Jupiter Ascending

Movie Man Mike is back!

Jupiter Ascending.  B.  Okay, I’m a sci-fi geek.  Let’s just get that out of the way to start with.  That’s probably why I liked this film, while it has failed to draw in broader audiences.  The film, the stars, and the story are not likely to win any awards or even nominations.  However, the film does contain some pretty cool visual effects and some fun alien creatures.  I saw it in 3-D on an IMAX screen, and I have to say that the 3-D effects were probably the best I’ve encountered to date.

The story-line generally involves a battle between three siblings from another part of the universe.  The siblings are each angling for control over Earth.  Balem Abrasax, played by Oscar-nominee Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn), has control of Earth when the film opens, but we learn that his control is threatened by the reincarnation of the siblings’ mother, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, Oz the Great and Powerful) who would dispossess all of the siblings of their holdings were she to re-assume her position of power.  Jupiter Jones, born on Earth, has no clue that she is reincarnated, leads a very ordinary life, and doesn’t quite believe in beings from outer space.  The siblings send down teams of people to locate her and assassinate her or kidnap her and bring her to them.  Caine Wise (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street) is a genetically engineered ex-military hunter who has fallen from grace.  He is sent by one of the siblings to protect Jupiter Jones from assassination and he winds up taking on a little more than he was hired to do.  While the story is a bit complex, the infighting between the siblings and their deceptions and underhandedness draw the viewer into the story.  The film isn’t for everyone and it does have a little cheesiness here and there, but if you like science fiction films, you ought to check this one out.

Oz the Great and Powerful

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Oz the Great and Powerful  (B-).  I think it helped to go into this movie with low expectations.  Sam Raimi of Spider-Man and Evil Dead fame directed this tale of how the Wizard of Oz actually arrived in that merry old land many years before Dorothy and Toto did.  Oz (James Franco, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) is a small-time magician toiling away in a two-bit traveling carnival in nowhere Kansas.  Serendipity and a massive cyclone whisk him off to Oz.  It seems that Oz is plagued by a wicked witch (some things never change), and the people look to Oz to fulfill a prophecy that a great wizard will defeat the witch and return peace and prosperity to the land.  Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Rachel Weisz (About a Boy), and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn) add some interest as Oz’s three resident witches, but I thought the show was stolen by a sweet little china girl (that is, a live figurine made of china) that Oz repairs and becomes a kind of foster father to.  Is it as magical as the original?  Of course not.  But it’s not a bad movie.  The PG rating is for some potentially scary action sequences and a couple of uses of profanity, and that seems about right to me.

Black Swan

New review from Movie Man Mike

Black Swan. (A). Visually haunting and amazing. The images in this film stayed with me for days and visited me in my dreams. This film has been nominated for 4 Golden Globe awards and it is receiving some early Oscar buzz—and rightly so. Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a devoted, aspiring ballerina, who lives under the shadow of a controlling, suffocating mother, played by Barbara Hershey. Nina finally gets her chance to prove herself as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake when Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) is put out to pasture. But director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) has doubts as to whether Nina has it in her to also be the black swan-a darker, more sexual character. The pressure of it all pushes Nina into unexplored territory physically and mentally. The entire cast of this film is brilliant, including free-spirit Lily (Mila Kunis), who pushes Nina to the brink. At the end, you’ll ask yourself, where reality begins and ends. You gotta see this one. It’s good. My one criticism of this film are the little gasps of fear that come out of Portman during some of the dance scenes. It’s a bit annoying and probably not needed to express the emotion of the character.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Movie review from The Movie Snob

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (B-). This new comedy was co-produced by the ubiquitous Judd Apatow, who wrote and directed Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I read somewhere that Apatow once said something to the effect that he makes movies that are both conservative and raunchy. This flick is off-the-deep-end in vulgarity, but I didn’t really detect any conservative messages or subtexts. Anyhoo, the story is an archetypal male fantasy. An ordinary joe (Jason Segel, The Five-Year Engagement) gets dumped by his attractive TV-star girlfriend (Kristen Bell, When in Rome), only to meet and connect with an even more attractive girl (Mila Kunis, The Black Swan)–right in front of the ex-girlfriend’s face! And a pretty standard comedic nightmare gets employed too: the guy is so distraught by getting dumped that he impulsively takes off for Hawaii–and ends up at the same hotel as his ex-girlfriend and her rock-star lover! I definitely enjoyed some laughs at the various situations, and sure you root for the guy to end up with the new girl instead of ever getting back with the old one. And what a pleasant surprise to see Steve Landesberg from the old Barney Miller show turn up in a small part! If you can handle lots of vulgarity and male nudity, you might enjoy this movie. All others should steer clear.