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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Derek Blankenship

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Sorry, aliens. But Earth is kinda lame.

Russian immigrant Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) wakes up at 4:30 in the morning, only to then get to her job where she scrubs toilets for a living as a maid. It’s not an ideal life, but it’s the one she was handed. Which is why when she hears that she is, according to a galactic family, the powerful mother of Earth, she’s excited. Confused, but excited nonetheless. However, her excitement dies down once she relies that one of the members of the galactic family (Eddie Redmayne) wants her dead so that he can take over Earth and be the most powerful member of his family. Jupiter should have no fear, though, because a genetically-spliced ex-military member named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) comes to the rescue with his anti-gravity boots and all. So now, it becomes clear that Jupiter’s life is in danger and that Wise is there to protect her life so that she can reign supreme as Mother Earth, but there’s more political back-stabbing going on behind her back and, even if she doesn’t know it yet, her life still is in danger, no matter what.

There’s a problem with this plot that’s hard for me to fully out-line here. Not because I don’t want to give any of its juiciest secrets away, but because I myself sincerely haven’t the slightest clue as to what was really going on in this film half of the time. Sure, it can be somewhat simple to just label down the “baddies”, from the “goodies”, and work from there, but there’s a bigger problem with Jupiter Ascending that makes it feel like maybe the the Wachowskis were fighting for something a bit deeper here.

Something that yes, may definitely be relevant, but doesn’t quite work well for this movie in the long-run. Let me explain.

"Good evening, Jackie."

“Good evening, Jackie.”

We’re told to believe that Earth, as well as many other planets, are owned by a very powerful family; one that contains two brothers and a sister, none of which seem to fully get along well enough (sort of like real siblings). One sibling wants more control than the others, and because Earth is apparently the most prestigious planet to own, he goes for that one right away. Makes sense, but then the movie starts to get stranger and stranger as it runs along.

This is where I won’t spoil it for most of you out there, except to say that the Wachowskis, as much as I credit them with definitely thinking outside of the box here, as they often do, seem like they’re making most of this up as they go along. It’s hard to figure out who does what, to whom, for what reasons, and where, all inside this universe, which makes it more difficult to not only figure things out, but get invested in the story a whole lot more. There’s many scenes where the Wachowskis want the audience to get up, cheer and be absolutely shocked by whatever has just happened, but because the story is so all-over-the-place at times, it never clicks inside the audience’s head that, “Oh yeah! The good guy’s are winning! Woo-hoo!”.

I’m not saying that we need to be spoon-fed every single detail about a new universe we’re being introduced to, but it would help if there was just a bit more help in figuring certain things out about it.

That said, Jupiter Ascending is a pretty fun movie. Get past all of the problems with the plot and its mechanisms, and believe it or not, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Which is, yet again, much to the credit of the Wachowskis, because they always seem to know when the right time is to throw an action scene for good measure, wake its audience up, and keep them wanting more. Because not only does the movie look wonderful, but it also feels like its own kind of breed of sci-fi – sure, it’s confusing sci-fi, but it’s one of the rare sci-fi movies to come out in recent time where I didn’t feel like that they ripped so many other movies off, that it’s an absolute wonder how a bunch of lawyers didn’t get called-up.

The Wachowskis know better and for that, the movie moves at a steady-pace that keeps most of its plot easy-to-disregard, especially during the action-bits. One sequence that excited me the most was a high-flying chase in/and around the skies of Chicago, which apparently took six months to shoot, and with good reason. It seems like a lot of time was dedicated to this sequence looked, felt, and came off the screen, and same goes for the rest of the look of the movie.

Now, if only the Wachowskis paid as much as attention to their story, then we’d probably have a bigger winner on our hands here, but sadly we do not. Instead, Jupiter Ascending is serviceable at best. The Wachowskis have a weird, almost off-kilter sense of humor that sometimes translates well into their pieces (see Cloud Atlas), and sometimes doesn’t even show up (see Speed Racer), but here, they seem like they have the right fit for the tone; they don’t throw a joke in there for an easy-gag to liven everything up when it gets too serious. Because the world is as crazy and slap-dash as they created it to be, they’re practically given free reign to throw any wild gags at us that they want. Sometimes, it’s never clear whether the gags they present are meant to be taken seriously, but regardless, it’s always a joy to laugh, look and point at something incredibly ridiculous as this.

Seriously. Who comes up with that kind of stuff?

I am sworn to secrecy on whether or not this dude dies.

I am sworn to secrecy on whether or not this dude dies.

Speaking of such ridiculous-looking beings here, Channing Tatum is saddled with a goofy-attire as half-man, half-wolf and it actually works for him. This is probably because Tatum himself moves and jostles himself around with the same ability of a member of the wolf pack, but because his character seems like a true bad-ass. You can tell that the Wachowskis are going for some sort of Han Solo anti-hero with Caine Wise, and while he’s not nearly that interesting of a character, it’s still fun to watch as C-Tates flies through the sky on those anti-gravity boots, kicking ass, taking names, and still being able to charm even the most heterosexual man out of his boots.

But don’t be fooled, Jupiter Ascending is more of Mila Kunis’ movie than anything, and with good reason – the girl’s downright cute. Kunis’ character acts us, in that everything being taught to her, is being taught to us, as well, and she works well with that role; she’s easily relatable and feels like a normal human being, without being overly-annoying or surprised by this wacky world she’s thrown into. You could make the argument that maybe her character is a tad too comfortable with this new, crazy, and insane world she’s been thrown into, but it’s hard to have any problems with a character played by Kunis, which also made it better to see that she’s not the typical female you see in these kinds of movies. Sure, she needs the help of Caine Wise every so often, but for the most part, she makes her own decisions and, when push comes to shove, takes some matters into her own hands. Right on, girl.

The rest of the cast is an interesting ensemble, even if most of them feel as if they’re hamming it up for the rafters to hear. Oscar-nominated Eddie Redmayne gives a campy performance as Balem, the bad brother of the family that’s trying to go after Jupiter and feels like he’s been plucked right out of a drag show, and thrown right onto our screens, with perfect delight; Douglas Booth is another bro who may, or may not be a baddie, and the mystery surrounding him is a bit of fun; Sean Bean shows up as one of Wise’s old pals and confidantes, and feels like the rough and ragged dude who has seen, and done it all; and randomly enough, in what I’m sure was a role she did before her career was about to take off, Gugu Mbatha-Raw has a bit role as a kick-ass security-guard. It’s small, but man, it made me wish there was more of her to see.

Consensus: The overly-convoluted plot may be hard to get past, but as a sci-fi, action-thriller from the wicked mind of the Wachowskis, Jupiter Ascending is still fun and well-paced enough to make the two hours slip on by. Even if you’re still scratching your head by the end of it all.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Just imagine some Chris Brown playing in the background, and you're set, ladies.

Just imagine some Chris Brown playing in the background, and you’re set, ladies.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

It’s supposed to be “two”, you know?

It’s been nearly twenty years since the last time we got to watch bestfriends, Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey), and all their wacky hi-jinx, but it’s also been nearly twenty years since the last time either of them two have had a meaningful, cohesive conversation between the other. That’s because after feeling rejected and all out of sorts from the love of his life, Lloyd had apparently lapsed into a mental state of depression, leaving him to be practically a vegetable. That is, until he reveals to Harry that he was goofing the whole time; as in a way to return the favor, though, Harry reveals that he has to get a kidney transplant, or else he’ll die. But, have no fear, because it just so happens that Harry has a daughter somewhere out there in the world and you know what? Him and Lloyd are going to travel the country to find her! Even if that means putting themselves, and others around them, in constant fear of their lives.

So yeah, did we really need a Dumb and Dumber sequel, especially one that takes place twenty years after the original? Hell no! And guess what? It shows.

Classic.

Classic.

Because see, while it’s nice to see Carrey and Daniels back in the iconic roles, there’s still something missing here that made the original film so lovely and hilarious, even after all of these years, and that’s just being funny. I can’t really describe it any simpler, folks. This movie just is not funny and if it were, then it would be forgiven for taking too long to get made, or seeming totally unnecessary now. But nope, it’s just not funny and therefore, it’s looked upon harsher and in a more critical way.

That’s what brings me to the actual film itself and how it’s not really funny, compared to the original that still has me dying in my seat, even when I see its constant re-runs on TV every now and then. Mostly, what I think it is, is that the Farrelly brother’s brand of humor in which slapstick and idiotic wit stand side-by-side one another, just isn’t hitting its mark nowadays like it used to. Sure, it can still get a chuckle here and there, but for the most part, it seems oddly dated and just weird when you put into perspective the fact that this film is supposed to be taking place in modern day U.S.A.

Meaning, yes, much has changed since ’94, some good, some bad. But for the most part, the art of humor, what makes people laugh effectively, and what doesn’t, has changed as well, if ever so slightly. It’s not that the jokes in the original weren’t funny or well-written (because they were), it’s just that they were mostly a sign of the times – a day and age when comedies were a lot simpler and branded for a smarter audience.

That’s not to hate on those film makers out there who try to make comedies for all audiences out there, but simply, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Move on.

And that’s exactly the case here with Dumb and Dumber To – while it tries to be funny, time and time again, it simply just doesn’t hit its mark. Even when it does, that’s mostly only thanks to the efforts put in by both Daniels and Carrey; to vets who can’t help but do whatever they can for a simple, hearty laugh. While it’s admirable that these guys would be so dedicated to this material that they’d practically be willing to risk life and limb to get a crack from the crowd, after awhile, once you realize that it’s not really working, it gets to be more sad. Sad to watch these older men try to reclaim their glory days and work with twenty-year-old gags, and also sad to just realize that these characters probably don’t need to be touched ever again.

Which, like I said, isn’t to discredit either Daniels or Carrey, it’s just sad to see them put in so much, and hardly get anything in return. Maybe the two should just go back to challenging themselves with daring, dramatic-roles that not only challenges the mainstream movie-audience to look at them in a different light, but also accept them as actors in the first place, not just two dudes who have to do whatever people want to see them in, because it’s safe, it’s fun, and, well, it works. More so in the case of Carrey, then with Daniels, because while the later has proved himself time and time again that he’s capable of handling drama, Carrey just doesn’t seem all that interested in giving it as many tries as he should. While he’s amazing in these types of dramatic-roles we see him in, Carrey doesn’t try them as often as he should and instead, more or less, jumps right at the next silly, goofball comedy that can come his way.

Even more classic.

Even more classic.

A part of me likes this about him, but another part of me just wants him to realize that he has enough money to where he can do whatever he wants, when he wants, and with whomever he wants. So why sit back, collect the checks, and lose credibility, Jim? Spice things up and show the world that you’re as good of an actor as the others out there!

Anyway, I’ve realized that this has gotten further and further away from what was supposed to be my review of Dumb and Dumber To, but I think the fact is this: There’s not much to talk about, other than it’s not funny. It’s not terribly unfunny to where you can’t sit through the whole thing, it’s just that most of the jokes don’t land. And even the ones that do, they do so in such a surprising way, that they’re embraced, laughed about, and gone in a split of a second, to where they’ll never be remember ever again, except for, “Yeah, that one funny joke in Dumb and Dumber To.”

It’s a shame, man. A big one indeed.

Consensus: Though Carrey and Daniels work their guts out here, Dumb and Dumber To still feels like the long-awaited comedy that should have waited longer, or should have just never happened, had everyone known it was going to be this bad.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Wait...wha?

Wait…wha?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

These dragons are cool and all, but they ain’t got nothing on Spyro.

Five years after the events of the first movie, in which both dragons and townspeople of Berk decided to live together in perfect peace and harmony, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now feeling a whole lot of pressure coming from his daddy-o (Gerard Butler) about stepping up and taking the throne. However, Hiccup isn’t functioned like that; he’d much rather continue to live the way he’s been living where he, his girlfriend (America Ferrara) and his lovely dragon/best friend in the whole wide world Toothless, can just roam around and have a great time. Problem is though, they realize that their freedom and happiness may be challenged when an evil man by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) starts sniffing around for dragons and finding whichever ones he can get, only to turn them evil and allow him to take over the world, once and for all. It’s a mission that both Hiccup and his father don’t want him to complete, however, they get distracted once Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett) suddenly re-appears out of nowhere and brings promise of the family-unit coming together after all of this time. But will it be as perfect as they want it to be with an evil, raging maniac like Drago Bludvist hanging around and turning dragons against humans?

Though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the first How to Train Your Dragon really worked for me – it was everything that a Pixar movie (at the time, mind you) was, except a lot more beautiful in its sweeping ways. And thankfully too, the visuals haven’t changed a single bit; even if they have, they’ve only improved in the way every frame we get here, is all thought-out and feels tailor-made for something like 3D. Which yes, means a lot considering that so many movies that come out nowadays just post-convert their 3D for a higher price, which would result in more money back. Doesn’t always work (in terms of movies making their money back), but what it does do is make the movie look cheap, lazy and slapped-together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’d put together before heading off to work in a hurry.

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christsakes!

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christ’s sakes!

However, the visuals here are amazing and if you have the budget to do so, I recommend taking a trip to the 3D theater lobby.

But as much as it may impress with its attention to visuals, HTTYD 2 (I guess that’s what I’ll call it from now on) has a story that really reaches beyond most movie’s sequels, where it’s presumed that everything that worked in the first movie, must happen again, but this time, louder, longer and more, more, more! That’s the name of the game with sequels, but here, you can really tell that the creators not only care about these characters and their personalities, but also the pre-historic world they’re placed into, where it’s almost like a fantasy-palace, yet, by the same token, isn’t.

Still though, that doesn’t matter because what the creators do here is create an adult story, somehow produced and marketed towards kids. That being said, this is the type of kids movie that may disturb some of them because of the very traumatic and unexpected stuff that happens here, but it’s also handled very well to where the kiddies won’t be traumatized for the rest of their days, pacing back and forth in some psych-ward. Somehow, it finds just the right balance somewhere in between where its easy enough for adults to feel comfortable with their kids watching and being of witness to, but may also have them covering their kiddies eyes.

Either way, it’s a judgement call, so do what you will, older person.

Anyway, like I was saying about the story, some of it is very dramatic and emotional, but it’s never done too much to where this seems like the most dark, depressing and bleak kids movie ever made. It has many ideas/themes about growing up, respecting your elders, being the best person that you can be, and a whole bunch of environmentally-sound messages thrown at us enough times to where we get the point, but never too much to where it seems like we’re being preached at. Like mostly everything else in this movie, it’s handled well and only keeps on leading you up to the moments in which you’ll be touched and maybe even tear-up a little.

Okay, who am I kidding?!? You’ll be tearing up a whole hell of a lot, but that’s just what happens when these kinds of animated movies are done right! They can affect any person who watches them – even if one of those people just so happen to be a twenty-year-old dude, who may, or may not be in touch with his inner-most soft side.

I’m not speaking about myself, either….

Once again, anyway, this movie’s pretty darn good. The only times where it starts to lose a step or two is by the end when I feel like it gets all wrapped up in its big, climactic war-battle that it doesn’t know how to tell the difference between “serious”, or “jokey”. This may sound like a weird complaint for a kids movie, but think about it: When you have any movie that features a battle scene in which many people/persons/things are being killed/destroyed, it’s hard to not think about those things while watching it. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, because it’s always hinted at us, and I feel like by the end of this movie, there’s a problem with separating that it’s a kids movie, that features many people being killed. We never see anybody getting killed in disgusting, graphic ways, but it’s sort of hinted at and it was hard to get past when it was happening on screen.

However, that could just be another case of my weirdness setting in and screwing everything up, so avoid that if you must.

Aw! It's going down!

Aw! It’s going down!

What’s also interesting about this movie is how the whole voice cast from the first movie returns for this one and how they’re all still pretty good. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup very well in his slightly-neurotic way that isn’t over-bearing, but also doesn’t take you away from believing that he can stand-up for himself and those that he loves when he needs to. Also, I love that he’s a protagonist in a story that’s all about talking things out and reasoning, rather than just jumping right to conclusions and start killing anyway he sees fit.

As a result, that makes the villain, Drago Bludvist, seem dumb and almost as if he didn’t think everything out as perfectly as he should have. He’s reasoning for wanting to take over the world, rid it of all humans known to man, and capture every dragon by turning them bad, seems like something any villain would want to do, but when he’s given the chance to explain himself, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason or inspiration at all. I’m all for a baddie, being a baddie, for the sake of just being a baddie, but when a movie like this comes around and shows us that there’s more to a simple tale of humans and dragons being friends, then I expect more in return.

Because it’s very rare that you get an animated movie that knocks the socks right off of anybody that isn’t a kid. So yeah, go us older people!

Consensus: The ground that How to Train Your Dragon 2 covers may be a lot darker and heavier for kids, but nonetheless, they’ll be treated to a story that sweeps along with beautiful visuals, a lively voice-cast, and a touching heart at the center that will get anybody tearing-up. Looking at you, adults.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my "pet" isn't a dragon, it's this little d-bag.

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my “pet” isn’t a dragon, it’s this little d-bag.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz