Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Kubo and the Two Strings

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

kubo-and-the-two-strings poster

Directed by Travis Knight

Written by Marc Haimes, Chris Butler and Shannon Tindle

Starring Charlize TheronArt ParkinsonRalph FiennesRooney MaraGeorge Takei & Matthew McConaughey

What a fantastic movie. Kubo and the Two Strings is the tale of a young guitar player & storyteller and his epic adventure to find the end of his own heroic story. I loved this movie so much. It is lyrical like an epic poem and melancholic like an ancient sonnet. And although sometimes its need for comedy can hamper the melody, it’s not enough to ruin the music. And this movie, good god, this movie has everything. A kid with a huge chip on his shoulder, who likes to tell stories and play his guitar for passing strangers, while dreaming of one day being a god. Throw in a mentally ill mom and a tall-tale about his father, and it makes me have to ask, Who the hell’s been reading my diary? But I’ll say it again, this is a fantastic movie.

Verdict: SPARED

kubo-and-his-axe

Kubo wears that guitar like a Katana across his back. Kubo is Japanese for bad-ass.

Kubo & the Two Strings is a tale about family & honor. It’s a fable about love & courage. It’s a story about memory & redemption. But at its core, it’s a meditation about loss and about vision. It is wonderful.

paper-samurai

Paper Samurai is gonna give you a nasty paper cut. You will respect.

Kubo is a young busker, blind in one eye but skilled at the art of story-telling. And blessed with an origami magic he inherited from his mentally disturbed mother. He collects coins he earns from playing his guitar and spinning his stories at the marketplace by day. While at night he hides in his mountain cave… from the moon.

kubos-mom

Kubo’s mom wailing out. (voiced by Charlize Theron)

This is just the beginning of what turns out to be an epic tale full of heroes and villains and love and adventure and sacrifice and discovery and I would surely throw the kid a few coins because this boy can tell a story. Kubo and the Two Strings is well-worth the price of admission.

kubo-and-the-two-strings

Villainous twin sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara)

The animation is a gorgeous combination of stop-motion and conventional artwork. The music is amazing. A beautiful, sparse, traditional Japanese music that creates a reverence for its morality tale. Even the end credits song, a Regina Spektor version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, is fucking incredible in its instrumentation and that same traditional Japanese lyrical beauty. The movie is gorgeous to watch and gorgeous to hear.

kubo

Kubo, he’s a born showman. (voiced by Art Parkinson)

Kubo is perfect. The story. The voice acting. The music. The animation. An amazing movie from top to bottom. With a lovely moral center. Not too sweet. Not too childish. A work of fine art to be displayed in the museum of animation. Is there a museum of animation? If not, somebody please build one so we can put this damn movie in it.

kubo-and-the-two-strings

Beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) has taken offense at something I said. Whatever it was, I take it back.

Kubo is definitely the best animated film I have seen from last year. But granted, I haven’t seen them all yet. However, Kubo and the Two Strings (…and oh my god, the title is so powerful. So perfect. So bad-ass.) Kubo and those mother fucking Two Strings will be a hard one to beat.

– Mel

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5 Quick Reviews of 5 Movies on DVD (Bad Movie Edition)

So sure. I’m calling this a Bad Movie Edition of my 5 Quick Reviews series but it’s more of a Sci-fi Fantasy Edition or a Five Movies That Are Bad But You’ll Probably Still Check Them Out Edition.

The Queens

“Did you hear that, sister? Mel wants us to check them out.” “Why aren’t you dead?”

This is a strange quintet. All five films could be considered sequels or part of a series. They all have great casting. But every single one has a fatal flaw. So maybe I should have called this the Fatal Flawed Movie Edition.

Joker

“I’ll show YOU a fatal flaw.”

But to tell you the truth, I’ve been so busy, I didn’t give it much thought. I have so many reviews on my hard-drive. I’m so far behind. I didn’t even bother to give you a recrap of these movies. Recrap is my own word. It’s when you try to do a recap of a shitty movie like it was good. Recrap. So this is the phoning it in edition. Yes! That’s it. All five directors knew, going in, that they had an audience because fans of the source material were already going to see these films. So they phoned it in.

And so did I…

This is the Phoning It In Edition.

(but honestly I’m too indifferent to get up the energy to even change the title)

To the reviews…

X-Men: Apocalypse (20th Century Fox)

X-Men Apocalypse

Directed by Bryan Singer

Written by Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris  Based on X-Men by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Starring James McAvoyMichael FassbenderJennifer LawrenceOscar IsaacNicholas HoultRose ByrneEvan PetersTye SheridanSophie Turner & Olivia Munn

Wow! what a bad movie. Bad writing and bad directing. There’s really nothing more I can say. A disappointing display. People knock the X-Men original series but all three are better than this piece of shit. X-Men Apocalypse is awful.

X-men Apocalypse Cerebro

Love this cast. Honestly, what a group. With the welcome addition of two of my favorite young actresses; Olivia Munn and Sophie Turner. There is nothing wrong with the cast. But that’s the only thing good here. The rest is shit.

Cyclops and Jean Grey from X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse is the worst X-Men movie ever made. It is horrible in every way imaginable. This stellar cast deserved a lot better than this.

Skip it.

NEXT!!!

Allegiant (Summit Entertainment)

Divergent-Allegiant-Movie-Poster

Directed by Robert Schwentke

Written by Stephen Chbosky, Bill Collage, Adam Coper & Noah Oppenheim  Based on Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Starring Shailene WoodleyTheo JamesJeff DanielsOctavia SpencerRay StevensonZoë KravitzMiles TellerAnsel ElgortMaggie QBill Skarsgård & Naomi Watts

These movies are pointless but this one has some decent tech and an interesting story. I’m guessing these are better books. Allegiant is better than the second one at least but the whole idea of factions was what made the first one just a little more interesting even though it was just as bad as the next two. Am I making any sense? It’s bad. Okay?

The-Divergent-Series-Allegiant1

I’m glad it’s over. It’s over right? Tell me it’s over. I also have a strange observation. I like the actress, Shailene Woodley, but her body grew up and her face did not. She looks like a baby head on a grown woman. The body of a thirty year old well-fit woman and the head of a toddler. It’s disconcerting.

Shailene Woodley from Alegiant

That’ll be enough out of you, Divergent Series. You’ve over-stayed your welcome.

Skip it.

NEXT!!!

Everybody Wants Some!! (Paramount Pictures)

Everybody Wants Some!!

Written & Directed by Richard Linklater

Starring Will BrittainZoey DeutchRyan GuzmanTyler HoechlinBlake JennerGlen Powell & Wyatt Russell

Everybody Wants Some!! is classic Linklater and in my book that’s just fine with me. The man is one of my cinematic heroes. An artist with entirely his own style. I love everything he does. Everybody Wants Some!! is a sort of sequel to Dazed and Confused.

Everybody Wants Some Matthew McConaughey

My big problem with Everybody Wants Some!! is one of the central jokes or themes of it. In it. About it. Whatever. Everyone… Every mother fucking person in this movie is playing Matthew McConaughey. ALL OF THEM. The women. The men. Everybody is doing a McConaughey impression. It’s funny at first then becomes a bit creepy as it continues for the entire film.

Everybody Wants Some Alright Alright Alright

Everybody Wants Some!! is an amazingly entertaining film where little to nothing happens but “Life” happens. You know… classic Linklater but I need to tell you that everyone in this thing is playing a version of Matthew McConaughey from movies or appearances throughout his life and career. That’s the joke.

Everybody Wants Some

ALL of the characters are Matthew. But I still loved this quirky piece of shit. Linklater can do no wrong. The man is a god.

Rent it.

NEXT!!!

Batman: The Killing Joke (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Batman The Killing Joke

Directed by Sam Liu

Written by Brian Azzarello  Based on Batman: The Killing Joke by Brian Bolland and Alan Moore

Starring Kevin ConroyMark HamillTara Strong & Ray Wise

ATTENTION: IT HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION THAT I WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION AND I SPOIL THIS MOVIE AND THE COMIC BOOK TERRIBLY IN THIS QUICK REVIEW.

IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SPOIL THIS FILM OR DON’T KNOW THE STORY OF THE COMIC THEN DON’T READ THIS REVIEW.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

This is a mistake. You can’t screw up a great story like this. I know it’s a little too dark for the animated world but it’s the whole point of the story. Batman finally realizes that it’s pointless. Joker’s too dangerous to lock up. Too unpredictable to leave in Arkham Asylum. Too smart to underestimate. And too sadistic to let live. He paralyzes poor Barbara just for shits and giggles, so Batman kills him. Batman kills Joker. He breaks his neck at the end. You don’t have to agree with Batman’s decision but don’t change the story. Then it’s not the same story and you just piss me off.

batman-the-killing-joke-batgirl

The ending is not ambiguous in the comic book. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you because Batman kills someone, it is a great story. The only thing uncomfortable about the animated adaptation is that Batgirl sleeps with her boss. It’s kind of weird.

Barbara and her gay friend in Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke is just that… a joke; They could have really told a dark and powerful Batman story but they didn’t and it kills me. And yeah the whole first part with Barbara Gordon and her awkward relationship with The Dark Knight is strange at best but I was thinking they were adding an extra layer to the final joke. Nope. She’s annoying. Her gay best friend is annoying. And it doesn’t change the fact that they wimp out in the end.

The-Killing-Joke

I’m watching that first part thinking okay this is good they’re making it more personal so they can justify the final act. But no. But no such luck. But go ahead and rent it anyway. It’s a wonderful story after the initial 30 minutes of Bat-Girlyness are over.

Rent it.

and Lastly…

The Huntsman Winter’s War (Universal Pictures)

Huntsman-Winters-War-poster

Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos & Craig Mazin  Based on Characters by Evan DaughertyThe Snow Queen by Hans Christian AndersenSnow White by The Brothers Grimm

Starring Chris HemsworthCharlize TheronEmily BluntNick FrostSam ClaflinRob Brydon & Jessica Chastain and Narrated by Liam Neeson

I think I liked the first movie. I didn’t like this one very much. It plods along awkwardly. It starts off as a prequel and then suddenly turns into a sequel. It’s almost like they want you to pause the film and watch the first one because it’s easy to get lost and they just jump over the events of the first Huntsman movie and if you don’t remember it you can get a bit lost. I got a little lost but it’s gorgeous to look at.

The Huntsman Winter's War

I liked the story of Winter’s War, even the true-love elements which can seem a little corny. Like a romantic fairy-tale and that’s the point. So I don’t blame the story for the movie being bad. I blame the direction. Instead of playing up the fairy-tale elements, thus making the true-love theme fit the movie, the director plays up the epic quest a little too much and it feels like the romance is weirdly out-of-place.

The Lovers The Huntsman Winter's War

Winter’s War is a tough movie to like. But I did like the story. I just thought it was badly directed. I guess it’s worth a look. But in my opinion, the first one, with Snow White, is way better. Though Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain are both amazing.

Rent it.

So To Recap…

There were two movies about awkward love affairs between bad-ass warriors shoehorned into classic stories; Batman: The Killing Joke and The Huntsman Winter’s War. In one case I wanted to see a lot more of the romance, In the other, a lot less.

There were two movies about a group of awkward teens with special powers on the run from an oppressive government and a powerful enemy; Allegiant and X-Men Apocalypse. One of them a below average ending to a great series, the other, a welcome ending to a bad series.

And one movie where absolutely nothing happens in it. And it stars Matthew McConaughey; Everybody Wants Some!!. Except that a lot happens and Matthew McConaughey isn’t even in it. So yeah…

And that’s it.

I’m playing catch-up so there should be a bunch of posts in a row, if everything goes according to plan (but when has Everything been known to do that?)

Never, that’s when.

Jessica Chastain

Jessica knows what I’m talking about.

Wish me luck.

– Mel

What’s Good? (Early Summer)

Early Summer Edition

This installment of What’s Good? (my top ten things I’m enjoying at the moment) is mostly summer television with a few real life stuff thrown in for good measure. (Ha – for GOOD measure – get it?. Ha ha. GET IT?)

Orson Welles

I want to apologize to the regular readers of my blog. I’ve phoned it in this summer. My head and my heart have been elsewhere. I’ve written. I added Jimi Hendrix to my book. (Can I do that? I hope I don’t get sued) It’s literally a long story (I’m on a roll) but one of the characters keeps a skull on her desk. She calls it the skull of the last musician. (It’s a post apocalyptic future) And (long story short) she gains access to an alien regeneration facility and she clones the skull. (It’s less a clone as we know it and more of a recreation of the man before he died. Again long story) But I’ve been researching his interviews and trying to get his voice right. And I’ve been a little obsessed with it. It’s not a big part of the story. It’s just something that happens still I’ve tried to get it right. It’s a mad world.

To the list…

WHAT’S GOOD?

I’m glad you asked.

The 100

The 100 is pretty good. The first season is very exciting but I really enjoyed the second season of this post apocalyptic, young adult, action-drama about the survivors of a global nuclear apocalypse who have lived for generations on an orbiting space station before falling to earth. The first season moves so fast and the changes are drastic and quick and nobody is safe. It’s crazy. But during the second season, a more down-to-earth season, The 100 settles in for lots of political intrigue and survival action and coolness. A bunch of cool characters doing a lot of cool shit. It’s not sensational but it’s loads of fun and the cast is all good-looking and the main character is a serious bad-ass. I love her.

jonathan strange and mr norell

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is weirdly good. I like to think of Strange and Norrell as a prequel to the world of Harry Potter. It is about the return of magic to Great Britain. Very interesting. Very atmospheric. Some pretty cool effects and creepy mysticism and magic. A period piece where magic is accepted by the government and the society. A very dark and funny show. Six, creatively dense and magical episodes. Creepy good.

Museum-Entrance-photo-by-American-Museum-of-Natural-History

Museum Trips are really good. My next museum trip will probably be to the Natural History Museum on the west side of the park. I really enjoyed my trip to The Cloisters and my trip to The Met. I finally got out of the house for more than a quick excursion to the movies (from my home to a dark theater and back really shouldn’t count as leaving the house). I took a lot of pictures (see I have proof that I left the house). I’m keeping my promise to spend more time outside my comfort zone this year. Wish me luck.

mets-pitchers

The Mets Pitching is astonishingly good. I can’t believe the Mets are doing as well as they are with the line-up they have but they’re solidly in the race. It’s been too long since we’ve had a good team in Queens. So long I’ve forgotten what one looks like. And make no mistake, this is not a good Mets team but the Mets pitching staff is Amazin’ (I’m talking Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman good). All of their starters can hit like sluggers as well as pitch like aces. They have a pretty decent bullpen and one of the best closers in the game. All they need to do now is pick up a veteran right-handed power hitter and these Metsies will be a force with which to be reckoned.

Let’s Go Mets!

mr-robot

Mr. Robot is sensationally good. I fucking love this show. If you haven’t seen it yet, try to catch up quick. This is pure cyberpunk. The smartest computer hacking ANYTHING, TV, movie whatever, I have ever seen. Smart, funny, cool, very fucking cool. Fantastic direction that feels like a 70’s hacker thriller about the future. Except the future is today. So everything is just state of the art but with this futuristic cyberpunk feel. I hope I’m not explaining this badly because it is incredible. There is nothing sci-fi about this show (so far). There is nothing futuristic yet the direction and camera work are retro. Making it feel like you’re watching some future shit but it’s in the present day.

Mr Robot

The story is good. The lead character has a hard time interacting with people so he hacks anyone with which he has to talk. He data-mines people’s lives and social media to understand them and gain the upper hand. The acting is good (except for Christian Slater. I’ve never liked that guy) There’s cool tech and all that good stuff. But just based on the way it is shot, this retro-future-present feel, that I’m doing a bad job of explaining, just based on that, it is my favorite thing on TV now. My absolute favorite. (with Halt and Catch Fire a close second)

The Last Ship

The Last Ship is satisfying-ly good. I loved the first season of this (yet another) post-apocalyptic drama. This one takes place after a disease outbreak that kills half the world’s population. One American battleship survives the outbreak and so the show is very Naval and military. I enjoy military shows when they’re done well. And this one is done very well. Not the best acting but a lot of great action and suspense. (It’s Michael Bay) It reminds me of Star Trek except the ship is a boat and not a star-ship. That’s how I look at it. The Last Ship is Star Trek for the ocean. And each season, so far, has had a kick-ass big bad. Last year it was a Russian destroyer. This year it’s a hijacked British submarine. If you’re not totally turned off by military or nautical adventures, The Last Ship is pretty damn good.

Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful is dark and sickly good. I love this show. I loved the second season more than the first. And I really loved the first season. I like the evolution of Billie Piper’s character a lot. If you don’t know, Penny Dreadful is the story of all the classic literary monsters in one place and at one time solving crimes or something. The show is a period piece. It’s very sexy. It’s very creepy. And dark. With Victor Frankenstein and his family (the monster, the bride), Vampires, Dorian Gray. But it ain’t hokey. It takes itself very seriously while being the story of all these campy movie monsters. And I love that.

Episode 101

But my favorite thing about it was when I realized that Josh Hartnett (minor spoiler but not really) wasn’t playing a werewolf. He’s the Wolfman. He’s the motherfucking Wolfman. That made me so happy. So please please please have Abbott and Costello show up in season three. PLEEEEEEEEEASE. Just a cameo. I’m completely serious. They are the glue that would tie it all together. Please. Pretty please. Abbott & Costello.

Marriage Equality is all kinds of good. This is old news now but finally America joined the 21st century when it comes to equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. It’s about damn time. And except for a couple of bigots in the south digging in it’s going well.

True Detective Season Two

True Detective Season Two is actually pretty good. Say what you want, I’m liking this season of True Detective better than the first season. Honestly. I like the cast better this time around. I like the story better. I like the setting better. It feels like the old L.A. detective stories and it hasn’t put me to sleep. The first season with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson was really good but I had to watch every episode twice because I would usually fall asleep somewhere in the middle. Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell are amazing. And even Vince Vaughn is growing on me. Loving it. And this last episode was off the hook. Action packed. Wow.

dark-matter-header

Dark Matter is a very good deep space drama based on a comic book. I love the sci-fi. I grew up on the sci-fi. But I can’t stand bad sci-fi. Most of the shows that embrace the genre are pretty damn bad. (More on that in a moment) But there are pleasant exceptions. I love Defiance. I still love Falling Skies. And after four episodes, I’m getting into Humans but I’m not quite sold yet. However, my favorite summer sci-fi show this year is a little show out of Canada called Dark Matter (on the SyFy channel). It’s a space adventure about six people and one android who wake up in deep space with no memory of their pasts. They assign numbers to themselves in the order they woke up. They pretty quickly identify each crew members strengths and fall into their obvious roles. Never really trusting, but needing each other to survive. It’s a nice story.

Dark Matter

And they don’t drag out the secret too long. They discover who they are pretty early on but they don’t know “those” people. Their real selves. They have no memory of them. Just strangers with their faces. So they decide to continue as One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and the android. I really like this show. Please watch it. It’s like what you’d get if Firefly and the A-team had a baby with amnesia. Check it out.

Also check out this Suicide Squad teaser trailer with Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Jared Leto. I think it looks promising.

And now… for everything there is a dark side.

WHAT’S NOT so GOOD?

Summer Sci-fi Shows are traditionally not so good. (Extant, Killjoys, Dominion, Hannibal) Honestly guys It’s not enough to have some special effects and pretty actors and to air your show on date nights (when all the nerds are home). You have to have a story to tell and not just a premise to slowly roll out. And a mystery to tease.

Halle Berry Extant

Extant was actually pretty interesting the first season but instead of expounding on that, they fired half the cast and changed the whole damn thing. Like saying, all we need is Halle Berry. The nerds will keep watching. No. No we won’t. It looks to me like they’re trying to change a sci-fi mystery show about a woman giving birth to an alien into a futuristic procedural.

Killjoys

Killjoys is a horribly cheesy premise with a mediocre cast that benefits from being sandwiched between two good Friday SyFy shows. But it sucks. Most of all the acting. And the writing. And everything else about it. It just sucks. Something about bounty hunters or contract killers. Whatever. I just hope its stench doesn’t rub off on Dark Matter. Dark Matter is really fucking good.

Dominion SyFy

With Dominion I’m trying. I really am. I sort of liked the first season but I think I liked the sexiness of the angel Michael and also the general’s daughter. She’s a hottie too. So maybe it was the hotness of the cast that got me. But the story and the acting and the accents (I love you Anthony Stewart Head but your American accent is so very bad) make me want to give up on it. I’m pretty close to giving up on this show. Pretty close.

Hannibal

And lastly Hannibal. Listen. The reason I mention these shows is because I can’t help but watch them. These shows are made for me and my ilk. And I want them to be good. I want to like them because I want the powers that be to make more shows like this. Like Hannibal. I want to like Hannibal but that show is so far up its own ass it can see what it had for dinner last night. Honestly, the food is the best part of this convoluted and pretentious piece of crap. And I know the food is suppose to creep us out because he’s a cannibal or whatever. But it just makes me hungry. It looks so good. I’ve mentioned this before but I wanted Hannibal to be the anti-hero if not the hero proper. They make him completely unlikable. And it’s because in the first book he is the bad guy. And this series is based on the first book. I wanted something else. Hannibal is not enjoyable for me but I keep watching anyway. I heard they cancelled it. I’m not too sad about that.

I keep watching these crappy sci-fi shows but I can’t just watch them in silence. Mostly I yell at the screen saying, “Oh my god. That’s horrible. That’s so bad. Why am I watching this crap? Why, Mel? Why?”

I’ll tell you why. Because…

Summer DVDs

Summer DVDs are also notoriously not so good. I have a bunch of mini reviews in a folder. So I think I’ll throw them up here soon. I haven’t seen a good movie on home video yet this summer. I was waiting for a good one to come along before posting a 5 Quick Reviews of 5 New Releases for summer (yeah I was going to bring that back) but I’m up to six with nothing good in sight. I think I’ll post that next. They might be bad movies but a few were at least interesting (Slow West, The Voices)

And that’s all I got.

Quick Note. I really like getting nominated for those blog awards but I am the absolute worst at talking about myself without something to hide behind. Some device. Some gimmick. So it’s not like I ignore them. I actually try to write something and just get frustrated. I thought about doing one with just music. Ten songs that define or describe me. I found a good ten. But that wasn’t going well. So I whittled the list down. I had a seven and a five and I still may post one of those but at one point I cut it down to one song. I’m gonna post that here.

It’s Mayonaise by Smashing Pumpkins.

Fool enough to almost be it
Cool enough to not quite see it
Doomed
Pick your pockets full of sorrow
And run away with me tomorrow, June?
We’ll try and ease the pain
But somehow we’ll feel the same.
Well, no one knows
Where our secrets go.

I send a heart to all my dearies
When your life is oh, so dreary… dream.

I’m rumored to the straight and narrow
While the harlots of my perils SCREAM.
 

And I fail.
But when I can, I will.
Try to understand
That when I can, I will.

Mother’s weep the years I’m missing
All our time can’t be given back.

Shut my mouth and strike the demons
That cursed you and your reasons.
Out of hand and out of season
Out of love and out of feeling SO BAD.
When I can, I will
Words defy the plans.
When I can, I will

Fool enough to almost be it
And cool enough to not quite see it.
And old enough to always feel this
Always old, I’ll always feel this!

No more promise no more sorrow
No longer will I follow
Can anybody hear me?
I JUST WANT TO BE me.
When I can, I will.
Try to understand
That when I can,

I will.

If I don’t say it enough,

I love you guys.

Until next time,

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Jupiter Ascending

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros. PicturesRoadshow Entertainment [Aus, NZ])

Jupiter Ascending Poster

Written & Directed by The Wachowskis

Starring Channing TatumMila KunisSean BeanEddie Redmayne & Douglas Booth

There is one glaring problem with the visually stunning, science fiction epic, Jupiter Ascending, from the Wachowskis. Well two things really. And they’re staring you right in the face the entire time. Arguably the two most important things in any movie; the two lead actors. I loved everything about Jupiter Ascending except for the one thing that can turn an otherwise great movie into a bad one; Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum could not act their way out of a paper bag! And it’s a shame because Jupiter Ascending is a fun, sweeping, epic tale of intergalactic dynasties and sibling rivalries that burn at the core of every inhabited planet in the known universe. There are hybrids of major species. Like lizards with eagle wings and robots and spaceships. And at the center, two duds. But because I liked the story, I’m gonna spare you guys a spoiler-filled rant.

Verdict: SPARED

But I’m still gonna rant though.

Mila Kunis

Instead lets talk about Mila Kunis. I love me some Mila Kunis. She is very cool. Not a very wide acting range but she is likable, funny and good-looking. Like Matthew McConaughey was back before he found his acting chops. And I love her in action films, but she is at her best when she’s playing an Eddie Murphy type. Every word out of her mouth should be a wise-crack or some biting sarcasm. This is her wheelhouse. She’s funny. The three best lines in Jupiter Ascending are her being funny or sarcastic. She’s not the damsel in distress that the Wachowskis have cast her as. She’s the cool chick laughing in the face of danger. I love her too much to have to blame her for this. You’re making me blame her for this. And while she is to blame for this, it’s not her fault.

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum on the other hand, can not be saved. He stinks. These are both very hot people but don’t make them emulate emotions. It’s painful to watch. Interestingly enough, had Mila Kunis played this part for the comedy, which I think would have worked so much better, Channing Tatum’s stoned-faced wolf-boy would have been her perfect straight man. Give Mila some jokes and Channing’s character, with his sour-puss acting style, would benefit hugely from it. Also give them some down-time to fall in love. Because if all they’re doing is running. And all he’s doing is saving her life again and again. She’s not in love with him. She’s in love with the fact that he saves her life. Will someone in Hollywood please stop confusing these two things. But anyway.

Eddie Redmayne

Jupiter Ascending is spared because of its gorgeous special effects and exciting chase scenes and dog-fights and fight scenes. And the gadgets are super-cool. Especially Channing’s anti-gravity boots. And the creatures are awesome. And the costumes are awesome. And the worlds are awesome. Have I said yet how visually stunning this film is? Because if you look-up the phrase visually stunning in the online movie reviewers handbook you’ll see a picture of any frame of this movie right here.

Terry Gilliam

Jupiter Ascending is spared because the story is this beautiful cross between Herbert and Asimov. And the style is all Fifth Element meets Tarsem Singh meets Terry Gilliam. So much so that at one point Terry Gilliam shows up to tell the Wachowskis to cut that shit out (not really but it’s still very funny). And the other actors are great from Sean Bean to Eddie Redmayne and all points in between. It’s just those two. The main two.

Creatures in Jupiter Ascending

Let me put it this way. There are two large paper sacks. Each one with a name on it. One says Mila Kunis and the other says Channing Tatum. And the Sack Master (That’s his name. He puts people into paper sacks) comes along and places both Mila and Channing into their respective sacks. And all they have to do is to not be themselves. Just pretend to be another person. That’s all it would take to make the Sack Master think he’s made a mistake and let them out. This was not always the case. Traditionally people had to punch their way out of his sacks or even dance. But on occasion, some barely decent acting would get you set free. What I’m saying is, neither Mila Kunis nor Channing Tatum could act their way out of a paper bag. But anyway that was a little sneak peek at my new horror series: Sack Master. SACK MASTER, he puts people into paper sacks. (sometimes they’re wet… it’s very scary). But I digress.

Jupiter Ascending is a gorgeous, epic, sci-fi, space adventure that only suffers when the main characters open their mouths. It’s just that they open their mouths a lot.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Interstellar

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Interstellar (Paramount Pictures [North America],  Warner Bros. Pictures [International])

Interstellar Poster

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Written by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan

Starring Matthew McConaugheyAnne HathawayJessica Chastain & Michael Caine

Swing and a miss. Too long did not like. Too ambitious. Interstellar gets trapped in the singularity up its own ass. Wow what a promising start but Christopher Nolan turns into M. Night Shyamalan somewhere near Gargantua and it doesn’t just get bad. It gets really bad. Hopelessly and unapologetically bad.

Verdict: SPOILED

Matthew McConaughey

“Don’t worry kids. NASA will save us. Go play with your lunar module until Mel’s done ranting.”

SPOILER ALERT

First, I think Matthew McConaughey is solid as usual. I loved Anne Hathaway in this and also Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn. Honestly all the actors that played Murphy were very good. I liked but did not love the start of the movie back on Earth. The explanations of what happened to the Earth were rushed. It felt like they were glossed-over on purpose as to not get too earthbound. But it all comes back to haunt the narrative when they try desperately to find an upbeat ending. Where’d they get the soil? The seeds? If you can grow and live inside on a spaceship you can live inside on the planet.

The Coopers

“Stop him, daddy. He’s insulting our movie.”

I usually love the paradox of us saving our past selves from the future. I have a little something like that in what I’m working on now but it’s a lot more complex than this crap and it doesn’t get all inter-dimensional. That should have been the title of this thing. Not Interstellar but inter-dimensional. But then I guess that would have ruined the Shymalanity of it all. As it is, Interstellar left me cold and I hate it for that.

Anne Hathaway Handshake

“When you ask me what that was, I’m gonna say a handshake. Don’t ask me any follow up questions okay? It’ll make absolutely no sense later.”

Because, in the end all of its kumbaya ending crap felt so disingenuous that I would have been more satisfied had Matthew McConaughey died and not been found conveniently floating in space. What is the overall area that a human adult takes up in the vastness of space again? Don’t answer that. Well then you might as well have made it aliens and had those aliens transport him back to his stupid corn farm or bring everybody back to life. Roll credits. Oh this movie made me so mad.

Cooper, Brand and Romilly

“Put me in here until the review is over. Because I can’t take much more of this.”

Because once it goes into space it gets so freaking good. I mean positively stellar. Matt Damon and the robot and the planets and the ships and the stuff with the thing and the lights and the sci-fi. “We’re gonna make it!” “I can do this.” “Don’t open that airlock.” I loved every minute of the second act. Every last fucking minute. From the effects to the science to the suspense and the emotion it was fantastic. So, it starts off weak but necessarily so. “All is forgiven.” I thought to myself because this movie rocks when it turns into one of the best movie space adventures I’ve seen since Europa Report.

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

“Europa Report? What’s a Europa Report? This movie has three Oscar winners and the guy who directed Batman. What does your precious Europa Report have? Believability? Psshh”

But for a third act, Interstellar shits all over itself. And not solid and easy to clean up. It sprays diarrhea all over the screen and then the credits roll. I’m sorry for the imagery. It really annoyed me. It literally felt to me like M. Night Shyamalan directed the third act. From the grown up Murphy suddenly realizing that her childhood “ghost” was her father, to Cooper explaining quantum time mechanics or something equally mind-boggling-ly complex in Morse code, to the Starblazers and Battlestar Galactica style convoy leaving the Earth behind with no destination and suddenly being able to grow food. Swing and a miss, Nolans. I still love you both madly but… swing… and… a… miss.

Arrrgh! (I usually put a conclusion here but I just felt like screaming this time) Arrrgh!

– Mel