Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Quick Critique: Jupiter Ascending (2015)

I will attempt to review a more recent film in 500 words or less. Think I can do it? That’s good, ‘cause I sure don't! Let’s go:

The Wachowski Starship are a constant source of fascination to me. Their ideas are always big, immersive and grand, but their execution…needs a bit of work. Still, they’ve made great movies and they’ve made terrible movies and really haven’t seemed to make middling ones. This film is the latter of the first two.

Jupiter Ascending is an incredibly incompetent movie from pretty much every level. Our heroine is set up in a pretty interesting way, only to throw that goodwill out by going on about how unimportant she is despite having majesty over bees (yeah that happens). The villains are set up like game bosses and none of them are remotely threatening. The effects look terrible and the movie is so oversaturated everything looks fake. Scenes are either overdone or underplayed, there’s no real balance in the direction or tone. The world has a lot of establishment but not building. None of the characters are remotely likeable, particularly Mina Kunis who either has terrible direction or is not suited to be a lead. All in all, the film is a mess.

And it is glorious.

Seriously, put away all critical faculties, and all that stupid ‘thinky’ stuff we mere mortals do, and this film is kind of a blast. Yes, it’s silly, but in that wonderful sugar high sort of way. The animal hybrids are dumb, but dumb in a way that you kind of fall in love with Channing Tatum as a dog person and Sean Bean as a bee person (a Sean Bean Bee, if you will).

The action is poorly choreographed and shot, but it’s like a badly designed rollercoaster; you know you’re gonna get hurt, so you might as well enjoy it. The dialogue is stupid, but with lines like ‘I like dogs’ and ‘bees don’t lie’, and ANYTHING Eddie Redmayne says, who really cares?

Oh yeah, Academy Award winning actor Eddie Redmayne is in this film and he is terrible! If this film came out when it meant to, he would not have won. But my God, is it an amazing sort of terrible. Everything he said made me giggle by his awkward delivery and stilted tone, to the point where I actually burst out laughing.

Honestly, the worst thing about this movie is that you kind of see the potential. There are a lot of interesting ideas trying to get across, like commentary on humanity being farmed by privileged people of power, and the insane lengths of corporate design, and people being programmed to undervaluing themselves, and so on. It was clearly lost somewhere, be it studio mandating or the Wachowskis being better idea people than storytellers. With a movie this so goddamn fun, though, it’s one of those cases where creativity and brains were sacrificed for just a plain old entertaining ride.

If you can forgive Sharknado or whatever Fast and the Furious movie they’re on now for being deliberately stupid, you can forgive a movie for being accidentally so.

Rating: 5/10 (serious) 8/10 (fun)

This shot is, admittedly, awesome. The movie has some creativity behind it,
but these reviews are meant to be short, so I didn't get into it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quick Critique: Patrick's Day (2014)

I will attempt to review a more recent film in 500 words or less. Think I can do it? That’s good, ‘cause I sure don't! Let’s go:

Patrick (Moe Dunford) is a 26-year old with schizophrenia. After a chance encounter with a suicidal flight attendant name Karen (Catherine Walker), he falls for her and the two have a pretty unconventional romance. Despite Patrick’s happiness, his controlling and overprotective mother (Kerry Fox) disapproves of the union and works out a way to end it, with the help of a surly, comedic-inspired police officer (Philip Jackson).

Patrick’s Day is a rather probing and fascinating look into what’s been considered an ‘unspoken reality’ of Ireland, and that’s our relationship with mental health. Naming it and starting it on what’s considered our national holiday is a pretty brazen statement about how we celebrate how great it is to be Irish when focusing on someone pretty damaged by our system (also opening the film with Damien Dempsey’s ‘St. Patrick’s Day’, consider the artist’s outspoken critiques on contemporary Irish life).

While the story is mainly centred on the relationship between Patrick and Karen, its true heart is the poisonous and destructive relationship between Patrick and his mother Maura. Moe Dunford and Kerry Fox are absolutely amazing in this film in very different ways. Dunford in having to play every range of emotion and doing it perfectly, and Fox in having to play such an awful person and still making her human. Despite the lows she drops to in this movie, she genuinely thinks she’s doing it in her son’s best interests
In a sense, it shows that love is both healing and incredibly destructive. Patrick is actually improving because of the influence of a romantic partner, while his mother thinks it will just lead into more pain and misery later on.  This is particularly contrasted by how softly lit and romantic the lovers’ encounters are by how drab and bleak and rough looking Patrick’s care home is. It’s beautifully shot and expertly contrasted; the perspective shots in particular get into our lead’s mindset very well. Props to director Terry McMahon and cinematographer Michael Lavelle for getting this across so brilliantly

If there are any flaws, it’s that Karen’s character isn’t given as much development as she probably needed. She’s well established and we do get her inner pain and frustration. Catherine Walker gets across her jadedness yet growing affection for Patrick incredibly naturally. She’s just not in the movie enough to make as much impact as she could have, and the love story doesn’t feel as impactful despite its importance.

Despite that, Patrick’s Day is a brilliant film. It’s well acted, beautifully shot, well directed, dark, funny, with a glimmer of hope towards it. It’s an important look into a group of people in this country we will to ignore as we celebrate what it means to be Irish.

Happy Patrick’s Day, everybody.

Rating: 8/10