JUPITER ASCENDING REVIEW

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The only place this film is ascending in is my Worst Films of 2015 list.

Messy Matrix effects + a moody Mila = one moaning movie goer.

I always felt the Wachowskis never could reach the bar they set with The Matrix. The sequels; Reloaded and Revolutions were superb in visual and action set pieces but pace and plot? Meh.

I admired their execution of Cloud Atlas even if it was a bit of a mess. The pace and the disjointed story lines didn’t deliver for me.

Now we have Jupiter Ascending. The thought of a Matrix reboot may not be so bad if the guys will stop doing films like this.

A little harsh. It certainly zipped along for its 127 minute length BUT the story made no sense and had more holes than a sponge. And the cast?! My God. They must have been paid a lot of wonga to take on these poorly written characters.

*WARNING* RANT MAY CONTAIN POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

So what’s it about? In a bright and colourful future, a young destitute caretaker (Mila Kunis) gets targeted by the ruthless son (Eddie Redmayne) of a powerful family who lives on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior (Channing Tatum) to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.

What?!

From the corny opening, I could feel myself wincing. Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors) and James D’Arcy (Broadchurch) had enough chemistry to make it bearable as they fall in love. Inevitably leading to Jupiter’s conception.

It is only as the film concluded that I realised that the first 10-15 minutes were completely unnecessary and contributed nothing to the story. Only why Kunis’s character is called Jupiter.

D’Arcy’s father figure was prepared to risk his life with some ultra-violent burglars for a golden telescope. The relevance of said telescope in the film? A cryptic map to the universe? A weapon? No, just something really nice and shiny.

The whole ironic illegal “alien” and actual alien status surrounding Jupiter was a nice touch. We soon get a sense of her hum drum routine as a fed up maid. While in a galaxy far, far – No, Saturn. We have the intergalactic royal siblings (played by Douglas Booth, Eddie Redmayne and Tuppence Middleton) squabbling over their inheritance. Their inheritance being planets of the solar system. The most precious, of course, being Earth.

After his Oscar winning turn as Stephen Hawking in A Theory of Everything, I had high hopes for Mr. Redmayne. BUT boy, oh, boy. This is a step down. Razzie well and truly deserved. He must have been trying to do his best (well, worst) Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg impression from The Fifth Element.

Certainly got the haircut. His gravelly gangly master villain was something I expected to see in a pantomine. His volatile behaviour was laughable. At one point, he has a fit of rage that mimicked Delia Smith at that infamous Norwich game.

And she still delivered that with much more gusto. Granted she had way ti many martoonis. To make matters worse, he was virtually absent throughout the film, dispensing his Paul-esque alien henchmen to do his bidding or shrieking on a sofa.

The squabbling royal family had heavy Shakespearean undertones BUT it was hard to take it seriously with Booth and Tuppleton camping it up to the max. The whole solar system as their playground subplot seemed to dampen what could have been a darker affair.

There was a revelation halfway through the film that made things a little more interesting BUT there were still too many issues.

Channing Tatum did his best as the mystery genetically spliced bounty hunter. I’m sure ladies will be happy to see him roller blading in anti-gravity boots with his shirt off for nearly half the film.

There was little chemistry between him and Kunis BUT I got to admit I found Kunis quite weak in the leading role. I know it didn’t help with weak jokes and hammy dialogue. BUT she didn’t deliver any of them with conviction. Too laid back and flat for my liking. I mean her reaction when she is surrounded by bees was worse than Marky Mark talking to a plastic plant in The Happening.

BUT she did look stunning in a bin liner. No, seriously. She wears a dress that looks like a bin liner. Must have spent the budget on the lavish sets. Because it weren’t on the clothes or the writers.

The special effects were, to be expected, superb. The 3D was a little lacklustre for the ticket price. I’m surprised cinemas are still bothering with this silly little gimmick.

The chase sequences were intense. However, they seemed to go on far too long and there was too much going on that it was a little disorienting. And by the end, the animation was so cartoony that it killed off some of the action.

It may have looked good BUT the story was a mess. For every question I had, it was eventually explained but the answer was so ridiculous that I had even more questions. BUT by the end, I couldn’t care less.

I mean there were scenes in which the siblings were controlling ships from their bathing pools? Why? Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s big ears? What up with that? Sean Bean’s space cop and, for some reason, bee keeper mumbling some mumbo jumbo about the history of the universe.

Or should I say, Sean Bee-n (A-ha! I’ll get my coat). Why the bees? Some rubbish about bees detecting royalty. WHAT? The more Sharp explained, the more I switched off. It just got sillier and sillier that it killed the fun and made me a little numb. I was more surprised that Bean managed to survive his movie curse!

Even Tatum’s back story surrounding the origin of his albino werewolf alien hybrid just put me into a mini coma. It just felt that it had too many ideas meshed together with none of them really working.

The creatures that featured in the universe (Well, Jupiter. I think it was Jupiter? And Earth) were brilliantly constructed. An action packed crop chasing sequence that rivalled Signs silenced my nagging voice until a lame punch line involving crop circles was delivered.

The bureaucracy segment in which Kunis must register her “royalty entitlement” in an intergalactic DMV with a robot that could trump C-3P0 in a robo-camp off just didn’t fit with the tone of the film and went on far too long.

The only explanation I could find for it was the surprise cameo from the legendary Terry Gilliam. A sight for sore eyes. Wachowskis trying to do a Brazil reference? If so, don’t do it again.

I know these sort of things are done with a level of exaggeration BUT it helps to have characters you care about. That’s half the battle. The other stuff could be as stupid as you like BUT alas, it was not to be.

It was all rushed and resolved so cheesily and predictably. Hinting for another like all the endless teen sci-fi flicks. But hopefully no one will take the hint.

2/5

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THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5

NOAH REVIEW

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Woah . . . what the hell did I just watch? This shit just got BIBLICAL. Stupid one liners aside, a rather strange viewing experience. One that I’m not sure whether I enjoyed. Arguably Hollywood taking on the Bible is always going to get mixed results. However, that is not always the case. Examples such as Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt (what? Don’t judge me) are exceptions to the rule. Now credits where it’s due. The film excels with its special effects and the cast do their best with the material at hand. Now understandably that material is the Bible. Now I’ll be looking at this primarily as a film text. I’m not an atheist nor am I a believer as such. To be honest, I thought both the idea of a world created by a “Creator” and an entire universe created by a “big bang” because a thing called science said it was so, equally ridiculous. But hey everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

I digress. However, the film is full of questionable plot holes that intentionally and unintentionally pokes holes at the Old Testament itself. Now be warned there will be SPOILERS! Not the Bible bits, certain film sequences. I will try and be as cryptic as possible and as objective. Now obviously the premise we all know, in a world ravaged of sin, Noah is given a divine mission: to build an Ark to save creation from the coming flood. The opening sets up the background of the origin story of . . . us, really. Most of it, I knew. Other parts I had forgotten. Russell Crowe is a powerhouse actor and he provides a stellar performance. My main quip is his representation. Now Darren Aronofsky’s previous works have always been . . . out there. Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The (mind numbing) Fountain, and the more mainstream but surprisingly entertaining Black Swan. Aronofsky has pretty much made Noah as mainstream as possible. However, he transforms a man torn between fulfilling his duty to his Creator and the livelihood of his own family, into a demented maniac hell bent on achieving all means regardless.

Even more bizarrely, while the world is ravaged with sin, yadda yadda, a group of fallen angels are left to roam the rocky desolate landscapes. Now this part I was not aware of. The fallen angels are brilliantly designed, even if they look like Sloth from the Goonies had mated with one of the rock things from the Never Ending Story. And I couldn’t believe the talented voice cast behind them; Nick Nolte, Mark “Breaking Bad Tio Salamanca” Margolis and Kevin Durand (Real Steel and LOST). The crazy fight sequences between them and the monstrous human race desperate to board the Ark was entertaining if completely ridiculous. Aronofsky managed to convey more emotion and sympathy out of them than a number of the cast. Sir Anthony Hopkins manages to make a memorable impression in the limited screen time of the minor role of Methusaleh. It did have me pondering if Noah was allowed to save his family, why not his grandfather? Punishment for not being able to get the human race to conform and follow the righteous path? However, he was bonkers and wondered off a lot. To be honest, the supporting cast were strangely passive until the hour mark. The film was very much on the shoulders of Crowe. It was only when the humans in the area finally caught wind (come on, we’re better than that) of the Ark that things pick up, making for a tense, racy, riotous sequence. The visual CGI with the animals and the infamous flood are fantastic.

Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet) was highly unmemorable and passive as Shem. Logan Lerman (Perks of a Wallflower) and fellow co-star the beautiful Hermione, I mean, Emma Watson played their parts well and when given the time to shine, delivered solid performances. Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth, always) reunites with Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) and manages to make a nothingy character stand out, especially in one tense if undeniably bizarre sequence that understandably might be where the controversy is coming from. The pair work well but fail to reignite that Beautiful Mind spark. Ray Winstone, I thought, was wonderfully gritty and gruesome as self proclaimed King Tubal-cain. Now it’s all down to how much of a Winstone fan you are. But I was pleasantly surprised and he stole the scene every time. For once, his grizzly growling was used to his strength. If you want to show the humans as nasty pieces of work, Winstone san. Once the Ark ascends, it all gets a little slow and drawn out. A slow burning if entertaining hour does not a good film make. And after two hours this film does test your resolve, if not for a tense finale.

NOW SPOILER TIME! AVOID IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING WATCHING THIS MOVIE! FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T FUSSED OR HAVE SEEN IT. CONTINUE READING THIS PARAGRAPH. Noah does everything to the letter for the Lord. He saves the animals and his family have the unexpected blessing that their son’s (well I would have assumed) wife is pregnant. Fantastic. Oh no, no. no. The human race must be no more. Which means the baby can be no more. If it is a boy, no probs. Can’t reproduce. If a girl, watch out. A compassionate hero becomes a demented mad man with one click of a finger. Unexpected? Yup. Watchable. Strangely so. Necessary? Ah, there’s the rub. Cue the time on the Ark as we wait nine months for the child to be born. Ray Winstone’s sneaky stowaway king plotting revenge for nine months? How did no one know he was on there? Also they made a herb that could knock out animals, how come it didn’t knock them out? A herb that would make them sleep for nine months? Without food or water? I mean, it’s a film but surely they could have had another trippy dream sequence in which the Lord told Noah to use said herb. I don’t know.

Visually ambitious, brilliantly acted, if drawn out, OTT, and questionably full of holes. However, this ark should manages to stay afloat, just. 3/5

Currently ranks #65 out of 161