At The Movies: Jupiter Ascending, Seventh Son

It’s cheesy sci-fi and fantasy week at the movies. The good news is, special effects have improved dramatically since these things were all the rage in the ’80s. The bad news is, a cheesy sci-fi/fantasy movie is still a cheesy sci-fi/fantasy movie.

Jupiter Ascending

Filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachowski toss everything but the kitchen sink (they replaced it with a toilet) into their latest science fiction epic. It’s a visual extravaganza worth seeing on the big screen just for the space shots and the set designs and the aliens and the spaceships and the action sequences.

But then they put people in it. And let them talk. And it ruins everything.

jupiter-ascending-428422lMila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones (her father was a star-gazer), a Russian immigrant who works with her mother and aunt cleaning houses for a living. Jupiter hates her life but if she only knew what the stars had in store for her.

Jupiter, it turns out, is the reincarnation of the matriarch of the House of Abrasax (I think, it’s all kind of confusing). Mother held the deed to the planet Earth and now her three squabbling children — Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth) are fighting over it. Earth is ripe for harvesting, which is bad news for the people living on it.

When the siblings learn of Jupiter’s existence, each one hatches a scheme on how to deal with her. Meanwhile on Earth, a wolf-like, genetically engineered soldier named Caine (Channing Tatum) has arrived to protect Jupiter. He’s aided in his efforts by Stinger (Sean Bean) another former space soldier who has been in exile on Earth.

There’s more to it — Lord, is there more to it — than this. Once again the Wachowskis have let their imagination run wild without bothering to rein it in to make a simple, compelling story. Remember how good “The Matrix” was and how each sequel got more and more bogged down in exposition that seemed to never end and never made sense anyway? “Jupiter Ascending” is like taking the entire “Matrix” trilogy and squeezing it into one film.

Still, boy is it pretty to look at. Some of the action sequences go by too fast to truly appreciate but there are some thrilling moments. Unfortunately that can’t be said for the ending, which turns into yet another catastrophic disaster in which giant set pieces are blown up and torn up with the heroes running around trying not to fall into endless crevasses.

Seventh Son

After seeing the trailers for “Seventh Son” I had a bad feeling about it. It just did nothing for me. It looked dumb. But then, it had Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore and dragons — how bad could it really be?

It wasn’t all that bad but it wasn’t all that good either. The setting was lovely and some of the set designs were nice, the dragons were decent, Bridges and Moore are always pleasant to watch, the plot had a few decent turns.

But it was a fairly pedestrian affair. It’s not terribly compelling, it just ambles along from predictable moment to predictable moment. It’s the kind of movie that’s perfect for weekend-afternoon or late-night entertainment as you’re watching it from the comfort of your living room couch. It’s not worth driving through a February snowstorm to see, which I did.

(OK, it was a light snowfall but the volume doesn’t matter in St. Louis. Just the thought of snow causes drivers around here to go insane.)

MV5BMjAxNTg2MDkyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA3NzY1MjE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Directed by Sergei Bodrov and based on the novel “The Spook’s Apprentice” by Joseph Delaney, the film stars Jeff Bridges as Gregory, a.k.a. The Spook — a hunter of witches and demons. His arch enemy is Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), a very powerful witch. Once they were lovers but things didn’t work out so Gregory locked her up in a cave in a mountain.

Gregory continued on with his work, which typically requires him to seek the assistance of the seventh son of a seventh son to serve as his apprentice. (The significance of that particular birth order is never explained.) When Mother Malkin escapes her prison and comes seeking revenge, Greg winds up needing a new apprentice.

He finds one in poor farmer’s son Tom Ward (Ben Barnes). Tom’s mother (Olivia Williams) has a secret that just might give Tom and Gregory the edge over Malkin. Provided Tom doesn’t do something stupid like fall in love with a young witch who is Malkin’s niece.

Like I said earlier, “Seventh Son” is a cheesy, breezy fantasy movie with sort of an ’80s “Dragonslayer” feel. It’s helped tremendously by the presence of Bridges, who clearly isn’t doing his best work here but is fun to watch regardless. It’s a better film than “R.I.P.D.,” his last misfire.

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