First up is this month’s obligatory Channing Tatum movie (the guy works more than a nine-year old in a Nike factory!), Jupiter Ascending (February 6).
This “space opera” – which mercifully contains no actual singing – follows down-on-her-luck janitor Jupiter Jones (which is more implausible: Mila Kunis as a janitor or Mila Kunis as a janitor named Jupiter Jones?) who discovers that among other things, she’s really a member of a powerful alien dynasty which runs the universe, civilisation didn’t begin on earth and a sexy half albino-half werewolf named Caine (Tatum) has been sent to protect her from her evil space sibling, Balem (Eddie Redmayne). Everyone is some kind of genetic hybrid in this splice-happy universe: Sean Bean plays ‘Stinger’, a half bee, Tatum is half wolf and judging by his performance, I’m guessing Eddie Redmayne is part-Christmas ham.
If you have a soft spot for ridiculous, self-indulgent space nonsense, or are a fan of seeing special effects that probably cost more than the GDP of a third-world country, then perhaps you will enjoy Jupiter Ascending.
Ultimately though, this movie suffers from all the usual Wachkowski woes; bloated, impenetrable “space” dialogue, an over-reliance on visual set pieces and a tendency to hire the most wooden actors available (Tatum). Avoid this, admittedly, visually spectacular space detritus.
(Besides, there’s only one Jupiter Jones)
Next Selma (February 6), the story of Simpson’s matriarch Marge’s sister and her epic quest to give up smoking. Just kidding! She’ll never give up.
Also, Selma is actually a historical drama, set during the America’s civil rights struggle of the 1960s. The movie (produced and featuring a performance by Oprah) explores the fraught fight for voter rights, led by Martin Luther King Jr (played masterfully by David Oyelowo). Specifically covered is the 3-month period in 1965, which culminated a march from Selma, Alabama to state capital Montgomery and ultimately resulted in the signing of the Voting Rights Act. King and co’s dignified campaign for equal voting rights in the face of violent, vitriolic resistance is deftly captured, as is King’s personal turmoil. A stylish but nevertheless emotionally resonate movie that everyone should see.
Next: Cake (February 20) stars Jennifer Aniston as Claire, a very bitter woman in constant chronic pain following a car crash. Life is a series of agonising struggles for Claire, whose husband, therapist and chronic pain support group all abandon her in the (very scarred) face of her constant complaining.
When she starts hallucinating about a woman from her support group who committed suicide (Nina, played by Anna Kendrick), and is encouraged by her to do likewise, Claire instead decides to seek out Nina’s grieving husband and son. Because – I don’t know – her life isn’t miserable enough? Anyway, it’s easy enough to guess what happens next when you realise that: a) the grieving husband with the adorable, mother-less child is played by Clash of the Titans hunk Sam Worthington, and b) that Jennifer Aniston has never been in a movie that didn’t end in a redemptive romance. Clichés notwithstanding, Aniston’s unglamorous, curmudgeonly performance is worth the ticket price alone.
(First published in GCN, February ’15)