‘Jupiter Ascending’ Lacks a Story ; ‘The Loft’ A Good Idea That Fails to Deliver

jupiter as ending
Movie Review – ‘Jupiter Ascending’

MOVIE INFO

From the streets of Chicago to the far-flung galaxies whirling through space, “Jupiter Ascending” tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who was born under a night sky, with signs predicting she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along-her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

Rating:
PG-13 (for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity)

Genre:
Action & Adventure , Science Fiction & Fantasy

Review: ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a space saga we’ve seen before, minus the depth
By Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News

Rating: 2 stars

Running time: 2 hrs. 5 min.
“I just want to know what the hell is going on!” Jupiter Jones cries, sounding like a confused teen girl might if her mom was dropping her off at Target instead of the mall.

It’s a question that no doubt will be asked by many in the audience long before this point in “Jupiter Ascending,” and one you’d think would have been figured out before a reported $175 million — before marketing — was spent on the original sci-fi action adventure from siblings Lana and Andy Wachowski.

Mila Kunis stars as the title character in the film, which is being released in 3-D and 2-D. She plays a young Chicago woman named after the largest planet in our solar system. Jupiter has grown with visions of stars, but instead finds herself as an adult toiling in her uncle’s house-cleaning business. Scrubbing out toilets seems to be her specialty. (We mention this because of how often she is shown doing it.)

Her father, an astrophysicist, was murdered in Russia before she was born and her mother gave birth to her on the passage to the U.S., where the two would join her aunt’s family. There, Jupiter and her mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy) have inexplicably settled for dusting and mopping rather than pursuing an American dream.

Her family is no prize. Her uncle just pushes them to slavishly work. Her greedy, lazy cousin (Kick Gurry) wants her to sell her eggs to a fertility clinic, and Jupiter doesn’t blink when he says he will take two-thirds of the money.

Meanwhile, out there in the universe, three scheming siblings of the ruling royal family Abrasax are vying for rights to Earth, which their race had originally seeded and believe it is now ripe for reaping.

Their mother once owned the planet, but it turns out Jupiter can stop their plans. Somehow the unaware young woman is a genetic reincarnation of the siblings’ mother and can reclaim Earth. One of the three, Balem (Oscar nominee Eddie Redmayne from “The Theory of Everything”), dispatches assassins to deal with her. Another, Titus (Douglas Booth), with devious plans of his own, sends Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically designed soldier with wolf DNA, to bring her back to him. The third, Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), has her own agenda.

When Jupiter is on the clinic’s table about to have her eggs removed, the assassins make their move. Caine, as you might guess, swoops in to protect her. Chaos ensues, including the destruction of large swaths of Chicago. Though she has been tossed around like a rag doll in the fight to save her, Jupiter doesn’t seem too shaken or surprised when Caine apprises her of the situation, including that she is royalty.

Besides, she thinks he is cute.

“Your Majesty, I have more in common with a dog than I have with you,” Caine tells Jupiter. “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs,” she replies, liking the way he calls her “Your Majesty.”

At best, “Jupiter Ascending” might be called a shaggy-dog story. While the film stitches together elements of classical drama, “Oz” and sci-fi heroes’ journeys like “Star Wars,” the Wachowskis don’t spend much time integrating them into anything original, and like many of these overpriced fantasies, the film tries to cover up its holes with dizzying but ultimately mind-numbing action and noise.

Last week, while on a panel at the Sundance Film Festival, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas noted that movies today are “more and more circus without any substance behind it.”

“Star Wars” drew on some of the same sources — a space Western with archetypal heroes — but Lucas created a viable universe, which allowed for characters to develop and struggle with choices of good and evil. Decades later, people remain interested.

Like “Star Wars,” the protagonist of “Jupiter Ascending” is someone clueless about her destiny. But Luke had warrior skills and ambitions; Jupiter has a toilet brush. It’s curious that such a passive woman would be put at the heart of the story today.

Despite the cool special effects for the time, “Star Wars” spent most of its time developing its story and characters. Now, filmmakers spend large chunks of movies mindlessly destroying cities, without anyone caring. Remember the Death Star’s destruction of the planet Alderaan? Poof, and then a bit of superb acting by the great Alec Guinness made us feel it.

There are no moments like that in “Jupiter Ascending.” The Wachowskis should know better. They made their mark with “The Matrix” trilogy, which in its first film created an interesting futuristic world that audiences could understand through its slightly paranoid protagonist, Neo (Keanu Reeves). Ultimately the franchise self-destructed by the overwrought third film, though it made money.

The duo’s next film, “Speed Racer,” based on a Japanese anime series, failed at the box office. The Wachowskis’ last film, “Cloud Atlas,” based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, was a noble effort to bring something different to the screen — a smart, multi-storyline sci-fi fantasy with themes of reincarnation and destiny. It, too, failed at the box office.

Considering some of the sci-fi dreck from Hollywood in the last couple of decades, “Jupiter Ascending” isn’t that bad of a film, just one we have seen before in more interesting ways. The Wachowskis can still fashion some spectacular looking, intricate visuals, especially in the design of the other worlds where the Abrasax family lives.

The cast is universally fine, populated for the most part with British thespians you might recognize from some excellent BBC series. The problem is no one is given much to work with; there are too many characters and too little time to tell their stories since so much of the film is bang-bang, crash-crash.

Redmayne is a wonderful actor, but as Balem, he is asked to do little more than exude evil and exhibit a mommy complex, which he does well. Booth and Middleton are solid as his siblings, more memorable for their good-looking presence than anything they do.

Tatum, as we have seen most recently in “Foxcatcher,” is an actor with depth, but you can only do so much as a dog soldier. I’ve always liked Kunis’ onscreen presence, but I can’t figure out the character and I’m not sure the actress did, either.

Perhaps the weirdest bit in the movie is when Jupiter, trying to secure her title to Earth, runs into a succession of funky-looking outer-space petite bureaucrats. Just as you take notice and wonder if you have wandered into a sci-fi version of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” Gilliam shows up as one of the cranky officials. Ah, kind of a cool joke, but it hasn’t much connection to the film. But then you realize, neither do you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Lowman
Reach the author at rob.lowman@dailynews.com or follow Rob on Twitter: @roblowman1.

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the loft

Movie Review – ‘The Loft’

MOVIE INFO

Karl Urban (Star Trek Into Darkness) and James Marsden (2 Guns) star in the tense psychological thriller THE LOFT, the story of five guys who conspire to secretly share a penthouse loft in the city–a place where they can indulge in their deepest fantasies. But the fantasy becomes a nightmare when they discover the dead body of an unknown woman in the loft, and they realize one of the group must be involved. Paranoia seizes them as everyone begins to suspect one another. Friendships are tested, loyalties are questioned and marriages crumble as the group is consumed by fear, suspicion and murder in this relentless thriller.

Rating:
R (for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language and some drug use)

Genre:
Mystery & Suspense , Drama
‘The Loft’ review: Good premise wasted
By RAFER GUZMÁN rafer.guzman@newsday.com
www.newsday.com

PLOT: A woman’s body is discovered in a secret apartment shared by five philandering men. Rated R (violence, nudity, language).

“Imagine this is our own private oasis,” says architect Vincent Stevens, walking into an upscale pied-á-terre in his latest building. With him are four married men whose mental wheels quickly begin churning. Vincent is way ahead of them: “No messy hotel bills. No questionable credit-card charges.”

That’s the setup of “The Loft,” which becomes a gruesome version of Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” when Vincent (Karl Urban) discovers a woman’s butchered body in his king-size bed. Which of the philanderers dunit? Coke-snorting Phil (Matthias Schoenaerts), or his levelheaded brother, Chris (James Marsden)? Tightly wound Luke (Wentworth Miller)? Loudmouth Marty (Eric Stonestreet)? Or is Vincent fooling them all?

“The Loft,” Erik Von Looy’s remake of his 2008 Belgian hit, dangles a delicious premise before us and whets our appetite for the little details and big reveals we hope are coming. Aren’t you already anticipating the shivery moment when we realize that our hero has been left alone — with the killer?

Alas, the movie can’t get us there — not even close. Once screenwriters Bart De Pauw and Wesley Strick establish their brainteaser of a murder, they struggle desperately to work backward and piece together a story. Their solution is to create wildly erratic characters whose motivations — if not their entire personalities — change every 15 minutes solely to drive the plot. Cries of love come out of nowhere, back stories don’t jibe, betrayals beggar belief. Some credit is due to the actors, soldiering ahead through a script that keeps pulling the rug out from under them.

The husbands in “The Loft” are such odious liars that we have a hard time caring about their predicament. The film tries to solve that problem by painting their wives as nagging witches and needy dead weights. No wonder our heroes hop in bed with damaged sexual playthings like Sarah (Isabel Lucas) and expensive blondes like Anne (Rachael Taylor, a dead ringer for Sharon Stone circa “Basic Instinct”). Rarely has a film treated its female characters so hatefully.

“The Loft” has one of the rarest and most precious commodities in Hollywood — a good idea. Too bad the movie made such a bloody mess of it.

BOTTOM LINE Whodunit? Even the filmmakers don’t seem quite sure. A waste of a perfectly good premise.

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