Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowski siblings are a talented duo but they haven’t managed to produce a film as good as The Matrix. Their latest is a space opera adventure starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis that has been panned worldwide. Does Jupiter Ascending deserve all the criticism it’s getting?

Jupiter Jones (Kunis) is an ordinary girl who cleans toilets for a living. Her life changes when she meets Caine (Tatum) an alien soldier, and realises she’s actually genetically identical to a dead alien queen and therefore is the owner of Earth. However the dead queen’s three devious children are all making plans against Jupiter. Can Caine save her?

Considering how many films are sequels, remakes or based on existing franchises you have to admire the Wachowskis for trying to produce something original. However when the end result is Jupiter Ascending it’s no wonder audience are rushing to see the latest Marvel movie instead. On the one hand Jupiter Ascending is never boring and there are some laughs to be had. Unfortunately none of it is intentional. Perhaps a bit more intended humour or some knowing winks at the audience would have been a bit bearable but everything is so serious that it’s hard to take the film seriously.

While some of the visuals are fine the script is poor with lines such as bees can tell if you’re lying and apparently they can also recognise royalty. I feel sorry for actors like Sean Bean (playing a bee/human hybrid Stinger Apini- yes it’s that kind of movie) having to be the one having to say such dubious lines of the film. Still at least he keeps a straight face while saying these lines. Him and Tatum look like they are trying to approach the film seriously while Kunis looks like she’s bored through most of the movie. Maybe because she’s constantly playing the damsel in distress throughout the film.

Then there’s the House of Abrasax family, who are the dead queen’s children. It seems as though the three siblings (Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton and Douglas Booth) were directed to ham it up as large as possible, with Redmayne the worst offender. Middleton’s Kalique is perhaps the most interesting of the three but unfortunately she’s the one we see the least. Instead we get Redmayne’s Balem hamming it up in his plots against Jupiter and Booth’s Titus in a bizarre quest to try to marry his mother’s clone. And no one mentions how creepy that is.

Despite its flaws I could see Jupiter Ascending become some kind of cult classic in the future for those who like it’s camp ‘charm’.  It’s just a shame because you can tell that those involved wanted it to be taken much more seriously than that.

Rating 2/5 – ridiculous and dumb but it’s never dull

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Ex Machina

Alex Garland has previously made a name for himself through his novel The Beach, and his screenplays for 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go. Now in his directorial debut Garland explores the complex relationship between humans and AI technology.

When programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins an opportunity to stay at his employer Nathan’s (Oscar Isaac) secluded house he finds that Nathan wants him to help with his latest project. He has created an AI named Ava (Alicia Vikander) and he wants Caleb to test Ava to see whether she can pass as a human. As Caleb gets closer to Ava he finds himself questioning what is going on around him and who he can ultimately trust.

For the majority of the film we are kept in one location. A stunning house which while beautiful is also cold and isolating (perhaps representing how Ava comes across or to reinforce the isolation that keeps our main characters away from the rest of the world). This is a film less about action and more about characters. Caleb is faced with a question can Ava pass as a human? This opens up questions as to what exactly is human behaviour. Can Oscar’s actions be considered human? Don’t humans have it in them to be cold and calculating as they accuse AI’s of potentially being?

We are left in the company of three main characters for most of the film. All have been well-chosen to suit their roles. Isaac brings intensity to self-proclaimed Genius Nathan. Secretive and full of ego, like Caleb we also cannot be quite sure of his true motives. Gleeson works well as the audience surrogate Caleb, and we are often in the same position as him, never sure who he can trust – Nathan or Ava? The best of an accomplished bunch is Vikander as Ava, beautiful, analytic, we are never quite show about her. Does she have human qualities? We don’t know what her real aims are or how she feels about her inventor and her visitor.

It’s not without flaws, sometimes you wish for a little bit more action to drive the plot, and it can be a bit slow at times. It also treads familiar ground and doesn’t really offer much more than other firlms about artifical intelligence. I think the ending may also divide some people. I liked it but others may disagree. But this is a film worth seeing and then discussing with your friends after to see if you viewed the film differently.

Rating 3.5/5 – smart, gorgeously shot and with three excellent performances

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San Andreas

Disaster movies can be quite fun as long as you leave your brain at home. I’ve always enjoyed watching classic ones like The Poseiden Adventure and The Towering Inferno. But then there are ones that are just boring such as the John Cusack snoozefest 2012. So where does Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson’s new flick stand?

Johnson is Ray, a LA helicopter rescue pilot whose estranged from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino). When a massive earthquake rips across lots of cities along the San Andreas Fault, Johnson has to rescue not only Emma but also their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who is trapped in San Francisco. As threats of further earthquakes come in, can Ray save both the women in his life?

Having low expectations going in to see this movie, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. Ok it’s never going to be a classic movie but it knows what it is and does it well. Having Dwayne Johnson in the lead role helps as he’s one of the few professional wrestler turn actor that can actually act and have loads of charisma. You can also believe that if anyone can take on an earthquake it’s the man formally known as The Rock.

As for the supporting characters, Paul Giamatti sprouts exposition well as Dr. Lawrence Hayes and Ray’s daughter Blake is, unusually for this genre, not annoying and is actually quite resourceful. Yes she ultimately does have to be rescued by her father (as does her mother) but San Andreas isn’t looking to challenge too many cliches.There’s Emma’s new boyfriend who predictably turns out to be a coward, and someone has to die early on to save a helpless child.

Some of it is very stupid. Ray and Emma almost fall into a huge hole in the ground even though it was right in front of them. Some of the conversations between the ex couple are also a bit boring as they are just there to provide the back story to their relationship. Yes it’s cheesy, and it won’t re-invent the disaster movie, but San Andreas is easy watching and has good special effects to satisfy most audience viewers.

Rating 3/5 – silly but enjoyable none the less

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Poltergeist (2015)

I watched Poltergeist when I was younger and it did find it a bit freaky (not as scary as A Nightmare on Elm Street though, I was afraid to go to sleep for a year after watching that!). Now we have the remake produced by Sam Raimi of Evil Dead fame. But will this remake be terrifying for all the wrong reasons?

The Bowen family are moving into a new house after the father Eric (Sam Rockwell) loses his job. Soon son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) is seeing strange things in the house but no one is listening to him. That is until one night the house goes berserk and youngest daughter Maddison goes missing. Can the family bring her back to them and fight the Poltergiest?

I often have low expectations when it comes to remakes, especially of horror movies. And films like Poltergiest is the reason why. Simply put it was not scary. Mostly I just felt bored.

Maybe it didn’t help that I re watched the original not long before watching the new version. While the original didn’t scare me like it did when I was younger it was better in practically every aspect than the 2015 film. Even the special effects weren’t that good. There didn’t feel like there was a good enough build up and when the family start getting attacked I didn’t feel terrified or particularly scared for them. I just wanted to get it over with. Considering how much the film’s advertising has been spent showcasing the toy clown, and it does provide a few creepy moments, the film squanders it’s opportunity to be really scary. Disappointing.

Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt try their best as the parents of the Bowen family but you could tell they probably only signed onto this film for the money. The children are not interesting, and I think it was the wrong move to make Griffin the centre of this movie as he was just not a strong enough character to hold the film. And he got really irritating after a while. Jared Harris’ Carrigan Burke had potential as a tv personality with his own Paranormal show who actually can contact the dead. But ultimately he isn’t as memorable as Zelda Rubinstein’s spiritual medium Tangina Barrons in the original.

In my opinion even die-hard horror fans should avoid this like the plague. Unless you’re glutton for punishment then Poltergeist will more likely have you falling asleep in the cinema rather than have you hiding behind your chair.

Rating 1.5/5 – slow, dull and with very few scares

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 10: Mother’s Mercy

Have we recovered yet? I certainly haven’t. And by the looks of it the internet hasn’t either. But first let’s look at the rest of the episode before we get to it’s shocking denouement.

I knew Stannis would get his comeuppance eventually. I just didn’t expect it so soon. This big battle at Winterfell that has been hyped up all season never came, as half of Stannis’ men deserted him and his wife committed suicide. The look on Melisandre’s face said it all really. She has backed the wrong horse and Stannis has sacrificed his daughter for nothing. It was also amusing to hear that Melisandre had fled and abandoned Stannis to face the Boltons on his own. Easily defeated by their superior army Stannis is wounded when he comes across a vengeful Brienne. The last we see of him is his acceptance of death as Brienne wields her sword. It’s unlikely he escapes his fate. Stannis story has come to a natural end. He has sacrificed many people, including his brother and his own daughter to capture the Iron Throne but it seems the gods were not on his side. As well executed as it were I felt Stannis’s scenes in this episode could have been a lot longer (it’s not often I say that!). Maybe if there had been an episode’s worth of build up with him believing everything is going his way before it falls spectacularly apart then this would have been a bit more satisfying. Still Davos lives! Although what will he do now Stannis and Shireen are gone?

Meanwhile watching from afar at Winterfell, Sansa sees her opportunity to escape using the corkscrew she stole. She tries to light a candle to Brienne but narrowly misses her. As she tries to escape on her own she runs into Reek/Theon and Myrnada. I was glad to see Sansa bravely stand up to Myranda as she declares she’d rather die now as herself rather than when Rasey has broken her. Myranda though laughs and threatens to mutilate her causing Reek/Theon (finally) to step up and push Myranda over the edge to her death. How I cheered. Last we see of Reek/Theon and Sansa they are jumping off the castle walls together. How can they survive the jump? Will the snow cushion their fall? And where will they go? So many questions. Including why did Reek/Theon react now when he’s had plenty of opportunities before? I personally think it was down to Myranda threatening to cut off the parts of Sansa that wasn’t needed. I think this snapped him into action having been through Ramsey’s own torture. Better late then never I suppose. But Sansa’s escape was one of the few happy things in this episode so I’ll go with it.

In Dorne Jamie, Bronn, Myrcella and Trystane set sail back to King’s Landing and Ellaria says goodbye and sorry to Myrcella with a kiss. As soon as she did that I knew it was the kiss of death-literally. Of course Myrcella’s poisoning doesn’t come apparent until after her heartfelt talk with Jamie who tries to confess to her that she’s his daughter. Myrcella states she already knew and she’s happy that he’s her father. Really Myrcella you’re happy that your uncle is your father and you’re a child of incest…ok? Although we don’t see her death, like Stannis I think she’s a goner. Now that that’s happened does this mean we won’t have to endure anymore of the pointless Sand Snakes?

In Braavos Arya goes to a brothel where Meryn Trant is and slays him quite brutally in a bloody but effective scene. While I’m happy she killed him I knew taking one of the faces for a disguise without asking and killing for her own needs was going to bring her trouble. Arya can’t forget she’s a Stark and the consequences of what she has done are quite horrific as she starts to go blind. (I thought for a moment that the Many Faced Gods were going to take her face!) What does this mean for Arya now?

Over in King’s Landing Cersei confesses to the High Sparrow about sleeping with her cousin Lancel but denies all other charges. She’s allowed to go back home but must face an ‘atonement’.Which involves cutting all her hair, putting her in rags before disrobing her and making her walk naked all the way through an angry mob to get to the Red Keep. I have to say Lena Headey knocks it out the park with her performance of Cersei. I mean she’s always good but there was so much emotion on her face, fear, anger, determination. While she’s a great character I’ve never felt particularly sorry for Cersei (even when her son died I couldn’t feel for her because it was Joffrey who was dead-too busy celebrating). But even I felt slightly sorry for her at this point. Even if she brought everything on herself by being so stupid. Anyway I won’t go into anther rant. What I will say is that it was interesting to see her newest member of the Kings guard –the Mountain! Last properly seen with in his deadly duel with Oberyn. Hopefully the Mountain will kill the Sparrows next season as they are really getting on my nerves.

Across the narrow sea in Meereen with Daenerys still missing Daario and Jorah decide to leave Meereen to search for her, while Tyrion governs the city with Grey Worm (we hadn’t seen him for so long I thought he’d died!) and Missandei. It made me laugh when they decided the Unsullied should stay in Meereen as they were the only thing keeping the city together when they have been rubbish this season. Still with Grey Worm back on his feet hopefully he can whip them to shape. Also does anyone else think that Daario and Jorah won’t both come back to Meereen? Surely one will try to kill the other? Although this episode is a bit of a downer there is some good news as Varys returns and him and Tyrion return to their banter and contemplate governing Meeren. We then find out that Drogon has taken Daenerys very far from home and is too exhausted and wounded to take her back. As Daenerys wonders off to get food she is quickly surrounded by a Dothraki horde? Will they be friend or foe to the mother of dragons?

Which leads us to the end of the episode. Having sent Sam off to become a maester along with Gilly and little Sam, Jon is left without his main ally. He is tricked by young Olly into going outside where he find a post that says Traitor. Then he is repeatedly stabbed by Alliser, Olly and some other men as they repeat the mantra “For the Watch”. I knew something would happen to Jon and I had a feeling Olly might try to kill him but I wasn’t expecting so many of the other members of the Night’s Watch and Alliser to stab him too. I thought Alliser would be smarter than that depsite his hatred for Jon. I know they are upset about Jon’s truce with the Wilding but there are White Walkers coming! They won’t be able to stop them on their own. Unfortunately their short sighted-ness seals Jon’s fate.

But can he actually be dead. It looked like it from that final shot and Kit Harington has said that Jon Snow is dead and won’t be back for Season 6 but are they just tricking us? Will he come back from the dead for Season 7? There was still so much for the character to go through and even though GOT loves it’s shock deaths, narratively it doesn’t make sense. What about the mystery surrounding who his real mother is? Is that just going to be a story thread left hanging? And also what was the point of bringing Melisandre to the Wall if not to cast a spell and bring Jon back to life? She seemed to have a vast interest in Jon previously so if Stannis is no longer the man she thinks he is, surely she would move on to Jon? It just feels like there is unfinished business with Jon Snow, and while I’m not sure if he would have survived to the very end (I could imagine a heroic sacrifice in the final battle against the White Walkers) it seemed he would be around much longer?

But maybe I’m in denial. If so at least the rest of the internet is with me. We’ve seen plenty of times in Game of Thrones that the good guys don’t necessarily survive and Jon Snow was one of the more stereotypically heroic characters we had left. Maybe this was the plan all along? If so no one really is safe.

On another note, where the hell is Ghost? Surely the faithful direwolf would have been around to stop Jon getting killed? Unless Jon sent him off to look after Sam and Gilly?

So there we go another season down. I can’t believe it’s over all ready. It was a slow start but the last lot of episodes have been fantastic with the fight against the White Walkers in episode 8 one of the best moments of the whole series. If they can pace the episodes a bit better then I have high hopes for Season 6. With or without Jon Snow.

So what did you think? Did you like the last episode? Is Jon Snow really dead? What do you predict for Season 6? Let me know in the comments below.

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 9: The Dance of Dragons

Sorry this is a bit late. I was on holiday this week so only just got round to seeing the latest episode-thank god I didn’t see any spoilers.

First up Jon Snow has returned from last week’s awesome battle with the White Walkers. At first I wasn’t sure if Jon’s old foe  Alliser would let him through but luckily he did. Although given the dirty looks many of the night’s watch gave him as the Wildings walked through I suspect many would have left him out there. Jon’s troubles with his men look set to continue into the next episode. Poor Jon!

In Braavos Arya is distracted from her mission to assassinate the Thin Man when she spies an old enemy Meryn Trant, accompanied by Mace Tyrell- who obviously has no idea whats happened to his family, get yourself home man! It seems Arya is unable to forget her past as she abandons her mission and follows Meryn Trant to a brothel and sees he’s a pedophile. He’s alive for now, but surely Arya will kill him in the next episode? Will she set a trap in the brothel? I was trying to work out if he recognised her as he kept looking at her. However that might have been just to show how much he likes young girls? I really hope she does kill him.

Over in the largely pointless but pretty Dorne, Jamie meets with Doran Martell and they appear to work out a truce between them. Myrcella and Trystane will go to King’s Landing with Jamie, where Trystane will serve on the Small Council. The deal also includes Bronn getting hit in the face as punishment for him hitting Tyrstane which Bronn takes pretty well. Ellaria also seems to make peace (having been given a ulitmatium) with both Doran and Jamie. But surely she’s just pretending and is planning something else? Then again maybe not. Dorne has not been as interesting as I hoped, although it looks like it was a lovely place to film. I’m guessing the purpose of going to Dorne was to have Jamie out-of-the-way while Cersei screwed things up in King’s Landing. Otherwise if he had been there he would have put a stop to everything.

Anyway on to one of the biggest developments of the episode. Stannis, Syannis, Stannis, what have you done? Just as I was beginning to find you less boring and actually like you, then you go and do this? It was inevitable really and something I feared for a while but it doesn’t mean that the death of Shireen has any less impact. What I wasn’t expecting was for Shireen’s mother to have a change of heart and try to save her daughter from being sacrificed. This could also be the last straw for Davos, Stannis’ biggest supporter. Stannis sent Davos away because he knew he would be against the killing of Shireen. It was heartbreaking seeing Davos and Shireen’s last meeting as they have a proper bond and care for each other. Davos has overlooked a lot of Stannis’ faults but can he forgive the murder of Stannis’ own daughter? He obviously knew Shireen was in danger as he wanted Shireen to go with him to Castle Black. I’m presuming he thought she was at risk from the Boltons, little did he know how close to home the real danger was. Stannis may be in reach of getting his hands on the Iron Throne, but after all he’s done will it be worth it? Hopefully both him and Ramsey will be killed in the last episode of this season.

Lastly we visit Meereen where Daenerys and her crew are at the opening of the fighting pits. Where who should turn up but Jorah! Of course we were meant to think that something bad would happen to Jorah and it looked that way several times. But then he threw his sword in Daenerys direction and I thought has he gone mad! Then I realised he was aiming for a member of the Son of the Harpy. Suddenly the whole stadium is being attacked by the Son of the Harpy and Daenerys fiance Hizdahr is one of many killed (which answers the question as to whether he was a traitor or not). With Daenerys’ crew surrounded (which includes Jorah back in the fold-yes!) it looks pretty dire until Drogon appears to save the day! Drogan’s appearance is so cool and so is his subsequent burning of the Sons of the Harpy. He does take a few arrows though so Daenerys climbs onto Drogon and orders him to fly! While the green screen is a bit ropey it’s still a pretty cool moment. Although this leads me to a few questions. One, how rubbish are the Unsullied? They let an assassin get up close to Danerys without no one watching and then get mostly slaughtered in the battle. Two, did Danerys just leave her friends to get killed in a so-long-suckers kind of way? Or was she getting out-of-the-way so they could defend themselves and not have to worry about her?

While not as amazing as the last episode this was still a solid episode that paves the way for a hopefully excellent season finale.

What did you think? Was this as good as the last episode? Let me know in the comments below?

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Mad Max: Fury Road

At first the signs did not look good for this movie. After all it’s the third sequel to a classic movie, that has been stuck in development hell for years, so how good could the film be? But then strange things started happening. It got a load of rave review and wide acclaim. Despite all it’s problems getting here could Mad Max: Fury Road actually be a decent movie?

Set in the future after nuclear war has made the world a desert wasteland, Max (Tom Hardy) is drifting on his own, haunted by his past. He is soon captured by a group called the Wild Boys led by the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrns). However when Furiosa (Charlize Theron) betrays Joe and takes his five wives away, Max ends up unwittingly involved in the women’s escape. But Immortan Joe won’t let his wives go without a fight.

I have a vague recollection of seeing Mad Max and Mad Max 2: Road Warrior, or at least I remember seeing the end of them. I haven’t seen the third movie, although I’ve definitely seen the Tina Turner music video for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. So while I’m not able to say if Fury Road lives up to its predecesories I can say that on its own merit it’s an adrenaline fuelled movie, that’s absolutely bonkers, and all the better for it. Whether it’s human blood bags being strapped to the front of vehicles or the villains’ crew including men playing guitars and drums on cars as they chase their victims across the deserts, this movie is appropriately quite mad. It’s also hugely enjoyable.

While Tom Hardy is strong and on brooding form as the title character its great that a testosterone full movie like this is not afraid of having strong female characters. Charlize Theron in particular is great as Furiosa. I was worried that the Five Wives (Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) were going to be useless baggage dragging the film down. While they are living McGuffins there to drive the plot along, they are actually interesting and make themselves useful. As the movie goes on you’re willing for them to make it away from Immortan Joe’s grip. Nicholas Holt as Wild Boy Nux is also great in this movie. He manages to be funny in one scene and then pitifully sad in another, even though he’s one of the people chasing after The Five Wives. The baddies are also appropriately grotesque and creepy.

It’s not a flawless movie. Max’s visions of his dead daughter are annoying, while I’m sure they provide the audience with Max’s motivations I still got irritated every time she appeared or heard her voice. But when a movie is as fun as this it’s a small quibble to have.

Rating 4/5 – over the top it made be, but it’s definitely the post apocalyptic-action blockbuster to beat

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