Forget the Reviews, Go See ‘Jupiter Ascending’

jupiter-ascending-screen-grab

I’m unaccustomed to recommending movies I find bad or, in this case, mediocre. I suppose you could say this is the equivalent of knowingly cooking bland food for house guests, so this is a bit of a new experience for me. So here it goes: I need all of you to take your hard-earned money and go see Jupiter Ascending.

Yes, the movie has a 22% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Yes, the script is filled with more clichés and bad dialogue than any Keanu Reeves movie is capable of. And yes, this movie isn’t exactly what we’d call the reemergence of Star Wars. Regardless, go to the theatre. Pay money. Get a ticket. Buy a delicious blue-raspberry Icee. Why? Because this movie had a giant budget and is an original property. You know what that means? It means it’s not a sequel, reboot, remake or based on any novel or comic book.

Jupiter Ascending

You see, Hollywood has increasingly become adverse to funding original properties with big budgets. Typically you’ll see maybe one a year if you’re lucky. And who can blame them? Last summer I asked, nay, I begged people to go see Edge of Tomorrow, because it was incredible and yet practically no one saw it in theaters. Before that it was Pacific Rim, which seemed to interest no one (What about giant robots punching giant monsters do people not understand?). Now granted, one of these two is based on a preexisting property, albeit a relatively unknown one. But you can see why producers are wary to risk giving a film big funding if movie-goers won’t go see the ones they do give big budgets to.

Last year I can think of one movie, Interstellar, that fit in the category of a new property that made a lot of money, and I suspect the only reason it got the budget it did was the name recognition of Christopher Nolan.

This brings us back to my original plea: go see Jupiter Ascending. I know you’ve complained, either secretly or out loud, that there seem to be way to many comic book movies out there, or that both Batman and Spider-Man are being rebooted way too soon, or that all we seem to get these days are mediocre sequels and adaptations of terrible books (Can we all pretend 50 Shades of Grey isn’t actually happening?). Well guess what, the universe has seen fit to give us all another chance to show Hollywood that we are ready to reward their financial risks.

rocket boots

 

Having said all that, let me allay some of your fears about going to see what you could presume to be a humongous pile of crap, because there were some genuinely cool things in this movie. For starters, Jupiter Ascending does some phenomenal world building with dozens of unique alien species, colorful planets and a rich history only briefly hinted at. Action sequences are intense, especially a dog fight over downtown Chicago, and will keep you entertained. You’ll love to see Eddie Redmayne play an incredibly weird and creepy villain who likes to speak through his teeth. And, oh yeah, crazy hover skates. Seriously, I hope those things will be invented by the time the hover skateboard from Back to the Future Part II makes it to the market.

I pray this has been enough to convince you, because I’m telling you true that if this movie makes the big bucks you can expect that another original film will be released in the near future and it will have the budget it deserves and will hopefully be much higher quality.

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Forget the Reviews, Go See ‘Jupiter Ascending’

End the Summer Movie Season

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

August is coming to an end, the summer movie season has finished and I’m left delightfully pleased with most of this summer’s lineup. Films like Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy (which came in an extremely close second to Dawn in my opinion) either met or wildly exceeded my expectations and helped to make this summer of movies truly glorious. Even the ones that I haven’t seen yet like Boyhood, Snowpiercer and 22 Jump Street received hearty welcomes from crowds and critics alike.

And yet despite the large number of quality movies released in the last four months, many of which hold an approval rating in the 90’s on the Tomatometer, this summer is being lauded as the lowest grossing summer movie season in over eight years. What gives? It’s obvious that some of these movies should have made more money than they did, but fewer people are going to see them and instead waiting for the inevitable release at their local Redbox.

It hit me that the format of the summer movie season itself may be the actual problem we’re facing here. And this is coming from the guy who sometimes looks forward to this time of the year more than Christmas. Actually, Christmas is the perfect example to explain my point.

Let’s imagine for a second that Christmas were actually a three-month holiday instead of one day in the year (or a month if you consider Black Friday the beginning of Christmas). It’s too much, right? If the holiday carols didn’t drive you crazy, the constant drive to buy people gifts would. In short, it’s oversaturation of an idea, one that Sesame Street taught me years ago when Elmo wished (in the third person, of course) that every day was Christmas and single-handedly caused the collapse of society as we know it … Thanks a lot Elmo.

With ticket prices rising, and different movies either competing on the same day or within following weeks of one another during the summer, movie premieres seem less and less special on their own, which means there’s a greater likelihood that fewer people are going to see and support good movies.

Nowhere was this more apparent than with the release of The Fault in Our Stars and Edge of Tomorrow a few months back. It’s a sin how few people saw the latter, although admittedly Edge of Tomorrow is about as generic of a title as you can get. I mean, come on, the source material was called All You Need is Kill. How much more awesome of a title do you need?!

It’s still a shame in my eyes that so few people took the time to watch this incredible piece of action, sci-fi and Groundhog’s Day.

Regardless, both films premiered at the same time with decent or great critical reviews, but only one brought home buckets of cash. I’d like to think that had you spaced out their release dates by a few weeks, more people might have seen both films.

In this respect, I applaud Marvel studios for setting the release date of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to spring, a full month before the summer movie season officially kicked off. Had it been released any closer to May, it would have competed with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which means both films would have made less money.

While it’s unlikely that this will happen, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I think it’s time that studios start disbanding the idea of packing as many big budget blockbusters in just a few short months and instead spread them out. Make them special again. Because even though some of us are willing to dish out the money to see a different movie every week, most need a break in between.

End the Summer Movie Season

This Summer Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us

tfioseotThis past weekend I managed to see both of the big releases,  The Fault in Our Stars and The Edge of Tomorrow. The YA tearjerker came out on top of the weekend box office with the $12 million budgeted film raking in over $48 million.  Tom Cruise’s sci-fi didn’t fare as well making only $28.7 million, quite measly for it’s $178 million budget.  The film is doing well internationally and post-weekend buzz surrounding the film is promising so don’t weep too much for Tom yet.

Looking at these figures, I am conflicted. As a huge fan of both John Green’s book and getting my cry on, I was happy to see it succeed as both a great, faithful adaptation and a smaller movie that is so different than our usual big summer releases. When was it decided that our summer movie offerings could only be made up of some action based amalgamation of robots, super heroes, or explosion with a smattering of R-rated comedies?  Don’t get me wrong, I still love these things as much as the next member of the general public, so I suppose I just answered my own question.  However, this doesn’t mean that I want to exclusively see these movies throughout my summer and in fact welcome all those quirky indies that also seem to make their way to my art house theaters.

On the other hand, I hate to see Edge of Tomorrow do poorly.  How often do we bemoan the lack of original stories in Hollywood?  And okay, this IS based off a manga and seems to have a lot of familiar elements (*cough Groundhog’s Day *cough), but it is not a sequel, spin-off, or rehash of TV show/board game/movie from the ’80s.  I want to see more of this and I feel the best thing that we can do as society of moviegoers is prove to Hollywood that we will still show up for this kind of movie.  If you yearn for the action movies of the ’80s and ’90s that found a good balance of humor, intense action, and general fun, then this is the movie for you.

(Side note that is not completely unrelated:  Emily Blunt’s character in Edge is completely bad @$$ without ever being overly-sexualized, another point that we should show Hollywood is valid and still makes money.)

My plea to you is to spend that extra $7-$20 and see both of these filmsso that we send the message that we are capable of getting out for these kind of movies, no matter how different they may be.

This Summer Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us

Action Stars Aging Like Champions

There is going to come a moment in my life shortly after I hit 50 (assuming of course that I survive whatever manner of apocalypse befalls humanity by that point) when I will evaluate myself in a mirror for an unknown amount of time. I already do this occasionally and will continue to do so whenever I feel the need to have a conversation with myself about my body.  But the 50-year-old self-conversation is going to be slightly different, because it’s when I’m likely going to ask myself for the first time ever, “How did Tom Cruise do it?”

Cruise, who will shortly be turning 52 in a month or so, looks and acts like he’s in his mid-30’s and it’s a little intimidating to know that we won’t (or don’t) age as gracefully as he. For all I know, he’ll be making Mission Impossible 10 when he’s 75 with just a hint of grey in his hair. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have just found the first human being who will live to 150.

Cruise isn’t the only action star to age as gracefully as a unicorn and still fight with the ferocity of a dragon, and so in honor of his newest film “Edge of Tomorrow,” let’s take a look at some aging action stars that Time just can’t stop.

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

He started off young, hit the ground running and is still running today. There were a few years there when we were all concerned about his mental health and wondered if he was systematically destroying his own career, but he bounced back and surprised us all. He may still be a little crazy, but no one doubts that his career as an action star is far from over.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis

If people say it isn’t possible to look cooler without hair than with it, Bruce Willis would be my rebuttal. This man has been taking names since the late 80’s and continues to show-off his skill as an action star today. Not all of his more recent films have been hits, but check out 2012’s “Looper” and you’ll see that he’s still got it. In the next 5-6 years I will be bald, and I can only hope to look as cool as this guy.

Liam Neeson in The Grey, 2012

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson is an interesting case on this list as his action star cred came more recently and therefore later in his own life. We got a glimpse of his action potential in 1999’s “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” but it wasn’t until 2005’s “Batman Begins” that he really started to come into this role. Since then we’ve seem him in “Taken,” “The A-Team,” and one of his most recent films, “Non-Stop.” Though he’s a late bloomer next to everyone else on this list, we’re glad to welcome him regardless.

Jean-Claude Van-Damme

Jean-Claude Van-Damme

Unless you’re an a real action movie junkie, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen this man work. The casual viewer will most likely have seen him play the villain in “The Expendables 2,” although seeing as how “The Expendables” movies are pretty much a love song to action movie junkies, there’s a still a good chance the casual viewer hasn’t seen him. Nevertheless, one only needs to YouTube him to know that, at 53, this kickboxing star deserves a place with the best of them.

Sean-Connery

Honorable Mention: Sean Connery

The only thing keeping this Scottish legend off the list is the fact that he’s retired and hasn’t really filmed anything since 2003’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” Nevertheless, this man, who will forever be remembered as the fist (and some would say the greatest) James Bond, could woo women and save the world even in his later years. While I don’t always agree with People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” choices (after all, I have yet to be featured), Seany Connery deservedly won it in 1989 at the age of 60.

Action Stars Aging Like Champions