because we see other films that don’t explain every single thing and still turn out to be good. I get that the Wachoskis are trying to get us invested in this world, but by the end of the film only a few things they explain turn out to be important and relevant.

 

The cast here is okay. It’s a nice change of the norm to have a female hero in a big sci-fi film like this with Mila Kunis playing Jupiter. Kunis gives Jupiter an equal level of being naïve, determination, and some unfortunate lack of seeing the bad in people. Let’s just say she gets caught in pretty much the same situation twice in the span of a half hour. Channing Tatum’s Caine Wise is a soldier that has wolf DNA in him, which gives him the fearlessness of a wolf and will do anything to protect Jupiter. His character isn’t just in it to protect her either, even though there is a somewhat forced love story, Caine does have a motivation to helping Jupiter.

 

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The other supporting characters are kind of forgettable. That’s not a knock on the actors playing them, it is just that they don’t really do anything and don’t really get fleshed out that much. Sean Bean is one of the noticeable supporting characters as he plays a character named Stinger, who has a history with Caine and tells Jupiter –and the audience – what is really going on.

 

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The Abrasax siblings don’t really do much. We get a quick scene of them all together, the only scene mind you, and then they disappear with the expectation of Balem. Redmayne looks to be enjoying himself chewing up the scenery while talking in his above whispering voice and occasions shouting. Out of the three siblings, Redmayne’s Balem is the most fleshed out character, even though he has about twenty minutes of screen time. Douglas Booth’s Titus is the “playboy” of the three and does something kind of creepy which you’ll know when it happens. Tuppence Middleton’s Kalique Abrasax is really just kind of there, she only serves one purpose of telling Jupiter what the Abrasax really do; she is the weakest of the three.

 

All in all, Jupiter Ascending isn’t a perfect movie, but there is some fun to it. You can get lose in the action scenes, especially the Chicago scene (maybe I’m biased), but there are a lot of characters that show up and do nothing for the film and then disappear – which includes two bounty hunters. Visually the movie is great to look at and while the story fumbles with itself, you’re going to have at least some fun watching it, kind of.

 

Jupiter Ascending

3 out of 5

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“Oz the Great and Powerful” Review

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Dir: Sam Raimi

Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, and Joey King

Synopsis: A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.

 

*Reviewer Note: This review, like all my other reviews, will be spoiler free and will NOT compare this movie to The Wizard of Oz (only a bit but huge like some other review out there). Also, I did not see this in 3D but I hear the 3D is great*

 

“I don’t want to be a good man… I want to be a great one” – Oz

 

This is essentially the journey we take with our main character Oscar “Oz” Diggs (Franco) as he lands in “The Land of Oz.” The movie itself acts a as a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s original story of The Wizard of Oz and follows Oz who is a pretty much selfish, womanizing and ego driven small town magician in a traveling circus who dreams of being that great man. Oz eventually lands in The Land of Oz after getting caught in a tornado and meets Theodora (Kunis).

Once there he finds out that there is a legend of a great wizard that will get rid of the wicked witch that is causing chaos and destruction all over the land. Oz goes along with it when he finds out that it comes with a nice reward of a room full of gold and being named king. Even though Theodora believes in him her sister, Evanora (Weisz), isn’t so impressed and to prove that he is the great wizard they have been waiting for she sends him to the Dark Forrest to get rid of the Wicked Witch.

On his journey he has companions in Finley the Flying Monkey (voiced by Braff), who is pretty much the comic relief on the group and also delivers his line with some charm. Then there is little China Girl (voice by King), made of porcelain, and is found by Finley and Oz in a destroyed city and looks to be the last of her kind. She’s probably going to be some people’s favorite characters with her witty-ness, charming, and tough attitude.

Then they encounter Glinda the good (Williams) and from there the movie changes in some tone and performances. I know that sounds vague but I don’t want to give too much away, especially if you’re not familiar with The Wizard of Oz (which really? The movie came out in 1939 COME ON) or Baum’s story.

Now let’s get performances shall we. Franco as the lead is good to a point. You can tell he’s having fun with the role and plays the character in a way like he’s always performing on a stage. As the movie progress he does change a bit but never in the way that hurts the film. Williams as Glinda is very calm and never really changes her attitude from the moment that we see her. Kunis is the interesting choice all of them, her performance may come off as “off putting” at times but other times it seems like some she could fit in the 30’s or 40’s era films. Then there’s the always reliable Rachel Weisz who like Franco looks to be having fun with her role and you’re almost kind of drawn to her when he’s on screen.

Now, I know people are going to try to find things that allude to The Wizard of Oz and it’s not a bad thing. There is quiet a lot of references and allusion to the Wizard of Oz,  then again it is a prequel, that aren’t always in your face. You kind have to look for them in the background or listen to the characters (or watch for similarities of some). For example the movie starts in a black and white frame like the original and then the frame expands with color once we get to Oz and even the famous “Yellow Brick Road.”

However, the biggest thing in this movie is “the land of Oz” itself. The effects in the movie are really beautiful to look at and stunning that make the landscape just a part of the movie as much as the characters. Sometimes the landscape saves the movie or at least improves the scenes.

Oz the Great and Powerful is pretty much a family film in the classic sense of the word. It is filled with big, colorful effects, lovable characters (what’s more lovable about a flying monkey that can talk and cracks jokes right?) and humor. But, it doesn’t mean adults or older audience won’t like the movie either. There are some “horror” moments that could be a little freighting for young viewers but will be nice for Raimi fans.

All in all, Sam Raimi does a pretty good job of bringing us back to the Land of Oz but the movie does slow down at times which kills the momentum just a bit. Will all fans be happy with the final product? Who knows but it’s still a pretty fun movie with action, thrills and humor.

Oz the Great and Powerful

3.5 out of 5