Saturday, February 7, 2015

Of Space and Sea

Two new releases this week that, at first glance, couldn't be more different, but upon deeper reflection, actually have a funky commonality - both Jupiter Ascending and Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water address the issue of (ready for it?) - capitalism. Both, by the way, are also well worth seeing.

 First up, Jupiter Ascending. Brought to us by the Wachowski siblings, Jupiter is as visually-stunning as anything this daring pair of filmmakers has ever brought to the big screen. While I haven't always loved everything the Wachowskis do, I've always admired their willingness to take on huge-scale, original projects and take no prisoners in their efforts to translate Big Questions onto the screen. The first Matrix movie was ground-breaking in its depiction of a world in which reality cannot be trusted and in Cloud Atlas (I wrote about that one back here), they created a world in which lives and storylines crossed repeatedly without being restricted by race or gender. I think Jupiter is a stunning film and I predict it'll be one that gets bashed out of the gate and re-visited with much kindness later. Jupiter asks its audience to think - to actually ponder and consider some things that are fantastical, amazing, and downright weird in a few places. The cast is strong - Channing Tatum has a role he can sink his teeth into and Mila Kunis does a credible job in bring to life Jupiter Jones, who was born with a destiny but doesn't seem willing to do anything to make it happen. There is so much going on in this film and some will find that too challenging; I found it refreshing.

The universe is this film is ruled by simple supply and demand - most commodities are no longer in demand; the only thing left is - time. And human essence can be harvested and packaged to provide that time to the very few wealthy and powerful enough to pay for it. In the universe of this film, Earth is nothing more than a farm and we're the herd. When the population reaches the point beyond which the planet can sustain it, it's time to be harvested. This is space opera at its finest - big, big, BIG! and not afraid to go even bigger. The film's release was pushed back to give more time to post-production and, quite frankly, I don't think the studio quite knows what to do with this film, but I'll tell you this much - if you enjoy seeing a movie that'll make you think while taking your breath away with its lush visuals - go see this one. (Plus, there's a scene that'll make you realize that bureaucracy is with us until the ends of the earth.)

And completely on the other end of things - Spongebob. I'll admit that I went into this nearly totally unaware of the Spongebob world. But the theater was PACKED (I had to sit in the second row, which is really closer to the screen than I prefer, but what can you do?) and the audience loved this. I was right there with them, too. The plot doesn't really matter, but I'll tell you that seeing Antonio Banderas playing a diabolical pirate bent of becoming the most successful food-truck proprietor on the beach is probably worth the price of admission alone. When the secret formula (again, supply and demand) is stolen, the hi-jinks begin. The film has a breakneck pace and groan-worthy puns are interspersed with so many allusions (the use of "The Ecstasy of Gold" is especially nice) that I'd have to put this film up in my personal list of "whoa, this movie is trippy" films - and that's without even getting into Bubbles the Dolphin. The humor is kid-friendly (a few gross jokes about seagull poop is about as raunchy as it gets) and the film is just flat-out fun. February is grey and dreary - let go of your sensible, late-winter self and go see this one.

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