I must just be in a very good mood this month. Just in April I liked the ridiculous action picture Furious 7, the dopey romance movie Longest Ride and now the over the top scifi space opera movie Jupiter Ascending.
Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski of Matrix fame Jupiter Ascending is just nutty enough to be entertaining. I can totally see why a majority of critics hated it because it is so silly but I didn’t take it very seriously and had fun with it.
Basically the plot is Mila Kunis plays Jupter Jones a daughter of Russian immigrants who finds out she is the reincarnation of an extra terrestrial queen who was murdered after being alive for 91 millennium (rough to go down that way!).
As the genetic match Jupiter can now ‘own’ the earth but the 3 children of the queen are not happy about this arrangement so they each send down emissaries who try to kill/capture Jupiter. This all catches her quite off guard as she is a simple cleaning lady.
Channing Tatum plays Caine Wise a part wolf species who is quiet, thoughtful and ‘one step up from a dog’. He is the hero of the movie constantly rescuing and listening too Jupiter prattle on about her life. Hmmm…I wonder if they are supposed to be together in the end?
Caine is hired to find and protect Jupiter so that she can marry one of the brothers named Titus played by Douglas Booth. All the performances in this movie are very campy and silly. Titus is kind of like Chuck from Gossip Girl in space.
Tuppence Middleton is the sister who tries to befriend Jupiter so she can manipulate her. She bathes in a special water daily that like the magic flower in Tangled makes her young. (She’s only been alive 14 millennium after all).
And finally Eddie Redmayne is Balem who is the rightful heir to Earth and is resentful this stupid girl has come to thwart his plans of literal world domination. He wants to keep earth as his harvest grounds for the eternity liquid which takes 100 people to make 1 vial and oversees a refinery of sorts to make the liquid. Redmayne is so ridiculous in the role with a quiet gravely ‘bad guy’ voice that I found hilarious when I think it was supposed to genuinely menacing. Either way I had fun watching it.
Sean Bean also appears as a tough guy who is part honeybee (like I said this is a nutty movie). Jupiter it turns out can rule the honeybees so Striker is easily convinced of her royal qualities. “Bees sense greatness when it is near them”…
I’m not sure if the Wachowskis intended there to be a strong Oedipus complex to the movie but especially considering Lana’s story it is a little strange. All 3 of these siblings are kind of in love with their mother and gush about how beautiful she was. One of them is about to marry her!
As we expect with a Wachowski film the visuals are dazzling and the characters are very creative in their design. The costumes, makeup and hair are also superb
The action is a ton of fun with the highlight being an early battle between Caine and Balem’s thugs in Chicago. Caine has these air powered rollerblades that let him fly around the city and the special effects look flawless. They create an easy out as far as humans by having a memory erasing device like in Men in Black so they can harvest their humans without anyone noticing.
That’s not to say the movie is perfect. I wish Jupiter had been a little bit of a stronger character. She makes some pretty dumb choices and is manipulated rather easily. She also is constantly the damsel in distress needing to be rescued.
It also gets a little Phantom Menacy with all the discussion of land ownership and the ‘rights’ to the Earth by the siblings. Too much exposition, a convoluted script and definite plotholes in the story detract a little. Jupiter’s earthly family is also a complete caricature of a Russian family. Quite cringe inducing but they are in the movie very little.
In a way it is too bad it did so poorly because I would be curious to see what the Wachowskis could do with this world. Perhaps Jupiter would be a stronger character in sequels but sadly we will never know.
I first heard about Jupiter Ascending because when it premiered at Sundance the crowds booed. I get it. It’s probably too nutty for a stuffy crowd like Sundance. It would have been better to premiere it at a comicon or something like that. I could see this movie developing a cult following of sci-fi fans who like the campiness and style of the film.
In the end Jupiter Ascending is far from a masterpiece but as a hokey piece of sci-fi family soap opera with some good action and beautiful world building I enjoyed it. With the exception of some very dopey dialogue driven scenes it clips along fast enough to keep me mildly engaged and amused. I don’t need to see it again but I enjoyed it none the less. The only thing I can think to compare it too is a really silly episode of Star Trek. It’s kind of like a telenovella but in space.
As far as content there is some nudity including more than one bare bottom and action fight sequences that get a bloody. No real language that I noticed.
So I’d say give it a shot and maybe you’ll find something to entertain you too!
Overall Grade- C+ Content Grade- B
To get a little more feel for the film here is the trailer.
We can all be glad the Grand Budapest Hotel is there because without it we’d have a lot of solemn nominees. I mean has the academy forgotten how to laugh? Gone are the days when movies like It’s a Mad Mad Mad World could get nominated for Best Picture. Kind of sad really.
Anyway, here’s how I would personally rank the nominees.
1. Boyhood- It’s a movie that really moved me and made me think about my life in a new way. It’s not a movie to entertain you but to remind you about the small moments with people that make up your life. I loved it. To me it is significantly better than any of the other nominees.
2. Selma– A movie that helped me get to know all sides of a great American. It wasn’t all the grand moments but soft, even shameful moments where you saw that anybody can make a difference. It was a part of the Civil Rights movement I wasn’t as familiar with and I was really moved by it. Amazing performance by David Oyelowo.
3. Whiplash- Mesmerizing film that builds tension so well with an insane performance by JK Simmons. It asks the question ‘what is the price to be paid for greatness?’ I wish it had shown more of the motivations behind the characters but still very gripping movie.
4. American Sniper- Gripping account of the most successful sniper in US Navy Seals history, Chris Kyle. The movie gets you down with the soldiers a lot for a sniper movie and it feels gritty and very intense. The narrative at home and on his tour of duties flow well together and are brought together in the story of a very complex man. It is a movie that tells his story and leaves the judging for God and others. I was really moved by. 5. Grand Budapest Hotel- The one comedy nominated! I think I give this a little bit of a pass because it is Wes Anderson’s best and most mainstream film. I’d have to watch it again to decide if I really like it better than the other nominees but I did like it. It’s not over-quirky like a lot of Anderson’s films. It is witty and the world creation is strong with more likable characters than many of his other films. Very good engaging cast as always.
6. Imitation Game- A solid biopic about Alan Turing, the man behind the computer which decoded the enigma machine. I liked the stuff about the decoding better than the more predictable personal portions but it was all strong and very well acted. The big mean boss who is constantly after Turing felt like such a cliche and the cop narration felt a little phony but I liked it.
7. Birdman- I know I’m not as high on this as everyone else but I’ve got to tell you what I really think not what is popular. I really hated the way this movie treated its female characters. I’m shocked that nobody else in criticism seems to be saying this? It will probably win tomorrow when Boyhood a movie featuring complex woman will not (although hopefully she will win). I have thought about it and I know it is an allegory for popularity and fame but why does the movie assume women are so much more fragile and judgmental than men? Is there not a Chris Farley, River Phoenix for every Lindsay Lohan and Judy Garland? The critic and the near rape especially bother me. But that said, it isn’t at the bottom because I do think they tried to do something different, the cinematography is very good and I thought Michael Keaton was great. I just don’t think it was anywhere near the best picture of the year. Oh well.
8. Theory of Everything– This is a good movie. I enjoyed watching it much more than Birdman. And Eddie Redmayne was unforgettable as Stephen Hawking. You forget it is an actor after a while. That’s pretty amazing especially since he doesn’t have a voice for a good chunk of the movie. However, it is pretty predictable biopic and large sections drag a bit. I didn’t think Felicity Jones was very good and the dewy sepia toned cinematography and constant twirling (even in the coffee) got on my nerves. Still a very good movie just bottom of the 8 for me.
I thought I might help you out and share with you my Oscar ballot. We will see how I do come Oscar night but if Boyhood doesn’t walk away with a lot I will be very disappointed (well as disappointed as you can be with a stupid awards show…).
I still think Boyhood will win. Birdman is too independent in feel for older academy voters and Boyhood has universal themes and was so groundbreaking I think it will win. I think it will be like when the academy went with King Speech over Social Network (a decision I actually agree with as I think SN is majorly overrated). I could see The Theory of Everything coming in as dark horse as the academy loves those ‘real life’ portrayals. I have seen all but 2 but hopefully will get to the rest in the next few days.
Will Win: Boyhood My Vote:Boyhood
My review of Boyhood
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu (Birdman)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
I know Inarritu has won some leading up to awards but Linklater is due a statue and what he did in Boyhood is astonishing. It’s certainly one of the most profound movie going experiences I’ve ever had. For him to direct a film over 12 years how can you not give him the directing award and to make something so beautiful to boot. Come on!
Will Win: Richard Linklater My Vote: Richard Linklater
Best Lead Actor
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
I have actually only seen 2 of these movies! I am going to try to get to American Sniper and Imitation Game this week but we will see. It looks like Eddie Redmayne is going to win and I think it is deserved. Cumberbatch love could come into play and the academy always does have soft spot for veterans like Keaton. I actually think he deserves to win even though I have issues with Birdman. His performance was very good. Redmayne is great as well. You forget he isn’t Stephen Hawking in the performance.
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne My Vote: Michael Keaton (If I could give it to anyone it would be to Tom Hardy in Locke which was unforgettable)
Best lead actress
Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
I have actually only seen 2 of these movies and to be honest wasn’t that crazy with either Rosamund Pike or Felicity Jones performances. Julianne Moore will win. It’s her 5th nomination I believe and she is evidently great in Still Alice.
Will Win: Julianne Moore My Vote: Weak year for female performances. I guess my favorite was Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow. I can’t pick either of the 2 I’ve seen because I didn’t think they were good.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Whiplash was a very engrossing movie . I had some problems with the character motivations but it was great. JK Simmon is unforgettable and should and will win. I wish Andy Serkis had been nominated for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. His ACTING blew me away.
Will Win: J.K. Simmons My Vote: J.K. Simmons
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
This award should and will go to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. She did something that no other female actress has done in showing how a woman ages. We don’t talk about that. We hide it away but there she was at 28 and there she was at 40. She is the reason I loved the movie so much because she never really gets a chance to commit to her life and family. She just lives and makes some bad choices along the way. When Mason is leaving for college and she realizes her life in a sense is over it is completely devastating. I will never forget it. I would also have nominated Jessica Chastain for Interstellar.
Will Win: Patricia Arquette My Vote: Patricia Arquette
Best Original Screenplay
Birdman(Alejandro G Iñarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo) Boyhood(Richard Linklater) Foxcatcher(E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman) The Grand Budapest Hotel(Wes Anderson) Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
I think will be where they award Grand Budapest Hotel. It really is Wes Anderson’s most approachable movie I’ve ever seen. It’s funny and mellows down the ‘quirky factor’ which many of us find annoying in his movies.
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel
best adapted screenplay
American Sniper(Jason Hall) The Imitation Game(Graham Moore) Inherent Vice(Paul Thomas Anderson) The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten) Whiplash(Damien Chazelle)
This is a race between Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, which is silly because the script in Theory was really quite weak. The only other one I’ve seen is Whiplash which would probably be my pick. If I could pick any script I would go with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because it was the script that moved me the most. It made me think and I loved it.
Will Win: The ImitationGame My Vote: Whiplash (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes if I could pick)
Birdman(Emmanuel Lubezki) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman) Ida (Ryszard Lenczewski, Lukasz Zal) Mr. Turner (Dick Pope) Unbroken (Roger Deakins)
I would be stunned if Emmanuel Lubezki didn’t win for Birdman and he deserves to win; although I want to give it to Dick Pope just because of how cool he was when his name was slaughtered during his big moment. (Seriously you think they’d go over that with that lady?)
Will Win: Birdman My Vote: Birdman
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Grand Budapest Hotel(Adam Stockhausen) The Imitation Game (Maria Djurkovic) Interstellar (Nathan Crowley)
Into the Woods (Dennis Gassner) Mr. Turner(Suzie Davis)
The Grand Budapest Hotel will win and it deserves to win. I wish Paddington had been nominated as I loved the sets of that movie but oh well!
Will Win: The Grand BudapestHotel My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel
best costume design
The Grand Budapest Hotel(Milena Canonero) Inherent Vice (Mark Bridges) Into the Woods(Colleen Atwood) Maleficent(Anna B. Sheppard) Mr. Turner(Jacqueline Durran)
I am going to go out on a limb on this one and say that Colleen Atwood will win for Into the Woods. It was the best costumes I saw all year. She’s has name recognition (nominated 11 times and won 3) and I think if in doubt people will vote for her and the great costumes in a fairytale movie. But I admit it is my out on a limb so you may want to put Grand Budapest Hotel on there because Milena Canoero has also won 3 times (quite the club of costume designers!). The costumes were great in GBH. I just think a little better in Into the Woods.
Will Win: Into the Woods Should Win: Into the Woods
BEST FILM EDITING
American Sniper (Joel Cox) Boyhood (Sandra Adair) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Barney Pilling) The Imitation Game (William Goldenberg) Whiplash (Tom Cross)
Boyhood will win with American Sniper being the next most likely. Whiplash is probably the best editing I saw all year with those drum sequences put together so seamlessly.
Another going out on a limb and going to pick Guardians of the Galaxy because that makeup made those characters not CG. Foxcatcher could also come in because of the prosthetics (haven’t seen it). Grand Budapest Hotel is probably the odds on favorite but you have to take a few chances in your ballot because there are always a few surprises.
Will Win: Guardians of the Galaxy My Vote: Guardians of the Galaxy
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Grand Budapest Hotel(Alexandre Desplat) The Imitation Game(Alexandre Desplat) Interstellar(Hans Zimmer) Mr. Turner(Gary Yershon)
The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)
It does seem time for Alexandre Desplat to win but Johann Johannsson has won early awards and they are all pleasant scores. I actually didn’t care for the loud overbearing score in Interstellar so I hope that doesn’t win. I wish Joe Hisaishi had been nominated for The Tale of Princess Kaguya. It was one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.
Will Win: Theory of Everything My Vote: Out of those I’d pick Grand Budapest Hotel but I would have given it to Joe Hisaishi Tale of Princess Kaguya
best original song
“Everything is Awesome” (The LEGO Movie)
“Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me)
“Lost Stars” (Begin Again)
It will either be Everything is Awesome or Glory and I think Glory is a solid hip hop anthem. Both movies should be honored. Lost Stars is probably the best written song of the group but Everything is Awesome is my favorite.
Will Win: “Glory” My Vote: “Everything is Awesome”
best sound mixing
I think this will and should go to Whiplash. My understanding of sound mixing is rather limited but what I do know it is putting together different sounds to make a scene work and nowhere was better than that than Whiplash.
Will Win: Whiplash My Vote: Whiplash
best sound editing
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
American Sniper will win this award. It’s a lock. Only seen one on this list. (All the movies come out at the same time so it takes me most of the next year to see them all!).
Will Win: AmericanSniper My Vote: Only seen Birdman and I wouldn’t give it to that. I would give it to Whiplash
All of these movies have amazing visual effects. I would be happy if any of them win. I wish that every last one of them was nominated for best picture. It was such a strong year for comic book movies and I’m normally not a huge fan. These movies were immersive experiences with well written characters and story arcs you don’t normally see in big budget movies. It was awesome. I think Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will win for best visual effects and I think it should win.
Will Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes My Vote: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I like all of these movies and I’ve seen all of them. I actually gave A’s to all of them. I think How to Train Your Dragon 2 will win and it is a great movie. It is a rare sequel that is better than the original. It had an epic feel to it and I loved the heart of the mother character and the flying sequences were amazing. However, I think both Dragon and The Boxtrolls are weaker than Lego Movie even though I loved them. My favorite would be Song of the Sea but I loved Big Hero 6 and Kaguya. I would be happy with any of them winning. The one thing that makes me pull for Dragon is DreamWorks really needs a win right now. They’ve had huge layoffs, closed their major studio and there upcoming releases do not look promising. The strangest thing is that all 3 of their films last year made a healthy profit so I don’t know what is going on?
For me 2014 had only 2 theatrically released animated stinkers. It was such a great year. The diversity of the characters, scope of animation and heart-felt topics covered I will never forget. 2015 looks pretty sad in comparison.
Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 My Vote: Song of the Sea
I haven’t seen any of them but Ida is nominated for best cinematography so I would go with that. Why is it that animated films never get nominated for best foreign film? Tale of Princess Kaguya or the Latvian Rocks in My Pockets would have been worthy entries.
Will Win: Ida My Vote: Haven’t seen any but I’d give it to Rocks in My Pockets
Citizenfour Finding Vivian Mayer Last Days in Vietnam The Salt of the Earth
Pour sad Life Itself is not nominated. Baffling. I haven’t seen any of these but I will be disgusted if Citzenfour wins and we reward anything to do with the scumbag Edward Snowden but I wouldn’t put it past leftist Hollywood.
The animated shorts are actually really strong. The other one’s I haven’t seen but I am going with the major predictions
Animated Short: Feast Documentary Short: Joanna Live Action Short: The Phone Call
There’s my ballot. Hope that helps you out when getting ready for your office polls and the like. Occasionally they do give the right movie the award (Slumdog Millionaire for example) so let’s all hope for Boyhood! But if it goes to Birdman than cheers for Hollywood’s misogyny in full force!
And here are my best and worst of the year videos. I have seen some I would have included but it’s still movies I love.
I finally got to the theater to see the Oscar nominated film The Theory of Everything. It tells the story of Stephen and Jane Hawking’s marriage and life together.
They meet before Stephen’s ALS diagnosis and everything is shot through sepia tones with dew filled lighting, very picturesque. (That technique is called upon far too often in the movie…). I wish they had let us know why Jane falls in love with Stephen. She just says kind of out of the blue that she is in love with him but I would have liked to have gotten more into her heart.
Then the film chronicles his diagnosis, their marriage, his progress on The Brief History of Time and his physics theories. They do a good job making the theories accessible and easy enough for the viewer to understand. You might not really get them but enough to see why they are so important. (I mean it is black holes after all!). There is also a continuing theme of Stephen’s atheism conflicting with his theories which was interesting.
There is an extended section where Jane meets a choir director named Jonathan and that was a snoozefest. I never felt like I got to know Jane well enough. I found myself anxious in her sections to get on to Stephen because more concrete things were happening to him and the performance by Eddie Redmayne is very good. Felicity Jones is just ok but the script doesn’t give her a ton to work with.
The movie also has constant twirling which I guess was supposed to mimic the universe but got annoying after a while (seriously even the coffee twirls).
My feelings at the end of the movie is- it is fine. It’s a perfectly standard adequate satisfying biopic about a very unique man. I found myself getting anxious for the story to move along and all the dew filled picturesque cinematography got on my nerves. It kept the two main characters at a distance. I rarely felt I got in their hearts or who they really were.
But I still enjoyed it. It’s competently made and a good story. I liked it. I just didn’t LOVE it. It’s such an interesting life that it may work almost in spite of itself.
I liked they didn’t try to give it more of a perfect ending than was deserved. From what I understand they stuck to real life events pretty well.
I couldn’t help but think of A Beautiful Mind while watching A Theory of Everything. Both are shot with a similar style about women married to geniuses who become ill. I think A Beautiful Mind is better because it gets a little more into both characters heads and I liked the twist (and the script is tighter). But they are very similar.
So if you liked Beautiful Mind than you will probably enjoy A Theory of Everything. I’m certainly glad I saw it. It’s always great to watch stories of people who defy the odds and do incredible things. A Theory of Everything gives us such a story and I enjoyed it even if I didn’t think it was spectacular. I was inspired by the events of the movie more than the movie itself.
This would be a good movie to watch on a Sunday when you are looking to be inspired and it would certainly be a good way to introduce students to Hawking’s life and ideas. Like I said it doesn’t reinvent the wheel but I liked it.
As far as content there is hints of affairs but it is kept very PG and a brief but very tame penthouse magazine. Maybe a little language and a scene where a trachea is installed that was tough to watch.