Darke Reviews | Jupiter Ascending (2015)

So this is a few days late, the 9-5 takes precedence, but was it worth the wait? It’s rather hard for me to avoid reviews of others until I write my own. I’ve also found the people you see a movie with can determine how you feel about it coming out. Last movie saw with one friend, we sang along, laughed, and winced. This one I saw with a friend who is notorious for not enjoying the sci fi genre that much and another who has far less tolerance than I when it comes to what they will accept in a film. Would I have the feelings I have for this without having seen it with them? Honestly…I’ve been thinking about that all day while I try to figure out how to write this review. I suppose it is worth mentioning I went in with some fairly low expectations.

Let me go into why for a moment. The Wachowski siblings are hit and miss. They gave us the Matrix, and its sequels. They also gave us the screenplay for V for Vendetta. They also gave us Speed Racer. Speed Racer gets a lot of hate, it is mixed in that regard as I see it as someone giving us live action anime. It gave me the cartoon I saw as a kid and again as a high schooler as the entirety of the artists in my class became obsessed with Speed Racer. Their work however, when looked at as a body is high in style, with a lot of marks for intent and most of the marks come in low on the execution. The Matrix sequels are proof of that concept as the artistic intent seems to be there, but their inability to execute it resulted in audiences decrying the franchise as a whole. And that dear friends is where the problems of Jupiter Ascending begin to show.

The movie is both written and directed by Andy and Lana; and you can tell. They learned none of the lessons from Matrix 3 and the exposition brigade. Nearly every yawn inducing line from the movie is about political intrigues, families, or space jabber that most folks won’t bother to try to keep up with. I referenced this in a friends post, but the script for this film is like Dune and Battlefield Earth had a baby…..and this movie is the afterbirth. I promise you that the ten minutes spent on space bureaucracy that makes a trip to the MDV after a root canal look positively entertaining could have been better spent on making me give a damn. Aside from horrific monologues, droll political double talk, the movie also suffers from bad science. I can take most films in the sci fi genre presenting me rules so long as they follow them. You cannot tell me how important genetics are to these people and pretty much violate some of the core science of genetics. Look I am not a genetic engineer, much like anyone on the internet I am an armchair scientist with enough information to be dangerous to myself and others. I understand this and try not to talk about things I don’t know and I really wish the writers here had too.

From an acting perspective, I fault no actor here. I lay the blame solely on the directors. Mila Kunis does fine as Jupiter, the typical destined one who has no idea of her destiny until people start trying to kill her. Channing Tatum is wasted as Caine Wise (thats right up there with Cypher Rage in After Earth) a man sent to find and return Jupiter to her family. Comedy he does well. Action he does well. Brooding he does not. Please stop with the brooding. He does not do it well. Also….peroxide blonde – not a good look for him. He does ok with the material, but that’s largely because he does actually have some talent in there. Poor Eddie Redmayne has this released the weekend he gets a BAFTA for Theory of Everything. I know this boy can act…but what the heck was this? If you’ve noticed a trend of confusion in my commentary on the actors it’s because these are good people who do stellar work normally and have jack to work with and are clearly being given the oddest direction imaginable.

The technical flaws don’t end there, but really seem to only begin. The movie has no fundamental tone. It can’t seem to make up it’s mind as to who the central character is to be, what the central focus is to be, or what the outcome is until it happens. It spirals around its own ideas but never coalesces into a cohesive shape of it’s own. Every fight takes about two minutes too long. Every scene is just a bit too busy. Even the resolution to some of the fights is repeated to the point it is almost a joke. I wasn’t kidding about the ten minutes of bureaucracy by the way, that actually happened and was boring. When Harry Potter did it in the first film there was whimsy to it and a sense of amazement even amidst the banality. Here the banality is on display for one and all and is quite possibly infused with a dementor as it sucks the soul out of you.

The one thing the movie has is beautiful visuals. The ships, the space flight, the planets, the creature design, the prosthetics are all top notch. Sadly thats about all I can say.


Had I not seen it with two friends I might have taken a nap at times waiting for the movie to realize what it was or fulfill a promise that I think it wanted to make. I knew going in this would be a style over substance movie as many other Wachowski films are; yet what I couldn’t realize was its attempts at trying to be more would be so bloody awful and dull. It has moments of fun spliced with long runs of nonsense. Even turning off my brain for this one wouldn’t lend enjoyment as I would have likely dozed off.

If you are curious, please feel free to check it out, but stick to the matinee and 2D.

Otherwise, give this one a pass. It wanted to be good sci-fi and failed. It tried to be more than it was and was a train wreck of proportions I have not seen since Ghosts of Mars.


Theoretically later this week I will go see 7th Son, at least I know that will be bad. This one sadly gave me hope. Silly me.

Darke Reviews | Oz The Great and Powerful (2013)

No one can accuse director Sam Raimi of not having a visionary mind full of wonder and weirdness. To be perfectly honest I think Tim Burton could learn a thing or two from Raimi these days. The man who in 1981 brought us the original Evil Dead and showed us low budget horror at its finest and in 2002 brought the worlds most famous web slinger to screen and made more than a few of us believe in heroes again has taken us to Oz.

I am a fan of Wicked and the story of Galinda and Elphaba. I am a fan of the brilliance of Victor Fleming’s 1939 spectacle with Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton. I need to let you know now, this is neither of those stories. This is a new Oz.

This is an Oz with water faeries, witches, Winkies, China Dolls and let us not forget flying monkeys This is an Oz with impossible cloud formations and even more impossible geography. One where the day is warm, kind and clearly magical; and where the night is intimidating, menacing and you know you don’t want to see what goes bump in the night.

The opening of this movie in a 1905 Kansas made me smile. It could be because I was a carnie for a summer once and that in a century some things never change. It could be the nice call back to the original and a hint of things to come. One twist(er) later and we are in Oz. The CG landscape while bright and colorful was jarring in it’s rendering. I had trouble accepting the world at first but it grew on me as I realized what it was for – Wonder.

Oz is Wonderful. Not the man, he’s a bit of a schmuck. The land of Oz is truly wonderful. When I stopped caring about the CG and listened to the reeds play carnival music. When I saw the majesty of the Emerald City given form more than a painting it started. What truly sold me was the China Doll. I’ll be damned if the FX team didn’t do an amazing job. There were only a handful of times where I knew she was CG rather than Practical, but I truly lost myself in a world with a China Doll who could walk, cry and may be one of the most memorable and endearing characters in the movie.

That isn’t to say that James Franco as Oz isn’t good, he turns in a performance we know he is more than capable of as a man who doesn’t know what he is capable of. Rachel Weisz is ravishing as Evanora the Guardian of the Emerald City and gives us what we expect, but surprisingly she is upstaged by Mila Kunis. Mila’s turn as Theodora, sister to Evanora, was for me nothing but heart breaking as she devours scenery like pop corn. Some have said Michelle Williams as Glinda is a bit flat but that is only in her delivery and dialogue. Let’s be honest Glinda isn’t exactly the most dimensional person in the world no matter what version you like. I do disagree that she’s flat though. Her performance isnt to be found in the dialogue. It’s Michelle’s body language and expressions. This is a woman who knows her face, her shoulders and blocking and can use it.

Was the CG heavy handed at times and took me out of the world? Sure.

How about the 3D? This one uses it in interesting ways a few times, some tricks I haven’t seen done. A lot of it is the classic “thing coming at your face” but there are some nice depth of field effects. I don’t think you will miss much if you can’t stand 3D. If you could go either way, see it in 3D and let me know what you think?

Can I take Kids to it? – Yes. Yes. Yes. This movie is for them more than Jack the Giant slayer ever could have hoped to be.

Will I get something out of it as an adult? No promises, but I know I did. The movie made me smile, it made me laugh, it let me look at the world and remember what movies are here for. To let our minds wander and wonder. Let that inner child that watched the Wizard of Oz and saw someone travel by Bubble or Broomstick and go “that would be cool”.

So there it is, I recommend this one for kids of all ages; inside and out.

I plan to catch this one again, sans 3D with friends later. Making this one of the few movies I will see more than once in the theatre. Between this and Beautiful Creatures earlier this year ((see it damnit)) – I think some directors have realized we don’t always need darkness. Sometimes we do need a Wonderful Wizard.