Tag Archives: mila kunis

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending

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Today, I’m going to be delving into one of the strangest products from the Wachowski siblings: 2015’s Jupiter Ascending.

The plot of Jupiter Ascending is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A young woman discovers her destiny as an heiress of intergalactic nobility and must fight to protect the inhabitants of Earth from an ancient and destructive industry.

Jupiter Ascending was directed and written by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the visionary sibling duo known for movies like The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, and Speed Racer.

The notable cast for the film includes Channing Tatum (Hail Caesar, 21 Jump Street), Mila Kunis (American Psycho 2, Black Swan), Sean Bean (GoldenEye, National Treasure), and Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, The Theory of Everything).

The cinematographer for Jupiter Ascending was John Toll, who has shot such films as Braveheart, Iron Man 3, Cloud Atlas, Tropic Thunder, The Thin Red Line, Vanilla Sky, Gone Baby Gone, and The Last Samurai,
among others.

The editor for the film was Alexander Berner, whose other credits include 10,000 BC, Cloud Atlas, Resident Evil, Perfume: The Story of A Murderer, and AVP: Alien vs. Predator.

The music for Jupiter Ascending was composed by Michael Giacchino, who has also provided scores for Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond, Zootopia, Jurassic World, Up, John Carter, and Sky High.

Initially, Natalie Portman was cast in the lead role of Jupiter Jones, but ultimately pulled out of the project. Reportedly, Rooney Mara was then considered before Mila Kunis was ultimately cast.

jupiter3According to the Wachowskis, the initial draft of the screenplay was 600 pages long, which would have made for an approximately 10 hour film on screen.

Reportedly, filming for the movie was completed in 2013. However, the extensive post production work required for the effects ultimately pushed the release date all the way out into 2015.

During an “Ask Me Anything” session on reddit, Channing Tatum was asked what exactly Jupiter Ascending was about. His response: “Good question. I have the same one myself.”

Jupiter Ascending was made on a production budget of $176 million, on which it grossed $183 million worldwide in its theatrical run. However, when additional costs beyond the production are taken into account, the movie almost certainly lost a significant amount for the studio, though less than most would have expected from its reputation. Interestingly, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, nearly 75% of the movie’s box office income came from international markets, which is in contrast to the traditional norm.

The reception to Jupiter Ascending was generally negative. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 5.4/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 26% from critics and 38% from audiences. It subsequently wound up with 6 Golden Raspberry Award nominations, which are given to the worst films and performances each year, and Eddie Redmayne took the award for Worst Supporting Actor for his role in the film.

Jupiter Ascending is a movie of extreme contrasts. On one hand, it has a stellar production design with exquisite costuming behind it, which reflects what I think was a really cool vision for a would-be science-fiction franchise. At the same time, the dialogue and performances are just awful, which comes in spite of what is an impressive cast of actors.

jupiter2Having seen the movie a number of times now, it has been interesting to think about what might have gone wrong with Jupiter Ascending. I think, first and foremost, the screenplay could have used some more attention and time, particularly given its initial outlandish length. While the world is set up pretty well (which is impressive), the dialogue just doesn’t roll off quite right, and that probably impacted the way the actors took on their performances. I feel like a number of them, like Redmayne, leaned in on the campy-ness due to the way their dialogue was written. That said, it is also totally possible they were directed that way, given that the writers and directors were the same people. Which, in itself, can be a bit of a problem for a production. It can be really difficult for writer/directors to know when to cut out or amend dialogue that was their own creation. It is more than possible that the Wachowskis were resistant to input and modification when it came to the screenplay, regardless of where the advice came from.

Overall, despite its issues, Jupiter Ascending is a visually-pleasing flick, that for the most part is pretty entertaining. The weird concepts and performances give it an interesting flavor, and I think it does merit its quasi-ironic cult following. Personally, I prefer this to most of the major Hollywood “bad movies” of recent years, like the DCCU outings or the countless Transformers sequels and pointless reboots. It has an original vision behind it, which is worth quite a lot.

At the same time, I’ve heard from a lot of people with wildly different opinions of this movie. Some find it boring, while others swear by it as a modern camp classic. So, as far as a recommendation goes, it is kind of hard to say. In general, I think bad movie fans should at least give it a shot, but your mileage may vary.

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American Psycho 2

American Psycho 2

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Today’s feature is yet another reviled and unnecessary sequel: 2002’s “American Psycho 2,” starring Mila Kunis and William Shatner.

“American Psycho 2” was directed by a fellow named Morgan J. Freeman, who has most recently served as an executive producer on the reality television show “Teen Mom.” He has also had a handful of directing credits since the early 1990s, but nothing since a few television episodes in 2010.

The screenplay for “American Psycho 2” is credited to two people: Alex Sanger and Karen Craig. Craig has another writing credit for a 2005 television movie, but outside of that neither individual has credited film writing experience.

The cinematography on “American Psycho 2” was provided by Vanja Cernjul, who has worked on acclaimed television series such as “Bored to Death,” “Nurse Jackie,” “30 Rock,” and “Orange Is The New Black,” as well as a handful of films like “Wristcutters: A Love Story.”

The “American Psycho 2” score was composed by Norman Orenstein, who has worked on the music for the “Cube” sequels, George Romero’s “Diary of the Dead,” and the “Animorphs” television series.

The producing team for “American Psycho 2” features a trio of returning producers from “American Psycho,” including an eventual president of production for Lion’s Gate in Michael Paseornek. Paseornek, along with fellow producers Chris Hanley and Christian Halsey Solomon, are the only returning elements from the original film.

The cast of “American Psycho 2” is headlined by Mila Kunis, who was in the middle of her success with “That 70s Show.” Her earlier credits included a handful of child roles in films like “Santa With Muscles” and “Piranha,” and she has of course gone on to have significant success as both a live action star (“Black Swan,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) and a voice actor (“Family Guy”). The rest of the cast is pretty sparse on recognizable faces outside of William Shatner, who most know from his role as Captain Kirk in “Star Trek.” However, his lengthy career has also featured a couple of famous “Twilight Zone” episodes, a handful of memorable b-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders,” and a whole lot of other television roles (like “T.J. Hooker”).

americanpsycho22The story of “American Psycho 2” centers around a young college student obsessed with becoming a professional criminal profiler, who believes that becoming a Teaching Assistant under a noted professor is the key to realizing that goal. Over the course of the film, she targets and eliminates all of the perceived obstacles and rivals that stand between her and the coveted position. The tenuous connection to “American Psycho” comes in the form of her back story, which shows that, as a child, she witnessed Patrick Bateman murder her babysitter. She then killed Bateman while he was distracted and escaped the murder scene, leaving a mystery as to how Patrick Bateman came to meet his end.

The production company behind “American Psycho 2,” Lionsgate, is now regarded as one of the top “mini-major” film studios in the business, producing blockbusters like “The Hunger Games.” However, that has only been the case since about 2012. Before that, though they co-produced some larger features with other studios (such as “Hotel Rwanda” and “The Day After Tomorrow”), they primarily dealt with upper-end b-movies and horror films: “American Psycho,” “Cube,” and “Saw,” for instance.

From what I can tell, in 2002 “American Psycho” was one of the few profitable properties Lionsgate had, and the studio needed a film that could be depended on to make some money. Apparently, the producers took a screenplay and amended it to provide a tenuous connection to “American Psycho,” and went ahead with branding it as a sequel, assuming that the name recognition would equate to profits. This predictably angered the fan base of the original film on principle alone, but the ultimate product made them exponentially more livid.

MCDAMPS EC009The notoriously fickle and ill-tempered author of “American Psycho,” Bret Easton Ellis, has of course denounced the film as an unnecessary and shameful sequel. Even Mila Kunis is reportedly ashamed of the film, though she is certainly a much bigger star now than she was in 2002, and can afford to dissociate herself from earlier embarrassing works.

“American Psycho 2” never got a theatrical release, and went straight to home video distribution. Of course, given the annoyed fan base of the original film, the sub-par script, and the cheap production, it was not received well. The film currently holds an IMDb rating of 3.9, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 11% (critics) and 18% (audience), which is abysmal by all accounts.

Given the obsession with detail featured in both the book and film of “American Psycho,” it is an extra spit in the eye that this sequel is so lax in its attention to minor (and major) details. For instance, Mila Kunis’s character is called the wrong name in displayed newspaper and book features, even after her fake identity and history is exposed.

Personally, my biggest issue with this movie is how poorly it lived up to its potential as a film. The forced changes to the script to make the film into an “American Psycho” sequel ruined what could have been an interesting young adult-focused serial killer movie with a rewrite or two. I didn’t even think the performances were completely awful, which is a major criticism I have seen of film time and time again. Shatner probably wasn’t the best casting, but I am willing to bet he was the biggest name that the production could get for the money that they paid. After all, this was movie that was engineered (poorly) to profit, which means they wanted bang for their buck. At the time, I have to assume that both Kunis and Shatner came pretty cheap, but were still recognizable enough to market. With a little more attention, money, and time, I think the nugget of a story beneath “American Psycho 2” could have been turned into something at least palatable.

americanpsycho23Overall, even if you can divorce the film from “American Psycho” to look at it on its standalone merits, you can tell that it was rushed and made for cheap. It is a film that was never allowed to properly incubate, the the consequence is a sub-par product. It should be looked at as a cautionary tale of what happens when studio interests and producers are allowed to run wild without the checks and balances of an artistic force passionate for the project. Films take a delicate mixture of elements to work, and when the balances are thrown off, things go wrong. “American Psycho 2” is on the opposite end of the spectrum of passion projects, where the artist is unchecked by reason (movies like “Slipstream,” “Glitter,” or “Battlefield: Earth”). Basically, this is an example of a “no-passion” project, where the studio and production logic went unchecked by dedication or artistic merit.

It should probably go without saying, but this isn’t a recommendation from me, outside of a quasi-academic curiosity. Unless you are a huge fan of Kunis or Shatner and want to take a trip through their respective filmographies, this is pretty skippable. If you are a fan of “American Psycho” and want to get angry enough to raise your blood pressure, give it a shot. As far as memorable moments go, there is a creative death by condom, so that may be worth giving a look.